I recommend this essay by Jack Staples-Butler for his “HistoryJack” blog, Starvation and Silence: The British Left and Moral Accountability for Venezuela.
DENIAL in the face of catastrophic failure of one’s ideas is a predictable reaction from a believer, as per Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance reduction in response to the failure of one’s beliefs. Denial in the face of shame for one’s actions is an experience well-studied by psychologists and criminologists. One 2014 study summarises the role of ‘shame’ in creating both denial of responsibility and recidivism among offenders:
“Feelings of shame… involve a painful feeling directed toward the self. For some people, feelings of shame lead to a defensive response, a denial of responsibility, and a need to blame others — a process that can lead to aggression.”
Combining both faces of the phenomenon of denial is the behaviour of the supporters, apologists and promoters of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’, the late Hugo Chávez and the PSUV regime in Venezuela, and their response to the present state of the country. Humanitarian catastrophe of an apocalyptic scale is now unfolding in the most oil-rich state in the world. The magnitude of human suffering is indescribable. The scenes of bread queues and shortages familiar to Eurozone-crisis Greece are long since surpassed. Venezuela has become a ‘Starvation State’ which “today drowns in a humanitarian crisis”, with lawless cities and hunger for the majority.
The Chávez apologists are confronted with two cognitively distressing facts; that a favoured political project has failed, dragging millions into an abyss of hunger and despair in the process; and that they played an instrumental or even essential role in bringing this state of affairs about, whilst enabling the regime responsible to suppress and destroy its opposition by legitimising and even providing its conspiratorial narrative, pro bono. What is most striking in the Western socialist left’s response to Venezuela’s agony is the absence of response.
The vacuum of recognition or even acknowledgement in the face of disaster is followed by an absence of moral accountability. Knowing full-well that Venezuela is still there, suffering beyond measure, those who involved themselves intimately in the politics of a South American republic now conduct their lives “as if” nothing had happened. In a devastating article, the writer Paul Canning named this as ‘The left’s giant forgetting’. Venezuela has become a collective unperson to those who formerly proclaimed it an example for humanity’s emulation; although tacit recognition of their previous behaviour is found in some of the apologists, as in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s deletion of any reference to ‘Venezuela’ from his website in March 2016, after two decades of promoting the Chavismo ideology in articles, demonstrations and media appearances.
Bookmark the essay. It would take some time to follow all the many references and links provided by the author, but they are a resource in themselves. This one, about the ambiguous and contradictory testimonies given by two British Communist veterans of the Spanish Civil War decades later, caught my interest.
Having failed to win the support of the Eisenhower administration, who knew exactly what sort of man they were dealing with, Castro adopted communism purely for opportunistic and practical reasons. He was about as much a socialist revolutionary as he was a democrat. Naturally, the Soviets fell over themselves to shower any third-world thug who paid lip-service to communism with money, weapons, and other support and they did just that with Castro – even though his adoption of their ideology came to them as a complete surprise.
Many people think the USA is responsible for Castro’s rise and continuation in power, but most of the blame lies squarely on Moscow’s doorstep: without their cynical support in those early stages, Castro’s brutal dictatorship would likely have been over much more quickly.
– Tim Newman
Fidel Castro dies aged 90, but unfortunately his dynastic successor is still firmly in control. No doubt the shameless regressive left at the BBC and Guardian will sing the dead tyrant’s praises, but I suspect there will be some wild celebrations in Miami tonight.
“Believe you me, if the people in this country think they’re going to be cheated, they’re going to be betrayed, then we will see political anger the likes of which none of us in our lifetimes have ever witnessed in this country.
“I heard you talking to Gina Miller earlier about the nasty things that have been said about her. Believe you me, I’ve had years of this, I’ve had years of hate mobs – taxpayer-funded hate mobs – chasing me around Britain.
“The temperature of this is very, very high.
“Now, I’m going to say to everybody watching this who was on the Brexit side – let’s try and get even, let’s have peaceful protests and let’s make sure in any form of election we don’t support people who want to overturn this process.”
– Nigel Farage
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.
– John F. Kennedy
Do dooo doo-doo. Right! Do you remember David Cameron’s happy little hum after announcing his resignation? A Venezuelan composer and pianist, Gabriela Montero, improvised upon that theme in the Baroque style. ‘Then, adding humour to creativity,’ reports the Times, ‘she closes the keyboard-lid with a crisp “right!” — exactly as the former prime minister did as he closed his front door.’
Sadly the rest of the article is not so jolly.
