Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hugo Chávez presents Simón Bolívar: The Bolívarian Revolution

I have a soft spot for Verso's "Revolutions" series. I imagine myself as a ten year old who has subscribed to a junior encycopedia set. Every few months I get a new volume; this month is aardvarks, next month bratwurst, etc. Only now I'm a 28 year old who excitedly opens his mail every few months to find a classic revolutionary text edited and introduced by a contemporary radical writer. So far the series has not failed to educate me about political history and the finer points of revolutions, though I should mention it has also spectacularly failed to include any titles by women (this winter will see the addition of Mary Wollestonecraft's Vindication, but I can't help but hope that more radical women such as Emma Goldman and Louise Michel will be the subject of future volumes).
As for "Chavez presents Bolivar", this should be required reading for anyone with a remote interest in American politics. I have to say I was shamefully unaware of "what Bolivar's deal was" besides the fact that he was an anti-colonial hero and Bolivia was named after him. There's a lot more going on, particularly some fascinating reflections on centralization vs federation, Republicanism, virtue, and mestizo identity. After reading, I was sure to visit the Bolivar statue on the way to school. Yep, we have a statue of him in Ottawa, in front of a hotel. You know, right near the big mall downtown. Huh.
I was a bit disappointed to learn that the introduction by Chavez was not a new one specially commission for the volume. Rather, it's a distillation of previous comments regarding Bolivar from speeches, other writings, etc. Nonetheless, it's great to see that Chavez's invocation of Bolivar is not an empty jesture. It is a bit hard to swallow the claim that had Boliar lived longer, he would have naturally become a socialist. But then, you have to make bygone heroes your own.

1 comment:

Devin Zane Shaw said...

I feel the same was about the Revolutions series...although I've only read one of them...I'm waiting for Thomas Muntzer's "Sermon to the Princes."