May 11, 2004

Bolivarianismo as Ideology

Excerpt from Ideology and Terror by Hannah Arendt.

An ideology is quite literally what its name indicates: it is the logic of an idea. Its subject matter is history, to which the "idea" is applied; the result of this application is not a body of statements about something what exists, but the unfolding of a process in constant change. The ideology treats the course of events as though it followed the same "law" as the logical exposition of its "idea." Ideologies pretend to know the mysteries of the whole historical process-the secrets of the past, the intricacies of the present, the uncertainties of the future-because of the logic inherent in their respective ideas.

Ideologies are historical, concerned with becoming and perishing, with the rise and fall of cultures, even if they try to explain history by some "law of nature." The word "race" in racism does not signify any genuine curiosity about the human races as a field for scientific exploration, but is the "idea" by which the movement of history is explained as one consistent process.

The "idea" of an ideology is an instrument of explanation. To an ideology, history does not appear in light of an idea, but as something that can be calculated by it. What fits the "idea" into this new role is its own "logic," that is a movement which is the consequence of the "idea" itself and needs no outside factor to set it into motion. Racism is the belief that there is a motion inherent in the very idea of race, just as deism is the belief that a motion is inherent in the very notion of God.

The movement of history and the logical process of this notion are supposed to correspond to each other, so that whatever happens, happens according to the logic of one "idea." However, the only possible movement in the realm of logic is the process of deduction from a premise.

As soon as logic is applied to an idea, this idea is transformed into a premise. Ideological world explanations performed this operation long before it became so eminently fruitful for totalitarian reasoning. The purely negative coercion of logic became "productive" so that a whole line of thought could be initiated, and forced upon the mind, by drawing conclusions in the manner of mere argumentation. This argumentative process could be interrupted neither by a new idea (which would have been another premise with a different set of consequences) nor by a new experience. Ideologies always assume that one idea is sufficient to explain everything in the development from the premise, and that no experience can teach anything because everything is comprehended in this consistent process of logical deduction.

The danger in exchanging the necessary insecurity of critical thinking for the total explanation of an ideology is not even so much the risk of falling for some usually vulgar, always uncritical assumption as of exchanging the freedom inherent in man?s capacity to think for the strait jacket of logic with which man can force himself almost as violently as he is forced by some outside power.

The "idea" of chavismo is not so hard to discern. Ever since Bolivar's time, Venezuela has seen a struggle between the forces of progress, social justice, and equality - bolivarianism - and the privileged enemies of that cause - the reactionary godos. Contemporary history is witnessing the long-delayed comeupance of the godos, and the final, irreversible victory of the Bolivarianos. "Accelerating" the development of this central idea is the point of chavismo. "This argumentative process cannot be interrupted either by a new idea or by a new experience."