Today Hackney, Tomorrow South America
Last night was a shorter-than-usual General Committee meeting of the Hackney North CLP - the heat meant there was a cross-factional consensus that the Rose & Crown and cold beer were more attractive than letting the meeting drag on. However, the truncated meeting heard from a really good outside speaker. We were supposed to be getting Jeremy Corbyn but apparently he is overseeing the conduct of the first democratic elections in the Congo (?) so he sent as substitute Dr Franscico Dominguez, lecturer in Latin American Studies at Middlesex University (http://www.mdx.ac.uk/subjects/lts/staff/dominguez.htm)
Dr Dominguez basically gave us a brain dump of the political history of Latin America from the Pinochet coup which saw him flee his native Chile, through the neo-liberalism of the '80s and '90s to the current resurgence of the left. Inevitably the focus was on Hugo Chavez and the role Venezuela is playing in the region.
Any CLP that is looking for a really interesting, indeed inspiring, speaker on a region that back in the heyday of the Nicaragua and Chile Solidarity Campaigns Labour was a lot more engaged with, really ought to invite Dr Dominguez to speak.
Whilst the social achievements of Chavez which he outlined are fantastic, I was still left uneasy about whether what is going on in Venezuela really fits into the democratic socialist tradition. I'm more than a bit queasy about Chavez' propensity for military uniforms, his history as a coup leader, his cosying up with geriatric communist dictator Castro and Byelorrusian tyrant Lukashenko, the anti-American rhetoric and the purchase of £1.6bn of Russian arms and the rights to licensed production of AK47 rifles(http://www.guardian.co.uk/venezuela/story/0,,1832194,00.html). Will we get a statement from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade about that one? Nah ... probably not.
It's a shame that the left of the Labour Party seem to be lionising the ambiguous politics of Chavez rather than Chile, where a centre-left government is making great economic and social strides without Chavez' petro-dollars to fund it or his mateyness with dictators.