Bye, Evo!

Jair Bolsonaro

After being ruled by a series of socialist crooks – such as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who ended up in prison for money laundering, and Dilma Rousseff, who was removed from office for corruption – Brazil opted for Jair Bolsonaro, a conservative admirer of Donald Trump who believes in cultivating alliances with democracies and spurning dictators. Argentina, after years of rule by “progressives” and Peronists, most notably the left-wing, sticky-fingered Kirschner clan, elected Mauricio Macri who, after high-profile defaults on the nation’s sovereign debt, seeks to reintegrate his country into the international market economy. In Venezuela, where chavismo succeeded in turning a highly prosperous oil-exporting country into a nightmare of hyperinflation where people are eating their pets or fleeing to Colombia, Hugo Chavez’s personally chosen successor, the mendacious Marxist mediocrity Nicolas Maduro, continues to cling to power thanks only to the backing of a ruthless Cuban-trained military even as the admirable Juan Guaido – a fan of liberty, friend of America, admirer of the free market, and potential rescuer of the so-called Bolivarian Republic – waits in the wings, desperate to set things right.

Evo Morales

In these South American nations, then, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Now another one has joined the pack. In Bolivia, Evo Morales, who since his ascent to the presidency in 2006 has become more and more of an authoritarian, finally went too far this year, triggering, in the words of the Atlantic‘s Yascha Mounk, “weeks of mass protests in La Paz and other Bolivian cities, and the rapid crumbling of his support both within law enforcement and his own political party.” In the end, writes Mounk, “his loss of legitimacy among the majority of his own countrymen…forced Morales to resign” on November 10.

2017 protests against Evo’s switcheroo on term limits

Evo’s offenses were many: he violated the two-term presidential limit and got his rubber-stamp Supreme Court to give this move the OK. When he ran for a third term in October and it became clear that the public vote count was going against him, “the vote tally suddenly froze. For 24 hours, the website of Bolivia’s electoral commission offered no more updates. Then the official result was finally announced: Morales had supposedly won 47.1 percent to Carlos Mesa’s 35.5 percent, winning the election outright.” Evo had so obviously pulled a fast one that millions took to the streets in protest. Their reward: threats and beatings by Evo’s thugs. But Evo’s effort to rule by pure force collapsed. An impressive number of cops and soldiers stood up against his gangsterism, saying they wouldn’t do his dirty work for him. They didn’t want to use violence to uphold an autocracy. They wanted freedom. The last straw was an OAS audit of the election; when it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Evo had cheated, his last few scummy hangers-on scattered, leaving Evo with no alternative other than to give up. The whole story speaks well of the Ecuadoran people, and especially of the members of a military and a police force who, unlike their counterparts in some Latin American countries, didn’t want to be bullies in the service of despotism.

Chavismo: one man’s story

Over the last few years we’ve covered the steady descent of socialist Venezuela into the maelstrom. What more is there to say? Well, there used to be an old anthology TV series set in New York City. It was called Naked City, and every episode ended with a voice intoning: “there are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”

Dining al fresco in Caracas

Well, there are 28 million stories in Venezuela. One of them is that of a fellow named Christian K. Caruzo, who recounted his own experiences recently at the Breitbart website under the headline “My Socialist Hell: 20 Years of Decay in Venezuela.” “Hell”? “Decay”? Is he exaggerating? In his opening sentences he also uses the word “tragedy.” And he sums up the country’s current conditions in the bleakest of terms: “toilet paper shortages, desperate people scavenging through garbage to find food for their families, bread lines, a systemic failure of our public utilities, dogs flayed in broad daylight for meat, corruption, lack of proper medicine and health access, weighing stacks of cash, and so much more.” Its all true, he says, and it’s all “a product of 20 years of socialism.”

Hugo in his heyday

Eleven years old when Hugo Chávez took power, Caruzo has spent his adult life under chavismo. Chávez, he writes, turned Venezuela into a country where “you’re no longer a citizen — you’re merely a survivor.” A country where he’s “a lesser version of what I could’ve been.” A country where you stand in line for bread and where you barter for the meds you need. “Socialism,” he writes, “has slowly eroded the functional existence of every aspect of our lives, from our freedom of speech to our economic liberties, our access to healthcare and personal documents to our water supply.” Yes, the same socialism that, thanks to disinformation by media and faculty ideologues, has millions of young American fans.

