How is a good, committed first world leftist to react to the now-so-evident-you-can-no-longer-cover-it-up collapse of the Bolivarian dream? It’s a sticky situation, watching a socialist government lionized in unison by the international left devolve into a Hobbesian dystopia of hunger, kleptocracy and violence.


Buxton’s interview is one of the more amusingly schizophrenic attempts at damage control from someone with a long record of supporting Venezuela’s calamitous revolution.

For the most part, the bon pensant left has opted to pasar agachados, whistling casually as they amble away from the crime scene. “Why me? No never! This was nothing to do with me!”

But in a long interview in New Left Review, Julia Buxton tries a new and different tack: hey, maybe we can’t love the government (anymore), but thank goodness we can still hate the opposition!

Buxton’s interview is one of the more amusingly schizophrenic attempts at damage control from someone with a long record of supporting Venezuela’s calamitous revolution. The first half reads, well, it reads like a lot of Aporrea reads these days: a white flag offered up as a sacrificial gift to the no longer concealable onslaught of reality.

Yes, we’re told, the nationalizations were a disaster, carried out without a strategy, disorganized, chaotic and wholly divorced from any kind of credible plan to diversify the economy, or even run the pre-existing economy semi-competently.

Yes public sector financial management has been a calamity, running up enormous debts as oil prices rose and making not a semblance of provision for a downturn. Yes the outcome has been an economic cataclysm where people can’t find enough food to eat.

Yes exchange rate controls are profoundly dysfunctional and at the root of the problem.

Yes the country’s now one of the most violent in the world.

It’s true. It’s all true. “Unfortunate,” but true.


What’s really remarkable is the disconnect between Buxton’s clinical, morally neutral tone as she describes a government that has left millions hungry and her angry vitriol as she condemns the opposition.

Yet it’s only in the second half we get to the thing that really exercises Buxton, the true calamity for the country, the real wellspring of all the trouble: Venezuela’s truculent, truculent opposition.

What’s really remarkable is the juxtaposition between Buxton’s clinical, neutral tone in discussing a government that has left millions hungry and the angry vitriol she reserves for the opposition. Again and again, she goes out of her way to avoid value judgement as she discusses the revolution’s failures. But measured language escapes her when talk turns to people who’ve put in the work to try to stop this calamity. 

Q: Does the initiative now lie with López or Capriles in the opposition? What is the opposition trying to do with its parliamentary majority?

The new president of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, comes from neither Primero Justicia nor Voluntad Popular, but from the old AD party. His nomination for the role was quite extraordinary: if ever there was a discredited individual who symbolized the failures of the old Punto Fijo system, it was Ramos Allup. The different MUD parties stand on their own tickets, sometimes against each other. The main rivalry has pitted Voluntad Popular against Primero Justicia, and there was an alliance of sorts between VP and AD, which accounts for Ramos Allup becoming assembly president. Primero Justicia is the largest single party, followed by AD, with Voluntad Popular quite low down—primarily because it’s not really a national movement; its base is concentrated in Miranda and Caracas.

The MUD initially had a super-majority in the assembly, but that hinged on the support of three members who came from indigenous communities. It was then shown that those representatives had been heavily implicated in electoral fraud, along with a PSUV member, so all four were disbarred. That denied the MUD a super-majority, but they still have a commanding majority of seats. The great tragedy of their electoral success is that they have been single-mindedly focused on dismantling everything that has gone before, and they have adopted a confrontational posture ever since assuming power. Capriles had spoken of the need for dialogue, but then found himself isolated within the MUD, because Voluntad Popular and AD would not countenance any kind of negotiation with the government. As a result, he quickly backtracked. Having previously distanced himself from violent mobilizations against the government, Capriles has become more radical, in a bid to stop the old centre ground from coalescing around López. He is now the one urging more street protests, and even calling for the army to overthrow the government.

Q: Has the opposition concentrated on securing the release of López from prison?

