Friday, May 25, 2007

RCTV: Chavez defends the revolution

In 1992 the British government ended the licence of Thames Television, which since 1968 had broadcast to London. The government had changed the franchise rules in the 1990 Broadcasting Act, which minimised the requirement of a high quality of service, in favour of allowing bids to be decided by money alone.

There was widespread discussion at the time that the Thatcher government had been politically motivated in changing the rules specifically to enable them to end Thames's licence because of the award winning 1988 documentary, “Death on the Rock” where Thames TV exposed the British government’s murder of three Irish republican volunteers in Gibraltar in 1988.

The Thatcher government recognised that there is no such thing as free speech, and acted in their own class interests. Nevertheless, there was no international outcry about “censorship”, or claims that Thatcher was a dictator.

Thames TV’s licence had come to an end, and the government, who was responsible for issuing licences, had exercised its legal right to award the licence for the next period to a different broadcaster, Carlton.

The Venezuelan government has now decided not to renew the TV licence of the channel RCTV. It has not banned the channel; it did not even cancel their licence prematurely. They have simply exercised their right as a sovereign nation, as the British government did in 1992, not to renew a public broadcasting licence, through an entirely transparent process. Nor is this unusual, since 1969 the American Federal Communications Commission has closed three stations: WLBT-TV in Mississippi, CBS affiliate WLNS-TV in Michigan, and Trinity Broadcasting in Miami.

Nevertheless, despite acting legally, and within the international norms of a public broadcasting licensing body, the Venezuelan government are being accused of dictatorial conduct and censorship, an accusation being echoed by some of the more superficial voices on the “left”.

The question of free speech is being raised. However freedom of speech is not an abstract concept, but one rooted in social and political conditions.

Trade unions offer no right for management to speak at trade union meetings. It is even normal practice in British trade unions for management grades to be organised in different unions or at least different branches, because we seek to keep management out of meetings so that those they supervise are not intimidated by management’s point of view. These are both restrictions on an abstract freedom of speech, but are obviously unexceptional.

The RCTV channel not only encouraged and promoted a military coup in 2002 that briefly overthrew the government, but during the so-called oil strike of 2002-2003 (actually an employers' lock-out of employees who wanted to work) the station repeatedly called upon its viewers to come out into the street and help topple the government. As part of its continuing political campaign against the government, the station has also used false allegations, sometimes with gruesome and violent imagery, to convince its viewers that the government was responsible for such crimes as murders where there was no evidence of government involvement.

But RCTV has also been guilty of various financial irregularities under the Venezuelan criminal law, such as the withholding 0f six billion Bolivars of national insurance contributions.

Venezuela is a country in the middle of revolutionary change. Power is being disputed between on the one hand the radical popular movement, rooted in the workplaces and communities, and on the other hand the boss class, the corporations, and the imperialists. The Chavez government is a progressive one, that is helping to roll back the idea that there is no alternative to neo-liberalism, and is seeking to encourage and build the popular movement.

In these circumstances, the debate about freedom of speech is not an abstract one, it is a question of whether the state defends the interests of the popular movement and the working class, or whether it allows the boss class to undermine the revolution through their ownership of a tatty tabloid TV station. The question is in which class interest is the state acting, and in Venezuela the government has acted in the interests of the working class by revoking RCTV’s licence. Well done Chavez!

The following 25 minute documentary clarifies the issues very well (Spanish with English subtitles)


Charlie Marks said...

Excellent post comrade. Perhaps you would like to intervene in a wee debate here:

Liam Mac Uaid said...

There's no room for liberalism on this. The old media are an instrument of counter revolution and have to be shut down. It should have happened years ago.

Julia_1984 said...

The RCTV license actually expires on 2022. Not only that, but it has been quite clear the president Chavez its dennying to renew the license because of political reasons only. One of the main critics against RCTV has being to broadcast cartoons and movies during the days of the coup of 2002, and that has used as a proof to guilt RCTV of supporting that coup. The thing is, that the RCTV building was surrounded by Chavez supporters who dind't let any of the RCTV workers get out. They made a protest around the building, made damages to the doors and so on. The RCTV workers hided in a baseman and waited, asking to the Chavez supporters to please retire or at least let them out in order to cover the news.
But putting all this arguments aside, if RCTV were actually guilty of all charges, why dont Chavez decides to not renew the license to other TV networks that had the same behaviour during both the coup and the strike such as Venevision, Televen and Globovision? Perhaps because RCTV has a very high raiting and Venevision and Televen are now making business with the government.
Theres not such thing as a class fight in Venezuela, theres only a man who believes he is the encarnation of God and perhaps his intentions were good at the beggining but hes not very get used to the power and the power can really change people. The government is responsible for many things, while RCTV and other TV networks were broadcasting violent events were they put the government as responsible, I was there at the streets living such events.
Now you guys might wonder, why do I even dare to write to a socialist blog when I have make quite clear my stance of being against the current government? Perhaps because theres some socialism in my blood and I strongly believe in social justice and I know that you guys and I are defending the same values, just on different sides of the battle.
If you guys only knew that the goverments version isn't the only one, perhaps the views on this blog could be more busy taking away the mask of Chavez, telling the word what socialism really is. Socialism shouldnt be the misery that we, the Venezuelans, are living now. At least doesn't look like the socialist wonders I once read.
PS: I ask for excuses in advance for the grammar and spelling mistakes you guys might find on the lines above. Its quite clear that, like Celia Cruz used to say "my english isn't very good looking" :)

Richard Carey said...

Well said Julia, hopefully you'll force these armchair revolutionaries to think again about their love of demagogic dictators. I wouldn't hold out any hope from socialism, this is how it always goes, "power to the people" soon changes to power of the state to tell the people what to do, or else. Individual liberty, private property and the rule of law is the way forward.

BTW your English needs no apology, honesty is eloquent in any language.

Liam Mac Uaid said...

The people I met in Venezuela who complained about the revolution were mostly rich. They complained about not being able to go to Miami for shopping trips and how they were having to pay tax for the first time. The poor seemed to appreciate the new homes, the cheap food and the Cuban doctors.
The old ruling class had a century to provide the most basic services for the population. It chose to make life easy for a few and a nightmare for the majority.
Defending the revolution is the only compassionate thing to do. On this question Chavez is right.

Richard Carey said...


"defending the revolution is the only compassionate thing to do".

Interesting choice of words for closing down an independent and popular tv station.

Richard Carey said...

From the Jamaica Gleaner

"Venezuela's RCTV television station had viewers roaring with a spoof of leftist President Hugo Chavez after he misspelled a word while promoting a nationwide literacy campaign four years ago.

Within months, the government passed anti-defamation laws that forced the station's slapstick comedy show Radio Rochela, which had ribbed presidents for more than 40 years, to drop its impressions of his folksy idiosyncrasies.

