The Red Fascism of Colonel Chavez

Vladimir Tismaneanu is professor of politics at the University of Maryland (College Park) and author most recently of "The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century" (University of California Press, 2012).

Venezuela's President Chavez speaks next to Iran's President Ahmadinejad during an agreement-signing ceremony in TehranWhat are the legacies of chavismo? Shameless demagogy, rampant poverty, duplicitous kleptocracy, strident chauvinism, ubiquitous propaganda, demonization of political opponents, a delusional police state pretending, like Castro’s Cuba, to embody the behests of History. Hugo Chavez (1954-2013) was the most strident voice of the new anti-western and anti-democratic front. By the end of his life (he passed away on March 5, precisely sixty years after Stalin’s demise), the Venezuelan comandante, compromised in his own country, was increasingly prone to engage in external adventures.

Not unlike Che Guevara–Che’s daughter Aleida is the author of a hagiography about Chavez–the Venezuelan leader dreamed of himself as the reincarnation of Bolivar, Jose Marti, Lenin, and even Evita Peron (a few years ago, Chavez proclaimed: “Evita died on July 26,1952. Only two days later, on July 28, 1954 I was born. Imagine!”) As the ridicule does not kill, Chavez launched a campaign to unearth Bolivar’s bones in order to demonstrate that El Libertador was poisoned bya reactionary conspiracy. In 2008, voicing his hostility to Colombia’s democratic regime, Chavez called  the neighbouring country “Latin America’s Israel.”

In this crusade, the narco-terrorism of the FARC guerillas, colluded with Chavez’ delirious petro-populism. Combining grotesque bufoonery, political farce, and the most obscene demagogy, Chavez symbolized leftist opportunism in its most aggressive form. We deal with red Fascism, because Chavez’s methods and aspirations did not differ essentially from those of Mussolini; statism, cult of personality, tribalist collectivism, indigenista messianism, the annihilation of political rivals, and the persecution of any source of civic autonomy. As in Eastern Europe before the revolutions of 1989, civil society has become the main enemy of the dictatorship.  Like Eastern Europe’s Leninist dinosaurs, Chavez indulged in endless, systematic lying.

The ally of the Castro brothers started his career as a demagogue of Peronista orientation. His affinities linked him to the far right; irrationalism, exacerbated nationalism, fascination with occultism, militarism, and political shamanism. Gradually, he absorbed the obsessions of the far left and discovered in the anti-imperialist rhetoric a self-aggrandizing platform able to catapult him as a prophet of the new tercermundismo.

Years ago, noted Venezuelan political thinker Carlos Rangel (1929-1988) wrote an illuminating book about Latin America’s revolutionary myths (“Del Buen Salvaje al buen Revolucionario,” translated into English as “The Latin Americans. The Love-Hate Relationship with the US.”) Rangel diagnosed the resentful grammar underlying the utopian Castro-Guevarist project. If we think of the youth years of Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin, it is hard not to notice precisely this contempt for the rule of law (“Rechtstaat”). The same can be said about the declassé young Hitler in a multi-ethnic Vienna, a city open to bourgeois modernity. These revolutionaries were in fact viscerally anti-conservative: they loathed pluralist values, procedural parliamentarism, and religion appeared to them as a form of mental enslavement. There is a whole literature about the socialist roots of Fascism.

We notice the emergence of a new International (exalting “el nuevo socialismo del siglo 21”) opposed not only to the United States (no matter who is the president, George W. Bush or Barack Obama), but hostile to the free market and to the economic, political, and cultural project based on the recognition of human rights.

We hear passionately humanitarian denunciations of the treatment of Islamicist prisoners in Guantanamo, but very little about the fact that on the same island, in Cuba, whoever dares to oppose the police dictatorship suffers ruthless persecutions. With his phantasmagorical ideas about “Bolivarian Socialism”, colonel Chavez epitomized the effort to regroup and resuscitate the leftist attempt to delegitimize and abolish pluralism.

