Revolutionizing Time

Quico says: Sometimes, the revolution feels like one of those confused dreams you have when you eat too much before going to sleep. You know the ones: dreams where time gets all confused, where stuff that just happened hasn’t happened, then happens again and again before it happens for the first time. Dreams where time’s arrow goes all squiggly on you, doubling over and turning back on itself for no reason.

Reading the Venezuelan press seems to call up that dream-like feeling more and more often. Like when I read this ABN write-up on AN Finance Committee Chair Ricardo Sanguino’s feelings on constitutional reform. Sanguino argues that the reform “will end any vestige of the hegemony of private property on the means of production, so that social property over them becomes pre-eminent, on the road to a socialist economy.”

It’s that “will” that stands out in my mind. Thirty years after nationalizing the oil industry, months after renationalizing the power and telecoms sectors, long after state regulation of every single aspect of business life has left the notion of “property” an empty husk, Sanguino tells us that everything the state has already shown it can do, and indeed done, it will do once the constitution is reformed.

The constitutional reform debate is full of this kind of thing: grand declarations about its absolute necessity in order to enable the state to do stuff that filled yesterday’s newspapers. In a way, Chavismo is trying to sell us the Constitutional Reform as a necessary precondition for the status quo.

In this debate, verb tenses seem to come all unhinged. The long ago consummated end of the Central Bank’s autonomy becomes a bold new proposal for the future. Language banning “latifundios”, which had been written into the constitution all the way back in 1961, is dusted off and hawked as this season’s latest arrival. The recent expansion of Conatel’s authority over PayTV is served up again, as if it were a shiny new morsel. This must be what Trostkyites mean by Permanent Revolution: the permanent recasting of the routine as revolutionary.

Amid all this craziness, it’s almost fitting that Chávez is moving forward with a proposal to fuck even with our wrist-watches: moving Venezuela half a time-zone back into the past. Once there, one suspects he’ll set out to undo some of what he had already done so that he can repackage its prospective redoing as a constitutional innovation.