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Shunning Venezuela?


About a month ago I had a discussion with a prominent progressive media publisher. During our chat he told me he thought Z diverse progressive media institutions that aggregate content from around the internet routinely ignore Z content or reprint it only when they can link to it from somewhere other than Z. 
 
I replied the problem had a long history and had to do largely with positions we had taken over the years that have annoyed others. In the early days Z elevated race, gender, and power to importance equal to economy and class. Then, that was a sacrilege. Similarly, our views on the Mideast were also reviled, back then. These reasons have pretty much disappeared, however, as the views are in the first case nearly universal, and in the second, quite acceptable. 
 
Not long after, it became our views about fund raising that isolated us. That still exists, but again, given changed times – it is not so great a factor, any more. Next our commitments to self management, equitable remuneration, and what we call balanced job complexes as preconditions of alternative media irked others. 
 
The media publisher agreed that perhaps the commitments are part of the problem – but he wasn’t attuned to all that. He was confident, however, about another factor. He felt my trips to Venezuela, my articles about Venezuela, and in general Z’s continuing coverage and commentary regarding events and projects in Venezuela, were devestatingly harmful to Z’s image on the left. Our interest in Venezuela had lead, he felt, to a kind of ghettoization. This took me by surprise. I thought such a dynamic would be just too sectarian and, really, too politically ridiculous, to be true. 
 
Time passed, and about a week ago I had a discussion with a notable writer of ours, and in the course of it I indicated that I thought there were only three media venues which did really serious and sustained coverage of Venezuela – which wasn’t quite fair, because I should have said four. I mentioned Venezuela Analysis, Green Left Weekly, and Z, and I should have included Center for Economic Policy Research (for Weisbrot’s excellent efforts). My apologies if I have left out other venues. The writer thought, however, that this was absurd and that, instead, most of the left was supportive of Venezuela – often blindly so – and highly engaged with it.
 
Sunday Feb 16 I decided to look and see, albeit informally. I went to the top page of as many English Language sites as I could think of, and I counted the number of articles linked. Then I counted the number of articles which in any way addressed Venezuela. At a moment of great upheaval in Venezuela, I anticipated that surely progressive outlets would be trying to understand unfolding events, explain them, and also counter currently rampant mainstream nonsense. I expected perhaps five to ten times the coverage of Venezuela in these outlets when I looked, Sunday, as one would see at less chaotic moments. The experiment was therefore going to be muddy, I thought, as a means of assessing average coverage, since coverage now would be far greater than average.
 
Below is what I found. 
 
The first number is the total number of article links I counted on each top page, on each site. In some cases this was two or three days of links, in other cases it included links that went further back but remained in place due to being highlighted. I wasn’t so meticulous that I would swear I wasn’t low by one or two in the count in some cases. 
 
The second number is the number of links to articles that address Venezuela. My apologies in advance if in some case I missed one due to a title that didn’t reveal the focus. I don’t think there are any errors like that, but if there are, it wouldn’t effect on the overall tally. 
 
I should add that in a few cases, incredulous at what I was finding, I did look further back, to consider a longer time span. In the cases I examined there was nothing until I got to Chavez’s death – and of course everyone covered that. But here I just wanted to address what was apparent Sunday.
 
Here are the sites I examined and the results – the number of articles linked from the top page / the number addressing Venezuela at all. 
 

Alternet 86 / 0

CeaseFire 11 / 0
Center for Economic Policy Research 12 / 0 
Counter Punch 40 / 0  

Democracy Now 20 /0

Dollars and Sense 25 / 0
Institute for Policy Studies 25 / 0 
In These Times 40 / 0
Labor Notes 6 / 0
Le Monde Diplomatique 10 / 0 
Libcom  8 / 0   
Monbiot Blog 20 / 0 
Monthly Review 34 / 0
NACLA 6 / 0 
The Nation 20 / 0 
New Internationalist 13 / 0 
New Left Project 23 / 0 
New Politics 30 / 0  
New Statesman 30 / 0 
Open Democracy 35 / 0 
Other News 20 / 0 
People’s World 20 /0
The Progressive 12 / 0  
Real News 26 / 0 
Red Pepper 20 / 0
ROAR 10 / 0 
Socialist World 35 / 0 
Tom Engelhardt 7 / 0 
Toward Freedom 18 / 0 
Transnational Institute 11 / 0
Truth Out 50 / 0 
Waging Non Violence 12 / 0
 
I admit, even though I was expecting striking results, I was flabbergasted that it was so uniform and extreme. I would expect that in coming days it will get somewhat better. Indeed I just saw a piece on Counter Punch – on Tuesday. I then went to the three sites that I had said did cover Venezuela regularly – and I found this:
 
Green Left Weekly 17 / 2
ZNet 63 / 18 (one of these is a Weisbrot interview, which will probably show up on CEPR soon)
Venezuela Analysis 16 / 16
 
So what can we make of this? Are sites literally rejecting Venezuela related content? Yes, surely to an extent they are, or else, for example, lots of material from Venezuela Analysis or Z would show up on the sites that not only run their own content but also post best of the internet content – just as Z aggregates considerable content from Venezuela analysis in addition to running its own content on Venezuela. Are sites not soliciting on Venezuela? Obviously. Might sites be rejecting submissions? That is harder to judge. We can’t know for sure, but I would say, probably – though the difficulty also owes to a lack of submissions, no doubt. And are regular columnists ignoring what is occurring in Venezuela? Yes, obviously.
 
So, even assuming there will be some pieces in coming days, how do we explain this?
 
How does it come about that what is at the very least a country trying to move non violently and without legal violations toward more justice and equity – and I would say, as they claim, toward a kind of democratic and even self managing socialism, is at the very least, largely ignored.  Why isn’t there extensive interesting in Venezuela setting up and supporting neighborhood and workplace councils and federated communes which I think nearly everyone acknowledges are being built. Why not in its having achieved a great many social, political, and economic gains for the public which again, I think virtually no one contests. Why not in how it is universally reviled by corporate media and by typical capitalist countries worldwide, which, again, virtually no one contests? Why, at a time of incredible focus on events there, is the left largely silent about events there? 
 
What processes could possibly lead to such an overwhelming but counter intuitive result?
 
Of course, one answer is that all or at least some of these sites have decided that what has occurred and is occurring in Venezuela is of no real consequence and therefore doesn’t warrant attention. It is not important to provide information and analysis to help counter propaganda and to protect the Venezuelan project from lies. It is not important to try to learn lessons from Venezuelan efforts. In this view, as a shorthand, Venezuela would be like, I guess, North Korea. There is nothing there for progressive journalists and outlets to respectfully address or defend.
 
This is so ludicrous, in my view, that I hesitate to give it the slightest credibility by taking it seriously – yet I have heard it from serious people, with otherwise very insightful and in my view even highly exemplary views and practices. Of course they don’t explicitly say Venezuela equals North Korea – but they do say about Venezuela what they say about North Korea – there are no significant political lessons to be learned so there is no reason to investigate, learn, etc. They seem to think that if there is some valid criticism of Venezuela – and I suspect few of them have as many criticisms as I do – then their dismissive stance is warranted. Yet that is obviously ridiculous. Criticisms don’t warrant dismissal, but evaluation. So, for me, the question becomes how do folks come to adopt a dismissive stance? On what basis? 
 
