Youth in revolt


This video by the young Guatemalan leader Gloria Álvarez is better than anything I’ve heard from many of our so-called leaders in quite a while. Unlike most, Ms. Álvarez takes the battle for ideas head on.

Ms. Álvarez makes an impassioned plea for the use of technology to spread republican ideas and values that can counter populism. I don’t know if she’s fighting a losing battle or not, but it’s a battle worth fighting.

In fact, it’s the only reason this blog continues to exist.

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  1. Si este blog sigue existiendo por una “only reason” como esa creo que están cometiendo un error. Aquí no vienen a leerles a ustedes populistas ni chavistas a conocer la verdad, vienen, entre otros, gente del campo contrario a informarse mejor y compartir ideas. Lo que dice Gloria Álvarez, como decimos en España, va a misa y es verdaderamente acertado pero si alguien piensa que discursos como ese llegan a la gente y ayudan a que no se reproduzcan desastres como el que sufre Venezuela me parece que se está equivocando. Ese discurso me gusta a mí, a J. Nagel o a cualquier persona interesada en la política que a la vez siente eso que Ortega y Gasset, siempre tan cursi y anticuado, llamaba la “fruición intelectual”. Al resto le resbala por encima.

    Posiblemente me equivoque pero creo que el efecto de este blog (que no hace falta decir, me encanta y lo leo siempre) como aportación contra el desbarajuste de los populismos me parece minúsculo y por tanto, como razón para existir, una equivocación.

  2. I am impressed with Gloria Alvarez.

    Even more, the applause and support given at the end would never happen in the Venezuela National Assembly. Maria Corina Machado was evicted for speaking her mind.

    This video could be the first technology to help stop populism.

  3. Respecto a los idiomas, tengo entendido que hay una versión en japonés de este blog. Ya sé que no hay por aquí muchos lectores de japonés pidiéndolo pero no entiendo por qué no se pone un 日本語 por alguna parte con un link que te lleve a esa otra web.

  4. That little sneer at 3:25-3:30 as she lists off “salud, educación, vestimenta” in a way only someone who’s never seriously contemplated life without secure access to those things could…


    Actually I hate it. I hate it on conservative grounds.

    This isn’t conservatism. This is a refrito of 19th century liberalism, with all its clinical alienation from normal people, from society as it actually operates, wallowing triumphantly in its preference for abstract principle over human needs. It’s garishly anachronistic and unburkean and I won’t have it.

    • I agree with most of what she said. I’m witnessing the rise of populism here in socialist Spain with Podemos promising a base universal salary of 600€, they don’t even know from where the moneyis going to come from but they keep running with it.

    • I didn’t see any sneer in those 5 seconds you mention. In any case, what do you propose? Is it that since there are people who go through “life without secure access to those things…” we must keep doing things the populist way (a way that guaranties these people will always exist in large amounts and only “panos calientes” are applied to the problem once in a while)? Is that what you propose?

      Well, we already have chavismo for that.

      What was this blog about again?

    • I agree with Mr. F. Toro. I’m not anti-populist, I’m anti communist. That’s why I come here, not to hear libertarian ideologues. I figure this Rand-y stuff, tone-deaf to peoples’ actual lives, eventually created the social and intellectual basis for chavismo.

      And, treated uncritically, it will do so next time around too.

        • Again with the isms. This isn’t about which ism is good and which is bad. This is about this strange sophomoric approach to politics as a problem of choosing between abstract nouns.

          There’s a place for that, I suppose, in the academy. But she’s speaking in parliament, as a politician. And this narrow, exclusive concern with abstract categories happens to the detriment of any of the things that actual human beings turn to the public sphere for.

          She just seems young. And privileged. And way, way out of touch.

          • I’m still not sure what is your problem. People cannot get together to discuss about populism? Isn’t populism a problem at all? Or is it just that it wasn’t the right place to do it?

            Your second paragraph seems to indicate the last option, but still, you got so angry just because of that?

            “She just seems young.”

            Against that I can’t argue.

            “And privileged.”

            That’s likely, but in any case, this is an ad hominem attack. It’s funny that you use it when you have been attacked for the same reason (being privileged) yourself (read some of the comments in Amazon on your book “Blogging the Revolution”).

