Photo: Alba Ciudad

“Reactionary” is ordinarily applied to a political position of the far right, synonymous with conservative or, in Maduro-speak, “ultraderecha.” But as it is defined as someone “opposing political or social liberalization or reform” (Google definition), it also fits that segment of the Left that continues to cling to the 100-year-old vision of politics and projects that have long proven themselves to be failures. The results can be seen in the collapse of the USSR and now in Venezuela.

The reactionary left —exemplified today by the Bolivarian Solidarity Left (BSL)— seems incapable of understanding why communism (or “real socialism”) collapsed in the late 20th century and why Venezuela’s present-day version of socialism isn’t doing any better. As a group, it could be characterized as “opposing political or social liberalization or reform” —indeed, to this crop of unreflective and utterly reflexive dogmatists, any step toward reform or show of flagging zeal is indication of counter-revolutionary and “right-wing” deviation or “apostasy.” That’s because, like reactionaries of all stripes, they base their hope on the restoration of a golden past with a sense of religious conviction, and, of course, religious conviction requires zeal, total, undoubting conviction and faith.

The reactionary left seems incapable of understanding why communism (or “real socialism”) collapsed in the late 20th century.

In the case of the Bolivarian Solidarity Left, that golden age of the past was the time of Chávez, the missions, and, not coincidentally, the decade of high oil prices (2004-2014). That’s the world to which they wish to return: Never mind that it was based on accumulation of debt, unsustainable economic practice, patronage, the debasing of the national currency, polarizing politics, all of which caused the current disaster.

But that doesn’t matter to this reactionary BSL because, in their Leninist worldview, the role of the people is to uncritically support the vanguard, even if it means supporting it against the people, against the country, against the economic, social and political system and even against reason and every human value. Worst of all they collude with the “vanguard” to conceal the dire situation of the people as it shifts blame for the problems onto “imperialism,” “capitalism,” the “oligarchy,” etc.

Despite their claims to be “in solidarity with Venezuela,” this reactionary left couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the actual people of Venezuela. Their “people” is an ideal abstraction without physical bodies or individual lives; this collectivized abstraction doesn’t stand in lines for food and go hungry or, worse still, watch its children or elderly parents go hungry or driven into exile by hunger and persecution from an authoritarian government. “The people” of the BSL, in other words, are imaginary and it bears no more resemblance to Venezuelans than the Leninist “proletariat” did to the Russian workers.

I will grant the BSL one point, though: Chávez was in the vanguard. Along with Fujimori in Peru, he was in the vanguard of neo-populism, and both he and Fujimori represented its poles, left and right, respectively. Post-1989 neo-populism has provided the reinforcement personnel for the now extinct fascism and nearly extinct communism in their war against liberalism. Like the fascists and communists, the neo-populists recognize the real weaknesses of liberal democracy: its individualism, its elitism, its hypocrisy and its willingness to throw all of society into the market and let each one fend for him or herself—and these weaknesses have become even more apparent in the most recent phase of liberalism, that is, under “neo-liberalism” with its reduced state “drowning in the bathtub.”

Despite their claims to be “in solidarity with Venezuela,” this reactionary left couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the actual people of Venezuela.

But the neo-populists and their supporters throw the baby out with the bathwater, or better said, murder the baby and steal the bathtub. Whether in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, or Hungary, Poland, Russia, the Philippines, and now in the United States, with Donald Trump, the neo-populists use the liberal democratic order to come to power and then set about destroying it: checks and balances to power, the liberal rights of free thought, free press, free assembly, free dissent, free dissemination of information and ideas. In short, it’s their goal to destroy democracy, and put in its place the authoritarian leader.

It’s admittedly hard to make a case for the defense of liberal democracy which has so deeply disappointed and failed us, except that the alternative at this point, neo-populism, represented by the likes of Duterte, Erdogan, Orban, Maduro, Putin and Trump, is so much worse. While it’s true they share no common ideology —and, in that sense, they resemble Mussolini’s original fascism, which remained a rather amorphous ideology, its main concern was to protect il Duce’s personal power— they have common concerns (their own power) and common backing.

Liberalism often appears to be as difficult a concept to pin down as populism, since it also takes so many forms in different places, but it’s known for a fairly well-defined set of values and principles (mentioned above), all associated with liberality and liberty. And liberalism also has right and left wings, represented by neo-liberalism on the right and an array of liberal socialists and social liberals who blend into, and mix well with, social democrats in organizations like the British Labor Party or Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) or, in Venezuela, embodied by Causa R, Voluntad Popular and other parties of the opposition.

Clearly, liberal democracy needs to be rethought, reformed and revised, and fortunately some of that work has already been started by Anthony Giddens, Norberto Bobbio and, of course, so many thoughtful people in the Venezuelan opposition, both in and out of political parties. We mustn’t allow perfection to be the enemy of the good, or even of the broken-but-potentially-reparable.

We’re stuck with making liberal democracy work until we can create a better alternative.

We’re stuck with making liberal democracy work until we can create a better alternative because only under liberal democratic governments can the most critical elements needed to find that alternative emerge: independent, critical and transformative social movements. We have to end the hunt for saviors, be the persons or those elites known as “vanguard,” and abandon solidarity with them, as to place our hope in ourselves, and in our movements, such as those we saw arise in 2014 among students, and 2017, among the general population, in Venezuela.

In social movements, left and right ideologies tend to take a back seat to projects, as Ivan Fuentes of the Social Movement of Aysén emphasized when he talked about working across political lines and helping “people regain their faith in politics, in our way of doing politics.” Fuentes understands that enduring change comes from social movements, not political parties. Political parties can only institutionalize those changes that the people win. That’s why those of us who value unity based on democracy, pluralism, diversity and the real people with their common concerns, need to form movements to end, detain or interrupt neo-populism and protect the institutions of democracy that guarantee everyone’s rights.

But before we can even begin to understand how we might proceed with that work, we’ll need to open our minds and let go of old reactionary ideas —left and right— and the polarizing politics of populism that have long since proven themselves worse than useless.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.

100 COMMENTS

  1. “Bolivarian Solidarity Left (BSL)” How sure is the author that this is the correct meaning of this abbreviation. …. pretty sure it stand for Bull Shit Left.

  2. Another Hugo Chavista who is disappointed in Maduro. How novel! He is saying yes socialism is the answer but Maduro screwed it up.

    • A powerful sign of leftists’ deep bias. They tenaciously cling to their pseudo-religious indoctrination regardless of the avalanche of empirical evidence sweeping past them for generations. One wonders why — self-hate? (Turns out that self-hate is usually justified.)

      • Lumping Trump in with NM/Putin/et.al. is a stretch. The problem with the Leftists is that personally hard-earned/simply owned capital is scarce, and the needy masses are many, and taking from one class to give to the other simply causes greater misery, as history has so often proved. Even World banks’ massively expanding their balance sheets to a new record of $280 trillion debt has only marginally bettered the average man’s lot, if at all, but said debt newly now 50%/+ in the hands of private, and not govt. public, financial institutions has enormously increased world financial risks, especially in the coming world financial downturn. There is no free lunch, no matter what certain ideologies/many govts. may tell you.

        • “…now in the United States, with Donald Trump, the neo-populists use the liberal democratic order to come to power and then set about destroying it: checks and balances to power, the liberal rights of free thought, free press, free assembly, free dissent, free dissemination of information and ideas. In short, it’s their goal to destroy democracy, and put in its place the authoritarian leader.”

          You always know what leftists are guilty of: just consider their accusations towards others.

          • I don’t understand why CC insists on continuing to publish leftist propaganda articles…it’s becoming a never ending parade. I come here to find out what’s happening in Venezuela, not to have Marxist propaganda constantly paraded in front of me. Is there a closet socialist in charge of deciding which articles to go with?

          • Tom – It’s deliberate, published on July 4th to insult Americans. They’re blowing up, heads exploding with their own hatred. That’s what got them into the state(?) they’re in to begin with, and they still haven’t caught on. I just withdrew my monetary support. I’m not going to support marxist criminal drivel. Let ’em drown in their own whatever, starve to death, get eaten by malaria, die of water-born parasitic infections. Maybe a weakness of mine, but I get fed up trying to help the hopeless and getting slapped across the face for it.

          • This is the result of establishment journalism education (well, almost all establishment education). Their indoctrination is so deep it becomes a bias that is obvious to all the rest of us but invisible to the pseudo-journos themselves. Most of them, that is. For the true believers the marxist claptrap is intentional and deliberate.

            Here’s the deliberate part: Somewhere along the way each one decided to believe what they know is false and turn away from what they knew to be true. And each one decided to say what they are told to say by their masters, and to claim to represent truth and high journalistic standards.

            Consider how consistent the bigotry is across establishment media. Dissenting views cannot be debated. They cannot even be mentioned unless in ridicule, or the reporter will be denounced and fired.

  3. Mr. Ross,

    Exactly what is it about liberal democracy and capitalism that has failed us? For the last 250 years, the world has seen unparalleled improvements in education, health, and longevity. The poorest among us have advantages that the kings back then could never dream of. Moreover, despite what you might believe from the news, on average, the world of today is a far safer place to live than it has ever been in all of human history.

    • @Gringo…I know exactly what you mean…every time I see this kind of trash on these pages I think a little less of CC than I did before!

  4. “and now in the United States, with Donald Trump, the neo-populists use the liberal democratic order to come to power and then set about destroying it: checks and balances to power, the liberal rights of free thought, free press, free assembly, free dissent, free dissemination of information and ideas. In short, it’s their goal to destroy democracy, and put in its place the authoritarian leader.”

    You must carpool with Cnucklehead.

    • @Another Gringo…..look at where the guy lives. Berkeley…….long a bastion of Marxist thought in America.

      • Yeah, yeah. Although, now that Trump has brought the two halves of Korea together and formally ended the war, the Biserkeleyites have become surprisingly hawkish against the Norks and their nukes. They hate (HATE) the idea that The Donald might accomplish something that The One did not.

        I just tune ’em out.

      • just what you`d expect from rich college students who pay more for one semester in their campus than what a worker under socialist makes in their entire life

      • @Ira “Canucklehead’s driver’s license was suspended for stupidity.”

        And how do you know that?

        I may not be Canucklehead’s biggest fan or supporter, but are you psychic or something?

  5. Roy , your comment is right on the dot , still there is no political model so perfect that it can claim the capacity to always yield the results people consider most desirable all of the time , there are bound to be failures , regresions , deviations . Its part and parcel of all human endevours ……liberal democracy and market economies are no exceptions . The enlightment dream has recently seen its shares of problems in the last few years and recognizing them can allow it to grow and improve its design…..
    Many of these problems can be associated with the phenomena of rising populism, there is a recent talk from Francis Fukuyama to the world affairs council of monterey which you can find on Facebook which is an excellent explanation of the causes of the phenomema, ‘the global rise of populist nationalism’ , if you have the time do try to listen to it.(39 minutes)

    • Bill,

      You and are in agreement. The problem with the knucklehead who wrote this piece is that he wants to equate the shortcomings of liberal democracy with the stark and abject failures of socialism/communism.

      It’s like a serial killer trying to equate his string of bloody murders with the guy that got arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct: “See… nobody’s perfect…”

    • And BTW:

      The root of the problems with liberal democracy is what I call The Egalitarian Fallacy. Clearly, humans are not all equal, yet we continue to hold up equality as the ultimate goal. We need to grow up and stop believing in Unicorns.

      Any organization of human beings, in order to function properly must be organized into a hierarchy in which the individuals’ authority and responsibility are approximately equal. When someone is given authority in excess of his responsibity or accountability for its use, that authority will inevitably be abused to the detriment of the organization. Conversely, if someone is given responsibility for something, but not the authority to carry out the actions necessary to achieve those responsibilities, that person will fail, to the detriment of the organization. This concept is well understood in the organization of corporations and militaries. We call such organizations a Meritocracy. Such organizations have been proven to be both effective and stable. Moreover, they are flexible and adaptable to changing conditions.

      So, while we have no problem with organizational meritocracy in our corporations and militaries, when it comes to organizing the political process by which we govern ourselves, we throw all of our organizational experience out of the window. We insist that every citizen’s opinion is equal to every other’s. In doing so, we are giving a large segment of the population a level of authority which is disproportionate to their responsibility. Simply put, there is a tendency for the public to vote themselves bread and circuses. It is this organizational imbalance that causes the liberal democracies to experience extreme periodic swings in fiscal and social policy.