Since the idea that progressives who might write and progressive media institutions who might publish about Venezuela have seriously considered the situation and come to the conclusion that a country such as Venezuela should suffer the mainstream media lies that afflict it, and should suffer the both internal and external crimes perpetrated against it, and that in the rich and varied complications of the Venezuelan project there are no lessons worth finding and discussing – is just impossible for me to take seriously, I have to go a bit further.
 
Put differently, could it be that progressive writers and media institutions explicitly think the creation of tens of thousand of councils and dozens of communes, the enactment of all kinds of social programs in a country that is undergoing a continuous struggle for change against entrenched corporate and political power, and that is trying to build new institutions on a grand scale, including successes but also mistakes or even incomplete or wrong headed attempts, doesn’t have embedded in its experiences lessons to be learned, also staggers my imagination. So I have to look further.
 
Imagine asking someone who says “Venezuela deserves to be invisible in alternative media, or at least it doesn’t bother me that it is invisible there,” why he or she says that. I can think of a few explanations for this dismissiveness that could plausibly make sense to some folks.  
 
1. I have looked closely and I believe Venezuela is of no interest for the left. Naturally we give it no space. Of course, I don’t write about it. And of course I am not concerned that others don’t write about it. And yes, I think others should see it as I do – and your survey suggests they do.
 
2. I have looked closely and I believe Venezuela is a mixed bag, and since I don’t want to publish/write or say anything bad about Venezuela for fear of abetting imperial designs, I don’t publish/write or say anything at all. And I am happy that others do likewise. 
 
3. I don’t need to look at Venezuela closely. I know that a country in which a purportedly left project is undertaken but where the locus of the project is significantly the national government, much less a single key leader, has no informative lessons to spread, and – this time based on ideology rather than on looking – is therefore of no interest for a serious leftist. 
 
4. We/I just haven’t had time to publish/write about it, yet. We are hard at work to provide useful commentary. Your research came too soon.
 
I think pretty much everyone on the left should think about their own interpretation of the list I offered at the outset and possible explanations. You might add other explanations that you see. But the inattention is too overwhelming to ignore, at least in my view. My brief response to the four possible explanations follow.
 
 
“Venezuela doesn’t warrant attention.”
 
I have to say that I think this is incredible, but I do understand it, I think. There was a time when Stalinists or fellow travelers who were often just good-hearted folks in the dark felt that the USSR was a great cauldron of radical innovation to be protected and learned from, emulated and aided. The truth was different. Couldn’t this be a time like that? 
 
I suppose it could be – though as far as I can see, it isn’t. There is no evidence and tons of counter evidence. Venezuela is actually a capitalist country with a federal leadership that is seeking to change that fact but without violating laws, without violence, etc. Therefore, at the very least, both Venezuela’s successes and its failures should be of profound interest as information to use to assess different options, obstacles, etc. 
 
If we go the next step and consider the actual events and changes – the free elections, the lack of top down repression for over a decade, and, I would say, the attempt to avoid such repression even in situations of horrible attack, as well as the construction of alternative institutions and redirection of existing ones – I think Venezuela warrants serious solidarity and support, defense, etc. But this view isn’t necessary to reverse dismissiveness. One can be highly critical, and not dismissive. Silence is rarely if ever a road to insight.
 
 
“Venezuela is a mixed bag. I don’t want to say anything critical that might abet imperial intervention.” 
 
This explanation, too, seems to me well outside the range of sober and informed reasoning, though it does try to address being silent despite having some worthwhile things to say. But, again, I think I get it.
 
Consider decades back. The U.S. is blasting Southeast Asia to bits. Inside the U.S., the antiwar movement is hard at work. Astute participants know that North Vietnam is certainly not an exemplary beacon of a better future for humanity – far from it. But they don’t want to abet U.S. imperialism, so they don’t talk disparagingly about internal North Vietnamese social relations. I get it – I was part of it. The comparison, however, is so false that it is hard to credit this as a real underlying explanation of dismissiveness. 
 
Why? Because, again, Venezuela is a society in internal struggle and not even remotely claiming to be at a destination, and, as a result, discussion of its events, choices, and their logic that is critical of some aspects and supportive of others, would be helpful all around, not harmful. Lessons for others, for future endeavors, would emerge. So too would, one hopes, insights for Venezuela. In any event, in addition to having potential insightful benefits, such honest discussion would be far less of an aid to imperial designs than silence. Actually it would obstruct them. In contrast, silence, now, really does aid imperial designs. 
 
 
“I know what is going on in Venezuela – or what isn’t going on – without looking because of my understanding of people, history, and societies.” 
 
Sad as it makes me, I think this explanation operates for many people. Again, I understand it, but I have to say, this is the possible explanation that bothers me most. First, consider this analogy to show the type of reasoning could have some basis at some times. Take the Russian revolution and anarchists like Emma Goldman. She had a world view and an understanding of people, history, and society which told her, just due to her knowing the role of the Bolsheviks, Lenin, etc., that she should expect to see something very far from desirable in the Soviet Union, even with some positive programs. I think this expectation exists now for many who dismiss Venezuela. And they think they are like anarchists rejecting the Soviet revolution – wise and informed, as compared to other people who are deluding themselves with false hope.
 
The first problem is that people like Emma Goldman certainly had expectations, but they looked to see if they were borne out. To simply move from ideology to conclusion without looking is sectarian and arrogant. The second problem is that such exemplary anarchists in the past were not silent. They investigated. When they unearthed problems they spoke of them, wrote of them, tried to learn and convey lessons from them. The third problem, is that Venezuela is not even remotely Bolshevik Russia. It is not a dictatorship. It is not a country in which popular organizations are being or have been destroyed by the government. 
 
This basis for dismissal goes, at least in my view, something like this. “I know that a government can only do harm, overwhelmingly, plus sometimes provide some little bandaid programs of good, not least as a cover for the harm they do. A government cannot possibly be at war with capital, with patriarchy, with racism and especially with authoritarianism. A government cannot be trying – at all – to mobilize a populace to become self aware, militant, and eager for self management and equity. That is simply impossible. It cannot exist even as a hope, or as a contending effort, within a government that also has authoritarian elements. So any report of the Venezuelan government creating or aiding grassroots organizations, any report of their creating and seeking to aid councils and communes, any report of their massively enlarging education and health care for the poor, any report of their wanting to respect law and especially to empower a populace so that it becomes able to replace central authorities, must be lies or wishful thinking without basis. I don’t want to abet lies. So I look away.” 
 
I do think that view exists and I find it horribly mistaken, even when manifested by close friends and allies. Indeed I will still find it to have been horribly mistaken even if, against my expectations, the constant machinations of capital in Venezuela and pressure from without finally succeed in provoking the government into repressive acts on a grand scale. One of the saddest ironies of history, in my view, is when people of truly libertarian commitment, favoring self management, think that by ignoring massive social processes they are actually abetting justice or even just doing no harm.
 
