James Petras: Venezuela: A Dictionary of Euphemisms

By James Petras
Special to PalestineChronicle.com

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible…Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness…Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. — George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” in Why I Write ).

The Venezuelan political process in the post-referendum period (after December 2, 2007) has experienced a wide-ranging debate, in which both critics and supporters of the Venezuelan road to socialism have participated. The extreme right-wing and the US State Department have focused exclusively on what they call the popular reaction against President Chavez’ ‘authoritarianism’, ‘radical agenda’ and have sought to exploit the moment to discredit the President by sabotaging Chavez’ efforts (backed by France and most of Europe and Latin American regimes) to negotiate a prisoner exchange between the FARC-EP guerrillas and the Uribe regime in Colombia. Two weeks after the referendum, the Federal Government fabricated a case linking the Venezuelan government to an attempt to finance the Presidential elections in Argentina. The US and right-wing propaganda offensive has failed to ignite any response within Venezuela and has thoroughly backfired. All of the major US allies in Europe (except England) and in Latin America (except Mexico and Chile) have repudiated the US attacks on Chavez.

 The anti-Chavez political discourse which has had some resonance in Venezuela and overseas, especially among liberals, politicians, progressive activists and social democratic academics, has been articulated by Venezuelan academics linked to NGO’s, financed by overseas foundations and posing as ‘center-left’.

A critical textual reading of the center-left writings reveals a narrative replete in political euphemisms, hedged in the language and rhetoric of the social movements but which when de-constructed reveals a basic hostility to class analysis and social transformation. As George Orwell once wrote, political intellectuals are the masters of euphemisms, using language that obscures the meaning of reactionary politics: “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind” (George Orwell, Why I Write).

The center-left academic ideologues in Venezuela have mastered an entire repertory of euphemism which they have trotted out for specific political goals: To unite technocrats and incrementalist liberals in the Chavez government with the liberal opposition to block any egalitarian social transformation of property relations and transition to socialism. As one of Cuba’s most illustrious intellectual statesmen and former Culture Minister, Armando Hart has stated: The battle of ideas is an integral part of the struggle for socialism.

A first step to demystifying the center-left rhetoric embodied in their counter-revolutionary narrative is to apply critical analysis to some of the key political euphemisms they use to attack the Chavez government and its policies. Euphemisms are abuses of language used by anti-Chavez professors to obscure ideological and class interests and loyalties.

For purposes of this essay I have selected an essay by Edgardo Lander, a prominent Venezuelan sociologist and critic of the revolutionary tendencies in the Chavista government. His essay, “El Proceso pol

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