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World Association of International Studies

Post Spain's Podemos and Chavismo
Created by John Eipper on 02/27/15 1:22 PM

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Spain's Podemos and Chavismo (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA, 02/27/15 1:22 pm)

Those WAISers who called our attention to the rise of Chavismo in Spain under the banner of Podemos deserve kudos.

The "Yes, We Can-Sí se puede" people movements must be composed of political illiterates, the naive, and hopeless lumpen who cannot or will not learn from other people's mistakes. In late 1950s early '60s Cuba they were the carne de cañón students and guajiros who believed in Castroism. Most were killed, tortured, jailed, or went into exile. As some WAISer noted, the political climate in Spain feels pre-revolutionary....again:


JE comments:  See, for example, this post from José Ignacio Soler (8 July 2014):


The WSJ article linked above focuses on Juan Carlos Monedero, the Podemos #2 and éminence grise (or not-so-grise) behind leader Pablo Iglesias.  Monedero, a political scientist, spent several years as a consultant for Chávez's government, and reportedly received up to €1.5 million in Venezuelan funding.

Perhaps this is/was all on the up-and-up, but Monedero doesn't put a good face on a party founded on anti-corruption.  The surname ("purse," "moneybag") also sends the wrong message.

I hope we'll learn more about this, from the Spanish and the Venezuelan perspectives.

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  • Spain's Podemos and Chavismo (Tor Guimaraes, USA 02/28/15 3:15 PM)
    ​Francisco Wong-Diaz made a very strong statement on 27 February: "The 'Yes, We Can-Sí se puede' people movements must be composed of political illiterates, the naive, and hopeless lumpen who cannot or will not learn from other people's mistakes. In late 1950s early '60s Cuba they were the carne de cañón students and guajiros who believed in Castroism. Most were killed, tortured, jailed, or went into exile."

    As with most ideological statements, this one requires clarification and perhaps some substance to have any credibility.

    What evidence do we have that these people movements are composed of "political illiterates, the naive, and hopeless lumpen who cannot or will not learn from other people's mistakes"? If in the 1950-60s Cuba most of these idealists were perhaps criminally disposed of, whose fault is that? Most importantly, besides being extremely negative about these people movements, what exactly is Francisco proposing as an alternative ideology, as desirable policy, and productive behavior?

    JE comments: My understanding is that Francisco Wong-Díaz was giving a harsh appraisal of populism of all stripes, especially when it borders on Utopianism.  But I'll second Tor Guimaraes's question:  what are the alternatives?  

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    • Alternatives to Utopian Populism: Christian Democracy (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 03/01/15 4:40 AM)

      In response to Tor Guimaraes (28 February), I would propose the Papal-endorsed Christian Democracy of the 20th Century. It combined social justice, charity, respect for human life and democratic institutions, among other elements.

      JE comments:  Can anyone give us Pope Francis's take on the Syriza and Podemos movements?  They promise social justice and charity, but seem rather antagonistic to the "Christian" aspect.

      WAIS has spent a great deal of effort over the years analyzing every political "ism," but surprisingly, not Christian Democracy.  Perhaps this is because CD is considered the anti-"ism"--mainstream and non-radical, hence uninteresting.  Or not?

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      • Christian Democracy (Roy Domenico, USA 03/01/15 2:20 PM)
        ​Regarding Christian Democracy (see Francisco Wong-Díaz, 1 March): for one reason or another, after World War II academic thought on politics was dominated by liberal/whig views and Marxist views--neither of which understands Christian Democracy. And this despite the triumph of Christian Democracy in much of Western Europe--not to mention Latin America.

        My chief criticism of the late Tony Judt's otherwise very worthwhile book Postwar is that he completely misses or underrates the importance of the Christian Democrats--to the point of seeing the era as a Social Democratic moment. He's oblivious to the fact that all that welfare legislation in Europe which we still see as social democratic, could never have been passed without CD support. In fact much of it was initiated by Christian Democrats. The title of a friend's book sums up some of this--Mario Del Pero's work on the US-Italian alliance after the war, L'Alleato scomodo, "The inconvenient ally."

        JE comments:  Great to hear from Roy Domenico.  I believe Roy has expressed in far more elegant terms the point I tried to make earlier today:  that Christian Democracy politically is the "anti-ism" par excellence.  So much so that it often gets overlooked.

