New blogs

Leherensuge was replaced in October 2010 by two new blogs: For what they were... we are and For what we are... they will be. Check them out.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chávez' gift to Obama makes Galeano a superstar


Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina
(Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent in the English version) is surely the most famous book of E. Galeano, a classic of Spanish-language literature even few decades after being written. It narrates in black humor tones, by means of historical anecdotes, the colonialist and neocolonialist plundering of the other America, the one south of Río Grande, since Colombus' times.

This masterpiece was ranked number 52,295 by sales in Amazon last friday and by Sunday morning it was ranked just second. This in regard to the English-language edition, the Spanish version is surely better known and, while has also grown, it has done so less spectacularly (possibly because it can be obtained at most local bookshops and libraries and also because many already own a copy).

When in 2006, Chávez pronounced his famous discourse at the UN General Assembly, claiming that the podium, that had been used by GWB still smelled to sulfur, he carried a copy of one of Chomsky's book, also sending it to the bestselling rankings.

You may agree or not with the Venezuelan leader but no doubt that he is a great book-seller.

Source: Rebelión.
.

10 comments:

Kepler said...

He is, but he is an absolute jerk.
You know I am not communist and not a socialist, but this is beyond that. Chavez is neither.

Maju said...

Hmmm... I was at first kind of suspicious of Chávez because of his military background and the kind of populist leadership type he espouses. But with time I have become much more fond of him and I find him quite sincere and a good leader.

Obviously I do not favor that kind of personalist leadership but rather a distributed democratic one. I am not particularly fond of his sometimes hystrionic style. But I've come to the conclussion that they fit the American sociology after all: Americans in general appear to be politically focused in charming leaders, be them Chávez, Obama or Perón, instead (or in the best case in addition to) of focusing politically in actual comprehensive organizations of the people. This is hard to understand for today's Europeans admittedly, though maybe it was a common occurrence in the past anyhow (and still happens in places like Russia or even Italy).

Still Chávez would not be there without a huge popular movement behind and he has managed to adress the demands of his followers anyhow - otherwise he would not be there (as he has so many and so powerful enemies).

I would not say he's a jerk but rather someone who feels the responsability of leading social and political change in his nation as well as in the wider scope of the World. He is incisive, maybe hystrionic at times but a great communicator of some of the most important ideas of our time.

Kepler said...

I see. What many foreigners fail to understand is the oil cycle in Venezuela. When I was a child social spending for the poor was at least as high as now. Presidents' popularity in Venezuela have depended on oil for many decades now.

I find it incredible how the left/right in the North defend for so long those who claim to be left/right and need twice or thrice as many skeletons to understand what is happening.

I never liked any of the previous governments, but Chavismo is the worst we have had. Wee details:
90% of exports are oil in Venezuela. 50% of taxes are from oil export. A lot of the rest is derived from selling imports.
The state is big and has always been, oil price changes have repercussions few outside feel. When Chavez came to power, the oil price was around 12 dollars per barrel. Last year it was at 140. Now it is at around 48 and the government is already under big big strain (normalize for inflation and you will see what that means). It won't survive democratically more than 2 years ceteris paribus.

Chavez's clan has huge haciendas in Barinas and Chavez's parents were teachers before becoming
politician one and "mother of Chavez" the other. My parents were also teachers and believe me: no way you can get those fincas like that.

Currently the government is burning the last reserves. In a couple of months you will see a lot of protests.

As I said: I am not a socialist or a communist, but that guy is not more of a socialist either. He uses images and people in the North and at home become ravished by that.

He still has a huge popularity level, but so did corrupt Carlos Andres Perez in his first term and that is why he was elected after that.
Chavez is an admirer of Pérez Jiménez, who happened to be a right-winged dictator and who put in prison or killed a lot of people (including communists and socialists)
Chavez uses the pamphlets/books his followers shove him into the hands, without any system, without any reference to anything else. His people claim he is read, but that is easy to say in Venezuela. You get the usual list: it started with Les Miserables, then Marx (I am sure he read some Marx for Dummies, he certainly did not read Das Kapital), Mao, Gramsci, now Galeano.

Things are more complex in Venezuela than "rich white Spanish descendants with the fincas versus the little Indios"

By the way, the literacy claim is a huge fib. Venezuela's literacy (at least pro forma) was around 93% in 1997. Over 50% of those illiterate were over 65 years old. After that the government has claimed it is 100% (hello, Norway? Iceland? Germany or Spain don't have 100%!), then it was "noveintitanto por ciento"
Hundred of thousands of PSUV members turned out to be illiterate. The government rejects transparency mechanisms to find things out.

