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The Left and Venezuela

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Venezuela is a complete disaster. Whatever potential the Chavez revolution had to help the Venezuelan people has been completely destroyed. Maduro’s incompetence combined with his contempt for democratic processes has made the situation even worse. The so-called constituent assemblies he is pushing through are nothing more than an excuse for one-party rule, which might theoretically be justifiable if the party was remotely capable of governance. It is not. For many years, the left actively saw Hugo Chavez as a hero, particularly for Latino and south-facing American leftists. When I was at the University of New Mexico a decade ago, actual elections for the officers of the Latin American Studies graduate student association revolved around the position of candidates on Chavez, to give one minor but very raucous and hard-fought example. It seems to me that the modern left should look at what is happening in Venezuela and figure out both what went wrong and to think a little harder about not simply rushing to embrace anyone who launches a coup in the name of the left. Part of the problem the people of Venezuela face is that the Venezuelan right is also terrible, wanting to reinstitute a plutocracy of old school rulers. They desperately wish for the old days of U.S. military intervention to support their desires, as the failed coup against Chavez was the moment when the real changes in Latin American policy from the U.S. became clear. Even as Bush supported the coup, he didn’t really do much to make it work, whereas three decades earlier, the U.S. Marines would have taken care of Chavez, as happened in the Dominican Republic in 1965 or even Panama in 1989.

At the very least, one would hope the North American left would show some sort of critical analysis as to the Venezuelan disaster. But not always, as this Jacobin piece by George Ciccariello-Maher demonstrates. For him, the answer is always a doubling down on more socialism while proclaiming the media and CIA responsible for not allowing North Americans to see the clear path forward.

There is no coherent understanding of revolution that doesn’t involve defeating our enemies as we build the new society. Corruption, bureaucracy, and the complacency of new elites are all plagues to be fought and defeated — but merely criticizing these does not make a revolution. We cannot defeat such dangers without weapons, the most important of which are the weight of the masses in the streets, popular grassroots struggles for self-determination, and control of territory and production. While the Bolivarian government — from Chávez to Maduro — has helped to sharpen those weapons, it has also relied on them for its own survival.

Revolutions are made by the masses in motion, gripped by revolutionary ideas. No single individual was more effective at helping to set the Venezuelan masses into motion than Hugo Chávez. And yet that motion collides inevitably with obstacles in its path to be struggled with and overcome, from economic realities to the ferocious enemies of change. In that process, and even without it, a certain slow exhaustion is inevitable. This goes by the name desgaste in Venezuela today — a wearing-down of revolutionary fervor, especially when times are tough.

For the Trinidadian revolutionary C.L.R. James, there existed an undeniable gap between the Jacobin leadership of the French Revolution and the grassroots fury of the sansculottes. The former, like Robespierre, were authoritarians; the latter, radical democrats. But they coincided momentarily and strategically toward the goal of defeating a brutal enemy on the field of battle: “Never until 1917 were masses ever to have such powerful influence — for it was no more than influence — upon any government.”

No one would claim that the Venezuelan masses are in power today, but the past twenty years have seen them come closer than ever before. Their enemies and ours are in the streets, burning and looting in the name of their own class superiority, and we know exactly what they will do if they are successful. The only path forward is to deepen and radicalize the Bolivarian process through the expansion of the radically democratic socialism embodied in Venezuela’s grassroots communes, which help to overcome the economic contradictions of the petro-state while expanding participatory political consciousness.

The only way out of the Venezuelan crisis today lies decisively to the Left: not in the neither-nor of “que se vayan todos” (“out with them all”), but in the construction of a real socialist alternative that will emerge alongside the Maduro government if possible, but without it if necessary.

I….I don’t even know what to say here. I guess I am just a bourgeoisie neoliberal writing at a bourgeoisie neoliberal blog instead of the Journal of the One True Revolution, but I think it does Jacobin no credit to continue publishing apologies for the greatest disaster the left has faced since the fall of the Soviet Union. Even granting that Ciccariello-Maher is correct about the horror of the Venezuelan right, nothing good will come of these consitutent assemblies. Maduro has no path forward to improve Venezuela and that’s not only because of the Venezuelan right, even if that is a part of it. Even Chavez was bad at actual governance, forgetting the real core of socialism is not sticking your thumb in the Gringos’ eyes, but rather in making sure the trash is picked up on time. Note as well that this essay almost completely ignores the massive economic disaster that is life under Maduro. Whatever he does is highly unlikely to stabilize his nation or make a better life for his citizens.

Or maybe I am just a counterrevolutionary rightist who deserves to be shot.

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  • Joseph Slater

    Also, it’s a bit jarring to justify authoritarianism at the top because hey, that’s what happened in the French and Soviet revolutions. Because they turned out just swell in the ensuing decades?

    • Vance Maverick

      It’s too soon to say.

      • Manju

        Ha ha.

  • cs

    I didn’t read the whole Jacobin article, but based on that excerpt I’m not sure it’s fair to call it a defense of, or apology for, the Maduro government.

    • sigaba

      It’s not so much a defense as it is a sort of “posit that we had a can opener” wank.

      “Posit that Maduro’s government was an authentic democratic socialist regime…”

      • LeeEsq

        Intellectual wankery at it’s finest. “Posit that Iraq War II made Iraq a pluralistic secular, parliamentary democracy.”

    • cs

      OK, I read the Jacobin article. You could say that the author seems more interested in furthering the revolutionary cause than in the welfare of the actual people in Venezuela, but I still think it is unfair to characterize it as a Maduro apology.

      • drdick52

        If you are “furthering the revolutionary cause” without furthering the welfare of the actual people, you are doing it completely ass backwards.

        • EricK

          I don’t know about that, “revolution” is usually just about replacing one set of selfish authoritarian elites with another.

          • drdick52

            Which is the definition of “the wrong way” if you are a socialist.

  • FlipYrWhig

    I know nothing about Venezuela but Lord ‘a Mercy what the fuck is this?

    The only path forward is to deepen and radicalize the Bolivarian process through the expansion of the radically democratic socialism embodied in Venezuela’s grassroots communes, which help to overcome the economic contradictions of the petro-state while expanding participatory political consciousness.

    I mean, how does someone DO THIS? It’s so masturbatory. I don’t get why this is such a popular genre of left writing: proclaiming that The Thing That Must Be Done is something that will clearly not be done or if it’s done will not be done by anyone in proximity to the writer. It’s putting a shit-ton of power in the idea of “must”: since it MUST happen, it’ll happen, somehow, sometime, and don’t dare question it. SMH

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Sidney Hook — in his early, leftist period — was entirely correct that one of the principal failings of orthodox Marxism is its teleology. History has no “must.” And whatever revolutionary morale boost the left gains from the “knowledge” that history is on our side is more than lost by the ground that such a teleological view gives ideologues to demand that other people must do this or that thing in order to fulfil the materialist prophesy of the moment.

