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Press The Press
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Z Papers on Vision
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Gay & Lesbian Community Notes
Herbert P. Bix
European Union News
Eleanor J. Bader
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Good Things Happening in Venezuela
E ven before I arrived in Venezuela for a recent visit, I encountered the great class divide in that country. On my connecting flight from Miami to Caracas, I found myself seated next to an exquisitely dressed Venezuelan woman. Judging from her prosperous aspect, I anticipated that she would take the first opportunity to hold forth against President Hugo Chavez. Unfortunately, I was right.
Our conversation moved along famously until we got to the political struggle going on in Venezuela. “Chavez,” she hissed, “is terrible, terrible.” He is “a liar.” He “fools the people” and is “ruining the country.”
She owns an upscale women’s fashion company with links to prominent firms in the United States. When I asked how Chavez has hurt her business, she said, “Not at all.” But many other businesses, she quickly added, have been irreparably damaged as has the whole economy. She went on denouncing Chavez in sweeping terms, warning me of the national disaster to come if this demon continued to have his way.
Other critics I encountered in Venezuela shared this same mode of attack: weak on specifics, but strong in venom, voiced with all the ferocity of those who fear that their birthright (that is, their class advantage) is under siege because others below them on the social ladder are now getting a slightly larger slice of the pie.
In Venezuela over 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. Before Chavez, most of the poor had never seen a doctor or dentist. Their children never went to school, since they could not afford the annual fees. The neoliberal market “adjustments” of the 1980s and 1990s only made things worse, cutting social spending and eliminating subsidies in consumer goods. Successive Administrations did nothing about the rampant corruption and nothing about the growing gap between rich and poor, the growing malnutrition and desperation.
Far from ruining the country, here are some of the good things the Chavez government has accomplished:
- A land reform program designed to assist small farmers and the landless poor has been instituted—this past March a large landed estate owned by a British beef company was occupied by agrarian workers for farming purposes
- Education is now free (right through to university level), causing a dramatic increase in grade school enrollment
- The government has set up a marine conservation program and is taking steps to protect the land and fishing rights of indigenous peoples
- Special banks now assist small enterprises, worker cooperatives, and farmers
- Attempts to further privatize the state-run oil industry—80 percent of which is still publicly owned—have been halted and limits have been placed on foreign capital penetration
- Chavez kicked out U.S. military advisors and prohibited overflights by U.S. military aircraft engaged in counterinsurgency in Colombia
- “Bolivarian Circles” have been organized throughout the nation, neighborhood committees designed to activate citizens at the community level to assist in literacy, education, vaccination campaigns, and other public services
- The government hires unemployed men, on a temporary basis, to repair streets and neglected drainage and water systems in poor neighborhoods
Then there is the health program. I visited a dental clinic in Chavez’s home state of Barinas. The staff consisted of four dentists, two of whom were young Venezuelan women. The other two were Cuban men who were there on a one-year program. The Venezuelan dentists noted that in earlier times dentists did not have enough work. There were millions of people who needed treatment, but care was severely rationed by one’s ability to pay. Dental care was distributed like any other commodity, not to everyone who needed it, but only to those who could afford it.
When the free clinic in Barinas first opened it was flooded with people seeking dental care. No one was turned away. Even opponents of the Chavez government availed themselves of the free service, temporarily putting aside their political aversions.
of the doctors and dentists who work in the barrio clinics (along
with some of the clinical supplies and pharmaceuticals) come from
Cuba. Chavez has also put Venezuelan military doctors and dentists
to work in the free clinics. Meanwhile, much of the Venezuelan medical
establishment is vehemently opposed to the free clinic program,
seeing it as a Cuban communist campaign to undermine medical standards
and physicians’ earnings. That low-income people are receiving
medical and dental care for the first time in their lives does not
seem to be a consideration that carries much weight among the more
“professionally minded” practitioners.
I visited one of the government-supported community food stores that are located around the country, mostly in low income areas. These modest establishments sell canned goods, pasta, beans, rice, and some produce and fruits at well below market price, a blessing in a society with widespread malnutrition.
