I can’t believe that he wrote this with a straight face

Venezuela’s Social Democracy Hits A Speed Bump

by Stephen Lendman (Also posted on his website SteveLendmanBlog)

Hugo Chavez addressed upwards of a half million supporters on the final day of campaigning for constitutional reform on December 1. He was confident of a victory that seemed assured. The turnout was impressive as a sea of red filled Caracas’ main Avenida Bolivar boulevard and spilled over into adjourning streets. It dwarfed the November 29 final opposition rally Rupert Murdock’s Times online/UK and Fox News estimated at “more than 100,000” ahead of saying “polls predicted an agonizingly close result” that referred only to the corporate-run ones. They turned out to be right.

A day ahead of the vote, Chavez addressed the joyous crowd saying a “yes” vote will “open the path to socialism (and is) a vote for Chavez and the revolution (while) vot(ing) “no” is a vote for Bush. We are not simply confronting the pawns of imperialism. Our true enemy is US imperialism (that) will only recognize the results if they win.”

Perhaps to Mr Lendman, the word “democracy,” as in his phrase “social democracy” means something other than what I understand it to mean: “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.”

What President Chavez was seeking would have:

  • created new forms of communal property;
  • shortened the workday from eight hours to six;
  • created a social security fund for millions of informal laborers;
  • promoted communal councils where residents decide how to spend government funds;
  • allowed the President to declare a state of emergency and rule by decree;
  • let Chavez handpick local leaders under a redrawn political map;
  • lengthened presidential terms from six to seven years; and
  • let Chavez seek re-election indefinitely.

The last four items seem somewhat inconsistent with democracy to me. Rather, they are the types of things that totalitarians use to gain lifetime power and absolute power, but do it with a false show of legality. Mr Lendman, however, was bitterly disappointed by defeat of the “reforms:”

Writing this article began on Sunday. It intended to say they didn’t, but sadly they did so the struggle continues.

Mr Lendman continues with several paragraphs claiming that there was some huge CIA “Operation Pliers” had been put into action, a “psyops” program to deceive Venezuelan voters into voting against the great President Chavez. I’ll not quote Mr Lendman here, but you can read his claims easily, at either link.¹

The author then quotes James Petras, one of the men alleging the existance of this “Operation Pliers,” writing:

In Petras’ words, Venezuelans had “a rendezvous with history” on Sunday to “provide the legal framework for (further democratizing) the political system, the socialization of strategic economic sectors, (further) empower(ing) the poor, and provid(ing) the basis for a self-managed factory system.” Winning impressively and avoiding a likely bloodbath from “a successful US-backed civil-military uprising” prevents the reversal of “the most promising living experience of popular self-rule (anywhere), of advanced social welfare and democratically based socialism.” One electoral defeat is disheartening but changes nothing. Venezuela’s struggle for social democracy continues under a man who’s worked nine years to build it. Don’t ever count him out or his strong popular support.

I guess that it is my inferior understanding which prevents me from seeing how a proposal to allow unlimited presidential terms and give the president totalitarian powers is “further democratizing” the system. Heck, the National Assembly rubber-stamps President Chavez’ demands now, including a period of time in which he may rule by decree — and Mr Chavez wanted to do away with even the formality of getting the rubber-stamp!

But Mr Lendman sees hope for the future!

The Struggle Continues

A partial draft of this article was written Sunday under the incorrect topic heading – Savoring the Triumph. It began:

For now, victory is sweet and Chavistas savored it all night on Caracas streets. Manana was back to reality and the knowledge that triumph is never secure as long as an imperial power threatens it. Nine years of social progress can be erased with a keyboard click the way coup plotters did it on April 11, 2002 for two days. After deposing Chavez, they repealed the Bolivarian Constitution, dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme Court, and dismissed the attorney general and comptroller. Only mass people power with military support put Chavez back in office. So far, he’s prevailed impressively in every presidential, parliamentary, municipal and referendum election since December, 1998….until now.

