August 16, 2004

Class Warfare - A Reality Check

The Democratic Party is frequently accused of waging "class warfare" inside the United States for bickering with the GOP about the tax code. Now is a good time to revisit what class warfare actually looks like.

From a blog I just discovered called The Fladen Experience:

A few years ago, I was traveling back from Mexico. In a mixture of Spanish and English, the guy next to me on my flight explained why he was not in Venezuela by telling me stories of how life had deteriorated under Chavez who preached open class warfare.

The worst story concerned a mother and her three year old child. Outside a shopping area, after dark, a robber accosted her. He demanded that she, at gunpoint, surrender her expensive earings. Scared for her life and holding her child closely, she did just that. The robber than gave her a look of scorn as he said "The President is right when he says that you rich people have so many possessions that you do not care if you lose one. Well, I am going to take something from you that you do care about it." With that he put the gun to the three year old's head, and blew his brains out.


UPDATE: Everyone in the comments thinks this is a bad example. Okay, fine. If I'm that outnumbered then it probably is a bad example. Of course I could have mentioned an old co-worker of mine whose entire family was liquidated by Maoists for being landlords, but I was trying to be current and topical...

SECOND UPDATE: Now someone comes in and defends my example. I give up!

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 16, 2004 03:06 PM
Comments

Desperate stuff Michael :-)

That's a criminal act, its certainly not the President's fault. I believe criminals should take responsibilty for their actions not just warp the political environment in their twisted minds, and use it as an excuse.

That aside, I do agree that the Republican's bleeting about "class warfare" is hyperbolical nonsense. Tax codes? I don't think they know what class warfare is at all.

I would like to transport these cosetted characters into Paris '68 - I am sure they would all have nervous breakdowns!!

Posted by: Benjamin at August 16, 2004 03:25 PM

A blogger hears a horror story from someone he doesn't know about a lunatic mugger shooting a child, and you exhibit this as an example of class warfare?

Um, no. First, that could have been a load of crap. Two, that could have been an urban myth. Three, that could have been an embellished story by someone who doesn't care for the government. Four, even if it were gospel, what does single incident with a criminal that have to do with class warfare? I generally disregard the political opinions of homicidal maniacs, I don't use them as a basis for political analysis.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 16, 2004 03:26 PM

DPU,

You miss my point. Whether it was true or not, it is an example of actual class warfare. Bickering about tax codes isn't.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 16, 2004 03:35 PM

Michael

As we say in Yorkshire, UK:

"Don't be daft, lad!" ;-)

It is criminal act: a robbery and murder. That's quite obvious.

The guy apparently threw in a political comment, which does not make it "class warfare" - it's just the deluded ramblings of murderer and robber.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 16, 2004 03:40 PM

Here's REAL class warfare: Part of my childhood was in Guyana (then British Guyana). In the lead-up to independence from Britain, Guyana elected a socialist government. Britain suspended its consitution, and jailed the leaders of the government. After restoring the constitution, the socialists were re-elected.

The CIA, on the orders of Kennedy, began a program of destabilizing the socialist government by stirring up ethnic unrest, which causes riots and the burning of the capital (which I saw, scary). Shortly after I left the country, my school bus was bombed, and many of my schoolmates killed or maimed.

The British delayed independence until the "threat" of socialist electoral victory was removed.

"Class Warfare" isn't isolated acts of crime, it is prolonged and vicous violence between classes. I agree with your contention that bickering about tax codes isn't quite up to the definition (sorry, I missed that in my first read), but the example of "real" class warfare could use a little punching up.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 16, 2004 03:41 PM

We're not as bad as Venezuela, therefore it's OK.

Huh?

That doesn't mean we don't have it, it just means we're America and not Venezuela. If our standards are that low we're in trouble. Other ridiculous concepts:

"We don't have as many starving people as North Korea so we shouldn't make hunger an issue in our society."

"We don't have the same torture chambers as Saddam Hussein so we shouldn't complain when our own civil liberties are threatened."

It makes no sense Michael.

Posted by: Kris at August 16, 2004 03:42 PM

If indeed it's true at all - it could be an urban myth, exaggerated etc.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 16, 2004 03:43 PM

Benjamin: It is criminal act: a robbery and murder.

Yes, and that's what real class warfare is. The salient differences between this freelancer and the acts of a homicidal robbber-murderer like Mao Zedong are duration and scale.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 16, 2004 03:46 PM

Michael

This is hyperbolical silliness. If you want to make a coherent political argument against Chavez, who has clearly won a referundum, then fine.