Caruzo recalls how, around the year 2007, Chávez’s title morphed from “President” to “Commander-President”; and how, after the caudillo’s death, he officially came to be known as “Supreme and Eternal Commander of the Bolivarian Revolution.” Today, Chávez is a semi-divine figure. Reruns of his old TV show are still broadcast and are treated as “gospel.”

Nicolas Maduro

Meanwhile, Chávez’s successor Nicolas Maduro has introduced something called the “Fatherland Card” program, which was created with the help of Communist Chinese experts and based on China’s own “Social Credit System.” The program employs a massive database containing detailed personal data about Venezuela’s citizens, and the idea is that unless your personal record is perfect by chavista standards you’ll be denied access to job bonuses, welfare benefits, medicines, and the like.

Venezuelan refugees pouring into Colombia

In Venezuela, even as you’re forced to endure shortages of almost everything, you’re being fed massive doses of propaganda telling you that the system that’s starving you is, in fact, saving you, and that what they’re saving you from is American-style capitalism – which, of course, is exactly what is needed to turn your grinding deprivation into prosperity and your oppression into liberty. It’s pure Orwell, of course – war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.

They’re still cheering Che

In a recent article for a website called CubaArchive, a woman named Maria C. Werlau recounted an experience that we thought worth passing on. It’s a single anecdote, but it’s a telling one, illustrative of the ideological poison infecting American mass culture in these days when an unsettling percentage of young people have been led to think that socialism is just dandy and certainly preferable to capitalism. Writing on September 8, Werlau explained that on the previous Thursday, she had walked into a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Coral Gables, Florida, and espied, before anything else, a prominently placed stack of books about Che Guevara that had been placed in the reference section.

The B&N display table

They were copies of Che: A Revolutionary Icon by Luis Enrique Martínez. It was published last year by New York-based Chartwell Books, which, a little googling reveals, specializes in books for children and teenagers. So this was, apparently, a work intended for young people. And what did Werlau find when she opened the book? “Page after page,” she wrote,

tells a selective and glorified story of Guevara under subtitles such as “The legend is born,” “The messenger of love,” “A revolutionary adventurer,” “The price of glory,” “Che lives forever,” with many glossy photos from many phases of his life. I found no subtitles such as “The killing machine,“ “the butcher of La Cabaña,” “terrorist,” “aristocratic racist,” or other less laudatory labels also used to describe him.

Of course, we’ve discussed Che at this site many times. And with good reason. For those who seek to further the fortunes of socialism in the United States, he remains a useful tool. That one famous picture of him, which in the eyes of certain observers makes him out to be glamorous, has somehow managed to sweep away his bloodthirstiness, his enthusiasm for violence, his love of killing, his eagerness to commit innocents to prison or send them to the executioner. Perhaps more than anyone in the Western hemisphere during the twentieth century, he was the very embodiment of the totalitarian mind at its most ruthless. And yet even now the Che industry, which glorifies his memory with movies, books, and t-shirts and other paraphernalia, continues to thrive.

The book

Coral Gables is a town in Miami-Dade County, which is famously home to a large Cuban-American community. Coral Gables itself is more than half Latino. Nearly all of these Cubans are living in south Florida for one reason: they, or their forebears, managed to escape the evil regime that Che Guevara helped plant and that he watered with the blood of innocents. Werlau made it plain in her article that while she is devoted to American freedoms and therefore no fan of censorship, she wondered why a bookstore in that part of the Sunshine State would want to put such a piece of shameless propaganda on display and to offer it up as, of all things, a reference book. She spoke to the manager, who told her that “he was born in Cuba but had left as a young child and knew nothing about Guevara.” Not surprising, alas.