Now, Chavez plans to have the last laugh: RCTV goes off the air on Sunday night."

Charlie Marks said...

"demagogic dictators"? Are you referring to Chavez?

"Individual liberty, private property and the rule of law is the way forward."

Individual liberty - to hire and fire?

Private property - but only for a few?

Rule of law - in the interests of the few?

I don't hear anyone moaning about the shit that's gone down in mexico in the last year...

If Chavez is a dictator why is he so keen on the communal councils, which do not bar people who oppose the govt? Why the constitution that allows a recall -- which took place and he won?

He must be mad to wait five years to shut down an enemy tv station, eh? What a shit dictator - he doesn't know his arse from his elbow... Musharraf had the Geo station raided quick sharp.

Truth is, Chavez ain't no dictator. But the opposition... well, they wouldn't mind one.

Renegade Eye said...

I have a post at my blog on the same subject.

Chavez is not shutting the station down, it will be allowed to exist on cable and satellite. It's losing its public bandwidth. During the Chavez years, the ONLY TV stations to be shut down in Venezuela were Canal 8 (state TV) and Catia TV (a community station) - were these shut down by the Chavez government? No - they were shut down by the opposition during their brief 2002 coup (during which some 50 people were killed by pro-opposition police). This coup was reversed by the mass uprising of the Venezuelan people and the support of the rank and file of the military.

Good post and good discussion.

Louisefeminista said...

Very good post.

Btw Charlie M. have had a look (commented) on Shiraz Socialist.

Also, RCTV are coming out with counter-revoluntary reactionary bilge and the politics of counter-revolution equals a blood bath. So Chavez is correct to have done what he has.

Richard Carey said...

You people never learn. You're watching a step-by-step establishment of a totalitarian state based on a personality cult, and you support it cos he waves a red flag.

Richard Carey said...

This is interesting

Charlie Marks said...

A totalitarian state that hands out money to community councils --that the man supposedly building a cult of personality says will form the basis for the socialist state -- will never succeed, Richard. I think you worry about the future of capitalism, not the future of freedom.

As for the party, the leadership of the existing parties in the Bolivarian movement are bound to be unhappy. Some don't see the revolution going beyond building a national capitalism -- the social democrats.

The base are obviously supportive of the party idea, hence the rapid recruitment.

Ah Richard, we never learn do we? Colonial oppression, imperialist war, capitalist exploitation -- is there no point in trying to change this?

Korakious said...

I made a similar post on my blog.

I agree with your points Andy.

Alex Nichols said...

Salvador Allende was also an elected president.
He refused to take action against the reactionaries within the Chilean state when he was warned about what they were planning.
We all know what happened on 9/11.
1973, that is..
President Chavez has already had one attempted coup directed against his government.
Given this background, the opposition media seem to have a remarkable degree of freedom in Venezuela.

Richard Carey said...


"President Chavez has already had one attempted coup directed against his government"

As I'm sure you know, Chavez himself led an unsuccessful coup in his early days, so don't get too self-righteous on his behalf.

Still banging on about Allende? Compare Pinochet with Castro, and El Cubano wins hands down on body count, political oppression and years in power. Pinochet stood down, Castro still hasn't. Why choose to whitewash some murderous dictators and condemn others? Judge them by what they do, not the ideology they use to justify it.

Charlie Marks,

how much of the "rapid recruitment" to Chavez's party is due to people being told to do it or lose their jobs, as the article mentions?

Supporters of Chavez in the west are at best being naive. You'd like to see socialism make a success of itself, I'm sure, considering its historically woeful record, and Chavez has oil, so the wheels might not come off so quickly.

The sad conclusion I draw from some of the posts her and elsewhere in the leftwing blogosphere is that, whatever Chavez does, you will excuse it, as you keep your fingers crossed that he turns out to be a benevolent dictator.

Altimirano said...

"you keep your fingers crossed that he turns out to be a benevolent dictator"

Sorry to disappoint you richard, but we do no such thing. We hope that the Chavez government will help create a democratic socialist society. We don't "keep our fingers crossed" that this will happen - we look at the behaviour of that government since 1998 and draw up a balance sheet.

We see that the opposition has been allowed remarkable freedom to organise, despite launching a coup against the elected government. We see that the political structures of Venezuela have been made more democratic, not less. We see a massive engagement of people with politics, we see increased turnout at elections, we see polls showing a big increase in confidence in the political process. We see proposals to empower community councils, we see the first experiments in workers' self-management in some sections of the economy.

To set against this - what do we see? That a TV station which helped organise a coup against the elected government has lost its public license, five years down the line. Forgive me if I don't consider this enough evidence that Venezuela is morphing into an evil totalitarian dictatorship. If a station in Britain or the US had done the same thing, it would have been shut down the next day (as Andy points out, Thames lost its license for much less).

Forgive us if it irritates you to hear people "banging on" about Allende and Pinochet - it must infuriate you to be reminded that capitalism and freedom have often been mortal enemies. And it must irritate you when people challenge the propaganda line on Venezuela - keep telling yourself if you like that we're all deluded fanatics who will excuse anything Chavez does, but I'm afraid we're nothing of the sort. We can take a long, hard look at the facts of what's happening in Venezuela and come out with an articulate defence of the Chavez government that doesn't ignore any inconvenient facts.

AN said...

the other aspect here is the rank hypocracy of those who complain about, for example, human rights abuses in Cuba, when that country is under economic, political and covert-military siege by the United States. Ehen Cuba intrioduces measures to defend itslelf from destabilisation the liberals throw up their hands in horror.

This is all especially true given that the United States' own terror camp where people are held without trial tortured and murdered is at Guanatnamo, an illegal foreign occupation of part of Cuba's soil.

Charlie Marks said...

I was disappointed that richard did not address specifically what makes Chavez a "benevolent dictator"? With Chavez, I can't see anything that needs excusing. He led an attempted coup in the past sure, but no longer. He used to be convinced you could have capitalism with a human face but he's changed his position.

What's this about Castro not stepping down? What happened last year? Or are you talking about Raul? :)

It's not about ideology, Richard. It's about class. Pinochet's rule led to a massive increase in poverty and repression of workers. He could have done this and been a declared socialist instead of a fascist -- but I still would have no love for the man. Pinochet was forced out; perhaps if Castro and the cuban communists had implemented the policies of the Chicago boys he would have gone the way of Pinochet. Alas, Thatcher will never drink tea with Fidel...

Yes, there will be careerists who join parties to advance, in Venezuela as everwhere this happens. Yes, some will fear that if they don't do something they will be adversely affected. But is anyone threatening to sack people or deny rights to those who do not join the party? I have not heard any allegations of this.