But this silly unproven story which you describe as "class warfare" is not it.

There is no proof that this sad incident is class warfare at all. The guy obviously wanted to commit robbery and murder, and did the act.

Commiting robbery against rich people does not necessarily mean class warfare - its simply a logical decision.

Whatever he said at the time proves very little, and has little credence.

You should really construct proper political argument rather than recycle these stories.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 16, 2004 03:54 PM

Kris: We're not as bad as Venezuela, therefore it's OK.

Not what I said or implied. There is a categorical difference between arguing about tax rates and the deployment of actual violence against rich people.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 16, 2004 03:56 PM

Whether it was true or not, it is an example of actual class warfare.

No. If it happened, then it is potentially an example of actual class warfare. If it didn't happen, it is an example of fictitious class warfare.

Here is an example of Actual class warfare:

For a number of years, Amnesty International has been concerned about the use of the Ley sobre Vagos y Maleantes, Law of Vagrants and Crooks, to detain large numbers of the poorer sectors of the population and, in some cases, journalists, peasant activists and critics of the government.(1)

Posted by: dsquared at August 16, 2004 03:58 PM

Benjamin: If you want to make a coherent political argument against Chavez...

It isn't an argument against Chavez. It is an argument against the hyperbolic use of "class warfare" by Republicans in contexts (like the tax code) in which it does not apply.

Of course there are better examples of real class warfare than this one. Stalin provides enough examples to keep me busy for years. I picked this one because it's topical and relates to today's headlines.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 16, 2004 04:01 PM

Michael

If a robber breaks into the big house up my road, owned by rich people, nicks off with the expensive TV and jewellery and kills the people inside, and then says "oh they are rich bastards" is that class warfare?

Certainly not necessarily. It could be just straight forward robbery with a throw away comment thrown in. Class warfare is not the primary motivation.

Class warfare means an organised battle between classes with a different intent - not just robbery and murder, but a class victory.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 16, 2004 04:09 PM

Michael

Well, I agree about the Republicans.
But you could come up with better examples of genuine class warfare.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 16, 2004 04:13 PM

Benjamin,

As the quoted blog entry stated, Chavez preaches open class warfare in Venezuela. Not in a "John Kerry" sort of way, but in a Fidel Castro sort of way. That sort of thing is utterly corrosive to civil society, and violence on the streets is absolutely predictable. And it just won't work to dismiss those who commit that violence as criminals. Of course they are criminals. That does not mean they did not do what they did and that the violently polarized political climate in Venezuela is an irrelevant sideshow.

Have you ever been to Latin America? Cancun doesn't count.

Next set of questions...Have you ever been to a place where minorities are viciously condemned by the head of state as internal enemies? Have you even read about what happens as a result in such places?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 16, 2004 04:20 PM

Michael

Fine, but you have not proved that the case you cite is a genuine case of "class warfare" rather than an opportunist madman with the verbals.

All seems a bit sketchy.

Of course statistics may help. Is political violence rife in Venezuela? Can it all be blamed on Chavez?

Polarisation? That works both ways. It's quite clear whose side Chavez is on, and for once he's not on the side of the richest elites.

Chavez:

"I don't believe in the dogmatic postulates of Marxist revolution. I don't accept that we are living in a period of proletarian revolutions. All that must be revised. Reality is telling us that every day. Are we aiming in Venezuela today for the abolition of private property or a classless society? I don't think so.

But if I'm told that because of that reality you can't do anything to help the poor, the people who have made this country rich through their labour and never forget that some of it was slave labour, then I say 'We part company'.

I will never accept that there can be no redistribution of wealth in society. Our upper classes don't even like paying taxes. That's one reason they hate me. We said 'You must pay your taxes'. I believe it's better to die in battle, rather than hold aloft a very revolutionary and very pure banner, and do nothing ... That position often strikes me as very convenient, a good excuse ...

Try and make your revolution, go into combat, advance a little, even if it's only a millimetre, in the right direction, instead of dreaming about utopias."

Posted by: Benjamin at August 16, 2004 04:31 PM

Not in a "John Kerry" sort of way, but in a Fidel Castro sort of way.

No well, he's not John Kerry is he? Thank God.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 16, 2004 04:36 PM

I hate to pile on, but you totally screwed the pooch by trying to use this blog quote as demonstrative of class warfare. It is not. It is demonstrative of the basic criminal mind trying to rationalize his own illegal behavior.

Plus it reeks of urban legend. Such a well spoken armed robber. Uh-uh.