      • LeeEsq

        This was the criticism that many 19th century anarchists had about the Marxists to.

      • drdick52

        One of my problems with orthodox Marxism, as well.

    • sigaba

      The only path forward…

      The path I like…

      is to deepen and radicalize the Bolivarian process

      …is to completely dispose civil society in favor of historical myths and caudillismo

      through the expansion of the radically democratic socialism embodied in Venezuela’s grassroots communes,

      …by banging pots and pans together…

      which help to overcome the economic contradictions of the petro-state

      …which will make things worse…

      while expanding participatory political consciousness.

      …but me and the exile Venezuelan intelligentisia will write about it from the safety of Billyburg and London.

      • EvanHarper

        *italian chef kissing fingers emoji*

      • Origami Isopod

        historical myths and caudillismo

        See also: Drumpf-curious Twoo Weftists.

      • dcavea

        My impression had been that the “exile Venezuelan intelligentsia” were quite STRONGLY Anti-Chavez/Maduro. Was I wrong?

        In any case, this article shows that sheer ideological stubbornness and a tendency to double and triple down on disastrous decisions are by no means exclusive to the far right.

        • sigaba

          From my experience with the intelligentsia of Bolivarian states (Ecuador and El Salvador in my case) economically, they’re all basically Jack Kemp Republicans.

          Except unlike Jack Kemp, they’re under indictment in their home country, and their family’s coffee plantations were expropriated by land reforms after their brother murdered a Liberation Theology-preaching archbishop. So the net result is they’ll take any position between Bernie and Kissinger as long as they can gush poison on whoever is running things presently.

  • hypersphericalcow

    One would think that leftist ideals would be “better management of the economy”, and “better rights and dignity”.

    700% hyperinflation, government-sanctioned death squads, and 10 million dead Ukrainians should at least show that if these countries are trying to practice socialism, they’re doing a shitty job of it.

    • Patrick_Spens

      There’s a weird strain of leftist thought that doesn’t appear to believe that competence is a thing.

      • LeeEsq

        Its not that they believe that competence isn’t a thing but that socialism is so superior to capitalism that it can work well even with incompetent people in charge.

      • There’s a weird strain of leftist thought that doesn’t appear to believe that competence is a thing.

        Years ago, in an article on Italian politics (in general, not just leftist), the author quoted some Italian or other to the effect that “we Italians mistrust competence because it’s too close to ambition” (his formulation was snappier but I cannot remember it).

        • hypersphericalcow

          It was only recently that I learned that the joke, “At least Mussolini made the trains run on time!” was actually ironic.

      • Justin Runia

        The cost of competence is at least some measure of moderation, or in other words, the taint of the Establishment.

      • CAinDC

        Competence is often disparaged by socialism because it making things work is the primary goal of government, then inevitably you become friendly to technocrats focus less on “class consciousness” and being dogmatic about who owns what.

        A lot of lefties in the 1930s and 1940s skewered the so-called “sewer socialists” (municipal socialism) because of this. Or one can look to places like Sweden and Finland which “real” socialists tend to dislike.

        tl;dr a focus on competence tends to result in something not that far off from neoliberalism.

        • LeeEsq

          Many socialists are deeply invested that anybody can do anything if the put their mind to it and work hard. You were supposed to be able to brain work and muscle work at the same time. The idea of competence suggests that no, anybody can’t do anything even if they put their mind to it.

    • mongolia

      One would think that leftist ideals would be “better management of the economy”, and “better rights and dignity”.

      i think the key is to remember that the type of leftist that tends to defend ussr/cuba/chavismo etc. are a self-selecting bunch and tend to be more purist ideologically. this allows them to be conned by what amount to violent thugs who want to take over the state to run as a kleptocracy, and by constantly using marxist and populist socialist language are able to get themselves good press abroad among this group. the true believers then tend to be too stubborn to realize they were conned, and continue down the rabbit hole of defending purges, poor economy, authoritarianism, etc., all because of their unwillingness to admit they were duped/deluded.

      note that this isn’t aimed only at leftist revolutionaries – right-wing/nationalist revolutionary types take all the bad mentioned above, but add on ethno-nationalist and religious extremism and the violence this entails on top of the all the negatives of revolutionary socialism, and may have backing from western powers who ally with these groups in the name of “stability”

  • NeonTrotsky

    It strikes me that Venezuela isn’t a failure of the left so much as a failure of a state based entirely around the extraction of a volatile commodity that’s had its price bottom out. This is just as terrible a model when monarchist islamists do it in the middle east, or when capitalist oligarchs do it in Russia.

    • sigaba

      Marx never predicted resource curses.

      • NeonTrotsky

        I’m not sure I get your point exactly. Care to elaborate?

        • sigaba

          Idle thought really. Maybe resources curses fit into a general theory of imperialism.

        • LeeEsq

          That socialist countries will try to fund socialism by selling one really valuable commodity to the rest of the non-socialist world.

          • Robespierre

            Honestly, I’m not sure Marx thought there would be a non-socialist world…

      • drdick52

        Actually, he sort of did. He was well aware of the boom-bust cycle of commodities markets and thought that only industrial societies could successfully make the transition to socialism.

    • John F

      Yeah, but the day to day livelihood in the monarchist islamist oil states are not cratering the way they are in Venezuela.

      • NeonTrotsky

        Well they’re the ones causing the cratering due to vast reserves and significantly lower production costs, but they’ve had their problems too. The Arab spring was in part caused by high levels of unemployment and a rejection of the rentier social contract.

        • EvanHarper

          Chronically disappointed expectations among an over-educated and under-employed middle class is one thing. Chronic malnutrition among the masses is another. The economic issues here are on a whole different scale.

      • wengler

        Because they are already centered on massive repression? I mean Saudi Arabia isn’t exactly a great country to look at and say ‘boy, this sure is stable’ They’ve literally gone to war with their own Shia population in the southwest of the country with the western press barely noticing.

      • Some of those states have heavily diversified, going into high finance, tourism, etc. Moreover, the demographics of those states are highly unique and not really comparable to anywhere else in the world.

        • Patrick_Spens

          But them diversifying wasn’t an accident or an inevitability of history. They chose to diversify and Chavez and Maduro chose not to.

