A recent Guardian response on comment is free had it: ‘Libyan intervention was a success, despite the aftermath’s atrocities’. To the unforgiving, this sentiment could appear callous and ignorant of the calibre of struggles to come, but is very much consistent with the altruistic justification for intervention indeed.
Take 1930s Spanish history as a judge. If Franco had lost the civil war, a great power grab would have overcome the coaltion of Trotskyites, Stalinists, moderates and social democrats, anarchists and the small cohort of sympathetic Liberals who composed the republican resistance.
Initially, no mandate could or would have allowed office to whoever the victor was, but in a revolution, after the battle the war begins. The intervention to level out the disproportionate amount of power enjoyed by a vengeful Gaddafi and his footsoldiers succeeded where it neutrally facilitated what became the victory to the rebels.
One can only hope the transitional council does the right thing and translates a rainbow coalition of resistance into a post-Gaddafi democratic bloom.
One world leader they know they can not turn to for support is Hugo Chavez – but then this was a long time coming.
In Chavez’ Venezuela, the poor and dispossessed felt they had finally found someone in whom their concerns are listened to. Programmes are catered for, staples are subsidised, more people today are covered by state pensions and disused private land is expropriated to pursue a campaign of quality housing for those most in need.
For everything there is to celebrate, there is something to scould Chavez for.
Even on a domestic front, where Chavez’ strengths are, support is relatively drippy. Roland Denis, a grassroots campaigner close to an emerging coalface organisation called the Great Patriotic Pole, in an interview with Venezuela Analysis, spoke of the decreasing enthusiasm among Chavez’ main base.
In the coming elections the PSUV (the United Socialist Party of Venezuela – a fusion of political and social forces grouped together, led by Hugo Chavez) are going to struggle – that is established. Chavez knows this, too. He leads in the poles now, but when the right wing have decided who to back, they will enjoy a very threatening spike in support.
As Denis admits, the problem of decreasing support for the PSUV is the “erosion of the popular movement”.
He continues, however, by stating that “the very dynamic of the state deepens this erosion [of popular movements in Venezuela] by establishing a corporate state practice within these movements”.
Not forgetting the failed, but very concerted, attempt by Chavez to be President for life, the increasing move from community oriented politics, where Chavez began, to a saturation of that model with corporate structures and an all encompassing state control, has been noted.
“By ceasing to be reference points”, Denis laments, “for the struggle, [the PSUV] stop existing for the people [and] Hugo Chavez is the son of this people; he is not the father of this people. We gave birth to Hugo Chavez”.
Elsewhere, a right wing opposition leader by the name of Leopoldo Lopez, is to be barred from ever holding political office by the Supreme Court. By decree he has every right to run for office, only in knowledge that in his preferred circumstances, he would still be officially unable to take office – owing to a court decision attesting to his corruption as a former district mayor in Caracas, a matter on which he notes he was never sentenced for in a court.
According to Lopez, Chavez has been seeking ways in which to block high profile candidates such as himself, and cites the fact that the Supreme Court is disproportionately represented by pro-Chavez supporters. Chavez does not deny this to be true, but does argue that they are autonomous and adhere to the law.
Criticism and opposition towards Chavez at home was once dominated by the right, but suspicions have been raised on both sides of the political fold. This will not bode well for his fight to lead Venezuela again after the next election.
And this is even before we mention Chavez’ standing, and allies, at an international level (Iranian rogue Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has visited Venezuela 3 times since he took office in 2005, a fourth time denied because of Chavez’ ill health).
When alive, Gaddafi named a baseball stadium after Hugo Chavez just outside Benghazi. The transition council should think about removing that name. Perhaps grassroots movements in Venezuela should think about trying to do the same for the PSUV and for Venezuela.
Henrique Capriles Radonski’s popularity in Venezuela is a cause of concern for Hugo Chavez, now trying to hang on to his credentials while the Latin American country restricts electricity use for the second year running, suffers double digit inflation and increasing crime.
Radonski has put his name down as the candidate running for the Table of Democratic Unity (MUD), an alliance of conservative parties, and since doing so has seen his approval ratings shoot up in opinion polls, while Chavez’ approval drops.
The MUD candidate has vowed to adopt similar rhetoric to Chavez, particularly concerning programmes and welfare for the poor, but Chavez’ leading party, and the state owned media, will run a hot campaign against the Governor of Miranda, citing his alleged involvement and complicity in a siege of the Cuban embassy during the 2002 failed coup, an accusation the opposition candidate denies.
Another thing that Radonski himself has picked upon is references to his ancestry. While he identifies strongly as Catholic, his Mother was Jewish, and his great-grandparents were killed in a concentration camp. According to the candidate in an interview with the Jewish Telegraph Agency, when the campaign for the 2012 presidency begins properly it is likely his Jewish background will appear as a focal point to undermine him.
