A recent interview of mine, first published in Mexico and then reprinted in some other Latin-American countries and in El Pais, may have given a thoroughly wrong idea of where I stand towards the recent populist trend of radical politics.
Although the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela deserves a lot of criticism, we should nonetheless always bear in mind that it is also the victim of a well-orchestrated counter-revolution, especially of a long economic warfare. There is nothing new in such a procedure. Back in the early 1970s, in a note to CIA advising them how to undermine the democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende, Henry Kissinger wrote succinctly, “Make the economy scream.” High U.S. representatives are openly admitting that today the same strategy is applied in Venezuela; a couple of years ago, former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said on Fox News that Chavez’s appeal to the Venezuelan people,“only works so long as the population of Venezuela sees some ability for a better standard of living. If at some point the economy really gets bad, Chavez’s popularity within the country will certainly decrease and it’s the one weapon we have against him to begin with and which we should be using, namely the economic tools of trying to make the economy even worse so that his appeal in the country and the region goes down … Anything we can do to make their economy more difficult for them at this moment is a good thing, but let’s do it in ways that do not get us into direct conflict with Venezuela if we can get away with it.”
When, on March 9 2015, President Obama issued an executive order declaring Venezuela a “national security threat,” did he not thereby give a green light to a coup d’etat? At a more “civilized” level, the same is happening with Greece.
The least one can say is that such statements give credibility to the surmise that the economic difficulties faced by the Chavista government are not only the result of the ineptness of its own economic politics. Here we come to the key political point, difficult to swallow for some liberals: we are clearly not dealing here with blind market processes and reactions (say, shop owners trying to make more profit by way of keeping off the shelves some products), but with an elaborated and fully planned strategy – and it is in such conditions a kind of terror (police raids on secret warehouses, detention of speculators and the coordinators of the shortages, etc.) as a defensive counter-measure not fully justified? When, on March 9 2015, President Obama issued an executive order declaring Venezuela a “national security threat,” did he not thereby give a green light to a coup d’etat? At a more “civilized” level, the same is happening with Greece.
We are today under a tremendous pressure of what we should unashamedly call enemy propaganda – let me quote Alain Badiou, “The goal of all enemy propaganda is not to annihilate an existing force (this function is generally left to police forces), but rather to annihilate an unnoticed possibility of the situation.” In other words, they are trying to kill hope: the message of this propaganda is a resigned conviction that the world we live in, even if not the best of all possible worlds, is the least bad one, so that any radical change can only make it worse. This is why all forms of resistance, from Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain to Latino American “populisms,” should be fully supported. Yes, we should submit them to a severe critique where needed, but it should be strictly an internal critique, a critique of our allies. As Mao ze Dong would have put it, these tensions are “contradictions within the people,” not contradictions between the people and its enemies.
An ideal is gradually emerging from the European establishment’s reaction to the Syriza victory in Greece, the ideal best rendered by the title of Gideon Rachman’s comment in Financial Times back in December 2014: “Eurozone’s weakest link is the voters.” So in an ideal world, Europe gets rid of this “weakest link” and experts gain the power to directly impose necessary economic measures – if elections take place at all, their function is just to confirm the consensus of experts. The prospect of the “wrong” electoral result throws the establishment into panic: they paint the image of social chaos, poverty and violence… As is usual in such cases, ideological prosopopoeia has its heyday: markets started to talk as living person, expressing their “worry” at what will happen if the elections will fail to produce a government with a mandate to continue with the program of fiscal austerity and structural reform.
German media recently characterized the Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis as a psychotic who lives in his own universe different from ours – but is he really so radical? What is so enervating about Varoufakis is not his radicalness but his rational pragmatic modesty – no wonder many radical members of Syriza are already accusing him of capitulating to the EU. If one looks closely at the proposals offered by Varoufakis, one cannot help noticing that they consist of measures which, 40 years ago, were part of the standard moderate Social-Democratic agenda (in Sweden of the 1960s, the program of the government was much more radical). It is a sad sign of our times that today you have to belong to a radical Left to advocate these same measures – a sign of dark times but also a chance for the Left to occupy the space which, decades ago, was that of moderate Left center.
So what will happen if the Syriza government fails? The consequences will be catastrophic not only for Greece but for Europe itself: the eventual defeat of Syriza will add a new weight to the pessimist insight that the patient work of reforms is doomed to fail, that reformism, not a radical revolution, is the greatest utopia today (as Alberto Toscano put it). In short, it will confirm that we are approaching an era of much more radical violent struggle.