          • njorl

            I think it’s because Chavez used the wealth from the boom period to procure political power. He distributed the wealth that the government could obtain during the boom rather than setting up contingencies for the eventual bust. It’s quite possible he needed to do so to maintain power. Had his programs been less generous, his followers might have been less enthusiastic and the 2002 coup might have succeeded in retaining control of the government.

    • Craigo

      Neither the Middle Eastern nor the Eurasian (or Nordic) oil economies have collapsed due to the fall in prices.

      The key difference is that those countries keep experienced managers and engineers in place, while the chavistas used the oil industry as patronage for party hacks and thugs.

      • drdick52

        Actually, the Middle Eastern countries are largely teetering on the brink, except those, like the Nordic countries, which have strongly developed other sectors of the economy.

        • jmwallach

          Don’t forget Nigeria

          • Domino

            Does anyone have good sources re: oil and other African countries? I know Angola is heavily dependent on it as well. I assume it’s causing problems there too.

    • andrew97

      If Maduro (and before him, Chavez) had managed PDVSA competently rather than treating it as a piggy bank, I’d argue Venezuela would be peaceful and prosperous today.

      • Monte Davis

        Agreed — Pemex has seen long stretches of a milder version of the same treatment. One hates to credit the Saudi royals and other Gulf rentiers with moderation and restraint, but comparatively speaking…

        • Zamfir

          Part of it is simply that Saudi Arabia produces 6 times more oil per citizen than Venezuela, with very low production costs. It (and the gulf states) can afford a some-riches-for-everybody policy even while their upper classes loot and spent beyond our craziest dreams.

      • lhartmann

        Nope. As someone with friends and family who *used to be” in Venezuela, and having visited off and on since 1985, the Chavista revolution was destined to fail because incompetence was part of the package. Chavez had no real party, so all the grifters and opportunists (the “robolucionarios”) gravitated to the cause, leaving behind any technocrats etc. Plus, the new regime needed to hand out jobs to whoever would join the revolution, so enormous numbers of useless jobs were created to reward people without any particular skill. This of course was partly the result of economic inequity affecting training, schooling, etc. Also, Chavez didn’t want competitors; it was clear that Maduro was a nobody, but he was no threat. So incompetence was pretty much baked in to Chavismo.

    • TheBrett

      Yep. Even the Latin American countries that don’t have oil have often struggled with commodity dependence, with few exceptions (Uruguay).

    • Asteroid_Strike_Brexit

      Venezuela could, and should, have invested most of the oil proceeds in a sovereign wealth fund. As it was, the oil proceeds were spent on massive imports which crowded out domestic industry and left the country dreadfully exposed in the event oil prices fell. Even the Russian government had the sense to create sovereign wealth funds which gave it time to adjust to low oil prices after 2014.

    • EvanHarper

      This is superficially plausible but it’s just wrong. Oil prices have dropped in relative terms but even now they’re well above their levels during the glory days of Chavismo. The economy was already suffering serious weaknesses around 2013, with oil prices above $100/bbl and near their peak levels. The big oil price decline around mid-2014 just turned an already bad situation into an absolutely desperate one.

      Resource curse, non-diversification stories might explain why Venezuela has chronically shitty productivity but they can’t explain why now, suddenly, the country is suffering from unprecedented deep shortages of basic consumer goods. The real explanation is the currency policy – and by now Maduro almost certainly can’t reverse that policy without being instantly turfed from office. He’s counting on that phony-baloney exchange rate to give him the means to pay off the new Chavista elites that form his power base.

  • John F

    Part of Maduro’s problem was that he was/is governing from fear and weakness- he believed he could not concede an inch or moderate the program no matter what happened to oil prices because was Not Chavez. Any moderation would either be seen as weakness or a betrayal to Chavism.

  • Robert Cruickshank

    While I agree that Chavez didn’t do enough to diversify the country’s economic base with the oil revenues he had, it’s also not as if he had a free hand with which to do so. Nor is it the case that Venezuela’s current problems are all Maduro’s fault. The US and Venezuelan business elites worked to bring down the government through economic warfare, first trying to prevent Chavez from getting his hands on the oil money and then limiting what he could do with it once he did. They fomented resistance at every turn, or helped augment the existing opposition and encourage them to rebel.

    I’m not going to say Chavez or Maduro have been perfect, far from it. I do think the global left has a lot to learn from this experience. But the takeaway I have is that we need to be cleareyed in assessing the challenges of building popular socialism in the face of strong opposition and resistance from the economic elites. I’d be interested in examinations of the ways Chavez and Maduro made mistakes there, while also keeping in mind their margin for error was limited and their ability to deliver was circumscribed from the start.

    • Spiny

      Part of being clear-eyed is recognizing when comfortable excuses about economic warfare are just excuses. The biggest mistakes Chavez and Maduro made had nothing to do with limited options. The US and business elites did not make them install incompetent puppets at PDVSA, institute blatantly corrupt tiered exchange rates, or destroy domestic production of goods through seizures. They did these things on their own, for very bad reasons that were intimately tied to a very silly form of leftism.

      Put another way: When Trump whines that Democrats have opposed him at every turn, he doesn’t have a point even if it is technically true. His choices and failures are due to his own character and the internal contradictions of the American right.

      • dcavea

        “intimately tied to a very silly form of leftism”
        I don’t know about that. I mean, the constant seizures and expropriations are definitely tied to that, and I guess I can get how installing political hacks at the PDVSA and other SOE’s could be justified by the regime that way. But *what on earth* is the left-wing justification for the exchange rate madness?

        • Spiny

          As I understand it (and IANAE) the multiple exchange rates were considered necessary to keep price controls on basic goods working. Importers of priority goods could get favorable exchange rates and keep prices for food and medicine low.

          As with so much of the Chavez administration, the goals were laudable and the execution laughable – it was obvious from the beginning that this was a gold-plated invitation for government-connected “importers” to leverage the currency black market, as well as an opportunity for the government to punish business elites in the political opposition. Leftists could have and should have recognized this as a humanitarian disaster in the making years ago.

    • lhartmann

      This is mostly BS. Again, as someone who has lived in Venezuela off and on for the last 30 years (not any more, of course), Chavez was always careful to limit his attacks on the wealthy- good speech making, and let’s get rid of the Caracas Country Club, but the wealthy could still make money and be left alone. While there was always a wealthy bias against Chavez, the biggest group of people who hated Chavez were what we would call here middle class, for his stupidity, his arrogance, and for his bloating of the bureaucracy to reward his followers with make-work jobs. My fellow scientists hated him for undermining what competence the country had in scientific investigation. The grift went on as before, except with different people and with fewer competent/responsible ones. And of course everything got exponentially worse under Maduro, who is obviously totally incompetent and is only in his position because Chavez, far from being a statesman was just worried about not having a threat to his position or to his “legacy”. Left vs. right: that’s pretty much irrelevant to the situation in Venezuela right now – it is basicalliy the demise of incompetent caudillo rule.

