What I’m getting at is that Opposition politicos seem to have a warped understanding of what a political party is.
A political party is supposed to be an institutional mechanism that alligns and coordinates the political activities of broad sectors of society sharing a basic vision even if, unsurprisingly, its members disagree on various points.
In order to aggregate their strengths, party members come to understand that they have to accept a measure of discipline, a broad commitment to cooperate, to sing from a single hymn sheet even if they might each quibble with some of the notes. This doesn’t mean that they contract-out their judgment to party leaders, or that they stop discussing their disagreements. It means that they agree to process their disagreements through an institutional mechanism that prevents their petty disputes from impairing their collective ability to act effectively in the broader political sphere.
For these reasons, in most Western countries politicians understand that for a political party to be at all effective, it needs to be broad. Ken Livingstone can share a political party with Tony Blair, Dennis Kucinich with Joe Lieberman, and Felipe Gonzalez with Rodriguez Zapatero.
Does that mean they stop disagreeing? No. It means that they understand that, on balance, their agreements outweigh their disagreements and that the benefits, in terms of political effectiveness, they get from processing their disagreements inside a single organization outweigh the costs of fragmentation.
This line of reasoning just doesn’t seem to occur to the Venezuelan Opposition, where parties proliferate not because their leaders disagree on anything substantial, but simply because each would rather be a bigger fish in a smaller pond than a smaller fish in a bigger pond.
The costs of this attitude, in terms of disorganization, disaggregation, mixed messages, wasteful bickering, intra-coalition competition and overall incoherence barely figure in their calculation. So parties proliferate ad infinitum, with a cacique-to-indio ratio that increases exponentially until none of the parties is able to be at all effective…or even to exist, in any meaningful sense, beyond the confines of a TV studio.
It’s hardly surprising that a political opposition “organized” in this way can’t lead the anti-Chavez movement, and ends up, instead, reacting to waves of opinion it can’t control.
My point in raising these questions – especially the last one – is that Chavez is a big, big problem – so big, in fact, that the obsessive concern with attacking his government stiffles debate on a series of lesser, but still very important problems – like the little matter of the self-defeating fragmentation of opposition parties. It’s always more comfortable for an Antonio Ledezma or a Cesar Perez Vivas to rant against Chavez than to question the crazy structure of the opposition.
So they don’t. And we don’t. And so we’re ineffective…in great part, because we can’t be bothered to sort out a political organization within the anti-Chavez camp that might make us effective.
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