I guess those last two words were written somewhat after the original draft! :)

The 2007 reform referendum the twelfth election since the first one electing Chavez President in December, 1998. Until now, he won them all impressively because he’s a rare politician, dedicated to his people and keeps the promises he makes. One electoral defeat changes nothing. The struggle for social democracy continues. It’s never smooth going.

There’s more to his conclusion, which you can read by following the link. But going back through some of Mr Lendman’s articles as posted on OpEdNews, I found that he has been a critic of our Congress for not being a check on President Bush, complained that The New York Times doesn’t do a good enough job in reporting on President Chavez, and said that we had a “War on Free Expression,” writing:

In a post-9/11 climate, the right of free expression is under attack and endangered in the age of George Bush when dissent may be called a threat to national security, terrorism, or treason. But losing that most precious of all rights means losing our freedom that 18th century French philosopher Voltaire spoke in defense of saying “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Using it to express dissent is what noted historian Howard Zinn calls “the highest form of patriotism” exercising our constitutional right to freedom of speech, the press, to assemble, to protest publicly, and associate as we choose for any reason within the law,

yet he endorsed Hugo Chavez shutting down of an opposition broadcaster.

His view of democracy? He claimed, on April 22, 2007, some 5½ months after we had a free election in which the Democrats won control of the Congress, that Venezuela, where President Chavez had been granted the authority to rule by decree, was truly democratic, while the US was not:

Although imperfect, no country anywhere is closer to a model democracy than Venezuela under President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias. In contrast, none is a more shameless failure than America, but it was true long before the age of George W. Bush. The difference under his regime is that the mask is off revealing a repressive state masquerading as a democratic republic. This article compares the constitutional laws of each country and how they’re implemented. The result shows world’s apart differences between these two nominally democratic states – one that’s real, impressive and improving and the other that’s mostly pretense and under George Bush lawless, corrupted, in tatters, and morally depraved.

This is just Newspeak on Mr Lendman’s part: rule by decree is democracy, and an actual democracy where the opposition party could, and did, win a power-changing election is “lawless, corrupted, in tatters, and morally depraved.”

Mr Lendman resides in Chicago, and is perfectly free to think and say and publish anything he wishes. That he feels secure in doing so is evidenced by his posting of his biography, his city of residence and even his photograph on OpEdNews. Mr Lendman celebrates his freedom of expression, and uses it: 151 articles and 73 comments (to date) on OpEdNews, his own blog, a one-hour broadband internet radio show, and even a book criticizing our effort in Iraq. Yet he supported President Chavez shutting down of an opposition broadcaster.

Were Mr Lendman actually a citizen and resident of Venezuela, and he expressed such virulent opposition to the President and his policies as he does here to our president, he might well have found himself in the same prison with Carlos Ortega, a union leader who was convicted in December 2005 of civil rebellion and instigation to commit illegal acts for his role in a 2002-03 general strike that aimed to topple Chavez’s government.² Yet here, in this repressive, fascist country, he is free as a bird.

And he can’t see any of that.
¹ – OpEdNews allows comments only from registered users, and Mr Lendman’s site does not allow comments at all.
² – Mr Ortega escaped from prison on December 3, 2006.
Cross posted on Liberty Pundit.


  1. Neither OpEdNews nor Mr Lendman’s site accepts trackbacks. I submitted this article to OpEdNews for publication, but it might be a couple of days before it is approved — if it is at all. I will e-mail Mr Lendman to let him know that this critique exists.

  2. Mr Lendman was notified of this article, and chose to respond by e-mail. Since there is nothing personal in the e-mail, I shall reproduce it here, unedited:

    reform package not perfect and could have been sold
    better. I have no qualm with unlimited reelections.
    Most European countries have it with no problem and no
    screaming about it. Also Australia. And Venezuelans
    can recall their president. In US we don’t even have
    the right to elect one.

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