Popular food markets have eliminated the layers of middlepeople and made staples more affordable for residents. Most of these markets are run by women. The government also created a state-financed bank whose function is to provide low-income women with funds to start cooperatives in their communities.
There is a growing number of worker cooperatives. One in Caracas was started by turning a waste dump into a shoe factory and a T-shirt factory. Financed with money from the Petroleum Ministry, the coop has put about 1,000 people to work. The workers seem enthusiastic and hopeful.
Surprisingly, many Venezuelans know relatively little about the worker cooperatives. Or perhaps it’s not surprising, given the near monopoly that private capital has over the print and broadcast media. The wealthy media moguls, all vehemently anti-Chavez, own four of the five television stations and all the major newspapers.
The person most responsible for Venezuela’s revolutionary developments, Hugo Chavez, has been accorded the usual ad hominem treatment in the U.S. news media. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle described him as “Venezuela’s pugnacious president.” An earlier Chronicle report (November 30, 2001) quotes a political opponent who calls Chavez “a psychopath, a terribly aggressive guy.” The London Financial Times sees him as “increasingly autocratic” and presiding over something called a “rogue democracy.”
In the Nation (May 6, 2002), Marc Cooper—one of those Cold War liberals who nowadays regularly defends the U.S. empire—writes that the democratically-elected Chavez speaks “often as a thug,” who “flirts with megalomania.” Chavez’s behavior, Cooper rattles on, “borders on the paranoiac,” is “ham-fisted demagogy” acted out with an “increasingly autocratic style.” Like so many critics, Cooper downplays Chavez’s accomplishments and uses name-calling in place of informed analysis.
Other media mouthpieces have labeled Chavez “mercurial,” “besieged,” “heavy-handed,” “incompetent,” and “dictatorial,” a “barracks populist,” a “strongman,” a “firebrand,” and, above all, a “leftist.” It is never explained what “leftist” means.
A leftist is someone who advocates a more equitable distribution of social resources and human services and who supports the kinds of programs that the Chavez government is putting in place. (Likewise a rightist is someone who opposes such programs and seeks to advance the insatiable privileges of private capital and the wealthy few.) The term “leftist” is frequently bandied about in the U.S. media, but seldom defined. The power of the label is in its remaining undefined, allowing it to have an abstracted built-in demonizing impact, which precludes rational examination of its political content.
Meanwhile Chavez’s opponents, who staged an illegal and unconstitutional coup in April 2002 against the democratically elected government, are depicted in the U.S. media as champions of “pro-democratic” and “pro-West” governance. We are talking about the free-market plutocrats and corporate-military leaders of the privileged social order who killed more people in the 48 hours they held power in 2002 than were ever harmed by Chavez in his years of rule.
When one of these perpetrators, General Carlos Alfonzo, was hit with charges for the role he had played, the New York Times chose to call him a “dissident” whose rights were being suppressed by the Chavez government. Four other top military officers charged with leading the 2002 coup were also likely to face legal action. No doubt, they too will be described not as plotters or traitors who tried to destroy a democratic government, but as “dissidents,” decent individuals who are being denied their right to disagree with the government.
President Hugo Chavez, whose public talks I attended on three occasions, proved to be an educated, articulate, remarkably well-informed and well-read individual. He manifests a sincere dedication to effecting some salutary changes for the great mass of his people, a person who in every aspect seems worthy of the decent and peaceful democratic revolution he is leading. Millions of his compatriots correctly perceive him as being the only president who has ever paid attention to the nation’s poorest areas. No wonder he is the target of calumny and coup from the upper echelons in his own country and from ruling circles up north.
Chavez charges that the United States government is plotting to assassinate him. I can believe it.
Michael Parenti’s recent books include Superpatriotism (City Lights) and The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New Press), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His forthcoming book, The Culture Struggle will be published by Seven Stories Press in the fall of 2005.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.