Werlau looked up the author of the Che book. Martinez, she read, was born in Venezuela but has moved to Britain to escape the “violence and crime” prevalent in his homeland. You would think a writer who had to flee one socialist nightmare would be loath to celebrate another one. But no: Martinez, she read, had been “fascinated by Che Guevara since he was a boy when he had a poster of the revolutionary on his bedroom wall.” There it is in a nutshell: for at least one writer, the glory of that iconic image still outweighed the villainous reality of Che’s life.

Ill will and bad grace

The cast of Will and Grace

The NBC sitcom Will and Grace, which ran from 1998 to 2006, and returned to TV in 2017, profited from its timing. It centers on the friendship between Will, a gay man, and Grace, his straight best friend. Coming along at a time when gay rights was making immense strides, Will and Grace was widely viewed as helping to mainstream gay people in the minds of ordinary Americans and was thus described as “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary.” Its supposedly pivotal role in a major social movement helped overshadow the fact that it was, in fact, a third-rate, highly formulaic piece of work awash in gay stereotypes.

Eric McCormack

None of which, of course, mattered. Like Ellen Degeneres, whose own mediocre sitcom had made history when her character came out as a lesbian at the same time as Degeneres herself did so, the stars of Will and Grace, Eric McCormack (who is actually straight) and Debra Messing, came to be regarded in Hollywood circles – and by showbiz-obsessed gay-establishment groups such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign – as heroes of the gay-rights movement. And McCormack and Messing themselves, both middling actors whose lucky success on Will and Grace failed to translate into major careers in film or TV for either one of them, took in all the praise and eventually came to see themselves as heroes, too. Heroes – for playing roles on a sitcom! They also apparently became convinced that they are far more important – and far more intelligent – than they actually are.

Debra Messing

Predictably, both McCormack and Messing slavishly adhere to Tinseltown political orthodoxy – which is to say that they’re reliable Democratic partisans and reflexive Trump haters. So it is that on August 30, after news came of a Beverly Hills fundraiser for President Trump that was scheduled for September 17, McCormack took to Twitter to ask that the Hollywood Reporter “kindly report on everyone attending this event, so the rest of us can be clear about who we don’t wanna work with.” Messing echoed his call. Doubtless both of them expected their showbiz friends and colleagues to rally round them and do the cyber-equivalent of patting them on the back – a response to which they are both surely accustomed, living as they do in the echo chamber that is LaLaLand.

Whoopi Goldberg

Instead, they actually got backlash. Not only did the right react. People on the left – including members of the showbiz elite – expressed their disagreement with McCormack and Messing. Now, as it happens, the powers that be in today’s TV and movie business do have something of an informal blacklist; actors, writers, directors, and others who have publicly identified as Republicans or conservatives do find it tougher to find work than it was before they outed themselves politically. But for showbiz leftists who have repeatedly denied the existence of this informal blacklist, McCormack and Messing were letting the cat out of the bag – openly calling, in effect, for the freezing out of Trump supporters in Hollywood. Even actress Whoopi Goldberg, who is famous for her consistently left-wing politics, served up a genuinely stirring speech on The View explaining just why McCormack and Messing were so off-base: “The last time people did this, it did not end well.…We had something called a blacklist, and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff. Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they lost their right to work.…In this country, people can vote for who they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country. You don’t have to like it, but we don’t go after people because we don’t like who they voted for. We don’t go after them that way. We can talk about issues and stuff, but we don’t print out lists.”

Tammy Bruce

So strong was the reaction that McCormack backed down – sort of. No, he didn’t withdraw his demand; he just insisted that he had been misunderstood. “I want to be clear about my social media post from last week, which has been misinterpreted in a very upsetting way,” he wrote in a statement. “I absolutely do not support blacklists or discrimination of any kind, as anyone who knows me would attest.” Messing concurred. In an op-ed for the Washington Times, Tammy Bruce thanked the two actors, “best known for a television sitcom that aired more than a decade ago,” for having “expos[ed] for all of us of the totalitarian instincts of liberals.” We don’t agree that all liberals are totalitarians, deep down, but it is definitely the case – as we’ve noted over and over again on this website – that many self-identified American “progressives,” including a number of big-name Hollywood types, are totalitarians in their hearts, knocking American liberties while praising and socializing with people like Fidel Castro and Nicolas Maduro. By revealing their totalitarian instincts, both McCormack and Messing did indeed do American a favor.