Posted by: J.R. at August 16, 2004 05:28 PM

Michael, I'm not sure your point holds. In the context of American society, the Republican argument about Democrats fomenting class warfare is not as invalid as you make it. Your argument could be flipped around quite easily, by saying there aren't any poor people in the US, simply by comparing them to the poor people in, say, Tanzania. And in fact, the US has the richest and most well-off poor people in the world: what is considered poor in the US would be considered fabulously wealthy in many parts of the world.

That doesn't mean they're not poor.

By the same token, the fact that there is violent class warfare in other parts of the world doesn't mean that what we call class warfare in the US is OK.

Posted by: Stuart at August 16, 2004 05:36 PM

Michael -

It's an excellent example. Class warfare is bad because it is a fundamentally destructive impulse: it's not about improving the lot of the poor so much as it is about taking from the rich. Once the principle is established that it is OK to take something that does not belong to you, society begins to disintegrate. Crime and violence often follow. Your example is right on the money.

Posted by: Ben at August 16, 2004 06:43 PM

It's sad that Michael seems to have devoted himself to responding to Benjamin rather than to dsquared's outstanding points in the last two threads.

When he thought Chavez had lost, Michael had a long posts about the implied lessons for Chavez. Now that it turns out that Chavez won, what are the lessons for the opposition, Michael? (I think Randy's posted a pretty good one.)

Come to think of it, what are the lessons for you, Michael? Is it possible that, as dsquared has suggested, Chavez isn't quite as bad as you've depicted him? Or are 58% of the Venezuelan electorate, in a massive and determined turnout, simply chumps?

Do the lessons only go one way, Michael?

Posted by: Swopa at August 16, 2004 07:53 PM

Swopa

Yeah,good points.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 16, 2004 07:55 PM

Class warfare is not something that is inherent in humans. It is cultivated and exploited by the LEFT in the service of their fascist social engineering schemes. The late Alan Bloom, University of Chicago professor of philosophy and author of "The Closing of the American Mind" said it best when he correctly concluded that ultimately everyone can trace their world view to one of 2 people : John Locke or Karl Marx. This is not to say Democrats are communists, but it is no accident that the decline of communism and the decline of the Democrat Party occurred in tandem. Democrats are social engineers. That is why they are Democrats.

Alan Bloom also made another observation : capitalism and civilzation are virtually synonymous. He was correct. No capitalism = no civilzation.

Not ONE communist "revolution" in history occurred as the result of a popular uprising FOR communism. Communists have ALWAYS been elitits. Karl Marx was a neurotic rich kid. Most of today's most ardent Leftists are chi-chi oh-so-hip artsy-fartsy upper middle class latte-sippers. And most of them are rather stupid. I live in the midwest, land of the yahoozz, and most of the blue collar people I know are not envious Lefists. They want to get ahead.

John Edwards says there are two Americas. He is correct. There is the world of the oh-so-rich pseudo-intellectual coastal elites who spend most of their time in Malibu, Manhattan and Georgetown, and then there is the other America where most of us live. And we all know which "America" Kerry and Edwards belong to.

WE do not believe in class warfare. But THEY do.
This is one of the reasons I cannot vote Democrat.

Posted by: freeguy at August 16, 2004 08:15 PM

Swopa: Is it possible that, as dsquared has suggested, Chavez isn't quite as bad as you've depicted him?

Do you think Chavez is as bad as Human Rights Watch depicted him? That's my question for you.

As far as lessons for the Chavez opposition, well, yeah I can think of plenty. Starting with the fact that they need to remember that when their guy runs the country he is the president of all Venezuelans, not just the oligarchy. Chavez's election in the first place ought to have taught them that one.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 16, 2004 08:21 PM

Freeguy

Yep, I think you got all the political/cultural stereotypes, easy labels, and even a bit of psychobabble in there. The full works. Congratulations.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 16, 2004 08:22 PM

Do you think Chavez is as bad as Human Rights Watch depicted him? That's my question for you.

I have no reason to think he isn't.

But does that mean that the millions of Venezuelans that voted for him are masochists? I mean, they didn't just vote for him, they waited in line for hours to do so.

Posted by: Swopa at August 16, 2004 09:19 PM

Whoa! Wait a minute fellas. Can I point out an obvious here? In all likelihood, Chavez did NOT win. No matter what he and Jimmy Carter tell you.

Keep in mind that the opposition only needed a little more than 3 million votes to oust Hugo. Then realize that the opposition has won enough petition signatures to call a recall about a half dozen times. Each time Hugo raises the minniumum number of signatures, after the fact. The latest Hugo owned court ruling required the opposition to get nearly 3 million signatures.

