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Greg Grandin reviews ‘Allende’s Chile and the Inter-American Cold War’ by Tanya Harmer · LRB 19 July 2012
"Harmer dispatches two myths favoured by those who blame the coup on Allende himself. The first is that his commitment to democracy was opportunistic and would soon have been abandoned. ‘One might even,’ Falcoff writes, ‘credit the Nixon administration with preventing the consolidation of Allende’s “totalitarian project”’. The second is that even if Allende wasn’t a fraud he was a fool, unleashing forces he could not control – for example, the left wing of Popular Unity, and the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria, which was further to the left of Allende’s coalition and drew inspiration from the Cuban Revolution, Cuba conceived here as a proxy for Moscow.

Harmer shows that Allende was a pacifist, a democrat and a socialist by conviction not convenience. He had an ‘unbending commitment to constitutional government’ and refused in the face of an ‘externally funded’ opposition ‘to take a different non-democratic or violent road’. He invoked history to insist that democracy and socialism were compatible, yet he knew that Chile’s experience was exceptional. During the two decades before his election, military coups had overthrown governments in 12 countries: Cuba in 1952; Guatemala and Paraguay in 1954; Argentina and Peru in 1962; Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and again Guatemala in 1963; Brazil and Bolivia in 1964; and Argentina once more in 1966. Many of these coups were encouraged and sanctioned by Washington and involved subverting exactly the kind of civil-society pluralism – of the press, political parties and unions – that Allende promoted. So he was sympathetic to the Cuban Revolution and respected Castro, especially after he survived the CIA’s Bay of Pigs exploit in 1961. And when Allende won the presidency, he relied on Cuban advisers for personal security and intelligence operations.

But Cuba’s turn to one-party authoritarianism only deepened Allende’s faith in the durability of Chilean democracy. Socialism could be won, he insisted, through procedures and institutions – the ballot, the legislature, the courts and the media – that historically had been dominated by those classes most opposed to it. Castro warned him that the military wouldn’t abide by the constitution. Until at least early 1973 Allende believed otherwise. His revolution would not be confronted with the choice that had been forced on Castro: suspend democracy or perish. But by mid-1973, events were escaping Allende’s command. On 11 September he took his own life, probably with a gun Castro gave him as a gift. The left in the years after the coup developed its own critique of Allende: that, as the crisis hurtled toward its conclusion, he proved indecisive, failing to arm his supporters and train resistance militias, failing to shut down congress and failing to defend the revolution the way Castro defended his. Harmer presents these as conscious decisions, stemming from Allende’s insistence that neither one-party rule nor civil war was an acceptable alternative to defeat.

A photograph of Allende taken during his last hours shows him leaving the presidential palace, pistol in hand and helmet on head, flanked by bodyguards and looking up at the sky, watching for the bombs. The image is powerful yet deceptive, giving the impression that Allende had been at the palace when the coup started, and was beginning to organise resistance to it. But Allende wasn’t trapped in his office. He’d gone there earlier that morning, despite being advised not to, when he heard that his generals had rebelled. The Cubans were ready to arm and train a Chilean resistance and, Harmer writes, ‘to fight and die alongside Allende and Chilean left-wing forces in a prolonged struggle to defend the country’s revolutionary process’. But Allende ordered them not to put their plans into operation, and they listened: ‘The Chilean president,’ Harmer says, ‘was therefore far more in control of Cuba’s involvement in his country than previously thought.’ He also rejected the idea of retreating to the outskirts of Santiago and leading an armed resistance: in Harmer’s assessment, he committed suicide rather than give up his commitment to non-violent revolution.

Many, in Chile and elsewhere, refused to believe that Allende had killed himself. The story had to be that he was executed, like Zapata, Sandino, Guevara and others who died at the hands of traitors. Che fought to the end and had no illusions about the bourgeoisie and its democratic credentials. Allende’s legacy is more ambiguous, especially for today’s revived Latin American left, which despite its remarkable electoral success in recent decades still struggles to tame the market forces set free after the Chilean coup. In 2009 in Honduras, for instance, and last month in Paraguay, democratically elected presidents were unseated by ‘constitutional coups’. In both countries, their opponents dressed up what were classic putsches in the garb of democratic proceduralism, taking advantage of vague impeachment mechanisms to restore the status quo ante.

