Kristallnacht?

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I know, I know. Godwin’s Law means I am probably disqualified from being taken seriously.

But honestly. With the National Assembly ready to give Chávez powers to rule by decree for at least a year; ready to censor the Internet; and ready to pass six other laws; with rumors that the government has moved against my favorite news aggregator … well, I’m not feeling so hot about how Venezuela is going to awaken tomorrow.

Are things not as bad as they appear? Is this the point of no return? Have the long knives finally unsheathed?

Reports from the ground are greatly appreciated.

1 COMMENT

  1. You are not wrong on suspecting such things

    The government is moving AGGRESIVELY against its enemies, vease: el pueblo

    All those laws being passed at ludicrous speed AND the habilitante is just around the corner

    Certainly, this is a kristallnacht for democracy in Venezuela, in the course of one week we have gone to the dephts of cuba and north korea (just because china isnt as miserable as the last two, but still).

    I strongly advise to get info on the following topics regarding to how to overcome internet censorship:

    Tor (The Onion Router Anonymity Network)
    Freenet
    Torfox
    OperaTor
    Liberte Linux

    So far, it’s the best Ive come across on the web, feel free to contribute (while we still can).

    For any non tech savvy, torfox and operator are web browsers just like mozilla firefox or opera, but with privacy enhanced thru the use of the Tor network, which is a descentralized network of computers in which every pc acts as a node and the information goes from the source node to the destination node by passing thru a random arrangement of nodes, making tracing and blocking much more difficult (but possible, nonetheless).

    I knew this (the mad rush to get stuff done before january) would happen, and pretty much everyone knew, we’re just shocked because it actually happened… Ive told it before in this blog, but my biggest concern is how is this going to be solved, because all signs point to a bloodshed… I hope Im wrong (and that the end is near!)

  2. People have become almost numb about these issues. 10 years of dismantling democratic institutions one insult at a time are bearing fruit.

    Now, those who are directly affected by these measures are really, really worried. And with excellent reason. I just finished talking to a friend who teaches at a public, on-the-verge-of-losing-its-autonomy state university, and he is dismayed and ‘ready for a rough ride’ (i.e. the possibility of losing his job). The new Law apparently puts universities directly under the thumb of the Ministry of Higher Education, and we all know what this means.

  3. Well, Kristallnacht is a very bad analogy. Check out what happened then.
    It was a brutal attack against Jewish citizens.
    Yesterday was more like “Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich” or 1933 Enabling Act

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enabling_Act_of_1933

    I wrote you once: even if I have been very cautious about comparing Venezuela with “back then”, comparing anything at all. We know how people start using the Hitler analogy.
    Still, it is true one can and should recognize certain patterns, patterns that should warn people a threshold has been traspassed or the country is going in the bad direction.

    – the stupid party fragmentation “as back then” (several “liberal parties”, “social democratic” parties, worker’s parties, etc, against one) and the way the coupster was so aware of this and used this to get to power
    – the hatred speeches talking about “ira del pueblo” (Volkszorn http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Goebbels), lots of very common vocabulary
    – the pathetic personality cult
    – and replacing the overt personality speech, the new speech adding “socialista” to any noun with positive connotations and the permanent insults towards the “extreme X”

    Unfortunately, Venezuelans on average have zero knowledge of history. They are condemned to repeating a lot of the most stupid errors of everybody else, even if what they get won’t ever be “comunismo como X” or “nazismo como Y”, but just their special sort of rubbish.

  4. The whole thing is revolting. But I still don’t understand whether a 12-month Habilitante is actually inconstitutional. Is the government exploiting a loophole, or are they just walking over the sacred librito all over again? And if so, like Petkoff said yesterday speaking for the opposition, “are we going to do nothing”?

    Among the many infamies of last night’s AN session, I need to point out the abstention of PPT deputies. Somebody explain me what difference does it make to abstain or to vote against? In the current political climate, these guys must know Chavez can’t tell the difference! So why not take a stand (as opposed to half a stand) and vote against? From where I am, Albornoz just comes across as spineless.

    • The question on the constitutionality of the Enabling Law is a bit like raking over the fine print of the Indianapolis traffic code to figure out if car’s going between 50 mph and 75 mph on the way to a pit stop in the Indy500 are or are not in violation of speed limit laws! So many angels…so many heads of pins…let the dance music start!

      As for PPT, at times I almost feel for them. Psicósis para todos, chamín…

    • Of course it’s Constitutional! Our Constitution allows the President to govern by decree whenever the seals in the AN give him permission.

      But nooooo…. there is absolutely no need for a Constitutional Assembly!

    • La constitución es lo de menos. The day you explain to me how a Constituent Assembly can re-write the real constitution – the one all Venezuelan politicos carry imprinted on their hearts – is the day I’ll buy it.

    • Como va a ser lo de menos? How about a Constitution expressly forbidding the use of Enabling Laws…?

      I know what the problem is. If there’s a Constitutional Assembly, you’ll have to blog about it, and dang it, you just don’t want to!

  5. If he’s going to get the Ley Habilitante why does he need to pass the other laws in such a rush too? It seems to me he’s only aiming to get one or two of the laws passed but will let the others under discussion disperse international/domestic attention, as he’s done so many times before.

