‘CiF’ writer dismisses ‘bourgeois freedoms’ in Venezuela, and the “distraction” of antisemitism

In South America there is a leader who tramples on civil liberties, foments antisemitism and supports some of the world’s most reactionary and murderous regimes.

Naturally, Hugo Chavez a darling of many on the Guardian Left.

While you can read a recent post written by a former Stalinist – currently Guardian Associate Editor – named Seumas Milne here, expressing euphoria over the re-election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a more interesting piece was published at ‘Comment is Free’ by Jonathan Glennie.

The post, ‘Chavez’s power-hungry style could further radical change in Venezuela (placed at the Guardian’s ‘Global Poverty’ section) is truly a leftist propaganda tour-de-force, framing the assault on liberal values under Chavez as thoroughly consistent with progressive sensibilities.

First, a bit of background:

A recent report by HRW concluded that “the accumulation of power in the executive and the erosion of human rightshave allowed the Chávez government to intimidate, censor and prosecute critics and perceived opponents in a wide range of cases involving the judiciary, the media and civil society”. 

The report includes the following details:

“Chávez and his supporters in the National Assembly have taken dramatic steps to ensure their political control over the Supreme Court, which has been packed with political allies since 2004…The Supreme Court’s record has only worsened in recent years, with justices openly rejecting the principle of separation of powers and publicly pledging their commitment to advancing Chávez’s political agenda”

“The government has targeted media outlets for sanction and/or censorship for their critical reporting on the government’s response to issues such as water pollution, violent crime, a prison riot, and an earthquake.”

“When Human Rights Watch released its last report at a news conference in Caracas in 2008, Chávez responded by having the group’s representatives forcibly detained and summarily expelled from the country.”

The human rights organization Freedom House corroborates these findings.

Further, as Carl Packman at ‘Left Foot Forward’ – a popular British left-wing blog – argued, the regime has demonstrated a consistent willingness to use antisemitism to advance its political agenda.

“The problems surrounding anti-Semitism in the [Chavez] camp have only been bolstered by the fact Capriles [his opponent in the election] is of Jewish extraction, despite being a devout Catholic today. An article that appeared on the website of Venezuelan National Radio in February of this year accused Capriles of belonging to a secret Jewish movement in Venezuela and working on behalf of Zionist ideology.” [emphasis added]

“…blatant anti-Semitism of colleagues Martín Sánchez of the Venezuelan Consul General in San Francisco and Gonzalo Gómez, an active member of the governing PSUV party, whose website aporrea.org is awash with anti-Semitic, and historical revisionism.

Packman then cites posts by the blog, Judeopshere, which translated some of the material found on apporrea.org:

Failed Zionists, Jews, Fascists, Murderers:

“[Zionists] coolly determined that killing thousands of Palestinians in a single operation [in the Gaza war] would facilitate the final dispossession of the ancestral lands of the village that gave birth to the Messiah, whom their predecessors murdered 2009 years ago.”

Hunting Jews:

“If we stop a moment and review the history, we should ask: Why has the supposed extermination of the Jews had and still has more notoriety than the actual extermination of African people? Why has the alleged extermination of Jews achieved major fame?… Does this have to do with a particular project which has sought to make Israel and the Zionist Jews the real owners of this world?”

Packer also writes that, last year, the state-run radio station “broadcast a reading of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  During the show, the journalist reading it expressed her admiration for “Jews and ‘non-Zionist’ Israelis” before praising “little pearls” of wisdom from the book which, she believes, explain why “Zionists have been able to amass a concentration of power and wealth.”

In 2008 on the same station, there was a broadcast which included the following: 

Hitler’s partners were Jews… like the Rockefellers, who were Jews [Editors’ note: The Rockefellers are not Jews]. These were not the Jews murdered in the concentration camps. [Those killed] were working-class Jews, Communist Jews, poor Jews, because the rich Jews were the ones behind the plan to occupy Palestine.”

Packer also notes that “Chavez’s former adviser and confidante Norberto Ceresole was also a known Holocaust denier” and that “Venezuelan attacks on Jews have risen significantly.”

Finally, what Latin American “anti-imperialist” could possibly gain respect on the Guardian Left without the requisite support for anti-American, anti-Zionist dictatorial regimes around the globe?

Sure enough, Chavez is one of Iran’s few allies in Latin America, was a strong backer of Gaddafi (even during the civil war), and still continues to support Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

None of this is evidently a problem for the ‘Comment is Free’ contributor.

Glennie – though he did at least acknowledge the report by HRW cited above – argues thus:

“…it is important not to mistake a negative report of this nature with an overall analysis of the progress in, and challenges facing,Venezuela, for two main reasons: first, because the state of political freedom is more complex than the report implies, and second because restricting the actions of some can sometimes be necessary to further change in highly unequal and politically polarised contexts.” [emphasis added]

Did you follow that? A more exquisite example of ideologically inspired rhetoric in the service of defending repressive regimes would difficult to find.

Glennie continues:

“Second, and somewhat more awkwardly for liberals in established democracies, the complete freedom of the press is not always a sign of a functioning democracy – in some contexts it can actually militate against progress for the majority poor.”

In Glennie’s tortured logic, freedom of the press can be anathema to genuine democracy. 

Again, Glennie:

“There are some who argue that democracy is important for poverty reduction, and others who suggest that democracy can actually throw up barriers to progress on social and economic rights….There are many examples where more freedoms are indeed crucial to progress for the poorest, but there are also certainly examples where clamping down on media and other freedoms can be justified for development purposes.”

Freedom is arguably – according to the CiF contributor – subservient to the more important goal of poverty reduction.

Glennie, sensing possible objections, then writes:

“This is anathema to most westerners who don’t understand the political complexities in countries very different from their own…”

“Unfortunately there is little doubt that many important constituencies will wield it in precisely that way, preferring simplistic condemnations to a mature analysis of the complexities of political change after centuries of inequality and repression.” [emphasis added]

Simpletons, we are – unable to understand the logic, and ageless wisdom, of such sophisticated revolutionaries.   

Glennie doesn’t address the regime’s other demonstrably right-wing political leanings but, in fairness, did admit there is a problem with antisemitism on the left in a personal Tweet.

However, he contextualized its manifestation in Venezuela with a subsequent Tweet:

The erosion of press freedom, an independent judiciary under attack, support of tin-pot dictators around the globe, and state-sponsored antisemitism? Right-wing propaganda or, at best, concerns animated by a false liberal consciousness. 

The status of individual rights in Venezuela represent, for Glennie and his fellow political travelers, mere distractions – irrelevant bourgeois freedoms which can justifiably be sacrificed in the quest to achieve a worker’s paradise.

Glennie’s attempt to undermine faith in Western democratic freedoms, as with his related Marxist-inspired anti-imperialist delusions, represent the genuine fault lines separating the genuinely progressive left from the political charlatans and mere posers.

And, finally, speaking of posers, a fellow Guardianista recently expressed his support for Glennie’s defense of Chavez:

The “blinding irrationality” of the socialism of fools: same as it ever was.

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