By Ricardo López Göttig
Eight years ago, while studying for my PhD in History in the Czech Republic, I received a letter. The envelope had two postage stamps dedicated to two Argentine icons: Eva Peron and Ernesto "Che" Guevara. The porter of the building recognized the figure of Peron's second wife and even more puzzled, also recognized the well known terrorist whose "ideals" led him to resort to the use of weapons to kill people in America and Africa. She asked me if the Communist Party was important in Argentina and I replied that it was not. Becoming increasingly indignant, she then asked if we preferred communism, to which I replied that I did not. "You people don't know what communism is like!" continued this down-to-earth woman who could never be accused of being "bourgeois" or "capitalist".
For her, forty years of socialist experience behind the Berlin Wall were sufficient evidence of the poverty, repression and asphyxiation that this totalitarian experiment had meant in the old Czechoslovakia.
But in the American Continent, led by the demagogue Hugo Chavez and his comrade Fidel Castro, they promise socialism as the alternative for the future, as if the resounding failures of the USSR, Eastern Europe, Communist China, Cambodia, North Korea and Vietnam had never occurred.
When promising ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for America), Chavez does not even bother to mention the millions of deaths that socialism caused in all these countries, famines, tortures, concentration camps, brutal oppression, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot's genocides, the terrorism exported from the communist block (including Cuba) and COMECON's unmitigated disaster. For Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Miguel Bonasso and Hebe de Bonafini, none of this appears to have existed. These characters who praise closed and authoritarian societies, talk about the memory but bank on oblivion, the total oblivion that many communication media make a point of covering up.
Hugo Chavez and his followers do not hesitate in placing Peron and Guevara side by side, even though they are aware of Guevara's contempt for Peronism and even though they know that Peron was a friend of Batista, Somoza, Franco, Stroessner and Trujillo. But to them this is unimportant, because for the vindicators of closed societies, history is a juggling act, where they try to make us to believe that two conservative monarchists such as San Martín and O'Higgins were the forerunners of anti-capitalism that was then continued by the Latin American Marxist terrorist movements.
We do not know what ALBA is about because Hugo Chavez deliberately does not explain it, purposely mixing in his speeches diatribes against free-trade and modern society with trite and well-worn phrases against any type of cause as long as it will bring him one more supporter. His speeches to not contain a single recognizable concept and they are delivered in a very crude buddy style.
In an Argentina of memories and oblivion, today's socialists have eliminated the free trade ideas upheld by Juan B. Justo, Alfredo Palacios and Nicolás Repetto. These statesmen defended free competition between nations because it favored the workman's standard of living by providing better and cheaper products.
Oblivion, confusion and deception: this is what ALBA is all about; this is what they are promising us for the century that is just starting.
Ricardo López Göttig is a Professor at ESEADE and Associate Researcher at CADAL.