In a moving speech to the nation, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus spoke of his grief at the death of his close friend president Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela, who died on March 5th.
The Belarusian president called Chavez:
… one of the greatest statesman and leaders of our time, the great hero, the passionate patriot and the fighter for independence, the outstanding politician, the thinker and speaker, the exceptional strong man who loved life and who dedicated his life to the service for his country.
Many leaders throughout the world expressed perfunctory condolences after the death of Hugo Chavez in an attempt to make themselves appear progressive and bolster their own domestic popularity but the President of Belarus’s grief is deep and genuine; he has lost a true and loyal friend with whom he shared a vision of a better future for humanity free from the ravages of war, poverty, lies and hypocrisy.
If there is any leader in the world who understands what motivated the Venezuelan president, it is Alexander Lukashenko. Like Chavez, Lukashenko was elected during the 1990s, when the dissolution of the Soviet Union had created a humanitarian catastrophe with living standards reduced to 19th century standards, and hunger, crime and chaos prevailed throughout the post-Soviet space.
Like his friend Chavez, Lukashenko gained the confidence of his people by leading a campaign against corruption. As president, Lukashenko refused to allow predator capitalists to take over the Belarussian economy. Instead, the industrial base was maintained in public ownership, thereby protecting the social gains workers had toiled so hard to achieve during the Soviet era.
While other post-soviet states wallowed in crime, poverty, unemployment and despair, Belarus took an independent route to post-soviet development, maintaining a robust manufacture base and highly successful export market, while investing state funds in education, health care, research and development. Lukashenko’s multi-vectored foreign policy and his defense of people’s rights over the rights of corporations made him a natural ally of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who described Belarus as a model state.
Lukashenko and Chavez signed many bilateral agreements in the areas of energy, construction, medicine and agriculture. Although ignored by major news media, the special and unique relationship of these two developing countries offered the world the possibility of a new paradigm in international relations based on the respect for national sovereignty and the willingness to put people before profit.
There are many pseudo-leftists and opportunists who will claim to be admirers of Hugo Chavez yet supported — and continue to support — neo-colonial wars against his allies. Such people deserve nothing but contempt for their dishonesty and pusillanimity.
Like Lukashenko, Hugo Chavez supported Muammar Gaddafi. Chavez supported Assad. He defended his foreign policy on the basis of international solidarity and anti-imperialism. Chavez was a revolutionary and that is what petty-bourgeois leftist poseurs will never understand. What they cannot, and will never, understand is Che Guevara’s declaration that what motivates the revolutionary is love; it is this love and deep compassion for the suffering of man that constitutes the blazing fire of emancipatory politics which transcends the degenerate mores of its time and creates a new political paradigm.
In his Critique of Judgment German Philosopher Immanuel Kant defined the genius as he who is capable of creating new aesthetic rules. Such a definition should also apply to revolutionaries.
Chavez created new rules in politics and diplomacy based on mutual cooperation, honesty and the defense of the human being against the vultures of international finance capital. Lukashenko, faced with the takeover of the world by oligarchs, gangsters and mass murderers, was faced with the same challenge. Together, these leaders attempted to forge a new multi-polar world order and for that they paid the price of calumny, defamation and several coup attempts by the agencies of globalization and their media ideologues.
When NATO mercenaries and terrorist groups raided police barracks in Benghazi, Libya in February 2011,- leading to a corporate media war on the country, which blamed the crimes of the ‘’rebels’’ on the Libyan government, Hugo Chavez offered to mediate and form a fact finding mission to resolve the crisis. The Venezuelan president got no support from intellectuals who claimed to support him. MIT linguist Noam Chomsky and French ‘left-wing’ politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon supported NATO’s Blitzkrieg on Libya, a criminal bombing campaign that murdered thousands of Libyans and lead to the destruction of Africa’s richest and most progressive state, ruining Chavez and Gaddafi’s plans to form a South Atlantic Treaty Organisation in order to protect the Global South against military aggression from the North Atlantic Terrorist Organisation.
These same leftists also support the terrorists now attempting to destroy another strategic ally of Venezuela, the Syrian Arab Republic. But thanks to Hugo Chavez, millions of Syrian men, women and children had access to fuel during the harsh winter when the ‘international community’ imposed genocidal sanctions on the terror-stricken country. In the souks of Damascus and Aleppo, pictures of Hugo Chavez are not an uncommon sight.