  6. No, Godwin’s Law does not apply here. If you are a serious historian or political philosopher how can you ignore the ethics of such an obvious set of facts? Godwin’s Law seems to be a reaction to the hyper saturation of Holocaust-themed discourses in the popular media; but it should not block the realities of a “legal” putsch like the one going on in Venezuela.

    • since i am still awaiting for my comment to be approved that was my point of my post, no godwin’s law were broken just a historical reference based on similar facts about a process not a personality…

    • I’m also waiting for my comment to be authorized. I do think the analogy is with something that preceded the Kristallnacht, quite different thing from the same people: the Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich or Law to Remedy the Need of the People and the Reich, aka as Ermächtigungsgesetz or THE Enabling Law. It was that law that allowed the whole rest.
      Now, the blokes from the Patria Para Todos seem to me like the guys from the Centre Party.
      Please, read the Enabling Act of 1933 article in Wikipedia, specially “Passing of the Enabling Act”

  7. Let’s be clear: A 12-month enabling law in these circumstances, for any other reasons that those strictly related to dealing with the floods, is unconstitutional. Although the Constitution does not place any literal time boundaries on enabling laws, there are other constitutional criteria that an enabling law should comply with that are found elsewhere in the text. Now, will the TSJ prevent the National Assembly for giving Chavez the law he wants? Probably not?

    On the other hand, even in today’s Venezuela with its limited rule of law, institutions matter, and the formal Constitution still matters. There are other concurrent informal regularities that also inform and condition governmental action, some of them part of our ‘material’ Constitution, but this does not mean that the formal Constitution does not matter at all.

    • Exactly Colombia just asked for powers to expropriate land. HOWEVER! the communique also says it is only during the time needed to render humane assistance to those “damnificados” after which time everything reverts to the constitutional order…..
      CH on the other hand just wants to reinvent the whole country using that excuse to get ALL the laws enacted that were rejected during the referendum and then some!

      Enabling Laws granted by the AN end when their term expires and the New AN gets formed in Jan 2011 so the travesty of making it last up to 2 years as suggested by Iris Varela just flies in the face…

      CH on the other hand just wants to reinvent the whole country using that excuse to get ALL the laws enacted that were rejected during the referendum and then some!

      It’s like giving the keys to your house to the neighbor when you go away for awhile, only to find out when you return, the bastard has re-mortgaged the property and wants to build an addition for himself!

  8. Yes, Chavez is becoming more authoritarian, and probably at an accelerating pace. However, he’s still a long, long way from Naziism or any sort of fascism.

    These wild, exaggerated comparisons to the very worst chapters of world history are what have discredited the Venezuelan opposition in the past and give the chavistas an easy response: just Look at Globovision and El Nacional and Primero Justicia!

    • The comparison to Nazism as a whole and the comparison of humane suffering is wrong and in this also very ridiculous.

      The comparison of methods and patterns of behaviour is not.

    • Even Hitler did not achieve ultimate power overnight. It was a slow, but inevitable process. There are a lot of parallels. And I would say that Chavez’s personal leadership style and psychology most closely resembles Benito Mussolini, a Fascist.

      Mike, I live here. I don’t find these comparisons at all alarmist. The tone of your statement above might well have been that of PM Neville Chamberlain in 1933. The only serious difference is that, of course, Venezuela does not have nor will have the industrial and military might to threaten the world with. That makes the world’s complacency less dangerous.

      Nevertheless, Chavez is not the harmless clown that he is often portrayed as. He is doing considerable damage to the region and to Venezuela in particular. The Opposition press is remarkable restrained in comparison to the threat that he represents.

  9. Another fundamental difference between the two regimes, at least to my knowledge, is that the Nazis didn’t nationalize private industry.

    I also don’t think that Hitler was into citizen participation in decisionmaking. And, he made allies of the Catholic Church, at least at the start. I also don’t recall him holding meetings with Jewish leaders.

    All of which is to say that the two phenomena are very different.

    • Mike,

      Adolf had light blue eyes and a mustache. Hugo does not.
      Venezuelans are almost all – at least if their ancestors have more than 2 generations in the country – an ethnically very varied lot, much more than any European. Germans were skilled. Most Venezuelans are unskilled workers. And so on. Nazism had a strong racist component. This is not the point.
      We are talking about methods.
      Economically speaking Nazism was a completely different fish: condemning both capitalism AND communism, for instance. There were expropriations, though. Whereas Nazism first got the support of the Catholic Centre Party, Chavismo got support of PPT, which is a completely different story. But
      there are other things: eternal threat from abroad, Chauvinism, rejection of any debate, changing the rules of the game at the national assembly, the permanent “ira del pueblo” (Volkszorn), etc.
      So: whereas nazism is completely different, the methods of procedure for
      extremist currents of any kind are very similar and we should learn how to recognize where those methods are heading. That does not mean they will head towards what people got in WW2 (no way), but they will lead to a complete dictatorship.