      • jmwallach

        Were you there or in touch with people during the period where it was clear that Chavez was going to die? What did people you know think of him getting medical treatment in Cuba?

  • Bitter Scribe

    As far as I can tell, Maduro has become just another murderous dictator.

    • Craigo

      When were he and Chavez anything else? His first term (i.e., over a decade ago)? The leftist gushing for these authoritarian thugs has always been sickening.

      • TheBrett

        With Chavez it was more transitional, and while his government was getting well into authoritarian-ish illiberal democracy by the time he died, it was still a government that had won strong in elections involving fair and objective voting.

        • mongolia

          his government was getting well into authoritarian-ish illiberal democracy by the time he died,

          it was still a government that had won strong in elections involving fair and objective voting.

          how are these in any way contradictory? see also erdogan and the akp in turkey, where you can win fair elections rather handily while being quasi-authoritarian and illiberal, until you amass enough power so that you can be fully authoritarian and start dabbling with widespread vote manipulation and fraud

          • dcavea

            I don’t think Brett said they were. Sadly, semi-“democratic” authoritarianism seems to be spreading- and indeed, if things get bad enough, it could arrive here.

        • dcavea

          Yeah, I can definitely see how even democratic leftists could be taken in in the beginning. Heck, I was more or less neutral to semi-positive (well, really more “screw both sides”) until 2006 or so.

  • TheBrett

    What the hell, Jacobin? They published a much more nuanced and better piece a few months (maybe a year) ago, that talked about how Chavez and his party became much more corrupt and authoritarian after winning big in 2005, about the dysfunction and crime that came to characterize the regime – while also recognizing that the opposition aren’t exactly pro-democratic saints, drawing heavily from the former middle class and affluent folks in Venezuela who lost out on power with Chavez’s rise.

    But it looks like the line is shifting to more conspiracy-mongering about capitalists and Yankees sabotaging the good socialist project, along with lots of talk about how the opposition are thugs. This is why the US needs to stay well clear.

    Or maybe I am just a counterrevolutionary rightist who deserves to be shot.

    I think a lot of it is like Eric Hobsbawn never quite being willing to totally give up on the Soviet Union. There’s a sentimental attachment there to an openly leftist former President and regime that lasted.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Perhaps Jacobin didn’t have a “line” then and it doesn’t have one now.

      The journal certainly publishes its fair share of crap, but I think it’s really unfair to accuse it of promoting any sort of orthodoxy. Individual articles, for better or worse, don’t represent the unified view of the publication.

      • TheBrett

        I wasn’t saying they have a line. I’m saying it was disconcerting to see them publish a good, solid left-view piece on Venezuela, then publish something on the same topic but much worse.

        • dcavea

          Yeah, but they’ve done that with several topics, not just Venezuela. It’s the nature of the beast.

    • FlipYrWhig

      There’s been a trend towards “conspiracy-mongering about capitalists and Yankees sabotaging the good socialist project” across all left media and describing all nations for at least 2 years. I don’t know what put it in motion, but if anything it’s gathering momentum.

      • twbb

        Isn’t that a constant over the past 40 years or so on a hemispheric level?

        • FlipYrWhig

          No doubt, but it felt like more of a niche for thinkpieces in older journals and older media. Now it’s widespread, among people who were never part of the Pacifica/Counterpunch/etc. scene.

          • pseudalicious

            Tangent, but what’s the deal with that scene aka why is it such a shitshow?

            • FlipYrWhig

              It’s like most scenes that are about trying to maintain the passionate fandoms of 20+ years ago.

        • TheBrett

          In fairness, about half of that time the US really was trying to overthrow left-leaning regimes. But in the case of Venezuela it’s not true – the Chavistas have come into plenty of criticism since 2002*, but the limit of US intervention amounted to some tepid sanctions on Venezuelan leaders. Nobody in the US government really gives a shit about Venezuela as long as they can keep selling stuff to Venezuela for oil, and that’s good because US intervention in this would just give the regime more excuses for its failings.

          * Even in 2002, it’s not clear how much support the coup attempt had from the US aside from the rhetorical.

          • Lost Left Coaster

            The Bush Administration supported an attempted coup against Chavez.

            • TheBrett

              Debatable. They recognized the coup plotters after they declared that they’d overthrown Chavez, but how much they supported it beyond the rhetoric is dubious.

              • Lost Left Coaster

                Rhetoric is pretty important. The USA sent a strong message that they wanted the coup to succeed — otherwise they would have demanded the restoration of the Democratically elected government, which is the standard line when a government that the USA actually likes is overthrown in an undemocratic fashion.

          • twbb

            I have seen that kind of thing coming from angry young leftists, often angry young leftists from relatively privileged South/Central American backgrounds.

  • hypersphericalcow

    > Or maybe I am just a counterrevolutionary rightist who deserves to be shot

    Only if your head ends up on a pike.

  • djw

    There’s a part of me that feels a bit bad for GCM; his big first project was a celebration of the Venezuelan revolution as a fresh way forward and new model for global socialism that was legitimately bottom-up, populist and democratic, and seemed to have solved or be on the verge of solving socialism’s democracy problem. (His first book was “We Created Chavez: A People’s History of the Venezualan Revolution.”) A difficult spot to be in, but at some point continuing to double down just makes a bad situation worse.

    • FlipYrWhig

      This is also the way Sirota used to feel about Montana… as well as, it turns out (I had forgotten but dug it up after Googling), Venezuela.

    • This reminds of me of 2 books or long articles I would like to write, will never probably write, and would piss people off.

      1) The terribly over-optimistic predictions of labor historians, even the most well-respected, every time something happens with a strike or some other action for the last half-century. Inevitably, Lordstown, the UPS strike, Madison, the Fight for $15. etc, demonstrates that labor is on its way back! Then they write essays and edited volumes that are utterly irrelevant the moment they are published. See: https://www.amazon.com/Labor-Rising-Future-Working-America/dp/1595585184/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501526505&sr=8-1&keywords=labor+rising

      2) How the left has approached Latin America, with scholars and activists careening from nation to another to follow the revolutionary path. GCM is part of this, people who invested heavily in the Zapatistas (even less defensible intellectually than investing in Chavez) are another. You could trace this in any number of ways, including, say, Fulbright applications, which skyrocketed for Venezuela after Chavez took over. It was a scholarly backwater before and then boomed overnight, all because white leftists from the U.S. wanted to see the revolution in action. Similarly, the 80s and early 90s saw all sorts of studies on Nicaragua and that totally dried up after the Sandinistas lost power. It’s almost as if scholars’ projects say more about them than they say about the people they purport to write about.

