Every week, new stories emerge about Venezuela’s humanitarian and human-rights catastrophe as that once-proud nation slides into a nightmare of starvation, thuggery and death. Food and medicine go from scarce to unobtainable, and strongman Nicolas Maduro responds to civilian protests with further consolidation of once-democratic powers into his own hands.
Up until now, he has been aided and abetted by the usual characters of the hard left, who never need much encouragement to believe anything bad in the world is the fault of American imperialists and evil capitalists. The Maduro regime’s propaganda that Venezuela’s crisis is the fault of its right-wing opposition and American meddling found an easy home with the sort of people who put the hammer-and-sickle into their Facebook and Twitter profiles.
So it is quite remarkable to stumble upon this piece in Jacobin, a magazine that makes Mother Jones look like National Review, decrying the Maduro’s regime’s slide into authoritarianism, and its gross incompetence at governance. The piece is naturally sprinkled with insults leveled at the hated anti-socialist opposition and other to-be-sures, but it is still amazing that Jacobin would ever state: “Yet while previous claims of Venezuela’s authoritarianism had little merit, this is no longer the case,” before enumerating some of the many anti-democratic moves of Venezuela’s dictator, for that is what he is by this point. And towards the end of the piece:
“Yet the Left cannot turn a blind eye to the government’s slide into authoritarianism, nor its inept policies. This is not out of an unwarranted blind faith in liberal, representative democracy, but because authoritarian rule is incompatible with the beautiful-albeit-contradictory-and-flawed project of building “participatory and protagonistic democracy,” which Chavismo helped advance.”
Any Jacobin writer putting out such a thought even a year ago would have been summarily fired and asked to surrender their A.N.S.W.E.R. membership cards.
Meanwhile, Bolshevist website counterpunch.org, which up to now has been fanatically and predictably pro-Maduro, last month dared to even ask, however tentatively and after however much obligatory America-bashing: “Does Maduro violate those [Chavismo] principles or uphold them?” The writer meanders back and forth without even coming to a conclusion. Anything less than full-throated support for Maduro in this online Pravda is an ominous sign indeed.
And it only makes logical sense for the hard left to turn its back on Maduro. For one thing, he is an embarrassment for them and has been for years, as the right may now hold up Venezuela as a socialist horror story. Wouldn’t it be smarter for the left to just declare Maduro a failure who has let his predecessor down? That it was the man who failed socialism, and not that socialism failed Venezuela?
For another, throwing the Maduro regime off the bus makes the old tankie party line of “true communism has never been tried” easier to defend. Why not just say Maduro was a fake socialist only out to rob the Venezuelan people? Perhaps Jacobin will start pushing “Maduro: Capitalist Running Dog” pieces before this is all over.
But more than anything else, the desperate straits of the Venezuelan people should be the main story here. Responding to stories of starving babies with “oh this is just colonial imperialist nonsense designed to hurt dear leader Maduro, the well-fed guy sitting in the fancy palace” exposes the cruelty of the far left. They should at least pretend to care about the plight of the proletariat, if only for propaganda purposes. Even Stalin and Mao knew that.
Naturally, there will be some dead-enders who will never blame Maduro — there are some leftists who still openly wish they lived in North Korea, after all. But the smarter among them are realizing it may not be best to hitch their wagons to a man who should be hauled before The Hague for his crimes against humanity.
Not that that’s exactly stopped them before…