      From an engineering point of view we could say that the negative feedback mechanisms are too insensitive. We need to make our political systems more like a meritocracy to provide better fine control to the system.

      I’ll leave it there for now. I do have various ideas about how to achieve this, but until society lets go of the Egalitarian Fallacy it is pointlesa to discuss them.

  6. all the marxist left is reactionary , marxism , leninism and other instances of communism are an anachronism, just as defunct as facism or nazism. Venezuelans of my age generation realize all too well that the real conservatives and real retrogads an authoritarians are really the marxist left. We don`t fear General Franco jumping out of the closet with a cross like a boogeyman, we fear the actual people who monopolize oppresion in this new century and that is the left.

    Fuck Sartre, Gramsci and Beuvouir, all the apologists and ideologues of misery and genocide that are still used to justify this nightmare, and the academics that insist of indoctrinating young people with XX century totalitarianism still in this new millenium where information is vast and easy to come by on why it was such a fucking failure in its day and will be even worse today.

  7. this reads like an article in APORREA btw, as trite as ever with the whole “we want real socialism like the nordic countries aaahhh ” bullshit editors

    “maduro is bad but fuck trump and capitalism, trump is the real villain ahhhhh”

  8. “Clearly, liberal democracy needs to be rethought, reformed and revised, and fortunately some of that work has already been started by Anthony Giddens, Norberto Bobbio and, of course, so many thoughtful people in the Venezuelan opposition, both in and out of political parties. We mustn’t allow perfection to be the enemy of the good, or even of the broken-but-potentially-reparable.

    “We’re stuck with making liberal democracy work until we can create a better alternative.”

    ——–

    Clifton, are you a fucking idiot?

    Does that pea-brain of yours actually think it can create a system better than Capitalism?

    I mean, you sound ridiculous, like you’re going to come up with a new cure for pimples with your chemistry set while living in your parents’ basement.

  9. This jackass published his political memoir? What the fuck does that mean?

    And how the fuck does CC publish this crap? From Berkeley, no less:

    Condom reservoir tip of the U.S.

    • Ira, are you a brain dead worthless fuck?

      Does that old man brain of yours have any fucking independent thought or are you just a Trump loving Kool Aid drinking zombie that fails to think for himself?

      You sound like a brain dead retard who has been sniffing glue and eating his play-doh.

      How does CC let Idiot fucktards like Ira post?

      • @Ira is Gay “Ira, are you a brain dead worthless fuck?”

        A: For your sake, I would hope not.

        Because it would mean a brain dead worthless F*ck put together a more coherent comment than you. Which bring sup the obvious question of “so what does that make you?”

        B: Using “Gay” as if it were an insult…..nasty.

        and

        C: I note that your comment does not even ADDRESS any of the points or claims Ira made, much less refute them.

        It simply asserts that he’s stupid, retarded, and the like.

        Ok, *even if all of that is true, How does it mean anything he wrote is wrong?*

        You don’t say. Because you were too fixated on ad hominems than on making even the extremely crude argument Ira did.

      • Thanks for using Gay as an insult, though. Real classy. You are the poster child of reasons i think abortion should be legal. If you knew for a second what it’s like to be and come out as gay, you wouldn’t have praised ira so, as you did. Your asshole must be jealous of your mouth from all the shit it’s spewed in your post. I’d call you a cunt but you clearly lack warmth and depth.

        • “You are the poster child of reasons i think abortion should be legal”

          You do not sound conservative to me

          • @Straight Liberal you might be surprised to know how deeply Abortion divides conservatives. It isn’t like we all have a uniform marching line or the like.

            And while I heartily despise abortion, I have come to grudgingly accept that at least on some level it should be legal, in part because I’ve studied Communist Romania. And I know how attempts to completely abolish it cause problems. Big ones.

            But yeah, some jagoff using “gay” as an insult is pretty nasty.

      • @Boludo Tejano That is what I thought just from a curosry look over it.

        And I think we (and by that I particularly mean those of us who would lean more towards the right, especially my fellow defenders of Trump) often overlook. And which I try and keep in mind.

        I may have torn the author a new one over what I saw to be sloppy and crude argumentation as well as a lack of awareness, but I DO think that on the most important fault line, we are fundamentally on the same side. And that there is more that unites us than divides us.

        So I give that assumption.

  10. Excellent discussion of left reactionaries. At this point, they are simply koolaid drinkers who don’t want o learn anything from the actual communist experiments of the past hundred years.

    • Thanks Jeffry. I’m glad you and a few other Caracas Chronicle’s readers were satisfied to read what I ACTUALLY wrote and not interpolate a lot of their own ideas of what I MIGHT have been saying. It’s difficult to say EVERYTHING in a 1,200-word-piece. The failures of liberal capitalism are more than evident to the right wing supporters of Donald Trump, for instance, so my criticism of it is more nuanced than a short article could convey. Anyway, appreciate your comment and your work.

      • @Clifton Ross ”

        Thanks Jeffry. I’m glad you and a few other Caracas Chronicle’s readers were satisfied to read what I ACTUALLY wrote and not interpolate a lot of their own ideas of what I MIGHT have been saying.”

        Indeed, well that’s why I format my posts in the way I do. So that the risk of that is minimized, because I’m using the words of whatever I’m replying to. which both protects me from accusations of “Liar! I didn’t say that!” and mitigates the possible risk of myself getting off the beaten path and putting words in someone else’s mouth.

        That said, going off of what you Did ay I was less impressive.

        “It’s difficult to say EVERYTHING in a 1,200-word-piece. ”

        Indeed, and I can appreciate that. Which is why I often go over.

        “The failures of liberal capitalism are more than evident to the right wing supporters of Donald Trump, for instance,”

        Eh, I didn’t support Trump because of his economics unlike many people. Far from it. Though I probably fit the description of “right wing supporters of Donald Trump.”

        Many of them certainly did though, so the overall point is fair. Though given how Trump has made some claims (for instance, his proposal to abolish all tarriffs) that basically involve more liberal capitalism, there’s the question of whether or not it’s because his protectionist supporters dislike liberal capitalism or argue it should be even purer.

        (Then again, one thing we can Both agree on is that trump lies and oversells. A lot. So taking that offer at face value could be a mistake.)

        “so my criticism of it is more nuanced than a short article could convey.”

        Indeed, that’s what I figured. I certainly don’t think you’re a Chavista plant or the like.

        Which is why my concern is less about your overall points and more the gist of them. Like the over-villification of “Populism”, the apparent indifference to the risks of seeking a “third way”, and overall hewing closer to the far left.

        Not to say a democratic far left does not have a place in a free society, it does. But as usual it can easily bleed over.

  11. Why you are lumping Hungary, Poland and Trump in this?

    Donald Trump is actually making USA less authoritarian by removing lots of regulations and reducing the size of the federal government, appoints constructionist judges that will never engage in judicial activism, swore to protect religious freedom and the right to life, and is returning the US to the path of a true capitalist country by making sure American corporations create jobs in the states rather than installing plants in China & Mexico just to sell their products back to American consumers.

    In addition Trump wants to eliminate illegal immigration and properly vet legal immigration, so he would like to discourage companies from hiring illegal immigrants by mandating eVerify, and now the wall is a necessity more than ever now that Mexico went bat shit crazy and voted for the hard left.

    Trump is truly a conservative leader with the of essence of Classic Liberalism.

    Hungary & Poland, are simply protecting their country from this nonsense of giving refugee status to people that don’t really deserve it.

    • @jctt….you just made the author’s head explode! Lol. I am hoping that Hungary, Poland, Italy will serve as the catalyst for the disentegration of the “European experiment” as it is referred to.

      • I forgot to include Italy! yeah I’m really happy that Italy just elected leaders with common sense and the balls to say no to the collective madness represented in the EU.

    • (Continue from prior comment)…

      Anyway, it will be totally misleading to say that Trump is a neo-populist, Trump is advancing his agenda without harassing or imprisoning his political opponents or jailing journalist, which is what your lot in the left usually do anytime they come into office.

      Remember the Democrat’s rage when Obama used the IRS to target conservatives, yeah me neither. Not to mention the millions of violations the likes of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales often did when they were in office, with the complacency of the global left.

      • Like Trump or Hate Trump, he is at least doing – or trying to do – exactly what he said he would do in his campaign. That is unorthodox for a politician. Because he is not a politician, but a lose cannon. Lose canons are lots of fun as long as you don’t get hit by a big orange canon ball.

        The media and their followers were appalled at what Trump said he would do when campaigning, in particular, undoing what Obama did. And, of course, “the wall”, but he won, heads exploded, pants shitted, and now we have a rich treasure trove of crocodile tears:

        https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DhR5Y2vXcAIcKjO.jpg

    • I don’t question some of the merits in the article, but in my case I question the merit of Lumping Trump with the barbarism that the Latino American left engaged in the last decades (sadly Mexico will extend this cancer for few more years).

      Do you really think that Trump has anything in common with Erdogan, or Chavez? That is just a false equivalency that many ex-Chavistas are saying to steer the blame from their beloved revolution of the XXI century.

      With all the flaws that Trump has, he is reviving the very essence of Classic Liberalism.

      • There are lots of parallelisms. That fixation he has with the free press is dangerous, he has taken too much time to legitimise the media or anyone who opposes him. That without counting the fact that I don’t think he embraces capitalism, but populism, the wall is a whim has to be paid by the state (i.e. taxpayers). On the other hand, I don’t know how any of you can defend tariffs, that’s obviously a populist act, there are few things less capitalists than tariffs. Why would you want to “protect the jobs” if those jobs are not productive enough? And reading all this comments make me think that the similarities go even beyond, there’s almost a religious fervour in their words, like if questioning the leader was an act of heresy that has to be erased.
        There’s nothing I can do from here, I just say Americans have to be careful, it’s not only socialism the one you have to be afraid of.

        • Free press is already guaranteed by the fact that he hasn’t jailed any journalist… We all saw what happened when Hugo Chavez was in power, he threw people for doing stuff he didn’t like, He made a list of all the people that signed the petition for the Referendum of 2004… etc, etc. I don’t think Trump have that in him to do any of that stuff.

          Trump already hinted that the tariffs are a means to an end… which is to achieve an open and free market trade between the power blocs.

          With the EU there are two contention points, 1) Meeting NATO quotas for self defense 2) Removing any tariff or make it at least lower to match the general tariff that the US applies to every foreign product.

          Same with China, 1) Stop the theft of IP from American corporations 2) Drop the requirements to transfer technology and know how to Chinese Corporations 3) Drop the tariffs and the manipulation of the currency.

          These to name a few.

          I wished Trump had more tact in dealing with these negotiations, but I guess he already tried the nice and polite way, at least with China & the EU. If they don’t change their intransigent positions then they will miss out a tremendous opportunity to trade with the US and any other country will be happy to replace them.

        • The near worship of Trump is seriously approaching cult levels. Just look at these commenters…I’m continually astonished.

          But you are right, there are many parallels. The constant demonizing and attacks on the press (Chavez started doing the same thing), demanding of personal loyalty, constant blatant lying at previously unfathomable levels in the West, attacks on judiciary, dehumanization of opponents, directing Justice dept to go after enemies, spreading conspiracy theories, belittling long time allies, etc. Fortunately he is constrained by America’s institutions and political system and his own propensity for chaos, but the damage is here to stay.

          So, yes, he’s not a socialist or a leftist which is good, but any type of populism solves none of society’s problems and further weakens the health of political discourse and functioning.

          • “The near worship of Trump is seriously approaching cult levels. Just look at these commenters…I’m continually astonished. ”

            Some people worship Trump, and i imagine even some people on here do.

            But most of us don’t.

            But apparently not having one’s panties in a wad and being willing to doubt publicly that he is Really Really Really synonymous with Chavez and a great threat to the Constitution trnaslates into being a Trump Cultist.

            Which is ludicrous.

            Some of us just know a damn about ACTUAL Russian election interference from Lincoln in the Civil War to Kekkonen in Finland, and we find the wild arse accusations to be unconvincing.

            “But you are right, there are many parallels.”

            No, there really aren’t.