At first that was very nearly their sole demand. They introduced an amnesty law in April which was quite extraordinary, going completely against the grain of how we understand transitional justice. It granted absolution for any political crime dating back to 1998, including terrorism, drug trafficking and attempts to overthrow the elected government. It was designed for the benefit of a small group, fewer than fifty people, who were serving sentences for those political crimes. The law was rejected by the Supreme Court. The whole approach of the opposition has been so confrontational and out of touch with popular concerns. Ordinary Venezuelans want to see concrete measures to address crime and insecurity, and to alleviate the economic crisis. Instead, the opposition has spent months debating how they can get López out of prison, and what is the most appropriate strategy for ousting Maduro. The only real way to address shortages or any of the other serious problems Venezuela currently has is through dialogue. The solutions proposed by the opposition to deal with the economic decline are based on liberalization and resort to the IMF—something that has absolutely no traction within Venezuelan society, and which has alienated a lot of people. That helps explain why Maduro still retains the support of approximately one quarter of the population, in spite of the catastrophic economic situation: they believe they have more to lose if the opposition takes power than if Maduro stays on.

It’s hard to know where to begin with the obfuscations, the regime propaganda served up as dispassionate fact, the nonsense and the plain lies.

But let’s begin with Buxton’s complete disinterest in the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the new Supreme Tribunal in December 2015. It’s our first clue that while she’s can make a certain amount of sense with regard to what government has done to the country, she’s basically a SiBCI vehicle when it comes to what the government has done to the opposition. Maduro’s outrageous, unconstitutional packing of the tribunal with diehard loyalists isn’t even mentioned. But the rank propaganda lie about electoral fraud that has been used to deny the opposition the 2/3rds majority the voters gave it is passed off as fact. Buxton’s determination to maintain some of the trappings of academic neutrality, just falls apart at the sight of MUD’s now overwhwlming popular support.

And it gets worse.

“The great tragedy of [the opposition’s] electoral success,” Buxton tells us, “is that they have been single-mindedly focused on dismantling everything that has gone before.” 

Think about that for a second.

Buxton has just spend the first half of her interview detailing how one wrong-headed government decision after another has turned Venezuela into a dystopian nightmare of queues and hunger. You might think she would take a moment to say thank goodness there’s someone around single-mindedly focused on dismantling the decisions that has turned a petrostate into a pauperstate. You might think they could plausibly claim an electoral mandate from the people who had just overwhelmingly elected them to do just that to do, well, just that.

But no, somehow it doesn’t work that way. Undoing decisions she acknowledges have been disastrous is, we’re told, “a great tragedy.”

The charge that the opposition has made the release of Leopoldo López very nearly its only demand, in isolation to the documented fact that the government offered López himself his freedom in return for delaying a recall vote, is enough to demonstrate Buxton’s tendentiousness. And that’s before we even get to Buxton’s word-salad contention that there’s “absolutely no traction” for trying to address a crisis she admits was caused by mindlessly destructive state-takeover of large parts of the economy by reversing the thing she admits caused it.


If none of this seems to make any sense to you, it’s because none of Buxton’s position makes any sense.

Here we see the European left absolutely lost in the labyrinth of its own debunked certainties: Buxton rues that the revolution wasn’t institutionalized in a way that would make it permanent even as she accepts that the revolution’s policies have driven the country to misery. She brutally excorciates the people who, like her, point out that the revolution has led the country to misery but who, unlike her, want to do something about it. She supports the political imprisonment of people like Leopoldo López — never stopping to note that his own prosecutor accepts the evidence against him was false — but then seamlessly on to noting that although López and other opposition leaders constantly fight about everything, those other leaders spend their every waking moment trying to think up ways to get López out of prison, where she thinks he belongs. If none of this seems to make any sense to you, it’s because none of Buxton’s position makes any sense.