Now we all know that many more people than actually sign petitions will end up voting for the measure itself.

Now keep in mind that early exit pols quoted by leftwing British papers had the opposition already at nearly 2 million votes to Hugo's 700k by early morning.

Then the polls were held open, and then held open again, and then magicaly, by morning Hugo announces that he has won what was sure to be a landslide against him.

Who here actually thinks that he won? The opposition and human rights groups are already calling for an investigation.

So... Michael's "lessons" for Hugo are most likely still valid. The real lesson for all of us here is not underestimate the sneakiness of a dictator in trouble.

Oh, and the example, urban myth or not, is still valid... note that the thug in the story (let us call it that) says: "The President is right when he says that you rich people have so many possessions that you do not care if you lose one..."

Note that the robber cites the words of the president to justify, not the robbery, but the final brutal act. He used the woman's eager protection of her child, by discarding her jewels, as proof that fundamental judgment of class, by the President, is correct. Presumably the original act, of robbery, was also motivated or at least "justified" by the same rhetoric.

Mike's point was that 'real class warfare' goes beyond the tax code... it has to do with prejudice, bigotry, hatred, and ultimately violence. Which this story nails top to bottom.

Again. Hugo is an ass. He was a petty military man who tried to take over the oldest consitutional democracy in S America, failed, dressed up in Lefty clothing and won one election, then dissolved Congress, rewrote the Constitution, and appointed a new Supreme Court to cement his personal power. He then nationalized the oil industry only to part it back out to foreign interests on terms personaly lucrative to himself. He has since used this oil money to pay for roving paramilitary mobs and to "buy off" the lower classes (the only possible explanation for his "victory" of the recall if it turns out to be true). Meanwhile international watchdogs charge him with the worst human rights abuses and note that the lot of the poor in Venezuela got WORSE under his reign.

So lets stop apologizing and defending the sob. K?

Posted by: Sean at August 16, 2004 10:37 PM

I think the class warfare issue is extremely important. I wrote about Bush hate, Jew hate, Success hate, around this.
http://tomgrey.motime.com/1069182789#173964

The envy based demonization of the rich (Bush is bad because of tax cuts ... for the rich!) is a real problem.

On the other hand, the lack of land reform in most poor Latin America countries is terrible (they need a land value tax; better than an income tax).

Your example accurately shows an example of wanting to HURT the rich, more than HELP the poor. The Envy sickness/ sin. The same envy that powered commie massacres of land owners when commies take over.

Posted by: Tom Grey at August 17, 2004 01:31 AM

Chavez preaches open class warfare in Venezuela. Not in a "John Kerry" sort of way, but in a Fidel Castro sort of way. That sort of thing is utterly corrosive to civil society

Another thing that is "utterly corrosive to civil society", is picking up a gun, getting together with a few thousand of your mates and going down to the Presdential palace to try and overthrow an elected government.

Another thing that is "utterly corrosive to civil society" is organising a politically motivated strike and lockout to bring your own country's economy to its knees because you don't like the guy who got elected.

Seems to me that the antichavistas have been fighting a class war, and HC is much more sinned against than sinning.

Posted by: dsquared at August 17, 2004 03:31 AM

Meanwhile, Sean apears to be claiming that Chavez "nationalised the oil industry". Since he was 21 years old in 1975 when PDVSA was nationalised, that must have been a hell of a birthday party. I realise that this is the same guy who said "Oh, and the example, urban myth or not, is still valid", but I thought it worth emphasising that he's talking rubbish about Venezuela too.

Michael: You have repeatedly failed to address my point, which makes it look to me as if you're doing so on purpose. The actual criticisms made of the Chavez government by Human Rights Watch are:

1) They don't like the changes he has made to the Supreme Court
2) They want a more in-depth investigation into allegations of police brutality during the coup and during the March political riots this year
3) They think that the Venezuelan police ought to do more to protect journalists who write nasty things about Chavez from being attacked by chavistas.
4) They think that the "insult laws" are illiberal, while noting that Venezuela has by any normal standards of usage, a free press.

Amnesty International adds to these four a fifth accusation; that under Chavez, the Venezuelan police don't do enough to protect the free expression of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.

This adds up to a statement that Chavez is a "strongman" and an authoritarian, like Putin, in the context of what is still a fundamentally free and democratic society. To refer to it as a "jackboot stamping on a human face" is silly, and when you consider some of the things that both HRW and Amnesty had to say about the pre-Chavez government (you know, the one that you would like to see back), it becomes culpably so.