Richard Carey said...


"Forgive us if it irritates you to hear people "banging on" about Allende and Pinochet"

it doesn't irritate me, it's just, as with much of the talk hereabouts, it feels like I've gone through a timewarp to the days of "Citizen Smith."

I hope you do as you claim and check the balance sheet. This means looking at both sides. I suspect you will dismiss all criticism as coming from sources that cannot be trusted (like his ex-lover Herma Marksman, who says "“He is imposing a fascist dictatorship. A totalitarian regime is coming because he doesn’t believe in democratic institutions. Hugo controls all the powers.”)

Watch out for Potemkin villages.


are you excusing the political repression in Cuba, or denying it?

Charlie Marks,

I didn't say Chavez was a benevolent dictator, I said you were keeping your fingers crossed he would be, benevolent I mean. The dictator bit seems obvious the way he is gathering power into his hands alone.

Whenever presidents change constitutions to allow themselves to keep hold of power it should set alarm bells ringing.

I find your comments of Castro and the Chicago boys interesting. You seem to imply that Castro would have been out of power long ago had he followed the Chicago boys. In which case Cuba would now be a democracy like Chile. So you make a point that I wouldn't be able to convince you of if I had said it. As for Pinochet's rule, don't overlook the economic disaster that Allende presided over. I'm not defending Pinochet's human rights record, but as I've already pointed out Castro beats him hands down in the body count stakes.

Anyway, if you wish to stick up for foreign regimes, that's your business folks. Just remember Mussolini was a Marxist.

Anonymous said...

So much ignorance has never been compiled into one forum alone. Liam you support Chavez fantastic i respect you for it, however you are truly foolish to even step into this forum without ever stepping into latin/south america. Arm-chair revolutionary is right. Tell me honestly how many of you have talked to someone on a deep personal level about what they think of it, I have an entire family in fact my girlfriends family and i can tell you for a fact that Chavez yes great that suddenly there are more hospitals, horrible however that suddenly no one can find sugar or beans because of inflation, your very hospitals manned by cuban doctors who have no supplies and overcrowding. Fantastic shape, the only difference between the then and now is that the doctors are cuban. Private hospitals are still the best, despite the overwhelming oil wealth of venezeula. You seem to forget that while dont get me wrong i believe that a mild form of socialism is good such as what is seen in Europe while it never works in latin america, because power into the hands of one man is stupid and dangerous history has proved this, the main fault with Socialism is always the man leading it, we are human, believe you me chavez is living well he dosnt care about RCTV going away, hes watching CBS. Your foolish to think that Socialism would ever work in Venezuela as long as there is a man in charge and not a balance of powers. So while you can keep sitting there in the U.K. and planning your arm chair revolution i dare you to enter Petare, if you know what that is...ask the people if things have improved in that neighborhood (which is by far one of the most dangerous and poorest neighborhoods in Caracas). Julia gracias a dios que haz hablado aca por favor perdone mi espanol terrible, pero desde que empeze a salir con una venezolana he aprendido lo que en verdad esta pasando en Venezula. Gracias por informar a estos...imbeciles y personas que nuncan han salido de sus casas menos sus paises.

Alex Nichols said...

'Compare Pinochet with Castro, and El Cubano wins hands down on body count'

Pinochet was a filthy murderer who destroyed an elected government.

He and his fellow murderers killed at least 15,000 people in cold blood, kidnapped children for indoctrination in host families and authorised torture as state policy as Sheila Cassidy testified.

He was allowed to get away scot free. He spent an extended holiday in Britain before returning to Chile where his Alzheimers went into remission and he was given an immunity deal.

Castro overthrew the corrupt dictator and murderer Batista and has improved the lot of the poorest people in Cuban Society and elsewhere in Latin America.
That's why he is popular.

The comparison with Pinochet is grotesque and your assertions about body counts are simply right wing lies.

Louisefeminista said...

Richard quoted: “He is imposing a fascist dictatorship. A totalitarian regime is coming because he doesn’t believe in democratic institutions. Hugo controls all the powers.”

So supporters of a violent military coup are sweet reasonable individuals who believe in democracy...?

And having a tiny elite who controls the means of production including the media is somehow democratic?

Richard Carey said...

I hope "anonymous" has given you all food for thought.


the first question doesn't follow from the quote, but is a kind of counter accusation masquerading as a question, that is irrelevant to whether the quote is an accurate reflection of the truth ... unless you wish to prepare the ground for oppression, along the lines that those who oppose Chavez must be in favour of violent military coups.

I find it slightly perverse that you all go on so much about the supposed coup attempt given Chavez's record in this respect.

Having a tiny elite controlling things is arguably more democratic than having one man controlling everything. In a literal sense Chavez is establishing a monarchy, rule by one man.


ideology blinds you to Castro's manifold crimes against the Cuban people. Opposition to Castro is illegal. To say comparisons between Pinochet and Castro are grotesque shows a level of immaturity on you part. Just as Pinochet had an extended holiday in Britain, Castro had the same in Spain for medical treatment, notwithstanding the supposed top-notch Cuban health service. And you may be interested to read a little about the "corrupt murderer" Batista - he was supported by the Cuban Communist Party, he was one of your lot, and if this was 1957 you'd be telling me what a wonderful chap he was.

Alex Nichols said...

"Batista...was supported by the Cuban Communist Party, he was one of your lot..."

Yes, I'm well aware of the popular front policies of the Cuban PSP from the time of the Second World War. They supported Batista, as well as the Anglo-American war effort.

Nothing to do with me.

They were forced to oppose Batista by the success on the July 26th movement.

The comparison remains grotesque, Castro is not a "criminal" and if you call me immature again, I'll send to your bedroom.

Richard Carey said...

Okay, this is getting bogged down in stale arguments about Latin American dictators.

Returning to Chavez, the problem, as I see it, is this: even if Chavez has the best intentions in the world, in order for him to accomplish the the things he wants to do, he needs to take power into his hands and put his trusted people into control of businesses, industries etc. This doesn't get rid of the ruling class, it just changes one ruling class for another. Instead of supposedly rich capitalists you get his cronies. In order for him not to be frustrated in his aims, he needs to get rid of the checks and balances that limit the executive power.

All systems have weaknesses, none are perfect. The weaknesses in the system Chavez seems to be implementing is that it all hinges on him at the top being a good guy. Take him away, and would you still be confident that Venezuela would be going in the right direction?

It's not a new system, it's what you found across Africa with the first generation of post-colonial rulers, who generally clung on to power as long as they had a pulse, and left corrupt kleptocratic states as their legacy.

As for socialists, you talk about democracy when it suits you, and dismiss it as bourgeois liberalism when it doesn't. You call it a revolution when you support it, and a coup when you don't, and you're always so patriotic - but for somebody else's country!

