Franz J.T. Lee, November, 2004

Venezuela: Theory or ideology, revolutionaries or ideologues

According to a report of our colleague, Richard Smith, with regard to the meeting that took place in Fuerte Tiuna, to discuss the current "Revolution in the Bolivarian Revolution," and to elaborate certain, immediate urgent tasks, the following was underlined:

"The aim is to 'deepen' the revolution from the base upwards, and move away from the traditional influence of the leaders of the political parties, by broadening the reach of social and political action. One suspects that the architect of this strategy is, in fact, the chief ideologue of the Bolivarian Revolution, Commander William Izarra. ... Other points discussed at the Fuerte Tiuna meeting were the ideological education of the Venezuelan people -- as Chavez has said on more than one occasion -- “without political ideology and consciousness, there can be no revolution.”

However, when we use certain words or concepts that already have a long ideological history, and which have caused much social confusion, not only in the superstructure, but also in the minds of millions, then scientifically we have to be very cautious in their usage, especially with reference to a serious world social revolution.

Even more so, when the very concept is "ideology" itself.

Over the last century, all kinds of ideology has demonized its very opposite, theory, ontically they cut off all practical relations to it, therewith ostracizing theory to an isolated ivory-tower existence, and replaced it with pragmatism, empiricism, with concrete action, activism, practice.

This is already one more reason to be very careful with concepts like "ideology" and "ideologues" in revolutionary matters. Lenin, an expert in such issues, clearly stated: Without Theory, no Revolution! He did not say, without "Marxist", "socialist" or "communist" ideology.

Of course, this is not a semantic argument, not a criticism of Richard Smith, whom we appreciate very dearly. also it is not even a theoretical critique against the Bolivarian Revolution, which surely does not have reactionary ideology or practices in mind. It is a comradely warning to develop a radical "critique of ideology"

Nonetheless, for the sake of scientific precision and philosophic incision, we should call wine, wine, a spade, a spade. If not, ideological confusion may result, especially when in the "war of ideas", in defamatory and dis-informative campaigns, concepts are being converted into their very opposite, for example, in the "liberation" of Iraq by Bush. Or as Orwell has warned, in world fascism: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery.

What is left of a concept.

What is it still worth, when in global usage it identifies both Simon Bolivar and G. W. Bush as "liberators"?

Surely, in such perverse association, Bolivar would turn in his grave, and grasp his spade. A new, original, authentic revolution needs its own corresponding conceptual profundity.

For the sake of clarity, for our revolutionary comrades, let us very briefly introduce the etymological and political origins of the concepts "ideology" and "ideologues".

Historical Etymology

The Concept "Ideology" is composed of idea and logos.

The philosophic Padrino of the Idea is Plato. In his Doctrine of Ideas, we find everything which concerns idear , to conceive the idea of something, in other words, in formal logic, the technical know-how to think "correctly", philosophically.

Logos is also an ancient Greek idea.

Firstly, in Grammar, it is simply "human speech" that is expressed by means of the letters of the alphabet, and which dissipates itself in syllables, words, and sentences; secondly, in Rhetoric, it is speech itself, prose, fable; thirdly, in Greek Logic, it is the premise (Aussagesatz), judgment or conclusion, definition, definition of the concept; fourthly, in Psychology and Metaphysics, it is the "human soul", the microcosm; fifthly, in Theology, it is the Supreme Being, the Almighty God Himself.

The current concept "Ideology" itself is a modern, bourgeois, capitalist, French revolutionary creation, introduced by Destutt de Tracy, in his famous work, Elements d'ideologie (5 volumes, 1801-15), and it originally functioned as the reduction of human spiritual activity and contents, into concepts or conceptions (idees), practical rules for official education, for law, and the bourgeois, capitalist State.

Concerning the social actors, the ideologues, towards the end of the 18th Century, they played a central political role. Already Napoleon Bonaparte, Hegel's "World Spirit" on horseback across Europe, was not impressed by them at all.

Spreading bourgeois, revolutionary ideas and practices everywhere, he was convinced that ideology and ideologues were harming the process of spreading capitalism across Europe. To counteract these evil forces, he organized a campaign of defamation against them, and thus the concept "Ideology" acquired its first notorious connotation.

The "young" Marx and Engels gave ideology its final reactionary meaning by placing all ruling class spirituality, philosophy, religion, law, art, metaphysics, logic and science, in the ideological superstructure of modern capitalist society.

(Concerning a detailed, scientific analysis of the above, in Spanish, see: Franz J. T. Lee, Teoría-Práxis de la Revolución, Segunda Edición, Cap. 3, ¿QUÉ ES LA IDEOLOGÍA? ¿POR QUÉ LA IDEOLOGÍA RADICALMENTE OPONE LA TEORÍA REVOLUCIONARIA Y LA EMANCIPACIÓN HUMANA?, CDCHT, ULA, Mérida, 1991).

Marx never called his Science and Philosophy an "Ideology."  Engels even went so far as to call it a "false consciousness."

In his early works, Marx had an ambiguous, but a very negative attitude towards ideology. He explained that all social classes can develop ideology, especially when their once revolutionary ideas become ossified, begin to affirm the status quo, thus distorting or disfiguring social reality, placing themselves at the service of the counter-revolution, in the interest of new rising ruling or elitist classes. He emphasized that in all epochs, the dominant ideas (ideology) were always the dominating ideas (ideology) of the dominant ruling classes; they nurture capitalist, economic exploitation and reformist, political domination.

Thus, in the last analysis, ideology is reformist, theory is revolutionary.

Precisely against these dominant, oligarchic ideas and ideology, the Bolivarian Revolution is currently directing its educational missions, its new liberating ideas, its revolutionary theory, underlining that social power must be in the hands of the real, true sovereign, of the people; this is the emancipatory, theoretical quintessence of participative democracy.