Archive for the 'Chavez' Category

Progress for same-sex rights in Cuba

Today marked a great victory and the promise for substantial future progress for our gay brothers and lesbian sisters living in Cuba.

https://paulitics.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/cuba-same-sex-marriage.pngAP reports that:

“Cuba‘s gay community celebrated unprecedented openness — and high-ranking political alliances — with a government-backed campaign against homophobia on Saturday.

[…]

“Cuban state television gave prime-time play Friday to the U.S. film “Brokeback Mountain,” which tells the story of two cowboys who conceal their homosexual affair.

“Prejudice against homosexuals remains deeply rooted in Cuban society, but the government has steadily moved away from the Puritanism of the 1960s and 1970s, when homosexuals hid their sexuality for fear of being ridiculed, fired from work or even imprisoned.

“Now Cuba’s parliament is studying proposals to legalize same-sex unions and give gay couples the benefits that people in traditional marriages enjoy.

“Parliament head Ricardo Alarcon said the government needs to do more to promote gay rights, but said many Cubans still need to be convinced.”

The significance of this move from a political perspective should not be overlooked. There is not a single Latin American country that recognizes same-sex marriages due to the high religiosity of the Latin American culture.

Thus, when we look at the recent good moves on this file in Cuba in concert with the multiple attempts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to make Venezuela the first country on the face of the planet to explicitly recognize same-sex marriages in the text of the constitution, it is clear that socialism, when done right, is a way forward for everyone.

There’s still a lot of work to be done throughout Latin America for the GLBT community, and we should especially make sure not to let the governments — even allied socialist governments — guide the agenda. But, I think, there is very good reason for optimism given these developments.

Video: The War on Democracy [by John Pilger]

I recently came across this inspiring and fantastically-directed video is by the progressive Australian filmmaker John Pilger.  This documentary about Chavez and Venezuela features both impressive cinematography and depth of analysis which truly exceeded my expectations.

Enjoy.


Video curtosy of the good comrades at Venezuela Analysis.

Reactions?

Propaganda in Action: More anti-Chavez attacks dressed up as “news”

From Reuters:

CARACAS (Reuters) – A video of a Gucci- and Louis Vuitton-clad politician attacking capitalism then struggling to explain how his luxurious clothes square with his socialist beliefs has become an instant YouTube hit in Venezuela.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Pedro Carreno was momentarily at a loss for words when a journalist interrupted his speech and asked if it was not contradictory to criticize capitalism while wearing Gucci shoes and a tie made by Parisian luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton.

“I don’t, uh … I … of course,” stammered Carreno on Tuesday before regaining his composure. “It’s not contradictory because I would like Venezuela to produce all this so I could buy stuff produced here instead of 95 percent of what we consume being imported.”

The video clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDsdXkY4UlE) had been viewed more than 15,000 times on Thursday, a day after it was posted on the YouTube Web site.

Despite the best efforts of left-wing President Hugo Chavez to instill austere socialist values in its people, the oil-rich South American nation remains attached to consumerism.

This article makes several uncritical assertions which deserve some attention.

First,

“A video of a Gucci- and Louis Vuitton-clad politician attacking capitalism… has become an instant YouTube hit…. [having] been viewed more than 15,000 times on Thursday.”

This reads as if it was written by somebody like my co-worker who is not familiar with Youtube and thus calls it “The Youtube”.  Anybody conversant in the social video site would know receiving 15,000 hits nowhere near qualifies a video as being ‘a hit’.  Just to demonstrate this fact, I’ve highlighted the most popular videos on Youtube today in green:

youtube-popular-videos-december-14-2007.png

So the this putative Youtube “hit” has received less than 4% of the hits of a Brittany spears music video and a video of a guy holding his camera sideways.  Hmm……  Do I smell a Hollywood deal in the making?  If you accept that 15,000 views does not an internet sensation make, then one must ask oneself:  irrespective of all other charges in this piece, what is the newsworthiness of this story in the first place?

Second,

The article asserts that there is something hypocritical or unsavoury about a politician who’s well dressed yet attacks capitalism and advocates for the poor.  Besides being an ad hominem attack (which we seem to be seeing a lot more of these days when it comes to socialists), this seems to suggest that Minister Pedro Carreno is somehow less hypocritical or less unsavoury than a politician who’s well dressed and working to ensure that he gets to keep all the capital he’s accumulated while the poor can do without government assistance and just pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

In fact, we don’t even need to go as far as the Venezuela opposition to find examples of this former type of politician, we in the West, and especially our American neighbours, have plenty of home-grown examples.  While I despise comparing John Edwards to the genuinely progressive Bolivarian Revolution, a fair example could be made that Edwards has likewise been criticized for his luxurious living while using working-class rhetoric while others such as Mitt Romney who’s net worth tops $200 million (USD) and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes who’s net worth is $500 million (USD) both can advocate tax cuts or even a flat tax while not being subjected to similar charges of unsavouryness or hypocrisy.

Now, to be fair, while I support the Bolivarian Revolution, it should be pointed out that this is does not exactly live up to the Paris Commune ideal that Marx praised wherein the maximum salary available to a Commune official was 6000 Francs per year (although, in honesty, I haven’t the slightest clue what that would work out to in today’s currency after inflation).  But the point still stands that the argument made by Reuters is untenable.

