August 8, 2007

Labor's love lost

Quico says: One abiding irony of leftist authoritarianism is the way the self-described vanguard of the working class cannot abide working class organizations it can't control.

Interior Minister Pedro Carreño makes it clear that this is one of the many, many points of congruence between 20th and 21st century socialism. In the context of a society-wide transition towards socialism, "all organizations must become agents of that transformation."

The typical rhetorical ticks, the ropaje de palabras involved, barely conceals the authoritarian drive involved. We've all been conditioned by long experience to understand that when chavistas talk about the "urgent need for profound changes in the labor movement," that's code for subordinating it to Chávez's personal dictates.

The particular alibi chosen - the appalling corruption and racketeering flavor of the labor movement - is both genuine and immaterial: chavistizing the unions will mean replacing anti-chavista racketeers with chavista racketeers.

Unions are a prime source of patronage opportunities, in Venezuela and everywhere else...and exactly what is it that's supposed to dissuade the new class of chavista union bosses from using them as such? Contraloría oversight? The prosecutor general's watchful eye? Right.

Back in 2001, Chávez's decision to force CTV into a CNE-organized renewal election gave us one of our first, clear peeks at the scope of his autocratic ambitions. Six years ago it backfired. Newly emboldened by now nearly-complete hegemony over the apparatus of state, he's up for another go. It doesn't seem like a fight the unions are likely to win.