Chávez proves it’s not about right, left or centre
These days we’re too hung up on political taxonomy to keep in focus things that really matter.
We imagine that describing someone as ‘rightwing’, ‘leftwing’ or any gradation thereof conveys adequate information. We think that ‘democracy’ is a sufficient condition for a country’s virtue. We accept that ‘neoconservatism’ is a new type of conservatism, though in fact it’s much nearer a new kind of Trotskyism.
Like most political descriptors, these have lost whatever little meaning they once had. From time to time we are reminded of this linguistic debacle by a news item, such as the death of Hugo Chávez. Drawing as they do tonnes of comments from all over the world, such events emphasise where the real watersheds run among both politicians and commentators.
Such dividing lines typically separate not left from right but the intelligent from the stupid, the educated from the ignorant and the good from the evil.
The trouble with Ken Livingston, for example, isn’t that he’s leftwing but that he’s evil and stupid (though not devoid of some cunning), as proved by his admiration for the deceased. Chávez, according to Ken, devoted his life to ridding the world of ‘exploitation’ and ‘colonialism’.
In pursuit of such glorious ends, Hugo supported every terrorist regime or organisation on earth, had his opponents silenced or arrested, nationalised his country’s economy thereby driving its people into unemployment and poverty, and wiped out any semblance of free press. Now you decide whether Ken is stupid or evil or, most probably, both. But just to say he’s leftwing is to say next to nothing.
Ahmadinejad compared the dear departed to Jesus, while our own George Galloway described him as ‘champion of the poor’ – and he wasn’t referring to Chávez’s sustained effort to create as many poor as was possible in oil-rich Venezuela. Now Galloway is probably leftwing while Ahmadinejad probably isn’t. So what? What matters here is that both are evil and quite possibly stupid as well.
As to our broadcast media, I think a law should be passed forbidding them to comment on countries or politicians whose names they can’t pronounce. Thus most American commentators refer to the famous mass murderer as ‘Shay’, as if the chap had owned a French restaurant called ‘Chez Guevara’.
Such an injunction would be a necessary but, as Jon Snow of Channel 4 shows, not a sufficient measure. He pronounces Spanish names properly, which is scarce consolation considering what he says. Such as, ‘Whatever you think of Chávez, Latin America is far more its own continent today thanks to Lula, Chávez and others…’ And Germany was far more its own country thanks to Hitler. If you admire chaps like Chávez, Jon, why don’t you just say so.
That David Aaronovitch tends towards the left goes without saying – he’s a Times columnist after all. So let’s concentrate on his relevant qualities, as manifested in his article The US Was Midwife to Commandante Chávez.
Aaronovitch essentially subscribes to the view jointly held by all Latin American communists, that all the troubles of that continent were caused by the US government and such corporations as Ford, Coca-Cola and the United Fruit. In support the pundit recruits Pablo Neruda, whom he describes as ‘a poet for the young; a poet for love and politics’.
I’d also be tempted to mention in passing what else Neruda was: head of the KGB spy ring in Latin America. Really, Aaronovitch should vet his sources more carefully, otherwise people might think he’s ignorant, in addition to his other sterling qualities.
‘Whatever has happened in Venezuela,’ explains Aaranovitch, ‘might have been different if, for decades before, the United States had behaved better.’
Never mind 70 years of systematic Soviet propaganda, ably augmented since 1958 by Castro and other Soviet stooges. Never mind the huge spy ring run by the ‘poet of love’. Never mind a largely illiterate and idle population. Never mind the mayhem created in Chile by Castro’s proxy Allende. Never mind ‘Shay’s’ subversion. Never mind fascist dictators like Perón in Argentina or Stroessner in Paraguay. It’s all Coca-Cola’s fault.
Aaronovitch then compliments Chávez, ‘who, unlike his heroes [Fidel and ‘Shay’] executed no one and created no concentration camps.’ Well, the boy did what he had to do. He didn’t need death squads and concentration camps because he was democratically elected and re-elected by a thoroughly brainwashed populace. The odd beating and imprisonment did the job famously, coupled of course with Bolshevik-scale propaganda.
This points at Aaranovitch’s inability to tie different ends of his narrative together even in a short piece. ‘The abused neocons, I think, are right where the realpolitikers are wrong. Treat people in other lands… as people deserving liberty, dignity and democracy…’ and everything will be hunky-dory.
First, the neocons are more abusing than abused. This peculiar blend of American nationalism with Trotskyist internationalism has more or less dominated US foreign policy since Reagan’s tenure at least. Second, carrying democracy to every tribal society on earth is the neocons’ pronounced, practically sole, aim.
We are witnessing the results in the Middle East. Democratic elections so beloved of the neocons, instigated by them and made possible by the war they had championed, have destroyed stability in the region, bringing to power the kind of regimes that are rapidly taking the world to a possible nuclear disaster.
Mentioning Chávez and the neocons in the same article, anyone with half a brain and a modicum of moral sense would show how the former testifies to the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the latter. Chávez, after all, was elected as democratically as Perón, Ahmadinejad or for that matter Hitler – as democratically as the neocons desire. Democracy triumphs, so what’s the problem then? Job done.
It’s a moot point whether Aaaronovitch is leftwing. What else he is matters much more. Instead let’s ask the real question: ‘If these are our opinion formers, why are we surprised at the opinions they form?’