Third,

The article asserts that “despite the best efforts of left-wing President Hugo Chavez to instill austere socialist values in its people, the oil-rich South American nation remains attached to consumerism.”

This is misleading on a few fronts.  First off, the socialist project is largely dealing with the horrible fact that workers don’t have enough money to feed themselves yet work in society only to have the surplus of their labour disproportionately usurped by a class of non-labourers.  Thus, socialism is not the same thing as anti-consumerism which is concerned primarily about people who buy too many things and are controlled by their desires for conspicuous and fashionable consumption.

chavez-supporters.pngSecond of all, this quotation attempts to suggest that the left-wing drive in Venezuela is being directed by Chavez in a top-down fashion.  While Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution is not nearly grassroots enough for my liking, it is nevertheless a complete distortion of the situation to say that it is Chavez who is making, or attempting to make a receptive public embrace socialist values.  Clearly, if the socialist drive was coming from Chavez and not the populace, then when Chavez was removed from power in the 2002 coup, the public would have either rejoiced or proven apathetic instead of the amazing popular uprising we actually witnessed to restore Chavez.

Tariq Ali on Chavez, Venezuela and the struggle against neoliberalism (audio)

socialist-podcast.pngEpisode #5 of the Paulitics Podcast has now been released. This episode features a talk by noted radical intellectual, Trotskyist and salient figure with the New Left Review publication, Tariq Ali.

Ali’s talk is loosely on the topic of his 2006 book entitled “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Axis Of Hope” and features a fantastic discussion of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela including both the challenges to the revolution  and the successes of the revolution.

venezuelan-flag.pngchavez-and-supporters.pngAlso in the episode, I take some time to despell some more myths regarding the constitutional reform package.  I despell the myth that the reform package was hugely centralizing or authoritarian by pointing out that several of the reforms were actually decentralizing and libertarian in nature.  In fact, some of the proposals, including the proposal to decrease of the central government’s share of taxation revenues so as to increase the share of the revenues for the various states, and the reform of the central bank are all things that the Ron Paul fanatics have been clamoring for in the United States.

To listen to Ali’s talk or to download the episode, click here.

To find out how to subscribe to the podcast and have episodes brought to you automatically, click here.

To view past episodes of the Paulitics Podcast, click here.

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Venezuela, meet Florida circa 2000

What is happening in Venezuela?

This is just like Florida 2000, only the contest in Venezuela wasn’t between bad and badder, but between a genuine choice for progressive change to serve as a beacon to the rest of the downtrodden and subaltern in the world versus stagnation and tepidness.

After having initially called the referendum for Chavez, sadly, virtually all of the Western media is now calling the referendum definitively for the ‘no’ side and thus against Chavez.

chavez-news.png

With Chavez having just, as I write this, apparently conceded defeat, I am reminded of the words of Robert Frost who wrote:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

May we socialists and Marxists continue to find the strength to pursue, in the words of Walt Whitman, “the struggle ever renew’d” and not be disheartened by this shocking stillbirth.

Propaganda in Action: An unfair referendum in Venezuela?

Whenever anything dramatic happens, one this is for certain, you can first expect a massive flurry of propaganda from the corporate media.

I’ve already been reporting on some of the ongoing propagandistic coverage of tonight’s Venezuela referendum here and here.

Here’s the latest morsel of propaganda, this time from the good folks at AFP:

“Unlike in past elections, there were no European Union or Organization of American States election monitors” (source)

Now, to be fair, the AFP article does point out that despite the lack of EU or OAS observers, ‘international observers invited by the government’ have overseen the referendum, but this is stated as if it is a consolation prize.

From this article, one would get the impression that there was only hand-picked, minimal election oversight from the international community.

In fact, the truth of the matter is radically different.

100 observers from Antigua and Barbuda, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Spain, The United States, The Philippines, Finland, France, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Holland, Honduras, England, Italy, Mali, Namibia, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Switzerland, Surinam and Uruguay were present to oversee the election results. (sources here and here).

Canada should implement many of the reforms proposed by Chavez

venezuelan-flag.pngIf, like me, you live in the Western, capitalist world, you likely haven’t heard anything about the revolutionary referendum that just occurred in Venezuela except the lie that it’s going to make Chavez “President for Life” (see: Fox News, Daily Telegraph) or that the referendum was likely going to be won by the “no” side

In actuality, the amendment to Article 230 merely removes the two-term limit on the Venezuelan president and allows him/her to continue serving so long as the public continues voting for him or her in regularly scheduled (7 years apart) elections. So, by this logic, it’s anti-democratic to let people democratically vote for whomever they wish. Also, by this logic, Canada isn’t a democracy because our former Prime Minister Mackenzie King was first elected in 1921 and served (with only shortchavez-and-supporters.png interruptions) until 1948.

So, since I imagine few people have taken the time to cut past the corporate media and find out what was actually proposed and adopted by the people of Venezuela (new exit polls now put the victory of the referendum in question. Stay tuned for more developments), here is a list of some of what I consider to be the best of the 69 constitutional reforms proposed. Canada should seriously take a look at this and consider implementing some of these reforms here.

