Mar 24, 2013

Far rightists divided over Hugo Chávez

Far rightists are of two minds about the legacy of Hugo Chávez, who died on March 5th after leading Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution” for over fourteen years. Chávez was a left populist whose “anti-imperialist” friends and allies included not just Fidel Castro and Evo Morales but also Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, and Belorus’s neo-stalinist president Alexander Lukashenko. Some far rightists applaud this kind of left-right alliance, others don’t.

(For more on Chávez’s deeply flawed politics, see Bill Weinberg’s “Contradictory legacy of Hugo Chávez,” and Bromma’s “Notes on XXIst Century Socialism.”)

“Reasons to like Chavez”
Attitudes toward Chávez on a recent discussion thread on Stormfront, a leading neo-nazi discussion forum, were mostly but not entirely positive. The thread began with a 2010 video clip in which Chávez claimed that Israel was funding the Venezuelan opposition and that Mossad agents were trying to kill him. A Stormfront forum member favorably quoted several mainstream articles accusing Chávez of antisemitism (see note below), and offered the following “reasons to like Chavez”:
“-He increased the living standards of his countries poor brown masses, meaning less of them emigrating to Western nations.
 -He cut into the profits of the big Jew banks by encouraging barter trade… This was seen especially in his trade with Russia.
 -He undermined the crypto-Jews that control Venezuela greatly.
 -He was against Zionism, and helped those who also opposed Zionism. He also spoke out against the Jewish Power Structure.
 -He was a nationalist. Nationalist’s should support one another in this globalist Jew world, as long as interests do not conflict, irrespective of brand or race.”
Another commenter on the same thread wrote simply, "Have observed that jewish neo-cons hated this guy. That has to mean there's some good!" But not everybody agreed with this “enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic. One person wrote that Chávez's opposition to Israel “proved nothing save for a common cause which is as toxic as any type of neo-con zionism.” And another commenter declared that “Chavez hated whites.”

Similar discussions can be found on other fascist discussion boards, such as Vanguard News Network Forum (a split off from William Pierce’s National Alliance) and On Iron March Forums, one person disparaged Chávez’s “verbal bluster” and criticized “his support for Colombian FARC rebels who are a bunch of Marxist clowns,” but conceded that “he was a problem for globalism and capitalism. While I would not have seen him as an ally, I give him cred for that.” Another commenter on the same thread wrote, “Now while I would call him far from perfect he embraced his political myth (Simon Bolivar), gave the land back to the people (in a hap hazard way), fought of[f] the globalists and over all contributed to the quality of life of his citizens. While he was not perfect… he could have been a friend to states such as ours.”

"Put in power through the British embassy"
The Lyndon LaRouche network, whose idiosyncratic fascist ideology draws heavily on anti-British conspiracy theories, claimed that “Chavez was originally put in power in Venezuela through actions of the British embassy… Chavez in that sense was following in the footsteps of his hero, South American liberator Simon Bolivar, who was a wholly-owned asset of British intelligence’s Jeremy Bentham, until he broke with him at the very end of his life.” The LaRouchites conceded that Chávez “had positive and negative features” and “on occasion broke profile with this British imperial game” by promoting closer collaboration with other South American leaders. But LaRouchites considered his support for the FARC (supposedly “the world’s leading cocaine cartel”) especially damning.

Riding the Tiger, which embraces Julius Evola’s “Traditionalist” brand of far right ideology, praised Chávez as “a staunch opponent to neoliberal globalist imperialism” who “institut[ed] social programs to benefit the poor of his own country rather than line the pockets of the rich.” The article continued,
“Some traditionalist minded people may question our support for leftist governments like that of Venezuela and Cuba today, but such support is necessary, and opposition is nitpicking. As Chavez himself told a reporter in 1998, ‘I am not a communist, not a fascist. I am a Bolivarian, whose ideology exists as an ideology of liberty.’ Chavez was one of the few leaders who had the bravery to stand for an alternative to American neo-liberalism in South America. His government (as with any government) was not perfect and there certainly were errors made, and he certainly wasn’t a Traditionalist to be sure. His movement could be described as socialist or Third Positionist.”
"Common interests and a common enemy"
Two of the most in-depth (and widely quoted) rightist tributes following Chávez’s death have come from Counter-Currents Publishing, which promotes European New Right (ENR) ideology blended with explicit white nationalism and antisemitism. Counter-Currents’ Gregory Hood offered “Two Cheers for Chávez.” Hood wrote that he wouldn’t want to live in Chávez's Venezuela, citing rampant crime, corruption and other problems, but focused mainly on reasons to admire the deceased leader:
“Chávez’s ‘socialist’ revolution always contained powerful nationalist and even traditionalist overtones. ‘Bolivarianism’ emphasized Latin American unity, strength, and above all, sovereignty as an independent economic and political bloc against the new order of globalization. He attempted to mobilize the masses behind a patriotic identity, imbuing them with a sense of mission and national pride that transcended class. While Chávez’s opponents conspired with foreigners to overthrow him, Chávez broke with neoliberal orthodoxy to build what he called a ‘Third Way’ that would put Venezuela first.”
Hood also took it as a good sign that “the Tribe [i.e., Jews] was famously hostile to Chávez.” “For their part,” he noted approvingly, “pro-Chávez groups and newspapers have distributed the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, called for the ‘expulsion’ of Zionist organizations from the country, and monitored the ‘subversive activity’ of Jewish organizations.”

