We're gonna party like it's 1938


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Part of what’s so saddening about the Venezuelan government’s increasing use of “sabotage” as a catch-all, evidence-free excuse for the breakdown of various bits of the socialist order is just how historically blinkered it is.

These guys have no understanding that in shifting responsibility to shadowy, unseen, all-powerful “wreckers and saboteurs”, they’re following in the blood-soaked footsteps of any number of totalitarian regimes.

They have no idea that the stalinist purges of the 1930s culminated in a great society-wide spasm, as an all-out witch-hunt for wreckers, spies and saboteurs, yielded perhaps half-a-million forced confessions, deportations and executions. They have no sense of the crazy extremes the process eventually reached, of the scale of the lunacy this process sets in motion, complete with meteorologists sent to the gulag for sabotaging the people’s morale by forecasting bad weather.

They have no insight into the way rigid collectivist ideology yields economic policies that can only work if people consistently act against their own interests, which they won’t, and when they won’t they yield a whole raft of unintended consequences. They have no sense of the way state control of the media cuts off decision-makers from the kind of information they’d need to actually face up to these problems, leaving a desperate hunt for shadowy saboteurs as the only intellectually satisfying “solution”. And they certainly have no insight into the way the hunt for saboteurs inevitably, eventually, turns against those who launch it.

The entire history of the 20th century passed them right by.

And no, moustache-issues aside, I’m not saying Nicolás Maduro is Joseph Stalin. I’m saying that if he or the clique in power had the slightest hint of historical awareness, they’d have realized by now they’re thinking borrowed thoughts, mindlessly drawing hand-me-down inferences from worn-out-old lines of reasoning that end in only-too-well-understood catastrophes.

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  1. Excellent post! I would add that the first actual show trial of “wreckers” took place in 1928, when Stalin had not yet achieved exclusive power. This trial, the Shakhty Wreckers Trial, is sometimes passed over by those who prefer to blame Stalin the individual, rather than Communism as a system for “excesses.” Yet it led to 53 death sentences of engineers, and another 42 sent to the Gulag.

    Subsequently, workers who did not achieve their norms could be, and were, sent to Kolyma on a ten-year sentence “of correction” for sabotage.

        • It is hard to keep the repression a separate without a scorecard. But I think a better Maoist parallel occurred in the late 1950s, when the hopes if the Great Leap Forward turned to dust, and scapegoats were needed. Otherwise, one would have had to question the system.

        • So, oracle, there is no sabotage to speak of in Venezuela? Is that what you are saying?

          The fact is that at least 40 people are under arrest waiting to be tried for electricity sabotaje that happened before the last elections of April 14th. I suppose these people do not count and are all falsely accused so that the government can make its case for “sabotage”.

          Or let’s remind ourselves that more tan 45,000 tons of hoarded food has been found by the suthoprities this year – and this amount is probably the tip of the iceberg. Obviously from your point of view thai is not sabotage of the economy but an honest form of market forces in terms of supply and demand.

          Todat Ramírez will present the final report on what really gappened at Amuay. No matter what he says you will simply say it is all invented and the explosion there was down to government ineptitude.

          This attitude of trying associate Venezuela’s current government with the “blood soaked regime” of Stalin in order to somehow obviate any thought of sabotahe comes from April 11th 2002 when the opposition organized a coup, murdered 19 innocent people from both sides and then proceeded to dismantle the public powers.

          You could not admit that it was a coup because secretely you agreed with it so it was a power vacuum – just as you would have agreed with the Pinochet coup if you had been alive at that time. Both coups fit in with your free market ideology as propounded by Milton Friedman no matter what the human cost.

    • Wiki sez 53 accused, 5 executed, 44 imprisoned, which leaves 4 acquitted(?). Cite is to The GULAG Archipelago, which sounds authoritative.

      The British site Spartacus Educational sez 55 accused, 5 executed, 6 death sentences commuted, 38 imprisoned, 1 acquitted, 2 with suspended sentences.

      Slavic Review sez 11 sentenced to death, 38 to prisons.

      Closer to the Masses: Stalinist Culture, Social Revolution, and Soviet Newspapers by Matthew Lenoe sez 53 accused, 11 sentenced to death, 5 executed.

      Just avoiding an accidental exaggeration that could be seized on by Communism deniers,

  2. After all Power Company installations have been militarized for months and extra stringent measures taken to avoid sabotage , the alleged capacity of savoteurs to inflitrate the installations and cause yesterdays huge electrical break down , would be clear proof that the government is absolutely inept at preventing savotage , Everytime there is a power failure that angers the population , the regime has three options , admit that the failure is the result of its own gross mismanagement of the power industry ( which of course they never will ), blame the incident on some natural mishap or accident ( too much rain , too little rain , destructive iguanas and other folksy explanations ) or pathetically blame the break down on sabotage. by cunning and malevolent oppo operatives. In any event the iguana or sabotage explantions are now a days recieved with jawns or laughter , They ve become a joke . Every time the regime vociferously repeats cries of sabotage , announces weird assesination plots etc it just becomes less and less credible and more and more ridiculous, Isnt there any one inside the beast that realizes this ?, have they absolutely lost their sense of ridicule ? Once again Borges is proben right , dictatorships ( and the sectarian delusions that they tout) foster servility and idiocy in their followers !!

