June 1, 2007

'Driving' Out Hugo Chávez?

Rich college students in Venezuela have been demonstrating for days against Hugo Chávez's decision not to renew the over-the-air broadcast license of reactionary television channel RCTV.

Never mind that the channel violated its public-interest duties by giving aid and comfort to the plotters of the 2002 coup attempt. And never mind that the channel knowingly broadcast falsehoods during the coup, reporting, for example, that Chávez supporters had fired on unarmed civilians -- a claim later conclusively disproved. And never mind that a broadcast license is a privilege, not a right. The ruling classes, of course, view everything in their own lives through the lens of entitlement and are just shocked that such a privilege might be taken away from them for any reason.

As the photo shows, the students are posturing as progressive by attempting to display the symbol of the peace sign. Unfortunately, they got it a bit wrong, instead uniting around an icon with which they are much more familiar: the Mercedes symbol.

"Javier, bring the car around. The protest is over and I'd like to go shopping now."


Nelson H. said...

This is hilarious.

So short said...

Anyone ever notice how these FRSO types are incapable of the lengthy sorts of comments that one might find from RCPers on the Burningman site?

G. Frohman said...

So short:

Thanks! Compliment much appreciated. (Or was it a snotty and immature attempt at a put-down? I can't tell.)

Actually, if you pay attention, you'll discover that FRSO supporters do at times post lengthy comments on various blogs, including Red Flags.

Overall, though, we indeed have rather different priorities than RCP supporters. Rambling discussions filled with unpolished, repetitive posts from a small, demographically narrow collection of men are not generally at the top of our list. Even if the discussions are occasionally interesting.

Jimmy Higgins said...

But, ss, that's why the American free enterprise system is so wonderful! If you prefer to read apologetics (as I believe the term of art is) by RCP members, freedom of choice lets you spend as much time as you want at Red Flags.

And if supply side theory fails you and the well there runs temporarily dry, you don't have to come slumming here at FotM in futile search of the lengthy sorts of comments you find so appealing. Simply pose a skeptical question about the "epistemological break" or denounce the "cult of personality" and, bingo, that demand will generate for you many happy hours of lengthy comment consumption, with product turned out by folks possessing demonstrated capabilities in the field.

G. Frohman said...

Here's an interesting article:

Who's Pulling the Strings? Behind Venezuela's "Student Rebellion"

ShineThePath said...

I rather prefer the short comments of substance than some of the windbagged transcribed speeches of Bob Avakian.

the burningman said...

I'd take a demographically narrow collection of men discussing things in depth and fancy free to the casual denunciations and distancing that I've seen too often pass for exchange on the left.

But hey, that's just me and my demonstrated capability in the field.


In any case, I've had my fill of the Bob Avakian Show, but certainly not of struggle or the desire to break on through to the other side.


Regarding Venezuela, I've been having an interesting exchange with an old friend. She's a Marielita, who left Cuba with her parents as a child in 1980 only to settle in Venezuela.

Now living in the US and working as a journalist, she shares the concerns of state regulation of media that are worth engaging on their own right.

Simply reducing the student protests (or anti-Chavez) opposition to oligarchs and foreign influence is something to take care with. I think it is essentially true... but it is also speaking to a complex set of concerns among a good section of the Venezuelan population regarding demogoguery and populism.

In other words, Venezuela has had populist leaders before, nationalized its oil before, denounced imperialism before.

I'm down with Chavez and with the Venezuelans the best of luck.

We have to win over many of these very students. Acknowledging that there's more going on that CIA vs. Chavez is a start... as are investigation.

That said, I'll stand by my apologetic: "Rupert Murdoch will cry when we take his TV stations, too."

(Oh, and STP: I'll remember your note here regarding "short and sweet" versus "windbagging". ;-)

G. Frohman said...

burningman writes:

"I'd take a demographically narrow collection of men discussing things in depth and fancy free to the casual denunciations and distancing that I've seen too often pass for exchange on the left."

Myself, I'd like to do better than either of those options. I don't believe they're the only two we have available. I think when we see reports on FRSO/OSCL's work at the USSF, for example, that will give a taste of some approaches that rise above most of what we see on teh interwebs in a number of respects.

Regarding the Venezuela post, I definitely agree with your points. In return, I would just recommend not taking the post TOO seriously. It was a humor piece, after all.

JB said...

No doubt, G.

I guess my take is that there's always a reason to "be quiet."

Too many people are being too quiet about the issues that matter. If the left has a problem, it's not "too many white guys" talking.

We could use a few million white guys talking if they were dealing with liberation instead of just loud-mouthing and glad-handing.

Or, to put it another way: As a white man, I learned algebra, trig and German philosophy from African-Americans. Maybe my experience is not typical, but it has shown me that intellectual discussion is hardly the provence of the white man – and is the property of all humanity.

