Caleb Maupin, lackey for Putin and the mullahs

Working for the mullahs

We’ve spent the last couple of days exploring the career of Caleb Maupin, a small-town Ohio boy who became a Communist in fifth grade and went on to help organize Occupy Wall Street (OWS) in New York. The OWS movement, however, fizzled just as quickly as it had flared up. 

Maupin giving a talk

But if OWS was effectively dead, Maupin remained active. At some point he quit the Workers World Party, with which he had long been associated. In recent years, instead, he has appeared to be strongly aligned with the governments of Iran and Russia. In 2013 he appeared very briefly on CNN, speaking against U.S. participation in the war in Syria. The next year, he spoke at a conference in Iran. In 2015, he was on board an Iranian ship, the Shahed, claiming to be on a “humanitarian mission” to Yemen, although various countries charged that the ship was smuggling arms to the Houthi terrorist group. In addition, he has served as UN correspondent for Iran’s government-owned Press TV.

Venezuelans lining up for groceries

He has also been a reporter for RT (Russia Today), the English-language news, TV, and radio service of the Putin regime. In a December 2015 article for RT, he claimed that the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela was still alive and well: “Due to the policies of the Bolivarian government, it now costs less than $1 to fill a gas tank. Children in schools receive free breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Rural Venezuelans receive interest-free loans in order to buy their own land. Public transportation is extremely cheap – and free for senior citizens….In the Bolivarian neighborhoods of Caracas, one can have the kind of conversations about literature, world history, politics, religion and philosophy only found on college campuses in the United States.”

Ayatollah Ali Khameini

In another piece, he charged that “US society is based on money and capitalism with so much violence everywhere and so much state repression” and that it was thus “highly conducive to insanity; this is not a healthy society.” In yet another RT contribution, he spoke up for the Islamic Republic of Iran while smearing pro-democracy Iranian dissidents as liars and impostors.

Mao Zedong

In one September 2015 interview with Beijing-based Maoist Jeff J. Brown, Maupin praised Mao Zedong, celebrated the “great strides” China has taken in the last few decades as a (supposed) consequence of the revolution begun by Mao, and bonded with Brown over their shared contempt for America’s capitalism and “fascism.”

The fact that much of Maupin’s recent work has been published by the relatively obscure group Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA), which will sponsor a debate on July 8 between Maupin and a member of the “alt right,” may indicate that his career is on the decline. But this seems improbable. Maupin is, after all, an ambitious and still very young man, and his association with SYNA more likely reflects his interest in mentoring a new generation of young American Communists to carry on the work of the revolution that has preoccupied him since his childhood.

Galloway’s heroes

epa02375994 British PM George Galloway poses with a gift he received during his reception at the Arab Cultural Center in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, Syria, 05 October 2010. Galloway leads the Gaza-bound Viva Palestina 5 aid convoy that arrived in Damascus on 02 October from Turkey. The convoy includes 143 trucks loaded with medical and humanitarian aids and 370 Arab and foreign activists. Galloway said he is determined to go on with his aid convoy to Palestinians under Israeli siege despite the Egyptian authorities' decision to ban his entry to Egypt. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
George Galloway

Recently, columnist Nick Cohen noted that the folks on the left who used to come to the defense of George Galloway have gone silent, having finally realized, apparently, just how loathsome a creature they were associating with. The same, it might be added, has been true of the defenders of Hugo Chávez: with a few exceptions, those who exulted over Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution in its first years have stopped doing so, having seen the increasingly tragic consequences of chavista socialism.

It’s no surprise that Galloway himself was an early booster of chavismo – and that, long after it declined from a chic cause into an embarrassment for the international left, he continued to eulogize it.

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Hugo Chávez

Back in 2007, Galloway lauded Chávez in the Guardian, sounding for all the world like John Reed celebrating the birth of the USSR:

The atmosphere in Caracas is fervid. The vast shanty towns draping the hillside around the cosmopolitan centre bustle with workers’ cooperatives, trade union meetings, marches and debates. The $18bn fund for social welfare set up by Chávez is already bearing fruit. Education, food distribution and primary healthcare programmes now cover the majority for the first time. Queues form outside medical centres filled with thousands of Cuban doctors dispensing care to a population whose health was of no value to those who sat atop Venezuela’s immense wealth in the past.

Galloway rejected out of hand the “mendacious propaganda that Chávez is a dictator and human rights abuser.”

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Galloway with Fidel Castro

In 2012, he actually spent two weeks in Venezuela campaigning for Hugo’s re-election; the next year, when Hugo shuffled off this mortal coil, Galloway was quick to mourn the caudillo’s death, calling it “a body blow for the poor and the oppressed,” praising his friend for having “transformed Venezuela by the force of his will,” and calling him “a veritable Spartacus” who “rallied an army of not slaves, but those despised by the oligarchy.” He celebrated Chávez for standing up to Israel and to “North American hegemony.” By this point, it was clear to every pair of eyes unblinkered by ideology that Chávez’s only accomplishment had been to destroy his country’s economy – along with its liberties and human rights. But Galloway never let real-world conditions get in the way of his uncritical admiration for absolutism and contempt for freedom.

What about Castro? Check this out. Of all the people you’ve met in your lifetime, who’s had the most positive impact on you?” an interviewer once asked Galloway. His reply: “Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro is the greatest man I’ve ever met by several miles….The most inspiring, the most charismatic, the most wise, and the most tireless of all the people I’ve ever met. He’s my real hero.”

And let’s not forget Putin. Since 2013, both Galloway and his wife have been on the payroll of the Kremlin’s RT television network. In the first half of that year alone (while still a member of the British Parliament, mind you), he earned £25,600 – about $37,000 – for going on RT from time to time to trash his own country and extol Putin. The Russian president has certainly gotten his money’s worth out of employing Galloway. In his appearances on RT, the wily Scotsman has consistently defended Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, arguing that Russia “has every right, indeed, obligation, to act in defense of its compatriots, its citizens, its economic and military assets which it has on the territory of the Ukraine by agreement and by treaty.” He’s called  the U.S. approach to the Kremlin actions “ludicrous” and counseled the EU not to “poke the bear with a stick.” And, in the ultimate act of moral degeneracy, he’s smeared patriotic, democracy-loving Ukrainians who oppose Russian intrusion in their affairs as “terrorists,” “ultra-nationalists,” and “Nazis.” There’s no low to which he won’t go. 

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?

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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.)

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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.”

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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.

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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 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.”

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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.