…but I think I like him. He just handed Phil Gunson his ass over all that anti-Chavez crapaganda:
In contrast to Rory Carroll’s rich man’s paradise, Phil Gunson paints a picture of Venezuela as a sort of modern Orwellian nightmare, where the population has been cowed into submission by an authoritarian state. Nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of previously excluded citizens are directly involved in organising and administrating their own communities, social programmes, co-operatives and political movements. This is genuine participatory democracy and is light years ahead of the model of liberal democracy promoted by Gunson, which promises everything in theory and delivers little of substance in practice. Ask a Venezuelan.
Space does not permit me to counter all of Gunson’s half-baked allegations, but typical of his approach is his attack on Chávez for having led a failed military-civilian rebellion in 1992. No mention is made that this uprising was a response to the mass slaughter of 2,000 slum dwellers in 1989 who were protesting against the neo-liberal programme of President Carlos Andres Pérez, nor that the action was supported by the vast majority of Venezuelans. Neither does Gunson mention the racism and contempt for the working class and the poor (Manuel Rosales calls them “parasites”), which typifies the opposition and makes them unelectable.
Gunson criticises the pace of economic reform in Venezuela and compares it unfavourably with Roosevelt’s New Deal and Attlee’s 1945 Labour government, whilst ignoring the different historical context. In today’s neo-liberal world, redistribution and public ownership are revolutionary concepts. Gunson fails to acknowledge the obvious; that the key achievements of the Chávez administration – a million more kids in school, free health and education, subsidised food markets – were opposed tooth and claw by the United States and the Venezuelan elites who wielded huge economic power and controlled the civil service, the media, and large sections of the police force and army.
Gunson knows all this, and yet he writes as if Chávez has a magic wand and faces no opposition. Chávez may not be a magician and possibly Bush may not really be a devil. But if you grew up in a shack on the hills surrounding Caracas and have seen your life transformed for the better, it probably feels very much like they are.
He also skewers one Rory Carroll–another semi-informed disinformer.
Good stuff, and heaven knows correctives like this are badly needed–especially when the bullshit starts infiltrating otherwise responsible news sites like the Guardian!