Fighting poverty by keeping people poor

EdoWhen Hugo Chávez was alive, sometimes, in his rare bouts of sanity, he made it sound as if the Revolution really had good intentions. “Socialism”, he would say, “is also for the middle class. This Revolution is for you!” (Note: Check out this video – in Spanish – for a reminder of the rhetorical brilliance of Chávez)

But it seems as though his heirs want nothing to do with middle-class values. During the presentation of the aptly called “Campaign to Fight Extreme Poverty”, Education Minister Héctor Rodríguez said this:

“…It’s not like we (the government) are gonna take the people out of poverty so they become middle class and then turn into escuálidos (term used by Chavistas to call opposition supporters)”.

He also said that poverty “…is very complex and difficult to measure”. So, that old argument about how the social missions defeated extreme poverty in Venezuela doesn’t quite fly, isn’t it?

Don’t be surprised if Mr. Rodríguez now pulls out a Vielma Mora: Saying that the words he previously said don’t really mean that at all. I give him no more than a day or two tops. Depending on the breaks…

The outburst by Rodríguez points to a radical contradiction inside chavismo: the idea that you can foster a communist society by giving away free stuff. The insane notion that people will grow to love communism through free washers, subsidized trips abroad, and free gas is self-defeating, because marxism is based on the notion that the material aspirations one typically associates with middle-class values are bourgeois, anathema to the “new man” they claim to want to create.

Only a rhetorical magician like Hugo Chávez could maintain the illusion that, yes, socialism meant improving your material standard of living. Without him to tame his minions into message discipline, the truth is going to spill out from time to time.

NOTE: For more on this topic, check out Willy McKey’s piece in Prodavinci, en español…

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