[OPE-L] Hugo Chavez, "Capitalism is the road to hell"

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Thu Sep 21 2006 - 08:28:26 EDT

Standing in front of a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, President
Hugo Chavez told a forum yesterday at Cooper Union, in the East 
Village of Manhattan,  that "capitalism is the road to hell".

The forum occurred the evening of his historic speech before
the General Assembly of the United Nations.  That speech was
widely reported on in New York City: WCBS News compared
it to Khrushchev's shoe-tapping speech before the United Nations.
That was the speech in which he said that "the Devil"  (George
W. Bush) was in the same room the day before and in which 
delegates from around the world gave him an enthusiastic 
standing ovation.  He also referred in the Forum to Bush in a 
similar vein -- noting that where Bush went  there were also what
Chavez called  "whiffs of sulfur" near him (he must have liked that 
metaphor because it was repeated a few times -- much to the pleasure 
of the audience).

In the packed-to-capacity forum in the Auditorium at Cooper
Union (a liberal arts college), he explained that because capitalism 
was "privatizing everything" and waging and reproducing global
poverty, it represented the "kingdom of inequality" and the
"kingdom of injustice."

Chavez went on to claim that capitalism represented a threat
to the survival of the species.  In this regard, he cited Noam 
Chomsky's "great book", _Hegemony or Survival?_.   "Capitalism
destroys everything", Chavez said.   In opposition to that "destructive
model",  the Bolivarians in Venezuela have "raised our flags for 

He spoke briefly of  "21st Century Socialism"  and claimed that
in Latin America it would be based on  Christian spirituality  but would 
also in Venezuela embrace "African  socialism" and "Caribbean 

His speech had an unambiguous anti-imperialist and internationalist 
content.  He spoke with passion against  the US-led  occupation of Iraq 
and the recent Israeli war against Lebanon.  He talked about the
assault on Fallujah by the US military -- an assault in which he claimed
chemical and biological weapons were used.  When he then said with 
emotion in his voice that "the President of the United States must be
charged with genocide" he practically brought the house down with a
thunderous standing ovation.

He spent a lot of the talk discussing two topics. The first was education.
He spoke with pride about the recent successes with spreading 
education throughout Venezuela.  While the UN recommended that
nations spend about 7% of GDP on education, about 10% of GDP
was being spent on education in Venezuela.  But, he went on to 
explain how GDP under-values education.  He emphasized the spread 
of educational initiatives for groups ranging in age from toddlers to
the elderly.  Venezuela, he said, "has turned into a Cooper Union"
(i.e. a site of higher educational learning):  "More than 60% of the
[Venezuelan] population is studying", he proudly said.

The other message delivered at length was an address to the people of
the United States.  It was an explanation of how his remarks were not 
"anti-American" but were in opposition to the current _government_ of
the United States. He spoke about the US with some knowledge of its
traditions and folklores  and explained that you can respect and love the 
people of a nation even while condemning its government. Abraham 
Lincoln and Mark Twain were held up as models to the US people.
"Continue with Abraham Lincoln's thoughts", he said.  He also urged
everyone to read Mark Twain's books and quoted from an impassioned
anti-imperialist message which Twain had penned.  Harry Bellefonte, who
introduced Chavez and is almost 80-years-old, was held up as a model
for US citizens as was "superwoman", Angela Davis.  I was not happy,
though,  with his model for a future US president -- Jimmy Carter (neither,
apparently, was most of the audience who simply reacted politely to that
part of the talk).  He should have stuck to lauding Lincoln.

Fidel Castro was 'in the house' at least in spirit.  Chavez spoke about 
his health and his recent meeting with him.  When his name was mentioned,
the crowd of New Yorkers chanted "Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!".  Chavez said
that one reason he was making more international appearances was to fill in 
for the breach for Castro.  He had told Castro to rest and get better and that
the world needed him to live.  "Who said I was going to die?", Castro 
retorted.  One did get the sense of listening to a person who realized that
he had an important historical role to play now in the world and that he
thought he was following in the footsteps of Fidel and other revolutionaries
before him. One of those revolutionaries who Chavez identified with, Francisco
de Miranda, was especially singled out for honor last night.  Miranda
had a long and colorful revolutionary career, including being a fighter in the
War of Independence by the 13 colonies against the British empire.

Although everyone had to go through a metal detector and bags were 
inspected by officers of the NYPD (a small pair of scissors were
confiscated and I was asked to drink from a container of water from 
my backpack: obviously, the officer suspected poison or acid or ....)
my only criticism of the event was the security.  While there were
security guards surrounding Chavez and spaced throughout the
auditorium, it was just too easy in my opinion to get a ticket: many
(including myself) were able to simply show up before the event 
started and get a ticket to attend simply by showing a picture 
identification card (which was then recorded) and by looking the
woman giving out tickets directly in the eyes and saying "Long live
Hugo Chavez! [she stared into my eyes, though, before handing me
the ticket].  While I was a beneficiary of this, I believe that Chavez
just has too many enemies for such a lax security policy.

The speech -- which like his speech before the UN was not prepared in 
advance -- was not one of Chavez's greatest pieces of oratory. At times
it was rambling and repetitive. The reason for this, though, became 
apparent from his description of his schedule that day.  The speech 
ended well after 11 PM.  I wonder how he has the energy to do this day 
after day.  He clearly has a lot of  energy, enthusiasm, and endurance.  
Most of all, you could sense the  commitment that he has to a social cause 
and the awareness of the important and historic role that he must play in a 
global anti-capitalist movement.  It was obvious, from his interaction with
the crowd, that he was buoyed by his audience.  But, really, he needs to 
follow his own advice to Fidel and slow down.  I doubt if he will, though.  
He is on a mission and he has a message which he wants the world to hear.

Viva Hugo Chavez!

In solidarity, Jerry

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