      • Veleda_k

        If you wrote them, I would read them.

      • Thomas W

        I’m going to ask how much #1 is limited to labor historians, or is just something general about publishing (whether books or articles). People seem inclined to think every little change reflects a new trend.

        • Erik Loomis

          It may not be limited to labor historians, but labor historians tend to make public political pronouncements about these things, perhaps at rates higher than other scholars.

      • Lost Left Coaster

        I’m all about academic activism, but I do think we need a little more scholarly distance in Latin American studies — you’re right, so many people go all in on this or that revolution or revolutionary figure.

        I’m seeing less of this in the community of Bolivia scholars, though — there are plenty of critical views of the current government in Bolivia scholarship.

      • LeeEsq

        This probably traces back to John Reed. There is a type of academic and/or journalist that deeply needs to be part of the action rather than an observer. They get very emotionally invested in what they cover.

      • TheBrett

        I’d read both of those, at least in long article form.

      • Murc

        This reminds of me of 2 books or long articles I would like to write, will never probably write, and would piss people off.

        I am legitimately surprised that you don’t have “Pissing People Off With My Aggressive Heterodoxy” on your business cards, or possibly as a back tattoo.

      • pseudalicious

        Who do you think is worth reading? Is Greg Grandin legit or no?

        • Erik Loomis

          Grandin is a great historian, although I do think his own ideology definitely gets in the way of sober analysis at times.

      • Deborah Bender

        If it won’t derail the thread, what do you think about Lula de Silva?

        • Erik Loomis

          He got fucked, but I need to find an expert to write about this.

        • mds

          Yeah, see, now Brazil’s what reactionary pushback against legitimately-elected non-authoritarian left-wing politicians looks like.

          • dcavea

            Yep. I mean, its true that Lula was corrupt, but (a). astonishingly few Brazilian politicians aren’t, and (b) the bunch that succeed Lula and Dilma seem to be just as-or more-corrupt. (In addition to being extremely right-wing).

      • Gregor Sansa

        I lived in a Zapatista community for most of a year, in 2001.

        Zapatismo has always been a hybrid between ideological rhetoric (ie, Marcos) and day-to-day practice. Neither was perfect; it was never a beacon of progress with a model that could scale. But on both levels I think that their impact has been positive on net. Also, as leftist movements go, I think they were more honest and realistic than most about their hybrid status (admittedly a low bar).

        So I would vehemently disagree that the Zapatistas were even less defensible intellectually than Chavez. I know that’s not what you said and the “investing heaviy in” thing makes it debatable. But it would be an easy misreading of what you said so I think it deserves pushback.

    • Murc

      and seemed to have solved or be on the verge of solving socialism’s democracy problem.

      Speaking as someone who is not nearly as well-versed in the topic as you are, djw, I feel like this is going to require a culture shift within leftism such that it no longer regards liberalism as an enemy or liberal values as being useless, bourgeoisie things that can be dispensed with.

      I don’t think you can have a meaningful democracy without some basic liberal principles (free speech, free association, free assembly, among others) and a lot of leftists seem to regard those things as useless at best and actively pernicious to leftism at worst.

      • LeeEsq

        Liberal principles mean that leftists are going to have to deal with people who think they are wrong and might even loose to them a lot in elections.

        • Murc

          One of the things leftism has in common with rightism is that their moral threshold for “we have reached the point in the political process where open violence and/or naked political oppression is okay” seems to be excessively low.

          • LeeEsq

            They also don’t believe that reasonable people can disagree about things. Liberal democracy is very dependent on the idea that reasonable people can disagree on the lot.

      • pseudalicious

        It depends how you’re defining the left. I think free speech absolutism doesn’t square well with protecting/making life more tolerable for minorities of various stripes. I would consider both the Chapo Traphouse guys/their fans and BLM both “left,” but their priorities are way different.

        ETA: Meant to add: I’m sympathetic to the argument that the “positive rights” thing was invented by and for white dudes. Much like our entire system. Like, for instance (please don’t let this derail the thread, which I’m finding super educational, on a topic I’m very curious about), “innocent until proven guilty” is a great principle. It absolutely does not work for rape. Just as one example.

        And then there’s the flip side of, “But then is an alternate framework possible, or is this the best we’re going to get, human nature being what it is?” (I lean towards the latter.)

        • Murc

          I think free speech absolutism doesn’t square well with
          protecting/making life more tolerable for minorities of various stripes.

          Is anybody actually a free speech absolutist?

          You’ll not a find a lot of support for it being perfectly legal to literally yell fire in a crowded theater, and we have numerous perfectly legal and constitutional laws against harassment and other such things.

          • Drew

            Free speech absolutists exist and tend to be a bit dishonest. No one is truly an “absolutist,” they just end up defining “speech” in different ways.

        • Patrick_Spens

          “innocent until proven guilty” is a great principle. It absolutely does not work for rape

          It would have worked pretty good for Emmit Till. The overlap between people who are upset at the disproportionate number of black men in prison, and want to make it a lot easier to prosecute people for rape is baffling.

          • Justin Runia

            Yeah, and it’s not like we don’t have ample examples of this tension unfolding in real-time, like the Nate Parker controversy, or even that Bachelor In Paradise debacle that unfolded last month. To a certain degree, I can understand why committed leftists want to ditch the knotty, treacherous landscape of “idpol”, it certainly simplifies things to a certain degree…

          • Origami Isopod

            It’s almost as if we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

        • LeeEsq

          You can’t treat sex crimes differently than other crimes. The civil rights travesty of sex offender registries prove that.

          • jmwallach

            I think you mean that these registries are awful because no other type of criminal is marked after punishment?

      • djw

        That would certainly help, although I think the tensions between democracy and (non-market) socialism might be deeper and more structural. It may well be a necessary but not sufficient condition.

        • Murc

          Well that’s depressing if true.

