Here’s a quickie. Last August, and again in June of this year, Norwegian historian Bård Larsen published newspaper articles in which he noted that prominent left-wingers in his own country who had long cheered the Hugo Chávez (now Nicolás Maduro) regime in Venezuela were now finally – finally! – acknowledging the failure of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution.
At the same time, however, they weren’t quite willing to accept that they themselves had been fools and knaves, clinging with blind faith to an authoritarian ideology that from the very beginning had quite obviously contained the seeds of disaster. Some of them, indeed, had dropped their own past statements about chavismo down the memory hole.
Among these chavista “groupies,” as Larsen called them, is Audun Lysbakken, head of Norway’s Socialist Left Party, who’s on record as having called chavismo “an expansion and deepening of democracy.” Over the years he’s made other statements in praise of the Bolivarian Revolution, but they now appear to have been removed from his party’s website.
Lysbakken isn’t alone in his party, which has firmly supported chavismo from the beginning. After Chávez was re-elected in 2004, the Socialist Left’s national board – including such high-profile figures as Kristin Halvorsen, Øystein Djupedal, and Bård Vegar Solhjell – sent a letter of congratulations to Caracas that begin with the words “Dear comrades!”
Author Eirik Vold now presents himself as having foreseen Venezuela’s collapse. But it was only three years ago that the radical-left publisher Manifest issued Vold’s extremely pro-chavista book, Hugo Chávez: The Revenge. In it, Vold hailed Chávez as a “Christmas present for the left” and claimed that the dictator had a lot to teach Norwegian socialists.
Another sap: Benedicte Bull, a researcher at the University of Oslo. She now supports the Venezuelan opposition, but not long ago she was praising Chávez for working towards “a more egalitarian society and democratic government institutions” and condemning Norwegian critics of the caudillo for their supposed ignorance and lack of “nuance.”
Then there’s Peter M. Johansen of the national Communist daily Klassekampen, who had repeatedly depicted Chávez, and then Maduro, as waging a heroic struggle against what he described as a “cryptofascist oppisition directed from Washington.”
One Norwegian enthusiast for chavismo who has yet to jump ship is Dave Watson (no, the name doesn’t sound too Norwegian to us, either), who belongs to something called the Latin America Group in Bergen. In an article written in May, five months after the Venezuelan opposition scored a victory in last December’s parliamentary elections, Watson blamed the Bolivarian Republic’s economic disaster largely on the ruling party’s opponents, whom he accused of “undermining, destabilizing, and sabotaging” chavista efforts to bring about utopia.
Instead of criticizing Maduro for incarcerating opposition leaders such as Leopoldo López, moreover, Watson actually condemned the Venezuelan opposition for using its new majority to try to free these political prisoners. (Yes, you read that right.) Similarly, instead of recognizing that the country’s grocery shelves were empty because of the colossal failure of chavista economics, Watson suggested that the “mysterious disappearance” of staples from the stores was the product of a corporate conspiracy to bring down Maduro. All of which goes to show that some dreams – some self-delusions – never die.