Dual Powers, Class Compositions, and the Venezuelan People

in Historical Materialism
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George Ciccariello-Maher’s We Created Chávez is the most important book available in English proposing an anti-capitalist framework for understanding the Bolivarian process in contemporary Venezuela, as well as its historical backdrop dating back to 1958. The book contains within it a laudable critique of Eurocentrism and a masterful combination of oral history, ethnography, and theoretical sophistication. It reveals with unusual clarity and insight the multiplicity of popular movements that allowed for Hugo Chávez’s eventual ascension to presidential office in the late 1990s. We Created Chávez has set a new scholarly bar for social histories of the Bolivarian process and demands serious engagement by Marxists. As a first attempt at such engagement, this paper reveals some critical theoretical and sociological flaws in the text and other areas of analytical imprecision. Divided into theoretical and historical parts, it unpacks some of the strengths and weaknesses by moving from the abstract to the concrete. The intervention begins with concepts – the mutually determining dialectic between Chávez and social movements; ‘the people’; and ‘dual power’. From here, it grounds these concepts, and Ciccariello-Maher’s use of them, in various themes and movements across specific historical periods of Venezuelan political development – the rural guerrillas of the 1960s, the urban guerrillas of the 1970s, the new urban socio-political formations of the 1980s, Afro-Indigenous struggles in the Bolivarian process, and formal and informal working-class transformations since the onset of neoliberalism and its present contestation in the Venezuelan context.

Dual Powers, Class Compositions, and the Venezuelan People

in Historical Materialism



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See Ciccariello-Maher 2010. In a series of articles he has developed the theoretical concerns that are finally taken up in his dissertation. See for example Ciccariello-Maher 2007; Ciccariello-Maher 2008; Ciccariello-Maher 2014a.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 6.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 5.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013app. 5–6.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 6.


Raby 2006pp. 165–6.


Azzellini 2010p. 9.


Fernandes 2010p. 5.


James 1989.


Gott 2005.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 7.


Thompson 1966.


Wolf 1999.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 7.


See Dussel 2008of which Ciccariello-Maher is the translator. To a lesser but nonetheless important extent ‘the people’ here corresponds with its usage in the work Ernesto Laclau. See particularly Laclau 2007. For a favourable reference by Ciccariello-Maher to this component in Laclau’s theory of populism see Ciccariello-Maher 2013a p. 236.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 8.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 16.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 18.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013app. 239–40.


Trotsky 2005p. 225; emphasis added.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 19.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 16.


Skocpol 1979p. 4.


Davidson 2012pp. 494–5.


Webber 2011bp. 46.


Bensaïd 2002.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 25.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 29.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 36.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 28.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 25.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013app. 28–9.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 43.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 33.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 42.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 35.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 44.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 76.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 32.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013app. 38–40.


Debray 2000. For an earlier set of critiques that has largely fallen out of scholarly consciousness see Huberman and Sweezy (eds.) 1981. Ciccariello-Maher elaborates and extends the critique of Debray later in the text in the context of a discussion of new urban social movements which emerge in the 1980s (Ciccariello-Maher 2013a p. 82).


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 40.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 41.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 46.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 47.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 51.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 53.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 54.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 55.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 56.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 58.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 61.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 64.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 63.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 70.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 90.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 89.


Webber 2012pp. 185–6.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 93.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 95.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 74.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 80.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 78.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 150.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013app. 160 162.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 163.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 164.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 185.


De Ste. Croix 1989.


Bergquist 1986p. 1.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013app. 292–3 n. 54.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 233.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 221.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 222.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 220.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 223.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 224.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 219.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 224. The sources for these contentious figures are less than ideal. The first is an article by Marta Harnecker from 2004 which offers no source from which she derived her figures on informal and formal employment (Harnecker 2004). The second is a conjunctural news story from Venezuela Analysis in 2007 (Venezuela Analysis 2007).


See Breman 1996; Breman 2013a; Breman 2013b.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013app. 226 227. Elsewhere I have written about the concepts of lo vecinal vecino and oppositional consciousness of race and class in the Bolivian context in complementary ways. Webber 2012 pp. 263–8.


Camfield 2004.


Camfield 2004p. 421.


Camfield 2004p. 424.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 234.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 235.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 242.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 244.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 250.


Ciccariello-Maher 2013ap. 235.


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