AN said...

Well there is an interesting paradox there Richard about the relationship between leaders and mass movements.

Take away Abraham Lincoln and are you confident that the civil war would have resulted in the liberation of the slaves?

Like Lincoln, Chavez has at each fork in the road taken the path towards greater radicalisation, and has clearly been infleunced in a leftwards direction by the mass movement.

You are right that some of the post-colonial regimes in Africa were also led by fine comrades, like Samora Machel, but they were unable to secure a progressive legacy.

The Bolivarian revolution has various advantages. Firtsly, the material wealth of the country, secondly the fact that American imperialism is tied down in iraq, which has weakened the ability of the right to destablisise Chavez.

But also the strategic alliance with Cuba, and to a lesser extent Bolivia, has strengthened the stability of the prgressive movement.

Not least however has been the popular support for Chavez, that saw off the coup, and the "oil strike". It is this broad democratic support that Chavez is currently empowering.

Charlie Marks said...

Well, this has been an rewarding debate. I mean it, actually. I hope no one takes me as being sarcastic.

"As for socialists, you talk about democracy when it suits you, and dismiss it as bourgeois liberalism when it doesn't. You call it a revolution when you support it, and a coup when you don't, and you're always so patriotic - but for somebody else's country!"

That's a great line, is it yours? It made me laugh, but I don't agree with it. What's your politics, Richard? Labels aren't too helpful, I know, but would you describe yourself as a libertarian or conservative?

Oh and Richard, did it worry you when the 2002 coup did away with the constitution and the parliament? Chavez brought in a constitution that allowed a recall election -- is he crazy? This is centralising power, letting people recall you. Yes, individuals can be very important -- not just Chavez but the millions of working people in Venezuela, pro and anti Chavez, who I hope will be able to build a pluralist and participatory democracy.

Anonymous said...

People comment on this forum whether Chavez’s reforms are good or not, and speak of Venezuela as if they’ve experienced the situation in my country. I would like to take the time to inform you how life really is, and regardless of the fact that they’re a Chavista or not, people live in terrible conditions. Insecurity is one of the main themes now present and every day it gets worse; inflation is increasing almost daily; we are slowly turning into a dictatorship where there is control de cambio; corruption in every branch, people losing land over the government and not being compensated for it, we are following the same steps that Cuba did about 50 years ago, and as Julia mentioned before we are not dealing here with a regular man, he believes he is the reincarnation of God, of Simon Bolivar. He was elected popularly and I give him the entire credit for that, winning the elections fairly in 1998, but his ideals and his promises were never accomplished. Slowly he started losing votes, losing people, losing supporters because those people realized that this guy was fake. Lately there is evidence that leads to believe that the recent elections were won because he tampered the results. I believe his demagogy is what still keeps him in power, because there are still people completely fooled by him, especially once having this Anti- American sentiment. And it is true that he has complete power over the entire country controlling what he wants; and I have to admit I admire his ways of maintaining his power. The opposition has always tried to kick him out, and the closest they ever got was on April 11th, after the massacre that framed him guilty. I truly believe that he stepped down of power for that day or so to use it as one of his tactics to see who opposed him, especially in the military, Fedecamara, among others; those people that came out in public where later tortured or imprisoned or exiled.

I participated in many protests during the paro and back then I didn’t comprehend the true meaning of the government and his politics, or even the true reason why I was standing there surrounded by all the opposition. Years later I come to write this comment, having further knowledge on the events happening in my country. I left Venezuela about two years ago for personal reasons, but my family and friends are still there trying not to give up on their own country, as many did back then when Chavez came into power in 1998 and during the coup in 2002.

Some personal notes…My uncle is presently living in Canada after moving back and forth from Venezuela to the exterior; after being an ex-petrolero from PDVSA he couldn’t find a job to support and maintain his family because no company would take him, not because he was incapable of pursuing the job, but because he belonged to that famous black list. My other uncle was lucky that he wasn’t fired; however throughout all these years there is not one single day in his office where it isn’t hell for him, because even though some few people admire his capacity in what he does, most of the Chavistas despise him and repress him for belonging to the opposition band.

The main problem with Chavez’s regime is that he is focusing more on external affairs instead of investing the money coming into the country on our own people who are starving, have no jobs, no education, and so on. For example, he is doing a great job in helping Bolivia, providing them with resources, or basically granting Cuba free oil in exchange for doctors, so that he can count on the support of few Latin American presidents. In Ecuador, Chavez has now gained the support of his fellow friend Rafael Correa who recently won the elections. We are experiencing a leftist movement all across Latin America, the thing is, is it going to help us and our countries come out of the third world?

I have to give some credit to the accomplishments of his administration. He has been able to create some social programs (known as misiones) in order to help illiteracy, to educate children who have no resources, to provide some with shelter, and to construct some hospital to help those who can’t afford an expensive medical treatment. His intentions are well recognized by many, and even though his success can be somewhat measured right now, in a few years we will be able to analyze to what extent his social reforms where really successful to the people and to the country.

The problem with public schools is that since the teachers are underpaid most don’t show up to their jobs, others just can’t give a crap, and there are a few who actually try to teach.
I consider it a great mission to provide people with public hospitals. The main problem is that they are usually in terrible conditions and mainly lacking important resources.

The violence presented in the children’s life at home, or in their barrio, or in the streets, or even at school, is one of the problems that influence them making them incapable of receiving good education, or learning what’s wrong or right. Their lives are reflected in every aspect of their daily routine, where they think that stealing or carrying on a corrupt violent life will take them somewhere someday. It is the envy and the hatred towards those who have a little more than them; and not only that, most importantly the reason why they carry on a criminal life is basically out of need because they have the obligation to feed their families. More than 80% of the Venezuelan population lives in poverty. The living condition in Venezuela has deteriorated as a whole. It is not true when people state that the country is entirely divided between the rich and the poor, where the poor live in horrible conditions because of the rich, and they live a perfect beautiful life. As rectified before, the majority of the population is under the poverty line and even though there are some families that have a certain amount of wealth they are equally affected by the situation in the country and highly discriminated by the rest. It is completely outrageous that basic food supplies cannot be found in any market. I experienced myself the lack of milk, among other things, in Venezuela, one of the most important daily meals in a human’s diet, especially in growing children. Sugar disappeared for a long while, coffee as well, now days there is no meat. We are not talking here about imported candy or junk food from around the world, but about food that should be in every person’s plate every day. Chavez has the idealistic concept of regulating the prices to benefit the people; but instead he manages to make them disappear out of the market, something that is completely unbelievable and unacceptable being national products. The reason for this occurrence is that the companies that produce these products can’t afford the tremendous economic loss of producing them at a higher price than they’re selling them. Chavez reaction is to import those products and subsidize them, a great economic loss for the country as well.