It’s all enough to make you suspect Buxton is less worked up about what the opposition stands for and more concerned about who they are:

The leadership consists of men like Henrique Capriles and Julio Borges, who were educated at Harvard or Oxford, and seemed to have a bright and wonderful future ahead of them in Venezuelan politics before they were steamrollered by Chavismo.

You know this kind of rhetoric: for Dr. Buxton (MA, PhD, London School of Economics), and the left, the thing that really disqualifies the opposition is that it’s led by people who went to the kinds of elite universities she went to.

There’s some screwed up colonial shit at play here: of course Julia Buxton is entitled to a world-class education, she’s English! But if you aspire to actually lead a Latin American country and be responsible for tens of millions of people’s livelihoods, well, then you better settle for what they teach at la Bolivariana.


Then again, you probably shouldn’t listen to me: I went to the LSE too.

In the mental gallinero vertical that passes for Buxton’s understanding of Venezuela’s recent history, the people who really deserve opprobium aren’t the people who’ve brought the country to ruin, but the people who’ve been thrown in jail for calling for protests to denounce that the country was being brought to ruin.

See how that works?

Then again, you probably shouldn’t listen to me: I went to the LSE too, and if there’s one thing Julia Buxton knows for sure is that that right there disqualifies me from talking about Venezuelan politics in the first place.

 

45 COMMENTS

  1. I knew I shouldn’t have read this article, as it would leave me angry. It did.

    If this so-called “intellectual” had to deal with the immense and unavoidable suffering and daily humiliations brought on by her beloved Chavismo, maybe she wound’t be so blinded by her ideology and unable to shake loose from her romance with the fraudulent ‘revolution’. I doubt it, although the support and intellectual cover her and her ilk provided this criminal and disastrous regime certainly make them worthy of some suffering and humiliation. At least we can thank them for discrediting themselves by their long, vocal, and often gleeful support of this catastrophic period in Venezuela’s history.

    You should try to get her on for an interview, if she has the guts which I also doubt.

  2. It’s the same idiocy the Podemos’ swindlers in Spain are doing, and closer here in Venezuela itself, they’re called the “chavistas non-maduristas”, people who want to change Maduro, not because Maduro has doubled on every single atrocity commited by Chávez, but because he ENDANGERS the longevity of the failed model, and thus, threatens to “stain the sacred name of the left”

  3. Quico, thank you for having the intestinal fortitude to wade through the miasma of the New Left Review swamp. I doubt she would consent to an interview. After all, by contrast with her own objectivity, you are a certified Oppo.

  4. The bit about transitional justice is also a gem. Look at the crimes she accuses the opposition for, and how unacceptable she finds them. I would give anything to hear her opinion on the Colombian peace question, she would surely find a way to justify exactly those crimes when carried out by FARC… in *the real world* and all…

    • great point, ideals trump everything, including consistency and logic

      effing infuriating

      if it fits with her agenda it is deemed fantastic, with no regards WHATSOEVER to the human suffering that she ignores in the process !

  5. Hey, just blame it on the usual scapegoats and hope nobody notices that socialism is killing people. People like her are the idiots who are merrily turning Europe into an Islamic Caliphate. Hope she ends up in a high traffic harem.

    • The idea of blaming the opposition for home grown attrocities is not owned specifically by the left or right.

      But the fact that the leftists and socialist swindlers drag out this tired argument while starvation is so rampant and murder rates skyrocketing, I am left to ponder if there is any form of government that Venezuela can achieve that can endure.

      I hope so, but the blood will more likely flow in the streets before an election that turns over the reigns peacefully.

      God, I hope I am really wrong about this.

    • “merrily turning Europe into an Islamic Caliphate”

      ahh geez! do you even live in Europe??
      I do, and in Germany at that! You sound like a PEGIDA member &that is NOT a compliment !

  6. “There’s some screwed up colonial shit at play here: of course Julia Buxton is entitled to a world-class education, she’s English! But if you aspire to actually lead a Latin American country and be responsible for tens of millions of people’s livelihoods, well, then you better settle for what they teach at la Bolivariana.”