But I should be clear. The Venezuelan government, like all of Venezuelan society, and no doubt like each workplace and neighborhood, is conflicted. And I don’t just mean that there are opposition and Bolivarian factions in struggle – which there are, of course. I mean that among what are called the Chavistas there are those who are more committed to participation, democracy, and even self management – and those who are more authoritarian and dismissive of such concerns. Sadly, the international community of leftists that ought to be helping the former surpass the latter in support, are instead being silent, which doesn’t help. 
 
Finally, I think the blame for the dismissal by much of alternative media and its audiences of Venezuela as a project that deserves informed criticism and support, and as a process to learn from and explicate, has another cause. It is that the Venezuelan government regards the U.S. left, and I think also but less so, the world left – at least outside Latin America – as irrelevant, unimportant, and certainly not worth any of their time. They do not think in terms of trying to clearly communicate their intents and choices, in a deep manner that could inform real assessment and thus real solidarity. They do not think in terms of trying to convey information and analysis suited to others drawing lessons that could inform activity elsewhere. I think this is a shame, and has horrible effects.
 
 
“We/I just haven’t had time, yet. We are hard at work to provide useful commentary. Your research came too soon.”
 
This is, of course, a perfectly valid explanation for a lack of coverage on Sunday, when I happened to look for it. For a monthly print periodical, for example, how could they have content in an issue that was prepared before the events? They couldn’t. But I was looking at sites online, and they typically update content regularly, and very often daily, and have quite a few days worth visible at any moment. Some publish only material they generate, and this explanation could apply in those cases. To know if it does, one would need to look and see – do they have coverage of other very current events, say the Ukraine, the Olympics, etc.? If not, then of course they are correct claiming this explanation – assuming if we looked back in time, over a year or two, or five, we would find ample coverage. For those that aggregate links from diverse sites, however, this explanation seems to me irrelevant.
 
 
My own hope is that all the obstacles to serious assessment and explication of the complexities of Venezuela will be overcome, lessons will be learned, and a profound process will be prevented from falling into the hands of authoritarian elements, or overthrown.  

55 Comments

  1. avatar
    Justin Podur March 6, 2014 2:57 pm 

    Hi Michael,

    I haven’t written anything about the current situation in Venezuela because I don’t know more than I’m reading on Venezuelanalysis, ZNet, or CEPR (whose POVs I agree with of course and 2/3 of which I’ve written for). But my perception of the “boycott” of Venezuela is that it’s more like cold-war “chill effect”. Combined with the “mixed bag” issue you identify, I think those outlets that seek respectability or to have some kind of dialogue with the mainstream, are seeing overwhelming mainstream demonization of the Venezuelan government, suspect it’s a “mixed bag”, and then don’t want to put themselves out there saying anything *good* about Venezuela lest they end up having to defend some of the “mixed bag” that they don’t endorse.

    I do think the comparison to Palestine is probably valid, about how Venezuela has become a taboo. Is Cuba very different? It’s different from Venezuela in that its political system is not defensible, but its social successes certainly are, and are probably better than Venezuela’s and they started with less… and it’s similarly hard to find good stuff on Cuba, and has been forever, no?

    • avatar
      Michael Albert March 6, 2014 3:36 pm 

      I would broadly agree – but there are moments when typically there is lots of attention – not least when there are attempts to disrupt, with clear relations of those involved to U.S. policy. I actually think there has been growing coverage of the disruptions and relations…

      But I think the bigger issue is why wouldn’t people who are anti capitalist, anti racist, etc., see something like Venezuela as not only important for its achievements and impact – but also important as a kind of school for lessons bearing on change? Viewed this latter way there would be an effort to sincerely understand events, relations, experiences, and their implications. That has been pretty much absent, I think, and not just shallow, other than in a few places. And I do think this is different than, say, Cuba. I don’t know if Cuba got more or less of that kind of attention – more, I suspect, but I could be wrong – but Venezuela is far more consistent with the stated aims of so many leftists to uphold participation, law, etc. and to enlarge them. So arguably, there are many more insights and lessons lurking in the experience of Venezuela – or so it seems to me. Yet the attention of that sort is modest, at best. Why?

      I don’t know. One reason may be to avoid guilt by association. That reason is rather disparaging – but may be true, for some. I think there is another possible explanation, though. If you don’t think there is any point in trying to attain a new system because there is no attainable, viable, worthy alternative, then lessons from an attempt to do so are moot. We can’t win, so there is no point wasting time thinking about how to win. Simple, though few will state it so forthrightly. And while it is wrong in its guiding premise, which is essentially just TINA, it is not cowardly or opportunist – just wrong headed, and I would say cynical and depressed…

      • avatar
        Justin Podur March 6, 2014 5:41 pm 

        If it’s really a “we can’t win, so let’s not pay attention” thing, that’s really grim. If people actually managing to win some things like they have in Venezuela can’t shake someone out of the “we can’t win” despair, then I have no idea what can. I am actually hoping it’s just the negative propaganda working, compared to that explanation.

        “I think there is another possible explanation, though. If you don’t think there is any point in trying to attain a new system because there is no attainable, viable, worthy alternative, then lessons from an attempt to do so are moot. We can’t win, so there is no point wasting time thinking about how to win. Simple, though few will state it so forthrightly. And while it is wrong in its guiding premise, which is essentially just TINA, it is not cowardly or opportunist – just wrong headed, and I would say cynical and depressed…”

        • avatar
          Michael Albert March 7, 2014 1:10 pm 

          I suspect the reasons are subtly related. In one situation the astute leftist is only angered by media propaganda , knowing it for what it is… In the next situation the same astute leftist succumbs to media propaganda, no less blatant or even more blatant, accepting it as valid information. What explains the difference…is a question behind the questions…

  2. Les Blough February 27, 2014 11:37 pm 

    Great survey and analysis, Michael. I’ve lived in Venezuela for 7 years and we’ve been publishing daily on conditions here on our website, Axis of Logic (http://axisoflogic.com) for over 10 years. Axis of Logic is an international site covering many topics, most countries and all regions of the world. But our primary focus is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Please check us out sometime. Thanks again for this valuable examination of “leftist” media and the level of their reportage on Venezuela. What is also interesting to me is that some websites thought of as being ‘left’ or progressive attack the Bolivarian project on a consistent basis. – Les Blough, Editor

  3. Rufus Polson February 25, 2014 9:27 pm 

    I think there is one reason that may not have come up before. It’s a harsh one. The international left are, as individuals, often very amazing people. But the culture of the First World left, and particularly the Anglosphere left, is largely a culture of losers. Of defeatism. They spend almost their entire time talking about how evil the Empire is, how bad the capitalists are, and viewing in horror the (genuinely horrific) things they are doing. That’s their lens for looking at the world: Denouncing and bearing witness to the bad things that the bad capitalists are doing to people and the natural world. Talking about the brave but futile struggles of activists who are having injustices done to them.

    So then there’s Venezuela. It’s a place where, apparently, the good guys might be winning. Most leftist commentators don’t know how to deal with that, and are deeply suspicious of the concept that the left might ever win anything. Somehow, it must be a trick. It hit me when I listened to David Rovics’ song about Chavez, whose refrain went “Sing a song for Chavez . . . before the coup”. He thought Chavez was great, but he couldn’t cope with the idea of victory so his song manufactured a future defeat so that he’d have a narrative he could handle. Don’t get me wrong–I get the impression David Rovics is a great guy, heart in the right place, struggling hard, glad he’s on my side. But, I think like many on the left he’s internalized the idea of defeat.

