In an interview last month with Max Blumenthal, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said:
The level of legitimacy of the Bolivarian revolution, of Venezuelan democracy, the level of legitimacy of my leadership as president of the republic, of the governors, of the mayors, of the constituent members, of the legislators, is very high, it’s real. It’s what the KKK of the United States does not want to understand. They don’t want to understand that our legitimacy is real. We are real, just as this wood is. We are real. Our legitimacy is real, certain, strong. That is why they fail and will continue to fail, Max. Write it down. We’re in 2019 and they have failed. They will continue to fail in their coup attempts, their destabilization, they will fail in everything, we will defeat them in everything with votes, with the people, with democracy, with freedom, with institutions.
By the “KKK of the United States,” he was referring to the white nationalist Trump White House, which has been facilitating the latest U.S.-led assault against Venezuela under the pretext of “liberating” Venezuelans from a “dictator.” By extension, Maduro was also talking about the more moderate and left-leaning American leaders who’ve participated in the demonization of Venezuela’s socialist government. These leaders include Bernie Sanders, who’s called the democratically elected former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez a “dead communist dictator,” as well as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who’s claimed that the Venezuelan people need a change towards “democracy” and openly supported U.S. intervention in the country.
Their positions on internal economic and social issues may vary, but both the KKK sympathizers in the Trump White House and these “democratic socialists” share the goal of violently destroying and exploiting countries like Venezuela through the rationale that the targeted countries are “dictatorships.” This bipartisan and ideologically flexible American loyalty to imperialism has a long history, and the Venezuela example encapsulates the despicable agenda of those who peddle the empire’s “dictator” narratives.
Maligning every socialist and anti-colonialist government as a “dictatorship”
The American practice of demonizing its enemies as “dictatorships” always involves some level of distortion of the truth. Crying election fraud has been the standard propaganda playbook of the enemies of Chavismo for a while, despite the internationally exceptionaltransparency and fairness that Venezuela maintains within its electoral system. In the case of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, this inversion of reality has been taken to its extreme. North Korea is presented as a totalitarian dictatorship and a monarchy even while transparent elections regularly take place, while Kim Il Sung’s son and grandson have taken on mere figurehead positions, while multiple parties hold power, and while every DPRK citizen is granted full freedom of speech and assembly under the country’s constitution.
Upon examining the broader scope of the U.S. empire’s propaganda, it becomes clear that the “dictator” line is being used to delegitimize every other socialist and decolonized country. China’s model of popular democracy has been absurdly called a “dictatorship” by Western headlines, as well as the similarity free political systems in Cuba and Nicaragua. Bolivia’s socialist president Evo Morales has been mischaracterized as a dictator as well, a fact which portends to the regime change operation that the U.S. plans to perpetrate within Bolivia in the coming years.
This image of a declining empire shouting “dictator!” at all of its rivals as it thrashes to regain its waning power has origins in the recent generations of imperialism and colonialism. Prior to the 20th century, when the European, Japanese and North American colonizers justified their theft of indigenous land by calling the targets of their crimes “savages,” “dictator” wasn’t the kind of term that imperialists used. The victims of imperialism, having existed in their historic societal forms before being conquered, were judged to be barbarous and unfit to govern themselves. Then in the 20th century, when many of the colonized people fought for their freedom and built modern systems of government, the old “savage” label was modified into “dictatorship.”
The propaganda against the Bolsheviks and the USSR provided the standard model for demonizing nations that have liberated themselves from capitalism and imperial control. Stalin was portrayed as an evil dictator who had perpetrated spectacular atrocities, a narrative that was initially propagated through the Nazi disinformation about a Soviet-engineered famine in Ukraine and was reinforced by the dishonest accounts of the gulags from authors Robert Conquest and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
This concoction of fascist lies about the USSR dressed up in a veneer of academic subjectivity has mirrored how the enemies of socialism and decolonization have since spread their message. As Jay Tharappel has written about this dynamic of “anti-Stalinism” functioning as an excuse for delegitimizing the struggles of colonized people:
To justify empire building, colonising cultures produce racism of two kinds, one which justifies conquest on the grounds of naked national self-interest, and another which justifies conquest by claiming to ‘civilise’ conquered nations and ‘save’ them from ‘despots’, and ‘evil dictators’ (a saviour complex). Anti-Stalinism is comparable with the latter kind in the sense that it encourages its followers to believe they’re on the side of The People™
When the people of Korea were freed from Japanese colonial rule in 1945 and then went on to create an independent socialist government in the upper half of the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. carried out a genocidal war against the DPRK where a fourth of the country’s people were killed. The U.S. has since portrayed the DPRK as a belligerent dictatorship to justify its seven-decades-long campaign of sanctions and nuclear threats against north Korea. When the Chinese people freed themselves from colonialism and pursued Marxist social development, Mao was slandered as a dictator who carried out genocide (a claim that’s now being made about Xi Jinping). Che Guevera and Fidel Castro underwent the same types of character assassinations when they liberated their land from imperial control.