Chavez "talks the talk" when he wants (even though most foreigners do not see what he says for national consumption, threats that are against human rights). He throws crumbles to the poor.
In the end he will be the worst that happened to socialism in Latin America (I assume here social democracy, which probably is not socialism for you)
Venezuela is more dependent than ever on oil and our education, in reality and in spite of the whole propaganda, has been going down the drain.
You can see some on education in Venezuela in my blog.

Last: Minister Maduro claimed over half the Venezuelans registered to vote abroad actually
SIGNED a petition in favour of the reform (the one rejected in 2007 and approved now). In reality over 90% of Venezuelans registered abroad voted against him. The CNE has not published the results of voters abroad...because of that. It has not answer to request to publish those results.
Chavez does still have the majority, but it is much weaker than what the official results say.
Carter Centre? My foot. EU?
Check 'Venezuela's voting system'
http://venezuela-europa.blogspot.com/

By the way: I suppose we won't agree. I reject the use of violence. Chavez was a coupster.
I think Chavez could use the money he spent in Sukhois and Kalashnikovs to buy books for poor schools.
I don't think there is a revolution in Venezuela. It just just the old game as usual, the oil state, just with new images and Che Guevara badges.
Chavez's youngest daughter studies in the most expensive school of Barquisimeto. His other two daughters got "social houses" that are quite nice...for free, while other people are waiting for years.

Maju said...

Hmmm... I have read (more or less) the relevant articles and fail to see any clear issue. The "observer" in question seems pretty much biased and exaggerating the importance of a couple of circumstances.

I don't think that e-voting is any good idea in any case but tell that to the Gringos, you know. I also think that irregularities of any sort should cause the polls to be nulified locally and forced to repeat.

Chavez was a coupster.He did not reach power that way. He failed to do so.

His other two daughters got "social houses" that are quite nice...for freeI see. My brother, who is an engineer (and therefore has a high salary) also got one. Apparently he was just lucky - no influences that I know. Here social homes are not for free though, just much cheaper than in the bubble "free market" of the real state olygopoly, so people like me cannot really access them at all (and have to pay a huge "market" rent). The real solution is not socialdemcracy (which is just reform capitalism) but something much more radical.

But at least in America, as in South Asia, there is some social effervescence. Here it's only conformity, apathy and empty consumerism. Why? Because the social divide is much brutal there and people won't just accept that.

What do you think of Bolivia: as far as I can see Evo Morales has huge support and, not just that, he seems really in his place. Meanwhile the fascists, with neonazi mercenaries from Central Europe and all, are trying to invent Cruceño "nationalism" (mere racism with nearly no cover) from scratch, just because finally the native majority decided to take power directly.

I dont believe things are simple nor that the pop icons are any true saviors. There are no saviors and, if they are, they will be butchered by the scared and greedy elites (it happened to Che, to Chico Mendes and to so many others). But someone has to do something to try to improve things anyhow. Better or worse, I can't say without being immersed in the real thing.

What I know is that Latin America is one of the only places on Earth where the socialist dream remains alive, even it is not advancing as fast as needed. My eye anyhow is looking at Mexico, a country that has to explode - that is painfully exploding in fact - and that is also one of the big ones of America. Brazil instead seems domesticated under a too "moderate" (read "burgeueoise") Lula that even has sent troops to that shameful imperialist occupation of Haití. I believe that Brazil some day will be a superpower, hopefully a socialist one, but it has still to undergo some radical changes.

In any case I follow with deep interest the developements in America.

Kepler said...

As I said: Chavez has still the majority, but not with the numbers he said.

"Chavez was a coupster.He did not reach power that way. He failed to do so."
Certainly, he was elected. Several of my relatives voted for him and one friend.
That does not take away he was a coupster. I happened to hear and see the destruction he caused back then. I was a student living in a residence next to the Navy building (definitely not a posh area of Caracas).
Military give me the rash.

I voted in 1988 against Carlos Andrés Pérez because I knew he was an inept and corrupt. I knew people wanted him because they thought he was going to "redo Venezuela of the seventies" and I knew he could not (oil prices were low, Venezuela's situation has worsened, population growth, etc). At the end of 1991 I remember a friend and I were guessing when the coup was coming (and we hadn't had one since Pérez Jiménez was toppled).
We felt the tension and we knew a bit about the mentality.
There was no justification for the coup: 1) CAP was going to go out of power in two years anyway 2) if Chavez really wanted to prosecute CAP, he, as a military, had first class information about the shootings and murders of the many poor from the Caracazo time. Why did he not go after any culprit but for CAP? Because the other culprits were his military friends.