For Brazil’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), founded in 1980 by militant trade unionists including the future president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the coup in Chile reinforced the need to work with centrist parties to restore constitutional rule. Social issues weren’t completely sidelined, but attaining stability took precedence over class struggle; for the first time in Latin American history, a major left-wing party found itself fighting for political democracy as a value in itself, not as part of a broader campaign for social rights. ‘I thought a lot about what happened with Allende in Chile,’ Lula once said, referring to the polarisation that followed the 1970 election, when the Popular Unity coalition won with only a bit more than a third of the vote. That’s why he agreed to set the bar high for a PT win. During the Constituent Assembly debates leading up to the promulgation of Brazil’s 1988 post-dictatorship constitution, Lula insisted that if no one candidate received a majority in the first round of a presidential election, a run-off had to be held between the top two contenders, which would both give the winner more legitimacy and force him or her to reach out beyond the party base. Like Allende, Lula stood for president three times before winning at his fourth attempt. Unlike Allende, though, each time Lula ran and lost and ran again, he gave up a little bit more of the PT’s founding principles, so that the party went from pledging to overturn neoliberalism to promising to administer it more effectively.

In Venezuela, Hugo Chávez drew a different lesson from the defeat of the Popular Unity government. Soon after he was elected president in 1998, before coming out as a confrontationalist, indeed before he even identified himself as a socialist, Chávez began to compare himself to Allende. Wealthy Venezuelans were mobilising against even the mildest economic reforms, as their Chilean predecessors had done, taking to the streets, banging their pots and pans, attacking the government through their family-owned TV stations and newspapers, beating a path to the US embassy to complain, and taking money from Washington to fund their anti-government activities. In response, Chávez began to talk about 1973. ‘Like Allende, we are pacifists,’ he said of his supporters, including those in the military. ‘And like Allende, we are democrats. Unlike Allende, we are armed.’ The situation got worse and worse, culminating in the coup of April 2002 which, though unsuccessful, looked very like the coup against Allende. Chávez found himself trapped in the national palace speaking to Castro on the phone, telling him he was ready to die for the cause. Ever the pragmatist, Castro urged him to live to fight another day: ‘Don’t do what Allende did!’"
greggrandin  salvadorallende  history  marxism  socialism  democracy  2012  tanyaharmer  venezuela  economics  inequality  class  pacifism  cuba  fidelcastro  brazil  brasil  lula  luladasilva  latinamerica  us  richardnixon  intervention  revolution  government  argentina  honduras  guatemala  paraguay  perú  bolivia  hugochávez  pinochet  chile  henrykissinger  tanyharmer  coldwar  markfalcoff  dilmarousseff  authoritarianism  dictatorship  coup 
april 2019 by robertogreco
mordeaux🌹 on Twitter: "Who can forget the rallying cry of the Paris Commune: “To the barricades comrades! And once there we will remember to be realistic about our demands!”"
"Who can forget the rallying cry of the Paris Commune: “To the barricades comrades! And once there we will remember to be realistic about our demands!”

And of course the closing line of the Communist Manifesto: “Workers of the world unite with the progressive elements of the bourgeoisie, you have nothing to lose but your chains and a world to incrementally gain over time so long as it does not disrupt the market”

As the preamble to the IWW constitution says: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common, except for a genuine desire to make capitalism more humane.”

As Lenin said in 1917: “A fair and reasonable amount of power to the Soviets!”

In the words of Rosa Luxemburg: “Concessions or barbarism!”

The great Fred Hampton: “You can kill a revolutionary, and you probably should unless you want bad news coverage for your movement.”

James Connolly: “The Irish people will only be free, when they can affordably rent everything from the plough to the stars.”

Most importantly Eugene V. Debs: “I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I will be careful talking openly about prison abolition.”

Thomas Sankara: “We must dare to somewhat improve the future!”

A great one from Fidel Castro: “I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating... because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition. But hey, what are ya gonna do? They have drones now 🤷‍♀️”

In the words of Ho Chi Minh: “The Vietnamese people deeply love independence, freedom and peace. But in the face of United States aggression they have strategically gained a few non-reformist reforms and that’s really all they can hope for.”

Mao: “All reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality, they are made of paper so we have to be very gentle with them and not upset them too much.”

A poignant point from Hugo Chavez: “We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet. However, that requires a change in lifestyle, a change in the economic model: We must go from capitalism to a free market solution that will encourage new efficient technology”

A personal favorite from Assata Shakur: “Everybody in the world, everybody in history, has always gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.”

Patrice Lumumba: “The only thing which we wanted for our country is the right to a worthy life, to dignity without pretence, to independence without restrictions. This was never the desire of the Belgian colonialists and their Western allies and it’s important to hear both sides”

Angela Davis: “As a black woman, my politics and political affiliation are bound up with and flow from participation in my people's struggle for liberation, and with the fight of oppressed people all over the world against Bernie bros”

Big Bill Haywood: “If one man has a dollar he didn't work for, some other man worked and received a fair market rate for his time.”