As this quote from a lecture by the anti-imperialist scholar Nick Maniace explains, the governments of Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad have also been unfairly maligned as dictatorships:
In both Ba’athist Iraq and Ba’athist Syria, despite them being attacked so often as single-party dictatorships, both countries actually had multiple parties in the government. In Iraq, through the national assembly and the cabinet, the Communist Party and Kurdish political parties had positions in the government along with the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party. And in Syria, the People’s Council and the cabinet, the Communist Party, and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party along with those other parties share power with the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party in Syria.
In fact, Hussein’s Iraq was a socialist state, and Assad’s Syria is basically driven by the goals of socialism despite the country’s arguably necessary market liberalizations (it’s also driven by the Ba’athist goal of achieving national independence for Arab society to rectify the crimes of imperialism).
The same was the case for Libya. Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who didn’t hold any real power after the late 70s and was merely a symbolic figurehead, helped preside over an indigenous socialist experiment where a home was considered a human right, where healthcare and education were free, and where even electricity didn’t require individual payment. But we know what’s happened to all of these countries when the U.S. has stepped in to free them from “dictatorship.”
Killing millions in the name of freedom
After Hussein’s Ba’athist socialism had provided Iraq with free healthcare and education, protection for minorities, and the establishment of the only secular nation in the Middle East, the U.S. used lies about WMDs and “dictatorship” to invade the country. Since then, Iraq has ceased to exist as a nation amid an explosion of jihadist warfare; the parts of Iraqi society that were able to be kept stable after the invasion have been turned into pockets of U.S.-engineered neoliberalism and inequality; hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died as a result of the war. It’s a tragedy whose scope I don’t think can be fully comprehended. And America’s crimes against the other “dictatorships” in Libya and Syria have come to match it.
Syria, despite its government’s survival, has experienced around half a million deaths as a result of the assault from U.S.-backed terrorist factions that was launched against it eight years ago. Syrians are also being starved amid the sanctions that the U.S. has imposed on them, and even the effort at reconstruction in Syria is being sabotaged by America’s economic warfare. Libya has been turned into a failed state by the 2011 U.S./NATO campaign to topple its “dictator,” and the conditions in the country have deteriorated so much that black people are now being sold in a thriving Libyan slave market.
It doesn’t matter how democratized or advanced the world’s colonized and exploited people make their societies after they win their national autonomy. The empire is still going to rewrite history to demonize them, and they’re going to be attacked with the full force of the capitalist world’s economic and military warfare capacities.
The representative image of this reality of modern imperialism is when Gaddafi, while about to be executed by terrorists after his country was destroyed, said to his torturer: “What did I do to you?” After he was bloodily killed, the arbiter of the Libya invasion Hillary Clinton indirectly responded to his question by laughing about his death, and by remarking that “We came, we saw, he died.”
The anti-imperialist states fight back
The forces of empire may seem all-powerful and beyond accountability, but history is turning against them. The Pentagon itself stated in 2017 that American power is rapidly declining, and the decolonized socialist countries are looking to become the prime shapers of the world of the 21st century. The coming world order will largely center around China, a Marxist-Leninist state that rejects imperialist expansion and that’s dedicated to helping Venezuela, the DPRK, and the other socialist countries. When China economically and militarily overtakes the U.S. in the 2030s, Western imperialism will have lost its power, and the conditions will be created for a new wave of worker’s revolutions.
In the meantime, the decolonized countries will continue their Marxist social development. Syria will soldier on and work to rebuild its society. China, Cuba, Bolivia, Vietnam, the DPRK, and Laos will continue to improve their socialist economies. Venezuela will progress towards an ecosocialist energy revolution that can help weaken the country’s remaining capitalist class.
The journey of the latter nation is going to be especially important; as a piece from David Schwartzman and Quincy Saul stated this year: “the path to climate justice must pass through Caracas; i.e., climate justice for humanity will only be achieved if the world’s largest reserves of fossil fuels are mobilized for a continental and then global energy transition...this is only possible with the termination of the US war of counterinsurgency and destabilization against the Venezuelan government, allowing them to focus their attention on the full realization of an ecosocialist mode of production.”
As Maduro said, the legitimacy of Venezuela (and by extension the other socialist and decolonized countries) is very real. It’s so real that the people of Venezuela, north Korea, Syria, China, Cuba, and Bolivia (all of which the U.S. currently seeks to overthrow) are ready to go to war to defend their countries if they’re confronted with an American invasion. Bolivia, whose leadership anticipates a regime change attempt against it in the near future, is already training soldiers in a self-described anti-imperialist military school so that Bolivia’s forces will remain loyal to the Morales government’s cause of indigenous liberation.
For the sake of proletarian revolution, of indigenous freedom, and of climate justice, please help in the fight against America’s future aggressions. A direct way to do this would be to move to Bolivia and enlist in its army, but people can also spread information which counters the empire’s lies about Bolivia and the other threatened countries. These nations aren’t dictatorships. They’re the world’s great bastions of resistance to capitalism and empire. Let’s fight on the side of them.
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