        I'd be interested if WAISer Eugenio Battaglia has read the del Pero book.

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        • Christian Democracy (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/02/15 3:24 PM)
          Roy Domenico in his post of 1 March has given an excellent brief overview Christian Democracy in Europe after WWII.

          I fully agree with Roy's view that the welfare state in several European countries could never have been passed without CD support or even pressure.

          However, we have also to agree that in Italy the welfare state had been a creation, from 1923 to 1944, of Fascism. During the Socializzazione it was much more advanced than what was later achieved by the SD and the CD. At that time the official Church gave its support, as the Social reforms of Mussolini were in a certain way close to the Rerum Novarum (15 May 1891).

          In Italy under the CD and SD the nation actually went backward.

          JE asked if I ever read the Mario del Pero book L'Alleato scomodo, about relations between Italy with its CD government and the US from 1948-1955. Unfortunately I have not.

          Italy has been, one way or another, dominated by the Christian Democrats for 70 years. Actually the new president of the republic--lay, democratic and antifascist--Sergio Mattarella, is a leading CD, but also Matteo Renzi, the Prime Minister and present leader of the Democratic Party (originally the Communist Party) is a former CD.

          The main reason why I worked abroad or on foreign flag vessels was due to the fact that the CD, SD and PC created a system by which, unless you had the affiliation card of one of these parties, you could not find work in Italy.

          There is only one Christian Democratic politician that I greatly admire. He is Giuseppe Pella (1902-1981) prime minister from 17 August 1953 until 18 January 1954. When Tito threatened to occupy Trieste (under American-British administration) and the the local police controlled by British officers killed 6 Italian youths demonstrating for Italy (the last martyrs for the Unity of Italy), Pella sent Italian troops to the Eastern borders and made a strong speech (his words still resonate in my ears) on the radio stating that Trieste was proof of the Italian alliance.

          This was the time in which the lousy Western Allies were ready to sacrifice Italy and Trieste in order to facilitate Tito's split with the USSR.

          In 1975 the CD officially gave, without any compensation, Trieste Zone B to Yugoslavia, always under the pressure of its "friends." This made the communist Yugoslavian dictator happy.

          I may go on with the various faults of the Italian CD but I will not do so now. So returning to the book of Del Pero I may say that frankly instead of wasting time about the CD I prefer to read about Donald Duck. For certain he was stronger, more honest, patriotic and courageous.

          By the way in the past I already stated that in foreign policy you should be loyal to your allies but never their lackeys.

          JE comments: But Eugenio: Donald Duck has been labeled an embodiment of US Imperialism and exploitation.  See Ariel Dorfman's How to Read Donald Duck (Para leer al Pato Donald).


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          • Christian Democracy (Robert Whealey, USA 03/04/15 6:09 AM)

            I used to teach a class on Contemporary Europe from 1945 to the present at the 300 level at Ohio University. (I retired in 2001.)  The class covered five nations for 85-95% of the time. There were occasional questions from the floor about Poland, Hungary, Ireland, Spain and Yugoslavia.

            The big four of the West were Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, plus Eastern Europe's USSR. The Italians approved a liberal constitution in 1946. People had the right to vote for liberals, socialists and the Communist party. The democracy in the CD was corrupted by the Mafia and the Vatican of Pope Pius XII. With the accession of Pope John XXIII, Italian voters became more skeptical of US propaganda during the Cold War. The British and French became more skeptical of the US during the 1956 Suez crisis.

            The Italian voter had many discussions about Euro-Communism and Antonio Gramsci's ideas of Marxism. Somewhere I picked up a joke about the Christian Democrats:

            What is the difference between a liberal Christian and a Christian Democrat? Answer: When the Romans threw early Christians to the lions,
            the lions ate the Christians. When the Romans threw the Christian Democrats to the lions,
            the CDs came back alive.

            Few students laughed.  If any pious Catholics were in the class, they never spoke up.

            JE comments:  I always enjoy a good guffaw, but I never knew the Christian Democrats as being particularly ferocious.  Perhaps they understood how to negotiate with the lions?

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            • Throwing Christian Democrats to the Lions (Paul Preston, -UK 03/04/15 9:53 AM)
              Here's my take on Robert Whealey's joke: It was because the Christian Democrats told the lions that, if they ate them, they would be obliged to give an after-dinner speech.

              JE comments: I am convinced. Far better to skip a meal than to get up in front of a crowd!

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