Vulgar Libertarianism Watch, Part XV: Lula and Chavez and Morales, Oh My!
Add another anti-US leftist [Evo Morales] to the Latin American leader list.
Well, for anyone who's just emerged from a time warp and has a century worth of news to catch up on, I'd say the Latin American left has some pretty fucking good reasons to be anti-US.
In the comments to the same post, Jonathan Wilde identifies Hugo Chavez as
the latest in a long tradition of South American populist thugs like Allende and Lula.
Well, golly, we can't have any of those thugs in South America now, can we? Given the vast number of individuals who might have deserved that epithet in recent Latin American history, Wilde's singling out of Allende and Lula speaks volumes. First, consider the wide range of political forces in Latin America over the past half century or so; the single biggest, probably, is the U.S. government--the Marines, CIA, and School of the Americas, inter alia. Next, consider the governments installed by the U.S. over the same period by means of those same interventionist forces, starting with the intervention in Guatemala in 1954, continuing through the Brazilian coup in the 1960s, the overthrow of Allende, Operation Condor, and the tens upon tens of thousands of people murdered by U.S.-supported death squads in the 1980s. Finally, consider that the two most prominent political figures in Chile alone in the past 35 years have been Allende and Pinochet. The choice of Allende and Lula as exemplary "thugs," in such a context, indicates (to put it mildly) a rather idiosyncratic view of reality.
MaxSpeak quotes a similar piece of invective against Chavez from the Washington Post: Jackson Diehl, "Our Latin Conundrum"
The year ended with a string of reverses. In a regional summit in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in November, President Bush was jeered by demonstrators and taunted by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who aspires to make Latin America anti-American and anti-democratic. He was seconded by Argentina's Nestor Kirchner, who in the past few weeks has moved from the hemisphere's camp of moderate democratic leftists toward Chavez's "revolutionary" embrace.
Then came the Chavez-backed victory in Bolivia of Evo Morales, a former llama herder and coca farmer who describes himself as Washington's "nightmare." Lacking any coherent policies of his own, Morales will probably take instruction from Chavez, Kirchner and Fidel Castro -- who at age 79 must believe he is finally seeing the emergence of the totalitarian bloc he and Che Guevara tried and failed to create in the 1960s....
In the short term, however, much of Latin America is going to be an unfriendly place for liberal ideas and free markets -- and with them the United States.
Most of Latin America has been an unfriendly place for liberal ideas and free markets for decades--and their worst enemies have been the people who throw around the term "free market" the most. MaxSpeak comments:
If you start counting you find relatively few right-wing outfits in control. This is bad. Liberal governments start to question previous arrangements for ownership of their nations' resources. They take a jaundiced view of privatization. They're not happy about paying extortion for the use of patents and copyrights. They don't like the IMF's regime of parasitic financial monopoly. This all makes them hostile to "liberal ideas and free markets." [sic] Who wouldn't be. Bully for them.
Hugo Chavez wins elections and the U.S. supports coups-d'etat, and Chavez is "anti-democratic." Beautiful. The electoral victories of the Left pave the way for a Castroite "totalitarian bloc." Chavez is a pain for contemplating a regional television network, but it's fine for the VOA to do its number anywhere in the world. Oh for the Washington-supported dictatorships of yesteryear.
MaxSpeak gets to the heart of the matter. I suspect that for Diehl, as well as for Allen, questioning "previous arrangements for ownership of... resources," reconsidering the benefits of faux privatization (aka looting) via insider deals with politically connected financial elites, and refusing to pay extortion for patents and copyrights is the very definition of "unfriendly... for free markets."
But none of those things really has much to do with free markets, now, does it? Any time a leftist land reform threatens the power of the latifundia owners to extract rent from the majority of people actually cultivate the land, the Catoids squeal like stuck pigs over "property rights." But in fact that land belongs to the people who appropriated it with their labor, not to a statist class of landlords, and the Catoids are just pimping free market principles for the defense of the mercantilist corporations--the institution at the center of the single greatest concentration of statist power in the world today.
So Chavez, Lula and Morales are hostile to the Catoid/ASI version of "free markets." They're probably hostile to real free markets as well. But they can't possibly be any more hostile toward real free markets than are the neoliberal swine from whose filthy mouths the words "free market" most commonly issue. If they're hostile to free markets, then more damnation to the corporate apologists who've deliberately tainted the term by association with their shameless defense of corporate power.
To put Morales' anti-US thuggery in context, we'd do well to consider the track record of pro-US (or more accurately, US-installed) thuggery that previously existed. Mark Monson, on the Land Theory yahoogroup, linked to an excellent article by Leila Lu on the concentration of landed property in a tiny number of latifundia, going back to colonial times.
In Latin America alone, since WWII, the U.S. neoliberal empire has probably overthrown and replaced more governments than any other empire in history. In just about every case, its enemies were the people actually working the land. And in just about every case, the "pro-US" forces put in power were the landlord oligarchies, the right-wing paramilitaries, and the death squads: in other words, the kind of "pro-market" forces who deal with peasant activists, cooperative leaders, and independent labor organizers by working on their testicles with pliers, by torturing, murdering, and disappearing them, or by leaving their mutilated bodies to be found in a ditch and thus keep the workers and peasants properly terrorized and docile.
In a recent comment thread, troutsky asked for my opinion of Chavez. OK, here it is: he's certainly not especially market-friendly, as Latin American pols go. But he's certainly no more market-unfriendly than the corporate mercantilists who use gunboat diplomacy to make the world safe for corporate rule, and then profane the words "free market" and "free trade" with their stinking pie-holes.
I don't believe Chavez's intervention on behalf of the cooperative economy and local counter-institutions is sustainable in the long run. In the end, these institutions must be able to survive in a free market without state inputs if they are to be viable. But the practical effect of Chavez's current state intervention is merely to countervail the previous fifty years of intervention against peasant proprietorship, and against economic institutions controlled by ordinary people, and thus to partially cancel out the legacy benefits currently enjoyed by the giant transnationals. So while I can't applaud his statism, I can't exactly work up much moral outrage over the poor, picked-on corporations that are squealing so much about his "thuggery" and enmity toward "free markets."
If Chavez and Lula are "thugs," then so were the political leaders installed by the transnational corporations over the past fifty years. And equally thugs, likewise, have been the corporations which profited from the rule of those thugs this past half century, and which now seek to regain power by coup if necessary to keep their statist corporate welfare gravy train from being cut off.
If Chavez and the agribusiness, oil, software, and other corporations wind up fighting each other to a standstill, the end result is likely to be better (and more legitimately free market) than the previous situation, in which those corporations had unchallenged hegemony. I figure that the practical effect of Chavez's anti-corporate statism, following on the heels of fifty years of much greater pro-corporate statism, might just possibly be for the two to cancel each other out. Maybe when the dust settles, the final outcome might leave in place a network of cooperatives and local social economy institutions that really can survive in the free market. Such a network of cooperative institutions, if it survives Chavez, can't possibly be any less libertarian than the existing transnational corporations that too many "libertarians" instinctively identify with.