The Cuba-chavista connection

Hugo Chavez

For those fans of the so-called Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela who have denied that chavismo is basically a Spanish word for Communism, the intimate ties between the revolutionary government of Hugo Chavez – and, subsequently, of his hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro – with the frankly totalitarian Castro regime in Cuba has always been something of a stumbling block. In a recent article for Reuters, Angus Berwick provided a fascinating new trove of information that substantiated that nefarious link. “The Cuban government has relied on Venezuela for economic and political support for two decades,” Berwick wrote. “In return, Cuba has provided Venezuela with training and support that has allowed Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro to keep a tight grip on the military — and on power.”

Fidel Castro

Berwick revealed that in 2007, when Chavez lost a referendum that would have allowed him to keep running for re-election, he turned for advice to “a close confidant” – namely, Fidel Castro, who told him that if he wanted to stay in power indefinitely, whatever the results of elections, he should assume “absolute control of the military.” Chavez listened, and as a result ordered that Venezuelan troops be spied on. With the help of advisors supplied by Castro, Chavez oversaw the refashioning of a government agency that now goes by the name Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM), and that had previously been tasked to spy abroad, into an organization whose primary mission was to conduct espionage within Venezuela’s own armed forces.

Nicolas Maduro

To this end, members of Cuba’s armed forces were brought into Venezuela to restructure the military and train spies. Under the instruction of its Cuban tutors, the DGCIM “embedded agents…within barracks,” tapped the phones of senior officers, put together “dossiers on perceived troublemakers,” and reported “any signs of disloyalty.” Non-chavista officers and enlisted men were duly arrested, imprisoned, tortured; one organization says that the number of former military personnel now in detention as a result of DGCIM investigations is over 300. Since its transformation, the DGCIM has been “accused by soldiers, opposition lawmakers, human rights groups and many foreign governments of abuses including torture and the recent death of a detained navy captain.”

Juan Guaido

For years, Cuban and Venezuelan officials have denied that the relationship between their militaries was anywhere near this intimate. But they were lying. While Venezuelan oil kept Cuba’s economy going, Cuban involvement in the Venezuelan military has kept the chavista government in power. It’s because of this arrangement, this deal between devils, that Juan Guaido’s bid to replace Maduro – a key factor of which was his expectation that many members of the armed forces would take his side – failed so ignominiously. Military officers and enlisted men who might indeed have been supporters of Guaido have long since been culled from the ranks, with the help of Maduro’s ruthless Cuban allies.

Sanders: praising China

The other day we wrote here about a prominent psychiatrist who, in an interview on CNN, maintained that President Trump is worse than Mao, Stalin, or Hitler. As we observed, to make such comparisons is irresponsible beyond measure, because it diminishes the scale of those tyrants’ destructiveness at a time when many Americans – especially young people – are poorly educated about twentieth-century totalitarianism.

Bernie Sanders

A few days later, a far more famous person than that psychiatrist made an equally outrageous statement. In a late August interview with The Hill, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, while acknowledging that China is growing “more authoritarian” in many ways, claimed that the Communist dictatorship has “made more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization.”

Mao Zedong

Is this true? Well, first of all, let’s make two things clear: China is a massive country (it’s by far the most populous on earth, and has been for a very long time) and it has long been a very poor country as well. Yes, it has undergone a major economic transformation. But because it started at almost zero, in the wake of Mao’s disastrous Cultural Revolution, even achieving a middling level of prosperity per capita would have been a big deal. Yes, thanks to its gigantic population, China has managed in the course of a few decades to develop an economy that rivals the size of America’s; but that still means that the average inhabitant of China is nowhere near as affluent as his counterparts in the West.