          • djw

            I don’t know about that. I’m pretty vigorously and unabashedly anti-utopian, so that probably colors my outlook. If it turns out the best we can reasonably hope for is getting back to the best of social democracy and making marginal improvements from there, that’s still pretty damn impressive by any historical standard. A society that managed to be as simultaneously peaceful, rights-respecting, and prosperous as 20th century social democracy at its best is a tremendous improvement over the best reasonable hope of any previous century.

            • Erik Loomis

              Is it too far for me to say that all leftists should be anti-utopian? Because I sure as hell think that utopianism is a giant waste of time and energy.

              • djw

                I’ve softened my views somewhat recently, and am more willing to concede that utopianism has some positive value than I was a few years ago. But I’m still pretty secure in my confidence that it the harm outweighs the good by a substantial margin.

                • It’s an interesting issue to think about, given how attractive utopianism is for the left even today. I may have to do a bunch of tweets about this and see what happens.

              • Patrick_Spens

                One day we will be free of the scourge of utopian dreamers and move towards a bright future full of hard-eyed pragmatism.

            • Murc

              I mean it’s depressing in the sense that I value democracy and socialism both very highly, and if there are deep structural tensions between them this is a problem for me and for both ideologies. Especially since I’m a big believer in the idea that leftism can’t work with liberal values and liberalism can’t work without leftist values.

              • mds

                if there are deep structural tensions between them this is a problem for me and for both ideologies.

                Eh, I suspect they could work together. It’s just a matter of what freedoms get maximized and what freedoms get constrained. (Waves hand airily.)

                Honestly, it would take a lot of work to get a benign enough socialism to avoid the Parent Knows Best effect, etc. But it turns out that 20th-century social democracy took a lot more ongoing effort to maintain and extend than a lot of us realized, too.

        • LeeEsq

          Non-market socialism is based on the idea that there should be little to no privately owned property or nothing really like a market with independent business people and groups providing goods or services. This turns out to require perpetual control to maintain. You really can’t give an inch if you want to keep all private activity out of the economy or really society. This amount of necessary control is pretty anti-democratic.

        • TheBrett

          Put me in that camp as well, which is not to say that I think extensive state ownership and efforts in the economy are incompatible with democracy (they obviously aren’t).

          I worry that full non-market socialism makes the stakes too high for a peaceful transfer of power to work, and you need that for democracy to work. Having some degree of economic decentralization and division means that the opposition can rally resources outside of the direct control of whoever happens to be the incumbent faction in power, and challenge it. That’s probably not a big deal in smaller groups, but imagine political units big enough that they have to be ruled through indirect representative democracy.

      • Cassiodorus

        I think this ends up being a tricky question because a lot of people on the left see these freedoms as a one-way street.

    • Deborah Bender

      Somebody ought to write a sequel to their political book titled, “Well, I Was Wrong.”

  • Simple Mind

    One long,sad run since Bolivar.
    Agree with Robert Cruickshank.

  • wengler

    Or maybe I am just a counterrevolutionary rightist who deserves to be shot.

    Well duh and birds go tweet.

    I think Venezuela shows us what happens when you try to develop your socialist revolution on the back of high gas prices. No real development. No increase in taxation, in fact their tax burden is still lower than the US. They needed a whole new generation of people getting educated in the technical fields abandoned by the anti-Chavez movement. Instead they got the decree law and Maduro.

  • aab84

    Genuine question that I realize will sound like a trollish question: what is the strongest example of a successful left/socialist (as opposed to social democracy) regime since 1917 (recognizing that the U.S. and other outside forces undoubtedly played major and sometimes dispositive roles in the failure of various regimes)? Bolivia?

    • djw

      How long does it have to have lasted to count as successful?

      • aab84

        Totally fair question, and one I’m not sure I have a great answer to. I hadn’t been thinking of duration so much as tendency to descend into authoritarianism etc. I guess the best way I can frame it is, if you wanted to argue for the viability of socialism as a successful real-world experiment, what’s the best case (or cases)? I swear this isn’t red-baiting. I’d love to read/learn more about good candidates.

        • Gregor Sansa

          Guatemala 44-54?

    • LeeEsq

      Israel between its founding and Begin’s election or even the 1990s? The old argument was that Israel had the most collectivist economy outside the Communist bloc. Most of the really big companies were state owned and run. The food was produced it collective and communal farms for the most part. The land was owned by the state and everybody else just leased it. Even in the present, the Israeli government owns most of the land. Labour was the big political party but both Jewish and Arab political opposition to Labour existed and Labour needed a coalition to govern. The judiciary smacked down the government.

      • Gregor Sansa

        Truly democratic, with certain notable exceptions…

    • Lost Left Coaster

      Cuba.

      • LeeEsq

        Cuba doesn’t allow for any political opposition though and Castro could get really abusive with human rights when he wanted to even though he didn’t do so in a particularly blood thirsty manner.

        • Lost Left Coaster

          No shit. But that wasn’t the question, was it? The question was what has been the most successful left/socialist regime since 1917. I do not think that there is any contest that the winner is Cuba — they have kept their system intact, in the face of massive opposition, since 1959.

          • LeeEsq

            I suppose it depends on how you define successful.

            • Lost Left Coaster

              It certainly does. I was not under the impression that aab84 was asking solely about human rights. But I may be wrong.

              • LeeEsq

                It also depends on where you place the dividing line between socialism and social democracy.

        • Zamfir

          Aab84 explicitly excluded social democracy – the remaining list will be opposition-crushing one-party states pretty much by construction.

          • LeeEsq

            What I meant is how much of the economy needs to be state run for something to be socialist rather than social democratic? The Communist countries never totally managed to get rid of all aspects of private property. The Soviets learned pretty quickly that taking away all personal possessions at death was not going to happen. Yugoslavia decided to allow for a good deal of private land ownership because collectivization turned out to be really unpopular. After the Hungarian Revolution, the Hungarian government decided to allow people to lease state owned businesses and run them as private businesses for a price.

            • aab84

              I was basically just trying to exclude like Scandinavia. Thanks to all for the interesting responses.

              • LeeEsq

                The Scandinavian Labor and Social Democratic parties were one among the first social democratic parties to give up on the idea of public ownership of the means of production in all industries and come to peace with the market. They started getting rid of those planks in the 1950s and early 1960s. The British Labour Party get on to Clause IV until the 1990s.

            • Zamfir

              I don’t think the division between social democracy and other socialism is in the percentage of socialism – it’s in the percentage of democracy.

    • Zamfir

      Half-serious: Singapore? Once you scratch their rahrah capitalist face to the outside world, it’s about as close as any place got to vanguard-run public ownership of the means of production.

    • rea

      The Harold Wilson era UK?

