Why Venezuela isn’t Iran

3 02 2010

Some pundits (Twitter Revolution’s Next Stop – Venezuela) have recently tried to compare the recent upper middle-class mobilizations against the government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to the ones occurring in Iran since last summer’s presidential election. As proof of the `similarities´, the author notes the technological aspects of the mobilization (ie. the tweeting). He furthermore notes that Venezuela is `a population subjugated to ill-planned economics, a strongman unwilling to leave power, and a government ever more keen to restrict its citizen’s right to freedom of speech´.

This is a very superficial analysis of events that can be overturned with a range of empirical evidence. However, I will confine myself to some obvious facts, for instance that the Chavez government hasn’t resorted to executions of opposition members like the Islamic Republican regime in Iran. The `curbed free press´ of Venezuela isn’t actually that curbed. In no other country in the recent years has the ruling class shown its teeth so openly against a popular reformist government, through `Chilean´ methods like assassinations, employer lock-outs and pot-beating upper middle-class housewives. What Western media reports also fail to show are the (even if somehow modest) attempts of Chavez´ government to support the growth of communal radio programmes for example, that are intended to challenge the media monopoly by corporate media.

Let us now turn our heads to Iran: Here, the neoconservative Ahmadinejad regime, elected by the narrow confines of the Velayaat-i-faqih, has followed a policy not unlike the one followed by neoliberal governments throughout the rest of the world: It has privatized enterprises and tried to crush unionized labour by introducing contract labour. At the same time it has tried to cushion the results of its policies by populist measures. In Iran those populist measures are called `free potatoes´, in the US and elsewhere they are called `No more taxes!´ or `charity´.  Chavez was instrumental in forming the UNT trade union federation, the backbone of the Left in the Chavista movement. Ahmadinejad on the other hand, was responsible for the severe crackdown on organizations like the Tehran Bus Drivers´ Union.

So what does bring Venezuela and Iran together? One can and should criticize Chavez´s praises of Ahmadinejad. They have no relation to reality and are based on a completely absurd understanding of the situation. Ironically, they resemble the West’s depiction of Ahmadinejad as an uncompromising `radical´, something that is far from the truth.  Islamic Iran has shown that it is able and willing to cooperate with the US and Israel on a number of issues when this suits its interest (Iran-Iraq war, Afghanistan, Iraq).

But it’s not the similarities of the systems that brought the two countries together. It’s the fact that they are both faced by an American onslaught. The Obama administration has shown its real colours by silently embracing the Honduran coup against Manuel Zelaya, making obvious that it is prepared to follow the same ends in Latin America as the previous Bush administration but with different means. Meanwhile, not a week goes by that doesn’t see the US and Israel unleashing verbal threats of sanctions (the US) and the possibility of an upcoming war in Lebanon (Israel) in order to finish off the Iranian challenge.

One should not forget that the US – or anybody else in the West – isn’t diametrically opposed to the concept of political Islam. Any imperial hegemon fears the concept of resistance the most, irrespective of its colours. To equate Venezuela with Iran is false. It implies that the Islamic regime is a consistent anti-hegemonic regime that empowers organized labour, supports (even if sometimes not decisively) forms of democratic self-organization, while enjoying genuine popular support among the mass of people.

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2 responses

3 02 2010
reason

The similarity and the only criteria that always counts is the people’s freedom of speech and human rights and justice. When this is suppressed and leaders start curbing these to hold on to power instead of listening and talking to the opposition, and/or alternating power as in real democracies, you then have a dictatorship, and the vicious circle of violent repression, protests, foreign interference. Whether the regime is left or right, it’s the same.

Never has any communist or extreme right /religious regime allowed freedom of speech and real justice. History is clear. They are not compatible.

3 02 2010
A Response: Why Venezuela Isn’t Iran | Enduring America

[…] folks at The Flying Carpet Institute respond to Josh Shahryar’s article, “Venezuela: Twitter Revolution’s Next […]

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