People are afraid of leaving their own home, afraid of being robbed, kidnapped, or in the worst case scenario murdered. I’ve heard hundreds of stories from people I know and others from the news, who have gone under these situations and every day it gets worse. The streets have become such dangerous places, any mean of public transportation throughout the city, as well. Some criminals are not even punished for their own crimes because they support the regime. The corruption in the country has led people to fear the police more than they fear people surrounding them. It is really sad seeing how my country is rather quickly falling apart politically, economically, and socially. Slowly the freedom of press is being diminished and freedom of speech follows the same path. Venezuela is supposed to be a country of the people, not only of the government, and as RCTV’s propaganda announced… “Venezuela es de todos.” It came as a shock to me when I heard that RCTV was being closed, and I honestly don’t discuss this event because I barely know the case. Maybe it is true that the channel’s contract had ended, and it’s true that the government had every right of not granting them the renewal of their license because it was done constitutionally; however the reasons why this channel is now officially abolished is what I highly disagree on. Venezuela is still considered a “democratic” country, which means that one can speak their mind freely, but this government decided to cut off this channel because it basically demonstrated support to the side of his opposition, something threatening to his regime.

Socialism may be wonderful and very attractive on paper, but when it comes to committing a country to it, one must first analyze the situation. Although its limited success around some European countries has proven that it can work, it has been tried throughout the years in Latin American countries, resulting with the government’s failure of pursuing it. Such is the case in the administration of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1970. People where unhappy, unemployment grew; inflation increased tremendously, there was starvation, famine, etc. He was eventually thrown out by the coup d’etat in 1973, Augusto Pinochet resulting in power.

Chavez’s concept of socialism is where everyone carries on a humble life, and everyone has equal belongings and equal rights. But his hypocrisy is shown when you see beggars on the streets, starving children with no home, and chaos all over the country, while he and his closest friends enjoy a wonderful rich life, cruising in their new spectacular cars, owning houses in different parts of the world, and it goes on. As long as he has this mentality of ‘everyone should be equal, except me’ socialism is never going to work in the country.

During the Long March, people admired their leader, Mao Tse Tung, because unlike most of the usual leaders, he went through all the pains and suffering that his people did. He considered himself one among the rest, having to walk the same 8,000 miles from the southeast to the north of China, under the same conditions than the others, no special benefits, same ration of food, and he even gave his own meal to those who were sick or those who needed it more than him. People looked up to him for his courageous attitude, for his loyalty to the cause and to his people, and mostly they admired the fact that he treated them all equally (including himself). I know this goes a little off topic, and regardless of how the Chinese Revolution ended and how Mao became a ruthless dictator, my point with this statement is that the leader must be willing to commit himself to the people and go through the same changes and condition that everyone does, so that people can truly believe and admire that person. If he doesn’t believe in his own ideals then how can he expect others to do so? If he’s not willing to change his way of living, how can he force others to do so? This are some points to take in consideration while arguing about a country that most of you haven’t even stepped on, and informing yourself throughout the news is somewhat helpful, but nothing can compare to living the situation, especially when the information coming out to the world is not precisely accurate. And Chavez blames all the opposition of being golpistas, and of betraying the revolution, but let’s take a step back and remember how he carried on a Golpe de Estado a few years back when the dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez was in power; which by the way failed and ended in his imprisonment. He was fighting against a dictatorship, just as Castro did with Batista, and now he is turning himself into one, just like Castro, because he can’t control his ambition.

Alex Nichols said...

An article about the RCTV coup-plotters from "Hands off Venezuala"

Richard Carey said...

Thanks, Charlie, I'm glad I raised a chuckle. I'm claiming it as all my own work,although the bit on patriotism was inspired by some of Orwell's comments on 1930's communists and the USSR.

I guess I'd call myself a libertarian, unfortunately not of the hedge fund/city trader variety. I'm the first to admit I know little about Venezuela, (but I think anonymous is bang on the money). The only country I can speak of in depth is my own (England), which I see slipping into a technologically-driven totalitarianism with every day that passes (I'm a real fun guy to have around!)

If you want to get me back for gatecrashing, I sometimes post on A Tangled Web, which will probably turn a number of stomachs over here. Here's my latest.

All the best to you. It has been an interesting debate.

AN said...

Hi Richard

Some contradiction that the Tangled Web blog promotes libertarianism, and then has a "stand by Israel" banner!

I think libertarianism like many political concepts id open to dispute.

On social questions like smoking, anti-social behaviour, hunting and gun ownership, then I am a libertarian, and given your post about britain being a facist state (that I don't agree with by the way), you may be amused by my comparison between new labour's laws on social conformity and nazi Germany's:

But while right wing libertarians embrace the idea of economic liberalism and deregulation, I would argue that these actually only shift the restruction of individual empowerment away from the state and towards corportatiosn, and for the majority of the population economic liberallism makes them a slave to wage labour and poverty, restriccting their real choices.

So I would propose an alternative libertarianism, where the state should intervene to provide a level economic playing field, but allow and empower individuals to make informed choices about all aspects of their private lives, and non-economic personal relations.

Such a state would also have to defend itself however. And those who would assert or extend economic inequality are challenging the public good. hat measures are necessary to defend the state is a prgamatic question.

Richard Carey said...

Let me quickly say ATW doesn't promote libertarianism, but some of the writers may do, myself at least. I'll get back to you on the rest of what you've said, but I'm having to defend my "Britain is now a fascist state" post which as you can imagine takes some doing!

AN said...

Ok Richard, I can see that may take you a while!

As one example to support my argument.

The current state interferes in the economic relations bwtween individuals by outlawing slavery and the slave trade. You yourself say that private property ownership is the future, I assume however you oppose the private ownership of people?

A totally libertarian society would permit slavery.

Bourgeois deocracies suppressed slavery for a number of overlapping reasons:
i) it was ideologically incompatible with ideals of personal liberty (a paradox becasuue they had to restrict the personal liberty and confiscate the private property of the slave owners in order to abolish slavery)
ii) slave labour was less efficient than wage labour - and less dynamic in supporting economic growth
iii) slave rebellion, and emancipatory political radicalism

So it was in the pubic interest to supress slave ownership and trading. The Royal Navy enforced this on the high seas - confiscating private property. In the United States Abraham Lincoln raised an army and smashed a pro-slavery rebellion, and in order to do so suspended many civil liberties during the war.

If it was justofieable for the supression of slavery, then why is it not justifiable for the supression of the poverty and inequality inherent in capitalism?

Richard Carey said...


I'm not a purist (in many ways), but when faced with a raft of issues I will generally take a libertarian stance.