    ZNet is less vulnerable to this problem than most leftist voices, because the people behind Z started as an attempt to conceptualize, spread and ideally build positive visions (such as Parecon). So the idea of victory in a positive project, as opposed to gallant but futile resistance to the inexorable machine, is not alien to Z. As a result, it can assimilate the notion of progressives in Venezuela making genuine progress, maybe ultimately taking over and defeating capitalism there, in a way that I think many leftists have serious trouble doing.

  4. avatar
    Ira Woodward February 24, 2014 9:01 am 

    The situation isn’t analogous, so I don’t see what we can learn from it. Neither major party in the US is seriously trying to return power to the people. I don’t know of any elected officials who are. But as I understand it, the major changes toward self management and participation in Venezuela are a direct result of widespread government support.

    My analogy– it’s the difference between a caring teacher turning the class over to her students, slowly and deliberately, as opposed to a despotic cynic who is interested in a promotion and spends his time playing politics instead of teaching his students.

    We are the students. Without a benign authority to guide us, and facing a hostile authority, we have to figure out how to build our own democratic institutions from scratch.

    Michael, I know this is something you talk about a lot, and have a lot of insight into. So I am curious to know what specific Venezuelan models you think we can apply to our situation here.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert February 24, 2014 6:03 pm 

      Hi Ira

      I think there are an almost endless stream of events and activities in Venezuela with lessons. On the one hand, you are right that some of the lessons are for future situations – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t lessons. Is an electoral approach possible, or not, and why? What are the dangers, what are the benefits? The difficulty of making change in a complex setting without simply coercing or forcing outcomes when the opposition has virtually no scruples at all, as is typically the case, is highly instructive. How important is training and sharing vision and strategy, as compared to just acting without clear formulations? How can it be done, well? What are the pressures on officials who are trying to create change, but also administering government – and how can they lead to good, rather than bad outcomes? Why do many workers resist trying to self manage, and what approach can address that? What happens in communes and councils, at the grassroots even with largely like minded groups involved? Can the implications of market excahgne be combatted by organization? Is a new division of labor essential, or peripheral, to successful change. And so on…

      • avatar
        Ira Woodward February 26, 2014 7:26 am 

        I’ll admit my ignorance about Venezuela. I’m going to read into it more. My impression is that the government is as a whole authoritarian in character, simply less so than almost all other governments.

        I’m playing coy there, but I do think all governments exist as some blend of hierarchy and equally shared power. There is always a give and take no matter how warped or out of balance.

        All of which I’m assuming you agree with, more or less. What I’m trying to draw attention to is the many layers that this can operate on.

        Sometimes we can exert independence within a limited sphere, but we only have the confidence to do so because we are depending on some benevolent authority to protect us should we get into real trouble. I think Alcoholics Anonymous is a good example of this. And my guess is that this is what’s going on in Venezuela as well between the government and the people.

        On the other hand, sometimes people cooperate with authority for their own ends, and perhaps there is more of that going on in this situation than I realize.

        To me these are the crucial issues in this situation.

        • Rufus Polson February 26, 2014 11:20 am 

          It’s not like Venezuela is just about the government. To the contrary, while the Communal Councils, for instance, were enabled by the government, the government in turn has been and continues to be enabled and pushed from below by vibrant, powerful grassroots movements. You might find it more fruitful to look at those.
          The book “We Created Chavez: A people’s history of the Venezuelan revolution” goes into that level of what has been happening in Venezuela and might be a more useful frame than the “This socialist government came into power out of nowhere, with One Man at the helm” feel one often gets from talk about Venezuela.

          • avatar
            Ira Woodward February 27, 2014 4:16 am 

            Hi Rufus,

            Yes that makes sense. Perhaps I was overly dismissive of the role of popular organizations.

            If so, I think it’s probably because of my unspoken assumption that the situation is hopeless without more solidarity from the U.S.

            Obviously independence is realistic– Cuba has managed it for decades. And Venezuela is at the forefront of the continental shift in that direction.

            But democracy seems much more illusory and ephemeral.

            Historically, democratic organizations are short-lived and only tend to survive in small spaces created by authoritarian power struggles. Civil Wars generally. It’s kind of like the space for non-aligned countries in the cold war, only with people and their democratic organizations as opposed to national states.

            So my guess would be that the balance of power in South America is shifting as U.S. power declines. Similar to how it won independence the first time. And internal authorities are filling those gaps, but they have to offer concessions to the population while they are consolidating their power. And since their base is in the population to a greater extent since they can rely on the U.S. less, they have an incentive to offer more.

            The US may not be able to stage a coup anymore, but we do have the capacity to destroy a whole country; if a democratic state arose we might do it . So for people around the world it is safer to fight and even die for a more benign authority than it is to aim for full democracy.

            I think that might be why the population here is so apathetic and apolitical these days. We have the fate of the world on our shoulders. And that’s not something anyone wants to face.

  5. avatar
    Ira Woodward February 23, 2014 12:15 pm 

    Hi Michael,

    Certainly indicative of how few people understand what democracy looks like, though they may have the chant memorized.

    So yes, your third explanation is the one that fits my preconceived worldview. But that’s the problem. We all have to choose what to give our precious time and energy to, and investigating takes quite a bit of both. Closed mindedness is inevitable, but just as necessary.

    Look, I don’t like it either, and I wish people would think more. I’m hoping that we can solve our problems without relying on them to do so because they are showing no signs of progress.

    Of course, democracy requires that they make it in strides. Quite the conundrum.

    But consider this– the US is never going to elect a radical president until we actually crack the code of grassroots organizing. So it doesn’t really matter, because by the time we need to worry about that, we will have solved the hard problems.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert February 24, 2014 6:04 pm 

      I don’t quite follow, sorry…

  6. Carol Campbell February 23, 2014 6:18 am 

    I have been tracking the progress in Venezuela since Chavez was first elected – And I have been bitterly disappointed by the reaction of the so-called Left Wing dignitaries and writers [bitterly is not an exaggeration, btw].

    In a World that is being consumed by greed and hubris; a World that will probably vanish in the next century, at least as we think of it; I do not understand why, or how, people can be so dismissive of experimentation in achieving Socialism thru an elected government. Would an armed Revolution be better – Shades of Pol Pot, Mao, and Stalin.

    I used to read ROAR, but after realizing that Roos had decided that Chavez did not meet his criteria of a True Revolutionary, I haven’t been back. And, Z Net has been as bad. As far as I can tell, if it does not originate in a Eurocentric Country, it does not meet the requirements of the self-anointed gate keepers.

    It is virtually impossible to get any information about the efforts in Latin America to change the course of their post-colonialism experience. Is it any wonder that so little is known of these efforts?

    Not only is Venezuela missing in action, but so are the Zapatistas, who are also doing their best to create a communal way of living. There are some interesting efforts in other Indigenous Groups also, but little reporting of it. Instead, the Left-Wing Press ignores the attempts to create something new, until they are co-opted by good old Western Capitalism and re-enslaved. This is happening today in Brazil, It has happened in Mexico, Vietnam, Libya, South Africa, and even Cuba is starting to give way.

