Monday, March 11, 2013

The Chavez Legacy

After reading my tribute yesterday to Hugo Chavez, I, Robot left a comment about being glad to see "a thorough listing of his accomplishments, something we're unlikely to see in the decidedly-*not*-liberal media."

Which started me thinking about "the Chavez legacy." What will it be? Will it matter? Enough for it to be contested? What will it mean to Capitalism? What will its significance be to the Left? To the American Left? To the future of Socialism?

The meaning of the Armenian Genocide, of the Nakba or the founding of Israel, the Russian Revolution, the Civil Rights struggle, the Womens Liberation struggle, are all in one way or the other still being contested. For people who identify with those struggles and are still involved in them, their meaning is important because it has to do with how they think about the struggle as it exists now and as they move it forward. The struggles, and especially the victories of the past also serve as inspiration. They play a large part in forming many of those peoples' individual identities, which impacts on their desire and ability to keep struggling.

Realizing how this all works, the decidedly not liberal media has tried to over the past few days to establish the Chavez legacy as decidedly negative, to bury his legacy with him.

I confess that until I'd read the comment by I, Robot, I hadn't paid much attention to what the "decidedly not liberal media" was saying about the death of Hugo Chavez. I don't spend a lot of time with the mainstream media. I keep track of it to see if anything significant is happening, I'll read some of the stories to get some factual details, but I look elsewhere to find out about their meaning, for the most part, if I don't know by applying my own somewhat formidable analytical tool.

And of course I've been hearing what the decidedly not liberal media has been saying about Chavez since the moment he came to prominence, and its the same things they said about Fidel Castro and Salvadore Allende, and Manual Zelaya and every other Latin American leader who had the gall to stand up to the racist Yankee empire and embark on a different course, to use government to help the people of the country and not as a force to keep opposition to the government in check often with the help of US trained death squads, not as a sledge hammer keep working people working for almost nothing for the benefit of the empire's corporate masters and the tiny minority of light skinned descendants of the Spanish colonial elite who serve as the empire's handmaids.

Those kinds of governments are all in the past and most of Latin America now has Left leaning if not outright Socialist governments that are improving the lives of the masses of people, and this is due, in no small part, to the struggles of Hugo Chavez. Latin America, with Chavez leading the way and with his direct assistance in many cases, has almost to a country gotten itself out from under the thumb of the American Empire.

And the US influence in el Sur has been steadily declining since Chavez took the lead in that regard. The OAS, for example, the Organization of American States, through which the US used to exert a lot of its influence, is useless to the US any more, as evidenced by its unanimous vote (except for the US) to invite Cuba to become a member last year. Even before that, the OAS had been replaced, for most practical purposes, by two organizations formed by the Latin American countries themselves, ALBA, (The Bolivarian Alliance For The People Of Our America) and Mercosur (Southern Common Market).

ALBA, started by Chavez and Fidel Castro, now includes 12 South American and Caribbean countries. It acts as a trade group and more importantly as a development bank, through which countries can forgo onerous Neoliberal-influenced World Bank and IMF loans, and their requirements that governments slash social services, cut pensions and sell off pubic assets.

Mercosur is a more commercially oriented trade group that also includes countries that still adhere to (US style) free market policies, but it nonetheless gives Latin American countries alternatives to US engineered trade agreements like NAFTA that have forced open South American markets to US based multinationals like Monsanto and Cargill and have had devastating affects on Latin American economies. Mercosur recently admitted Venezuela, which had been excluded from the group by US lap dog Paraguay, which, at the behest of the US, continually vetoed Venezuelan membership. The other members finally solved the problem by kicking Paraguay out and voting Venezuela in. El Gringo so there.

John Grant writes in the current Counterpunch that the meaning of the Vietnam War is still being debated. There are important reasons for that, both political and social. On a social, or mass psychological level, the US has not really admitted to itself what it did to the Vietnamese people, and as Taner Akcam says about the importance of getting out the truth about the Armenian Genocide, you can't say "never again" if it never happened in the first place, that is, if what happened is erased from history.

Millions of Latin Americans and millions of working class people worldwide know what Chavez did, but so do they know what the US did to the Vietnamese, and it didn't stop the US from destroying Afghanistan and Iraq and slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people.

America has never come to terms with what it did to the Vietnamese people because of steady stream of propaganda from the people who still think we were doing something honorable there. The American media can't erase Chavez from history, except in the US. If what Chavez actually has done is denied, covered up, kept out of the memory of the American public, there's that much less chance of anyone doing what he did here, which is the last thing the decidedly not liberal media, and the government of, by and for the rich it serves, want. 

Note: A couple of good articles have appeared that correct many of the distortions and falsehoods about Hugo Chavez being thrown around in the decidedly not liberal media:

Obituaries For Hugo Chavez, by Daniel Trompeter

 What Is Hugo Chavez' Legacy? by Jeffery R Webber



  1. Thanks for the links in this and the previous post. One phrase from Jeffrey Webber's article kinda resonated: "To his wealthy and light-skinned enemies". It certainly seems to be a major factor. Look no further than Mexico and the people they've had trading places at the top: certainly no darker then our president.

  2. It's one of those nagging problems. Not that discrimination according to skin color is trivial but that it's sometimes easy to forget that it's there, but it's everywhere. From Israel, where the Ashkanazi lord over the Separdic to Japan where they lord over immigrants from the Korean Peninsula, to Africa, to here... and yet we elected an African American.

    To what do you attribute that?

    A lot of the young people, it is said, are beyond race, at least in ways we aren't (I'm 60). On the other hand it is also said that Obama is not threatening. He certainly hasn't threatened the Capitalist order and perhaps not even the social order.

    Thanks again for your comments.