Revolutionary republics were once a hot item on the horizon of progressive folk. Now, about all they have left to adore -but it is a relatively new phenomenon- is Hugo Chavez. Of course, you can also stoop to the fascist Peronista model in Argentina, where Christina Fernandez de Kirchner has succeeded her husband Nestor, as Evita succeeded Juan. Like Chavez, Christina speaks populist left and, thus, prepares her country for an economic disaster worse than the one we are experiencing. In Venezuela you are also afraid to be speak up lest the government confiscate your property. And without any process, due or not due. (By the way, if you haven't read Enrique Krauze's breathtaking essay about Chavez' totalitarian fantasies you should read it here.)
I don't know whether Chavez has anyone in the family he's thinking about for his successor. But Hugo's brother Adan has followed their father into the governor's chair in the Brazilian state of Barinas.
Succession politics has always interested me although there hasn't been much of the intra-familial version in America.
And it is the intra-familial model that is still alive and kicking. Yes, kicking people in the head and in the groin.
Why it came to mind today is obvious. Kim Jong Il heads perhaps the cruelest communist state in history. It is a self-impoverished country, a broken country. But it has armed a huge army and is now building a nuclear arsenal. Oh. yes, Kim Jong Il is the son of Kim Il Song, the founder of North Korea and its first modern tyrant, a real model for his progeny. KJI is now following in dad's footsteps. But he's apparently not certain which of his sons he will anoint as the supreme leader. He has two choices. One is his middle son, Kim Jong Chol. The other is Kim Jong Un, his youngest son. His first son isn't mentioned at all for the succession. Perhaps papa disapproves of primogeniture. In any case, North Korea is a progressive state that wants its reactionary neighbors to feed it. As for its nukes, don't ask. George Bush was taken in the by the present Kim. This second successful atomic test is not a nice gift to President Obama who, after all, was not crowned by his father but by the people itself in all its democratic glory.
Once long ago we used to get excited when a colonel would replace a monarch in power. This happened a lot in Arab countries. Poor King Farouk who was ousted by Col. Naguib who was eased by Col. Nasser who was assassinated and then succeeded by General Mubarak. No primogeniture yet. But now that his day is slipping into dusk people are talking about the succession and the successor seems to be Gamal Mubarak whom the Washington Post says has made no impression at all. Another revolutionary republic turned to kings.
Then there is Libya's revolutionary colonel Moammar Qaddafi, the longest serving leader in the Arab orbit. More than a bit meshugah, he's got four sons, none of them all there. Moatessim seems now to have the inside track in the succession. But each of his siblings has had the mantle about to wear on his shoulders. And then the colonel changed his mind.
An ophthalmologist by training, Bashar Assad was acclaimed president in an uncontested referendum after the death of his father, also president, who had ruled. A member of the Assad family has held the post for almost four decades.
And know we come to the unlamented Saddam Hussein who, among his other virtues, was planning for the government of Iraq to become a family business. The United States interfered with those plans. The last family business in Baghdad was that of the Hashemites, true descendants of the Prophet. An arbitrary choice by Gertrude Bell for governing the new country, but so much more civilized than the colonels who came to power in the July 14 movement when King Faisal II was slaughtered on the streets. And then began the slaughter of the Shi'a and the Kurds under the Republic of Iraq.
What a record the Arab world gives us. Still, trust it, trust in it.