"Here social homes are not for free though"

Neither are they in Venezuela unless your name is Chavez.
The funny thing is that you can check it out in the governmental site for housing: they got it for free while others have to pay. You just have to know the ID of Chavez's daughters and that is it. It is funny to discover things they leave on the Web without realizing. Another time it was the results for one of the referendum, where numbers simply did not add up.
There is some data on that on esdata, but I have discussed it so often, I am tired.

"The real solution is not socialdemcracy (which is just reform capitalism) but something much more radical."

They tried it already. It did not work. It has never worked.
Perhaps you can organize a country where everyone thinks it can work, but else other people will resist. They always will.
You can't force people.
Do you feel forced under capitalism?
Wait until you get what you want. Unless you are in the party, you won't be happy. Such a system will collapse because a modern state cannot be centralized in the way extreme left wants.
Local "Autónomos"?
Give me a break.

"What do you think of Bolivia: as far as I can see Evo Morales has huge support and, not just that, he seems really in his place."

That is another matter. I don't know the details, but there is a lot of racism in play there.

I remember how a Miss Bolivia said once "no todos los bolivianos somos indígenas" and more stuff like that, as if apologizing. It was disgusting.

Some months ago a bloke in The Independent wrote in Venezuela people in the "white-mostly state of Zulia" wanted to split and it was like Bolivia. That was preposterous.
It was like saying los andaluces son los más rubios de toda Espana.

First of all: the 'ethnic' mix (or whatever one can call it) in Venezuela is perhaps among the highest in Latin America. If, Zulia is definitely not the "most European" of the states. In fact it would rank among the least as the population has still more influence from the Guajiros.
And Zulia getting the independence is a secret joke we have since before the Venezuelan independence. I have never seen something like that in other countries...probably there is something, but not in the ones I know: Bavarians make jokes but they did wanted once to split,
Scots the same, almost everyone in Spain wanted one time or the other to do it (but for Castilla, perhaps). In Venezuela Zulia was the joke of Zulianos and non-Zulianos.
There is no movement for independence there.

I have to leave it here for this
week.
In Aporrea you can read what Chavistas say in Spanish.

Maju said...

They tried it already. It did not work. It has never worked.Do you think Cuba is worse than most Latin American countries, even with so many decades of insidious blockade? I think not.

Some even compare it favorably with the USA.

Do you feel forced under capitalism?Indeed. I feel forced to work many many hours to get a salary that barely keeps me alive. Slaves didn't live much worse (sure: I don't get whipped or chained normally but that's the only difference).

Such a system will collapse because a modern state cannot be centralized in the way extreme left wants.You are onto something here: standard Leninism is not the way ahead, it belongs to the disciplinary phase of capitalism, not the cooperative phase we are in. Nowadays capital is largely knowledge - and patent and copyright paranoia go in that line, while socialism goes in the line of copyleft: returning knowledge to the wild, where it belongs to all and cannot be monetized. And nowadays class war manifests itself in the right to control production: what to produce (soybean or corn to feed the people?), how to produce (transgenic or organic?, 60 hrs weeks or 30 hours? using coal or solar energy?) and what for this productive investment (for further unsustainable accumulation in the hands of a few smartasses or for a sustainable enjoyable life for all?)

New socialism (or should we call it communism in the original Marxist sense of the world: a society that trascends the state: a new grassroots really democratic polis?) must go beyond assistentialist state and centralization of production. That would also be capitalism, even if it is state-capitalism. What is needed is truly public, civic, democratic socialism, where the people directly controls production at all levels: as worker, as intellectual, as local citizen and also as citizen of the World.

This of course has to be created from scratch. No old models exist. But the longer we take the more we will suffer.

Give me a break.You're not obligued to read my "nonsense".

That was preposterous.
It was like saying los andaluces son los más rubios de toda Espana.
So Zulians are very much moreno or what? No idea.

There are many blond andalusians anyhow, more than you probably suspect.

but for Castilla, perhapsActually the Comuneros revolt was a Castilian "nationalist" uprising against the Empire. Castile was the first state fully annexed to what would later become Spain (what didn't really happened until the Bourbons, whatever the apologetic Spanish historiography says), its autonomous institutions were supressed then in benefit of the absolut monarch (i.e. early modern proto-fascist dictator): Emperor Charles V. Then it became the core of would-be Spain.

In Aporrea you can read what Chavistas say in Spanish.I know. But I prefer Rebelión: it's more neutral and has a much wider scope.

Kepler said...

