Rules for Subversives

Quico says: “Opposition” has become an obsolete concept in Venezuelan politics. Opposition is what you do to governments capable of being opposed: those that see the practice of periodically alternating in power with their critics as normal.

Chavismo has denormalized alternation, crafting a state system where the practice would imperil regime stability. Chavismo can’t be “opposed” in the normal sense of the word, because it doesn’t conceive of itself as a temporary occupant of executive branch. Instead, it claims ownership of the state as a whole.

What can you do if you dissent from a government that is not opposable in the normal democratic sense? A government that has repeatedly stressed that it does not conceive of alternation in power as a normal feature of the system, and explicitly vows never to allow it to happen?

There’s only one thing you can do if you don’t wish to submit to a government like that: subvert it.

I think Chávez himself grasped this long before those of us who disagree with him did. Maybe his obsession with plots and conspiracies all around him speak not so much of paranoïa as of a dirty conscience. A kind of “if they knew what I know, they’d be trying to subvert me.”

Me, I never set out to become a subversive. Never chose that. Doesn’t really fit my personality in any way. But like everybody else who opposes the vision of state power chavismo represents, I have now been made, effectively, into a subversive.

There is a long, deeply unsettling set of consequences that flow out of this realization. A set of consequences Venezuela’s anti-chavista establishment really hasn’t quite processed yet. It’s hard to see our movement having any success until we come to grips with our new condition, a condition that is no less ours because we never chose it.

Subversion is the game the entire anti-chavista country is now engaged in, whether consciously or unconsciously.

To dissent from the hyperleader is to subvert the state system he has crafted, a system based on mindless obedience, complicit sycophancy, and an essentially limitless willingness to lie to the public for political benefit. It’s a system you won’t find described in any official document, certainly not in the 1999 constitution. It is the state of The State in fact, not in law.

And article 333 of that same document tells you all you need to know about your duties in such an eventuality.

Subversion is not a road we’ve chosen, it’s a road that’s been chosen for us. The only question now is whether we can subvert the chavista state creatively, effectively and constructively, in a way that helps us lay out the basis for something better down the road.

I think subversion of the current regime will need to take place along many axes. Some overt, some covert. Obviously, as bloggers, we can’t do much about the latter, other than hope for their success. But we can, in our small way, contribute to the former.

Because subverting the chavista state is also about subverting the habits of mind that sustain it: the endless willingness to subjugate reality to political convenience, the mindless cult of personality that raises a single man’s will above the law. It means challenging the cognitive cornerstone of the entire chavista system: the out and out refusal to submit the leader’s dictates to critical scrutiny, to hold them up against the measuring bar of reason.

Call it cognitive subversion. That’s the business this blog is in. Time we faced up to it.