            And the examples you try and use to support that inane conclusion just underline that.

            “The constant demonizing and attacks on the press (Chavez started doing the same thing),”

            Wrong and stupid on so many levels.

            Where do I starrrt…

            A: Chavez “started” by forming a secret terrroist group inside the military and then launching a freaking coup attempt.

            That Failed.

            The morons who keep insisting that Chavez started by demonizing the press don’t have that great an idea of how Chavez and other totalitarian leaders act.

            He started by demonizing the *system as a whole* and planning its overthrow. His attack on the press was an EXTENSION of his pre-existing attacks on said “establishment.”

            Much like that of Lenin, Hitler, and Mao before them.

            B: Trump hasn’t been vilifying “the press” as a whole. He’s been vilifying individual news outlets as “fake news.”

            Which is significantly different, AND a fine tradition in democratic and republican politics going all the way back to the pamphlet wars of the post-Gutenburg Era.

            C: The fact that many of said news media have RELENTLESSLY and hysterically villified Him seems to escape the attention of most of the morons paddling this particular river boat.

            To cite just one freaking example:

            https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/american-authoritarianism-under-donald-trump/495263/

            Now, my family is actually Italian-American. So to say that we found this utterly ludicrous and insulting is an understatement.

            But are we SERIOUSLY supposed to believe that any news outlet should be allowed to not only peddle such nonsense, but to do it without recieving a shout back?

            Freedom of the Press is not Freedom for Impunity. Popular discourse is crass, emotional, and heavily wrought, and that can include criticism of press outlets.

            If you don’t think The Atlantic and CNN can be called “Fake news” and criticized for what they do wrong (or heck, even criticized falsely for what they don’t), you’re not really worried about freedom of the press. You’re worried about a handful of cloistered courtiers not getting their privledges or dealing with insults from the Hoi Polloi.

            And that’s antagonistic to democracy.

            and

            D: The elephant that Isn’t in the room when I read all of the hecks ranting about how Trump is Mussolini, Trump threatens freedom of the Press, or the like.

            Thing is, they’re focused so intently on the pwoor precious credibility of existing media outlets that they don’t bother to pay attention to some that don’t exist.

            Namely, the fact that ACTUAL, aspiring totalitarians don’t just engage with “The Press”, they set up their own press system in order to spew their propaganda and get “their truth” out.

            Lenin had Iskra and Pravada. Mussolini had Il Gionro. Shicklegruber had Der Angriff and Der Sturmber. Chavez has Apporea. “Party Newspapers” dedicated to being an outlet for the party/regime’s words, political organs dominated entirely

            So, what equivalent, party-owned-and-operated, Leader-dominated press outlet does Trump have? What is his Pravada?

            *Crickets.*

            Yeah.

            That’s what I thought.

            And this is why this ultimately falls through.

            “demanding of personal loyalty,”

            According to James Comey.

            A proven perjurer.

            And someone who was indeed one of Trump’s employees as a member of the Executive branch. Making the expectation that he would actually follow the law and give Trump due deference as far as his position allows reasonable.

            Is this really the hanger you wanna hang this on?

            “constant blatant lying at previously unfathomable levels in the West,”

            Clearly, you haven’t studied much of Western politics. At all.

            From Demosthanes to Mutti Merkel, Trump is a liar and that is why I don’t trust him. But he is also in good company.

            Or have you never heard, by chance, of things like “The Dreyfus Affair”, when every organ of the French government conspired to frame an innocent, loyal Jewish soldier for espionage?

            Yeah, you claiming Trump’s many lies are “unfathomable”in the west, it just means you can’t fathom much of history.

            “attacks on judiciary,”

            Again: no mention of the judiciary’s attack on him.

            Such as how “Hawaiian Judge” became a meme after a petty little black robe tried to usurp powers that THE CONSTITUTION EXPLICITLY DELEGATES TO THE PRESIDENT regarding border and immigration policy. And on the thinnest possible grounds.

            The truth is, far from attacking the judiciary, Trump let this problem slow walk through the judiciary into the Supreme Court when he was well within his rights to assert that Constitutional authority.

            Yeah, that sounds totally like what Mussolini or Chavez or someone would do.

            Because something.

            “dehumanization of opponents,”

            Mate, have you SERIOUSLY ignored the rise of groups like Antifa?

            A group that directly patterns itself after a Stalinist paramilitary, whose internal logic would quite literally define George Orwell as a Fascist (Google “Social Fascism” for a change)?

            And how they violently attacked people up to and including on campuses?

            Sorry, but while calling someone a “fascist” may not literally be dehumanizing them, I do think it is not only a grave insult but irrational vilification. Which can incite action.

            For instance, what James Hodgekinson did.

            “directing Justice dept to go after enemies,”

            Again, citation needed.

            You seriously wanna argue he has used it unprofessionally? Then you’d better make that case rather than just asserting it.

            And you’d also have to argue that he did it more drastically than Obama did, whose weaponization of the IRS has been well documented.

            Because you see, if it was practiced by multiple administrations, the “Trump = Chavez” thing crumbles an the problem becomes more about a sick, ailing system that needs a do over.

            ” spreading conspiracy theories, ”

            You mean like Hillary Clinton?

            Or actual facts like the issue that the FBI did “wiretap” (by a reasonable definition of the term) Trump tower?

            Or the idea that the Press would try and make the Capital Gazette shooting about him, when even before he opened his upper dung-hole someone had to be Fired for inaccurately reporting that the shooter wore a MAGA hat?

            Yeah, how DARE he have basic pattern recognition.

            Seriously, Trump lies. A lot. I try and listen to analysists who know that better than most (like Neo-Neocon).

            But if you think this is OH SO UNPRECEDENTED…biotch you haven’t been paying much attention.

            “belittling long time allies, etc.”

            After they in turn belittled him.

            Or did you forget the election time quotes of Mutti Merkel or that?

            Or Obama’s belittling of Britain and Israel, “Back of the Line” and all that?

            Again, this isn’t a serious indictment of Trump, like some people could make.

            This is a carnival of double standards and hypocrisy. Trying to paint one side’s actions (sometimes misdeeds, sometimes not) as some kind of UNPRECEDENTED THREAT TO FREEDOM. While ignoring the equivalent or worse actions being done in history, sometimes just the presidential term before.

            ” Fortunately he is constrained by America’s institutions and political system and his own propensity for chaos, but the damage is here to stay.”

            We’ll see what kind of damage that is.

            “So, yes, he’s not a socialist or a leftist which is good, but any type of populism solves none of society’s problems and further weakens the health of political discourse and functioning.”

            As someone who actually knows the freaking definition of Populism, I call that BULLOCKS.

            Populism certainly can weaken the health of political discourse and a functioning socieyt. But it can also help heal it.

            Which was what the Gracchi did when they tried to protect the rights of the little Roman citizen from the lawlessness of the major rural magnates and their loan sharks and strong arms.

            In the same way that “Elitist”, Anti-Populist discourse can also be good or bad. Harmful or helpful.

            Populism, at its core, is an appeal to popular sentiment and policies that will supposedly address their concerns.

            That can be used for evil, but it is not always used for. But neither you nor Mr. Ross get that.

            Which is why your analysis is hollow.

    • @Luis “Hehe, we have some Trumpistas here,”

      Yeah, we do. We also have a great, GREAT Number of stupid, rabid anti-Trumpistas.

      ” don’t question the leader!”

      Far from it. Question away. After all, there’s a little thing where the POTUS is obliged by law to answer questions (Ie Congress), and another venue by which he or his representatives voluntarily do so (the White House Press Corps).

      “There are lots of parallelisms.”

      No, there really aren’t.

      Believe me, I’ve studied tyrants far more thoroughly than the person who wrote this did.

      “That fixation he has with the free press is dangerous,”

      Except Trump doesn’t have much of a fixation with “the free press.” So it isn’t.

      He mostly has a fixation with major news outlets that criticize him (wrongly, accordingly to him). Other aspects of the free press- like normal Mom and Pop local newspapers or blogs- don’t get much flak from him. Even those that are hostile.

      This is the Inverse of actual aspiring despots trying to dismantle the free press, where you start low and climb, hitting the most vulnerable (mostly small, local ones) with seizure, abusive libel suits, or that before going after the larger ones.

      The idea that Trump is somehow a deep rooted problem because he plays the media like most successful democratic or republican politicians in a free society is poppycock.

      “he has taken too much time to legitimise the media or anyone who opposes him.”

      No, he really hasn’t.

      Firstly: when you have utter stupidity like false reports that a newspaper shooter wore a MAGA hat, or other provable, factual screwups…. that given news outlet is de-legitimizing itself.

      Ditto with excessive, STUPID tarring of everybody to the right of Trotsky with claims of “FASCIST”, “RACIST”, and MUSSOLINI!”. You know, like how John McCain was (some of us have long memories).

      The idea that these outlets could not have been delegitimized without Trump punching back is laughable and I think points to a deep rooted disconnect over what exactly confers legitimacy on a media outlet. Legitimcy should not be a golden ticket from here to infinity for a given news outlet- once having established its prominence- to lie, screw up, or generally fumble around with impunity.

      Period.

      Secondly: Again, Trump isn’t attacking the free press as a whole. He isn’t even attacking every single media outlet that opposes him. He concentrates his attacks on the big ones, particularly when he can prove they screwed up.

      In other words, he’s acted like canny politicians across the aisle have.

      You may distrust him. I do too.

      But let’s not throw our freaking hands up and claim that a Politician daring to lock horns with news outlets or try to manage his presentation is an impending sign of dictatorship.

      The idea that an often biased, often wrong press (which any free press is even at the best of time) should be entitled to a free, open season attack on any office holder without even taking a *Cross Word* in reverse…that’s nonsense.

      (Note: I’m not saying Trump should have the right to confiscate hostile press organizations, shoot journalists, or the like beause said press orgs are saying bad things about him.

      But so far he has not. He has spat back at them, controlled access to his person, and loudly considered libel lawsuits against some of the worst cases. All of which are within his legal rights.)

      ” That without counting the fact that I don’t think he embraces capitalism, but populism,”

      Maybe. I find this more doubtful, but I could see it.

      “find this the wall is a whim has to be paid by the state (i.e. taxpayers).”

      Sure, but most capitalists can agree that the state has a role. Including by use of financing for the common defense.

      ” On the other hand, I don’t know how any of you can defend tariffs, that’s obviously a populist act, ”

      You conflate populism as evil. And mutually exclusive with capitalism.

      I disagree, especially when you study the history of capitalism and how many of its early pioneers did use protectionist measures that make tarriff wars looke quaint.

      And also that capitalists cannot use tarrifs. I disagree, particularly when it comes to being used as a tool against other tarriffs or to open up trade as a whole.

      I personally am uneasy about Trump’s trade policy and don’t trust his economic bona fides. But let’s be honest: there are a LOT more free countries with heads of state that are more protectionist economically, but which also have impeccible democratic bonafides. See: South Korea, Japan, and France.

      ” there are few things less capitalists than tariffs. ”

      Again, not really.

      See above.

      “Why would you want to “protect the jobs” if those jobs are not productive enough?”

      Well, for one, Free Trade doesn’t mean advocating bankrupcy of one’s human capitol, or letting oneself get beaten up by another side not playing fair like the PRC is today. Heck, you want to talk about job protection? It’s hard to get more drastic than *bombarding the Chinese Coast* in order to erase the protectionist Qing Dynasty tarriff system.

      And secondly because well…let’s face it. Even if such an interest were adversely connected to free trade, policies don’t vote. People do. So a lot of politicians are willing to let their principles slip to get votes. And I don’t think for a second that Trump is the least susceptible to this.

      You may not like it, and that’s fine. On some level I don’t like it either.

      But liking it is less important for this analysis than being able to accept that these policies have a real place on the spectrum of capitalist, democratic politics.

      Maybe they’re a WRONG place, I can easily be that. But it’s still a place.

      “And reading all this comments make me think that the similarities go even beyond, there’s almost a religious fervour in their words, like if questioning the leader was an act of heresy that has to be erased.”

      Honestly, I’d go the other way around. Though I have seen a number of “Trump Cultists” who freak me (a johnny come lately reluctant Trump supporter) out.

      But let’s contrast this to what a lot of other people have argued.

