Of heroes and revolution

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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY DEPARTMENT OF SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE

RESEARCH PROJECT: HEROIC LITERATURE. BOLIVARIANISM AS A LANGUAGE: ITS IMPLICATIONS IN A SOCIALIST REVOLUTION, THE VENEZUELAN CASE

WORKING PAPER
VENEZUELA IN THE MIRROR (Culture, Heroes and Politics) Luis Ricardo Dávila (Visiting Professor) ________________________

June, 2009

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“The hero is an ambiguous giftthat literature gives us before becoming aware of itself”. Maurice BLANCHOT (1955)

ABSTRACT According to Blanchot, in this research fields of knowledge or literary genres are not considered as fully distinguishable. I will only consider discontinuities and places where the topic can be entered including those from literature, philosophy and history to politics. As such, I propose exploring, someof its literary and historiographic sketches, the general lines of the sad fate of a society that seems destined to unfold, in an unpardonable manner, between the permanent cult to the national hero and the recurrent submission to the national antihero, combined in a uncontrollable and manipulating hero cult. The national hero is found personified in General Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), as a modelof discretionary and authoritarianism, turned symbol of efficiency. The literary and historiographic testimonies on this contraposition of values are abundant, even if to a great extent, the means of expression of those testimonies are confused, because they correspond, in general, to the stage of Venezuelan historiography where this makes up part of the “great works”. In this research, I willlimit myself to reconstruct some of these testimonies, from the entire work of personages less frequently mentioned when treating this topic.

From very early, some critical spirits (Zumeta, 1899; Picón-Salas, 1941; Briceño Iragorry, 1952; Carrera, 1973) warned of the consequences of the heroic, as it was conceived in terms coined by historiography and literature, and codified by history and by theofficial cannons of politics and culture. Soon, the link with the dramatic and frequently tragic life of the Republic in the perverse place between the public opinion of a disposition bent on

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stimulating selfishness, exalting the excessive centrality of the leader, and consequently exacerbating the caudillo was revealed.
INTRODUCTION What we are presently seeing – and living – inVenezuela is not simply another outlining of the political and social map; nor is it precisely the movement of certain political boundaries in connection with a dispute over new interests, or the drawing of a picturesque populist and revolutionary language, or new forms of social articulation accompanied by new political practices. It deals with a profound change in the principles themselves for theoutlining of this map. It is not about adopting positions for or against the present regime, or supporting or rejecting the practices of the outlining, but about adopting new agreement interpretations formed in the heat of the great historical changes underway. What we are seeing – and living – at this time in Venezuela is a dynamic that is not very flowing, plural or decentralized. On the contrary,the process being lived is one in which excessive centralization in the leader, as an articulating factor, is the predominant feature. The realities that are being debated are not very stable or consensual, and it does not appear that they are going to be anytime soon. The most interesting problem is not how this complicated political-social situation can be solved but what all this ferment ofrelations, actions and passions means. Through which discursive mechanisms is the present state of affairs justified? And even more interesting, how is that excessive centralization in the leader to be turned into a process of radical transformation? Beginning with these statements, which will serve as a guide for me, I would like to present certain considerations.

4 The process underway deals...
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