Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hugo Chavez and the Socialist Biscuit Factory

Live blogging Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's speech to the General Assembly!

3:10 - Chavez arrives at the podium with a very large book. Last time, it was Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival." What is it this time? The Bible? Webster's English Dictionary?

3:12 - Chavez explains how last night he went to see Oliver Stone's new movie "South of the Border," which featured himself. And a lot of his friends. He recommends that we all should see it.

3:15 - The leaders are filing in late, so Chavez stalls for time. "Ah, President of Gambia just showed up to see my speech. I'll let him put his earpiece on. Viva Africa! Don't worry, I'm not going to speak any long than Gaddafi. Gaddafi has said everything there has been to say. But I'm not going to speak any less than Obama. Or Lula."

3:19 - "Oliver Stone told me that pressures have been put against the release of his movie. What are they afraid of? It's just a movie." No word on Chavez's shutting down of opposition radio stations in Venezuela.

3:22 - "I see the light is still green," he says, looking at the podium to check how much time he has left. He looks at his watch. "It's only been two minutes!" Actually, it's been 13.

3:23 - "Some workers told me their biscuit factory had shut down and they said, why don't you buy our biscuit factory. Maybe I will, if Obama gives me permission, and then it would be a socialist biscuit factory." Chavez claims there was no socialism in the Soviet Union, and that the USSR "lost its way early on."

3:24 - Invokes Einstein. "Einstein convinced the American president to build the atomic bomb before the Nazis. Later he regretted what he'd done when he saw Hiroshima and Nagasaki. ... But after all the studying he had done, he was a great scientist ... he wrote, why socialism? And he came to the conclusion that the only way for the human species to live on this planet is socialism. Capitalism is the road to ruin." Um, is this true?

3:26 - And now a journey into natural history. Life began 3 billion years ago at least, "but we've only been here for 150,000 years and we're going to wipe our life on this planet? ... It's only through socialism that we can bring about change. The revolution in Latin America has it all.

3:28 - Oh dear, another world leader invokes JFK's death. "I hope God protects Obama from the bullets that took JFK's life."

3:29 - Callback! Back in 2005, Chavez said it smells of sulfur at the podium because Bush "el Diablo" had spoken there a day earlier. But now? "It doesn't smell of sulfur here anymore. It's gone. ... It smells of something else. It smells of hope." Fox News is going to have a field day with this.

3:30 - Jack Kennedy apparently said "Those who close the door to a peaceful revolution open the door to a violent revolution." Chavez tells us to look it up on the internet. "You can find everything there nowadays." 21 minutes and counting for Hugo.

3:32 - "Please don't anybody show me a shoe," says Chavez, apologizing for a lack of notes. At this point, the translator cracks up for the first time. "If you're going to have a shoe please throw me one of those rubber shoes."

3:35 - Here we go. Onto the Honduras crisis. Chavez claims that only the Israelis have recognized the coup government. Chavez likens the coup government to "old dark magicians." That's right: Roberto Micheletti is... Voldemort.

3:36 - First invocation of Lenin. Oh dear.

3:38 - Chavez book club time. "Yesterday I was reading a book by Juan Bosch, the Dominican who was overthrown by the Empire, called Pentagonism." Chavez claims the Pentagon wants to run the world and not recognize Obama, and wants to recognize the Micheletti regime. If by "pentagon" Chavez means "Wall Street Journal," then he might have a point.

3:40 - "Is there one Obama or are there two? The world is hoping that the Obama who spoke here is the only Obama and that he prevails."

3:41 - First invocation of Che. Claims this revolution is different. "It's a peaceful revolution. It's a democratic revolution. Please do not fear democracy. I'm paraphrasing Noam Chomsky, on a book I read just now when I was visiting my friend the King of Spain in Madrid. ... I said, I'll go to the summit if you don't tell me to shut up, and he said 'I won't.' Actually, we're good friends, the King and I."

3:43 - "Imperialism has to end! At times I wonder. I was asking Lula, my friend Lula, what would Latin America be like today if the Americans had not imposed their model with firepower and blood." Yes, I'm sure we've all wondered this.

3:44 - On to the Cuban Embargo. "Obama, lift the blockade! Be consistent! Or are there two Obamas? ... Which Obama am I speaking to?" Actually, neither. Obama decamped for Pittsburgh a couple hours ago.

3:48 - On nonproliferation: "Kindly destroy all the nuclear weapons you have," Chavez suggests cheerfully. "Go ahead."

3:49 - Calls for peace in Colombia. That's nice. "Is it peace Obama is hoping to find with seven military bases in Colombia? It is a threat."

3:56 - Global warming now. Global warming is "because of overconsumption," explains Chavez. The solution, obviously, is socialism, because socialists don't consume anything. 37 minutes and counting for Chavez's speech. Announces he will analyze in detail the Stieglitz report on the financial crisis, prompting groans from the press room.

4:00 - "We're in favor of socialism, but let's discuss it." Must we? "Obama, come over to the socialist side! Come join the axis of evil here and we'll build a real economy on the service of the people. Capitalism is just for a small number. It excludes the majority. It eats up the life. I think I've spoken for 10 minutes now." Try 50.

4:02 - Another book recommendation. This time it's "Beyond Capital: Toward a Theory of Transition" by István Mészáros. Turns out, that was the huge tome El Presidente had brought with him. Chavez calls it "one of the great works of the 21st century." Mészáros, he says, quotes "another great person, Karl Marx. He was the Einstein of politics. Oh yes, he was demonized, but he's right about so many things."

4:05 - Invokes Jesus, who said "my kingdom is not of this world." Um... how does this fit into dialectic materialism?

4:06 - He sings the last part, from a song by a revolutionary singer. "Let's be a tiny bit better and a tiny bit less selfish," sings Chavez, who reveals himself to have a deep and resonant baritone. And with that, he's done! 56 minutes. Well done.

Foreign Policy blog is also in on the act.

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