Monday, December 07, 2009

The Hugo Chavez litmus test

As I wrote here, there is a simple measure which can be used to differentiate the faux-left from genuine socialists.

The Hugo Chavez litmus test.

For genuine socialists, Chavez is a hero for the way he governs his country in the interests of the majority, for his redistributive economic policies and for his outspoken opposition to the neoconservative war agenda.

But for faux-leftists he's a "demagogue" and sometimes even a "dictator" despite his regular election victories, his frequent use of referendums and his belief in devolving power to local communities.

The Hugo Chavez litmus test works every time. Here's the latest example.


Undergroundman said...

Neil, you forgot the key buzzword used to delegitimise states that assert their sovereignty-populist- a word that increasingly just acts as one of those meaningless labels slapped on statesmen who rule states where a majority of the people reject giving over control of their economies to Western corporations.

The litmus test was clearly failed by Nick Cohen who used that word with regards Putin and Chavez, despite the vast differences between the two rulers and their respective political systems.As he did in the Observer yesterday,

The idea that Blair and Cameron could be 'populists' never really applies as British politicians give the people what they really want through mass advertising, unsustainable debt fuelled consumerism, precision crafted soundbites,PR, and and the whole panoply of neoliberal manipulation,persuasion and control.

The irony is that these mechanisms of indoctrination depend as much as Communist systems did on propaganda and ability to prevent, stifle, and screen from perception those who think freely but without the jack boot or the physical violence ( unless organised dissent breaks out, then the fist is shown ).

W Blackberry said...

I just want to add to the the article of Nick Cohen, if he thinks Venezuela is shifting to authoritarianism under Hugo Chavez, he has too many thinks to understand, specially regarding the undemocratic behaviour of the Venezuelan opposition in the last 10 years. That irrational opposition had made incredibly hard for Chavez to balance all the weighs in a democratic system, when in front of him there is the most irrational opposition of the planet, able to put a country on the verge of collapse just for the shake of their privileges over the sacrifices of overwhelming majorities. Now that Chavez has revert that situation, he is a "dictator". When Nick Cohen said “what development economists call "the curse of oil" – the freedom of manoeuvre that oil wealth gives to brutish regimes – leaves dictators free to ignore what would otherwise be an economic imperative to attend to their people's demands for education, development and, in time, representative government", he seems to ignore that those very development economists deny all achievements on precisely the very subject he claims to be the important ones. Under all parameter the Chavez's government has put all the efforts to fulfil his duties on people's demands for education and development. However, it not just because economic imperative, but social justice, and is there where the development economists lost the track of Chavez, and with them Nick Cohen.

One additional point, Nick Cohen seems reluctant to register a new democratic political system that is under construction in Latin America, it's call participative democracy and he dismissed it as just "populism”. The old representative democracy is unable to secure social justice in a society moving towards a highly educated stage where everybody have access to information technology, highly politicized, asking for an active role in the decision making processes. Chavez government and others in the region are leading this new constitutional democratic system, in which each one is responsible and is able to respond. It is popular, because everybody like it, but is not that irresponsible populism we see in the past. So regarding the anti-green backlash we must pay more attention to the new political systems that can address systemic problems like climate change with more democratic solutions, not just the same free market liberal-elitist-representative approach.

jock mctrousers said...

'populist' - yes giving people health care and education instead of giving the money to foreign investors is just a cheap trick to win votes. Why do people fall for it?
Nick Cohen would be sad if he wasn't so loathsome. He used to be a human being, do some really very good journalism, but he took the money and is now unable to conceal his self-loathing which he tries to assuage by petty acts of spite against the human race, like this one. But I'm pleased to see he's still getting published because I have to admit I enjoy his evident pain.
While we're on the subject, add Paul Jones ( you know - ex Manfred Mann, presenter of R1 blues show " I've been at public school so long, down looks like up to me...") to your list of fails. I heard him being interviewed recently and he came out with something along the lines of " I think a lot of people are kidding themselves about Hugo Chavez...", which was his only political insight. Of course he didn't mean the people that portray Chavez as a 'dictator'.
Excuse me for throwing in my own favourite litmus test: Serbia and the Northern Ireland Protestants - I've yet to see any of those who bleat so much about 'self-determination' about why these two peoples aren't worthy of it. And I tend to think that those that still feel they have to temper their objection to NATO's bombing of Serbia with an acquiescence in the demonisation of Milosevic might not dependably 'be there for us' should we get the same treatment some day.

David Lindsay said...

Spitting out the word "populism". Contrasting the common people to himself as one of the "intellectuals" (how vulgar is that?).

Berating an Australian politician as "reactionary" for daring to take his Catholicism seriously. Failing to point out that that politician's views on the nature of marriage are also President Obama's.

Attacking Russia for daring to exist at all. Demanding deference to those "qualified" only because each of them says that the others are, but who have this week been much exposed on the broadcast media as shrieking, hilariously insecure hysterics if anyone suggests the withdrawal of their meal tickets for life. And plenty more besides.

Dependence on foreign oil is denounced, but heaven forfend that the solution might include the vast resources of coal on which this island stands. That would be "populist".

As would mentioning that the Gulf monarchies and especially Saudi Arabia, with the Israel Lobby, fund the politicians of whom Cohen approves.

And as would opposition to the Iraq War that, with the Israel Lobby, the Gulf monarchies and especially Saudi Arabia ordered up, loudly cheered on by Nick Cohen. Not wanting wars is for the sort of proles, and indeed toffs, whose sons are sent off to be harvested in them. How very populist.