      That Trump can be talked about synonymously with Erdogan the Islamist, Putin the Commie-Tsarist, Chavez the “21st Century Socialist” Castro imitator, or Mussolini and Hitler. People often doing this vehemently and with great hyperbole, transforming head bashes between a democratically elected politician and the press into the sign of a coming Ministry of Truth.

      And then when people dare to argue otherwise, that “Why the heck are you conflating him with Chavez when Bernie and co were the ones giving him support?

      Do you even know what Musso is?

      Why should CNN be able to attack anyone it pleases without getting criticized?”

      People then switch suits and act like this Necessary and Proper return volley is again, a sign of totalitarian fervor. Like we’re no different from the Red Guards or Brownshirts going in to dissident presses with rifles and beating up editorialists we don’t like.

      The double standards is a bit much. To say the least. And considering we’ve had the surge of an outright Totalitarian terror group (Antifa, after the Stalinist, Interwar Front Group “Antifascist Action”) going around beating people up and even one jagoff trying to murder Republicans….I fear for it.

      Again, that doesn’t mean that you should trust Trump or believe he is the God-Emperor (a cringy meme to me,at least most of the time). But I figure that accurate criticism of him is reliant on an accurate analysis.

      And that’s been sorely lacking among a lot of CC writers.

      “There’s nothing I can do from here, I just say Americans have to be careful, it’s not only socialism the one you have to be afraid of.”

      Thanks. I really do mean that.

      And I intend to. Franklin said that we should leer cautiously at anybody approaching power. And I don’t see why Trump of all people should be exempt from that. He is not a saint, and power certainly can corrupt.

      But at the same time, I figure that caution does not equal hysteria in the same way that support does not equal blind loyalty. So I figure when keeping a watch on him, a sense of proportion is necessary.

  12. Gee, Cliff! What exactly was it that made you change your mind? The hungry kids? Women giving birth on plastic chairs in filthy waiting rooms? Highest murder rate in the world? Millions of refugees?

    Oh! I get it! We should buy your book and learn how you came to “rethink” Venezuelan “neopopulism.”

    • Again LIKE!!
      This asshole is comfortably among the other lunatics at Berkely.
      Why doesn’t he and his wife move to Venezuela and live in the shit hole that was created by their adored leader.
      Better bring the cats also. You’ll need them for food.

      • He’s from Venezuela. He was a fervent Chavista before changing his mind. He has family suffering, friends suffering, he has expressed guilt/regret for falling for Chavez’s lies and supporting the man who led to this suffering.

        If you don’t agree with him on things now, that’s fine, but please show him some respect. He’s gone through a remarkable transformation and understanding of his faulty belief system, and has tried to get others to change their beliefs too. I find him to be a thoughtful person and like his perspective.

        • Thank you Rory. I love respectful criticism, but it seems to be a rare thing in the comments section here. I understand the anger, though, and share it (obviously, as my article shows) on behalf of my dear Venezuelan friends currently suffering in the country or driven into exile. The opposition, however, is going to have to overcome its bitterness if it hopes to remove the chavistas from power as they’ll only be able to do that by peeling away supporters of the dictatorship. Anyway, all the best to you and again, thanks for standing for respect.

          • @Clifton Ross “Thank you Rory. I love respectful criticism, but it seems to be a rare thing in the comments section here. I understand the anger, though, and share it (obviously, as my article shows) on behalf of my dear Venezuelan friends currently suffering in the country or driven into exile. ”

            Firstly: i’ve always viewed respectfulness as being less important than accuracy. A hard truth is better than a well manicured “white lie”, so while I tried to keep my analysis and evaluation respectful that was not my main objective.

            And secondly: One doesn’t have to suffer like our Venezuelan friends or those with loved ones in country in order to have justifiable anger.

            I will be the first to say that not only have I not suffered anything like MRubio, Bill Bass, or the others, I am also pretty confident that nobody in my near family going back four generations did either.

            But that doesn’t mean I do not find it anger inducing to see someone write sloppily and with a lack of respect, not only lumping in Trump and by extension those of us who supported him with the likes of Chavez and Duarte, but arguing that early Fascism was more about Mussolini’s personal power. As an amateur historian, a reluctant Trump supporter, and an Italian-American who had family that suffered under Mussolini this was absurd on several levels.

            Factual, ethical, and ideological. And I’m not going to lie and say otherwise.

            My complaints that you use “Populist” and “Neo-Populist” as a derogatory term without nuance or understanding stands. As does my argument that someone who romanticized social “projects” and transcending ideologies (like finding a “third way” as Giddens tried) are treading on very dangerous ground. Ground that may not INVARIABLY lead to disaster- far from it- but which still Has in the past.

            Including the very Fascism you pass over.

            And my complaints hold water even if I have never suffered like you or those who have dealt with the regime have.

            I do believe we are ultimately on the same side, but that does not mean we are always going to like or trust everything one another does.

            “The opposition, however, is going to have to overcome its bitterness if it hopes to remove the chavistas from power as they’ll only be able to do that by peeling away supporters of the dictatorship.”

            Color me skeptical.

            If the grand plan for getting the Chavistas out of power relies on getting some of their supporters peeled off, and the supporters don’t get peeled off, the grand plan is boned.

            This is why I advocate planning for a worst case scenario.

            Why I think the only way the opposition removes the Chavistas from power is by massing and reorganizing. Making plans for the long, biitter march. Armed if need be.

            But ultimately something with enough infrastructure both “above ground” and especially underground to make them worry.

            THEN once we’ve got an opposition that can pose a realistic threat of rolling the Chavistas out of power on its own terms, we can talk about focusing on defectors and whatnot.

            Don’t get me wrong. Defectors aren’t nothing. They certainly are welcome help and not irrelevant.

            But defectors are called that for a reason. They’re defecting *to something.* Otherwise they’re just deserters.

            We can’t plan or rely on defectors or peeling off support. Why? Because that’s putting us even more at the mercy of them.

            “Anyway, all the best to you and again, thanks for standing for respect.”

            Likewise.

  13. I liked your discussion of the reactionary left in Venezuela. I do not agree however with your diagnosis of liberal democracy. I understand liberal democracy to refer to democracies with robust checks and balances and the rule of law (by contrast, the Chavez years were a descent into illiberal democracy and then worse). I think you conflate liberal democracy with what used to be called economic liberalism: at its most extreme, a belief in the supremacy and infallibility of markets.

    I think a Marxist would see liberal democracy and economic liberalism as being closely related. I think. However, liberal democracy has outlived communism; it was not the last iteration of capitalist exploitation, as it turned out.

    What is happening with the spread of what you politely call a kind of populism is not the failure of liberal democracy, in my view. It is an attack on it. Perhaps some of the people leading that attack were once comfortable with economic liberalism in its more extreme forms, but now they have seized on a more powerful and primordial set of grand illusions.

    • I think it is a “failure” in the sense that the system has created the conditions in which a good number of the population fall for the siren songs of the populists, left or right according to circunstances. There are many reasons for that, but starting from the Venezuelan experience, even if we can look back and see that things were much better, we cant just ignore that Chavismo is not some kind of zombie infection that just descended on a happy, prosperous, democratic nation and transformed people overnight. There were factors that created the conditions for it, and those were caused by the failure of the IV Republic to deliver. Although I would say that it failed not only in delivering to the people, but in delivering people; that is, that it not only failed to give the population what it needed – it failed in producing a real democratic change in the population. It failed to produce a great base of people that understood politics and rights and laws as something more complex than “elect the temporary caudillo that will shower us oil money”.

      That is different in other places, but increasingly I feel it is the big threat for all liberal democracies in the world. Because the more I see, the more I find that “liberal democracy” is, at best, a small cover of paint that we paint our population with, but doenst really penetrate, doesnt really enter them. When times are good people go along because why bother, but as soon as thing go bad people all over our supposed democratic West start searching for what they really have in there heart – just give me a leader that unleashes my anger and strokes my ego.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful criticism, but I invite you to do a closer reading of my article. If you do so, I suspect you’ll find that I never claimed liberal democracy is a “failure” but that, like all systems, it has built-in problems that need to be addressed (I mentioned them above) and yet it’s the best we can do at present. I agree that populism is attacking liberalism (that was, after all, the point of my article, or one of them), but I would argue that there are built-in weaknesses that populism is attacking. If liberal democracies weren’t in crisis themselves there would be no appeal in populism. But world wide, rural populations left out of the promised boon of globalization (which has benefitted urban populations, such as Berkeley, where I live) have been devastated by deindustrialization, the monopolization of agriculture by large corporate interests like ADM and others, and they have supported people like Trump and Maduro and etc. I think the best we can do is to support liberal democracy, market economy and the other aspects of liberalism (economic and political) but always critically with an eye to improving it and working to improve the lives of those left behind by it.

      • @Clifton Ross “I appreciate your thoughtful criticism, but I invite you to do a closer reading of my article.”

        Well, I will not speak for Canucklehead but I did a very close reading of it, and I based my criticism of said article on it. In fact, the evaluation that resulted from it was much more caustic than Canucklehead’s stance.

        “If you do so, I suspect you’ll find that I never claimed liberal democracy is a “failure””

        Indeed, and that is why I did not. However, I did challenge many of your characterizations of liberal democracy (especially that it is “elitist”), and the idea that these flaws became more evident under “Neo-Liberalism.”

        “but that, like all systems, it has built-in problems that need to be addressed (I mentioned them above) and yet it’s the best we can do at present. ”

        Indeed. Though we heartily disagreed about how to do so. And in particular I argued that whatever steps we do take to address them, they must be predicated on *Caution.* And a recognition that we have a good thing going. An exceptionally good thing.

        I may not go full Burke and argue that positive changes can only come gradually or through tradition, but I do think that should be kept in mind.

        And I PARTICULARLY argue that radical, far reaching “causes” and “projects” to subsume ideologies or parties into the whole are INHERENTLY suspect. Because all too often they’re a bill of goods being sold. Or worse, an appeal to a terrible kind of unity that the likes of Mussolini and so on tapped into.

        Which is why I used the quotes from “The Doctrine of Fascism” and “Mein Kampf” to do so and compared them from some of yours. Not because I think you or Giddens or Bobbio (an anti-Fascist guerilla!) have a secret stash of Goebbels articles in your basement, but because of the similar risks. involved.

        That grand appeals to unity often come at the expense of principles, reasoned policy, and human rights.

        That they are not a real, long term substitute for a strong philosophy of governance or the rule of law.

        And they are often used as a Trojan Horse for very, Very partisan causes (which itself isn’t a problem), and a mechanism for the venal, corrupt, oppressive, or-like Musso, Hitler, and so- Worse. This is why I honestly prefer my politics to be “honest” about their cravenness, petty interests, and squabbling.

        Because utopian appeals to “THE PEOPLE” often turn out even worse. Not *always* but frequently.

        “I agree that populism is attacking liberalism (that was, after all, the point of my article, or one of them),”

        And I disagree. Primarily because you haven’t come up with a coherent definition of “populism” or “neo-populism.”

        Or maybe you have, but you certainly haven’t explained it on here. And ironically make very populist appeals (that we turn aside from saviors or elites in favor of going to the people).

        Hence my objection. I would struggle to lump Erdogan, Chavez, Putin, and Duarte together under any particular heading, let alone them plus Trump and whoever else. Especially since Putin has if anything been fighting a rear guard against populist dissident among both democrats and would be authoritarians.

        “but I would argue that there are built-in weaknesses that populism is attacking.”

        Agreed except for the obvious caveat about populism.

        ” If liberal democracies weren’t in crisis themselves there would be no appeal in populism.”

        The thing is, this is where I disagree with your hostility towards “populism” as a whole. Frankly, populism- or at least aspects of it like an appeal to the public- are a way in which a democratic or free society tries to deal with stresses. Even if it doesn’t always do so Popularly.

        Which is why I think “populists” are rarely an independent cause of a lot of things, but are usually an indicator. By tapping into read-made “markets” or “niches” of discontent.

        Maybe they’re completely wrong. But a lot of times they’re not. And they can have their proper role to play in keeping democracy healthy.