Karl Marx: “The executive of the modern state is nothing but a committee for fairly balancing the interests of labor against the realities of the market”"
humor  socialism  communism  capitalism  centrism  politics  democrats  mikemordowanec  vi:justincharles  karlmarx  markets  labor  work  rosaluxemburg  eugenedebs  fredhampton  thomassankara  lenin  iww  hochiminh  assatashakur  patricelumumba  angeladavis  billhaywood  fidelcastro  maozedong  vladimirlenin  hugochávez 
may 2018 by robertogreco
#LaSalida? Venezuela at a Crossroads | The Nation
"Even Chavismo is not immune to the deep-seated hatred for the poor barrio residents that such terms represent, and to a certain degree the feeling is mutual. Against the caricatured view that insists that radical popular organizations like colectivos are either blindly devoted or cheaply bought off, these are in reality among the most independent sectors of the revolution, those most critical of government missteps and hesitations, those most familiar with the repressive force of the state and those who demand above all that the social transformation under way move faster.

These forever victims of the state have nevertheless bet on its potential usefulness in the present, or at the very least have insisted that the alternative—handing the state machinery back over to traditional elites and voluntarily returning to a life on the defensive—is really no alternative at all. This is not a decision undertaken desperately or nostalgically, however, but instead with the most powerful optimism of the will, not premised on the good faith of individual leaders—although there are some who deserve this—but instead because to bet on the Bolivarian government is to bet on the people, to wager on the creative capacities of the poor that always exceeds that state.

Many loose threads remain, but few can be easily disentangled from this broad back-and-forth of revolution and reaction that spans decades. If the experience of April 2002 has taught us anything, however, it is to avoid facile explanations fueled by mediatic imagery. Every passing day reinforces this lesson—yesterday’s hyperbole is today’s discredited exaggeration, and while regrettable, the deaths that have occurred on both sides fall far short of what one would expect from reading Twitter. Despite opposition claims of impunity, an official from the Sebin, the government intelligence agency, has been arrested for firing his weapon and the agency head has been sacked. Leaked conversations have suggested coup plots, and even López’s wife admitted on CNN that the Venezuelan government had acted to protect her husband’s life in the face of credible threats.

The media question itself will be urgently debated in the coming days as the conflict between the government and CNN comes to a head. Here too the role of the private media in actively spearheading the 2002 coup looms large in the effort to strike a balance between press freedom and media responsibility (a tension that is not avoided by acting like it doesn’t exist). But these loose threads do not negate the urgency of the phrase that the revolutionary grassroots reserve for those who once governed them, and who today try to do so again, regardless of the death toll: no volverán, they shall not return.

Venezuela is indeed at a crossroads, having—in the words of the militant-intellectual Roland Denis—“llegado al llegadero, arrived at the inevitable.” It is the point at which the Bolivarian process itself—socialism in a capitalist society, thriving direct democracy in a liberal democratic shell—cannot survive without pressing decisively toward one side or the other: more socialist, more democratic, in short, more radical. This is not a crossroads simply between two possible forms of government from above: the Maduro government or its hypothetical right-wing alternative. It is instead a question of either pressing forward the task of building a revolutionary society, or handing the future back to those who can think of nothing but the past, and who will seek to fold the historical dialectic back onto itself, beaten and bloody if necessary.

The only salida is the first, the exit personified in the more than 40,000 communal councils blanketing Venezuela, in the workers’ councils, popular organizations, Afro and indigenous movements, women’s and gender-diverse movements. It is these movements that have struggled to make Venezuela, in the words of Greg Grandin, “the most democratic country in the Western Hemisphere.” And it is these movements that—shoulders to the wheel of history—are the only guarantors of progress."
2014  venezuela  socialism  radicalism  democracy  progress  rolanddenis  capitalism  chavismo  poverty  hugochávez  antonioledezma  nicolásmaduro  class  colectivos  government  politics  revolution  media 
february 2014 by robertogreco
The Associated Press: 'Shut Up' Chavez Ringtone Hit in Spain
"About half a million people have downloaded a mobile phone ringtone featuring the phrase "Por que no te callas?" or "Why don't you shut up?" leading Madrid daily El Pais reported on its Web site Monday."
spain  hugochávez  mobile  phones  ringtones  juancarlos  españa 
november 2007 by robertogreco
Emol.com - Chávez se enfrenta a Rodríguez Zapatero y al Rey al cierre de la Cumbre
""¿Por qué no te callas, ya?", expresó con tono desafiante el Rey Juan Carlos I a Chávez mientras éste intentaba intervenir el discurso de Rodríguez Zapatero, que insistía en el respeto de todas las ideas, aunque sean absolutamente contrarias a las
latinamerica  hugochávez  juancarlos  politics  etiquette  international  chile  venezuela  españa  spain 
november 2007 by robertogreco

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