Cohen is right, if hardly original, to point out that opposition to abortion, to same-sex "marriage" and to the decadence of the media has been used to encourage the workers to vote against their own economic interests. But he either will not say or, far more probably, cannot see that the reality of the danger from Wall Street and the City does not lessen the reality of the danger from Holywood over there, or from the BBC in its present form over here, or from Murdoch everywhere, to use only one possible example.

Knowingly or unknowingly, what Cohen really fears is the emergence of a proper populist movement: economically social democratic, morally and socially conservative, patriotic. That would make very short shrift indeed of, among so very many other things, the idea that only the Nick Cohens of this country or this world should be allowed to receive proper wages, or to enjoy security of employment, or to travel, or to eat meat, or to have children.

jack said...

What in the world does the climate change fraud have to do with Putin and Chavez?

He makes the very lame connection between Climate control reduction and oil and gas although we are years away from developing alternative fuels just so he can go of on a rant.

I think these people have a psychopathic hatred/disposition towards Russia and Putin.

I don’t think there has been any leader at least since the breakup of the USSR at least who has been more constantly smeared, lied about, quotes always taken out of context than Vladimir Putin even more so than Milosevic.

Anatoly Karlin who runs Sublime Oblivion did a good piece called 50 Russophobic myths.

And what hypocrisy Russia threatens its neighbours. What an absolute lie.

Overtly US and Britain since the collapse of the USSR have waged war on Iraq twice 1990 and 2003 and bombed it in 98 when they refused weapons inspectors to investigate facilities
Bombed Bosnian Serbs defending themselves against western backed Islamic terrorists

The problem they have with Putin and Chavez is that they are against foreign oligarchical colonial control of there country and with Russia leading the way against the NWO.

Covertly we sponsor terrorism Islamic and otherwise in at least a dozen countries.

Not to mention installing puppet regimes in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia the latter two fascist regimes as a US/NATO proxy actually attacked Russia.

@Neil Clark

What do you make of the whole climate gate scandal?

Suvorov said...

Climate change is not a lie. Every educated person realizes that it has always been changing, is changing, and will continue to change. Anthropogenic global warming is a lie. It was considerably warmer 1000 years ago than it is today, and human activity obviously had nothing to do with it. Then it was cold in the 14th century when Thames froze. And in early 1700s there was a period of rapid warming, much rapid than any warming ever since, and, once again, it had nothing to do with humanity. Actually, it has been cooling drastically during the last 8 years or so, but Al Gore and others on the faux left won't tell you that. But what I found most admirable about Cohen's article, is his statement that someone who doesn't believe in the global warming hoax somehow almost automatically must be a fan of either Putin or Chavez. Another testament to politization of science, or so-called science in which data is manipulated, concealed from the public, and thrown away.

Anonymous said...

'What in the world does the climate change fraud have to do with Putin and Chavez?'

climate change fraud???

The oily echo machine behind "climategate"
Tags: American Enterprise Institute, Center for a Constructive Tomorrow, Climate Gate, Climategate, Kevin Grandia, Media Research Center
The most vocal organizations around the University of East Anglia hacked email story (aka. "climategate") have been involved in a decade-plus campaign to delay action on climate change.
The goal of this campaign, which began around the time of the first Kyoto Protocol negotiations, was to assemble a group of like-minded "free-market" think tanks and pseudo-experts that would bring into question the scientific realities of climate change, create doubt with the public and politicians and effectively delay the introduction of clean energy policy in the United States.
It's no coincidence that the groups pushing this story the hardest have a long history of taking money from oil and coal companies to attack the conclusions made by climate scientists.
What I wouldn't do to have a few of these organizations private emails over the years!
Here's a few of the groups I'm talking about and a very brief background on their previous activities, as well as funding sources:
Center for a Constructive Tomorrow: owns and operate, which has been a main clearinghouse for the right-wing climategate echo chamber. is managed by Marc Morano, former aide to Republican Senator James Inhofe. CFACT has received grants from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and well-known right-wing foundations like the Carthage Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation.
American Enterprise Institute: Offered to pay "experts" $10,000 to write papers that countered the IPCC reports. AEI has received close to half a million from oil-giant ExxonMobil, former Exxon Chairman Lee Raymond sits on AEI's board of directors.
Media Research Center: run by Brett Bozell, this group also operates the popular right-wing blog, The Media Research Center has received over $257,000 from oil-giant ExxonMobil since 1998.
Cato Institute: Is the main front group for the most prolific climate denier, Patrick Michaels. Cato is the second largest recipient of funding the foundations run by Koch Industries Inc. (the largest private energy company in the United States).

Heartland Institute: Organizes a "denier conference" every year for the past three years. Used to receive funding from ExxonMobil, still recieve grants from tobacco companies and are also a major recipient of grants from the foundations run by Koch Industries Inc. (the largest private energy company in the United States).

Heritage Foundation: Heritage is massive and operates on about $50 million a year. They have received significant funding from ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and other fossil fuel companies.
National Center for Policy Analysis: the NCPA is a small, but very vocal Dallas, Texas-based freemarket think tank and has received over $540,900 from oil giant ExxonMobil since 1998.
Competitive Enterprise Institute: The CEI is well-known for its public efforts to aggressively counter the scientific evidence for human-induced climate change, especially after their infamous set of television ads with the tag line "C02, We Call it Life." Since 1998, the CEI has received over $2 million in funding from oil-giant ExxonMobil.
While these are some of the most vocal, there are more. So please leave a comment below if you think there's anyone else who should be added to this list and we'll do the research.


Undergroundman said...

Well, populist is a word that can have some meaning if it means something akin to demagoguery and propaganda designed to get people to vote for a party.

That has to be distinguished from the meaningless use of it to mean something bad just because the masses vote for a person or policies a liberal elite do not like.