In another book written by Rangel about Third World mythologies (with a foreword, as for the previous one by the late French political thinker Jean-François Revel) we find a seminal analysis of socialism as a doctrine intimately related to Fascism in terms of rejecting capitalism as “plutocratic,” “soulless,” and “mercantile”. Both politcal religions –Communism and Fascism- promised to accomplish hic ad nunc the perfect community. In the words of political philosopher Eric Voegelin, they tried to immanentize the Eschaton. This meant to condemn human beings to State-dictated happiness. As Rangel put it: “It was not at all an accident that Joseph Goebbels oscillated for a while between Communism and Nazism: he realized that both ideologies were equally compatible with his own inclination for a nationalist and authoritarian government that would save the country from what he saw as the decadent liberalism of the Weimar Republic.”

Colonel Chavez’ red Fascism was welcomed by the most diverse circles: from Iranian Islamiscist theocrat Ahmadinejad to the unreconstructed Sandinista Marxist Daniel Ortega. The frantic search for the New Man, anti-Occidentalism, anti-Semitism, and the utopian-revolutionary hubris made Hugo Chavez the real successor of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Guevara, and Fidel Castro.

Vladimir Tismaneanu is professor of politics at the University of Maryland and the author of numerous books including “Reinventing Politics: Eastern Europe from Stalin to Havel,” “Fantasies of Salvation: Democracy, Nationalism, and Myth in Post-Communist Europe,” and “The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century.” The views presented in his articles are his and do not represent any institution.

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    Now Hugo is in a better place – HELL.

  • AdinaK

    We are really talking about ideological twins separated at birth, and the following explains the nexus further –

    Historicism has muted all the relevant facts at hand.

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel

  • Chezwick

    I despised Hugo Chavez. The litany of his crimes was a long one. But let's keep a check on the hyperbole, might we? Stalin and Hitler were perpetrators of genocide on an industrial scale. Chavez was not even remotely in their league.

    The Left is habitually comparing anyone and everyone they don't like to Hitler. I like to believe we conservatives can hold ourselves to a higher standard.


      Chezwick is of course 100% correct.

    • Reco


      Such as?

      • Chezwick

        Crimes?….The illegal and/or immoral seizure of Venezualen farms and businesses; The illegal and/or immoral closure of opposition newspapers and radio and television stations; The use of mobs and vigilantees to violently silence opposition voices; The funding of Colombia's FARC and the perpetuation of bloodshed in that country; The subsidizing of Communism in Cuba and the perpetuation of totalitarianism in that counttry; The acceptasnce of Iranian and Hezbollah agents to use Venezuala as a point of penetration into the Western Hemisphere;

        • Reco

          No proof.

          Property seized?

          You are making things up!

          The media has been "silenced" has it?

          Far from it…although they did support the short lived dictatorship of Pedro Carmona and then pretend to be victims.

          The Opposition is full of murdering thugs….many supported the 2002 coup and the conservative dictatorship.

          • Anca Cernea

            This information is not for Reco, who is obviously denying all the facts that plead against his chavista propaganda. But for the rest of the readers, the following articles might just suggest the size of the problem :
            123.091 asesinatos en Venezuela en diez años de régimen chavista
            Chávez, denunciado ante el TPI por crímenes de lesa humanidad
            Should we add the support Chavez gave to the FARC, the Marxist narco-assassins acting in Colombia, Chavez has a "body count" that would make even Ceausescu look like a beginner.

          • Reco

            You just posted right wing propaganda……they supported the 2002 coup against Chavez….FACT!

            Disgusting terrorists!

          • Chezwick

            "No proof"….?????

            Reco, This is one of dozens of sources documenting the seizure of farms and businesses in Venezuela…including the confiscation of goods and produce. You apparently know nothing about what's been going on there.

          • Reco

            "WhatnextVenezuela" is not a reliable source.

    • Anca Cernea

      Chezwick, you are right in principle, but this article was not saying Chavez was an equal to Hitler and Stalin. It was saying that Chavez was their disciple.

  • Reco

    This article is a joke…..Chavez was democratically elected and their was a strong opposition in Venezuela lead by Henrique Capriles.

    Pinochet and Franco lovers like Vladimir Tismaneanu hypocritically attack Chavez for defending his country from odious rightist terrorism.