    Hahaha! Spot on.

    And I like how everything the Bolivarian revolution did was approved before by Europeans like Heinz Dieterich, Alfredo Serrano and even Julia Buxton, but when their policies backfire, they justify: “It’s a third-world country with a non-European majority anyway, what did you expect? It will take 1,000 years to improve. We are just giving the first steps (in the wrong direction).”

    To be left-wing in 2016 is to sit by the side of this sort of people. You wanting or not.

  7. The progenitors of Marxism see it clearly as nothing but a power vehicle, but the Useful Idiots have a special psychosis.

  8. I got the same amount of frustration when I (used) to talk with Chavista smartasses.

    It does not matter how you cut or how you portrait it, the discussion ends up in a Cantinflas monologue that almost always, invariable, and ultimately ends up with “los Adecos hicieron vainas peores”.

    So, it is refreshing and extremely troublesome at the same time that an “expert” and “academically sophisticated” person resources to the same argument to address some simple yet califragilistically complicated situation. Not to mention that she is completely oblivious to the hegemony in all aspects this regime has had for 17 years. “Expropiese!”

    Refreshing because equips our suboptimal educated comrades from La Bolivariana (and why not barrio adentro) with some recognized professionals from LSE.

    Troublesome because it is just supercalifragilisticallyspieledocious that Ms. Buxton can’t shake off “El rancho que llevamos todos en la cabeza”. First because she has never lived in a rancho and second because she does not know what is to go to bed hungry or spend days and weeks chasing for food or for a piece of paper to clean her ass.

  9. If you are looking for another example of the astonishing attitude the European left has toward Venezuela, then read some articles written by Geraldina Colotti on the Italian Il Manifesto. Former UCC (Unione Communisti Combattenti) militant, former teacher of philosophy, wounded in a firefight with the Italian police in 1987, Geraldina is out on parole since 1999. This is the link to her website and her most recent book: “Moles in Caracas” (http://www.geraldinacolotti.it/).

  10. Her thinking is at the level of the internet lumpen-trolletariat, not someone with any expertise. As Mr. F. Toro points out, she can only save her point of view by resorting to lying.

    Mostly the interview involves sleight-of-hand neo-fascist dictator-loving codswollop. Others have pointed out some of the moral and intellectual failures here.

    Let me point out another: in her discussion of the Amnesty passed by the National Assembly, she is of course in favour of continued imprisonment of all possible beneficiaries. Stalin would approve.

    But she does not measure her the Amnesty Law using the Constitution as a yardstick. Because the Constitution allows the Venezuelan people to amnesty whoever they wish, acting through their elected representatives.

    Instead, she judges the Amnesty Law against a new standard, apparently brought in ad hoc, if not deus ex machina, and judges it as “going against the grain of how we understand transitional justice”.

    I’m not sure who this “we” is, who are able to override the Constitution of Venezuelawith gauzy references to transitional justice, but ask yourself: when was this era of transitional justice proclaimed? Was it just after the arrest of Yon Goieachea? Or maybe of Braulio Jatar?

    It’s actually stunning that she uses “transitional justice” here to justify, not mercy, not recognition of a need to forgive, but rather the continuing use of political prisons.

  11. Socialism, socialist thought, socialist philosophy (whatever), all disguise personal contempt, disdain, and outright hatred for people. Most of us are capable of seeing other people and the differences between them. The socialist is not capable of that, and sees only a mirror of themselves in others. So the enemy – the capitalist – is greedy, corrupt, domineering, and uncaring.

    Beneath the disguise of “sharing” and being “benign”, the socialist seeks to equalize, uniformly, and that makes things understandable to them, at their level, and in the end makes a population easier to control. All a socialist wants is total control. Slavery of the most productive, to reduce them to the socialist’s level, so the socialist can feel comfortable. That’s the full extent of a socialist’s “benign” “vision” of the world. A macabre inverted narcissism, not obsessive concern over one’s own beauty, but obsessive concern over one’s own persistent failure as a human being.