I believe that society should be founded on a principle of private property and self-defence, and that the state takes its rights from these pre-existing rights. Therefore, for the state's use of force to be legitimate it must be acting in defence of our individual rights. I'm sure others (such as Frederic Bastiat) have expressed this better than me.

I would argue in favour of free trade on pragmatic grounds, as does Hayek, as the most efficient way of ordering the economy, as well as on a basis of individual liberty.

I don't delude myself that I have all the answers (or that I have answered any of your questions). We're never starting with a blank sheet in any case.

The question I would ask is whether a capitalist, free trade model is better able to raise a society out of poverty than a centrally-controlled one? The question of equality in material possessions is of lesser importance. The only equality that can be brought about is one of equal misery, I think.

As for the American Civil War, it's too simplistic to see it as a war to free the slaves. Slavery was certainly one of the causes of the dispute between the North and South, but for the North it was a war to preserve the Union first and foremost.

AN said...

As for the American Civil War, it's too simplistic to see it as a war to free the slaves. Slavery was certainly one of the causes of the dispute between the North and South, but for the North it was a war to preserve the Union first and foremost.

But why was the union in danger? Becasue for America to develop as an independent and dynamic capitalist economy it needed to exapnd based upon wage labour, and an election was won based on the principle that any new states acceding to the union would have no slavery. As this would inevitable lead to an anti-slavery majority the slave states succeeded from the union.

So the war was indeed about slavery.

With regard to your point about free trade being a route oiut of poverty, it certainly doesn't look that way from the Global south, where deregulation and privatisation has brought misery in its wake.

And the introduction of the market into eastern Europe and particularly Russia involved a catastrophic colapse of living standards.

Richard Carey said...

Second point first, leaving Russia aside for a moment,I don't think there was a catastrophic collapse in living standards throughout eastern Eastern Europe. The economies of these countries were decadent. The pain they felt was like the pain of a patient when the anaesthetic wears off. Sooner or later that had to happen. A lot of the industries went to the wall because there was no market left for their uneconomic, substandard products.

Russia I think is a special case, and the optimistic theorists got it pretty badly wrong, leading to widespread gangsterism, a handful of very rich "oligarchs", and now the reassertion of central Kremlin control under Putin. They tried shock therapy and it didn't work. But this doesn't prove or disprove much more than what was done in those unique circumstances was mistaken. The main problem Russia faces now is the absence of the Rule of Law. Without that, freedom - economic and otherwise - cannot develop.

Poverty is not caused by free markets, in fact it's the default position for humanity. India for example has seen a lot of wealth creation since freeing up its markets. Yes there are still many poor people, but there isn't any miracle cure.

Returning to the American Civil War, I don't deny the importance of the slavery issue, but there was a strong argument to the effect that the southern states were free to leave the Union if they so desired.

So, let me put it this way, if the southern states had said "we'll emancipate the slaves, but we're still gonna split" there would still have been a civil war.

Rohan G said...

Richard Carey:

"Poverty is not caused by free markets, in fact it's the default position for humanity."

No, the default position of humanity (historically and prehistorically) has been intermittent scarcity. Poverty isn't the expression of scarcity per se but rather the social outcome of class divisions.

Therefore, in resloving political questions of human need, the practical question of class should take precidence over Richard's abstract notion a liberty that is tied to the freemarket.

That is not to say that liberty is only an abstract concept. It is a very real one as the failings of Soviet communism only too readily show.

But liberty as defined by the existance of freemarkets - and therefore class - must be kept in the abstract because the global reality for the overwhelming majority is not liberty but powerlessness and impoverishment for the ovewhelming majority.

Also, for those who believe for their own reasons that capitalism is the best system, I have a question: Is capitalism natural resources sustainable?

If capitalism needs to be replaced by something else because it's not sustainable, then it can't be the best system.

Phil said...

if the southern states had said "we'll emancipate the slaves, but we're still gonna split" there would still have been a civil war.

True in theory. In practice, tf the southern states had emancipated the slaves there would have been no reason for them to split. When people complained about central government interference with [Southern] states' rights, nine times out of ten the right they were concerned about was the right to maintain the Peculiar Institution - slavery.

AN said...

BUt is that even true in theory Phil? We simply cannot know what would have happened in alternate histories, all we can know is what actually happened. And it is completely impossible to imagine the slave owners abolishing slavery themselves anyway.

All but one of the slave states succeeded from the union after Lincoln's election, over the issue of slavery.

The North did not fight over constitutional principle, but because they needed to ensure that wage labour extended into the Western territories not yet in the union, and they could not afford for the South to continue as an economic colony of Britain.

Not only did the war start about slavery, but as it continued, and as incoln becam increasingly radicalised, it became a war of emancipation.

I raise all this, becasue if it was legitimat, and indeed the proudest monet of cpaitlaist rule, for Lincoln to restrict property rights and civil lberties in order to enforce the end of slavery, then the same principle applies to Chavez using the state to disempower the rich in the interests of the poor.

Phil said...

if it was legitimat, and indeed the proudest monet of cpaitlaist rule, for Lincoln to restrict property rights and civil lberties in order to enforce the end of slavery, then the same principle applies to Chavez using the state to disempower the rich in the interests of the poor.

Good luck arguing that one (that's only partly ironic). I think you've just explained why some right-Libertarians are so attached to the "states' rights" story.

Richard Carey said...

Rohan G,

"No, the default position of humanity (historically and prehistorically) has been intermittent scarcity. Poverty isn't the expression of scarcity per se but rather the social outcome of class divisions."

What this says is poverty not a concrete thing but just a comparison. So as long as no one has anything, there is no poverty. It also makes it completely relative, therefore in a tax haven populated by millionaires, a guy with only one swimming pool will be in poverty if the rest of them have two.

As for free markets, back in the time of Charles I, he used to sell monopolies in different trades, so for instance someone offered him a sum of money to have the monopoly on brewing beer in London, and he would grant this. Immediately all the other brewers were out of business. This was one of the things radicals like John Lilburne were fighting against. Such a practice caused stagnation in trade, and was an affront to individual freedom. The libertarian solution is to get rid of the King's monopoly-granting power. I suppose the socialist solution is to keep it in place but attempt to operate it to the benefit of the people. Of the two, I think the former is the better solution.

I'm not sure about Phil's view on right-libertarians being attached to the states rights argument over the slavery one, it goes back to the original "cornerstone speech". The vice president of the Confederate States stressed the slavery issue, and the president stressed the states rights issue.

Like Venezuela, this is not my area of expertise. Get me on the English Civil War and we'll have a fight on our hands.

Rohan G said...

Richard Carey:

"What this says is poverty not a concrete thing but just a comparison. So as long as no one has anything, there is no poverty. It also makes it completely relative, therefore in a tax haven populated by millionaires, a guy with only one swimming pool will be in poverty if the rest of them have two."

