The poor aren’t stupid.
Hugo Chavez is finally beginning to understand that. His hard lesson learned is also a great one for my part of world, the Middle East, where our dictators regularly make outrageous statements such as “the people aren’t ready for democracy” – codeword for, “the poor are stupid”.
Thank you, Venezuelans! Thank you for showing that you weren’t fooled by “incentives” - social security for informal workers and popular participation in government. Thank you for showing that whether poor or rich, and despite those “incentives”, voters pay attention when a leader wants to start dismantling democracy by scrapping presidential term limits and consolidating his control over a country even further.
If being a leftist means assuming the poor are stupid, then Venezuelans and Latin Americans in general are well to be rid of that kind of leftist thought.
The term leftist is long overdue for a redefinition anyway.
Unfortunately, ‘leftism’ these days has come to mean crude anti-Americanism. And that’s not just in Latin America. Who can forget the double serving of anti-Americanism on display in Tehran last month, when Chavez visited his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
Look at Europe, too, where “leftist” writers such as Harold Pinter are forgiven for their support of dictators, such as Saddam Hussein and ethnic cleansers such as Slobodan Milosevi,c just because of those leaders’ anti-Americanism.
U.S. foreign policy in many parts of the world has a lot to answer for, but it’s never enough to absolve dictators or populists.
Those of us who care about social justice and the responsibility of the state towards the most vulnerable are horrified to be associated with the apologists of dictators and mass murderers.
It’s time to redefine leftism, everywhere.
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