Yesterday we started looking in on some of the Americans who, not that long ago, were slavering fans of chavismo. Where, we asked, are they now? What, if anything, do they have to say about what’s happened to Venezuela as a result of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution? Has any of them exhibited even the remotest hint of regret, remorse, repentance for cheering on Hugo’s socialist shake-up?
Among those who signed a 2014 letter to the U.S. Congress in defense of the Chávez regime was NYU historian Greg Grandin. Writing in The Nation in March of last year, Grandin “explained” current developments in Venezuela by turning to one after another of his fellow signers of that letter to Congress. (We took note of Grandin’s piece, incidentally, last June.)
Grandin cited with approval, for example, Miguel Tinker Salas‘s insistence that “we have to keep perspective” about developments in Venezuela. There followed another attempt to change the subject: why focus on the horrors of Venezuela but not, say, Mexico? Tinker Salas rejected U.S. media reports suggesting that Venezuela “is once again on the verge of a precipice” and mocked “[s]ensational headlines [that] focus on the lack of toilet paper and condoms.” Grandin likewise took comfort from anthropologist Naomi Schiller’s observation that “[t]here have been few periods where Bolivarianism hasn’t been deeply embattled.”
He further cited George Ciccariello-Maher, who offered the novel observation that by focusing on Venezuela’s present shortage of basic goods “we run the risk of losing sight of…the historically poor, the revolutionary grassroots, those who knew shortages and insecurity long before wealthy elites raised these as banners.” Ciccariello-Maher further suggested that instead of turning back from the precipice, Venezuela needed to charge forward faster than ever, putting its faith in the new phenomenon of “self-governed communes,” which produce their own manufactured and agricultural goods. We looked at those communes back in January, noting the ominous similarity between them and Stalin’s collective farms.
But of all these cheerleaders for chavismo, who’s still waving the pom-poms? Well, there’s Eric Draitser, for one. Who’s he? He’s the founder of a website called StopImperialism.com and is a regular contributor to both RT (Putin’s English-language TV channel) and Press TV (Iran’s English-language TV channel). Writing in April in the bizarre, far-left Counterpunch (a publication whose apparent purpose is to make The Nation look sane), Draitser spurned the “corporate media” which, he wrote, “would have you believe that Venezuela is a dictatorship on the verge of political and economic collapse; a country where human rights crusaders and anti-government, democracy-seeking activists are routinely rounded up and thrown in jail….In fact, the opposite is true.”
In Draitser’s world, chavista socialism hasn’t destroyed Venezuela’s economy; what’s happened, rather, is that the political opposition has “undermined, targeted, and destabilized” the Bolivarian Revolution and has used “the sacrosanct terminology of ‘freedom,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘human rights’ to conceal” its “grave crimes against the people of Venezuela” and its “iniquitous agenda, shaped and guided, as always, by its patrons in the United States.” It’s no surprise that Draitser’s piece first appeared on the website of TeleSUR, a Caracas-based joint initiative of the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Bolivia.