            “And way, way out of touch.”

            Same comment as above.

          • “She just seems young. And privileged. And way, way out of touch.”

            And what’s wrong with being ‘young and privileged’? Is she being a woman or white ‘wrong’ too?
            As if possessing these qualities would invalidate her speech beforehand… That’s prejudice.

          • It’s not a parliament, it’s a forum, and I don’t think she’s a politician. As for her being out of touch, I think you’ve been away from academia for too long. There is a place for abstract thinking in politics.

          • “This is about this strange sophomoric approach to politics as a problem of choosing between abstract nouns.”

            What kind of level of conversation do you invite when you publish an article[0] criticizing the opposition campaign because they’re unilaterally engaging in ‘populism’?

            I’m being absolutely sincere. I want to know if you realize the difference between what you’re now saying and your editorial line, because It seems that you’re pushing a naive view yourselves.

            [0] “Is Populism Beatable?” –

          • dspur

            I’ve noticed a few times you mention CC’s “editorial line”. Are you referring to Juan specifically, or CC?

            Because CC is a blog made up of several folks with differing opinions, they don’t get together and determine an “editorial line”.

          • Thanks for clearing that up. It’s still perplexing, though, that one member recognizes naivety effectively, while the other is preaching a “sophomoric” view on politics in the same venue.

      • Seems that we don’t share the same definition of “populism”, not being anti populist at the time being in Venezuela looks like a stretch

      • Strictly speaking, Chavismo is not communist either.

        Has private property been abolished? No.
        Has Christianism been forbidden? No.
        Have all means of production been nationalized? No.
        Is the country isolated from the capitalist global supply chain of goods (closed economy)? No. Hell, tell me which country is Venezuela’s number one trade partner…
        Is all education managed by the state? No.
        Have elections with multiple parties been abolished? No.
        Has all independent media outlets been closed by the state? No.

        I could go on and on, but I think you got the idea. If you are pro-populism and anti-communism, then you should join PSUV, because those guys are clearly not communist in the strict sense, otherwise you wouldn’t have Empresas Polar still wandering around, right? Venezuela is just a typical Latin-American populist kleptocracy, but wearing red.

        • Los chavistas son un poco e locos irredentos, ni mas ni menos. Un grupo criminal apoyado por millones de personas en trace destructivo que un buen dia decidieron que ya era hora de acabar con el pais: con sus instituciones, sus empresas y su sociedad.
          El chavismo es una peste, todo lo que toca lo dana, lo ensucia, lo corrompe
          Ciertamente no es comunismo. Nosotros somos muy Caribe para eso

        • This is somewhat correct. Chavismo is not Red Bolshevik Communism, it is a quasi-socialist program heavily influenced by Communism. To take the points raised in order:

          Has private property been abolished? No.

          But huge amounts of property have been arbitrarily confiscated by the state. However, the Red model has been discredited. Chavismo is post-Communist.

          Has Christianism been forbidden? No.

          This leftist tenet has been discarded by chavismo. However, please note that Communist states did not prohibit Christianity, only restricted and persecuted believers and clergy while propagandizing against it.

          Have all means of production been nationalized? No.

          Large sectors of the means of production have been nationalized. But again, the total socialist model was discredited. Chavismo wobbles between increasing public ownership anyway, and leaving parts of the economy private because that’s what everybody does nowadays.

          Is the country isolated from the capitalist global supply chain of goods (closed economy)? No. Hell, tell me which country is Venezuela’s number one trade partner…

          I don’t think any Communist state except perhaps Albania and North Korea ever achieved that. Not trading with outside capitalists is not a Communist principle; AFAIK Marx never addressed the question of relations between revolutionary and pre-revolutionary countries.

          Is all education managed by the state? No.

          Close to it, I think. The universities are autonomous but state-funded.

          Have elections with multiple parties been abolished? No.

          Chavismo has not seized an explicit monopoly of political activity because it has not been necessary. They have discovered a modern truth: it is possible to break laws flagrantly and pervert the electoral process, and still win elections without cheating too flagrantly, thereby preserving the “legitimacy” of the regime. In the meantime political opponents of the regime are subject to arbitrary arrest and vigilante attacks.