      • stepped pyramids

        That’s social democratic by my standards.

        • LeeEsq

          Wilson was also much less of a socialist than say the earlier Atlee government. During his second term, he and other Labour moderates were toying with the idea of selling counsel flats because voters really wanted to own their own house.

    • dcavea

      Among Communist regimes? Probably the best was the former Yugoslavia-though of course it fell in the end too.

      If you’re only counting democracies…well there really isn’t one, but the closest example would probably be Clement Attlee’s 1945-51 Labour government.

  • lawguy

    I know that we have done everything that we could to destabilize for want of a better term that government. But where would you suggest I go to read about the real issues with the government itself.

    Also, couldn’t any citizen vote in this elections and couldn’t anybody run in it?

    • Kevin

      in theory, but tell that to the dead opposition candidates…

    • Jamie Mayerfeld

      lawguy, please see my comment below. I would start with Francisco Toro’s recent piece in the Washington Post.

    • Patrick_Spens

      Journalists were banned from being within 500 meters of the polling places.

  • Jamie Mayerfeld

    Erik, thank you for criticizing George Ciccariello-Maher’s misleading piece which, through a mixture of disinformation and revolutionary Marxist dogma, gives encouragement to Maduro’s destruction of democracy in Venezuela. I like most of what you say. I would add two points. (1) It would be a mistake to characterize the opposition to Maduro as belonging to the “right.” It represents a broad spectrum from the right to the left, united at this moment by a desire to preserve Venezuela’s democratic institutions. (2) Much of the blame for this catastrophe lies with Chavez, because of his systematic attack on checks and balances and human rights protections. He created the political foundations on which Maduro built his dictatorial project, just as human rights organizations warned would happen. Left-wing supporters of Chavez rejected these warnings, but they were wrong to do so. Human rights matter. Democracy matters. Judicial independence matters. Checks and balances matter. The left needs to absorb these lessons. To date, it has not done so.

    For following events in Venezuela, I recommend Francisco Toro’s articles in the Washington Post, including most recently https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2017/07/29/translating-venezuelas-political-crisis-into-american-terms/?utm_term=.82cb4e2d7cab. http://www.caracaschronicles.com is another excellent resource.

  • Dr. Waffle

    Revolutionary dogma is so tiresome. Do actual humans think or talk like that?

    • dcavea

      Unfortunately, yes some of them do.

  • Murc

    I have to admit that I was on the Chavez train longer than I should have been.

    I used to read Johann Hari avidly (what happened to that guy? He sort of vanished after that quasi-plagiarism scandal) and Hari was all in on Chavez; he travelled to Venezuela a whole bunch of times to write about what things were really like there and I didn’t notice for a long time he didn’t mention at all some things that were rather important.

    As for that column… am I the only one who doesn’t understand the disdain for bureaucracy and bureaucrats? If there were plausible alternatives available I could understand it, but it’s like… do people with utopian leftist dreams not understand that glorious socialism is going to require an entrenched, expansive, massive bureaucracy? At least the libertarians want to throw people to the wolves, which doesn’t require a lot of paperwork. Leftists have no excuse.

    • wengler

      You point out that Chavez was both more and less authoritarian than he should’ve been. This current crisis is all about still having free and fair democratic elections while having built a framework to invalidate free and fair democratic elections. The Assembly is anti-Chavezista, the courts are pro-Chavezista and the President is a guy that even those that liked Chavez can’t really get behind. He has a law from the era where Chavez was really powerful to invalidate the Assembly(ol’ Hugo was looking ahead).

      Thank God the right will come into power through a violent revolution, end elections, kill their opponents and make Venezuela open for business again.

    • TheBrett

      There’s nothing to be ashamed about being a Chavez supporter back in the early years of the regime. My view is basically that something like his movement and presidency was necessary to break open the oligarchical politics of Venezuela and actually do something to address its inequality and corruption, but that Chavez was a much better winner of elections and charismatic speaker than he was at actually governing. Eventually corruption and authoritarianism set in, enabled by extremely high oil prices and related revenues masking growing economic dysfunction – at least until oil prices cratered, crime skyrocketed, and it all stopped working just before he died.

      Evo Morales in Bolivia is a pretty good example of what that kind of left-populist movement could lead to if it had someone at the top who was actually competent at governance (although in the last year or two he’s been getting a bit more authoritarian and balking at the idea of being term limited, as well as less popular).

      • Murc

        Brett, if I may ask, are you the same Brett who comments over at Steven’s place? You have the same je ne sais quoi.

        • TheBrett

          Yes!

        • TheBrett

          I am!

    • Origami Isopod

      You are not the only who noticed GC-M’s swipe at bureaucracy. I think it’s connected to the brief discussion upthread about how Twoo Weftists are suspicious of competence.

  • LeeEsq

    Chavez and his associated media allies used a lot of homophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric to discredit his domestic opponents when he was in power to.

  • OT: Assange remains a Trump stooge.

    • John F

      There was a time I had simply assumed that Assange meant well in general, but was blinded by reflexive anti-Americanism…

      That time is long past, he obviously has a soft spot for rightist ethno-nationalists, or as I call them scum.

      Now, the real question is whether he ever actually believed in Wikileaks manifesto, or if was always a means to an end for him.

    • Mike Hoyer

      Is this the second time Wikileaks has posted this? Because I very distinctly remember this exact thing already happening, like a month ago. So either I’m crazy or clairvoyant, or Wikileaks is doing… reruns? It didn’t land the first time so try it again?

    • Cassiodorus

      What if I never thought Assange was on the level?

      • i’m pretty sure that means you’re a neoliberal.

      • Murc

        He was, in fact, sent here by the devil.

        • jmwallach

          Don’t try to derail this thread.

        • Joe Paulson

          Bush?

  • sanjait

    The real evil of partisanship is not that it leads to acrimony, it’s that it leads to sheer stupidity.

    People start identifying themselves with a tribe based on shared ideals, but then the power over others of the tribe itself becomes the ideal, and true principles and reality-based thinking both suffer.

    In the U.S., I feel as though the conservative movement has been spiraling downward in this way for years and has recently hit new record lows, but also that the American left is increasingly tribal-stupid.

    Being a Putin or Chavez apologist are notable examples of the latter, made all the more remarkably ironic by the strong resemblance our current crypto-fascist conservative president has to both Putin and Chavez.

    Shorter summary: when you see someone use “more conservative” or “more liberal” as a de facto ideal in and of itself, that person is probably not thinking clearly.

    • Patrick_Spens

      The real evil of partisanship is not that it leads to acrimony, it’s that it leads to sheer stupidity.

