George Ciccariello-Maher is Associate Professor of Politics and Global Studies at Drexel University and the author of We Created Chávez: A People's History of the Venezuelan Revolution, also published by Duke University Press.
Venezuela’s Combative Dialectics
This chapter sets out by decolonizing and reclaiming the concept of the people from critics such as Hardt, Negri, and Virno, who shun the people— which they view as an inherently conservative force—in favor of the Multitude. Through the work of Dussel and Venezuelan folk singer Alí Primera, the chapter locates a radical concept of the people (or el pueblo) in the Venezuelan context, a concept that is not unitary and homogeneous but instead divisive, dynamic, and heterogeneous, drawing multiple movements and identities together in tense relation. Moreover, this concept is decolonial in that it brings together both oppressed within and excluded from the existing order. Tracking recent Venezuelan history—especially the Caracazo rebellion of 1989, the radical appearance of the Venezuelan people in the social life of the nation—the chapter looks to Venezuela for empirical confirmation of the usefulness of decolonized dialectics. It is argued that the Bolivarian process set into motion in 1989, and which brought Hugo Chávez to power in 1998, is best understood not only as an expression of the demands of the oppressed, but also the public appearance of those excluded socially, economically, politically, and racially from the old, two-party political system.