          Has all independent media outlets been closed by the state? No.

          Not all independent media outlets; but media ownership by the regime and its cronies covers nearly all broadcast media and most print media, with the regime squeezing out the last remnants via denial of newsprint. That is another modern truth: strict censorship is not required. Muffling and fog keep the bulk of the people in sufficient ignorance that the regime does not really fear scandal.

          Chavismo is post-Soviet, post-Leninist. It has discarded the practices which discredited Bolshevism; but its heart is in much the same place.

          Incidentally there must be severe cognitive dissonance in the minds of the rojo-rojito chavistas like Giordani, Golinger, and their ilk. They champion this regime because it is socialist – which should mean redistribution of wealth (the ill-gotten loot of the upper classes). But the regime’s cronies and henchmen make millions and billions for themselves.

        • Well, when I proposed that “criminal gangs should be disarmed by force, and terminated if necessary” among some other logical and basic goals to start improving society in Venezuela, people ignored absolutely everything and focused like a laser on the “termination” part, claiming that I was advocating for the extermination of large groups of people.

          I said “I might sound like a fascist” and fascist I was called.

          • Democrats don’t like mass “termination” of people.

            A different phrasing goes a long way: “criminal gangs should be disbanded, their members arrested and tried for their crimes in court of law, to serve their full time in prison”. You say it like that and you avoid triggering the reflexive “anti-fascist” response.

    • Sneer? There was no sneer there.

      I’d gladly take this ‘anachronism’ over the masses gleefully cheering their preferred ‘strong man’ as he tramples over independent institutions, check and balances, free press, and civil society…all in the name of ‘revolution’ or ‘the people’.

    • She was merely explaining the difference between positive and negative rights.

      What’s the hate? She has a point.

      It’s not like, in B.R of V, the right to housing hasn’t been used as cover for squatters and defaulting tenants. Or the right to work hasn’t been used as justification to prevent employers from firing people who should be fired. Or the defense of right of people to access goods and services hasn’t fucked up the supply side of the economy and spiraled a underground network focused on resaling and exporting basic goods.

    • She’s a libertarian, of course there’s a lot to dislike there. But at least she’s not afraid to debate the ideas. Plus, she’s a very effective speaker.

    • I agree. Having spent quite a bit of time in Guatemala, I can say with great confidence that people have a passion for education. They understand the power of education. They don’t need to be lectured about the importance of education. What they need is access to education. They don’t need access to redes sociales. They need access to pens, paper, books, four walls and a roof with a teacher. They need sufficient income in their families that they don’t have to work on fincas instead of going to school. She speaks well, but she needs to get off her redes sociales and go spend some time outside with the vast majority of her countrypersons who would find her very language alien, not to speak of her priorities.

  5. Wow, small world… Just yesterday a friend of mine sent this other video (below) of Gloria Alvarez to me.
    People like Gloria are the new revolutionaries, whereas the likes of Camila Vallejo, Máximo Kirchner etc. are the nauseating reactionaries living in the past whom no one can stand anymore: echoes of a past that refuses to die.

    May the future be bright.

  6. Really?? I Think she speaks with plenty confidence but I was kept waiting for the punchline or what was it she was really talking about. On top of the selective history lesson and the basic concepts, she had something like a header of defeating populism with technology that never really led to how was it that technology had anything to do with building a republic.

    Of course I agree how this is lightyears ahead of any public debate in Venezuela (we are one of…”those regimes” after all). I guess I was just let down how she never really got into the subject she seemed to be about to tackle. Maybe that in particular was not the right audience, but then the whole thing feels just weird all over the web now. There are plenty of good talks on the web with ideas about ways to use technology to improve governance, but this rather chucuta one is the one going viral.

        • Punchline??

          I’m just asking a very basic question: How are you going to do what you say you wanna do?

          Am I not allowed to ask that in a discussion?

        • If it’s a discussion about ideas what were those ideas exactly?

          It seemed to be something about using technology to defeat populism but she never really got into that.

          All you get is that populism is bad. But go ask in a mision vivienda building and they will all tell you populism is bad, it’s a bad word and no one recognizes being part of it. So how is saying that bad things are bad even a discussion?