Montero has expressed her views in music as well as on social media. Five years ago she poured her vitriol into an astonishingly explosive 13-minute composition for piano and orchestra, significantly called Ex Patria. Described by her as an “unapologetic vision of Venezuela’s accelerating civic collapse and moral decay”, it comes across as a vivid musical portrait of a traumatised country. The BBC should have had the courage to ask her to play it at the Proms rather than Grieg’s anodyne Piano Concerto.
Last year there were nearly 28,000 murder victims and those are just the reported ones
“You know, it’s even worse now,” she says. “I wrote Ex Patria in 2011 and dedicated it to the 19,336 people who were murdered in Venezuela that year. Last year there were close to 28,000 victims, and those are just the reported ones. Imagine how many deaths are unrecorded. Then you will understand that, unfortunately, Ex Patria will have a long life. I always hoped that one day I could put it away and never play it again because I wrote it as a cry of anguish during the darkest times for Venezuela, but that day seems far away.”
Since composing Ex Patria, Montero’s website and live performances have become rallying-points for Venezuela’s expatriate dissidents. “Yes, the concerts are far more than musical events now,” she affirms. “So many Venezuelans come and speak to me afterwards about their children who have been murdered, or their parents who have been kidnapped, or their homes that have been taken away, or their lives fractured by forced exile. Even my Facebook page has become a pharmacy directory for people in Venezuela who are desperate to get medicine.”
Montero will not be the only Venezuelan musician at the Proms. A separate Times article says,
He is simply The Dude, arguably the best-known conductor in the world. The superstar product of the famed Venezuelan music project El Sistema, his appeal crosses continents, generations and even genres: a close friend of Chris Martin, he appeared with Coldplay at the Super Bowl half-time concert.
Gustavo Dudamel, the artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, can seemingly do no wrong.
However, the 35-year-old star, who once conducted what was described as “the greatest Prom of all time”, has come under blistering attack from a fellow Venezuelan musician, the pianist Gabriela Montero.
She has denounced him in the strongest possible terms in an interview with The Times for failing to speak out about the economic collapse facing their home country, where inflation is running at 200 per cent and people cross the border into Colombia just to buy household necessities.
“I don’t care how well he conducts,” Montero said of Dudamel, who has failed to dissociate himself from what is happening in Venezuela. “What he has and hasn’t done as a human being invalidates everything else.”
Having read this I was on fire with sympathy for Montero and anger at Dudamel. Yet Dudamel does have a defence. It is scarcely heroic yet I find it hard to condemn, given that I have never lived under anything but a liberal regime. It’s just the usual thing – the usual justification for collaboration with the powerful offered by artists in somewhat repressive regimes. That is, artists of around the average level of courage among humans living in regimes of around the average level of badness in history.
A product of El Sistema, the state-funded music project that mentors 300,000 children at a time, many of them from the country’s poorest slums, Dudamel is the most successful individual to have emerged from the programme.
In The Los Angeles Times last September he wrote: “To those who believe I have been silent too long, I say this: do not mistake my lack of political posturing for a lack of compassion or beliefs. If I aligned myself with one political philosophy or another then, by extension, I could also politicise El Sistema. That might turn a revered and successful program into a political punching bag and make it much more vulnerable to political whims.”
Brian Micklethwait has twice speculated on this blog that repression is good for music, citing the example of Shostakovich dodging the murderous caprice of Stalin. I have speculated that, while a morally dubious amount of familial pressure may be often be applied to children to create a classical musician, El Sistema seems no more coercive than most other musical education. Venezuela itself is a remarkably clear demonstration of how socialism turns an up-and-coming country into a dump, but comes far down the list of tyrannies of the world. If (piling impossibility upon impossibility) I were Venezuelan and a great, or at least very good, musician which would I be, a Montero or a Dudamel? Which ought I to be? Is the answer different if I were citizen of the democidal Soviet Union rather than Chavista Venezuela and/or an indisputably great composer, like Shostakovich?
Now that Brexit has been and gone, the soon-to-be-upon-us Olympic Games are the new must-do design opportunity:
That’s going to get around. Although if you think it’s only Russians who are drug cheats I say you are being very naive. Nevertheless the above logo is all part of why I always enjoy all the they’re not ready stories which inevitably circulate around now in the Olympic cycle, before enough other people’s money is thrown at the various problems to make them go away, just in time.
This little flurry of bad Olympic news won’t last, alas. Drug doubts will get no mention from the television commentators. Bad Olympic news – i.e. proper Olympic news – will be submerged by a flood of good news, in the form of the various drugged-up competitors winning medals, and when it ends, it will all be declared a huge success. As of now, however, I can live in hope.