Deng Xiaoping

In any event,what exactly changed? Well, let’s recall, to begin with, that Bernie Sanders loves Communism, and that when he celebrates Chinese accomplishment he is implicitly cheering on Communism. But China has experienced an economic boom not because it has clung to its Communist ideology and systems of social control but because, under Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, it abandoned its fierce devotion to Marxist economics and introduced elements of capitalism even as it remained a Communist dictatorship. It helped enrich itself, furthermore, by underpaying factory workers and selling its products abroad at dirt-cheap prices. This policy, which continued under Deng’s successors, was aided by the refusal of Western countries to impose tariffs on Chinese imports – a refusal that resulted in profound damage to large portions of the industrial base of the U.S. and other countries and great suffering on the part of blue-collar Western workers. China’s success also owed a great deal to its currency manipulation and its shameless theft of intellectual property from Western countries. Oh, and it also killed a lot of poor people, which of course is one easy way of eliminating poverty.

Xi Jinping

Hence, yes, poverty in China has declined to a considerable degree. Thanks to the spectacular growth of Chinese industries, the country now has a great many more very rich people than it had a few decades ago. But while its biggest cities now teem with gleaming skyscrapers and its richest citizens travel the world and send their kids to Harvard and Oxford, tens of millions of people in rural areas continue to live at a level of poverty that brings to mind the 1931 Pearl Buck novel The Good Earth. Indeed, the changes that Sanders so enthusiastically extols have resulted in what may well be the most formidable case of economic equality – a topic he frets over endlessly when talking about the American economy – in the history of human civilization. And let’s not forget this small detail: everyone in China is still unfree.

Nicolas Maduro

But of course that doesn’t matter to Sanders. He was a fan of the USSR. He loves Castro’s Cuba. Until recently, anyway, he was defending the Maduro regime in Venezuela. As Jim Geraghty noted in National Review, this is a presidential candidate who in 1985, while the USSR was still around, commented: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: The rich get the food, and the poor starve to death.” Well, the fact is that in cities like Shanghai and Beijing and Guangzhou, the new Party-connected super-rich managerial class enjoys a whole lot of first-class cuisine, while out in the sticks there are still millions who are, yes, starving.

John Cusack, antisemite

John Cusack

Now 53, John Cusack has been a well-known film actor since he was a teenager. He’s starred in dozens of big pictures, including Grosse Point Blank, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Pushing Tin, High Fidelity, Runaway Jury, 1408, and The Butler.

But like many of the other actors we’ve discussed on this site, he’s also politically active. A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, he supported the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders in 2016 and backs him in the current presidential contest as well.

Philip Berrigan

He didn’t pick up the activist stuff in Hollywood; he was raised on it. His parents were political activists too; he has described himself as having grown up with Philip and Daniel Berrigan, the radical Roman Catholic clerics the latter of whom had the distinction of being the first priest on the FBI’s “most wanted” list and ended up behind bars. Cusack has spoken of them in such a way as to suggest that they were role models for him.

Cusack shares his views regularly on Twitter. He is not known, shall we say, for his subtlety of thought and expression. In 2017 he tweeted a photo of President Trump alongside the quote “YER DEAD – GET YERSELF BURIED.” When it caused something of a controversy, he took it down.

Then, a couple of months ago, he retweeted an image of a giant hand crushing a bunch of people; on the shirtsleeve from which the giant hand protruded was a Star of David. Accompanying this Der Stürmer-type image was the following quotation, which was attributed to Voltaire: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Cusack supplemented the quotation with his own comment: “Follow the money.”

The point was clear: Jews run the world. Jews are all about money. Jews are crushing the rest of us. The tweet could hardly have been more stunningly antisemitic. Add to that the fact that the line he quoted about “find[ing] out who you are not allowed to criticize” was a statement not by Voltaire but by an American neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Strom.