          I would have liked a discussion about how can we use new technologies to avoid falling into populism, when populism is not something voters consciously choose, in an era when governments do very consciously choose to use technology to trap people into populism. That seemed to be the discussion she was about to have, but that’s exactly the discussion she didn’t have.

          But hey maybe that was all she could talk about within the limits of that speech and that’s fine. And although what I would have liked to hear are her actual ideas to tackle the fight she sees in front of her, we can’t sit online demanding world saving ideas from anyone. I’m mostly curious about why this precise video went viral like it did (this thing is all over my facebook feed at least), when a bunch of more meaty and concise actual discussions about ideas are left unheard- and unshared.

          Now, I won’t deny the effect the video had, and sure enough that in itself gives you an idea about how to fight any-ism with technology, but I don’t think randomly going viral was her point, and understanding these transmission effects is actually key if we want to fight this battle.

          • Given your and my penchant for recognizing buzzwords, let’s try to really analyse implications:

            * Does this group, of which Alvarez is a spokeperson, oppose populism alone or all forms of demagoguery alike?

            * How do you–by way of technology and otherwise–implement a demagogue-proof environment?

            * Would you call said environment a ‘meritocracy’? If not, how is it different?

            * Is the idea of a ‘meritocracy’–wherein proposals are weighted by their merits, and not the proponent’s economical background, or even their charisma–just as utopian as an environment where all people are equally rewarded (‘communism’)?

            * If we’re talking about an incremental improvement towards ‘meritocracy’, why is this group sabotaging their own proposals with grandeur claims (engaging in demagoguery)?

            * Why is this group happen to intersect with the group that ultimately supports external meddling (“chavismo isn’t worth convincing”)?

  7. Her riff on private property was pretty disingenuous too. “It begins with our own bodies” see? And it includes “everything we achieve in our lives”. And then those mean populists want to take away “our property” to fund education and health care.

    Now, people like me distinguish between personhood, on the one hand, and money on the other. We need money to fund education for all, and if Gloria or her parents have some, it should be taxed so that others can get an education, as she did.

    Potted references to Aristotle’s problems with democracy don’t change that. Good luck trying to sell it to the millions of people with nothing.

    • “We need money to fund education for all, and if Gloria or her parents have some, it should be taxed so that others can get an education, as she did.”

      I don’t think she is denying that (if she is, I missed it). One things is to say “let’s try to implement some programs to help the poor get out of poverty, so that they improve their lives and we all grow as a society”, and a very different thing is to say “let me throw money around like crazy so that people love me and vote for me, even if it is so badly implemented that later everything goes to hell as a consequence”.

    • Maybe all those people in Guatemala are poor because her family could afford and education… Maybe they should tax the hell out of them. That will solve poverty in Guatemala.

    • For all? Even rich people? I’ll prefer that the state give the money to people that really doesn’t have it to pay for the tuition of them (like in Sweden). if we see the case of Venezuela, public education doen’t mean high quality education, because there will always be an obssesion with quantity over quality

  8. Way off topic!!! On Oct 13 there was an article on this blog that discussed how poorly Maduro and the government were doing according to a poll by ??? Today I read this in aporrea “El estudio de ICS refleja que 53,2% de los encuestados evalúa como buena la gestión del jefe de Estado > Además se muestra que 71,4% califica de mala la labor de la MUD.

    Chavistas only read/watch information from Aporrea or “government newspapers”, VTV and the like. They will not believe anything presented by anybody else, so having a discussion with any of them on the country’s current political and economical situation seems like a moot point.

    • But the discussion must be made, because we can’t exterminate each other (Well, the rotten chavista regime CAN exterminate all Venezuelans)

      I guess Mark Twain said once that the most difficult thing was to convince somebody that they have been deceived.

  9. It’s interesting that exiled Cubans tend end up becoming diehard republicans, and we’re now seeing something similar with Venezuelans.

    • Let’s hope not! Though the Republican party is really trying to court Venezuelans in Florida. There is somewhat of a generational divide with the political leanings of Cubans, with older Cubans more likely to support the Republicans. I am sure a part of it is a natural repulsion to “leftist” politics but also because of JFK’s failure to support exiled-cuban fighters during the Bay of Pigs.