    Are you people actually working as a 5th Column for the Empire? Nay-saying and denying until new ideas die, from a lack of interest and nourishment. If you were gardeners, you’d be aware of how hard it is to keep thing growing in the right direction, and yet maintain some kind of civility. Social structures are the same way. Twitter and Face-Book are great examples of what happens when the immature are running things. It ends much Like the Animal Farm, and the Pigs win.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert February 23, 2014 2:07 pm 

      Carol, I am having trouble understanding your comment. Especially situated under this article. Far from dismissing or ignoring Venezuela, ZNet has been intensely attentive to it, trying to understand, etc. If you look at the top page, right now, or really anytime, it is indicative…

  7. Jerome Roos February 22, 2014 10:20 pm 

    Thank you Michael, for this important article. You make a valid point. As for ROAR, I can only regretfully say that I was away during the week in which the protests escalated, along with two of our fellow editors. We were simply unable to respond to the ongoing situation (you will see that we didn’t publish anything in that week).

    As for the possible reasons why the international left in general shuns Venezuela, I think we may have to be a bit more lenient and include at least three more possible explanations:

    (1) It’s simply *extremely* difficult to obtain reliable information from Venezuela. Few independent publications have any people on the ground, and between the mutual propaganda wars being waged by the opposition media and the state media it’s next to impossible to make out the accuracy of the facts on which we should be reporting. Add to this the dreadful misrepresentation in the international media and you have a serious lack of reliable information on which to draw as an independent journalist or critical analyst. I think many people are just afraid to burn their fingers on a situation they don’t fully understand, or an argument they cannot truly back up with reliable facts.

    2) The second point is related to the first and deals with the extremely polarized nature of the debate surrounding Venezuela, which has taken on vitriolic proportions not just in Venezuela itself but around the world. Just take a look at some of the comments on the two articles we ran on Venezuela in the past two days — both on our Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/roarmag) and on our website itself. The intensity of the accusations from all sides of the political spectrum (reactionary right, apolitical/liberal center, state socialist left and libertarian-left) is so extreme that many publishers may simply be scared of alienating large parts of their own audience. This is not an excuse to refrain from important reporting, but it may help explain the lack of enthusiasm about doing so. No one ever seems to be happy with what you write anyway: whatever you say, there will be tons of people giving you sh!t for it, so I can sort of understand why many publishers just decide to leave it…

    3) A final point I might speculatively add, which is relevant in my own case but which does not stop me from writing about Venezuela: as a libertarian socialist I am deeply worried that the Maduro government will end up using its repressive apparatus to crack down on any opposition (it’s actually already doing that quite badly), thereby de-legitimizing any “critical support” the international left may give the government. You could call this the trauma of the Cold War totalitarian “socialist” regimes, but I think it is still relevant, as the capitalist state remains an institution based on a bedrock of violence. Even when a progressive popular movement controls that apparatus, it will be permanently seduced to use it in order to quell opposition (both from the right, as in Venezuela right now, and from the left, as we are seeing in Bolivia and Ecuador with those governments’ crackdowns on grassroots movements). Again, associating oneself too closely with a socialist government may end up backfiring on the credibility and legitimacy of grassroots movements. I myself share this concern, although it doesn’t stop me from reporting on Venezuela (or Bolivia or Ecuador, for that matter).

    • avatar
      Joe Emersberger February 23, 2014 12:44 am 

      You wrote “as a libertarian socialist I am deeply worried that the Maduro government will end up using its repressive apparatus to crack down on any opposition (it’s actually already doing that quite badly)” Seems to contradict the piece you just wrote and which I thought was very good..

      How has it “been doing that quite badly”?

      Ciccariello-Maher reports
      ” …an official from the Sebin, the government intelligence agency, has been arrested for firing his weapon and the agency head has been sacked. Leaked conversations have suggested coup plots, and even López’s wife admitted on CNN that the Venezuelan government had acted to protect her husband’s life in the face of credible threats”

      Even people who don’t speak Spanish would be well advised to check out the front page of Ultimas Noticias – Venezuela’s largest circulating newspaper.

      http://www.ultimasnoticias.com.ve/

      There is a level of coverage critical of the government – that would be completely unimaginable for a similar protest movement in Canada or the USA.

      An English teacher on a border town reports about the gov response to barricades that have brought life to a standstill: ““Inexplicably non-existent. It’s far from a repressive crackdown, the exact opposite. They’ve allowed a small number of students to occupy a main crossroads and dozens of blocs without any opposition…I explained to them [opposition activists] that there’s no way this would be allowed to continue for more than one day in my country””

      Even some of the moves that may seem dumb or counterproductive to foreigners – like expelling some CNN journos or pulling a Colombian channel off the air – will play very differently to Chavistas frustrated with opposition impunity that has been ongoing – not just recently but for over a decade..

      Anybody know about the hundreds of Chavista peasants assassinated since 2001 for example – the worst political violence in the last 15 years? It took a petition, signed by Chomsky, Pilger among others, to get the “Guardian to make any mention of the issue.

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/aug/04/abuses-in-venezuela-human-rights

    • avatar
      Michael Albert February 23, 2014 2:16 pm 

      Hi Jerome

      Great to hear from you. But I am not so sure your explanations fly…

      The first, it is hard to get information is certainly true. We face it too – of course. But there are some voices, and those are missing. The Venezuela Analysis site has much excellent content from people inside – in fact, if you look at all the pieces accumulating on ZNet, most are from or in touch with folks in Venezuela. So, if we can find and post such material – I would think others could, as well. for a site that never aggregates – never reposts material from elsewhere – it seems the solution would be to contact any of the writers and seek material. That takes time, I know. But another option is to write based on accumulating writings of others, adding assessments, etc. The left does that all the time, of course – but not so much in this case.

      I agree with you about the second reason – and I have no doubt it will affect us and has. But I suspect you could add another dimension – not so much being shunned by one’s broad audience, but being shunned by other progressive venues. This is mentioned at the outset of the article. I think it has some weight…sadly.

      I think your third point has susbstance, too, but I am not sure I get the implication. I worry too. I think, indeed, it is part of the point of the demonstrations. Okay, so we worry that elements of the government will pull it toward repressive practices that could even spread. Certainly a very reasonable fear. But now what? How does relative silence help prevent that? I don’t see it. I think relative silence may arguably benefit the silent venue but I don’t see how it benefits prospects of anti authoritarian solutions in Venezuela.

  8. Sam Livingston February 21, 2014 8:05 pm 

    I think main reason why Left is reluctant to comment on Venezuela is because current events don’t fit with standard Left narrative of “Socialism works”. In case of Venezuela it’s becoming increasingly clear to a reasonable person that Socialist measures (price caps, currency controls, unchecked spending by Gov) have lead to economic disaster (shortages of basic goods, high inflation, loss of jobs in private sector). So the reasonable Left is accepting the defeat in Venezuela argument. But who still continues to argue when proven wrong – only hard ideologs. So in a way Venezuela situation simply makes clear which sites belong to reasonable Left and which are hard ideologs, the kind not unlike those who were last(if at all) to recognize evils of Stalin, Mao, Khmer Rouge.