He says this with some certainty because during the 2008 mayoral elections he was described by state media as a member of the “Jewish Zionist Bourgeoisie” and “genetically fascist”.
As an aside note, there is contention surrounding whether the term Jewish Zionist Bourgeoisie is one of antisemitism (the latter term clearly steps way beyond that mark). Lenni Brenner, American Marxist and supporter of the group “Jews Against Zionism”, in his book “Zionism in the Age of Dictators” (1983) once said:
What separates the Jewish Zionist bourgeoisie from the non-Zionist members of the same class is really only the fact that the Zionists are clearly aware that they can attain their interest as a class only in the domain of a unified people and no longer as mere individuals
Separating this paragraph from anything else he might have said before, what we see referred to here is a comment on capitalism, and though race is obviously referred to, the subject still rests upon national class relations.
How this aside is relevant to Chavez is the way he has dealt with Judaism and Zionism before. Whenever Chavez has been accused of being antisemitic in the past he has always quipped back that he is simply anti-Zionist, and that, like with the words of Brenner, even when he refers to Jewish Zionism, this isn’t a crack at Jews per se, but Zionists, and to a greater extent, US and Israeli imperialism.
But at the very least Chavez has failed, quite significantly, to address Venezuelan antisemitism (under his watch Venezuelan antisemitism and attacks on Jews have risen significantly) and curb unpalatable rhetoric from state television. Only recently did state-run radio broadcast a reading of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, during which the journalist reading Cristina Gonzalez expressed:
her admiration for the Jewish community and “non-Zionist” Israelis before plucking what she called “little pearls” from the book to explain to listeners why Zionists have been able to amass a concentration of power and wealth.
This is not the first time either. In 2008 on the same station, it was broadcast that:
Hitler’s partners were Jews…like the Rockefellers, who were Jews [Editors' note: The Rockefellers are not Jews]. These were not the Jews murdered in the concentration camps. [Those killed] were working-class Jews, Communist Jews, poor Jews, because the rich Jews were the ones behind the plan to occupy Palestine.
While in 2010 the pro-Chavez website Aporrea noted that the true essence of Judaism cannot be found in the Torah, “but in the realities of capitalism”.
There are other examples of concern, such as Chavez’ former adviser and confidante Norberto Ceresole who was a known holocaust denier, and his uncritical relationship with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but they are too numerous to list.
The battle for the 2012 elections will prove to be fierce, but it’s anyone’s guess how Chavez will organise against a conservative candidate with Jewish ancestry, given the unsavory territory state television will explore, leaving a very fine line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism proper.
The world has turned upside down, at least that was what we thought. Tony Blair and George Bush were liberal heroes in the Middle East while the left back home were doing their best to excuse Islamic fanaticism as a response to imperialism.
More sense was being spoken by Sarkozy on the economy than many of our left-leaning economist MPs, and while US politicians were all bending over backwards to seem the most comfortable with a mosque within three minutes walking from the site of 9/11, while reminding us of the peaceful message of Ramadan, radicals such as Hugo Chavez and that Scottish hottie George Galloway were cuddling up to an Iranian president so seemingly nonchalant that a woman in his country could be stoned to death for a crime, proof of which would not fool a duck on acid, one wondered whether the world would soon just burn up and implode.
But, behold, some sense has been restored. Think what you will of Castro, I remember in my own days of ardent support, all I had in my intellectual toolbox to return the question of human rights was something along the lines of: well it’s better than the record of Saudi Arabia, and imperialist countries trade with them, don’t they!
A fair point, even to this day, but only serves to criticise the west’s stupidity for trading with Wahhabi catastrophists, does not in any way, shape or form exonerate Cuba’s own dissenter prison population.
In fact, Castro has recently come out against Ahmadinejad calling him an anti-Semite for “denying the holocaust” while urging “Tehran to acknowledge the “unique” history of antisemitism and understand why Israelis feared for their existence”.
Some have rightly commented that this could put Hugo Chavez – who will soon meet Venezuelan Jews to prove once and for all that he is not an anti-Semite – in a peculiar situation with the Iranian premier. Might put Galloway in the doghouse too, as in 2006 he published the Fidel Castro handbook while calling him the “the living person he most admires“.
While this isn’t gamechanging stuff, it certainly does restore faith that international leftism is not a catch-all attachment to the underdog – which in recent times has meant all manner of disparate politicians and politics uniting under the flimsy banner of anti-Americanism.
Such a union was destined to fail, and this is preferable too, for we can’t have good progressives mixing with election-fiddling theocrats with a bent for killing innocent women – that just wouldn’t do.
Nothing has changed my feelings towards Castro, but I’m glad he has done this, because many socialists look up to him – Chavez and Galloway noted – and this might provide a necessary blow to the head for those whose oiled-gloves are trying to juggle egalitarian principles with Islamist horse feathers.