      • That’s funny, especially for Venezuelans living in Florida. The least fortunate US policies towards Latin America have been implemented by republican presidents. That is a very contradictory stance of Cubans, but it couldn’t be any other way. Politically speaking, Cuba has hardly ever felt itself a part of Latin America since independence.

        • “Politically speaking, Cuba has hardly ever felt itself a part of Latin America since independence.”

          What do you mean? I think the exact opposite is true. Cuba has been extremely engaged with Latin America since they were struggling to become independant and has remained engaged.

          Marti was a big fan of Bolivar, which hints a latinamerican political view. Then there’s all the Cuban meddling into Latin American politics since the sixties, like the time they invaded Venezuela through Machurucuto and got kicked out from OAS, or when Che Guevara went to Bolivia, or when they supported the leftist guerrillas in Central America, or when they served as advisors to the Sandinistas, or when they became advisors to Chavez or when they offered Colombia their help in the peace process.

          This is not an endorsement of Castrocommunism, but a rebuttal of your statement.

      • is because you don’t realize that those supporting Republicans is because they will never be wrong in their choice! liberal policies will only lead to disaster!

    • Hmm. And people exiled under right wing authoritarian regimes tend to sympathize with the left. It must mean, I think, people’s experience tends to shape their politics. Interesting….

      • In other words, “my reaction is just as compensatory as yours”? That’s a good way of coming to terms with emotion impairing judgement.

        • That’s actually an interesting thought but it was not my thought. My thought was, you can’t just dismiss people as mindless reactionaries if they come from Cuba, the former Soviet Union, or places like that, even god forbid if they are Republicans (Guatemala in the 1980s is my kind of example, the other way). Their judgment is not wholly impaired by direct knowledge and experience.

    • Actually, the Republican Party in the US has little to do with the concept of republicanism. They’re just the counterpart of the archetypal Conservative Party found in England and in some Latin American countries. We used to have one, by the way, if nominally.

    • It’s a generational thing, also. In the 2012 election, self described Cubans in Florida actually voted (slightly) more for Obama than Romney. That was the first time this group voted democratic, those they are still way behind other Latin groups in their support for Democratic candidates.

  10. I’m not a total libertarian (that will be the same as been anarchist) but when someone criticize populism is not only related with social programs (even if we can crticize how some are just a total waste of money) but also with how big is the state and how intrusive it becomes in our lifes.

    There are some comments up that call the speech an “anachronist-19 Century liberal vision” without even talking about the fact that there were more than one perspective inside liberalism in 19 century. That’s the thing with the perception of political ideologuies different to Social-democracy, Social-Christian, and all the variations of left thinking, they all pretend to have a “moral superiority” even when we can see how bad their defenders behave in the real world. I believe that a better state is small.size state, that provides certain goods but also has limitations, because without them, the politicians will always find ways to make “good intentions, like social-equality” in tool to advance their own agenda

  11. I am so impressed with what Gloria Alvarez and what other young women (fine, men too) are doing. Yes, she’s young but I don’t see anything wrong with that. She does have a degree in Intl. Relations and Political Science. She has a radio show and holds an office position within the Movimiento Civico Nacional (MCN) so she’s paid (and is paying) her dues I think. And she does look privilege but so what? The problem isn’t that she’s privilege, the problem is that so many can never be.

    She is a republican and a libertarian so there are other points she makes that I may not be on point but she’s quick to make it clear that her way doesn’t have to be THE way but it is certainly a better way to what is happening in Venezuela and other countries and about to take over in Guatemala which is for what she’s fighting the most. The fact of the matter is that populismo will never lead to democracy.

    I love how clear and concise she is. Yes, some points are oversimplified but she also had just over 10 minutes to make her points. I say kudos and I hope more and more people listen and discuss. I found this speech to be a great conversation starter. I hope others find that too.

  12. Juan, this girl is brilliant. i have seldom heard anything quite like it, from anybody.
    Ier message is clear and well structured and I could not agree more with her assessment of populism and her confronting populism to republic institutions.

    Where I do not agree as much is that it is technology what will get us out of populism. In fact, it is sometimes the other way around. Many social networking outlets perpetuate political correctness, information shallowness and gossiping, which are byproducts of populism.

    A great post, thank you for letting us discover this great young thinker.


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