The stuff about the millionaires and the swimming pools is just a silly abstraction, but I suspect you would agree with that and say that you were just trying to make a point to discount my argument.

So lets go to the first bit.

Poverty is a very concrete phenomonom for the millions who suffer it - most of whom as we know live in the third world. Sociologists talk about absolute and relative poverty with absolute poverty being about statistical indicators like x kilojoules per day and relative poverty being about the social experience of disadvantage, isolation and disempowerment.

Both of the forms of poverty lead to immiseration and should be taken seriously by social critics.

In any case poverty is a social reality caused by the unequal distribution of resources.

Pre-class societies like the gatherer-hunter Aborigines in Australia experienced famine during times of prolonged drought - and this experience of severe scarcity would have been akin to absolute impoverishment. But poverty simply did not exist in pre-class societies as a permanent feature of social relations as it does now.

AN said...

Richard: I appreciate that arguing here is an away match for you. BUt I am not at all sure what you are arguing here: I'm not sure about Phil's view on right-libertarians being attached to the states rights argument over the slavery one, it goes back to the original "cornerstone speech". The vice president of the Confederate States stressed the slavery issue, and the president stressed the states rights issue.

The issues of state rights, and the issue of slavery were inextricably bound together. I accept that you say this is not a specialist area for you - if you are interested than i would suggest your look at the effective civil war that took place in Kansas prioor to that state's accession to the union, which proves that the context of the succession, and "what the war was about" was slavery.

However - that aside. Whether or not slavery was the cause of war, with the emancipation declaration in 1863 it becasme a war aim.

The question therefore that if Lincoln was justified - by executive order not even bylegislation - in confiscating private property, and interfering in civil liberties in order to promote legal equality, then why in prinicple is it different for the state to act in furtherance of economic equality?

Converserly, if the state is not justified in promoting economic equality, then why is it justified in promoting legal equality?

Richard Carey said...


My bit on millionaires and swimming pools is a (slightly facetious)example illustrating the difference between relative and absolute poverty, which is important to remember.

"In any case poverty is a social reality caused by the unequal distribution of resources"

Poverty is a lack of wealth, plain and simple. Talking of hunter-gatherer societies won't help us much. In any case I'm sure they have leaders and followers, a pecking order, which means it can't be described as a classless (or pre-class) society. I know of no societies without classes in one form or another, though not being inclined to marxist thinking I don't dwell too much on the issue.


re: this business of the American Civil War, this entered the debate from your assertion that a purely libertarian society would permit slavery. I can see only one argument for this (similar to the argument for legalising prostitution, which I am not in favour of), that an individual, being the possessor of his own body would have the right to sell it to someone else.

This was certainly not the case with the anti-bellum African slaves. The idea that emancipation violated property rights only works if you accept the argument that a man can own another man, which I do not.

However, many at the time did, and it's also true that slave owners in places like Jamaica were indeed compensated for their "loss of property" at the time of emancipation there.

But private property is not the sole principle of concern to a libertarian, there is also individual freedom and self-defence, and every slave has the pre-existing right to defend himself against the aggressions of his so-called owner. As I've said above, the state derives its legitimacy in exercising force from these pre-existing individual rights, and the rights of the slaves to be free trumps the property rights of the owners.

If Chavez emancipates slaves I won't complain, but to justify seizure of all kinds of other people's property by comparison to the slaves in America is dubious to say the least.

There is a difference between "I broke into a man's house and liberated a slave" and "I broke into a man's house and liberated a television, some jewellry and his car"

rohan g said...

Richard Carey:

"...the rights of the slaves to be free trumps the property rights of the owners."

When my father was only 4 years old his mother taught him to sneak into a nearby vegetable patch and steal vegetables so that there would be some food on the dinner table. They were living in war ravaged Austria and they supplemented these vegetables with "roof rabits" (cats) that my grandfather shot.

I have never known privations like this and I strongly suspect that you haven't either.

So my question for you this time is:

If the rights of slaves to be free trumps the property rights of the owners, does the right of people to eat - to send their children to bed with some food in their stomachs - trump these same property rights?

Richard Carey:

"Poverty is a lack of wealth, plain and simple."

What you mean is, "Poverty just is. Why it is?... That's not my concern!"

AN said...

Richard. That is not entirely my point.

An entirely lassaiz faire state would not constrain which economic activity anyone engaged in, and that could therefore include slavery.

Now you accept that such a lassaiz faire date is undesirable, and should prevent slavery. Obvioulsy.

My point is that in order to make the change from a state that tolerated slavery, to a state that suppressed slavery, then Lincoln confiscated property and suppressed various civil liberties.

He did not only emancipate the slaves, but also destroyed farms, houses and other private property.

What is more as the war progressed, there was increasing proscription of anti-war activity in the United States, and conscription introduced.

If all these measures were justified for the state to enforce individual liberty and legal equality, then why should a state not be allowed to take similar measures for promoting economic equality?

Indeed Chavez has been much less radical than Lincoln.

AN said...

BTWm I forgeot earlier to correct this. Right at the top of this thread Julia_1984 says The RCTV license actually expires on 2022.

Thiis is simply untrue. The RCTV had a 20 year licence that expired in 2007.

Richard Carey said...


you're taking an example from a time of war-torn Austria. You're right I've not lived through such privation. What if two starving people are fighting over the same scrap of food? What if the owner of the vegetable patch had starving children to feed?

If people need to steal to survive, that's their moral choice but it represents a breakdown in civil society. In extremis people have been known to turn to cannibalism in order to survive. What do we learn from this? I suppose that the will to survive leads to an abandonment of the rules that govern a functioning society.

You criticise my definition of poverty as showing a lack of concern. I gave merely the dictionary definition of the word. I don't see why you should redefine the word to fit your own political viewpoint, which you did by defining it only in relation to an unfair distribution of resources. Take it up with the OED.


Lincoln went to war and war involves destruction, but even in a "just war" you are not freed from moral responsibility for the actions you take. If in such a war marauding troops looted, murdered and raped it is irrelevant which side they were on, all such actions can be called crimes.

You have to understand that a peaceful society cannot run its affairs as if it is in war. Perhaps because of an attachment to "class war" you don't agree. Perhaps you should read Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage", in which one of her sons is decorated during wartime for stealing pigs, and later executed for doing the same thing once peace has been declared. Because of the destruction of war, it is to be avoided if at all possible. A love of revolution is not much different from a love of war. If Chavez is a democrat, as you claim, he should not be employing war-time measures, especially as there is precious little evidence from History that such measures work.

AN said...