        “But world wide, rural populations left out of the promised boon of globalization (which has benefitted urban populations, such as Berkeley, where I live) have been devastated by deindustrialization, the monopolization of agriculture by large corporate interests like ADM and others, and they have supported people like Trump and Maduro and etc. ”

        Eh, color me skeptical about the “devastation”, at least on the whole. I agree there’s been a widespread amount of dislocation and unrest, but I think in most cases this is a part of “growing pains.” As things like indigenous mechanization and manufacturing takes off in Subsaharan Africa- in part by tapping in to the effects of globalization- it (further) upends the local market and makes people scurry to adjust.

        But it’s rare this leaves the locals outright worse at the end than where they began (it does happen, but it’s rare). Particularly when we don’t see idioticy like the British Raj’s food screwups.

        And as BT said elsewhere, attempts to course correct the most drastically have led Cuba and Venezuela to be worse off today than they were half a century ago.

        “I think the best we can do is to support liberal democracy, market economy and the other aspects of liberalism (economic and political) but always critically with an eye to improving it and working to improve the lives of those left behind by it.”

        On this much I agree wholeheartedly.

        But at the same time I also advocate looking with a critical eye towards proposals to improve, much like those of Giddens, Bobbio, or the rest. Because a lot of times attempts to cure ills can result in worse things than the ailment.

        And I also think one should carefully scrutinize Socialism as a whole.

        But in any case, regards.

    • @Canucklehead “I liked your discussion of the reactionary left in Venezuela.”

      Agreed for the most part. Unfortunately I didn’t find that to be particularly prominant.

      ” I do not agree however with your diagnosis of liberal democracy. I understand liberal democracy to refer to democracies with robust checks and balances and the rule of law (by contrast, the Chavez years were a descent into illiberal democracy and then worse).”

      Agreed, though I honestly am not so kind to Chavez. I think he was aiming for the dictatorshipvery quickly and got it.

      ” I think you conflate liberal democracy with what used to be called economic liberalism: at its most extreme, a belief in the supremacy and infallibility of markets.”

      Indeed. Though I think that is a relatively reasonable thing.

      “I think a Marxist would see liberal democracy and economic liberalism as being closely related. I think. “”

      That is true. However, while I rarely have good things to say about Marxists, I think that many others (maybe even most) would argue the same. It may not be a 1-1 correlation, but it isn’t hard to see that the rise of liberal democracy and economic liberalism were closely intertwined. The latter helped give rise to the former (as Dutch free trade gripes in Amsterdam helped fuel the discontent behind the 80 Years War, the rise of the British Liberals and Chartists helped presage the abolition of the Corn Act, etc).

      After all, economics are an important part of human activity and a lot of their actions are important human rights. And it’s not hard to see that regimes or ideologies base on oppressing one will seek to oppress others: viz: the late roman attempts to tie people to their jobs on penalty of the law, or Soviet economic dictates.

      “However, liberal democracy has outlived communism; it was not the last iteration of capitalist exploitation, as it turned out.”

      Indeed, but then I do think Marxism, Communism- and Socialism in general- greatly misdiagnosed “Capitalist exploitation” on the whole.

      “What is happening with the spread of what you politely call a kind of populism is not the failure of liberal democracy, in my view. It is an attack on it”

      Eh, the issue I have is that most of the people (including Mr. Ross) caterwauling about Populism cannot make a coherent definition of it.

      But at least we agree it is at most a kind of populism rather than that on the whole. Or at least I guess.

      “. Perhaps some of the people leading that attack were once comfortable with economic liberalism in its more extreme forms, but now they have seized on a more powerful and primordial set of grand illusions.”

      Eh? Seriously?

      Among the list of Erdogan, Putin, Duarte, and Morales (let’s keep it to a list of people we can agree are authoritarian or worse) who strikes you as being “comfortable with economic liberalism in its more extreme forms”? Or are we talking perhaps about their supporters?

      In general, these guys have been hostile to “economic liberalism”, and so were most of their supporters. Even Putin- who benefited a fair bit from the “Shock Therapy” in Russia- was a creature of the Soviet bureaucracy who reimposed capital controls and began trying to confiscate the assets of his opposition.

  14. From my Central European perspective, an inteligent left is helpfull for development. Lots of building blocks of our successfull export industries actually can be traced back to political debates, which originated on the left field, like awareness for environment issues, good supply of cheap usefull education, etc.

    Now, what about that popularity of the Reactionary Left?
    a) There may be a point I like to call “Oro de Moscu” issue. The Chávez Government offered budget for that people. I think this is documented for some well known persons from spanish and US-academia.
    b) I find this absolutedly puzzling, but especially young people seems to enjoy narratives, where there is a clear line between good and evil.
    So there is a market for story lines like resistance against Chavismo comes only from white caucasian types like Naky Soto, that hyperinflation can be explained by a website publishing missleading rates of exchange or that credit market sanctions against a country, that allready pays 40 per cent in interests a year for new contracts, is a form of imperialism. I would like to call this the Disney argument.
    c) An astounding level of neglect for the very basics of economic history, theory, etc. It was more than obvious from 2005 onwards that this frontal assault on relative prices would bite back. Period.

    • “From my Central European perspective, an inteligent left is helpfull for development.”

      From my right wing American perspective, I agree (even if grudgingly).

      One of the problems I see is that however, “intelligent” is rare enough in political and policy debate by itself. So all too often in the absence of an intelligent right, intelligent left, or the like, the lowest common denominator filters to the top. Or at least very very substandard stuff.

      And I regard this article as deeply substandard.

      “Lots of building blocks of our successfull export industries actually can be traced back to political debates, which originated on the left field, like awareness for environment issues, good supply of cheap usefull education, etc.”

      Agreed.

      “Now, what about that popularity of the Reactionary Left?”

      I think it’s from similar places to the popularity of the more mainstream or constructive left. After all, they share similar concerns and interests. even if they go about them differently.

      in the same way that both the totalitarian nutjobs that made up the Freikorps in Weimar Germany and the Conservative democrats of Zentrum could bang on about traditional values and a godly society.

      a) There may be a point I like to call “Oro de Moscu” issue. The Chávez Government offered budget for that people. I think this is documented for some well known persons from spanish and US-academia.”

      Yeah. And this is the problem.

      How to deal with the inherent desire to “get more stuff”, including from the government coffers. One of the original reasons why the word “populism” has such a dirty stench is because some of the Populares of the Roman Republic were of that kind. Promising free bread and games in order to get into power, even as they (or their compatriots) also minced about the thuggery of the agrarian oligarchs and how they dispossessed people serving in the army from their farmsteads.

      “b) I find this absolutedly puzzling, but especially young people seems to enjoy narratives, where there is a clear line between good and evil.”

      Indeed.

      “So there is a market for story lines like resistance against Chavismo comes only from white caucasian types like Naky Soto, that hyperinflation can be explained by a website publishing missleading rates of exchange or that credit market sanctions against a country, that allready pays 40 per cent in interests a year for new contracts, is a form of imperialism. I would like to call this the Disney argument.”

      Agreed there. Though honestly I think that might be unfair to Disney in several cases.

      “c) An astounding level of neglect for the very basics of economic history, theory, etc. It was more than obvious from 2005 onwards that this frontal assault on relative prices would bite back. Period.”

      Well said indeed.

  15. So many of these Chavista on Aporrea cannot fathom the idea that Hugo’s (not Maduro’s, Hugo’s) policies were anything but God’s policies. Therefore, the ONLY reason Venezuela is not paradise is Dolar Today and highly trained CIA iguana army that sabotage electrical grid transformers.

    • The best way I have to reply to that is to argue this:

      If Chavismo is so special, why is it NOT able to adjust and neutralize said highly trained CIA iguana armies and Dolar Today?

      After all, Socialism was seen as competing with and ultimately supplanting Capitalism by its theorists.

      So we should start asking “Why does this suck at competing so badly?”

      • An additional argument: point out that Venezuela was better off in 1998 with
        `$11 oil than it is today with ~$50-$65 oil. From the IMF
        Venezuela: Gross domestic product per capita, constant prices
        Purchasing power parity; 2011 international dollar

        1998 $15,651.35
        2018 $9,261.78

        That’s a 41% decline in per capita income from 1998 to 2018.
        Hard to argue that there is less poverty today with such a decline in per capita income.

        U.S. F.O.B. costs of Venezuelan oil.

  16. Another solid gold Aporrean nugget (Google translation):

    “CITGO finances concert with pyrotechnic show for the Independence Day of the USA”

    https://www.aporrea.org/venezuelaexterior/n327601.html

    “On the page of the event you can read the recognition of the city of Houston to the generosity of the Venezuelan company Citgo, announcing that its commitment is to continue funding the activity as it has done in the last three years and as it continues to do so at least for the same period in the future.

    All this occurs when a generalized collapse of basic services develops in Venezuela and there is an increase in malnutrition of the population, which has been forced to migrate massively to different international destinations, mainly to Colombia and other places in Latin America.”

    • Meh… this kind of things is normal for a company to do, is just PR stuff, to increase the public profile of the company in the community.

      I’m more worried about the fact that production has declined, and that every money that goes into the Venezuelan treasure is robbed or mismanaged.

      • I know. The fun part is not that Citgo sponsors stuff for name recognition. The fun part is the insinuation that they are doing it with money that otherwise would be spent on food/medicine imports.

  17. Good God, so much wrong with this it isn’t even funny.

    Let’s start with the fact that using Google definitions for anything

    ““Reactionary” is ordinarily applied to a political position of the far right, synonymous with conservative or, in Maduro-speak, “ultraderecha.” But as it is defined as someone “opposing political or social liberalization or reform” (Google definition),

    A: Remember what i said about the problems with trusting Google definitions for anything? Yeah. Bad idea.

    And B: Uh, no, it isn’t synonymous with “conservative.” Except to someone already leaning so far to the left they have their head up the rear.

    Conservatives wish to Conserve what they have and to manage it, particularly in the form of traditional liberties and social bonds. Reactionaries wish to *react against* social change by going the other direction, turning back the clock.

    It’s kind of in the names.

    This is why Edmund Burke and the first archtypical conservatives were *arch enemies* of the Jacobites and other Absolutist reactionaries, like those supported by De Maistre of Piedmont-Savoy.

    So while the overall point (that reactionaries can be either right wing or left wing) is well taken, the exact inflection of this is Screwed Up. And it’s gonna taint the rest of this article going forward.

    “it also fits that segment of the Left that continues to cling to the 100-year-old vision of politics and projects that have long proven themselves to be failures. The results can be seen in the collapse of the USSR and now in Venezuela.”

    I think the author’s being rather generous by saying *only* 100 year old. I mean, Marx and Engels were sewing their nonsense out in the middle of the 19th century, and then there were sanguinary nightmares like the Paris Commune of ’71.

    “The reactionary left —exemplified today by the Bolivarian Solidarity Left (BSL)— seems incapable of understanding why communism (or “real socialism”) collapsed in the late 20th century and why Venezuela’s present-day version of socialism isn’t doing any better. *SNIP*

    But that doesn’t matter to this reactionary BSL because, in their Leninist worldview, the role of the people is to uncritically support the vanguard, even if it means supporting it against the people, against the country, against the economic, social and political system and even against reason and every human value. Worst of all they collude with the “vanguard” to conceal the dire situation of the people as it shifts blame for the problems onto “imperialism,” “capitalism,” the “oligarchy,” etc.

    *SNIP*

    in other words, are imaginary and it bears no more resemblance to Venezuelans than the Leninist “proletariat” did to the Russian workers.”

    Agreed with this part. And well said.

    “I will grant the BSL one point, though: Chávez was in the vanguard. Along with Fujimori in Peru,”

    Uh, seriously?

    Castros anybody?

    The PRI?

    FARC?

    Chavez may have been dandy at coining the “Bolivarian” brand, but this old nonsense has been around for a LONG time.

    “he was in the vanguard of neo-populism,”

    And here we get into it.

    The STUPID, unthinking demonization of “populism” as if it’s the name of a totalitarian ideology.

    It is not.

    It merely refers to advocating policies on the basis of their popular support, or taking policy suggestions from the crowd.

    This certainly CAN be bad. Very bad. Just ask the Jews and Pontic Greeks who were dispossessed in genocidal campaigns during the nadir of the 20th century.

    But it can also mean things like voter reform, or advocating for the direct election of US Senators.

    There is nothing inherently virtuous in populist politics, but there is also nothing inherently evil in it either. Likewise with the idea of a “meritocratic”, “technocratic” elite politics. Both poles have a valid place in politics.