In 2010, I travelled to Venezuela where I visited hospitals, schools, universities, literacy missions, democratic forums, subsidized supermarkets, and socialist bookshops which sold many books critical of Chavez. Cuban doctors told me about the importance of the Hippocratic Oath and medicine as an ethical vocation. Patients told me about the quality of the care they received in the newly built Salvador Allende health clinic in Caracas.
I visited a new apartment complex built on the site of what had previously been a slum town. One of the ladies there gave me a tour of her new home, while her children played in a safe, clean playground outside. She wore a T-Shirt which said ‘ Si, yo puedo’, Yes, I can. She had attended night classes in literacy. The Bolivarian revolution had transformed her life. She held her head up high and had hope for the future. I attended local meetings in the barrios of Caracas where citizens were voting on how they would spend the Government development money to improve their local infrastructure. I had conversations on international politics with workers in the barrios of Caracas that surpassed most conversations I had ever had with intellectuals in the West. These people were awakened, class conscious and determined to defend the gains of the national, democratic revolution. I visited radio stations run by local communities when all topics were discussed openly and freely.
I went to the kiosks and read pro and anti-Chavez newspapers. In fact, the anti-Chavez papers were far more widespread and CNN Spanish could be seen everywhere. I had never been in a country where socialist print media could be purchased alongside the mainstream corporate press. It was my first experience of democracy. Before leaving I attended a speech in O Leary Square in Caracas where President Chavez was inaugurating the new Peasant Militia to protect small farmers from attacks by rural landlords and death squads. In his speech, the Venezuelan president said ‘’in this country the army is no longer the army of the bourgeoisie, it is the army of the people’’. The words were unforgettable.This was in a country where the army and police had traditionally been the oppressors of the people and the protectors of the rich.
I met a banker at the event who told me: ‘’The Americans and the capitalists don’t understand our country, we are revolutionaries and we will never go back to the corruption and despair of the past.’’ The fact that a banker would express such enthusiasm for the socialist revolution reminded me of a passage from Oscar Wilde’s essay The Soul of Man under Socialism where he says:
One’s regret is that society should be constructed on such a basis that man has been forced into a groove in which he cannot freely develop what is wonderful, and fascinating, and delightful in him – in which, in fact, he misses the true pleasure and joy of living. He is also, under existing conditions, very insecure. An enormously wealthy merchant may be – often is – at every moment of his life at the mercy of things that are not under his control. If the wind blows an extra point or so, or the weather suddenly changes, or some trivial thing happens, his ship may go down, his speculations may go wrong, and he finds himself a poor man, with his social position quite gone. Now, nothing should be able to harm a man except himself. Nothing should be able to rob a man at all. What a man really has, is what is in him. What is outside of him should be a matter of no importance.
With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all
Capitalism holds no future for humanity and it will destroy the life-force of the capitalists too. There is no joy in the accumulation of private property. The rich of Latin American are locking themselves away in gated communities. Soon, they will not be able to take a walk in their own streets. This is a joyless existence. Hugo Chavez dedicated his life so that the damned of the earth might live. In doing so, he gave new life to Latin American liberation and inspired millions throughout the world.
The fact that Lukashenko spoke of his nation’s heartbreak at the news of Chavez’ death is significant for it is precisely this ability to feel and empathize that differentiates anti-imperialist leaders from their criminal aggressors. Lukashenko, like Chavez, is a man of passion, who loves his country and will not bow down before the tyrants and bandits of NATO. That is why their media agencies want us to hate him .
In his emotional speech Lukashenko said that his friendship with president Chavez will remain the most treasured memories of his life. The Belarusian president spoke for all lovers of peace, progress and social justice throughout this distracted globe when he declared:
The name of President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Hugo Chavez is engraved in the book of our history with the golden letters and he and his deeds now became part of eternity.
Today, in this hour of sorrow and pain, we express our deepest condolences to the relatives and close ones of Hugo Chavez, to all people of Venezuela. In the name of the memory of the great leader, we solemnly promise to execute and accomplish our joint projects and plans, to continue the policy of friendship and mutual assistance, to do everything to further strengthen and develop our collaboration for the benefit of our countries.
Rest in peace, our friend and brother, Hugo Chavez. Your cause will live forever.