Chavez, the revolution and Twitter a year later
May 1, 2011
Eliades Acosta Matos1
President Chavez’s Twitter account, @Chavezcandanga, debuted on April 27, 2010, at 9:43pm. After one year, the balance sheet is impressive: using this social network, the Bolivarian president has published 933 tweets – short messages of up to 140 characters - has 1 432 740 followers and has been included on 39 461 lists. Its runaway success has necessitated the creation of a mission specifically to attend to the thousands of messages that are received every day and gave rise to a “Union of Socialist Twitterers”.
The most important thing about this phenomenon, initiated by the theoretical and practical prime mover of this promising current called ‘Socialism of the 21st century’, is that it shows that the new information technologies can and should be utilized without fear or reservation, in the difficult task of changing the world and placing it on more just and humane foundations. They do not have to play a fatal, demobilizing or alienating role, or be a means of diffusing frivolity and nonsense, nor must they be docile instruments in the hands of the programs of world counterrevolution, especially those that fight 24/7 on the frontline of the culture wars.
It is not going out on a limb to claim that Chavez’s decision to set up a Twitter account and make it serve the purpose of making his government leadership transparent and open new channels of contact with the people, can be considered one of the most important strategic actions taken by revolutionary forces on the world scale in the struggle to overthrow their own limits, taboos and myths, and advance toward the transformation of a reality that has little similarity to that which Karl Marx or Lenin faced in their time. Injustice cannot be revolutionized without knowing the keys of each age, or refusing to take advantage of its transformational tools – including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs.
Can anyone doubt that if Marx lived in our time he would have a web page, and Lenin a Twitter account? Would Marti have spurned the enormous information and communication possibilities the internet offers us today?
But if backward approaches and fear of change is harmful, neither is it enough to formally agree with these propositions, after all, they’re so obvious they cannot be denied. To use these social networks to make revolution implies a deep change in the verticalist and centralist mentality - sadly inherited by the left from previous historical experiences – and placing themselves on an equal footing, without a centre or periphery, alongside the people who use these technologies, including our enemies that use them heavily. And this means, in itself, an enormous strategic step in the march of development, democratization and the renewal of socialist forces. Their future and its success in the struggle depends upon it.
|Eliades Acosta Matos|
As such, that discrete, telegraphic first tweet Chavez made one year ago will go down as a milestone in the history of our ideas. As with all transcendental things, it happened naturally, without pretense. Its brilliance was not visible to the naked eye; it lies within, in its subaltern significance, and in what it means for the future, and the challenge to emulate, but not imitate it.
What is known as the “Twitter Revolution” or the “Cyber Revolution” merits a more detailed analysis. For now, it’s enough to say that the front line of the secular struggle for progress and social justice also passes through here. The confrontation that begins in the political or economic sphere is decided in the symbolic and ideological sphere.
“Twitter is the best way to find out what’s new in your world”, says one of the slogans of the promoters of that social network. A sly Dr Marx of our epoch would no doubt add, ironically, “ … but the point is to change it”.
With patience and constancy, amidst his enormous tasks and responsibilities, Chavez is doing just that.
And it is going out to millions.
1. Eliades Acosta Matos is the former director of Cuba’s Jose Marti National Library (1997–2007) and currently head of the Committee on Culture of the Cuban Communist party's Central Committee. He is the author of The Apocalypse according to Saint George.