[Marxism] Hell hath no fury like an imperialist scorned

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 5 07:28:37 MST 2009

(from the latest anti-Empire report by Bill Blum)


Hell hath no fury like an imperialist scorned

Hugo Chávez's greatest sin is that he has shown disrespect for the 
American Empire. Or as they would say in America's inner cities — He's 
dissed the Man. Such behavior of course cannot go unpunished lest it 
give other national leaders the wrong idea. Over the years, the United 
States has gotten along just fine with brutal dictators, mass murderers, 
torturers, and leaders who did nothing to relieve the poverty of their 
population — Augusto Pinochet, Pol Pot, the Greek Junta, Ferdinand 
Marcos, Suharto, Duvalier, Mobutu, the Brazil Junta, Somoza, Saddam 
Hussein, South African apartheid leaders, Portuguese fascists, etc., 
etc., terrible guys all, all seriously supported by Washington at one 
time or another; for none made it a regular habit, if ever, to diss the Man.

The latest evidence, we are told, that Hugo Chávez is a dictator and a 
threat to life as we know it is that he pushed for and got a 
constitutional amendment to remove term limits from the presidency. The 
American media and the opposition in Venezuela often make it sound as if 
Chávez is going to be guaranteed office for life, whereas he of course 
will have to be elected each time. Neither are we reminded that it's not 
unusual for a nation to not have a term limit for its highest office. 
France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, if not all of Europe and much 
of the rest of the world, do not have such a limit. The United States 
did not have a term limit on the office of the president during the 
nation's first 162 years, until the ratification of the 22nd Amendment 
in 1951. Were all American presidents prior to that time dictators?

In 2005, when Colombian President Alvaro Uribe succeeded in getting term 
limits lifted, the US mainstream media took scant notice. President Bush 
subsequently honored Uribe with the American Presidential Medal of 
Freedom. But in the period leading up to the February 15 referendum in 
Venezuela, the American media were competing with each other over who 
could paint Chávez and the Venezuelan constitutional process in the most 
critical and ominous terms. Typical was an op-ed in the Washington Post 
the day before the vote, which was headlined: "Closing in on Hugo 
Chávez". Its opening sentence read: "The beginning of the end is setting 
in for Hugo Chávez."12

For several years now, the campaign to malign Chávez has at times 
included issues of Israel and anti-Semitism. An isolated vandalism of a 
Caracas synagogue on January 30th of this year fed into this campaign. 
Synagogues are of course vandalized occasionally in the United States 
and many European countries, but no one ascribes this to a government 
policy driven by anti-semitism. With Chávez they do. In the American 
media, the lead up to the Venezuelan vote was never far removed from the 
alleged "Jewish" issue.

"Despite the government’s efforts to put the [synagogue] controversy to 
rest," the New York Times wrote a few days before the referendum vote, 
"a sense of dread still lingers among Venezuela’s 12,000 to 14,000 Jews."13

A day earlier, a Washington Post editorial was entitled: "Mr. Chávez vs. 
the Jews - With George W. Bush gone, Venezuela's strongman has found new 
enemies."14 Shortly before, a Post headline had informed us: "Jews in S. 
America Increasingly Uneasy - Government and Media Seen Fostering 
Anti-Semitism in Venezuela, Elsewhere"15

So commonplace has the Chávez-Jewish association become that a leading 
US progressive organization, Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) in 
Washington, DC, recently distributed an article that reads more like the 
handiwork of a conservative group than a progressive one. I was prompted 
to write to them as follows:

     Dear People,

     I'm very sorry to say that I found your Venezuelan commentary by 
Larry Birns and David Rosenblum Felson to be remarkably lacking. The 
authors seem unable, or unwilling, to distinguish between being against 
Israeli policies from anti-semitism. It's kind of late in the day for 
them to not have comprehended the difference. They are forced to fall 
back on a State Department statement to make their case. Is that not 
enough said?

     They condemn Chávez likening Israel’s occupation of Gaza to the 
Holocaust. But what if it's an apt comparison? They don't delve into 
this question at all.

     They also condemn the use of the word "Zionism", saying that "in 9 
times out of 10 involving the use of this word in fact smacks of 
anti-Semitism." Really? Can they give a precise explanation of how one 
distinguishes between an anti-Semitic use of the word and a 
non-anti-semitic use of it? That would be interesting.

     The authors write that Venezuela's "anti-Israeli initiative ... 
revealingly transcends the intensity of almost every Arabic nation or 
normal adversary of Israel." Really. Since when are the totally gutless, 
dictator Arab nations the standard bearer for progressives? The ideal we 
should emulate. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are almost never 
seriously and harshly critical of Israeli policies toward the 
Palestinians. Therefore, Venezuela shouldn't be?

     The authors state: "In a Christmas Eve address to the nation, 
Chávez charged that, 'Some minorities, descendants of the same ones who 
crucified Christ ... took all the world’s wealth for themselves'. Here, 
Chávez was not talking so much about Robin Hood, but rather 
unquestionably dipping into the lore of anti-Semitism." Well, here's the 
full quote: "The world has enough for all, but it turns out that some 
minorities, descendants of the same ones who crucified Christ, 
descendants of the same ones who threw Bolivar out of here and also 
crucified him in their own way at Santa Marta there in Colombia ..." 
Hmm, were the Jews so active in South America?

The ellipsis after the word "Christ" indicates that the authors 
consciously and purposely omitted the words that would have given the 
lie to their premise. Truly astonishing.

After Chávez won the term-limits referendum with about 55% of the vote, 
a State Department spokesperson stated: "For the most part this was a 
process that was fully consistent with democratic process." Various 
individuals and websites on the left have responded to this as an 
encouraging sign that the Obama administration is embarking on a new 
Venezuelan policy. At the risk of sounding like a knee-reflex cynic, I 
think this attitude is at best premature, at worst rather naive. It's 
easy for a State Department a level-or-so above the Bushies, i.e., 
semi-civilized, to make such a statement. A little more difficult would 
be accepting as normal and unthreatening Venezuela having good relations 
with countries like Cuba, Iran and Russia and not blocking Venezuela 
from the UN Security Council. Even more significant would be the United 
States ending its funding of groups in Venezuela determined to subvert 
and/or overthrow Chávez.

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