The Nation online
September 27, 2007 (October 15, 2007 issue)
Last year, the New York Times reported that Hugo Chávez, in his speech before the United Nations--the one in which he called George W. Bush the Devil and urged Americans to read Noam Chomsky--expressed regret that he hadn't had a chance to meet the linguist before he died. A call to Mr. Chomsky's house, the Times writer quipped, found him very much alive. The Times, though, had to issue a quick correction when, upon review of the original Spanish, it became clear that Chávez was referring not to Chomsky but rather to John Kenneth Galbraith, who had indeed passed away a few months before.
There is something more than a little ironic about this incident, where the press, in a rush to ridicule the controversial Hugo Chávez, lost John Kenneth Galbraith in translation, for it is exactly the Harvard economist's brand of New Deal social democracy, itself long expunged from public discussion, that would allow for a more honest consideration not just of Chavismo but the broader Latin American left of which it is a vital part. ]
The rest of the article is available only to subscribers. But the short piece concludes:
[ The re-emergence of the Latin American left signals a revival ofdemocratic developmentalism, but with a key difference. While in the1940s reformers sought to extend political power through unions andpeasant associations vertically linked to parties or leaders, todaythey rely on a diverse, horizontal array of "new social movements" tocounter their countries' extreme concentration of wealth and politicalpower--Brazil's Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, forexample, or Bolivia's Movimiento al Socialismo, less a political partythan a coalition of social movements, or Ecuador's powerful indigenousgroups. ]
And with this:
[ Chávez often repeats an observation by one of his favorite economists to bring homethe point. "Never before," the Venezuelan president quotes Galbraithas saying, "has the distance between reality and 'conventional wisdom'been as great as it is today." ]