Zulianos are if anything on average darker than the average, but variance is huge in Venezuela, even for Latin American standards.
When we read that about "Zulianos, the whiter Venezuelans, wanting to become independent" we laughed our head of. As I said: there is a Zuliano "uniqueness" feeling, it is very much expressed in a music style and an accent and some other things, but even so no independence desire (you will certainly find jokes about it on the Net and then the Aporrea kind of stories).

Just some European comes over and wants to fantasize about us based on whatever he believes in.

There are few distinctive (whatever that is) native Americans in Venezuela but most are actually in Zulia: the Goajiros. They are the darkest Indians in Venezuela, much darker than the Waraos and the Pemones and the very few others who still survive. There are also populations with a lot of background from the slaves in Zulia, but that happens everywhere. I look rather "pale" and when in Spain I do not precisely stand out, my mother was much whiter than my dad but I got an African haplogroup from her and a J2 from my dad. I knew I could basically get any haplogroup.
My sister looks incredibly Indian, but Valencia was one of the regions where Spaniards massacred Indians first, only the petroglyphs and some of the genes remained.

I think I know how Andaluces look. There is everything, but they are definitely not known as "the whitest" in Spain.
I used used the Andaluces because they may be some of those with the least desire to become independent (and I know there are a couple of parties there that go rather for more independence).
So, if some Brit came to theorize that Andaluces, those blond Spaniards, want independence from the poor rest I think some people in Spain would be surprised.
One thing does happen in Zulia: it does have more oil than other areas, but the focus is not Zulia anymore, the biggest reserves by far are around the Orinoco.

Mind: there is racism in Venezuela and I have fought it and discussed it many times, but compared to other countries in Latin America and Europe or elsewhere I think the situation in Venezuela is rather good.
You see all kinds of colours in almost every family.

By the way: what is your definition of "Basque"?

Maju said...

I used used the Andaluces because they may be some of those with the least desire to become independent (and I know there are a couple of parties there that go rather for more independence).Actually Andalusia is one of the regions of Spanish-speaking Spain that has a strongest personality and certainly has some weak but real nationalist groups. The other region of the same characteristics would be Canarias, both petty much plantation colonies of Spain.

Nevertheless the Andalusian elite, a post-crusader landowner aristocracy and their lackeys, has always been favored in Spanish politics (as I found out in a previous post) and some of its cultural elements, like that horrible Flamenco music, have been promoted as the epitome of Spanish culture.

By the way: what is your definition of "Basque"? The mainstream definition nowadays is that one "who lives and works in the Basque Country". It's a pragmatic definition that avoids entering in touchy and normally irrelevant ancestry issues.

The Basque term for "Basque" anyhow is "euskaldun", i.e. Basque-speaker. It is the language what makes you Basque, at least by traditional standards. The rest are "erdeldun", a concept similar to the Greek "barbaros", someone who speaks "erdera", possibly meaning half-language or just babble.

Modernly it has been partly replaced by the more republican one of "euskadiko" or "euskalerriko" (i.e. one from the Basque Country) or that horible neologism: "euskotar" (same meaning), so people who do not speak the language do not feel excluded. But in truth there is no Basque people without Basque language, IMO, and "euskaldun", even with an extended non-linguistic meaning, is still the most used term for Basque in Basque language.

The suffix -era, -ara means language but is also the modal suffix, so I understand that language and lifestyle, customs, were just one thing in the deep past. So in a sense "euskara", besides of Basque language, could also mean "Basque way of life".

Additionally, as we are getting etymological, I speculate that the prefix eusk- is nothing but the regular contraction of the verb eutsi (grab, hold, sustain, support, persist, resist), found in words like euskarri (pillar, lit. supporting stone) and euskailu (bowl or container, lit. holding item). If so, it would mean holding, persisting language and, in the wide aception, also persistent lifestyle, maybe.

Kepler said...

Cuba had a horrible dictatorship before Castro's horrible dictatorship and there were several interventions and so on.

And yet:
can you tell me what level of development Cuba had compared to most Latin American countries before Castro? Do you know how Cuba scored in children mortality, literacy and so on compared to those countries?
How does it compare now to them and how does it compare to Costa Rica?
If you want to do comparisons, you have to go for all relevant factors and not just select the criteria that suit your philosophy.
This reminds me of a book I was rereading from Soviet times. I speak Russian. I used to get books from the Soviet embassy. I had no political interest, I just wanted to learn the language. Still, if one was going to read Russian, one ended up reading a lot of Soviet propaganda. I have this book about the Soviet republics. They talk about how wonderful the development in the Baltic republics were with the Soviet rule. They talk about so much percent improvement since the Soviets took over, blablabla.
The thing is that 1) the Baltic states were always more advanced than the rest 2) their development was not as swift as other countries once they fell under communist control and 3) their development and standard of living went upwards afterward.
Now they are in a huge mess but they prefer by far the system they have now than what they had before. How do I know? I have friends from there, I read the news they publish in English.
You will probably they just
are happier now because before they were under a capitalist-soviet Russian occupation...