    • The apparatchiks and enablers turn their self-hate on anything and any body showing good because it reminds them of their own evil. Thus they advocate slavery for everyone except themselves. Turns out that self-hate is usually justified.

  12. This is the typical approach to Latin American politics coming from European leftist “intellectuals”, of which Frenchmen are champions. For them, Latin America does not deserve educated politicians or government leaders, since they tend to come from the elite classes who for centuries have enslaved the population.

  13. In Germany there are some, who changed their mind over the years, often the younger ones.
    And there are those, who haven’t.
    European Left probably has seen better times than now.
    Democracy and Rule of Law require a lot of patience.
    And I believe that there are more people, who received money for their disinformation, than we currently know. Its a trade and Chavismo/Cuba are crazy enough to pay for this crap. Don’t believe that this lady is among those, but they exist.
    There are not few german expats living in Latin America. In discussions, often those people put forward good arguments against the disinformation.

  14. On a brighter note, I did like this question:

    “Yet Maduro appears to be squeezing the budget to pay foreign creditors, Ceaușescu-style, while the situation in the country is desperate—people queuing from four in the morning to buy basic goods that never arrive.”

    While the phrase “Ceausescu-style” was narrowly defined here, perhaps to not overly alarm the subscribers, the comparison is apt in many ways. It came immediately to mind when reading Nicolas Casey’s excellent reporting this weekend in the New York Times on Venezuela’s mental health facilities.

  15. I got one pure bred Euro-lefty in my family (married to an aunt). He goes through the mental gymnastics and selective fact picking to justify his infallibility.

    My diagnosis is that chucking the bunks ideas is throwing something essential to their identity. It is renouncing to 50 or more years of belief. Too painful to go through.

    Funny thing is that being described as the religious reactionary, I find that they are every bit as dogmatic, except that the Communist Manifesto was not inspired by God, only Karl.

    One final gripe. Tonight, when these lefties go and sip wine and berate the reactionaries, I will be teaching math to the poorest of the poor as a voluntary teacher. I guess it is the governments responsibility to address this problem.

    • I think that they are even more dogmatic than Christians, because most Christians will, at some point in their lives, doubt their faith a bit when a loved one dies, or if life gets too harsh, but those people never doubt anything. They will just scream “Karl Marx Akbar” and blow themselves up if the situation demands.

      • Christianity fails at its roots when it relies on dogma instead of awakening of the soul. Fire and brimstone from the pulpit is great for driving people out of their pews. Only the heartless and souless are swayed by such tactics. The same is every bit as true for political swine who blame the victims of attrocities by their own hand.

        “The beatings will continue until moral improves.”

  16. I think it was Mark Twain who once said, “Don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education.” The majority of so-called “intellectuals”, have merely learned how to shovel perfumed bullshit instead of the more common and more easily identifiable variety.

  17. Julia Buxton, March 2014 Guardian:

    “Flling the void left by a charismatic leader is always a challenge, and Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, has struggled to command the authority of his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez. The burden of succession has proved all the more onerous as it has fallen to Maduro to address the difficult decisions that were deferred or bypassed by Chávez, who died a year ago.

    Among the challenges bequeathed to Maduro, who assumed the presidency by a razor-thin majority in elections last April, two have been pressing: an appalling problem of crime and corruption that has propelled Venezuela into the top 10 of global corruption and homicide indices; and a dysfunctional economy.

    Crime and corruption are longstanding, inherited by Chávez from the politicians of the old regime who sought to remove him in the failed coup of 2002. They were exacerbated by constant ministerial turnover and the government’s failure to engage with these issues as social and institutional problems, rather than facets of capitalism that would fade under Chávez’s model of 21st century socialism.

