[Marxism] Guardian's leader on Chavez victory

Charlie Parks jcparks5550 at hotmail.com
Mon Aug 16 23:42:16 MDT 2004


(In case anyone's interested, I've pasted the leader on Chavez from 
tomorrow's Guardian, which offers a welcome departure from the Independent's 
early negative and often patently false assessments of the recall, as 
several Marx mail participants have rightly noted. With that said, the 
Guardian's editors stretch things a bit in suggesting that the Bolivarian 
government is the kind of democracy "for which George Bush is striving 
throughout the world--and this in America's own backyard." To be sure, the 
rhetorical strategy here could be one of underscoring the administration's 
hypocrisy in kind of good-faith way by holding it to its own professed 
standards. But really, anyone with any sense knows damned well that the kind 
of democracy Bush and co. is quite the opposite of what Chavez has been 
introducing to Venezuela--the former seeks an upward redistribution of 
wealth among the benighted souls of the countries it invades, the latter 
wants downward redistribution, improving the lot of the country's poor 
majority, inter al.--and to suggest that they are similar heaps an enormous 
insult on the achievements of Bolivarianism.  Further down, the editors 
state that Washington's approval of the failed coup against Chavez was 
merely "ill-judged," an honest mistake of sorts. Again, please--Washington 
knew exactly why it supported the coup against Chavez, just as it knew 
exactly why it heavily funded and armed the coup against Allende in '73 and 
the contras against Ortega throughout the '80s, namely because real 
democracy in Latin America is bad for American business. But with those 
criticisms/rants aside...)

Oiling welfare's wheels

Leader
Tuesday August 17, 2004
The Guardian

It was, surely, a great victory for democracy in Venezuela yesterday of the 
kind for which George Bush is striving through-out the world - and this in 
America's own backyard. The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, had submitted 
to a recall referendum, admittedly at first with reluctance but more 
recently declaring his firm commitment to step down if the vote went against 
him. After a vigorous campaign on both sides, Venezuelans queued for hours 
to cast their votes in the highest poll the country has ever recorded. The 
polls were kept open till midnight because of the sheer number of voters and 
the use of electronic technology which, while prolonging the operation, also 
provided a guarantee against fraud. With a clear majority in his favour, Mr 
Chávez resisted the temptation to lambast the opposition which has been 
trying for years to undermine him by fair means and foul: instead he 
acknowledged their good faith and called for national reconciliation. In a 
gloomy world, this was good news coming out of Caracas.
Yet to no one's great surprise, Mr Chávez's victory was instantly challenged 
by the opposition which is claiming foul, on the basis of the alleged 
results of its own exit polls. In view of the large margin between the two 
sides, that will be a very difficult proposition to sustain: the definitive 
word must await the verdicts of international monitors but the result 
already appears to be in line with the samplings of the Organisation of 
American States observers. Even if the result is universally accepted, a 
second line of argument is already being deployed against Mr Chávez, who was 
widely described in news reports yesterday as a "populist president" who had 
engaged in "lavish spending" on welfare programmes to boost his popularity 
with the electorate.

The suggestion that a ruling politician may seek to win votes by embarking 
on policies that benefit the majority of voters is hardly a sensation in 
most democratic societies, including our own. However let us be clear what 
is being talked about here. Although Venezuela is the world's fifth biggest 
oil producer, with the largest reserves outside the Middle East, it is still 
a society where one in three live in acute poverty and Mr Chávez has made no 
secret from the start of his determination to improve their lot. While his 
flamboyant style of leadership has alienated some who were previously 
supporters, and he has failed to deal effectively with unemployment, the 
main thrust of opposition has come from the elite and middle-class interests 
who oppose his redistributive policies. Ironically the failure of the coup 
of 2002 which they launched (with ill-judged approval from Washington) gave 
Mr Chávez the opportunity to radically reorganise the state oil company and 
divert a significant portion of its revenues into welfare, educational and 
health programmes.

Initially, oil pundits predicted that Mr Chávez would cripple production and 
kill off Venezuela's golden goose. Now it is admitted, as the New York Times 
reported last month, that Venezuela has made a "Herculean return" to the 
international market. While raising oil royalties Mr Chávez has been careful 
not to frighten off foreign investors: indeed he has been lambasted by the 
ultra-left for his alleged "defence of capitalist interests". International 
criticism is now focused more narrowly on the argument that Mr Chávez is the 
beneficiary of higher oil prices and that re-investment has suffered from 
his social expenditure.

Though the point may be debated at length it is hardly sufficient grounds 
for removing a president in mid-term. Radical change cannot avoid dividing a 
society already polarised by wealth and poverty but Mr Chávez's critics 
should take a less dramatic view and accept the democratic verdict.

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