Posted by: dsquared at August 17, 2004 03:48 AM

Mr. T,

I'll defend your first example as well. While it is undeniably true that the killer in that example was just a sick, twisted person, the sadism he exhibited was aimed at the class differences. Someone taught him to not just be envious, but to hate over his enviousness, and that acting to destroy perceived class differences was a-o-k.

It is the same thing with race baiting. It teaches hatred. This hatred has real consequences.

Posted by: Gerry at August 17, 2004 05:04 AM

I'll have to go along with Michael Totten on the class warfare example debate.

Every one of my relatives back in Finland could relate stories of the breakdown of social order over 80 years ago, due to class warfare between the socialists and the nationalists in the Finnish Civil War of 1918. The stories are similar to the Venezuelan example in that they center on one horrific act that seems to have been a crystallizing moment in the storyteller's experience, which colors their political orientation for the rest of their lives, whether left wing or right wing. The salient point to stress is that class warfare inspires criminality, and that the division between crime and revolutionary act is completely distorted when class warfare is the rallying cry.

I am not at all surprised that the Venezuelan story has met with skepticism. The Scandinavian media's reaction to the Finnish Civil War in the east at the time was to downplay the carnage, partly out of disbelief, but also because of an innate fear that repetition of such stories can only fuel instability at home.

The problem with rallying a nation with the cry for class warfare is that you give every sociopath the justification to act out their fantasies. It is a very dangerous thing to do, and Chavez is definitely playing with fire.

Posted by: Finnpundit at August 17, 2004 06:41 AM

Just out of interest, you might like to know that Chavez' nickname on the front of the Venezuelan newspapers has been "The Nigger" for the last few years and the white antichavista opposition have a long record of trying to use his black and native ancestry against him, so he might be forgiven for wondering who started all this class warfare.

Posted by: dsquared at August 17, 2004 07:11 AM

Tom -- as a closet Henry George fan, I second your support for a Land Value tax. But the fact is there are some countries in which the wealthy are so corrupt, incalcitrant and reactionary that class warfare is the only counterbalance possible. There is a difference, which many on the right see fit to ignore, between risk-taking capitalists, and a parasitic idle class sitting on its wealth. There is a distinction between earned and unearned wealth -- as a supporter of LVT, you should understand this.

Posted by: Markus Rose at August 17, 2004 09:13 AM

I'm not sure that a Land Value Tax is such a good solution. As pointed out by the Harvard-trained Peruvian economist, Hernando De Soto (google him), the poor in developing countries are actually sitting on top of billions of dollars worth of property. The problem is that they do not have clear title to the ownership of the property, due to lousy courts and flimsy laws. Because of this, the property cannot be used as equity for individual economic enhancement.

Land value taxes would affect poor landowners as well as the wealthy, and perhaps disproportionately so, since such taxes are usually based on the size of the property, not income.

No, what is more important is the reformation of the judicial system in developing countries, and the development of good property laws, to protect private property more effectively. Such a reformation cannot succeed if class warfare or civil war becomes the norm. The best formula for success in legal reformation is the utilization of existing laws and traditions as the base to begin with, not the wiping out of previous laws and traditions (the usual aim of class wars).

Presently, only the wealthy landowners have the power and influence to maintain title to their properties, in legal systems that are murky and convoluted. Transparency is what is needed, in legal systems that protect everyone's property, whether rich or poor. For that, you cannot premise a reform on class warfare.

Incidentally, in this light, Chavez has probably done more harm to the poor, - through his dismantling of the Venezuelan constitution and courts - than any exploitative economic policy could ever have accomplished. I doubt that land values are surging in a country as chaotic as that, now.

Posted by: Finnpundit at August 17, 2004 10:15 AM

Finnpundit, are you aware that one of Chavez's biggest reform programs has been the distribution of legal titles to land for landless peasants?

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1157

Posted by: dsquared at August 17, 2004 10:27 AM

Tom: The envy based demonization of the rich (Bush is bad because of tax cuts ... for the rich!) is a real problem.

Tom, you still don't understand the Democratic argument. It's not that rich people don't deserve a tax cut. It's that they are less in need of a tax cut than people who make less money and they shouldn't get a LARGER tax cut.

This is not class envy, and it certainly isn't class warfare.

By the way, I'm a closet Henry George fan, too. New Urbanist writer James Howard Kunstler made a great case for the land tax in his fantastic book Home From Nowhere.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 17, 2004 10:29 AM

Dsquared,

The wealthy in Latin America started the class warfare down there. You will get no argument from me on this.