Elad Nehorai

When he was widely denounced for this breathtakingly obscene tweet, Cusack doubled down. “You think Israel isn’t commuting [sic] atrocities against Palestinians?” he wrote. “What planet are you on?” Eventually, however, the criticism got to be too much. At first, bizarrely, and pusillanimously, Cusack blamed his retweet on a bot. “How,” wondered Jewish writer Elad Nehorai, “does a bot get you to write ‘follow the money’ after sharing an overtly anti-Semitic image?” Eventually Cusack owned up to having posted the retweet and issued a wimpy sort-of-apology that only served to prove that he really isn’t terribly sharp. That apology was so lame that he then issued another apology, which also was lame. The response from David Baddiel, a Jewish comedian in the UK, was succinct and right on the mark: “John Cusack says he didn’t at first realise that the image was anti-Semitic. My, it’s a troublesome old blind spot for progressives, isn’t it?”

Judy Bolton-Fasman at the Wailing Wall

Meanwhile, in a Boston Jewish publication, a woman named Judy Bolton-Fasman posted an open letter to Cusack. Confessing to having had a crush on him in the 1990s, she said that while she too was a critic of some Israeli actions, “it must be said that Israeli citizens have died in Palestinian suicide bombings on buses, in malls and cafes just because they were Jews. There are frequent rocket attacks out of Gaza.” She asked him: “Have you been to Israel?….I’m not happy about walling off the West Bank where it divides neighborhoods and families. However, Israelis call it a security barrier with good reason. Even the most dovish Israeli will tell you the barrier has drastically reduced the number of terror attacks in Israel proper.” She added that she had “met incredible Israelis and Palestinians who are dedicated to achieving peace” and encouraged him to travel to Israel and meet them instead of just demonizing Jews. Good advice. But since the politics of a man like Cusack have less to do with the real world than with blind, stubborn ideological devotion, Ms. Bolton-Fasman is likely whistling in the wind.

Michael Buerk’s refreshing honesty

For decades, the British have been brainwashed by their government and media into revering two of their country’s biggest bureaucracies: the National Health Service (NHS) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Nigel Lawson

Retired Tory MP Nigel Lawson once said that the NHS is “the closest thing the English people have to a religion.” Google “our precious NHS” or “our beloved NHS” and you’ll get a gazillion hits. Grown people in responsible positions talk about the NHS as if it were a living creature…or a demigod. Last year, seven decades after its establishment, an MP wrote on Facebook: “Happy 70th Birthday to our precious NHS.” This June, when the prospect of a new US-UK trade deal raised fears of health-care privatization, Rachel Clarke, a famous doctor and writer, tweeted: “I can’t think of anything worse than our precious NHS in the clutches of American capital.”

Rachel Clarke

It’s one thing to appreciate your doctor or celebrate the advances of modern medicine. It’s another to talk in this borderline worshipful way about a government bureaucracy. This is especially the case when the bureaucracy in question is far from being all it’s cracked up to be. For all the glowing PR the NHS gets, a study last year showed that it “has among the lowest per capita numbers of doctors, nurses and hospital beds in the western world….only Poland has fewer doctors and nurses than the UK, while only Canada, Denmark and Sweden have fewer hospital beds.” Its record on treating people with potentially fatal maladies is nothing less than horrific: such patients often have to endure perilously long waiting times for urgently needed tests, treatments, operations, and follow-ups.

Admittedly, although America may have the best world’s doctors and hospitals, its health-care bureaucracy also has its problems – but you don’t find anybody in the U.S. crowing about it in the way Brits have been trained to crow about the NHS.

Michael Buerk

All of which brings us to Michael Buerk, a longtime newsreader for that other supposedly beloved British institution, the BBC, who said recently that fat persons with obesity-related ailments should be refused the care they need and should instead be allowed to die in order to save money for the NHS. “Who is to say longevity is the ultimate goal in life?” Buerk asked, and encouraged his fellow Brits to see the early death of their untreated overweight countrymen as “a selfless sacrifice in the fight against demographic imbalance, overpopulation and climate change.”

Such views, of course, are not unusual. Indeed, the NHS itself, like socialized medical systems in other countries, routinely refuses certain treatments to patients who, for reasons of age or weight or whatever, are considered expendable. When politicians and bureaucrats publicly discuss such matters, of course, they lean heavily on euphemisms and circumlocutions. What sets Buerk apart from them is the refreshing frankness of his macabre, Hippocratic Oath-defying enthusiasm for what we are not allowed to call “death panels.”