It is never communism when things go wrong. You call it Stalinist capitalism, Soviet capitalism, anything but communism.
That reminds me of people defending their version of Christianity/Islam a capa y espada.

It is like this "Chavez has eradicated illiteracy in Venezuela".
Chavismo and the PSFs were saying literacy now was 100%, which is rubbish. Then people started to talk about how incredible that claim was and they reduced the numbers. I see online in a site of a Belgian politician from extreme left claiming it was 95% literacy. Another eurocrat, an Eurodeputy called Sarah Wagenknecht, who says the Berlin Wall was all fine, says in her site it is 99%.
In some sources of the State you can read 96% or the like.
Can't they agree?
If you care to follow it up you will see most people said in 1998 literacy in Venezuela was at around 93% (yes, we are talking about formal literacy, not functional, in any of the studies). We also knew over 50% of those illiterate were over 65 years old.

Sorry, man. I am rather centre or centre right (at least for the people from the extreme left, in the US some may think I am a communist), but I would count "skeletons" in the same way whether they are from a party with red or blue labels, with John Smith or Che Guevara stickers.

About intellectual property: I create technology. If I don't have the incentive, I don't do that.

Maju said...

can you tell me what level of development Cuba had compared to most Latin American countries before Castro? Do you know how Cuba scored in children mortality, literacy and so on compared to those countries?.

No. Do you? I'm pretty sure that figures exist and Im also pretty sure that Cuba had not free healthcare and guaranteed food for all in Batista's times. Literacy has been growing in all Latin America steadily in the last decades but Cuba has in general been way ahead.

How does it compare now to them and how does it compare to Costa Rica?.

And with Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, R. Dominicana, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay...?

In some aspects (healthcare for instance) it compares very favorably even with the most developed countries of the World.

I wouldn't like to idealize Cuba but demomizing it is not valid anyhow.

The thing is that (...) 3) their development and standard of living went upwards afterward.

Not anymore: all former Soviet Bloc EU countries that had embraced extreme capitalism so dearly are now plummeting. Lithuania is the one sinking the most but none of them has fared too well. Like Ireland and Iceland (or one could well say Britain or Spain as well) they are going bankrupt by minutes.

Now they are in a huge mess but they prefer by far the system they have now than what they had before.

Well, Stalinism was no paradise, that's clear: too rigid, especially after the collapse of the disciplinary Fordist model that gave it birth in the 1960s. If the Soviets would have been smart and adaptative (something surely not possible in that kind of regime), they would have reformed radically in 1968 or soon after. They were incapable and sunk.

Still in Russia the main opposition is so far the CP.

It is never communism when things go wrong. You call it Stalinist capitalism, Soviet capitalism, anything but communism.

Well, Communism is by definition when the state is not anymore and the communes rule their business autonomously. The USSR never reached that stage. It was surely ill-concieved from the beginning. Lenin admitted (in the NEP times) that they had failed to make a socialist revolution in Russia but he was confident that they had at least kicked out Capitalism. Stalin went farther than him and created the first ultra-centralized state economy (Socialism or State-Capitalism) but he was never really interested in real Communism, which both used only as a theorical pretext.

Communism is also defined by "each gives one according to his/her possibilities and recieves according to his/her needs". While Socialism approaches better that ideal than Capitalism (obviously) it is far from it.

Finally classical Bolshevik Socialism has faled to adress central issues such as overproduction (and the derived situation of excessive work, which the Cuban-French-Spanish Lafargue criticised so intensely. It has failed to adress the ecological nightmare, largely gender issues too, etc. Even if progressive in intentions, it was prisioner of the Capitalist mindset within which it was born and became soon to rigid and undemocratic to adapt and reform.

Because totalitarisms of any sort have not just the human rights issues that we usually criticise, but they also have a most serious weakness: lack of feedback and excess of rigidity. So they tend to stagnate and eventually fall. So that's why I will argue that Socialism (like any other doctrine - but is there any other left that has any validity?) needs, must be democratic, and deeply so. Only that was it can be participated by its real actors (the workers, that nowadays is the same as the people, the citizens), get full feedback, remain flexible and reform itself as need be.

Sorry, man. I am rather centre or centre right (at least for the people from the extreme left, in the US some may think I am a communist), but I would count "skeletons" in the same way whether they are from a party with red or blue labels, with John Smith or Che Guevara stickers.

I appreciate intellectual honesty, whichever your ideological stand.