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On fascism and other maladies: A conversation with Luis Britto García

Originally published: Venezuelanalysis.com on May 10, 2024 (more by Venezuelanalysis.com)  |

Experimental writer and columnist Luis Britto Garcia is one of Venezuela’s best-known and most respected intellectuals. An avid supporter of the Bolivarian Process from the beginning, Britto Garcia is nevertheless an independent thinker who offers criticism the government when necessary. In this interview, he talks about fascism and corruption, as well as his hopes for a Chavista victory in the upcoming July 28 presidential elections.

Cira Pascual Marquina: You recently wrote an article about fascism, a topic of global concern. How would you describe this phenomenon from a contemporary perspective?

Luis Britto Garcia: Franz Leopold Neumann, in his seminal work Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism, 1933-1944, defines fascism succinctly as the absolute collusion between big capital and the state. When the interests of big capital become political interests, fascism lurks close by. Fascism takes advantage of societal crises, presenting itself as a panacea while deepening oppression and inequality. Capitalism in crisis creates unemployment, scarcity, and misery. Fascism presents itself as a magical alternative.

Fascism exhibits distinctive characteristics. It is usually financed by big capital and creates political structures such as the Corporate State, where entrepreneurs play a decisive role. It is elitist, with its leadership generally coming from the upper and upper-middle classes. Fascism recruits followers among middle-class sectors, particularly those whom the crises leave without future prospects. Fascism is devout: the Pope blessed Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Petain, and Salazar, while high Latin American church hierarchies blessed Pinochet.

Fascism is also anti-labor: it dissolves and prohibits trade unions, while reducing wages and labor rights. It denies class struggle but serves as capital’s gendarme in class struggle. Fascism is violent: it creates paramilitary groups to suppress unions and opposition parties. Fascism is racist: it considers itself genetically superior, discriminates, and seeks to exterminate so-called “inferior races.” Fascism is misogynistic: it relegates women to the domestic sphere, to the care of children, and to the Church.

Fascism is plagiaristic: it steals the red flag from communism, the swastika from the Hindus, the fasces from classical Rome. It is anti-intellectual: it discriminates against and persecutes avant-gardes and critical thinkers. Remember what Goering said: “When I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver.”

[Argentinian intellectual] Atilio Borón adds two traits in his analysis of contemporary fascism. The classical form of fascism defended State intervention in the economy, whereas the contemporary version is neoliberal, condemning state intervention despite benefiting from it. The classic was anti-Jewish, whereas neo-fascists are pro-Zionist. I believe that gives us a fairly complete picture.

CPM: Fascism generally has street-level manifestations. Fascism emerged here in the 2014 and 2017 guarimbas [street protests] and also in the brief period of pro-Guaidó mobilization in 2019. Nowadays, however, fascism is not very present in the streets of Caracas. This is, no doubt, a victory for the people and for the government. How was it achieved?

LBG: There are some street demonstrations in favor of radical opposition candidates these days, but they are very small and without evident violence. During the guarimbas, not only was street violence rampant, but there were apartments and houses that were turned into strongholds, camps, and weapon depots for the fascists. The movement was well-organized and well-funded.

From my perspective, the 2017 Constituent Assembly elections served as an effective cultural deterrent and represented a turning point: fascist violence subsided overnight. Guarimbas, or any other fascist operations, rely on mobilization, financial backing, and the prospect of a swift victory. These prerequisites went away. That’s why we are not seeing fascist mobilizations right now.

CPM: You recently wrote a column titled “Caiga quien caiga” [Let Fall Whoever Should Fall] which circulated widely among Chavistas. It was a wake-up call on the issue of corruption. Tell us about that article.

LBG: The majority of Venezuelans, including those affiliated with the PSUV, are honest, but it’s evident that certain actors–call them the ideologues and practitioners of capitalist looting–have infiltrated some sectors of the ruling party, finding people who will listen to them and grant them power.

Nobody can convince me that the people who carried out the series of thefts we’ve endured over the years are socialists. Hence, it’s imperative to identify the true roots of this problem.

I am concerned about the susceptibility of some PSUV members to the “adventures” of corrupt individuals. Jair Bolsonaro won the presidency in Brazil by promoting the idea that Dilma Rousseff’s government was extremely corrupt. The judicial system exonerated both Rousseff and her predecessor Lula da Silva, but a segment of the electorate abandoned the party [PT], opting for a disastrous candidate instead.

The dream that capitalist subterfuges could make you rich overnight got hold of a few individuals. In fact, it brings total ruin. I have warned people about the lure of these chimeras, but greed and the promise of easy riches continue to seize hold of people’s imagination.

Once, I persuaded Chávez to veto a law that, among other drawbacks, allowed rivers, lakes, and lagoons to be privatized and decentralized their administration. That was an important victory against corruption. I have also pointed out that for the Petro [Venezuelan cryptocurrency] there were no defined legal framework or controls. Now we are seeing the tragic results [Britto García refers to the arrest of former minister and PDVSA president Tareck El Aissami, who was involved in a corruption scandal involving cryptocurrencies].

Those who align themselves with the PSUV must unequivocally embrace the nationalist, socialist, and anti-imperialist principles of the party charter, and must do away with any plans of surrendering the country to foreign capital.

I have proposed that the public administration have real-time computerized control mechanisms. Unfortunately, some people continue to prefer secrecy and disregard the existing rules.

In all this, the victims are the people, who suffer most with the disappearance of colossal sums of money that could have been invested in improving their condition. But there is a further problem: the people who suffer the consequences could retaliate with a punitive vote in the upcoming elections.

CPM: We are less than three months away from the presidential elections. How do you see the current electoral landscape?

LBG: The Right has obtained an important number of votes in past elections, but they are always completely divided. Although in the past they have achieved victories in pivotal states such as Miranda and Zulia, they haven’t been able to get much out of their triumphs because they fail to present a united front. This time around, the Right finds itself fragmented once again and with candidates lacking widespread recognition. It’s doubtful at this point that they’ll be able to rally enough momentum to win.

On the other hand, the PSUV–despite facing challenges like corruption scandals, deferred labor reforms, and the severe impact of the U.S. blockade–remains the most consolidated political force in Venezuela. While these factors we discussed could erode some of its electoral backing, the PSUV is most likely to win in my opinion.

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