It is interesting, by the way, that neither Buerk nor any of his old colleagues at the BBC have suggested that that frankly superfluous and outrageously expensive broadcasting service, whose “news” programs have long since consisted largely of left-wing propaganda, be defunded as a “selfless sacrifice” and the money spent on more important things.

Snowflake warriors

A decade or two ago, few would have paid attention to any event held by the Democratic Socialists of America. For almost nobody took socialism seriously. People remembered the USSR; they remembered the captive countries of Eastern Europe; they remembered the Gulag; and the memories were not pretty ones.

Howard Zinn

But America has changed. Memories of the grim reality of twentieth-century socialism have faded, and the old utopian dreams have made a resurgence. In 2019, in many circles, being a socialist is sexy. Young people who were born after the fall of the Iron Curtain are especially susceptible to its dubious charms. No surprise there: a huge percentage of them have learned their “history” from A People’s History of the United States, a patchwork of anti-American slurs by Howard Zinn, a card-carrying Communist, that is the most frequently assigned textbook in that field. Bernie Sanders’s promises of free this and free that during his campaigns for the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential nomination brought him millions of followers who have been convinced that capitalism is a nasty, brutal, and heartlessly exploitative system while socialism is the political equivalent of unicorns and rainbows. A poll released in June showed that no fewer than forty percent of Americans prefer socialism to capitalism, and a majority of women aged 18 to 54 – the exact figure was 55% – said they would rather live under socialism than under the present American system.

So it is that when socialists get together nowadays, people listen. But what exactly are they listening to? On August 2-4, the Democratic Socialists of America held their annual convention. Writing in the Spectator, Will Lloyd provided the following summing-up:

How to give you a flavor of the event? Well, note the rules the convention followed:

Quiet rooms available for all attendees – but no aggressive scents in those rooms!

Use the proper doors and exits – no short cuts from the hall!

Wear proper credentials at all times – right-wing infiltrators might be trying to get in!

Try to be chill – take a deep breath!

Don’t talk to anybody – especially if they don’t have credentials!

Don’t talk to anybody from the press!

Don’t talk to the cops for any reason at all!

Please don’t clap – some comrades have sensitive hearing!

Warren Beatty in Reds

Warren Beatty’s 1981 movie Reds, the epic account of the involvement of American socialist John Reed in the founding of the Soviet Union, portrayed Communist Party meetings, both in the U.S. and Russia, at which actual revolutionaries – some of them highly articulate intellectuals, others tough-as-leather labor-union types – fiercely debated strategies and tactics. Whatever their foibles, many of the real-life men and women depicted in those scenes were selflessly (if naively) devoted to their shared ideology, and had no way of realizing just how tragic the ultimate consequences of that ideology would be.

To watch videos of this year’s DSA convention is to view something entirely different. This was a get-together of trust-fund babies – privileged, cartoonishly self-absorbed brats who were born in the wake of a century of horrors spawned by socialism but who have embraced that ideology nonetheless because, in their spectacular historical ignorance and all-around naivete, they think America under a socialist government would allow them to spend their entire lives enjoying the same kind of total dependence they have enjoyed as children. Whereas Lenin, Trotsky, and their crew were scrappy sons of bitches, the DSA whippersnappers are very much of their own generation: they pose as combatants who are ready to take up arms against the USA – veritable Navy SEALs for the socialist cause! – but in fact (as illustrated by those rules about “aggressive scents” and “sensitive hearing”) they’re a flock of lambs, Gen Z snowflakes preoccupied with such contemporary no-no’s as misgendering and microaggressions.

AOC

The whole thing came off like a parody, starting with the silliness of them all calling one another “comrade.” At one point some beta male from Sacramento stands up in the audience and says “guys, can we please keep the chatter to a minimum” because “I’m…prone to sensory overload”; then, because Mr. Sacramento said “guys,” another would-be warrior rises to complain about his “gendered language.” Somehow we have the feeling these kids aren’t going to be running the country any time soon. But excessive sanguinity in the face of this foolishness is inadvisable: as the presence in the House of Representatives of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other young socialists has demonstrated, a handful of aggressive young people of this ilk can shift the center of the Democratic Party considerably leftward. So we shouldn’t be too dismissive about the destructive socioeconomic potential of these puerile puppy dogs.