    • avatar
      Joe Emersberger February 22, 2014 12:17 pm 

      You must reject most Venezuelan voters as “unreasonable” based on the reuslts of the December municipal elections. If a significant segent of Leftists (like you) casually accept the corporate media’s take on the Venezuelan economy then that woud explain a lot, not just about Venezuela coverage, but about the Left’s inability to organize effectively in rich countries like the USA and the UK.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert February 22, 2014 1:47 pm 

      First, Venezuela is not Socialist. It is a capitalist country but has a federal government which in considerable part is seeking to construct a new system – many would call socialism. It also has many newly created institutions consistent with that endeavor.

      Second, your assessment gets both ends wrong. So, for example, Z was arguably first, not last, insofar as one makes it a race, to reject Leninist approaches – since it did so from day one of its existence and has never wavered. Precisely what makes Venezuela such an unusual case is that it did not nationalize everythng, take over media, etc. etc. when it could. One may like that, or not, but it is just flat out wrong to lump it with approaches it has explicitly rejected.

      I would say what makes it anathema to the U.S. – etc. – is precisely these attributes.

      • Sam Livingston February 26, 2014 6:43 pm 

        Joe: “You must reject most Venezuelan voters as “unreasonable” based on the reuslts of the December municipal elections”

        – no more than you would Bush’s 2nd term voters in US.

        Albert: “First, Venezuela is not Socialist. It is a capitalist country but …” I wonder if Chaves or Maduro would agree with you. But let’s just say it’s a country in transition from Cap to Soc – and not argue how far along the path is it.

        I never said that V nationalized everything or that it used Leninist approach – so not sure why you bring that up.

        My point was that those who consider that socialist measures such as: “price caps, currency controls, unchecked spending by Gov” – to be beneficial for Venezuela, are ideologs since so much evidence is to the contrary.

        So Albert – do you I understand you correctly that you don’t think “price caps, currency controls, unchecked spending by Gov” are beneficial for V?

        • transdeuce February 26, 2014 9:01 pm 

          Weisbrot has provided detailed analyses of Venezuela’s national economic policies that call for changes to the currency controls but also show that spending is not unchecked, based on reserve holdings and relative to deficit spending elsewhere in the world. (As recently as last October the Bank of America rated Venezuelan government bonds positively, so even the most capitalist of institutions has signaled that spending is not worrisome.) I think there’s still room for debate on national economic policy, even if I personally question some of the measures you mention.

          That said, even if we agree that “price caps, currency controls, unchecked spending by Gov” are negative, there are many other facets of the Bolivarian process worth discussing critically. I’d personally place the Communal Council and Commune system at the top of the list, not because it is working flawlessly, but because it is the world’s most robust manifestation of a the type of participatory civil society governance called for by the likes of Gramsci. Why should we not critically debate its structure, its strengths and weaknesses, its relationship to the state, etc.?

          • Sam Livingston February 27, 2014 2:30 pm 

            Re: transdeuce
            “Bank of America rated Venezuelan government bonds positively”
            The nuance there is that BOA explicitly said that it only rated positively Dollar denominated bonds. Reason being, of cause, is that given high Gov spending of Bolivars – any Bolivar denominated bonds become worthless almost immediately after issue.

            I agree that discussing Communal Council and Commune system is very important. But I believe that even Communes are hindered severely by this price/currency controls. Consider this: if Commune wants to get in to agricultural activity – they need to purchase machinery, fertilizer, seeds, etc… most of that has to be imported for now so there’s significant expense. The commune now needs to file for dollars – a very burocratic and lengthy process. Assume they get over that hurdle and get everything in time to plant, next is they have to sell the product. Now if price of product is fixed by Gov below their cost of production Commune can’t recover its costs (which it is right now for all basic staples – that’s why they are being smuggled out rather then sold internally even at risk of being arrested). So they have to apply for Gov loan – will they get it – may be yes may be no. How do you expect Communes to function in this kind of climate?

            • transdeuce February 28, 2014 12:22 am 

              I tend to agree – I don’t think the communes can thrive in the current context, for reasons that include but go beyond national economic policy. Nonetheless, I think even if the Bolivarian commune system fails there is much to be learned from it. And that was the point I was trying to make. The “reasonable left” (as you put it) should be reporting on Venezuela because there is much to be learned that can benefit left movements elsewhere. It’s not a question of “accepting the defeat” or “continuing to argue”. Reporting and discussing the truth is not the same as acritically defending the entire system.

              • Sam Livingston February 28, 2014 5:15 pm 

                Well, the truth is in the eyes of the beholder in this very polarized and over politicized environment. When someone faults shortages to opposition deliberate hoarding, rather than on currency/price controls, they are not helping the Communes. Blaming an external enemy, absolves the Gov of any responsibility for what’s happening, and if anything leads to advocating of more severe oppressive measures, which would only alienate even more of regular folk. Communes could thrive and create a viable alternative to private business if the artificial economic anomalies were lifted (which may be starting to happen with opening new “free” exchange, but much more needs to be done)

                I think we would learn a lot more from Communes had they been allowed to operate freely and really blossom to their full potential. So rather than blaming the opposition and trying to “learn” from Communes that have been stifled by bureaucracy and bad economic policies, let’s help them gain more power and freedom.

                • Rich Potter March 1, 2014 4:38 am 

                  I agree with you, Sam. And I think what you’re saying is in line with Michael’s point in writing the above article. If more left media outlets covered Venezuela with greater depth, then the english speaking left would have a better opportunity to learn what is really going on in Venezuela, to have the types of discussions you and I are having, and to come to collective decisions that (I imagine) would include opposing the worst of government propaganda and negative economic policies, but also working to help the communes gain more power and freedom. As it is, however, the lack of coverage means that most of the english speaking left is not familiar with the commune system or other positive aspects of the Bolivarian revolution.

  9. Paul Roberts February 21, 2014 1:40 pm 

    These are important points that Michael Albert is making. Venezuela’s revolutionaries are trying to consolidate a workers’ state. The Chavistas need all the solidarity the left internationally can muster. Their experience, in the face of the US-organised counter-revolution, is providing many lessons for us all. Like the Russian revolution, Venezuela’s is based on urban forces.
    Socialist Action (in Britain) tries to ensure the significance of this advance is grasped on the left.
    Our coverage is here:
    http://www.socialistaction.net/International/Latin-America/Venezuela.html

  10. Niall Bradley February 21, 2014 10:56 am 

    SOTT.net has consistently reported on the situation in Venezuela. WHO?! Exactly. Most other alt.media sites don’t cross-post its articles. Part of the problem here is the high number of faux-left websites. If you think it’s just corporate and mainstream media outlets they control, think again. How many alt.media sites/outlets are truly independent? The other problem is that the propaganda campaign against Venezuela (and anything ‘left’, ie, pro-human) has been so successful that people are no longer able to THINK.