    High inflation and shortages are the result of an overbearing state that is intended to frame the socialist economy. In the early 2000s price and exchange controls had logic in the context of private-sector lockouts, massive capital flight and the need to ensure access to high-price goods and services for the poor – Chávez’s core supporters. But the rationale for their retention has long expired.

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    Instead of addressing the root causes of these problems, Maduro has tinkered at the edges. This is partly because he doesn’t want to be perceived as betraying Chávez’s legacy. High oil export prices have helped him, but the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática – MUD, an alliance led by Henrique Capriles – has increased the political pressure on Maduro’s government.”

    • That’s actually fairly reasonable…although of course Chavez is off the hook for the crime and corruption…both of which have increased drastically.

  18. Thank you Quico. Exposing them is one of the best tools to fight this lot.

    Must admit, it feels wrong to enjoy this post because of the atrocities you address …

  19. “You know this kind of rhetoric: for Dr. Buxton (MA, PhD, London School of Economics), and the left, the thing that really disqualifies the opposition is that it’s led by people who went to the kinds of elite universities she went to.”

    I disagree. What disqualifies the opposition is that it is opposition. Any qualities of the opposition which can be cited in a discrediting way are just frosting on the cake. And those same qualities would be cited in support of leftist figures who have them.

    • Are you kidding? They would love to see Trump win. “See…we’ve been saying for years America is a jingoistic, anti-intellectual, racist, bomb first, imperialistic country and it can’t be denied now”

      • They will say that anyways and you know it. Caring about what other people say works when both sides are arguing in good faith. Which Caviar Socialists never do.

        So, full speed ahead.

  20. There’s some screwed up colonial shit at play here: of course Julia Buxton is entitled to a world-class education, she’s English! But if you aspire to actually lead a Latin American country and be responsible for tens of millions of people’s livelihoods, well, then you better settle for what they teach at la Bolivariana.”

    Dont take it too personally. The establishment, elitist, left from Oxford and Harvard condescends to all of us. Ms Buxton follows the formula perfectly and to do otherwise would jeopardize her membershipb in the club. You see, she and her ilk are simply better, more moral, than grubby folks victimized by her imaginery leftist utopia. It is an exclusive club reserved for those with impeccable credentials and uncritical acceptance of leftist, elitist dogma.

    • There’s a movie that portrays that perfectly, I don’t even think that the director consciously did want to portray the contemporary left, or socialism, but he ended up showing the two sides that feed each other, the useful idiots, mostly young people that will believe anything thrown at them, and the malicious Julia Buxton types manipulating the former and running the hospice. It’s called ‘The Beach’, it’s kind of old, but still very actual, unfortunately. How the better, more moral Julia Buxton types go from beautiful utopia to shooting people. All in the name of love.

    • That sounds about right. As a former Londoner, I can witness that well-to-the-left of centre is a comfortable place to be in the faculty of the London School of Economics. It is also probably useful for careerists and social climbers.

    • They are also the ones who invented “fair play” to be practiced among gentlemen of their kind but never with: wogs, yids, chugs, coons, dinks and other representatives of the lower strata.

      As for the lady’s interview, my best take was:

      “At the moment, too many of them have a vested interest in keeping Maduro in power, because they face the risk of being put on trial if he is forced from office by the right wing of the mud.

      – Deservedly so in some cases, to judge by what you have told us.

      – Probably so, but having said that, I would not expect the opposition to be especially keen on the rule of law..”

      This is just too good!

  21. Well written thanks.
    Odious left
    I toyed with it at university in London – then grew up – but then these nut jobs have made a good living out of it.
    Spent 6 years in Venezuela 2000 – 2006 and what an eye opener that was.
    Don’t think I will ever go back to Venezuela the problems I think are too deep (mentally on all sides) and life is too short.
    People like this lady, Corbyn, Livingston are sick f…. Odious in that they are parasites of a capitalist system that seek to damage from within and to profit for their own sake.
    Interesting though how so many on the left share such a resentful nature – nurture or genetic who can say? Easy to spot them though.

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