    Hitler and his allies referred to Wiemer Germany as "Jewish Marxist Germany" and wanted to return Germany to its traditional authoritarian state…a true successor of the first and second Reich. Chavez was nothing like Hitler or Stalin for that matter.

    Reagan allied himself with the fascists of the Taliban during the Russo-Afgan war.

    • UCSPanther

      Commies and Fascists: They may use different methods, but they both are the same type of beast: Brutal, conquest-hungry totalitarians.

    • Anca Cernea

      Reco, this is chavista propaganda. You know that. Propaganda guys like you never stick to the facts, never discuss the real issue. They come with old communist cliches. And with insults.
      Who said Tismaneanu was a Pinochet / Franco lover? Can you prove that? Who is the hypocrite here, Tismaneanu or Reco, who is able to write enormous statements like: "Chavez was democratically elected". Who was attacking Venezuela? Who are the "odious rightist terrorists" from whom Chavez defended his country? Or, who were the "fascists" (who were the invaders) in the Afghan war?
      This is a typical form of delusional communist propaganda. Reco is throwing surrealist cliches, just to create confusion, to draw the attention away from the fact that CHAVEZ WAS A RED FASCIST. Communism is not the opposite of fascism, it is a different form of the same disease.

      By the way, Chavez was not defending his country's independence, he BETRAYED his country, he subordinated it to the criminal Cuban dictatorship and made Venezuela a part of every possible Axis of Evil – along with North Corea, Iran, Belarus, Putin's Russia, and away from the Civilized World, where Venezuela used to belong.

      • Reco

        Odious terrorists? Pedro Carmona and his collaborators who are active in the opposition. .

        Chavez saved his country…look at poverty levels and the HDI index…..the Right will never forgive Chavez for defeating them!

        Gracias mi presidente!

  • Anca Cernea

    Vladimir Tismaneanu knows very well what he is talking about.
    He is a distinguished historian of totalitarianism, he knows what it is, how it has been working in Europe, and how it is working now in Venezuela.

    This excellent article should be translated into Spanish!
    It would help clear up all confusion in the ranks of the Venezuelan opposition:
    some of them still seem to be thinking that chavismo isn't the "real left". For them, the "real left" would supposedly mean something good and positive, a kind of Scandinavian-Nanny-State-Paradise-Dream (see an article that warns against this type of error….
    So they hope to be able to fight the chavismo system from the left!
    As Olavo de Carvalho says, "you can't win a competition of leftism against Che Guevara!".

    The chavismo is compatible and in fact closely associated with the bloodiest satraps and terrorists worldwide. But also with more civilized-looking leftist leaders, like Lula da Silva. Chavez wouldn't have been possible without Lula's support, but the Venezuelan opposition still expresses great admiration for the Brazilian ex-president.
    It's time to give up romantic illusions about leftism and realize that chavismo is one of the most extreme forms of leftism on the planet.

    It is nothing but red fascism, exactly as Professor Tismaneanu puts it.

    • Reco

      Lula De Silva endorsed Chavez and more importantly his successor Maduro:

      The Right will never forgive Chavez…….Chavez saved his country from their fascist claws. Most leaders of Latin America applaud Chavez for his good work.

      The family of Danilo Anderson,murdered by rightist opposition thugs, know what Chavez was fighting against.

      Rightist terrorism……the true fascists are in the opposition!

      • Vlad M Imperialistu

        Reco, you're a joke. Lula De Silva and Maduro are both hardcore leftists. So you're point is that two hardcore leftists are endorsing someone who is other a hardcore leftist? Laughable.

      • Vlad M Imperialistu

        Sorry for the typos.

        <<Reco, you're a joke. Lula De Silva and Maduro are both hardcore leftists. So your point is that two hardcore leftists are endorsing someone who is another hardcore leftist? Laughable.>>

      • UCSPanther

        I spit on your fuhrer, commie.

  • Chris_Shugart

    Fascism and communism are two sides of the same coin. I think the left/right political spectrum needs to be revised. On the extreme left is the total government of dictators, and despots. The political system is secondary. On the extreme right is the complete lack of government, or anarchy. Most of us are somewhere in the middle and lean towards one end or the other.

