Views in brief

January 18, 2008

The truth about Chávez and RCTV

WHEN I first read Michael Brenyo's letter disputing Lee Sustar's characterization of Hugo Chávez, I thought I had accidentally picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal instead of Socialist Worker ("Stop apologizing for Chávez," January 11).

Indeed, between Brenyo's hue and cry over Chávez's now-defeated constitutional reforms and his allegations that Chávez is suppressing free speech by declining to renew RCTV's broadcasting license, there is little to differentiate Brenyo's letter from the depressingly predictable editorials in the Journal decrying Chávez as an unreconstructed authoritarian.

When leftist critiques of Chávez start echoing the histrionic babblings of the ruling-class press, it's time to reconsider the bases of those critiques.

Since the constitutional reforms were democratically defeated, I don't think there's much point in dwelling on them. However, Brenyo's characterization of the RCTV incident is worth disputing.

First of all, it's a gross mischaracterization to say that the station has been "shut down." That would be a more accurate description of how the United States deals with dissident media such as Al-Jazeera in Iraq. Indeed, RCTV still operates in Venezuela. Its license to broadcast on a public radio frequency has been revoked.

While Brenyo issues pious bromides about the need to allow an opposition its voice (as if that were ever the issue), he is remarkably silent on both the extent to which ordinary Venezuelans have had their voices silenced by various reactionary regimes and the ways in which Chávez has expanded the openness of the Venezuelan media in ways unprecedented in the country's history.

One of the ways Chávez has expanded the media's accessibility was by taking the frequency formerly held by RCTV and handing it over to independent media producers. Ordinary Venezuelans can now have their voices broadcast on the radio frequency formerly held by a station which tried to mount a coup against the popularly elected government.

There's plenty more to say about RCTV's involvement in the coup attempt of 2002, but I think it's clear that far from representing a rollback of democracy in Venezuela, the revocation of RCTV's broadcast license was both a defense of a massively popular government against a reactionary coup movement and a step towards the democratization of the Venezuelan media.
Paul Heideman, Madison, Wis.

The impact of welfare "reform"

THANKS TO Elizabeth Schulte for covering one of the many undue burdens placed on the shoulders of single parents, the vast majority of them mothers, in this country ("When the Constitution doesn't apply," December 7).

As I'm sure the author is aware, there have been hundreds of punitive regulations aimed at welfare recipients since President Clinton signed the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Authorization Act in 1996.

Steeped in centuries-old racist, sexist, anti-working class ideologies, TANF and the Personal Responsibility Act restricted the numbers of single parents who can apply for assistance; enacted family caps which financially punish mothers who have more children while in the program; forced recipients to work at "approved" minimum-wage, dead-end jobs to fulfill "welfare to work" requirements; and began the tradition of pulling teenage mothers out of school to work or attend such government classes as abstinence-only sex education and marriage promotion.

Federally, female applicants are required to name the biological father, which leads to either a manhunt that the "child support" money usually funds or forces women back into abusive relationships.

Welfare policy is not an isolated example of arbitrary cruelty; it is a tool of the ruling class, used to enforce oppressive ideologies and maintain the status quo of capitalism.
Adriane, San Diego

Tom Hayden's real message

I HAD the misfortune of reading Sharon Smith's article about Tom Hayden's Nation magazine piece "How the Peace Movement Can Win" before reading his article itself ("The pro-war Democrats' antiwar enablers," December 7).

I trust Socialist Worker as a publication that exposes the faulty "lesser evilism" of the Democratic Party. Since, however, I have just started reading your paper, Smith's article being one of the first, I'm not sure how much I can trust it.

Being an avid reader of The Nation for over two years, I rushed to page 11 to read Hayden's article, expecting to read the "anything-but-a-Republican" rhetoric Smith portrayed. I was pleased with Hayden and surprised at SW after reading all three pages.

Hayden never once says anything about electing a Democrat at any cost. In fact, he says quite the opposite: "Rather than merely pounding away at a simplistic message--Republicans dangerous, Democrats better--such [a get-out-the vote] effort would require, as a foundation, resources to educate voters and involve them in house meetings."

Hayden does not encourage readers to vote for any candidate--Democrat, Republican, pro-war, antiwar, compromised, steadfast or otherwise. (It is interesting to note that the article after Hayden's, by Ari Berman, is extremely critical of the waffling Democrats and features an illustration of a dove taking a dump on a donkey).

Granted, Hayden is naive for thinking than today's weak antiwar movement can end the war by participating in the electoral process. SW, however, did not have to fabricate an argument someone did not make in order to show that they are mistaken.
Anonymous, from the Internet

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