      That’s a great line, and I am stealing it.

  • pseudalicious

    Bless you for writing this. Like Murc, I drank some Chavez kool-aid (thanks, Naomi Klein), partly because I don’t know Spanish and every English language source was intensely chavista or intensely “THIS SOCIALIST DISASTER WILL KILL US ALL, IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT AMERICA?!” and sadly, the asshole right-wingers were right, I guess. And also, obviously, I wanted them to succeed in making things better for the poor via socialism. But, well, the gay hating, the Jew-hating, the… everything…

    Erik, are there any English language resources you’d recommend that are, much like this post… sane?

    • dcavea

      “every English language source was intensely chavista or intensely “THIS SOCIALIST DISASTER WILL KILL US ALL, IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT AMERICA?!””

      Oh, that was true of most Spanish-language sources too.

      • Gregor Sansa

        Yes. And that level of division would have led to disaster no matter who was in charge.

  • OT like a MF: Apparently you can fuck with THE MOOCH

      • N__B

        The Times style at its finest: “It was not clear whether Mr. Scaramucci will remain employed at the White House in another position or will leave altogether.” Shorter NYT: It was not clear whether Mr. Scaramucci will remain or be asked to turn in his red nose and floppy shoes.

    • Ahenobarbus

      I assumed the tweet was satire, but the NYT article makes me wonder.

      • Lost Left Coaster

        Washington Post is reporting it too now.

    • TheBrett

      Oh, come on! SNL didn’t even get to mock him yet!

      • Murc

        I guarantee you there’s some angry people in that writers room with yellow pads full of “Mooch” puns. Probably in the writers room of Last Week Tonight as well.

  • I expect I would disagree with Erik on a lot of issues, as I’m more liberal than left. But it is posts like this why I respect him and value his opinions and pay about as much attention to the Jacobin as I do the Daily Mail. The willingness of so many ‘leftists’ to lash their colours to the mast of Chavismo is indicative of how many ‘leftists’ are simply poseurs. I note that there’s a near 100% overlap with the kind of ‘leftists’ who saw a genuine popular uprising against a gangster-capitalist dictator, followed by an attempt to crush it militarily by an imperialist autocracy, and threw in with the Kremlin. Because NATO. Or America. Or something about fascism. Where is Ukraine anyway? Is it in the middle east or something?

  • drdick52

    Have to agree and this pretty much aligns with my take on the situation. Maduro has become everything the neoliberals and conservatives wrongly accused Chavez of.

  • Spiny

    Nick Cohen of the Observer wrote a piece about this type of leftist in which he compared them to sex tourists. Having failed to convince people in their own country to sign up for socialist revolution, basically, they search abroad for the thrills they need. And while the relationship may seem mutually beneficial, ultimately the tourist is not interested in the long-term fate of his or her temporary partner, and never puts in the effort to understand them fully.

  • It is a disaster, and a huge disappointment.

    The path to authoritarianism was made easier by the fact that the opposition were themselves not particularly democratic. Consequently, it became a matter of which brand of authoritarianism you were prepared to support. This would have been more palatable had Chavez’s power grabs not undermined the competence of the country’s institutions and, increasingly, the nation’s economy. As long as the price of oil remained high they could paper over the cracks, but since the oil market cratered it’s been an economic catastrophe, resulting in social and political disaster.

    One important lesson that too few on the left seem to have learned: democratic socialism is incompatible with an authoritarian personality cult.

  • EvanHarper

    Putting this down to incompetence alone is a little too kind. It’s true that the currency controls are strangling the Venezuelan economy to a degree hardly seen outside of wartime conditions, but they also create an incredibly lucrative income stream for whichever lucky duckies can get allocated some precious permits to exchange Bolivars for USD at those fantasy-world exchange rates. That’s the real story of Venezuela in a nutshell, and almost certainly also the story of why the security forces have remained so doggedly loyal to a regime that everyone can see has no legitimacy. Because their officers are being very well compensated for it.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    George Ciccariello-Maher…where do I know that name?…oh, that’s right:

    http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Drexel-professor-ciccariello-maher-new-twitter-storm-March-31-2017.html?amphtml=y&mobi=true

    He’s a wannabe FdB flame-whore…who looks like Marc Maron’s Brogressive Douchebag younger brother.

    • Origami Isopod

      I mean, I’m not seriously worried about white genocide, and the worship of the military in this country is off the charts. OTOH, this guy really shouldn’t go around calling other people “smug and self-congratulatory.”

  • sherparick

    “The revolution cannot fail, it can only be failed & the beatings must continue until morale improves” appear to be the ruling cliches for both the Left & the Right.

  • TheBostonian1991

    With Cuba slowly, but rather surely, transitioning into a tourism-oriented China, Venezuela offers the only chance of doctrinal communism under the tropics.

  • shah8

    Yeah, I have been ranting in my head about white people and their reactions to Venezuela. And the oh, so tiresome liberalism. For a while now.

    It’s not so much that I want to support Chavismo or Maduro or whatever. It’s this…persistence of enemy talk. From Quadaffi, Chavez, to Putin, Corbyn, Assad, Il Sung, and back to whomever the media points it’s outrage on.

    And so much of this is a second-degree racist condescension that doesn’t really allow for the idea that other places should have any autonomy from from white people norms. Simultaneously putting some evil-doer’s name as a place-holder on a whole society *and* placing on them a series of double-binds. Zero faith in any democratic norms that might bind them. After all, it’s not your responsibility to put someone who charisma and political skills to put that liberal flag high against the likes of Corbyn. It’s okay if it’s Angela Eagle or Owen Smith. It’s not your responsibility if that opposition that the US funds has zero interest in making a broader appeal to the populace, it’s the populace for failing to understand your perspective on their own best interests. It’s also, just too bad, so sad when said population suffers from sanctions or other failures of multilateral regimes.

    And guys? Where this is headed, is a world of violent oligarchal politics, the squabble between KSA/Emirates/Egypt and Qatar being just a small taste. A world where the IMF is even further sidelined (not just about greece), as well as other critical international institutions. A world full of people who admire strongmen like Paul Kagame, or the success of North Korea’s nuke and ballistic missile programs. It’s not going to be a place for you and me.

    If corruption and incompetence and brutality was a metric that equally applied to Left and Right, we wouldn’t really have as many problems as we do. But they are not, and a major cover that prevents a call to justification, has always been about race and class, as so clearly shown in Brazil.

    You stupid motherfuckers, who will march to that tune of “competence.”

    Liberalism is dead.

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