But that does not make Hugo Chavez an okay president.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 17, 2004 10:32 AM

Finnipundit -- (by the way, terve! I'm half-Finnish myself)

I agree that establishing transparent rule of law and an impartial judiciary is vitally important. But how is this to be done in countries where corruption is endemic? And what reason is there to believe that those who have been replaced in the Venezuelan judiciary are particularly impartial?

I see America as a country whose limited experience with class warfare has done a great deal of good. The socialist, populist, anarchist and labor agitation in this country from the 1890's through the great depression was viewed with horror by the established political classes, but nevertheless the Democrats and Republicans responded to these radical threats with a great number of important reforms: anti-trust laws, lowered tariffs, federal income and estate taxes, public health and workplace safety regulations, child labor laws, the right to collective bargaining, social security, etc...

Hopefully, the anti-Chavez Venezualan opposition, having gotten their asses thoroughly kicked yesterday, will recognize they need to adapt to the demands of the people as well.

Posted by: Markus Rose at August 17, 2004 10:34 AM

Dear Disquarded...

The Venz. oil industry was not "nationalized" as much as you think in the 70's. The PDVSA is not a socialist entity. In fact, it is made up of many private investors, both domestic and foreign.

In November of 2001 Hugo forced more than 50 laws through his pet Congress. A key law, the Hydro Carbon Law, forced a dramatic realignment of foreign investors and local shareholders.

Primarily it devalued their stakes in the company and cut their future revenues in half. The government, in this case, Hugo personaly, became the most powerful force in PDVSA and the largest beneficiary of recent oil sales.

You can say that the foreign investors "deserved" this treatment and that Hugo, as a "representative of the people" deserved to come out ahead.

But this sudden slap at foreign investors led to the usual response, uncertainity in the international markets, a dramatic drop in foreign investment, and the near collapse of the Venz economy.

Here is a leftist article on the issue, that, btw, blames BP for most of Chavez's problems... which, of course, is crap, even if BP is an imperialist organization of little British bastards, most of Chavez's problems can actually be traced directly to his enormous ego.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5078.htm

This article also essentially blames the investors and managers at PDVSA, and by extension the world oil industry and the USA, for creating "phony" strikes and marches. But I would point out that the opposition to Hugo has been strong nearly fromt he begining... from both the left and the right.

Hugo only took over one party back in the 90's... Teodoro Petkoff, once leader and presidential candidate of the MAS, opposes Chavez as a social democrat. Douglas Bravo, a guerrilla leader in Falcon in the 1960s, now opposes him with his Third Way movement. William Izarra, a Harvard-educated air force lieutenant with Trotskyist leanings, leads the Direct Democracy Movement.

Meanwhile the opposition has had little trouble raising signatures to remove Chavez.

Also, it is crap to refer to Chavez as a "constitutional" or "democratic" leader since he had this constitution rewritten for him, since he violently ousted the Congress, and since he fired and reappointed the Supreme Court.

I dont know why you or other lefties, here and elsewhere, kneejerk defend this man. He is a petty tyrant cloaked as a "man of the left". He is not. He is a petty army officer... he even continued to wear his red beret as "president" until just recently (one of his new pr hacks must have finaly told him how bad that looked). Can you imagine the field day you would have if Bush wore his Airforce jumpsuit to every press confrence? Come on, the guy is a pig.

Here is another article with a good explanation of how Chavez holds on to power.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/bal-te.journal11aug11,0,7352980.column

Jackboot indeed.

Posted by: sean at August 17, 2004 11:09 AM

Michael,

Sorry, I was out picking pears, remind me to get you a bushel. The key problem with your example is not that it is anecdotal and horrific; the problem is that it is irrefutable. If you accept that the story is true, you have to abandon class warfare as an acceptable practice. The essential reality fracture that occurs in the socialist mind is the abandonment of responsibility that is implicit in a call for chaos. Accepting that a call for revolution gives license to infanticide is too much for the abstract intellectual.

One of the best things that my father ever did is make sure that I knew that joining the military meant that I would be responsible for killing children. Once he knew that I had accepted that moral responsibility he respected me as a serviceman. Nobody told my father that being a Marine meant that he would end up killing kids in Korea. When I ended up enforcing the UN blockade of Haiti, I accepted responsibility for the children who died as a result. I surely did not love all the consequences of my choice, and I really hate Aristede for squandering the opportunity that my infanticide provided. The consolation that I have is that I did not starve children to death for hatred or the thrill of violent vengeance or a blind belief in the probity of the United Nations.