Richard. Through a slight of hand you have implied that Chavez has acted unconstitutionally and undemocratically in taking away RCTV licence to broadcast in certain frequencies. Actually he has acted within the law, and Peru recently cancelled the licences of nine TV stations, why no uproar?
What is more RCTV are not even banned nor censored, they have moved to cable. They are in no worse position than the Hallmark Living or Bravo channels in the UK!

You make a good point about the distinction of wartime measures and peactime. Brecht's Courage is indeed a savage satire, and Grimmelhausen's "Die Landstörtzerin Courasche" is even more savage. War is not only destructive but morally corrosive.

However, unless you say that war is never justified, than the political decision to launch a war entails the recognition that the political and economic objectives of the war justify its consequences, including the moral corrosion.

Lincoln of course took the decision to reclaim the succeeding states in peacetime, and the United States chose to go to war. This rather blurs the distinction between what is justifiable in wartime and peacetime.

Wars can be fought in different ways, and indeed the United States could have avoided war altogether by tolerating the succession. Even once it had started General McClellan was happy to manoeuvre until the South could be brought to compromise (not my speciality, but similar to the prevaricating role of Essex in England?). However, Lincoln made the political decision to prosecute the war to total victory and emancipation.

I dispute the relevance of the individual crimes you mention, because there is a difference between an individual soldier stealing something, and the state appropriating it.

Lincoln executed as a question of state policy the total destruction of the agricultural production and capability of the Shenandoah valley, in order to force starvation onto the South. This became clearly necessary to win the war.

Of course you could say that this war should have been avoided, or the destruction should have been minimised - both of which would have meant victory for the Confederate States.

Now of course you are right that a peaceful society cannot run itself as if it is at war. Bt peacefull societies come under attack from their enemies. In Lincoln's case there was a pro-slavery rebellion that was not only morally abominable, but also jeopardised the economic development and political independence of the United States.

In Chavez's case there is a constant and undemocratic destabisation of Venezuelan society by the rich, the corporations and outside countries. The Bolivarian state is defending itslef from the rich who are undemocratically waging the class war to destablise it.

yet even so - the response of Chavez has been to act moderataly within the law.

It seems to me that the "scandal" about this is because there are people who feel it is somehow morally wrong for the privilages of the rich to be ccurtialed.

Richard Carey said...

Seeing as the ink on the constitution is still wet and the handwriting is Chavez's own, I dare say he is acting constitutionally.

The destablisation of Venezuelan society is mostly due to the poverty, crime and corruption. The problem of leftist politics is that they are often presaged on a principle of class war. In this case Chavez cannot be the President of all Venezuelans, only those that side with him. What he seems to be doing is pointing at all the deprivation, and saying this is caused by the plutocrats and the Americans, let's fight a war against them, because only then will we be able to sort out the problems, which is like pointing at a leaking water pipe and saying this is caused by years of under-investment. Okay, but fix the pipe first. You will no doubt say he is doing this, but he seems a very divisive character.

Sure Chavez gets a lot of attention, a lot of it negative. That's because he's a larger than life character who struts the world stage. If he carried out the same policies, but never emerged from behind a desk and looked like an accountant I dare say we wouldn't be talking about him now.

If you proclaim you want to change the world, you can't complain if the world takes a greater interest.

If your support for him is based on the success of his policies in curing the country's ills, then fair enough. But at the moment, I'd say it is based on the methods he espouses, and there is far too much misery for him or you to claim that it is working or will work, and Chavez has far more important things to worry about than television stations that don't parrot his party line.

I think you need to look into what democracy means, and how it works. The tyranny of the majority is the first pitfall to avoid. This is why democracies need strong institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press etc. By labelling those that oppose Chavez as "undemocratic" simply because Chavez won the election shows you are falling into this pitfall.

AN said...

Richard: If your support for him is based on the success of his policies in curing the country's ills, then fair enough. But at the moment, I'd say it is based on the methods he espouses,

Do you have any evidence for this assertion that I support Chavez becaasue if his methods?

The achievments of the Bolivarian revolution are practical: distribution of land to the landless, the eradication of illiteracy, empowerment of access to the media through establishing community radio stations, a huge program to eradicate curable blindness, taking factories threatened with closure into state ownership to preserve jobs, etc, etc.

Of course if your starting point is that he must be a despot beasue he threatens private property, then you have a very selective understanding of democracy yourself.

AN said...

And Richard, those who oppose Chavez through debate and the constitutional evenue of elections are of course democratic.

Thise who seek to overthrow the government by a coup, or by an employers' lock out of oil workers, or other means in order to thwart the will of the majority are not democratic, and Chavez has shown much more leniency and restraint than could be expected of him.

Chevez doesn't have secret "extraordinary rendition" flights, torture and an archipeligo of secret prisons, unlike George W Bush.

Richard Carey said...

Thwarting the will of the majority? This could be leveled at stiking miners in the 1980's, wouldn't you say?

I've already said, the first pitfall for a democracy is allowing a "tyranny of the majority". Compromise is necessary. A group of army officers plotting to overthrow a constitutional gevernment is one thing, protesting in the streets is another matter.

Incidently (as you're bringing in GWB) the arguments you can use to defend Chavez would not apply if he didn't have the democratic mandate of the recent election. You couldn't use the same argument to defend his pal Castro though, could you? He doesn't hold elections, nor allow any opposition.

Are we getting closer to consensus? :)

Charlie Marks said...

Richard: There are elections in Cuba and the country has a constitution. Whether one accepts the results of these elections or the validity of them, you cannot say they do not occur... Perhaps you have not actually looked at the propaganda of both sides?

Richard Carey said...

From "politics of Cuba" on wikipedia

The Communist Party of Cuba is constitutionally recognized as Cuba's only legal political party.

The national elections for the 609 members of the National Assembly of People's Power were held according to this system at 19 January 2003. There was only one candidate for each seat.

The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution are a network of neighborhood organizations across Cuba and most Cubans are members. The organizations are designed to put medical, educational or other campaigns into national effect, and to report "counter-revolutionary" activity. The CDR officials have the duty to know the activities of each person in their respective blocks. There is an individual file kept on each block resident, some of which reveal the internal dynamics of households. Citizens must be careful of their actions and of what they say, as they are being constantly monitored.

As Mr Spock might say "it's freedom, Jim, but not as we know it"

Charlie Marks said...

"Citizens must be careful of their actions and of what they say, as they are being constantly monitored."

Is that on wikipedia. Sounds POV to me. Here's a quote you'd like Richard ;-)

“The main reason that freedom of contract has never been as free as advertised – and it is a painfully obvious reason – is that sellers and buyers are not equal in bargaining power. So the terms of sale will simply reflect the power, or lack of it, that each party brings to the market place. So a market is also a financial slaughterhouse, where the strong chop up the weak.” – D. T. Bazelon, The Paper Economy