  3. I have thought a lot whether this complete ignorance about history is just applied to the Venezuelan case but this is universal among the extreme left. Not for nothing all these guys are predicting day after day Capitalism’ end is nigh, just like they did in the sixties, just like they did in the thirties, just like they did in the twenties and even just after WWI. They are like the Jehova witnesses and that has to do with something about how they filter information from early on in their lives.

    The guys who go for extremist thoughts have always shown a complete disregard for alternative ideas, for questioning initial believes: they clinch to a story or group of stories and myths and they won’t give them up.

    There are a lot of them who are historians…supposedly they should know better…but their “I read only what I want” attitude is incredible.
    Years ago I read several posts one of the key “intellectuals” of Chavismo, Luis Britto García, was writing. In his mourning of the Soviet collapse he kept using the same old stories: V Column, bureaucracy, etc. And he kept warning about them for the present (by the way: it seems that guy has stopped blogging, I wonder if he has enough euros in his Paris bank). The guy had actually some knowledge about some stupid minutia of what this or that commie said in the days, he probably read What is To Be Done by Lenin and some crap by Trotski, he went to the Soviet Union as many of them and got some insight into life there…but he doesn’t seem to know
    some quite general facts of what was happening in the Soviet Union.

    You will hear all these kinds of discussions all over communist circles in Europe and elsewhere.

    On the side: Stalin was responsible for the murdering of millions, really millions. But even a lot of non-communists seem to fall for the belief that the predecessor, Lenin, was not a terrible psychopath who got people murdered more times than Civil War and general unrest merited. He murdered less and he would have been shocked by the levels Stalin reached – he even warned about Stalin in his testament and in discussions to his wife and some others, but he was ultimately another psychopath.
    (check, for instance, Robert Service ISBN 978-0141037974 or Gelately, 978-1400032136)

  4. A thoughtful chavista will look at this post and say, “Hmm, Stalin lasted a long time in power, and so did his cronies. Blaming sabotage sounds like an awesome strategy.”

  5. Unfortunately it is a common human problem:

    “Information is the conspiracy theorists’ weapon of choice because if there’s one thing they all agree on, it’s that all the rest of us have been brainwashed. The “facts” will plainly reveal the existence of the conspiracy, they believe. And while all of us tend to bend information to fit our pre-existing cognitive schema, conspiracy theorists are more extreme. They are “immune to evidence,” discounting contradictory information or seeing it as “proof of how clever the enemy is at covering things up,”


  6. I always know I am in the presence of a idiot when I try to discuss Che’s great stewardship of the Cuban Economy and receive a blank stare. He actually wanted to ban money. And his political heirs are the puppet masters now.

  7. Just wait until Maduro sneaks in the enabling laws so his word becomes law. Enabling laws have as bad a history as blaming saboteurs.

    • Yes, but in the case of a law passed in the context of an Enabling Law that the opposition does not like, then there are mechanisms in the 1999 Constitution ot derogate such a law. The first step is to collect 5% of signatures from the REP to forcé a natioanl referéndum on such a law. It can then be voted out if the majority is there. So……..what is the problema? An Enabling Law is not a dictatorial power as there are checks and balances built into the Constitution.

      • There is no Power of Justice in Venezuela any longer. It’s a bunch of apes that do what Cubans and the military caste want them to do.

      • Are those signatures secret? Does the government have any history of repression against people that sign petitions against it?
        That’s just one of the problemas, but I know you are not ignorant… tu solo te haces el pendejo…

  8. The question here is: will you be willing facto president to emulate Stalin? Well if so, it would risk losing its democratic mask. Risk that dare not think running in the next few months at least.

    This should not be just another distraction Maduro, and even worse, returned to take us seriously.

    • Emulate Stalin? What apreposterous thought to start with?. You may as well have said that Maduro is prepared to drop an atomic bomb on the opposition as he does not like them as Harry Truman did on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

      If Maduro were to emulate Stain – as Quico stupidly implies in this post – then he would have to extermiante at least 14 million people.

      Quico is certainly in touch with reality, n’est-ce pas? That is what he has got everything worng about Venezuela since he launched CC in October 2002.

      Perhaps if he lived here then he would have a better handle on what is really happening.

