Via Bob Piper, Who, having seen Terry Kelly, I'm coming round to. Not all lefties are entirely bad eggs you know. George Galloway is though. In fact as eggs go, he's one of the worst. I read this in the Guardian with astonishment. Are there no dictators and questionable rulers the nutty left will not support? All you need to do is call Bush nasty names, use the word "worker" a lot and the entire pinko population of the world will roll over an purr while you, lay waste entire economies and murder your population.
The chilling Oliver Stone film Salvador got a rare airing on television this week. It was a reminder of a time when, for those on the left, little victories were increasingly dwarfed by big defeats - not least in a Latin America which became synonymous with death squads and juntas.Because communist regimes never murder their own citizens...
Yesterday US Vice-President Dick Cheney came uncomfortably close to the reality of Afghan resistance to foreign occupationAfghan resistance? Foreign Occupation? Last I checked, most of the forces fighting against the Taleban (who derive most of their strength from a small part of the country on the Pakistan Border) were Afghan national army, backed up by a few thousand Brits and Americans, who have the clear support of a government constituted by Loya Jirga and supported by the majority of the population.
On the same day Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez delivered a mightier blow to the neocon dream of US domination, announcing an extension of public ownership of his country's oil fields - the richest outside the Middle East.It's all about the oil... Riiiight.
Much more is at stake than London mayor Ken Livingstone's welcome oil deal with Chávez, which will see London bus fares halved while Venezuela gets expertise from city hall and a bridgehead in the capital of the US's viceroy in Europe.Purple prose doesn't make Ken any less of a wanker or your paranoid fantasies any more true.
Washington's biggest oil supplier is now firmly in the grip of a social revolution. This month I watched with Chávez as thousands of soldiers, French and British tanks, Russian helicopters and brand new Mirage and Sukhoi fighter bombers passed by: the soldiers chanting "patria, socialismo o muerte" - enough to make any US president blanch. Chávez answered the salute with the words: "the Bolivarian revolution is a peaceful revolution but it is not unarmed"It is certainly in the Grip of revolution: whether this is a good thing is at best, open to debate. Chavez has developed the taste for military parades from other, less than savoury regimes. He's also passed an enabling law, allowing presidential rule by decree. This is hardly a good sign. Gorgeous George goes on:
The music played throughout the event was the hymn of Salvador Allende's 1970s Chilean government, declaring that the people united will never be defeated. But Chávez's socialism is a good deal more red than Allende's - and its enemies seem no less determined than those who bathed Chile in blood in 1973.Well we all split down left/right lines on the Allende/Pinochet question. At least Pinochet did better than the average result of a communist revolution, which is total economic meltdown and 10% depopulation of the country. In fact he left freely after an election, with an economy and country in good shape. Bathed Chilie in blood? A few hundred commies? Pah! Pinochet was an amateur at mass-murder compared to Geroge's late chum Saddam, or even Red Ken's bosom Buddy, Castro.
Despite complete control of Venezuela's national assembly - the opposition boycotted the last elections after being defeated in seven electoral tests in a row - Chávez has been given enabling powers for 18 months to ensure he can pilot his reforms through entrenched opposition from the civil service, big business, the previously all-powerful oligarchy, their vast media interests and their friends in WashingtonAny checks and balances are removed "in the democratic interest". Yes... Right. I'll sell my property and move to another country now shall I?
Among those friends we must include our own prime minister, who only last year declared Venezuela to be in breach of international democratic norms - though when I pressed him in parliament he was unable to list them.Two Words, George, ENABLING LAW.
The atmosphere in Caracas is fervid. The vast shanty towns draping the hillside around the cosmopolitan centre bustle with workers' cooperatives, trade union meetings, marches and debates. The $18bn fund for social welfare set up by Chávez is already bearing fruit. Education, food distribution and primary healthcare programmes now cover the majority for the first time. Queues form outside medical centres filled with thousands of Cuban doctors dispensing care to a population whose health was of no value to those who sat atop Venezuela's immense wealth in the past.So Hugo's buying the votes of the poor, at the cost of their long-term good. What does he do when the economy collapses or Cuba no longer can afford to send those nice doctors over for free?
Chávez, who regularly pops over to Havana to check on the health of Fidel Castro,(Mass-murdering dictator)
is at the centre of a new Latin America which is determined to be nobody's backyard. Reliable US allies are now limited to death squad ridden Colombia, Peru and Mexico - and latterly then only by recourse to rigged elections.Something Our friend Hugo would never do.Hugo certainly wouldn't close down opposition media, harrass journalists or arm paramilitary militas would he?
But Chávez's international ambitions are not confined to the Americas. He became a hero in the Arab world after withdrawing his ambassador from Tel Aviv in protest at the bombardment of Lebanon by US-armed Israeli forces last summer, and has pledged privately to halt oil exports to the US in the event of aggression against Iran. This all represents a challenge to US power which, if Bush was not sunk in the morass of Iraq, would be at the top of his action listI'd love to see Venezuala buy the votes of the peasants without all those petro-dollars. The US economy can easily absorb $70 a barrel, and buy it from Canada and elsewhere. There's plenty to go around - who else is buying Venzuela's sulphur-rich brew.
Not that his supporters are marking time. The mendacious propaganda that Chávez is a dictator and human rights abuser is being spread with increasing urgency by the Atlanticist right and their fellow travellers, such as leftie-turned-neocon Nick Cohen who told his London newspaper audience last week that Livingstone's relationship with Chávez was making him think of voting Tory.Heaven forbid that someone should dare to vote for a reasonable, centre right party when they could vote for a bunch of dinosaur trots and terrorist apologists like Respect.
Chávez's decision not to renew an expired licence for an opposition television station involved in a coup attempt - there are plenty of others - is being portrayed as the beginning of the death of democracy. It's as if Country Life's diatribes against the fox hunting ban were taken as irrefutable proof of totalitarianism in Britain.No, George, because like it or not, Tony Blair is unable to close Country life down, because he doesn't (yet) rule by decree.
The so-called "dictator" Chávez is nothing of the kind. He has won election after election, validating his radical course. Still the fear of a coup - such as in 2002 when Chávez was removed and imprisoned for three days before millions descended to the presidential palace to reinstate him - is everywhere. One Englishman abroad who welcomed the 2002 coup as the "overthrow of a demagogue" was the foreign office minister Denis MacShane - a humiliating correction had to be issued following Chávez's restoration. That tale underscores the importance of the links being forged between revolutionary Caracas and anti-war London. Chávez is well aware that the people were defeated in Chile, the fascists allowed to pass in Republican Spain. Just as in Venezuela, the defence against counter-revolution lies with the poor and the working people who are shaping the world they want; so too must all those internationally who want to see this ferment reach its potential rally to Venezuela's side.
He isn't a dictator yet, but neither was Hitler at the start. It's just he's amassing a lot of power, arming a lot of gangs and not really brooking any dissent. You can bury your head in the sand and ignore the lessons of history, George, but I prefer that our Government doesn't support someone who plainly will not listen to the people if and when he fails to dominate the Ballot box. It's easy to be a democrat when you are winning. But that's what checks and balances do. They prevent the abuse of power by those who outstay their welcome.
Hugo Chavez is clearly abusing his office. His people, especially the poor are the ones who will bear the cost.