Venezuela: A Defense of Hugo Chavez's Socialism
Along with the much needed redesign, I want to begin adding more comment posts from other blogs that I have inceasingly been engaging. As this blog does not get much traffic, I realized I need to go where the traffic is, hence this reply to a Diary post at the liberal mainstay Dailykos. Many so called progressives over there were taking issue with Hugo Chavez's recent moves towards socialism, citing his so-called "authoritarianism" and anti-market tendencies. Although I have covered most of these issues here in the past, I thought this would make a nice and timely post.
As someone who has followed Chavez since day one, I find this debate on the US left fascinating.
First off, it is important to understand Chavez's project has achieved more than just a 10% drop in poverty (it's at least 23%) and fantastic growth. For the first time the masses have a seat at the decision-making table in their communities and nation-wide (and will have even more soon). For the first time, millions of people have the dignity that only access to health care, literacy, education and food security can provide (via the successful Mission programs). Thanks to Chavez millions are becoming owners of their land, their workplaces and their democracy – all things that don’t even register in poverty stats
What liberals don’t understand is that social justice is not about welfare, affirmative action or a $7 minimum wage; it is about fundamentally transforming society so it becomes fairer. There are no market friendly solutions for the 750,000 homeless, 45 million without health care and melting Artic shelf.
Free and fair markets may be fine where they can actually exist and where the public good is being served, but whether telecom and electricity fit that bill is not at all clear. You may "like the energy" of companies but if you were a poor person in the hillside slums of Caracas or rural hamlet and could not get phone or electrical service because it was not profitable enough you might have other thoughts (phones per household have actually fallen since privatization). Companies have bottom line priorities and if they don't mesh with social goals, they don't happen.
As for Chavez’s "authoritarianism," lets talk about the HRW report. First, the "persecuted" political opponents Mrs. Machado and Mr. Corao, are free and have not been charged with any crime – they have been questioned. The (independent) Attorney’s General office is reviewing evidence that Machado’s Sumate group took US funding (possibly covertly), conspired with coupsters and the US (she remains the only Venezuelan to ever step foot in the White House) to bring down an elected government. Her legacy includes signing her name to a declaration that dissolved Venezuelan democracy, funding false exit polls and then claiming election fraud after results were deemed free and fair.
The non-renewal of the broadcast license for one of the many (openly) Anti-Chavez media outlets (RCTV) is a justified response to the irresponsibility this station was known for. How can the people be expected to fork over their airwaves to a station that showed its open disdain for them and their democracy when it really mattered – during the coup and the counter-coup (extolling people to rise up, then totally ignoring the millions in the streets demanding Chavez’s return). RCTV will be free to exist, sell programming to cable and other countries and reapply for their license again later. Anyone in Venezuela can tell you the pricate media is far from decimated or scared – they put ours to shame in their ferocity. Plus Chavez announced these plans BEFORE the election, despite the MSM account.
The slight expansion of the previously existing "descato" (disrespect) law has never been used, is found widely around the world and was a response to unprecedented media attacks upon the Attorney General’s office. The media "social responsibility" law has likewise, never been used, and is aimed mostly at sex and violence in the media. The incitement clause was a response to the media’s coup-mongering role during the coup (imagine what Bush would do to ABC if it openly advocated street actions to topple democracy). That HRW finds offense in a requirement that 60 minutes a week be set aside for education programming speaks for itself (and badly on HRW).
Many here seem to have never learned a basic rule about power - the elite do not gleefully hand it over to the people. Many also seem to not want to admit that the poor are not profitable to corporations, hence they don't get served. Chavez's mouth may be big and is not perfect, but he is showing the masses that another world is indeed possible.