    And if you cannot comprehend that, you will *fail* at creating a free society.

    ” and both he and Fujimori represented its poles, left and right, respectively.”

    Again, color me skeptical. At most they represented a new generation.

    ” Post-1989 neo-populism has provided the reinforcement personnel for the now extinct fascism and nearly extinct communism in their war against liberalism.”

    Yeah, right.

    Because that’s what the Social Democratic Party of Japan and the Libertarian Party of the US remind me of. *Freaking Totalitarians.*

    Forgive me if I’m not quaking in my boots at the thought of the latest “Bunga Bunga’ Party from the colossal rake named Berlusconi.

    ” Like the fascists and communists, the neo-populists recognize the real weaknesses of liberal democracy: its individualism, its elitism, ”

    Uh hold on for a second there.

    Its *elitism*?

    Are you kidding me?

    “Liberal Democracy” as we understand it today evolved as a COUNTERBALANCE to elitist politics, even those in what we might call “conservative” or “traditionalist” democracy or republicanism like Victorian Britain or the old Dutch Republic. It was based on the idea that the hoi polloi deserved an equal say in how policy ran as “their betters” with money, property, and the ability to pay their way through traditional income qualifications for voting.

    At its ideal, it is distinctly *ANTI-Elitist.*

    That does not mean it does not allow the existence of elites, or even exults them outside the political sphere. But it is premised on the idea that while Bill Gates may be able to invest his money smarter than you can or even buy a baronet, it does not make him entitled to a greater slice of the vote.

    “its hypocrisy and its willingness to throw all of society into the market and let each one fend for him or herself—”

    You think the latter bit is really a weakness?

    “and these weaknesses have become even more apparent in the most recent phase of liberalism, that is, under “neo-liberalism” with its reduced state “drowning in the bathtub.””

    And here we go back to the old demon. Neo-Liberalism, that favorite whipping boy. Your economy not preforming as well as it should? BLAME NEO-LIBERALISM!

    Corporations like Kelloggs up and leaving because of an oppressive policy? BLAME NEO-LIBERALISM!

    Jobs drying up in the American Rust Belt because the workers are too militant, unionized, and hostile to compromise so that they get priced out of the work place by hard working Goans who live more like the ancestors of those Ohioan union laborers than the grandkips of AFL-CIO bosses do?

    BLAME NEO-LIBERALISM!

    Nevermind its basic premises. Which involve trying to avoid the economic populism that drove Chavez and to curtail tyranny.

    Neo-Liberalism has its problems. But the idea that they are extravagently so here is nonsensical.

    ” Despite their claims to be “in solidarity with Venezuela,” this reactionary left couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the actual people of Venezuela.”

    Agreed there.

    “But the neo-populists and their supporters throw the baby out with the bathwater, or better said, murder the baby and steal the bathtub.”

    Again, Neo-Populism is convenient because you never actually have to define what “Populism” is in any meaningful fashion.

    Whereas Neo-Communism and [email protected] can at least skate by under the logic of “They are what these guys said they were praciticing!” Populism doesnn’t.

    “Whether in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, or Hungary, Poland, Russia, the Philippines, and now in the United States, with Donald Trump, the neo-populists use the liberal democratic order to come to power and then set about destroying it:”

    Are you freaking kidding me?

    Conflating the US and Poland (or even Hungary’s Orban, who I do not like but has still tracked VERy differently on his career path than Putin) with the likes of Morales, Chavez, and the like?

    Let’s be bloody frank here. Even if Trump was secretly planning to dismantle the checks and balances of the American constitution, he apparently *sucks at it.* There was absolutely zero reason why he should have subjected things like the “Travel Ban” to the court and patiently waited by a bunch of black robed elitists to vet over policy that the constitution Clearly and Unequivocally says the POTUS is allowed to set.

    This is in SHARP contrast to actual authoritarians and totalitarians both before and now. Whether it is Kurt Schuschnigg of Austria insisting that the Austrian Parliament had ceased to exist and so he could continue ruling by fiat, or Putin’s use and abuse of emergency laws. They will seize on EVERY possible hook they think they can get away with to expand their own power.

    Trump didn’t even exert one particular power that is clearly his own and has been vested with the POTUS since the Constitution was written, like him or hate him.

    • Part 2 “checks and balances to power, the liberal rights of free thought, free press, free assembly, free dissent, free dissemination of information and ideas.”

      And again, remind me: where has the crackdown on this been happening in the US?

      How many newspapers has Trump’s FBI (if they can be called that) raided or burned down?

      Heck, how many has the Polish government?

      Actually, if you bother to OBSERVE, in the US the greatest curtailment on “free thought, free press, free assembly” and the like has emerged from Trump’s ENEMIES. Particularly on Campus, where conservative political speakers have been subject to uneven payment burdens, deplatformed, or at the extreme end attacked.

      You may not like Trump’s D1ck wagging on Twitter and frankly neither do I. But none of his D!ck wagging has had as devastating an effect on freedom of speech as “Hate Speech” codes or the “Dear Colleague” sexual accusaation courts.

      And that is a FACT.

      “In short, it’s their goal to destroy democracy, and put in its place the authoritarian leader.”

      And your proof that the Polish government or Trump seek that?

      Go on. I’ll wait.

      “It’s admittedly hard to make a case for the defense of liberal democracy which has so deeply disappointed and failed us,-”

      Then *Get off Caracas Chronicles* and let someone more prepared do it.

      PERIOD.

      I for one would be willing to give a crack at it, but at least bring somebody who is willing to give their A game. Someone who is not intent on repeating the same tired cliches that “really guize, Trump and Chavez are really similar yo! We can tell this because Chavez had his own TV show to implement policy declarations while Trump..uh..Tweets.”

      Because here’s the thing:

      If you find it hard to make a defense of liberal democracy, *you will not HAVE your liberal democracy for long.*

      So suck it up buttercup, go through your notes. And come back when you’re ready to give it your all.

      Because this just Isn’t It.

      ” except that the alternative at this point, neo-populism, ”

      Yeah, because that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of ISIS or the like.

      “Neo-Populism>”

      At this point you’re waving around a totem. A demon. A void into which you can project any meaning whatsoever because it has no meaning itself.

      And oh so conveniently, This farce, this nullity, this “Neo-Populism” conveniently mirrors everything (or ALMOST everything) you don’t like.

      It’s like how the term “Fascist” gets misused by both right and Left to apply to everybody from Trump to Wilson.

      “represented by the likes of Duterte, Erdogan, Orban, Maduro, Putin and Trump, is so much worse.”

      One of these things IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER.

      One of these things is NOT LIKE THE OTHER.

      Can you freaking guess which?

      Oh actually, I LIED. Because honestly I’d be hard pressed to say only one of these things doesn’t add up.

      Erdogan may have made populist appeals, but he has run on an elitist, neo-Ottoman platform.

      Putin’s been doing an imitation of Mexico’s Diaz and his “Order and Progress” shtick, fighting a rear guard against both anti-regime elitists (like oligarchs and well heeled democrats) AND both democratic and despotic populists like the Zhirinovskyites.

      And I could go on.

      I struggle to imagine how one could come up with a suitable, coherent definition for all of these people SANS Trump. Though I would be willing to give you the chance.

      “While it’s true they share no common ideology —and, in that sense, they resemble Mussolini’s original fascism, which remained a rather amorphous ideology,”

      ARE YOU $HITTING ME, YOU HACK?

      SERIOUSLY. ARE YOU?

      Firstly

      A: This means that your entire shtick about bashing us on the head with “neo-populism” the imaginary boogeyman was pointless.

      and

      B: If you SERIOUSLY think Mussolini didn’t have an ideology, READ the man.

      Seriously. Read the bald, egotistical bastage who beat up many members of my family. Because he outlined his ideology in MIND MELTINGLY PEDANTIC length.

      You can start with “The Doctrine of Fascism”

      But to make it simple, Fascism was coined as a form of Nationalist Socialism that would incorporate the “Best” of both right wing and left wing politics and philosophy, and was coined by a disillusioned Marxist.

      That’s a good argument.

      “its main concern was to protect il Duce’s personal power—”

      No.

      Fascism’s concern about protecting the Duce’s personal power was because Fascism the ideology saw Il Duce as being the apex of the synthesis between Party and State. He was the Nation head, a racial leader (much like the Fuhrer) who could guide the collective to glory.

      And ironically, many aspects of Mussolini’s Fascism bit him in the rear because they were outlined in ways that UNDERCUT his authority and power as Il Duce. Which climaxed in the Grand Fascist Council’s vote to remove him from power.

      But this is all an overly long way of saying:

      You don’t know jack about Fascism.

      ” they have common concerns (their own power) and common backing.”

      You mean like Teresa May, Angela Merkel, George Freaking Washington, and almost every politician democratic or despot to every try and look askance of power?

      You define your terms so widely all meaning slips out.

      “Liberalism often appears to be as difficult a concept to pin down as populism,since it also takes so many forms in different places, but it’s known for a fairly well-defined set of values and principles (mentioned above), all associated with liberality and liberty.”

      True.

      But at least one can *attempt* to pin it down. Much like I have done with Fascism and Populism, in the former case drawing off of Mussolini’s own definition and in the latter the root language.

      You Really Haven’t even Attempted IT.

      You’ve conjured up words and used them as you wish, much like Humpty Dumpty.

      With the result that you destroy the long term use of them in analysis.

      • Part 3
        ” And liberalism also has right and left wings, represented by neo-liberalism on the right and an array of liberal socialists and social liberals who blend into, and mix well with, social democrats in organizations like the British Labor Party or Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) or, in Venezuela, embodied by Causa R, Voluntad Popular and other parties of the opposition.”

        Broadly agreed.

        But again, you pay attention to who took power in the British Labour Party?

        Or the DSA?

        You notice a LITTLE problem with them? Like how Komrad Corbyn was an apologist for the totalitarian Provos during the Troubles, and has arse kissed with almost every “Anti-Western” or “Anti-Neo Liberal” dictator there is?

        Not unlike Hugo and Maduro?

        In a SMART analysis you might contribute some iotas about how this represents the threat of bleed off away from liberalism into tyranny from the left as well as the right, or problems with the hard left of Liberalism much like how you waxed poetic about “Neo-Liberalism.”

        But this is not, ultimately, a smart analysis.

        “Clearly, liberal democracy needs to be rethought, reformed and revised, and fortunately some of that work has already been started by Anthony Giddens, Norberto Bobbio and, of course, so many thoughtful people in the Venezuelan opposition, both in and out of political parties.”

        Translation:

        THIS TIME mis amigos, THIS TIME it will work!

        Seriously mate. If you bothered to study Fascism as something moe than an invective to be hurled at the liberal right and conservatives, you might have noticed something.

        That the approach Giddens uses- “Third Way”- PRECISELY MIRRORS that of Musso.

        Now that doesn’t mean Giddens is a Fascist or that his “Third Way” is akin to the Moose’s. But it DOES mean that Giddens has been barking up THE SAME KIND OF TREES that Mussolini did in the mid and late 1910’s and the 1920’s.

        And it is the same kind of compromise that the likes of Chavez and Petro ran on.

        How much are you willing to stake on this kind of stuff?

        ” We mustn’t allow perfection to be the enemy of the good, or even of the broken-but-potentially-reparable.”

        I agree. But then why do you seem so adverse to recognizing Conservativism or Neo-Liberalism as “Good”, or the benefit of anchoring oneself with Good while pursuing the Greater Good or Perfect, for fear one might get swept away in the chase and go into a nightmare?

        This is something Mr. Ross does not seem to answer.

        “We’re stuck with making liberal democracy work until we can create a better alternative because only under liberal democratic governments can the most critical elements needed to find that alternative emerge: independent, critical and transformative social movements.”

        This is overwrought, self-important, meaningless googledegook.

        I hate to tell you this mate, but “independent, critical, and transformative social movements” don’t just emerge under Liberal Democracy.

        Bolshevism and the German Social Democrats emerged under Absolutist dictatorships.

        The Chartists emerged in a conservative (maybe even reactionary) constitutional monarchy.

        The Jacquerie and the Protestant Reformation’s many different branches came out under feudal governments.

        The Abbasid revolution happened under an Islamist theocracy.