More idiocy from Joe Stiglitz

How do you destroy a country’s economy? Well, here are a few ideas. Hike taxes. Overregulate. Ratchet up government spending. Increase welfare entitlements. Make it your goal not to achieve greater prosperity for everyone but to achieve greater income and wealth equality.

Joseph Stiglitz

This, after all, is how the chavistas ran Venezuela, once one of the world’s most prosperous nations, into the ground. And, believe it or not, these are the prescriptions offered by economist Joseph Stiglitz, whom we profiled here at some length in October 2015 and whom we’re revisiting now because of a characteristically wacky article by him that appeared in the Guardian on May 30.

But first, a reminder: this, as we noted four years ago, is a man who has taught at Yale, Oxford, Stanford, Princeton, and Columbia; who served as chief economist at the World Bank; who was a top advisor to the United Nations; who was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine; and who, yes, won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001.

Paul Krugman

How, you may ask, did a man with such cockeyed economic ideas win a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics? Well, remember, Paul Krugman won one too. And Yasir Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize. Not every decision they make in Stockholm or Oslo is a brilliant one.

If you think it’s unfair to compare the economic philosophy of a Nobel laureate with the cockeyed socialist ideas that ruined Venezuela, consider this: Stiglitz is a socialist – an actual member of the Socialist International who, in 2008, headed up a Socialist International commission charged with figuring out a solution to the global financial crisis. He’s an enemy of the nation-state and particularly of American-style democratic capitalism, and would replace the current world order with a socialist global government, complete with a new global currency and a global income tax.

Georg Papandreou

But while we still have nation-states, Stiglitz isn’t above profiting from some of the more poorly run ones in ways that call into question his professional integrity. For example, he weighed in repeatedly in places like Time magazine on the Greek financial crisis, which he blamed entirely on Germany, not on Greece; what he failed to mention was he was a paid advisor to Greek prime minister George Papandreou. In 2014, when New York judge Thomas P. Griesa ordered Argentina to pay its creditors, Stiglitz badmouthed the judge, called the creditors “vultures,” pronounced that “America is throwing a bomb into the global economic system,” and passionately defended Argentinian president Cristina Kirchner; again, he omitted to inform his readers that he had long been on the Kirchner payroll, supposedly serving as an economic advisor, although to many observers it certainly looked as if he was selling his name and reputation to whitewash a kleptocracy.

Cristina Kirchner

Which brings us to Stiglitz’s recent piece for the Guardian. There’s not really anything new in it; what’s remarkable is the timing. Here’s the headline: “Neoliberalism must be pronounced dead and buried. Where next?” And here’s the subhead: “For decades the US and others have pursued a free-market agenda which has failed spectacularly.” An incredible thing to say at a time when the American economy is stronger than it has been in decades and is the world’s most competitive, with record employment and income levels for pretty much every population group and every category of job.

Donald J. Trump

Many people credit President Trump for this extraordinary boom. Not Stiglitz. He not only pretends that the boom isn’t happening; he smears Trump as an avatar of “far-right nationalism,” which to him is even worse than plain old neoliberalism or the “centre-left reformism” of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. In Stiglitz’s view, all three of these approaches should be junked in favor of a “radically different economic agenda” that he calls “progressive capitalism,” under which free markets would be a thing of the past and state-run economies would be the order of the day.

Stiglitz’s picture of what “progressive capitalism” would look like and how it would work is heavy on abstractions and light on specifics. “Governments have a duty to limit and shape markets…. government [should take] a more active role than neoliberalism prescribes.” Yet by the end of the article it’s clear what he‘s calling for. To be sure, he’s careful not to use the word Communism or even socialism, but those are the generally accepted names for what he prefers to call “progressive capitalism.”

Again, how weird to encounter a brief for socialism at a time when the chavistas’ Venezuela is dying and Trump’s America is thriving! But that’s old Joe for you.