  9. They don’t give a shit about history. Off course they are ignorant and unaware. They only care about today and tomorrow and the next twenty years. I don’t think they give a shit about anything aside staying in power. They don’t give a shit about democracy and el pueblo unless its garnering a vote. Totally unempathic

    • But I think Quico’s point is that “sabotage” points to insiders and relatively powerful people. Jose Campesino is hard to blame for inflation, but Nelson Merentes might be a saboteur. (Think how much that would explain) .

      That’s why “they” should think twice about this sabotage thing.

      In the Great Purge, ” of the 1,966 delegates to the 1934 Communist Party Conference 1,108 were arrested, along with 98 of the 139 members of the Central Committee of the Party. ” Arrest always meant either death, or the gulag.

      To improve upon Gertrude Stein, there is no “they” there.

    • I kinda agree with you, as long as they keep being the Dons of the country. (Lack of empathy = typical behavior of the psychopathic personality and the narcissistic).

  10. My own theory is not that they get inspiration from history or elsewhere. I think that they actually believe it was sabotage. The extreme left in Vzla has never been electable. Chavez got elected in the first place not because of his ideals, but because he offered reform of a broken system. And of course, to “fry adecos y copeyanos in hot oil”. Once elected, he used the state apparatus to push the commie/fascist ideology using very bourgeois elections (i.e. throwing a lot of cash into getting elected). Chavez himself wasn’t an intellectual. The extreme left just used him brilliantly.

    But because the extreme left was never electable, they became experts in subversive methods (and sabotage). So of course, they think, “if I were my opponent, causing massive blackouts would be my strategy, so it is only logic (for them) that sabotage is occurring”.

    It is like the opposite of the “normal politics”. We have the opposition playing normal politics and thinking their opponent is too, but on the other side we have the government playing subversive politics, thinking the other side is too, because that’s how each side knows how to play the game. The sad part is that we find ourselves in the worst possible scenario. Trying to play a game by the rules, thinking the opponent will do the same, but with an opponent that doesn’t and that believes that you aren’t (and punishes you as if you weren’t).

    • I think Rodrigo is into something here.

      Chavistas did indeed got into power only by means of Chavez. They don’t know anything but use of violence, surreptitious work, sabotage, “agitatsija”.

      Every time there is a problem, José Vicente Rangel talks about “una guarimba”…
      but if you remember, that’s what they were doing all the time during the IV Republic.
      A lot of them sincerely think we are doing that because that’s what they would do.

    • Right you are Rodrigo .There is an old saying in spanish ‘cada ladron juzga segun su condicion’ or if you prefer literary references, Proust once wrote ‘every woman of loose morals always believes other women are also of loose morals’ , The Chavista obsession with attributing plots , conspiracies and sabotages to the opposition is a reflection of their own warped mentality, of how they would act where they in the opposition !!

      Also conspiracy theories make life more interesting , more exciting, there is a fun side to the cultivation of paranoia, its a kind of slimy dark form of delicious gossip !!
      Nowadays the regimes constant use of deception and misinformation has created a climate of paranoia that affects almost everybody.

      Not sure the oppo has any option but to play acccording to the rules , it also fits their own conception of what is right even though they are not so naive as to believe that the regime plays by the rules , they know the regime cheats and lies but that it is still marginally sensitive to keeping up appearances , appearances are everything to it , appearances substitute for reality, theirs as we know is a magical world , a land of oz world. This respect for appearances means that for the most part they will try to avoid flagrancy if it doesnt inconvenience them too much !!

      Last aprils 1.4% electoral advantage is a sign that although the system is partially rigged , they dont dare ignore the rules altogether ( otherwise the advantage would have been much greater) , they dont mind cheating but they hate it when their hand is found going for the cookie jar. !!

  11. The flip side of this is the opposition’s lack of learning. If those sabotage accusations worked in the past to reach an unacceptable situation, then what makes opposition leaders think that this time will be different? We need a platform that destroys the Ring of Power.

    • No toores – yo need a platform to wun democratic elections not to “destroy the Ring Of Power”. And you pretend to be a democrat with that sort of message?

      • No, Arturo, you misinterpret. The ring of power to which I make reference is the petrostate model in which the government gets to spend oil money as if it taxed money. I have often stated that the same model in the opposition’s hands is also nefarious. The analogy comes from the Fellowship of the Ring where the different groups argued as to the best use for the Ring of Power. If only its power were wielded by them, each one thought, then the all would be well. It was a recurring theme in the work that the ring in anyone’s hands was too powerful, so it had to be destroyed.

        As to democrat, no pretense: I support the total of all non taxed money (e.g., oil money) be distributed directly, unconditionally, and daily to each and every citizen, equally. That is the platform I support, and my difficulty has been convincing others that this platform is not only the right thing to do, but also that it has the highest chance to win elections.

  12. Stalin died in his bed, as did quite a few of those who threw their lots in with his. There’s an element of risk in aligning yourself with a Stalin or a Chavez or Maduro – you might not be one of the lucky ones – but it’s hardly, on its face, a stupid thing to do.

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