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Kamran,

What you say below is interesting, helpful, and I have no quarrel with any of it. I think it is also important for socialists, when they hear criticisms of leaders like Chavez and the Castros coming from someone who is clearly a leftist and anti-imperialist like myself, to not automatically assume that the critic is supportive of US foreign policy or imperialist interventions in the countries involved. I am personally opposed to any attempts by the US to overthrow Chavez and his government, to try to bring capitalism back to Cuba (although some say it is already state capitalist), etc. 

I do make some exceptions to this, however, when a leader is slaughtering his own people (as in Libya, Syria, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc) and I have no weapons of my own to bring to bear on the situation. Qaddafi is not a socialist, and neither is Assad. So then, in the interests of saving lives of working people and peasants, I find it necessary to make a temporary alliance with capitalist countries like the US, France, etc, in hopes that once the dictators are gone the people of these countries will be able to create their own democratic societies, which are independent of outside forces. It doesn't always work out this way, but issuing manifestos against imperialism and letting dictators stay in power--or even actively supporting them, as Chavez is now outrageously doing--is not the way to go either.

Fortunately, the views above are shared by many on the left, even if they seem highly unpopular on this particular list serve.

MB

On Thu, May 26, 2011 at 10:47 PM, Kamran Nayeri <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Michael:

I share with you the outrage about Chavez's political statements on the ongoing revolt in the ME and North Africa. However, I would also like to point out that his position is a typical Third Worldist position that some socialist currents have historically taken--it make the imperialist reality absolute and disregard class struggle in the world capitalist periphery.  For example, the Workers World Party founded by Sam Marcy has been one such organization in the United States.  Then, there have been others socialist currents--such as pro-Moscow or pro-Beijing currents--that have historically taken similar positions not so much because of Third Worldist worldview but because of opportunism of the ruling parties in Moscow or Beijing. For example, up to almost the last month of his rule, Moscow and Beijing maintained friendly relations with the Shah of Iran even though Iranian political parties that looked to them were part of the mass upsurge that eventually overthrow that regime in February 1979. Thus, Chavez's position is by no means new or unique--it has nothing to do with a suppose "socialism of the 21st century." It is very much represents some of the uglier aspects of the "socialism" of the 20th century.

Second, history has many examples of leaders of mass movement that held worldviews or political positions contrary to the interests of working people at home or abroad.  I view Chavez as a populist leader.  He does not hold any consistent socialist ideology, he presides over a capitalist state and economy, but he also take positions that support some of the demand of the working people of Venezuela. 

It would be a mistake to turn one's back to these mass movements, in particular workers, peasants, and the urban poor, who also support Chavez because there is no better viable alternative is present.  It is important to realize that like Allende--who was a reformist socialist--imperialism is very much interested to overthrow Chavez by a rightist/fascist coup.  It is of utmost importance to place criticism of Chavez within the context of an unconditional opposition to right-wing and imperialist attacks on his government. 

Kamran

On Thu, May 26, 2011 at 11:19 AM, Michael Balter <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
This pretty much seals the case against Chavez, in my view, that he is either demented or that he puts Venezuelan national interests (or his vision of them) above those of the international proletariat. Either way he cannot be considered a legitimate socialist leader. Can anyone accept this support for the slaughtering of the Syrian people by the al-Assad government? Unbelievable.

MB

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/venezuela250511.html

Bolivarian Leader Stands in Solidarity with Syrian People against Imperial Onslaught
by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry

The President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela communicated by telephone with his brother, the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, Bashar al-Assad, in order to convey to him a personal greeting full of affection and hope at a moment when the imperialist forces are unleashing violence against the Syrian people.

President Hugo Chávez received from President Bashar al-Assad a complete picture of the real situation in this brother Arab nation, where a fascist conspiracy is seeking to sow chaos and disorder, with the goal of subjecting the nation to the dictates of the Western powers.  President Bashar explained to his Venezuelan counterpart that these outbreaks of minoritarian violence had been repudiated by the vast majority of Syrians and that the situation had begun to get back to normal thanks to the action of the institutions and government of Syria.

President Hugo Chávez was able to hear firsthand the important process of reforms that President Bashar has pushed forward for the purposes of responding to the legitimate needs and demands of those who have exercised their right to demonstrate peacefully and who have nothing to do with the extremist groups armed and financed from abroad.  Especially, the Syrian president highlighted the new social policies implemented by his government to support the poorest strata of the population.

President Hugo Chávez passed on to his Syrian counterpart the expressions of solidarity from numerous Latin American and Caribbean leaders and took this occasion to express his most firm political and personal support, conveying his absolute conviction that the dignity of the Syrian people and government will make peace prevail, defeating the imperial aggressions.

Caracas, 20 May 2011


The original communiqué "Líder Bolivariano se solidariza con pueblo sirio ante arremetida imperial" was published on the Web site of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.


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******************************************
Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]
Web:    michaelbalter.com
NYU:    journalism.nyu.edu/faculty/michael-balter/
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“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
                                                  --John Kenneth Galbraith





--
******************************************
Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]
Web:    michaelbalter.com
NYU:    journalism.nyu.edu/faculty/michael-balter/
******************************************

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
                                                  --John Kenneth Galbraith