July 11, 2006

Chavista Extremism: Scarier and scarier...

Extremism is becoming the defining characteristic of the chavista movement. At no point does the ruling ideology draw the line - just the opposite: every part of the new elite seems to operate under the maxim that if a little extremism is good, a lot is better. The result is a kind of tournament within the regime, a dynamic of one-upmanship where each tries to out-extremist the other.

It's a scary thing: the phrase "that's going too far" doesn't seem to be a part of the regime's political lexicon. More and more, the regime has lost its feel for the ridiculous (el sentido del ridículo) - leaving it shorn of any way to judge how much is too much.

Examples? They're a dime a dozen. Here are a few:
The point, I think, is clear: with the government firmly consolidated in power, all restraints on extremism have been lifted. The question then becomes: where does this road lead?

We need to be clear about this: Venezuela is not a totalitarian regime. But we also need to be clear about this: it is moving more and more decisively in that direction. Clearly, spaces for dissent still exist; just as clearly, the regime is working to close them down.

What's terrifying is that there is no logical limit to chavismo's power ambition. Nothing in the structure of the belief system limits its tendency to expand control into new areas of political and - more and more - social life.

There is no room in chavista thinking for the notion that some of spheres of human activity are and ought to remain outside of the political sphere. And there is certainly no space in chavista thinking for the notion that any part of the political sphere ought to remain outside the state's control. It's a way of conceiving politics that never says "enough," that has no notion of "that's not the state's business," that never sees a reason to stop expanding its reach, and that does not recognize any distinctions between the concepts of "nation", "state", "government", "party" and "Chavez." As far as the ruling ideology is concerned, to be for one of those is to be for all of them; to oppose one is to oppose them all.

What's scary is not so much where we are now, but where the internal logic of chavista thinking points us. These days people are happy buying their hummers and plasma TVs and such. But the logic of blanket politization is afoot, and with it the mechanisms first for authoritarian and later for totalitarian control.

We're definitely not there. Chavismo's myriad internal contradictions might yet cause its collapse before we get there. But it's not really possible to deny that we're heading there. Not any more.