    • Vlad M Imperialistu

      Sir, on the Left you have IDEOLOGY. On the Right you have everything else. Anarchism is by definition, an ideology just like any other. It has nothing to do with the Right and everything to do with the Left. Don't trust my word for it, read Russel Kirk.

    • Reco

      Where do you put the darlings of the Right: Augusto Pinochet and Fransisco Franco?

      • Anca Cernea

        Reco is speaking on behalf of his darlings: Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot – about 1000.000.000 so far, but wait, it's not over, the list goes on and on – Castro, Chavez, Yasser Arafat, Ahmadinejad, Hassan Nasralah, etc etc etc. Reco's darlings were/are of course a lot better at killing people than Pinochet and Franco.
        Reco's problem with Franco is that, because of him, Spain didn't become a Soviet Socialist Republic under the wise guidance of Comrade Stalin, so the overall number of victims in Spain (including Civil War and Franco's regime) was far smaller than it could have been with an effective Soviet Gulag system. Reco's problem with Pinochet is similar, Pinochet stopped Chile from becoming a Soviet-Cuban colony, so the number of people killed was around 3.000, while Castro managed to kill some 150.000 (the population of Chile and Cuba is almost the same). By the way, Reco, do you know who killed Salvador Allende? It wasn't Pinochet. It was your darling, Castro.

        • Reco

          1 billion were murdered by communists?

          The lies of the fascist loving right get more bizarre each second. Ever since the collapse of operation Barbarossa they have longed for revenge!

          The official "victims" of the Castro dictatorship are round 6000…..his right wing predecessor Batista killed 20 000. Most of them(rightly executed by Castro) were torturers and murderers anyway.

          Good that someone believed in Hitler and Mussolini's propaganda that they intervened in Spain so they could "save" Spain from Communism. What a joke.

          Your darlings: Hitler, Pinochet, Franco, Horthy, Mussolini, Leopold II, , Ahmadinejad, Tiso etc. were masters of killing……

          Chavez saved Venezuela from Fascism….your post shows that those who opposed Chavez were quite supportive of fascism.

          Chavez had the Right enemies.

      • Vlad M Imperialistu

        Reco, I really canțt see how the fact that Pinochet and Franco were heads of military dictatorships proves in any way that Hugo Chavez was less than a plague set loose upon Venezuela.

        • Reco

          These fascist dictators are heroes of the Right….they condemn Chavez for saving Venezuela from rightist terror but praise these criminals as saviors.


      • Chris_Shugart

        I've never heard P & F referred to as darlings of the right. If they have a fan site, I haven't seen it. Neither darlings nor right wing are they.

  • patriothere

    If anything Chavez is in Heaven and that Witch Margaret thatcher along with Ronald Reagan are burning in hell. How many people did Reagan kill in South America?

    • Vlad M Imperialistu

      Come on, man, you're just another bolsevhik posing as a patriot. Why don't you admit it, Red?

    • Vlad M Imperialistu

      Oh, and another thing, 'patriot': I find it pretty funny that every now and then I get to hear a communist utter the words "heaven" and "hell", as if they mean something to him. Wouldn't it be a lot better if everyone stuck to what is really his? Heaven and Hell are just for God's children. If you're a marxist, please refrain from invoking the divine. After all, Marx had only scorn for those who believed.

    • Reco

      Well said………Reagan and Thatcher are in eternal torment…deserved.

      Chavez, a true christian, is in heaven. The World bank said he cut poverty by 50%….a hero!

      • Vlad M Imperialistu

        Reco, Chavi was a true marxist. Therefore, he cannot be in Heaven. Tough luck! Viva la revolucion!

  • Ghostwriter

    Right now,I think that Hugo Chavez is burning in Hades for all the evil that he did. Idiots like Reno should wake up and smell the coffee. Chavez sided with A-jad,one of the most brutal thugs on earth today. Please spare me the Marxist claptrap,Reno. I think most Venezuelans are just happy that the obnoxious thug who called himself their president is no longer there to rule over them.