The bolded items, I believe, are the best of the best and thus should be a first priority for Canada to catch up to Venezuela.

Block A

Art. 18 – Provides a new right, the right to the city, which says that all citizens have the right to equal access to the city’s services or benefits. Also names Caracas, the capital as the “Cradle of Simon Bolivar, the Liberator, and Queen of the Warairarepano” [an indigenous name for the mountain range surrounding Caracas].

Art. 64 – Lowers the minimum voting age from 18 to 16 years.

Art. 67 – Requires candidates for elected office to be set up in accordance with gender parity, reverses the prohibition against state financing of campaigns and parties, and prohibits foreign funding of political activity.

Art. 70 – Establishes that councils of popular power (of communities, workers, students, farmers, fishers, youth, women, etc.) are one of the main means for citizen participation in the government.

Art. 87 – Creates a social security fund for the self-employed, in order to guarantee them a pension, vacation pay, sick pay, etc.

Art. 90 – Reduction of the workweek from 44 hours to 36.

Art. 98 – Guarantees freedom for cultural creations, but without guaranteeing intellectual property.

Art. 100 – Recognition of Venezuelans of African descent, as part of Venezuelan culture to protect and promote (in addition to indigenous and European culture).

Art. 103 – Right to a free education expanded from high school to university.

Art. 112 – The state will promote a diversified and independent economic model, in which the interests of the community prevail over individual interests and that guarantee the social and material needs of the people. The state is no longer obliged to promote private enterprise.

Art. 113 – Monopolies are prohibited instead of merely being “not allowed.” The state has the right to “reserve” the exploitation of natural resources or provision of services that are considered by the constitution or by a separate law to be strategic to the nation. Concessions granted to private parties must provide adequate benefits to the public.

Art. 115 – Introduces new forms of property, in addition to private property. The new forms are (1) public property, belonging to state bodies, (2) direct and indirect social property, belonging to the society in general, where indirect social property is administered by the state and direct is administered by particular communities, (3) collective property, which belongs to particular groups, (4) mixed property, which can be a combination of ownership of any of the previous five forms.

Art. 136 – Creates the popular power, in addition to the municipal, state, and national powers. “The people are the depositories of sovereignty and exercise it directly via the popular power. This is not born of suffrage nor any election, but out of the condition of the human groups that are organized as the base of the population.” The popular power is organized via communal councils, workers’ councils, student councils, farmer councils, crafts councils, fisher councils, sports councils, youth councils, elderly councils, women’s councils, disables persons’ councils, and others indicated by law.

Art. 152 – Venezuela’s foreign policy is directed towards creating a pluri-polar world, free of hegemonies of any imperialist, colonial, or neo-colonial power.

Art. 153 – Strengthening of the mandate to unify Latin America, so as to achieve what Simon Bolivar called, “A Nation of Republics.”

Art. 167 – States’ incomes are increased from 20% to 25% of the national budget, where 5% is to be dedicated to the financing of each state’s communal councils.

Art. 230 – Presidential term is extended from six to seven years. The two consecutive term limit on presidential reelection is removed.

Art. 272 – Removal of the requirement for the state to create an autonomous penitentiary system and places the entire system under the administration of a ministry instead of states and municipalities. Also, removes the option of privatizing the country’s penitentiary system.

Art. 299 – The socio-economic regimen of the country is based on socialist (among other) principles. Instead of stipulating that the state promotes development with the help of private initiative, it is to do so with community, social, and personal initiative.

Art. 303 – Removal of the permission to privatize subsidiaries of the country’s state oil industry that operate within the country.

Art. 307 – Strengthening of the prohibition against latifundios (large and idle landed estates) and creation of a tax on productive agricultural land that is idle. Landowners who engage in the ecological destruction of their land may be expropriated.

Art. 318 – Removal of the Central Bank’s autonomy and foreign reserves to be administrated by the Central Bank together with the President.

Art. 328 – Armed forces of Venezuela renamed to “Bolivarian Armed Force.” Specification that the military is “patriotic, popular, and anti-imperialist” at the service of the Venezuelan people and never at the service of an oligarchy or of a foreign imperial power, whose professionals are not activists in any political party (modified from the prohibition against all political activity by members of the military).

Block B

Art. 21 – Inclusion of prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation and on health.

Art. 82 – Protection of primary home from confiscation due to bankruptcy or other legal proceedings.

Art. 109 – Equal voting rights for professors, students, and employees in the election of university authorities.

(source here, or here)

May our Venezuelan comrade’s fidelity to the blood-stained banner of social justice continue to be an inspiration to us all in victory and defeat.

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Correction: Since posting this, new exit polls have come in which put the victory of the referendum in question.

See Also:

Propaganda in Action: So, who’s going to win the election in Venezuela?

How to distort economic data 101

The difference between the NDP and the Communist Party…

Our entire existence summed up in one cartoon

Che Guevara: Cuban revolutionary or puppy-eating serial murderer?

Why capitalism can’t continue forever and why socialism will prevail

Peace is overrated


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