  11. Ben Dangl February 20, 2014 3:14 pm 

    Thanks, Michael, for this helpful and thought-provoking article. As the editor of http://www.TowardFreedom.com, a website you include in your list of places lacking coverage of Venezuela, I wanted to mention that rather than an editorial decision, the reason we didn’t have coverage last week is because we were focusing on a web upgrade that has taken longer than usual to complete. As readers will see in our archives, we have provided ongoing coverage of Venezuela, and reprinted pieces on the country, for years. As my co-editor of another site I work at, http://www.upsidedownworld.org, mentioned below, there we have also covered Venezuela quite consistently, as well as reprinting reports from the sites you mention. Readers may be interested in checking those Venezuela archives here: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/venezuela-archives-35
    I just wanted to clarify this and share this info. in case readers are looking for more information on the country in English. And thanks again for this analysis on what I agree is a broader and disconcerting media trend.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert February 21, 2014 1:54 pm 

      Hi Ben,

      Major apologies for the oversite…I know what it is like to be renovating!

  12. Lori Zett February 19, 2014 10:14 pm 

    Since Chavez’s death I have feared the next coup attempt. Maduro is not charismatic and has not, as yet, earned the love of the poor. However, the opposition has grown stronger and sees an opportunity.
    Venezuela initiated the movement to the left in Latin America and has been the strongest supporter of Latin American independence, with both action and treasure. Obviously those who fear this trend would see the fall or crippling of Maduro with glee.
    If one knows the history of US intervention, what is happening in Venezuela now is another attempt at a coup. The opposition did not win the election so taking the government by force or disorder is the next step; it happened before. US support for such action is repeated time after time. It followed the same pattern in the April 11, 2002 coup, in fact it is the same pattern used in Chile and even as far back as Guatemala.

  13. avatar
    John Vincent February 19, 2014 9:28 pm 

    Thanks Michael, this was a timely and important article.

    Sam Grove below may be right that many on the left are affected by class privilege, want to demonstrate their independence “by mixing a defence of Chavez and the Bolivarian process with specific criticisms of it”, and are “inherently ambivalent” to “working-class heroes who stand out more for the way they sought to change the world than the way they interpreted it”. Thought obviously anyone seeking ways to change the world must make interpretations of it regardless of their class influence.

    But irrespective of the reasons for the lack of commentary, it is clear that it has a negative effect on the people of Venezuela. The more time and effort they must spend defending themselves from the West’s imperial-neoliberal onslaught, the less time and effort they will have to dedicate themselves to the Bolivarian process, and as a result the Venezuelan government will be perceived as becoming more authoritarian as it defends itself. This inevitably will be exploited by the right and is why action on the part of the left, especially in the US, and not just left commentary, is so important. Without it, those promoting the imperial-neoliberal agenda will feel no pressure or responsibility to defend or alter their actions. Clearly, “Venezuela warrants serious solidarity and support”.

  14. Howie Phelan February 19, 2014 6:54 pm 

    If you want the news from venezuela go to globalresearch.ca

    You will find plenty of excellent reporting.

    Any news outlet that fails to report on venezuela
    is neglecting their duty

  15. Ron Aletho February 19, 2014 6:33 pm 

    Well, CEPR simply didn’t have anything new at all posted since January. Their new piece, re-posted from the Guardian is a little disappointing.

    Even Venezuelanalysis’ coverage has been below their regular level. Since the loss of Chavez the dynamism on the whole has declined.

    CounterPunch finally put up an article just after your survey.

    One must face the fact that up to half the sites in your review are fake (controlled) opposition fronts for US imperialism (Alternot for example). When it’s most critical these operations will always drop the ball. The takeaway being that this is indeed a serious moment of attack on the Bolivarian movement. Chomsky’s baseless claims of irregularity in the 2009 Iranian election come to mind as an example of the operative shedding the mask at the critical moment.

  16. avatar
    David Jones February 19, 2014 5:01 pm 

    I am just going to guess that many of these media outlets feel unqualified to do any reporting because they don’t have actual reporters or sources in Venezuela. They hesitate to do analysis or opinion because of a historical fear of supporting a government that then turns out to be authoritarian or corrupt. That traumatic kernel lingers of the disgraced intellectuals and commentators who supported Stalin and other dictatorial regimes too long. Not that Venezuela is in any way similar but it is always easier to take no risks.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert February 21, 2014 2:01 pm 

      Hi David,

      I agree that this is part of it it. But it doesn’t explain not reposting materials of merit, for example, from Venezuela Analysis – with by far the most from inside, and Z too, for that matter. There is a cumulative efect, of course – relative ignorance about some place or topic, aggravating by insufficient discussion over a long period, lays seeds for slow coverage and misunderstanding in critical times, which then simply abets the fear you mention. Another problem, rather severe in this case and many others, is that the “Subject” doesn’t help – as in, Venezuela has been so poor at conveying soberly and honestly the pluses and also the problems of its own history. In their case, this is largely due to their feeling it didn’t matter – no need to waste time on communicating with the world of progressives and leftists outside, particularly in the U.S. – a massive mistake, in my view. In other cases, it is often a kind of antipathy to writing and revealing flaws, or even positive lessons.

  17. Dru Oja Jay February 19, 2014 3:37 pm 

    I reckon the millions that the US is putting into NGOs is at least contributing to the silencing effect. When a topic creates a lot of intra-left dispute, people will often avoid it to avoid flack.

  18. Sam Grove February 19, 2014 11:10 am 

    On the Western Left’s ambivalence towards the Bolivarian process:

    “Members of the Western left commentariat are fond of demonstrating their own critical independence by mixing a defence of Chávez and the Bolivarian process with specific criticisms of it. The Trotskyist left decries the process for falling short of a true revolution that can overthrow capitalism. This is true if a bit a pompous; considering the abject failure of revolutionaries in this country to even mount a challenge to neoliberalism. Others have criticised Chávez’s largely rhetorical support for repressive regimes in Iran and Syria. This is also fair, but if his support for third world regimes under threat from US attack were ill judged they should be understood in the context of his principled opposition to imperialism and war.
    I make a brief nod to these criticisms because I probably wouldn’t have written this essay if I thought the limitations of Western left commentary on Venezuela were simply a result of the constraints of critique. I suspect, in fact, that the limitations run deeper and are symptomatic of the class privilege that the Western left commentariat enjoy.
    Commentators on the right and left, whose contact with the world is largely through computer screens, do tend to see politics primarily as a battle of ideas. The kinds of qualities that come to the fore in actual conflicts and struggles—personal qualities that Chávez embodied and his supporters so admired such as courage, loyalty, honesty and leadership—tend to be easily dismissed by this commentariat as either politically naive or irrelevant.
    Similarly I don’t think it is any coincidence that the heroes of this same commentariat, tend to be figures whose engagement with the world is in the realm of ideas and who observe it largely from the sidelines; figures like Chomsky and Foucault (two of my heroes) who were renowned for their independence of thought, detachment and dissidence. Working-class heroes who stand out more for the way they sought to change the world than the way they interpreted it, remain the target of suspicion. Chávez and Chávismo, are things we in the West, even on the left, remain inherently ambivalent about.”
    http://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/estoy-con-chavez-soy-chavista-exploring-political-appeal-significance-hugo-chavez/

    • Carol Campbell February 23, 2014 6:35 am 

      Sam,
      You put in much more intellectually correct methodology, than I did in my comment on the 22nd. But then I come from the Working Class, and my heroes are men like Eugene Debs, Big Bill Haywood, and Harry Bridges. They were men, like Chavez, who actually accomplished changes on the factory floor.