        The bottom line is that transformative social movements pinprick human history like pimples on a teenager.

        And valuing “transformative social movements” for their own sake is *Stupid.*

        “We have to end the hunt for saviors, be the persons or those elites known as “vanguard,” and abandon solidarity with them, as to place our hope in ourselves, and in our movements, such as those we saw arise in 2014 among students, and 2017, among the general population, in Venezuela.”

        So in other words, you are supporting a New push towards Public participation and public determination of policy?

        Perhaps it might be said that you are now advocating for a Neo-Populism?

        Yeah, see what I did there?

        But don’t hate me because you didn’t define the terms well. You walked into this.

        And finally: while I am no lover of poeple who fetishize elites or experts for their own sake, they too have a point. Even popular movements have them.

        “In social movements, left and right ideologies tend to take a back seat to projects, as Ivan Fuentes of the Social Movement of Aysén emphasized when he talked about working across political lines and helping “people regain their faith in politics, in our way of doing politics.” ”

        Funny, I remember my great grandpappy writing about hearing someone else say that.

        Only they were in a black shirt and had an oversized eagle on their hat.

        “The Fascist doctrine has not taken De Maistre as its prophet. Monarchical absolutism is of the past, and so is ecclesiolatry. Dead and done for are feudal privileges and the division of society into closed, uncommunicating castes.” – Benny the Moose, “The Doctrine of Fascism”

        “We have constituted a Corporative and Fascist state, the state of national society, a State which concentrates, controls, harmonizes and tempers the interests of all social classes, which are thereby protected in equal measure. Whereas, during the years of demo-liberal regime, labour looked with diffidence upon the state, was, in fact, outside the State and against the state, and considered the state an enemy of every day and every hour, there is not one working Italian today who does not seek a place in his Corporation or federation, who does not wish to be a living atom of that great, immense, living organization which is the national Corporate State of Fascism. ”

        – Benny the Moose again, The Doctrine of Fascism again.

        Again, I don’t think you or the town of Berkley are Fascist. If I did, I would never have gone near the place like I did.

        But in the interests of cooperation in the name of freedom: did you ever *stop* to scrutinize what was being said? To realize the possible threats that come from such vague, wide reaching, and seemingly feelgood language? Or what they might mean?

        Because I’m not seeing that kind of caution. And I find it ironic given how “left and right ideologies tend to take a back seat to projects” is a rather fitting description of Vlad Putin’s rule, given how he has governed in an awkward, authoritarian coalition with many of his natural rivals (like Zhirrie boy) in favor of “Grand projects” like Reconquering Chechnya, forming the “Russian World” or the like.

        “Fuentes understands that enduring change comes from social movements, not political parties. ”

        Fuentes doesn’t understand $hit.

        “Enduring change” was generated from one guy working on a cotton gin.

        “Enduring change” was also generated from one British gunsmith deciding he wanted to go hunting without the flintlock’s hammer fall alerting the wildlife he was aiming at long before the bullet actually fired.

        “Enduring change” also can come from political parties like the ANC’s repulse of Apartheid and the Bolshevik party’s destruction of all opposition.

        If this is the level of the historical analysis you or Fuentes are doing, *give up now* because you Suck at it.

        “Political parties can only institutionalize those changes that the people win.”

        Again, nonsense.

        Political parties can also direct changes. Hence why I point how the Bolshevik and National Fascist and NSDAP parties (acting as revolutionary vanguards) dragged their countries and people into nightmares that few people would have actually wanted. Hence why I also point to the way that the ANC spearheaded the downfall of Apartheid and the INC helped pave the way for the end of the British Empire in India.

        Political parties are associations of people, after all. And you can’t write “The People” without “people.” They can be actors as well as it.

        “That’s why those of us who value unity based on democracy, pluralism, diversity and the real people with their common concerns, need to form movements to end, detain or interrupt neo-populism and protect the institutions of democracy that guarantee everyone’s rights.”

        Sorry, I’ll stick with valuing democracy and real people, along with individual rights and the ability of myself to spend my own damn money as I please, ranting at length on the internet in my usual caustic fashion.

        You see, *I* for one have enough faith in the system that I think pluralism, diversity, and peoples’ common concerns will follow naturally. As people come to voice popular interests and concerns, and the system (and the people who make it live) protect those who might be ostracized.

        I view high brow appeals to unity, plurality, or abandoning ideology for some kind of “project” to be INHERENTLY suspect. Not because there are not times where that is the proper course, but because people should decide that on their own and give voice to the Many, MANY different, clashing conclusions they make.

        Patriotism may be the last shelter of the scoundrel, but “Let’s all get along!” has to be close behind.

        “But before we can even begin to understand how we might proceed with that work, we’ll need to open our minds and let go of old reactionary ideas —left and right— and the polarizing politics of populism that have long since proven themselves worse than useless.”

        Again.

        I distinctly remember reading something very similar to this stuff.

        Only it was written by a heavily accented Central European.

        “If we understand that the resurrection of the German nation represents a question of regaining
        our political will for self-preservation, it is also clear that this cannot be done by winning
        elements which in point of will at least are already national, but only by the nationalization of
        the consciously anti-national masses.

        A young movement which, therefore, sets itself the goal of resurrecting a German state with its
        own sovereignty will have to direct its fight entirely to winning the broad masses. ” -Adol!fus Shicklegruber, Me!n Kamprf

        Again, does that make you a National Socialist?

        No.

        But it does mean this:

        Be VERY careful about what you advocate.

        Because I’m not seeing that kind of precautionary care here.

        And I think that lack of care is part of what helped lead to the rise of Chavismo.

    • Turtler,

      You have some interesting things to say. However, your technique of responding to people sentence by sentence is infuriating and absurd. Taking people’s utterances out of the context of their entirety is not a fair and honest debate practice. It is also lazy.

      • @Roy “You have some interesting things to say. However, your technique of responding to people sentence by sentence is infuriating and absurd. ”

        A: It’s not absurd if your focus is on replying to someone accurately, and in depth.

        It also helps me keep my place while replying

        “Taking people’s utterances out of the context of their entirety is not a fair and honest debate practice.”

        B: WHUT?

        You obviously don’t know this, but the reason why I adapted this method is as a result of years of debating practice. Particularly on the internet.

        Above all, this is a system to PRESERVE context in a debate. It is my insurance against some lying jagoff saying “I didn’t write that!”

        Because it allows me to write “Yeah, yeah you did.”

        And if anything it does it be capturing Too Much of the context. After all it basically is reposting what I’m replying to and then interspacing it with my own words.

        “It is also lazy.”

        C: GO F8CK YOURSELF.

        Seriously. You expect me to take you seriously when you write insulting nonsense like this?

        It’s obvious you didn’t even think about how one would go about creating this system. And how the one thing it is most certainly NOT is lazy.

        Seriously, Screw You.

        • @Kickapoo Joy Thank you kindly.

          Though frankly, “Roy” cannot let me continue, for the same reason I cannot let him. That is completely beyond his power and is owed only to the managers of this site.

          And frankly, I lost a major amount of respect for him when he not only alleged that i was taking what the author said out of context (in which case he’d have to prove it), but that he said my style of writing is *lazy.*

          Which is objectively false on its face. And something I think anybody can understand if they think about what putting one of these things together would be like.

    • @Turtler

      Thanks for destroying this guy’s nonsense, one paragraph at the time, I personally enjoyed this style.

      I lost all respect for the guy midway through the article, about the time he lumped Trump, Erdogan, Putin and even Orban!… To me it was very clear that this wasn’t even a serious political analysis.

      • @jctt “Thanks for destroying this guy’s nonsense, one paragraph at the time, I personally enjoyed this style.”

        Thank you kindly! Glad to know I am not completely disconnected from everyone when I pattern things like this.

        “I lost all respect for the guy midway through the article, about the time he lumped Trump, Erdogan, Putin and even Orban!… To me it was very clear that this wasn’t even a serious political analysis.”

        indeed, that is also what I noticed.

        I do not know what kinds of experience or knowledge Mr. Ross has, so I won’t grudge him that. But I WILL grudge him what he obviously does not know.

        And it became very freaking obvious very soon that

        A: He had no good idea what “Populism” actually is, much less “Neo-Populism.”

        And he seemed to have even less concern for the term’s history or evolution from (at minimum) Rome.

        B: He had an incredible lack of awareness, waxing poetic about the evils of “Neo-Populism” but then going on to…make “new populist” appeals.

        C: He hadn’t studied Erdogan, Putin, or the like nearly as much as he should have.

        and

        D: He had a stunning lack of awareness about the dangers of looking for a “Third Way”, its association with tyranny, and so on.

  18. The best part of the article is this small line

    “We have to end the hunt for saviors, be the persons or those elites known as “vanguard,””

    Every single time I start seeing political issues become a discussion about The Savior I’m just sure we are getting yet another Devil again. When the focus moves from “lets see what this politician has to say on this issue, and see if I agree or no or in what degree”, to the kind of charismatic love-fest and joyful freedom from reason that comes from Loving The Leader and Praising Everything He Does, you better brace yourself.

    For starters, because no rational, well adjusted and well meaning person would desire to be that.

    So please, give me boring people in power. Give me somebody that thinks that reality goes first, their ideas about it second, and distant third is their own figure. Give me pragmatism over charisma.

    • @Jesus Couto Fandino Well said indeed, and for the most part I agree (i’m a bit skeptical about putting “ideas second but reality goes first” because a lot of times that is cover for a lot of dodgy nonsense, but hey).

      Ben Franklin said that we should look suspiciously at everybody who approaches power. Every-body. I agree with that entirely. And while partisanship is a natural instinct, having it go too far into hero worship is not a recipe for a good life.

      For my own case, Trump is my President and my party leader. But he is not my God, he is not my emperor, and he is not my messiah. I will not idolize him as such, and if there is ever a day where I stop suspecting or doubting him I will have reason to worry.

      But of course, the irony that Ross doesn’t seem to get is that by advocating for a move away from “the elites” towards a new move of people, he is advocating for something that COULD be called “Neo-Populism.”

    • Jesús,

      “So please, give me boring people in power. Give me somebody that thinks that reality goes first, their ideas about it second, and distant third is their own figure. Give me pragmatism over charisma.”

      Loud applause! Politics should not double as entertainment.

  19. I do admire the Americans who still participate in this site. On the day of America’s Independence, they deliberately chose to print an article insulting to the President and those who voted for him. I do not know how many of you contribute to this site, but you are wasting your money.

    • What part of this article, besides “Socialism is great, it was just done wrong”, is aimed at “Making Venezuela make sense”
      Finding authors that make sense would be a nice start.

    • Maria – One day in Los Angeles, decades ago, un Espanol de Espagna me invito to his house to meet his wife and have dinner. I was about the age of his eldest son. We had talked for a while in a class we both were taking, so we were respectful friends with some common ground of having lived and worked in Caracas. I thought.

      After dinner, over coffee, without any provocation he launched into a tirade about how President Reagan was totally wrong about Grenada, that it was an example of U.S. aggression, arrogance and interference in the affairs of other much smaller nations. He angrily asserted that Reagan was a dangerous dictator, etc.. His wife was horrified, really, trying to signal him to not go there. He went on, ignoring her advice. I appreciated her signal, and took her advice myself: when he had done, I just asked him, laughing just a little, what if it was one of his kids at the university in Grenada …? “Ho, ho … then you might like the invasion, as you call it!” That did not stop him, but I let it all ride (grand person that I think I am, but mostly because I was raised well, and was a guest in his home).

      I never got into the airport the Cubans were building with a military jet capability. And I could not of course point out that decades into the future Grenada is not a U.S. conquest with forced labor camps and a port for U.S. warships with photographs of Reagan mandated in every single government office and hundreds of “dissidents” held in prisons for daring to talk about the good old days when the Cuban military had reinforced machine gun checkpoints and pillboxes along all the major roads on the island.

      Today, many years later, and after much hard thought, I believe I may have something to say in the way of an observation. Fear makes people see things that are not there, and leads them to draw conclusions that it is better to be dominated by a known dominator who will not kill if not provoked, who will enslave but not harm, if obeyed. That submission is better, fear thinks, than the horror of looking up into the sky, having faith, and facing the unknowns of life as a free man who must make his own decisions. People who suggest that latter “thing” about having the audacity to make one’s own decisions, are viewed as the enemy, fear thinks.