Misreporting Venezuela’s economy – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in September 2010
Venezuela’s devaluation doom-mongers – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in March 2013
Sorry, Venezuela haters: this economy is not the Greece of Latin America – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in November 2013
For some reason Mr Weisbrot has not written much for the Guardian comment pages on the subject of Venezuela recently, but to its credit the Guardian has covered developments in that country in the news pages:
‘At least 35,000’ Venezuelans cross border to Colombia to buy food and medicine – a story from the Associated Press appearing in the Guardian on 17 July 2016.
Tens of thousands of Venezuelans poured into neighbouring Colombia to buy food and medicine on Saturday after authorities briefly opened the border that has been closed for almost a year.
A similar measure last week led to dramatic scenes of the elderly and mothers storming Colombian supermarkets and highlighted how daily life has deteriorated for millions in Venezuela, where the economy has been in a freefall since the 2014 crash in oil prices.
A commentator on Breitbart, ‘Rob’, says of the decision by the FBI not to recommend charges relating to alleged violation of the law relating to the use and security of the Secretary’s private email server:
“Until this election, the corruption, coercion, and sleazy backroom deals were just that… backroom. The Clintons… AND Obama… have revealed who they are: criminals. IF in light of this clear abortion of justice this country elects Hillary, the United States DESERVES to collapse and disintegrate just like Rome. Shame on Comey. Shame on Lynch. Shame on Obama. And shame on that sleazy criminal hag Hillary. Disgusting… all of them, and I would love to watch Attorney General Chris Christie put them all in prison next summer.”
Try as I might, I cannot but chuckle at news coming out of Argentina, of a lawmaker, Señor Lopez, from the Kirchnerite movement in Argentina being arrested in the alleged circumstances of hiding between 5-8 millions of dollars worth of cash and a gun in a convent.
An Argentine former secretary of Public Works with the Cristina Fernandez administration, Jose Lopez, and currently a member of the Mercosur parliament, was arrested on Tuesday in the Buenos Aires province locality of General Rodríguez while he was trying to hide bags full of money and an automatic gun in the garden of a convent.
The reason for the formal arrest was possession of a war weapon, a Sig Saguer rifle, loaded with 25 cartridges.
Lopez was arrested with six bags and a suitcase stashed with dollars, Euros, Yuan and Qatar currency as well as very expensive watches (Rolex, Omega). “We found 160 bundles of cash, 108 of dollars, and some of them still thermo-sealed with the stamps from China’s central bank”, revealed Cristian Ritondo, head of Buenos Aires province security. Ritondo said Lopez tried to bribe the police officers and went into shock when they did not accept, and later suffered a deep depression.
At first he told the officers he was planning to donate the funds to the nuns monastery. In effect one of the nuns interviewed said that Lopez had visited them the previous day and “he was quite crazy”, saying he had stolen the money which was to help the monastery, “but today when he turned up and started dumping the bags, police arrested him. I told the officers he was a good man, he came once a year to visit us and would help us with donations of coffee and tea”
Corruption in Argentina is, at least, like a certain beverage, reassuringly expensive. The comments are quite good, especially the one about the nuns needing a good Rolex to time their prayers.
“Lootings are becoming a common occurrence in Venezuela, as the country’s food shortage resulted in yet another reported incident of violence in a supermarket—this time in the Luvebras Automarket located in the La Florida Province of Caracas. Videos posted to social media showed desperate people falling over each other trying to get bags of rice. One user claimed the looting occurred because it is difficult to get cereal, and so people ‘broke down the doors and damaged infrastructure.”
– Robert Tracinski
I’ve heard it said that Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be….
Well, we have reports that former President Lula da Silva, he of the Workers’ Party, having had his collar felt recently by police over corruption allegations, has found a way that might help him sidestep further investigations, by joining the government of his successor, Dilma, that ‘likeable’ former Marxist guerilla, who is herself facing calls to resign over corruption.
Joining the government would mean that only the Supreme Court could hear a criminal complaint against him, and the lower courts have no jurisdiction to hear a case against a Minister. Such is the respect for the rule of law in that country.
So at least in Brazil they are perfectly open, if the cops are after you, you are safe if join the government. Is it any wonder that the country is a mess? This is one way to defend a government against politically-motivated prosecutors, but it is also a way to shield criminals.
I suppose the tipping point comes when politicians join a government when facing indictment, rather than resign from it.
“When we celebrate, and it is a cause for celebration, the achievements of Venezuela, in jobs, in housing , in health, in education, but above all its role in the whole world as a completely different place, then we do that because we recognise what they have achieved.”
– Jeremy Corbyn
(For those who haven’t been on Samizdata before, this posting is designed to highlight the vileness of this man, not to imply approval.)