Unwise in a book dedicated to the promotion of ‘genuine democracy’ is the repeated praise for the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The blurb on the back of Ali’s book – ‘What is the point of elections? The result is always the same?’ – is in fact similar to things I have heard said by Cuban friends over the years, only with a very different meaning. A grim irony like this fails to register with Ali, who is more comfortable making arguments about the costs and benefits of historical experiments from a safe distance.
Ali dedicates the nearly 200 pages of the book to ‘Hugo Chavez, the first leader of a movement that defeated the extreme centre’. Again, when Ali holds up the ‘Bolivarians of South America’ in a chapter entitled ‘Alternatives’, he resembles the French fellow travellers Arthur Koestler described as peeping toms, peering through a hole in the wall at history while not having to experience it themselves. Blanket statements (with a sprinkling of the usual ideological buzzwords) replace objective analysis, with the hollowing out of Venezuelan democracy by Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro either ignored or laid at the door of the ‘US Empire’.
A yes Cuba and Venezuela those strongholds of democracy. Two long term popular causes for the anti-imperialist left. Both countries led by two, nay three men who can do no wrong. Castro, Chavez and his successor Maduro who famously converses with the ghost of his former (and quite dead) mentor.
No really. He does. (stop sniggering at the back)
Things are not going well in the "socialist paradise of Venezeula and I'm not talking about the perrenial lack of toilet paper in their shops. The regime which rules by a mixture of bribery (when it has the resources), suppression of opposition media and "un-socialist" programmes like err the Simpsons has finally shown it's true face by deciding that their new "Dear Leader" Nicolas Maduro can rule by decree.
The BBC reports:
A law giving Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro the power to temporarily govern by decree has been met with criticism by opposition politicians.
The law was passed on Sunday by the National Assembly, where Mr Maduro's party has a majority.
Critics of the president called it a power grab.
I wonder how "temporary" that will be?
Still they've given the decree a wonderfuly appropriate name:
Anti-imperialist law for peace.
What a load of (enter your favourite expletive here).
Tariq Ali must be so proud.