Checking in on chavismo‘s cheerleaders

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?

Greg Grandin

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.)

Miguel Tinker Salas

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.”

George Ciccariello-Maher

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.

Eric Draitser

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 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.”

Reality check: a photo of one of those Venezuelan grocery lines

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.

Friend of the Revolution

Yesterday we began revisiting some of the useful stooges of Venezuela in the wake of that country’s promising November 6 parliamentary elections – as a result of which a national legislature with a pro-freedom, anti-chavista majority will begin serving today. 

Eric Draitser

In December, American political commentator Eric Draitser – the logo of whose website,, juxtaposes the flags of Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union with those of the U.S. and U.K. – reassured his fellow fans of chavismo, who had naturally been unsettled by the Venezuelan vote, that the Bolivarian Revolution “is not a revolution that can be undone with one election, nor can it be simply legislated out of existence.”

Putin on RT

On the contrary, wrote Draitser (a frequent contributor to Putin’s English-language TV channel, Russia Today), “the Revolution will survive. It will be resurgent. It will be reborn thanks to the commitment of millions of dedicated Chavistas.” This conviction on his part, Draitser explained, was “born of experience in Venezuela, one that is informed by dozens of conversations with activists and organizers whose words of love and dedication to the revolution are matched only by their actions to build it.”

Hugo Chávez and friend

Like any good chavista, foreign or domestic, Draitser was quick to shift the focus away from the country’s incompetent, crooked Marxist managers to the Evil Empire to the north – representing the U.S. as a threat to Venezuelan independence, prosperity, and stability and depicting the Bolivarian Revolution as a gutsy thumb in the eye to Uncle Sam on behalf of all Latin Americans, all oppressed peoples, and all victims of the evils of capitalism. If Venezuelan voters rejected Maduro’s party, maintained Draitser, it wasn’t because they were fed up with the sour fruits of its knavish, criminal stewardship, but because of anti-government propaganda that could be traced directly to U.S. support for Venezuela’s “right-wing media.” He might more aptly have said “independent media” or “free media,” thereby to draw a proper distinction between real journalists and the hacks who work for Maduro’s propaganda outlets.

Hugo with Fidel

“The right-wing media in the country ,” charged Draitser, “has done everything in its power to undermine the government.” In other words, they’ve reported honestly on the ruling party’s activities and provided a forum to members of the political opposition. In the mind of a dyed-in-the-wool chavista ideologue, such fidelity to the tenets of objective journalism is tantamount to betrayal of the Revolution. (There’s a reason why the chavistas look up to Castro’s Cuba, where there are no independent media, and where Internet access by ordinary subjects continues to be profoundly restricted.)

Nicolás Maduro

As for the economic devastation that has been Venezuela’s fate under Chávez‘s and Maduro’s destructive socialist policies, Draitser doesn’t try to deny the problems; instead, again following standard practice, he attributes them largely to “economic sabotage” by the regime’s opponents and their “patrons in Miami and Washington.” He sums up his ridiculous position as follows: “This is certainly not to absolve the government of all blame, but rather to point out that Venezuela and its Revolution have been directly targeted by the forces of the Empire…the U.S. and its proxies have done everything in their power to destroy the Bolivarian process.”

If only! The good news is that, with any luck, “the Bolivarian process” is on the way out. And when it dies, the diagnosis won’t be murder but suicide. Tomorrow, more on those chavistas who, whle feathering their own beds, have helped hasten their own system’s end.