    • UCSPanther

      I doubt that the Chavistas will listen. Trying to convince them is like trying to convince a neo-nazi that Hitler was a horrible tyrant who did horrible things during his reign.

      The only thing we can do is mock them and treat them with contempt.

    • Reco

      Reagan sided with the Taliban, General Pinochet,Rios Montt and other fascists……he is burning in hell for his evil. Most Venezuelans mourned the death of Chavez. He was a hero who is now in heaven.

      • UCSPanther

        Like I said, commie, I spit on your fuhrer…

      • UCSPanther

        Here's a song for you:

        Someone should make a new version about Chavez's death…

      • Vlad M Imperialistu

        Well, many soviets mourned the death of Stalin. That doesn't make Stalin a good man, Reco. Chavez ruined Venezuela. Sooner or later, even the likes of you will realize that. You cannot forever hide from the truth.

        • Reco

          Stalin's Russia was a totalitarian state…Chavez's Venezuela was democratic with a opposition!

          Chavez saved Venezuela from fascism! One of the greatest heroes of the 21st century.

          • Anca Cernea

            Ok, Reco… Chavez saved Venezuela from the werewolves, the red aliens have won against the orange aliens, and the Tooth Fairy was an American agent. So you may go get some sleep now.

          • Ghostwriter

            What world are you living in,Reco? It's certainly not ours. Venezuela has the highest murder rate on earth! Chavez tried to destroy his opposition. Fortunately,he didn't succeed. I watched a few interviews with the guy. He struck me as ego-driven with a touch of the paranoid. There are many Venezuelans who despise Hugo Chavez. He may have been democratically elected,but he stayed on AGAINST the Constitution of Venezuela. "One of the greatest heroes of the 21st century?" Are you kidding me?
            The guy sided with places like Iran,which has one of the worst human rights records on the planet. Venezuela under Chavez was no better. Open your eyes,Reco. Chavez was NOT a good guy. He was a villain. Maybe not in the league of Hitler or Stalin,but still a villain. He refused US help when a landslide wipe out an entire town. There are many in that province that despise Chavez because lives were lost that should not have been because he turned back the US Navy that was going there to help them. I don't know why you defend this monster,Reco. Many Venezuelans both inside and outside Venezuela think that Chavez was a total disaster for their country. The facts back up what they say.

            You're not living in the real world,Reco. I am. You can't change the fact that Chavez was a tyrant who oppressed his country for years. Many around the world know the real Hugo Chavez. That of the obnoxious tyrant who had a six hour tv show on all Venezuelan tv channels to extol himself. I doubt that many in Venezuela miss that show. You're not fooling anyone,Reco. You're a shill for a tyrant. Wake up. You can huff and puff all you want. That doesn't change the facts. Hugo Chavez was a bad guy. Few Venezuelans genuinely mourned that slimeball when he died. I don't miss him. Why do you?

          • Reco

            Ah… prove my point. "Murder Rate"…..caused by rightist terrorism and supported by the opposition…..many of Chavez supporters have been murdered.

            Now for reality that beats your neo fascist lies and propaganda:

            "Since the Chávez government got control over the national oil industry, poverty has been cut by half, and extreme poverty by 70 percent. College enrollment has more than doubled, millions of people have access to health care for the first time and the number of people eligible for public pensions has quadrupled. "

            You are a apologist for rightist totalitarianism. Your hero Reagan supported the Taliban which forced underage girls to marry adult males.

  • Brujo Blanco

    Chavez had bis his enemies taken care of. Communism does.not work.and.that he has proven. Chavez was a true totalitarian.

    • Reco

      Rubbish….he was not totalitarian. He had a hostile media and strong parliamentary opposition against him.

      Heard of Henqique Capriles? The loudmouth opposition leader?

      Chavez saved his country from Fascism.

      • Anca Cernea

        Comrade Reco, still on duty?

      • UCSPanther

        You obviously have stew for brains because you keep coming back and defending your Fuhrer (Or your dear leader if you prefer) on a site where he is despised. You whining about us doing that is pretty typical for a fascistic commie totalitarian…