      Fear itself is already an concession to lack of clarity, and a concession to indecision; it is a very short step from there to hand over full responsibility for oneself, to surrender, and submit to someone else. In socialist or command-driven economies, that “someone” becomes “government”, which is then expected to “make things better” and “provide”. That is not democracy.

      The true function of government in any form is only to provide an environment in which men are free to pursue their own interests and talents as they see fit, free to engage in trade and commerce with others, free to think and speak without fear, free to form associations, friendships, trust, plan, raise families with free children, and enjoy life. Those who fear they cannot do that, those who fear to the point of submission, view that freedom as a death sentence, oppose and attack it, calling it evil and tyrannical, a tyranny which imposes unwanted, unworkable freedom upon them. Better to be a pet dog. One is on a leash, yes, one is ordered about, yes, one is trained to do tricks to please, yes, but one is fed and cared for and rewarded by the gods of household government … good doggy! A well-trained socialist man!

      Stay free, have courage and faith, and raise your children to be so. Life is infinite, and so are their abilities to be free. (Brings back memories of that song and movie, “Born Free”, about some lions cubs that were rescued and successfully released back into the wild. Who knows what will happen to them, but they are free. That fire will never die. It never has.)

  20. As I spent a year in Berserkeley, my perspective on Mr. Ross is somewhat different. While I do not agree with him on the failures of liberal democracy, I commend him for concluding that the lefty tribe from which he came has a strong reactionary tinge. That is similar to living in Mecca and leaving the Muslim faith: not easy to do.

    Once you are submerged in the atmosphere of Berserkeley, it is difficult to shake it off. David Horowitz did, but few have his intellect. What precipitated David Horowitz’s leaving the left was the murder of Betty Van Patter, a bookkeeper whom he had recommended that the Black Panthers hire. Soon after Betty Van Patter notified her Black Panther bosses that she had found irregularities in their books, she disappeared in December 1973. A month later, her mutilated body was found in San Francisco Bay. While no one was ever arrested for her murder, David and most who have studied the case came to the conclusion that the Black Panthers murdered her.

    Berry Van Patter’s murder precipitated David Horowitz’s leaving the left. Betty Van Patter’s daughter, who also came to the conclusion that the Black Panther had killed her mother- though it took her detective investigations and nearly 10 years to so decide- never left the left. Betty Van Patter’s daughter was out there with the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Occupy Wall Street is as good example as you could ask of deranged leftism in the last 10 years.

    It is hard to shake off Berserkeley. While Clfton Ross hasn’t completely done so, he has come a long way.

    • Estimado Sr. Boludo, thank you for your respectful critique. It’s nice to hear your appreciation for my changes and recognize the struggle I’ve been on in these past five years as I changed my views on Venezuela and… everything else. Just a note here to correct a perception that I think “the failures of liberal democracy” means I think liberal democracy has failed. I think the weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings of liberal democracy require us to redouble our efforts to make corrections and shore up an idea that is probably the best one we’ve come up with in the modern period for organizing human society (liberal democracy). In other words, to acknowledge it’s failures is not the same thing as to say it has failed.
      Respect

      • @Clifton Ross “Estimado Sr. Boludo, thank you for your respectful critique. It’s nice to hear your appreciation for my changes and recognize the struggle I’ve been on in these past five years as I changed my views on Venezuela and… everything else. ”

        Indeed. I won’t claim to have the same kind of appreciation Boludo has, since I haven ot read your book or really anything else But I do think on the most important issues, we are on the same side.

        “Just a note here to correct a perception that I think “the failures of liberal democracy” means I think liberal democracy has failed. ”

        Indeed, I did not think you had.

        “I think the weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings of liberal democracy require us to redouble our efforts to make corrections and shore up an idea that is probably the best one we’ve come up with in the modern period for organizing human society (liberal democracy).”

        Agreed.

        But I also think we should be careful about said efforts. Because too much haste or overextension can lead to monstrous things.

        ” In other words, to acknowledge it’s failures is not the same thing as to say it has failed.”

        Agreed.

      • I came from an environment almost as “liberal” as Berkeley. Decades after the fact I found out there were some red diaper babies my age in the Liberal Religious Youth group I belonged to in high school. So, my having a passing acquaintance with Haakon Chevalier Jr. in Berkeley had some resonance with growing up where I did- though I didn’t realize it at the time.

        Even before I got to Berkeley, where I spent a year as a hippie dropout eco-activist, I was most likely already inoculated against it, due to my previous conclusion about prejudice and the Iron Curtain refugees I was exposed to in my hometown.
        As a result of group dynamics I experienced in elementary school and at the regional high school I attended, I came to the conclusion that all of us have in-groups and out-groups. None of us is free of prejudice. By contrast, at the time, most in the North- including my hometown- believed that prejudice was unique to those people down South. Even today, many on the left believe that when it comes to prejudice/phobias, they are as pure as the driven snow- in contrast to those deplorables. I abandoned such illusions before I was out of high school.

        My hometown had a disproportionate number of Iron Curtain refugees. In my hometown 8th grade class of 25, two had Iron Curtain refugee parents- from China and from Russia. I also knew adults- who never met each other- who as children in Estonia had experienced both Soviet and Nazi invasions. From minimum wage work, I knew a couple from Ukraine who had gotten out during WW2- work slaves in Germany.

        As a college freshman, not long before I hitched to Berkeley, I heard SDS people praise Lenin. That finished SDS for me. Courtesy of the Iron Curtain refugees I knew, and a 9th grade Politics course I had taken, I was never a Lenin fan. From the Politics course, reading A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch convinced me the Soviet system was evil. From writing a term paper on Soviet agriculture, I concluded that the Soviet economic system was incompetent. So, I wasn’t exactly prime Berkeley lefty material to begin with.

        For a while in Berkeley I supported myself by selling newspapers on street corners. At the time, there was a conflict between the Berkeley Barb and the Berkeley Tribe. The Tribe consisted of former staffers from the Barb. One time a driver took my copy of the Barb, told me I was “selling a pig paper,” and drove off without paying. That was my introduction to sectarian conflict within the left.

        • @Boludo Tejano Interesting! And thanks for the stories.

          I admit I’m a Californian (as well?). Born and raised, only moved out of the state recently. And well, you know the old saying, whoever isn’t a Liberal/Socialist at 20 has no heart, whoever is still one after has no brain?

          Well, by that logic I have no heart. I was a quick and natural convert. But I did not have this kind of deep historical tie you have had, with living members of people who lived under the Iron Curtain.

          My Grandparents lived during the Depression and WWII in the US and a number of the family got the cripe beaten out of them by Mussolini fanboys, but that went fairly well (I don’t think any of them actually died), and they also lived well away. They were a beloved presence, but a distant one. And I do think I really did live- to some degree- the California Liberal experience at its most ideal.

          But the defining moment of my life was 9/11. I had a vague love of history before then, and some interest in military (mostly due to computer games), but I did not really have any strong political or philosophy before then. The 2000 election was more or less a popularity contest for me, between Mom and Dad backing both sides.

          But then Bin Laden and his co-conspirators threw the veils from my eyes. And I came to realize how the blessed world I lived in was not safe or secure. And how there were people and causes out there that wanted to destroy us all. I was (still kind of am) a loyal Bushie Neocon and hawk, at least on foreign policy.

          But the years after were a long and hard lesson as I tried to learn my way through. Admittedly, most of my knowledge was gained thirdhand.

          Yet another defining period of my life- one I’ll always remember- was in elementary school. When this English teacher (from easy-to-belittle Cali) assigned to us “The Red Scarf Girl.” Which was REALLY my first introduction to the ideas of tyranny, totalitarianism, and freedom.

          Really, really so. I mean, this was a book about this little Chinese girl and her family living during the Cultural Revolution. Going through the conflicts of loyalty at what was then our age. It was harrowing stuff. Horrible.

          But what really got to me after all of that- not that it got me well enough- was that the author, Ji-Li Jiang, visited our school. And I was picked to be one of the people who went to see her from our class.

          The autographed copy of the book is one of my prized possessions. “Red Scarf Girl.” I highly recommend anybody who hasn’t read it do so.

          So yeah. And people wonder why I leer at the idea of conflating Trump with Putin and his Nashi or Chavez and the Collectivos.

          • So yeah. And people wonder why I leer at the idea of conflating Trump with Putin and his Nashi or Chavez and the Collectivos.

            As such, you might be interested in this Goodreads: Reader Reviews of Red Scarf Girl. The most liked review, written on December 7 2015, has this to say:
            The zombification of the Chinese under Mao’s rule is distinctively awful, a mindset and time that must never be repeated (but under Trump’s potential presidency, possibly might*). *Oracle time!– wow do I feel dumb now.

            Where, if you disagree with those vilifying Trump, you are by definition a zombie.

          • Very good Clif article. Precisely before Chavez came to power, and in Venezuela, progress was being made in that direction.
            Chavez on arrival prevented a process that was just beginning to take shape. After the social outbreak of the so-called “caracazo” and after the failed coup attempt by Chavez, the government system of the time, marked as a liberal representative democracy, had already been heading for these changes.
            for the moments in Venezuela, the end of the 80s and during the decade of the 90s, there was a very significant boom in social movements: many social work organizations, environmentalists, community, cultural, sports, environmental, peasant, women’s organizations, of young people, organizations of work with children and of human rights. All these organizations were articulated and met in partnership for the construction of a new model of government and citizenship. This was understood by the representative democratic government and opened the participation of civil society in the development of social policies of the country. There are already many agreements between community organizations and the government without differences of political idealism. Chavez arrived and managed the discourse of the social movements to fall in love and deceive us and end with that process that was beginning between the civil society and the government. I understand you …

  21. While I don’t agree with Clifton Ross’s conclusions, he makes more sense than did Petro fan Rodrigo Palau, who couldn’t reason his way out of a paper bag. My dog does a better job of logical thinking than did Rodrigo Palau.

    • Agreed there. While I am much less subtle about my criticism of Mr. Ross’s statements, I do think we’re ultimately on the same side here. Regarding Venezuela.

      Palau notsomuch. His basic argument regarding Petro was “Guize, this time it will be different! Even if Petro is using the same words and terms Chavez did! And was an actual terrorist!”

      I may vehemently disagree with Mr. Ross, including much of his conclusions. But I can at least respect that his claims- however inaccurate or tin eared in my opinion- are based off of the same concerns defenders of freedom are.

      • The irony about Palau and his fanboy Omar is that they would present information that they believed would support their claim that “Petro is NOT like El Finado,” when those who knew something about Venezuela would conclude from that same information, “On the contrary, Petro sounds just like El Finado.” Examples: Petro won’t nationalize? Petro is anti-corruption? Sounds just like El Finado in his 1998 campaign.

        Consider the claim that “Petro is an academic while El Finado’s being a milico means their approach is quite different.” Anyone with exposure to universities in the US knows that there are quite a few autocratic, far lefties in academia. It is not reassuring at all to point out that Petro is an academic.

        Like you said, when it comes to Venezuela, Clifton Ross is on our side.

  22. Very good Clif article. Precisely before Chavez came to power, and in Venezuela, progress was being made in that direction.
    Chavez on arrival prevented a process that was just beginning to take shape. After the social outbreak of the so-called “caracazo” and after the failed coup attempt by Chavez, the government system of the time, marked as a liberal representative democracy, had already been heading for these changes.
    for the moments in Venezuela, the end of the 80s and during the decade of the 90s, there was a very significant boom in social movements: many social work organizations, environmentalists, community, cultural, sports, environmental, peasant, women’s organizations, of young people, organizations of work with children and of human rights. All these organizations were articulated and met in partnership for the construction of a new model of government and citizenship. This was understood by the representative democratic government and opened the participation of civil society in the development of social policies of the country. There are already many agreements between community organizations and the government without differences of political idealism. Chavez arrived and managed the discourse of the social movements to fall in love and deceive us and end with that process that was beginning between the civil society and the government.

  23. I think that with Chavez’s wound up in power, the Venezuelan people lost the opportunity … because the system that existed, which I do not know if it was really a liberal or representative democracy, had recognized their mistakes and was in the process of correcting their mistakes. .. Socialism came and prevented that process …

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here