Thanks to Talk Politics, I’ve recently read – or at least glanced at – some remarks made by Hugo Chavez, Constitutional President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, on Christmas Eve 2005. Here’s the passage which has excited most comment (my translation).
I became a rebel and I dedicated myself to the true Christ – and this is the true Christ, I have no doubt about it. He is not that idiotic image with a stupid face that you can see in some churches, as if he were an idiot. No, Christ was and is one of the greatest revolutionaries in history and the first socialist of our era – the first socialist, and for that they crucified him.
There is enough water in the world for all of us to have water; there are enough lands, enough natural riches in the world to produce food for the whole population of the world; there is enough stone in the world and enough building materials to ensure that nobody is without a home. The world has enough for everyone, but now a few minorities, the descendants of the people who crucified Jesus, the descendants of the people who threw Bolivar out of here and crucified him in his turn, in Santa Marta over in Colombia… a minority has taken charge of the riches of the world, a minority has taken charge of the world’s gold, silver, minerals, water, good land, oil, all its wealth, and it has concentrated that wealth in a few hands. Less than ten per cent of the world’s population has charge of more than half of the wealth of the whole world. More than half of the world’s people are poor and every day there are more poor people in the world. We, here, are resolved to change history, and every day we are joined and will be joined by more heads of state, presidents and leaders. Look at how the Bolivian people… Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, one of the poorest countries in the world, that republic founded by Bolivar and Sucre, which took the name of our own Bolivar – Bolivia is very rich: minerals, gold, silver, tin, oil and gas, fertile land, great mountains. It’s certainly one of the poorest countries on earth, Bolivia, but the poor are waking up and they’ve just elected an Indian as President of Bolivia, for the first time in history. A true Indian – I’m half Indian, but Evo Morales is an Indian and a half.
I don’t think this is as much of an open-and-shut case as Talk Politics suggests; it may not make much historical sense to blame the Jews for crucifying Jesus, but there are certainly those who do. (Russell Hoban riffs on this in Pilgermann, where his narrator visits an alternative reality in which, in 29 CE, a Roman prophet is executed in one province of a Jewish empire. The Jews still get the blame.) That said, Norm has this flat wrong. This isn’t “the socialism of fools” – just socialism.
(But oh, how convenient it would be for some people if Chavez could be labelled as an anti-semite – not only would it divert attention from the substance of his comments, it would delegitimate him for ever after. We may not have heard the last of this.)