    • I didn’t mean to suggest that Chavez is not a dangerous guy, either to his people or to his neighbors. I lived in Venezuela for three Chavez years and couldn’t stand it – primarily because of the societal disfunctions – the corruption, the lack of trash collection, the pollution, the disaster areas that were the public parks and hospitals, etc etc.

      And, of course, his repression of independent media and the political opposition is disastrous for his country. But he’s still a far cry from a Hitler.

      You can see my take on Chavez on my blog.
      http://mikesbogotablog.blogspot.com/2010/12/venezuelas-worrying-weapons.html

  10. Certainly, there are parallels as well as differences. But this blog post is labeled ‘Krystalnacht’, which certainly suggests to me similarity which do not exist.

    Mike

    • That I can totally agree with. Unfortunately, the comment I put was censored by Herr Nagel’s Reichszensurkommission. The parallel is more with the 1933 Enabling Law. As I said, one can only compare certain patterns, methods, basic features of human quality.

  11. The problem is with Herr Uña’s lazy lazy headline. A quick glance at the Wikipedia entry for Kristallnacht brings back stuff like:

    Ninety-one Jews were killed, and 30,000 Jewish men—a quarter of all Jewish men in Germany—were taken to concentration camps, where they were tortured for months, with over 1,000 of them dying.[2] Around 1,668 synagogues were ransacked, and 267 set on fire. In Vienna alone 95 synagogues or houses of prayer were destroyed…

    The point of Godwin’s Law is to underline that most Nazi analogies are deliriously overstated – amounting to unintended hyperbole. In that sense, Herr Uña did Godwin himself, in that equating Desirée Santos Amaral blabbing nonsense in congress to a pogrom leading to systematic torture and mass murder amounts to…deliriously overstated hyperbole.

    • I don’t really give a rat’s ass about Godwin, it’s Hitler’s victims I’m concerned about. I think we have a duty of care towards the memory of the victims of Kristallnacht. And when you invoke that event a la ligera, to qualify a merely dictatorial act, you banalize their suffering.

    • Would it have been better if the title were something like, “Is Kristallnacht Coming?”? This event is clearly not the equivalent of a massacre, but that massacre was led to – enabled, if you will – by the Enabling Act. It wasn’t the only possible end after that event, but it seems impossible to argue that such tragedies could have taken place without it.

      Venezuela is at a crossroads, and one conceivable road it could take would lead to something similar. It’s not the only one, but raising the question seems completely legitimate to me.

    • AIO,

      No, it is not. We won’t have a Kristallnacht. That was a unique event. But the procedure of the Enabling Law does have a parallel and it can lead to a lot of destruction for Venezuela, but never to Kristallnacht.

    • Roy’s Corollary to Godwin’s Law:

      At any time references to Nazism, Hitler, or the Holocaust are introduced into a blog discussion, references to discussion of Godwin’s Law will follow and will further lead the discussion away from the original subject, no matter how apt or pertinent are the original analogies or comparisons.

      ———————————–

      I would also note that one should not be considered or labeled “Paranoid” if they really ARE out to get you!

  12. There are other differences: Just a few years after reaching power, Hitler had amassed almost absolute power in the country, and I suppose he’d also supressed nearly all opposition media.

    In contrast, Chavez has held power for more than a decade and a political opposition and hostile media still exist. Of course, the opposition is being restricted, but it’s still a far cry from the Nazi saga.

    I think that one issue with authoritarian leaders is to what degree they’re driven by hunger for power and to what degree by fear or paranoia of the opposition. And then, to what degree the nation’s institutions or their own values limit their actions.

    Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe evidently wanted power and Wikileaks revealed his paranoia about Chavez and leftism. But in the end he stepped down when the court told him to.

    • The other thing is that a leader is not really “a” leader on his own. He needs the “right” (or wrong) people. He needs the legions of low key supporters but also the guys like the PSUV honchos. What moves them? How many are purely thieves? How many also have some ideological thought? And where do we detect people that may have a bit of decency and were just utterly naive? How many of them can we get to speak out?

    • It’s very rare for people to dissent, especially in a military-structured society, and as long as they’re benefiting from the system, no matter how soon that’s gonna end.

      What did Winston Churchill call the Nazi-era Germans? ‘Carnivorous sheep.’

      Probably about eight years ago I interviewed some Venezuelans demonstrating against Chavez. ‘This is a fascist government!’ they declared.

      ‘If this were fascism,’ I replied, ‘you wouldn’t be demonstrating here.’

      In that sense, things haven’t changed fundamentally, just in degree.

      Mike

  13. The parallel with the Nazi Enabling Law isn’t precise, either. When Hitler basically anulled parliament his power was clearly on the rise, whereas Chavez’s appears to be flagging. This suggests to me that Hitler’s move resulted from hunger for power, whereas Chavez’s is more from desperation to hold the pendulum from swinging back.

    Another note on Venezuela.

    venezuela’s worrying weapons

    http://mikesbogotablog.blogspot.com/2010/12/venezuelas-worrying-weapons.html

  14. Count me in as a thorough and complete supporter of the Enabling Law. The opposition movement in Venezuela is capitalistic, oligarchic, antisocial, and nihilistic, and their antihuman ideology must not be allowed to influence the trajectory of the nation.

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