Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What Is Good Leadership?

What Is Good Leadership?
by John Spritzler [http://spritzlerj.blogspot.com/]

I recently sent a lot of people the following email critical of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. A woman named "A" replied with a particularly interesting defense of Chavez. Implicitly, "A" felt that leaders should be judged by certain criteria and not by others. In my reply I said what I thought the appropriate criteria are, and why. This is a pretty important question, so I'm sharing the exchange with you. Maybe you'd like to comment and say what criteria you think we should use.


Dear Friends,

I know many people consider Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to be a champion of the working class, but his disgusting friendship with Columbian President Alvaro Uribe (reported in the article the headline and url of which are below) suggests otherwise. Uribe is a friend of the fascist death squads that kill peasants and union organizers in Columbia. Yet Chavez calls Uribe "my brother"!! For one of the many articles about Uribe's alliance with these death squads, see the interesting report at http://www.colombiajournal.org/colombia133.htm .

According to the article below, what the Venezuelan "hero of the working class" and the Columbian friend of the death squads share in common is admiration for Simon Bolivar, best known for fighting against Spanish domination of Latin America. Chavez and Uribe may oppose U.S. domination of Latin America, but that doesn't make them friends of the working class. Hitler, after all, opposed U.S. domination of Latin America too. Neither does Chavez's promotion of popular reforms necessarily make him a friend of the working class; FDR was popular for the same reason but he was as much an enemy of the working class as any Republican. FDR used reforms to weaken the working class and strengthen the control of the capitalist class. The parallel between Chavez's friendship with Uribe and the pseudo-populist FDR's friendship with the fascist General Franco during the Spanish Civil War is striking. After FDR forced through a "neutrality law" to prohibit Americans from sending arms to aid the Spanish workers in their fight agasint the fascists, General Franco "remarked that Roosevelt had behaved like a 'true gentleman' and that the rapid passage of the new neutrality law was 'a gesture we Nationalists shall never forget.'" Hugo Chavez seems to be a "true gentleman" too.



Chavez and Uribe Put Aside Differences

With Jokes and Smiles, Leaders of Colombia and Venezuela Put Aside Their Differences


Hi John--

Just some feedback on this-- I think this may be similar to working with peace people that are not completely ideologically pure-- which I was discussing with someone earlier today-- The thing is, if you are getting someone to follow your agenda and do useful work, it is smart to make use of them, even if they don't completely share your ideology. Of course, you don't let them make use of you-- which is what I'd suggest is going on with Chavez-- If an alliance is useful with Uribe, then he becomes a brother-- it isn't about friendship, it is about manipulating of the US. Another good buddy of Uribe is our own Barney Frank, which personally I find quite disgusting. Barney doesn't mind giving Colombia lots of bucks which fund the death squads. So from this vantage point, it would be a lot better for Uribe and Chavez to be buddies than Barney and Congress with Uribe.

-- peace, A.

Hi A,

I have a very different view about how change happens. Here it is.

The "overwhelming power of the U.S." is ideological, meaning the ability of the American ruling class to command the obedience of the American population sufficiently to have people join the military and obey orders, and have people show up at work and obey orders. The ideology has two main themes: 1) what is good in society comes from the rulers at the top and what is bad comes from ordinary people at the bottom (in the context of a struggle this view takes the form of "we need to rely on powerful people at the top [like John Kerry], not ordinary people at the bottom [like Red state voters]") , and 2) if you oppose elite rule and elite values you are all alone so resistance is futile. When people have ideological clarity then the great bulk of the population understands that they are the vast majority in wanting to overthrow the elite and that they are right in wanting to do so. This is the necessary and sufficient condition for revolution. The ideological power of the elite is in noticeable decline today, but of course not gone. Take it away, however, and GW Bush & co would be no more powerful than the Shaw of Iran on the eve of his ouster, with his enormous military but no soldiers who would obey his orders.

My point is that for ordinary people to defeat ruling elites, there is NOTHING more important than ideological clarity. And when there IS ideological clarity the ruling elites are powerless. When leaders help people achieve this clarity, that makes them good leaders. When they do things that obscure the truth, that makes them bad leaders. All the talk about "using people" and "alliances" is just rationalization if it excuses a leader who promotes illusions and ideological confusion among the public. When Chavez promotes Uribe as "my brother," and when he pals around with him and sings Bolivarian songs with him, that tells people that they need to rely on Uribe, the friend of the death squads, (i.e. people at the top) because they cannot rely on ordinary people at the bottom to change the world. This is poison for a revolutionary movement. Real revolutionaries do not spread this poison. That's how I see it. Do you think I'm way off base?



At 11:06 PM, December 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In your response to what I wrote you are addressing what good
leadership is-- That wasn't my topic, which was trying to understand
the reasons for Chavez to profess "friendship" with Uribe. The
realistic situation is that all of South America is bullied to some
extent or another by the US, and it is obvious that it would be
advantageous to Venezuela to ally itself with Colombia to
present a united front to the predations of the US. That doesn't
mean that Chavez really approves of Uribe-- only that they
have a similar interest in avoiding be bossed by the US

You write:
When Chavez promotes Uribe as "my brother," and when he pals around with him and sings Bolivarian songs with him, that tells people that they need to rely on Uribe, the friend of the death squads, (i.e. people at the top) because they cannot rely on ordinary people at the bottom to change the world.

I don't know that this is true. Leaders often cultivate the appearance of friendliness
with other leaders, whether or not it is sincere, because it is better to
have allies than enemies, especially, as in this case, with a well armed
neighbor. It is a lot better for the people of Venezuela for there to be
"friendship" with the government of Colombia because the US would
like nothing better than to have an excuse to invade Venezuela, and
if a state of warfare broke out between Colombia and Venezuela the
US could take that as an excuse to do so.

I also think that tests of ideological purity prevent people from working
together that might have the same goals, and that this is counterproductive.
I think my comments may have sounded machiavellian, when I was talking
about using or being used, but the point is, if you can cooperate with someone
that you don't necessarily agree with to accomplish some goal, it is probably
advantageous to do so-- at least, to insist that others match your exact
understanding of the world is likely to lead to isolation rather than the growth
of a movement.


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