Following on from this post about leftist excuses for authoritarian regimes (by the way, I see Tariq Ali is at it again in the latest London Review of Books - subscription required for full article - ludicrously comparing Chavez' closure of RCTV to the sacking of Greg Dyke from the BBC), Michael Weiss compares three 'faux-cialists' or poseur Marxists - Chavez, Galloway and Ali - with 'three world leaders who are actually literate in radical politics and willing to put their knowledge to good use' - Lula da Silva, Bernard Kouchner and Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister (and Kurdish socialist) Barham Salih. Weiss concludes:
Chavez, Galloway and Ali claim to stand for 'people’s democracy,' but have yet to meet an authoritarian ideal they couldn’t excuse. Thankfully, there are still those on the left around to tell them 'Not in our names.'
Michael's blog - Snarksmith ('New York gossip, art, politics, pop culture') - is also worth checking out (via Harry's Place).
Luckily the organised working class has a bit more sense:
"Amicus, with 1.3 million workers, affiliates to Hands Off Venezuela
By Hands Off Venezuela
Tuesday, 19 June 2007
The following two resolutions were passed yesterday at the Amicus national conference with only two votes against.
This Conference notes that the government of Hugo Chavez since its was first elected in 1998 has brought health care to the sick, education to the illiterate, housed the homeless and redistributed millions of acres of land. The constitution guarantees the public ownership of the oil industry and the distribution of wealth to all citizens.
This conference congratulates the Hands off Venezuela Campaign for its role in drawing to the attention of the British Labour movement the continuing revolution being carried out by the Venezuelan people.
The Venezuelan government's popularity has been proven time and time again culminating in the ringing endorsement of the referendum of 2004 in which the Chavez government gained 60% of the popular vote.
The Venezuelan revolution is in danger and has been threatened on more than one occasion. A far right coup was attempted in 2002 only to be defeated by the people. This was followed by a bosses lockout. Again the workers came to the rescue and ran the factories without the bosses, ensuring the economy did not collapse.
Shamefully the United States has opposed the Chavez government since its election and has supported every undemocratic attempt to overthrow it. The real motives of the Bush regime are exposed by the call from Pat Robertson to assassinate Chavez.
International solidarity with the people of Venezuela is vital if the revolution is to survive. Amicus pledges,
* To promote links with Venezuelan National Union of Workers
* (the UNT the Venezuelan equivalent of the TUC)
* To affiliate to the Hands of Venezuela Campaign
* To circulate all branches and shop stewards with campaign material.
174. SUPPORT VENEZUELA'S BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION
This Conference congratulates and supports the colossal advances being made by the Venezuelan Revolution under President Hugo Chavez in carrying out policies, which benefit working people, the poor and the landless.
Conference recognises that the nine electoral victories won by Hugo Chavez since 1998, provide the Revolution with an overwhelming popular mandate. This reflects the overwhelming support for the social programmes carried out by the government in relation to education, literacy, healthcare, land reform and subsidised food.
Conference views with alarm the bellicose threats from the US Administration and its imperialist puppets, including the Venezuelan oligarchy and the Colombian Government, which pose a real threat to the life of Chavez as well as the Revolution itself. Conference therefore opposes all outside interference in the affairs of Venezuela.
Conference expresses its support for the National Union of Workers (UNT) as the legitimate voice of the organised working class and calls upon our union to build links with its Venezuelan counterpart. Furthermore, Conference calls upon the NEC to support a delegation to Venezuela in order to establish bonds of brotherhood between workers in Britain and Venezuela, as well as inviting trade unionists from Venezuela to Britain.
Furthermore, Conference pledges its support for the initiatives of labour movement backed campaigns that further the above aims."
Matthew - Thanks for the comment but I'm still with Michael Weiss on this one. Has the Left still not learned the lesson of Stalinism: that liberty and social justice are indivisible? You can't write off concerns about restrictions on media freedom an incipient cult of personality as bourgeois neuroses. The reaction of the US Right is a distraction: reputable bodies such Human Rights Watch have also expressed serious concerns (http://hrw.org/doc/?t=americas&c=venezu). If British unions feel a need to express solidarity (and NUJ members at least should have some qualms, given Chavez' treatment of some of their journalistic comrades) at least let it be open-eyed critical solidarity rather than one more instance of uncritical great man/strong leader worship.
So I hear that ITV has just called for the government to be overthrown...
So are you suggesting Chavez was justified in shutting down RCTV? Here's an extract from Human Rights Watch's version of events:
The Venezuelan government’s politically motivated decision not to renew a television broadcasting license is a serious setback for freedom of expression in Venezuela...
President Hugo Chávez is misusing the state's regulatory authority to punish a media outlet for its criticism of the government. The move to shut down RCTV is a serious blow to freedom of expression in Venezuela.
President Hugo Chávez has repeatedly threatened to cancel RCTV’s license ever since he accused it of supporting an April 2002 coup attempt. On December 28, 2006, he announced during a military ceremony that the order not to renew the channel’s 20-year license had already been drafted.
“President Hugo Chávez is misusing the state’s regulatory authority to punish a media outlet for its criticism of the government,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The move to shut down RCTV is a serious blow to freedom of expression in Venezuela.”
Of the three commercial stations accessible in all parts of Venezuela, only RCTV has remained strongly critical of the government. The other two—Venevision and Televen—were themselves accused of supporting the attempted coup and subsequent anti–government protests. But both have since removed virtually all content critical of the government from their programming.
Venevision’s license is also due for renewal on May 27, but the government has remained silent about the channel’s future, in contrast to its repeated public attacks on RCTV.
Officials defend the decision by pointing out that the government is merely exercising its right not to renew RCTV’s broadcasting license when it expires. However, no procedure was established to enable RCTV to present evidence and arguments in its favor; the criteria on which the decision was based were not established clearly beforehand, nor was there any application or selection process allowing RCTV to submit an application for continuation of its concession.
In March 2007 the government published details of its case—a 360–page “White Book on RCTV”—which includes pages of allegations against the station, some of them based on investigations by the government broadcasting authority CONATEL. The report was issued months after Chávez made his announcement and does not address the station’s replies to CONATEL’s investigation.
The White Book accuses RCTV of “inciting rebellion,” showing “lack of respect for authorities and institutions,” breaking the laws protecting minors, engaging in monopolistic practices, and failing to pay taxes. However, it does not cite a single final judicial or administrative ruling establishing that the channel had in fact committed any of these alleged offenses during its 20–year contract. No one from the channel has been convicted for their alleged complicity in the attempted coup.
Government officials have announced that RCTV will be replaced by a public service channel open to community groups and independent producers and without editorial control by the state or government programming.
The government has not made a clear case why RCTV must be taken off the air to set up the new channel. The government has frequencies at its disposal on both VHF and UHF wavebands in many parts of Venezuela. It has already used UHF frequencies to successfully install a nationwide education and cultural channel, Vive TV.
“The government’s proposal to democratize the airwaves sounds great in theory, but shutting down broadcasters for their political views is not the way to do it,” said Vivanco
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