I’m in a secure and undisclosed location for a 52 hour break from thebrutal beast called a political weekly. That’s why I’m on e-mail at 11pm Tuesday night. (And scouring the local papers for news of CondeeRice’s imminent visit to this island, for a meeting to repair raggedrelations with the Caribbean Community Alliance known as Caricom. Most of the foreign ministers from the 14 Caribbean nations are–like the rest of the world–angry with America over the War in Iraq, and even angrier over the the US role in Haiti.) That’s also why I hunted down a newspaper Tuesday morning, and found the Miami Herald. Good paper. Its front page featured an interesting story about Venezuela, "Caracas Emerging as New Capital of the Left." Later that afternoon, I tracked down a New York Times and discovered the same Juan Forero story on the Times‘ front page. (The NYT opted for–what seemed to me–a snarkier headline, "Visitors Seek a Taste of Revolution in Venezuela.")
What’s interesting about Chavez and the "Bolivarian" revolution, as writer/activist Chiesa Boudin notes in the Times/Herald article, is that it has little to do with the fact that some on the left glorify the Venezuelan President because he has positioned himself as the anti-Bush leader in Latin America. It has more to do, Boudin observes, with the fact that "many people who had been dismayed by the advance of globalization saw the possibility of a better world in Venezuela. The fact that we have a country that’s trying to create an alternative model is bold and ambitious and unique, and that’s why people are wondering, ‘Is this possible.’"
These are times for progressives, for the left to unshackle its imaginations and create an alternative politics. The alternative probably doesn’t exist in Chavez’s Venezuela–for reasons some on the democratic left have pointed out. (Though his use of the country’s oil profits to help poor citizens is a model for all oil-rich countries.) But there are many alternative models and movements out there–ones we can support and build. (In the short-term, I say let’s nationalize the 2006 elections around three things: Defend the Constitution; End the War; Pass National healthcare.)
What’s clear is that the view most insidiously expressed in the acronym TINA–There is No Alternative–is now discredited. As thewanton and destructive Bush era draws to a close, with the ruins all around us, isn’t it a moment to remember that there are always alternatives in history, politics and life? Especially today.