      I also think it is a Class antipathy towards upstarts who aren’t as ‘polished’ as the elite gate-keepers of the Left-Wing Press. After all, the leader of the ‘Opposition’ in Venezuela graduated from Harvard, and attended an expensive Prep School. Like Obama, he has been net-working since ha was 12 years old with the people who rule the World.

  19. Jeff and karen Hay February 19, 2014 7:35 am 

    We want to thank you for both these articles. Your research on the left’s coverage of Venezuela was astounding – we have kept up on Venezuela primarily through ZNet’s coverage and Cindy Sheehan’s internet show “Cindy’s Soapbox” and somewhat from DemocracyNow but we had no idea (since we don’t often read many of the internet sites you listed) that there was such a widespread silence. And we found your questions as to why this would be very thoughtful and intriguing. We have always felt encouraged by what Venezuela is endeavoring to do and agree that their efforts should be supported and protected.

    As far as your interview with Glenn Greenwald – we’ve been reading Glenn’s blog and keeping up on his NSA stories for the past 8 months. Your interview was such a breath of fresh air as it was sincerely inquisitive with none of the disingenuous questioning Glenn so often is confronted with through the mainstream media. We loved your first question about what journalism would look like in a sane world but most of all it just stood in such stark contrast to most of the interviews we’ve seen or read with Glenn in how insightful your questioning was. We’ve often noted how the talking heads of the corporate media who’ve interviewed Glenn are exposed for their subservience to power and their disdain for our constitutional rights. In sharp contrast your questioning reveals someone (you) who has clearly worked and thought long and hard about how a free and independent media might function and what the not so obvious pitfalls and challenges might be.

    Thanks again.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert February 21, 2014 2:04 pm 

      Jeff and Karin – thank you for the kind words. It was exactly because I thought the many interviewers of Greenwald have done such a poor job of asking serious questions that matter – rather than repeating questions asked endlessly already – that I sought out the session.

  20. avatar
    Kim Scipes February 19, 2014 5:46 am 

    I think Michael is correct on this: Venezuela is an important site of struggle–I think it’s one of the most interesting places in the world right now–and it deserves to be covered in depth.

    My experience in Venezuela is extremely limited: I visited in 2006, and was only there for 10 days. But I read a lot, and stay in touch with a number of people whose writings on Venezuela I highly respect: most importantly, for me, is Steve Ellner.

    Yet since I’ve visited, I’ve NEVER seen even one article in the NYT that represents what I saw and experienced personally. Not one.

    One thing I know is that anything Obama or Kerry says about Venezuela is a lie: they cannot be trusted. The US Empire is pissed that Venezuelans have the temerity not to automatically jump when the Empire barks–much less that they think they can build new ways of living!–and I have no doubt they’ll do anything they can to undermine the government there.

    I think more people need to travel to Venezuela and report on what they find: certainly not perfection, but with escalating efforts to train people and to give them increasing power to collectively make decisions over their lives.

  21. Terry Townsend February 18, 2014 11:53 pm 

    Hi Michael,

    I think your general analysis is quite right. The liberal left and a lot of the far left take a very sectarian — if silent — view of Venezuela.

    I would like to point out that Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal (http://links.org.au), a sister publication of Green Left Weekly, also tries to cover Venezuela as best as we can. Here’s our archive: http://links.org.au/taxonomy/term/34

    I’d also like to point out that Green Left Weekly is approaching its historic 1000th issue and would welcome messages of support and congratulations. Please send to [email protected].

    All the best,
    Terry Townsend, editor Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

  22. avatar
    Phyllis Reeve February 18, 2014 11:47 pm 

    Thank you for this. Today Al Jazeera has been busy with coverage of Venezuela and the Ukraine, and both as part of ongoing news. After checking with AJ, I feel as though I live in parallel worlds.

  23. avatar
    Cyril Mychalejko February 18, 2014 11:23 pm 

    http://www.UpsideDownWorld.org, which is not mentioned, includes coverage of Venezuela, and we also point readers to articles from sites such as Venezuelanalysis and CEPR

    • avatar
      Site Administrator February 19, 2014 2:06 pm 

      My apologies, and my error.

  24. avatar
    Joe Emersberger February 18, 2014 7:13 pm 

    This exchange on Venezuelanalysis captures another possibility – that some on the Left view developmenst in Venzuela positively but simply assume “that could not happene here”

    http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/7359?page=1

    Defeatism is so entrenched is some quarters (along with some other ideological barriers that you mention) that even with the bulk of a continent in significant revolt against US imperialism, not just Venezuela, leftists in rich countries find reasons not to be inspired.

  25. avatar
    Michael Albert February 18, 2014 5:32 pm 

    As with my last reply – mistakenly in the persona of site admin – here too it is hard for me to see how this explains the specific survey I did. I am not talking about views of the broad public, or even the broad progressive community. Look at the list of venues – and consider who writes for them.

  26. avatar
    Site Administrator February 18, 2014 5:30 pm 

    whoops, sorry, that was michael albert – sometimes I am me – sometimes I have to be logged in as admin – and I often forget which…

  27. John Goodrich February 18, 2014 4:32 pm 

    The U.S. corporate media very negatively effects our thinking on Venezuela .
    It is heavily biased against the leftist government in Venezuela and will always present the most exciting and bad news as is how the media works.

    News panel shows usually have a political gamut that runs from liberal to knuckle-dragging right and that center-right wing view is what dominates public thinking and to the extent that it does affect how the small percentage of true leftists think .

    That horrible strength to alter the truth that is wielded by the corporate media needs to be countered by more articles like this one.

    We have always been sane and truthful voices in the wilderness and insanity that is the state and capitalism ,
    However, to be sane in an insane world is insane in the eyes of that insane world .
    The inmates are running the asylum.

    • avatar
      Site Administrator February 18, 2014 5:30 pm 

      Of course this is true for the broad population, up to a point. But if you look at the list of media, and consider their regular writers, and writers who might submit – I think you would have to agree it ought not be – and it is hard to see how it could be – so relevant. These institutions and people, after all, really do understand, at least in their minds, such matters.

      More than most people, every night and morning, I take in a gigantic array of materials – because of my job. So I really do see all the mainstream stuff – and it is tiring, and depressing/angering, but certainly doesn’t push my views. I don’t think this can explain the survey I did…even though it is very relevant to many other issues, of course.

  28. avatar
    Michael Rissler February 18, 2014 3:01 pm 

    Great and essential article by Michael Albert.

    Venezuela is one of the most important places and what is taking place there is critical. In part, I think this reflects the unfortunately usual ignorance and ignoring of Latin America that is part of U.S. culture. It is a place to be used, not understood nor respected.

    I am from the U.S. but I have lived in Latin America for many years. I speak from experienced in both South America and Central America.

    The general attitude and bias that Michael describes is accurate. I suppose unless the U.S. sends in overt troops (in contrast to covert activities, which are plenty), we will continue to see few articles, except stereotypical ones that generally distort the situation, about Venezuela, as important as events and developments are there.

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