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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The Curse of the Caudillo Complex


Mick Hall • 1 March 2007

Venezuela's Leftist President Hugo Chavez, recently announced that he intends to create a new political party in an attempt to bring under a single umbrella the host of political organizations that give support to his Presidency. As a rider to this announcement, he added he also intends to ask Parliament to annul the current law that makes it illegal for any President of Venezuela to serve more that two terms in Office. On reading this, my heart sank, as I could envisage yet another self-inflicted disaster for the Left in the making. Once a budding Caudillo demands the right to 'serve the people' in perpetuity, it is a clear indictment of their failure as a political leader. If a President or Prime Minister has served out two terms in office, and in the process been unable to groom an able and capable group of politicians who can follow on from them when they have completed their legally allotted term, then they have failed, and, I might add, failed dismally.

There is little doubt in my mind that Hugo Chavez to date has been an impressive leader, as he has made a real effort to redistribute more equally Venezuela's not inconsiderable oil wealth. By so doing he has offered up a real alternative to the wretched neo-liberal economics that has plagued the world since Reagan/Thatcher first brought this failed and hackneyed philosophy to prominence.

However, Hugo Chavez still has five more years to serve of his second term in office, which should give him plenty of time to bed down those reforms he has already put in motion, and allow him to move forward with his Bolivarian revolution. In the process he hopefully will also bring to the fore a group of politicians who will be able to carry on where he leaves off when he retires from office. This would make any change in the law about the length of time an individual can serve as President unnecessary.

That power corrupts is not just a cliché but also a historic fact. Continuous personal power does more than that. It causes a major blockage within the political system of any Nation or Political Party that practices such absolutism. When a leader refuses to move aside to allow up and coming generations to take their own place on the national political stage, so to do their underlings, whose influence and power stems from the great leader.

Then what happens is the more able politicians, due to either a lack of courage or opportunity cannot bring themselves to Et tu, Brute, leave the field in search of more fertile ground on which to live out their lives, unwilling to play the role of a political Prince Charles, waning away the best years of their life in silent political servitude, to an individual who they resent and have long ago lost all respect for.

The Leader then ends up with the most servile courtiers around him/her, and gradually all that interests El Presidency and his courtiers is surviving in office. The reasons as to why they first became politically active recedes into the mists of time. So to does all thought of implementing progressive polices, as they are well aware if they do so it will stir powerful forces in opposition to their rule, which is the last thing they want as it may threaten their very survival in office.

Such a scenario is currently being played out as farce in London where Tony Blair has lost all touch with reality. He has surrounded himself with cronies and courtiers who are ever fearful that they will become the legal scapegoats for their master's crimes when he departs the stage; they are doing all that is within their power to convince him to stay.

However nowhere is the folly of allowing political leaders to outlive their usefulness more clearly demonstrated in all its awfulness than in the north of Ireland. The leaders of the two main parties have both been at the head or their respective Party for decades. Having gradually surrounded themselves with gofers and incompetents, neither has an heir of any standing or real ability.

Even the most ardent Unionists when in their cups, will admit to 'Dr' Ian Paisley being a roadblock to progress within the six counties, rather than being an individual who could play a constructive role in finding a way forward. Few doubt that the six counties would have been a far better place if the growling tub thumper had retired from public life long ago. If this had happened, at the very least Unionists would not have ended up with the absurdity of the main Unionist Party, the DUP, issuing a manifesto which highlights the policies it wishes to implement if it gains any power, yet refusing to tell the electorate wether it intends to enter a Stormont 'administration' post the 7th March election so that they can put the said manifesto into practice.

Less the public Bible bashing, much the same could be said of the leader of the main Nationalist Party, Gerry Adams. Once Mr Adams found himself at the top of the greasy pole of northern Irish Republicanism, he made it quite clear he would destroy anyone's career who challenged his position, and indeed he has done this on a number of occasions. It mattered not a jot to him whether they were friend or foe, out the door they go if they refuse to bend the knee to his authority.

There can be few leading politicians in the world who have overseen as many defeats and setbacks as Gerry Adams, yet he has not only remained at the top of the Republican heap, but also managed to convinced a majority of his party membership and an increasing number of the nationalist electorate that his excreta does not stink.

In his original bid for control of the Provisional Republican Movement, Mr. Adams made much of the setbacks the Movement suffered during the PIRA ceasefire of the mid 1970s. Yet the aforementioned errors by the former leadership were mere trifles compared to what was to occur under Mr Adams. The most deadly of his errors are still to see the light of day, but his failure to rotate the top personnel of the PRM, especially its security department, typified the man's methodology, which is based on his own self interest, egotism and vanity, and which has led at times to the PRM being brought to its knees.

That he failed to rotate the upper echelons of the PRM was no mere oversight on the part of Mr. Adams, as he was in no position to do so, not if he wished to maintain his power in perpetuity. How could he demand that the PIRA senior staff be rotated, without replicating this process throughout the whole organization? If he were to do this, it would have kicked away the building blocks of his own career, which he has spent decades meticulously putting into place. Like all bureaucratically minded politicos, Mr Adams had placed a close clique of confidants throughout all levels of the movement; and left them in no doubt that they owed their position and thus loyalty to the leader personally.

If a Scappaticci or Denis Donaldson were to be rotated, why not Ted Howe, Jim Gibney or any of the rest of Mr. Adams' kitchen cabinet, plus the close confidants he had placed throughout the movement, including those he placed on the PIRA Army Council to replace himself, Martin Ferris and Martin McGuiness?

Nevertheless, as its more able militants were either pushed out or departed the PRM, when they finally realized the true nature of the man they gave their allegiance to, Mr. Adams and his gofers to date have been able to convince those that remained within SF that black is white and the latest setback is in reality yet another victory — which all but confirms the old adage that a political party deserves the leader it gets.

Incidentally, demanding that black becomes white is a common trait amongst all those with the Caudillo complex. Although, once they are shoehorned out of office — and one way or another it eventually comes to them all — white always returns to being black. The first thing that comes crashing down is the carefully crafted reputation of the great leader. Few have managed to baulk this judgment of history, which gives one a little comfort.

The sad fact is that if many of these people who outstay their welcome had left office, or stood down from leading their party after two terms, they would have left a legacy to be admired. Instead they almost all end up with a legacy of failure and bitter contempt.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

6 March 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Irish Republican Ex-POWs Against the RUC/PSNI & MI5

Whispering Past the Graveyard
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RSF Campaign Reports
Tony McPhillips – Election Agent

Save Derry
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Support Peggy O Hara
Ex-POWs and Concerned Republicans Against RUC/PSNI & MI5

Only the Beginning
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St Bore's Day
Anthony McIntyre

SS Sinn Fein
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Election Guarantees Nothing
David Adams

Coulter's Pre-Election Report
Dr John Coulter

Others Promise...
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The Curse of the Caudillo Complex
Mick Hall

Rest, Do Not Surrender
Dolours Price

...We Deliver
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Super Six Dictator
Dr John Coulter

Anyone Up for a Serious Alternative?
Philip Ferguson

The View from Outside
Jerry Pepin

Boom to Bust?
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Tyre Trees
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Cleanliness Not Next to Godliness in the Shankill
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Leadership Needed
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Where Does the State of the Union Leave the Rest of Us?
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British Policing Must Never Be Acceptable in Ireland
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The Next Step
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Conclusions from the Ard Fheis
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McAleese Should be Criticised
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The Best Woman to Succeed
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Fred A. Wilcox

The Critical History of (Irish pop) Noise
Seaghán Ó Murchú

No Clean Hands
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