When I started Red Flags, it didn't exactly take anything away from anyone!

I've experienced meetings where demographics were used (pretty consciously) to exclude systematic discussion for a "bread and butter" perspective, using either class or race reductionism. It's been a real handicap on the movement, which is related and almost symbiotic with white entitlement.

It's hard to deal with the effects without noting the cause, but these things do take on a life of their own.

Let's remember Marx's prescriptive to represent the movement in its whole in every particular and keep our collective eyes on the prize.

Humor unfortuntranslates so poorly on the internet. Especially for those of us with a taste for arch snark.

I'd also note, to be fair, that while redFlags has its share of apologetics, it has also hosted more concentrated and in depth criticism of the RCP than just about any place in the world. Perhaps a meager claim to fame, but hardly defined simply by "apologetics".

Rather, in looking to understand the tendency and direction of different organized forces on the revolutionary left, provocations are tossed out to be answered (or not).

And when they are, in depth – it is something rare and worth engaging. Too much of left-wing polemic, for far too long, has been about "who is worth even talking about". One group of a few hundred explains why the other is beyond the pale, stupid, or whatever semi-appropriate pejoarative lets the worst stand in for the whole.

The cleavage between revolutionary communism and "movement-based" activism is dangerous. It's something that has to be dealt with a bit more explicitly than I think we've seen anywhere.

Engagement, in public and in depth, is how we will really learn.

To that end, I think this polemical exchange is an example of something worth emulating in a hundred different ways... and improving on.

I'd love to see some critical and self-critical assessments of, say, the Rainbow Coalition from those who participated in it (and advocate a return to those times).

Or on the issue of "national defeatism" in a time of permanent war against the world with some protagonists who don't quite measure up to Ho Chi Minh and Che.

And so on.

So "apologetics" are also another way of saying "engagement" – something we need much more of, from all quarters, not less.

The left is about to grow exponentially. I feel that in my gut. Maybe I'm wrong, but let's try to do it right!

JB said...

Here's the link to the polemics I noted above:


G. Frohman said...

JB wrote:

"Or, to put it another way: As a white man, I learned algebra, trig and German philosophy from African-Americans. Maybe my experience is not typical, but it has shown me that intellectual discussion is hardly the provence of the white man – and is the property of all humanity."

But that's exactly the problem: the combination of male supremacist socialization with the extreme individualist character of left blog discussions makes them in practice the province of men. There are no mechanisms in place to undermine their male supremacist character; rather, it is strongly reinforced by the structure of this environment.

I agree with you--of course--that the solution is not to avoid deep political discussions. But neither is continuing on blithely, avoiding any confrontation with this hardcore male privilege. The implication that these are the only two options available to us is a logical fallacy that serves to rationalize the continuation of our privilege.

Society trains men from birth to presume that we always have important things to say. It gives us the confidence/arrogance to inject our views into every discussion, right on past the extent of our actual knowledge and insight. Society trains us to be autodidacts and to accumulate knowledge partly as a means of accumulating power and authority.

Women, on the other hand, are trained the opposite way. I can't count how many times I've heard women in group discussions preface a very worthwhile contribution with some variation of, "Okay, this is probably a really stupid idea, but..." How many other good ideas from women don't get contributed at all because of this structural dynamic? Countless, I'm certain.

Weakly moderated, semi-anonymous blog discussions and similar fora such as Leftist Trainspotters magnify this phenomenon in an extreme way, to the point where women's participation in almost all of the revolutionary blogs we frequent ranges from very, very low to actually nil.

I can't go along with the view that the content of the discussion is the only thing that's important, while the need to fight an extreme manifestation of male privilege reproducing itself within the ranks of the left is in essence a trivial concern that would get in the way of the discussion itself.

As I think I've said before on Red Flags, I believe we should be putting the great majority of our energy into other avenues of discussion and line struggle that are able to incorporate mechanisms that help undermine rather than reinforce male privilege. Unfortunately, precisely because such venues are often not visible online, FRSO/OSCL gets accused in places like this of avoiding any significant attention to red-level line development and struggle. I guess we'll just have to live with those accusations.

Then there is the mistaken idea that also seems to be implicit here, and which has been explicitly put forward by RCP supporters in the past on Red Flags, that ideas are ideas and that social reality--including the gender, class, race, etc. of the person putting forward the ideas--has no role in shaping the content of the ideas (at least as long as the person putting forward those ideas identifies with the correct ideology and/or organization, apparently). I already refuted that outlook on Red Flags; suffice it to say that it's the exact opposite of what Marxism teaches us. The upshot is that the ideas in any political discussion dominated overwhelmingly by men are inevitably going to be refracted through a prism of male perception. So if we actually care about the correctness of the ideas, we have to deal with this problem--irrespective of whether we perceive as a correct and just thing unto itself the need for us as men to help train women as ideological leaders wherever we can, rather than just training ourselves.