The next year, when my enlistment was up, I left the Navy for a variety of reasons. Some of them have to be inconclusiveness and ineffectiveness of the sieges of Iraq and Haiti. Some of them have to be the despicable gamesmanship inspired by a declining military budget. Not a few of them have to do with wanting to get in a healthy relationship with a woman and get married; not really an option available to me with another two years of sea duty before a shore rotation. But I didn't leave because my philosophy was broken by the reality that violent coercion hurts people. I knew that going in.

I also knew that abandoning responsibility and allowing dictator's free reign invites genocide. People in uniform don't get to look at socialist protesters and call them "Baby Killers", but the historical fact is that they are. Benjamin Franklin could not conceive of a bad peace, but he also could not conceive of a concentration camp. The simple and irrefutable truth is that socialism and class warfare is responsible for orders of magnitude more corpses than the militaries of the free world, and that's counting Verdun, Dresden, Hiroshima, My Lai, Abu Gharib, and everything in between. The kind of despicable behavior accepted by class warriors is abhorrent to the professional national soldier, although political troops are notoriously less constrained. Socialist government and successful class war has killed more than all the weapons of mass destruction combined.

This is why your assertion was attacked, because it cannot be accepted without abandoning socialist principles. Murdered children are inconvenient for the revolutionary.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at August 17, 2004 11:14 AM

Dsquared: Your example is problematic. Chavez should hardly have had the right to redistribute land by force. That should have been handled by the courts. Remember, a system of justice is built up slowly, based on a long line of judicial precedence. Unfortunately, by acting extrajudiciously, the Chavez government sets the stage for extrajudicious erasure of his act by the next government that comes along.

Markus Rose: "But how is this to be done in countries where corruption is endemic?" This is a valid question, and this is the one that concerns Hernando De Soto the most.

After serving as a consultant to many different Latin American countries (most of whom got irritated by him because he refused to shift the blame to the Maoists, or the IMF, or left wing or right wing, centering the responsibility squarely on the governments that hired him), De Soto basically came to the conclusion that foreign aid and IMF loans are not the answer, but new models for extrajudicial aid just might be. However, De Soto refuses to budge from a simple premise: the government of each nation has to develop a judicial system that is separate from the government itself. Chavez certainly has not done that.

I think it's a bit ludicrous to suggest that America has experienced class warfare, even on a limited basis, simply because American liberties have extolled the role of individual initiative to such a high degree as to make class warfare a meaningless, imported idea. I would point out, though, that there are some very good business reasons why social safety nets are a good idea: namely, that impoverished, imperiled workers simply do not translate into sales for a capitalist. This is one of the many reasons why many American industrialists eventually came around to embracing social legislation in the long run.

Anti-Chavez forces may have suffered a defeat, but hardly by a vast majority. The poll numbers are suprisingly close to 50%. What's more, the crucial factor still remains: the vast oil industry is run by an educated, professional middle class (not by hacienda-owning landlords who have peasants tilling the soil), and Chavez still needs them. Unfortunately for Chavez, we can be sure that the wealth these people derive will not be reinvested in Venezuela (given the flimsy prospects for property rights) but to overseas investments over time. A Chavez victory only insures more capital flight, not enforced capital retention. The drama isn't over yet, and we can be sure that Venezuela will remain a mess.

Posted by: Finnpundit at August 17, 2004 04:54 PM

I'm aware of Henry George (great) and De Soto too (really great - current, too!). If you see the Stiglitz critique of the IMF, part of it is the lack of attention to land reform.
Courts need to be independent of gov't in order to get rule of law (not of men/ current gov't). The LVT should assist in getting peasants more clear, legally enforced title to land -- and a simple 200×200 meter "exemption" would mean most peasants pay nothing for their house/ shacks.

Michael, I don't think Kerry says those words nearly as clearly as you -- but my point is, and remains, "hate of tax cuts for the rich" has long been part of the Dem message. Hate, Hate, Hate.

What does "larger" mean? One whose taxes goes from $2 000 to $1 000 has had a $1000 cut, or 50%. One whose taxes go from $200 000 to $150 000 has had only a 25% cut, though $50 000. The Dems do NOT explain that any real tax cut is going to go more to the rich, because the rich pay so much more (in dollars) than the middle class ... in income tax. [Soc Sec is different.]

I claim you confuse the rational words with the emotional message. The Dem emotional message is hate the rich, out of envy. It's more important to hurt the rich than to really help the poor.

The biggest help to poor folk is a job (NOT education!). Most folk get jobs working for rich folk, or much richer than themselves. To get more jobs available, those "much richer" folk must have an expectation of after-tax profit to offer more jobs. I "don't like" deficits, but it looks to me that Bush's tax cuts were great for the economy, relative to balanced budget depression as an alternative.

A 4 year irrational exuberance dot.com bubble is not a realistic option for any leader. Not Bush NOR Chavez.

I hope Chavez supports the poor's title to land; a measure would be the number of mortgages given by banks to first-time borrowers. Those who care about the poor should be thinking about how to measure results.

Posted by: Tom Grey at August 18, 2004 01:12 AM

Tom: What De Soto found out was that the poor couldn't get mortgages from banks in poor countries, even if they had lived in the same house for generations. Why? There is no system of title insurance that guarantees ownership. With the courts being corrupt, a poor person can easily lose a house (and the bank the mortgage money) if someone powerful comes along and contests it.

But this applies to the rich as well. Their titles to property are also in peril. However, they are always wealthy enough to grease the palms of those who need to be placated, should there be any problem. Banks don't have any problems lending to the rich.

Posted by: Finnpundit at August 18, 2004 07:44 AM

I think that both people on the left and people on the right have missed why Mike's story was actually a good one for this discussion...

If you are on the right and you want to discount the Lefties who complain about domestic "class warfare" - as in redlining, poor public schools, and drug law enforcement, etc - you can use this Venezuelan example to point out "real class warfare."

If you are on the left and want to rail against tax cuts for the rich and discount the rightists who complain that any form of graduated taxation is "class warfare" you can also point to the Venezuelan example as "real class warfare".

But there is another side to the story as well. Most Lefties wont want to discuss this story, or would wish to redirect blame or deny it alltogether, because it shows the dark underbelly of a favorite "revolution de jur".

And if you are on the right you might want to ignore this story as well because it indeed is a better example of "real classwarfare" than mere tax cuts.

Tom... I had to laugh when you complained about targeted tax cuts. Come on, are you trying to fool us or yourself?

The rich are asked to pay more in income tax because most of their wealth is not "income". And most of their direct income is hidden or shielded anyway. Not to mention that they can afford to pay a greater tax ammount with out "crimping their style".

You go to where the water is if you want to sink a well... raising taxes on the poor deeply effects their very ability to live, let alone their lifestyle, in a way that simply is not true for the rich. If you insist on taxing the poor to pay for your government you will get a revolt, guillitine and all.

Rich people do not need, nor are they effected, by income tax cuts such that they will "make more jobs". The rich dont actually "make jobs" anyway. The rich own capital and invest it when demand promises an increase in the value of their assets, appreciation, which is not much effected by "income tax". The rich will invest when demand goes up... and demand is created by the "little guys", the consumers. Thus if you really want to help the rich "make more jobs" you should give targeted tax cuts to the poor to help them increase consumption.

Think about it this way... Rupert Murdoch already can afford to buy all the clothing, booze, and dinners out that he wishes. He NEVER thinks about the cost of his steak dinner and if he can afford it. When Rupert gets a tax break he does not increase his spending... he increases his savings, probably in off shore, shelted investments. So the US economy and tax agents will see ZERO benefit from giving Rup a break on taxes.

On the otherhand... if you give the average "Rossane Bahr" family a tax break they actually will have more money to spend on their daily budgets... unlike Rup, these folks had pent up demand, they will not likely put much, if any, money into savings as they had more needs that were not being met, shoes for the kids, dinner out, a vacation, etc.

The rich have no unsatisfied demands upon which to spend your tax break, the poor do. The rich will NOT take your gift money and "make jobs"... why would they hire more people to make more stuff when people are not buying the goods already produced? On the other hand the poor have a lot of unsatisfied demands and have few savings vehicles (certainly not hidden accounts in the Caymans) and will instead increase their spending with every dollar of tax relief.

This seems like such simple stuff to me. I cant believe that Bush and his gang dont understand or believe this... they just dont care. They use talk of spurring the economy as a smoke screen to help them get away with giving their buddies huge tax cuts. Just like they used 9-11 to allow them to push through law enforcement "reform" that made it easier for "the man" to keep order. It is a one-two punch that looks alot like "real class warfare" to me. We will take money from you and then we give the police more power to manage dissent.

Nice.

I have to hand it to the Bushies, they took advantage of the opportunities in front of them and they got away with it.

Posted by: Sean at August 18, 2004 10:57 AM
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