Hood argued that “White Nationalists and Hugo Chávez share common interests and a common enemy: global capitalism,” and that white Americans specifically had good reason to align themselves with Chávez and his movement: “It is Wall Street and the capitalist elite – not so called ‘anti-Americans’ like the late Hugo Chávez – that are importing the non-white masses to serve as cheap labor and dispossess Western peoples from their homelands. Americans should sympathize with Third World anti-colonialists like Chávez, since our country too is now merely a colony of global capital.” He concluded that “Hugo Chávez was an ally in that fight [against the neoliberal financial order]. His Bolivarian Revolution is not something we would wish to emulate. But it does deserve our support and respect.”

Dugin's Eurasianism, for and against
Two days after publishing Hood’s essay, Counter-Currents published a much longer and even more glowing assessment of Chávez by Kerry Bolton. Leading off with a 1961 quote from red-brown alliance guru Francis Parker Yockey, Bolton emphasized two points: Chávez's kinship with Peronism on one hand and with the geopolitical thinking of ENR theorist Alexander Dugin on the other. Bolton described Chávez as “the first Latin American leader to fill the shoes of the great Juan Perón,” as a non-Marxist leftist who sought Latin American unity against U.S. imperialism (and who referred to himself as “really a Peronist” in a 2008 meeting with Argentine President Kirchner). Bolton emphasized Chávez’s intellectual debt to Peronist and antisemite Norberto Ceresole, who was for a time Chávez’s close advisor and who as recently as 2006 Chávez described as a “great friend” and “an intellectual deserving great respect.” “The influence certainly endured through Ceresole’s ideas on geopolitics [such as physical integration in Latin America], his opposition to Zionism and the influences of Judaism, and his conception of a civil-military state.”

Bolton also highlighted the Chávez-Dugin connection:
“In opposing the USA and globalization Chávez countered with an alternative that accorded with a growing body of political and academic opinion in Russia, based on ‘Eurasianism’ and the ‘Fourth Political Theory,’ the most well-known exponent of this in Russia being Professor Alexander Dugin of the Center for Conservative Studies, Moscow State University. The theory is broadly advocated by President Putin, and Chávez sought a close relationship with Russia as the axis for a global reorganization based on geopolitical blocs and alliances or what Dugin calls ‘vectors.’” In 2010, “Putin visited Venezuela to sign an energy accord. Chávez, who visited Russia many times, stated of the Putin visit: ‘We’re forging a new multipolar world and Russia plays a big part in that process.’”
Bolton’s conclusion emphasized Venezuela’s importance for the future of left-right alliance-building:
“Venezuela stands at the crossroads. The Bolivarian regime provides the nexus for the Latin American bloc that is forming in alliance with Russia and Iran against the ‘new world order.’ Its demise is crucial to the recapture of Latin America for the plutocrats and globalists and will delight World Zionism. Chávez was the pivotal figure in this new bloc. Will Venezuela produce another great leader, or will another arise from elsewhere in Latin America? Or will the region revert to colonial status behind the façade of ‘democracy,’ ‘human rights,’ and the market economy that is regarded as their necessary pillar?”
A direct counter to Bolton’s approach came from white nationalist Colin Liddell at
“It seems, though no one told anyone else about this, that there exists a Grand Invisible Alliance that will ultimately save us from our common enemy. This enemy is apparently the evil globalist clique that is bent on turning our planet into a multicultural materialistic Orwellian-Huxleyian hellhole, etc. etc. Although this enemy may or may not exist in the form speculated, I have serious reservations about the existence of this supposed Grand Alliance, of which the burly mulatto populist strongman of Venezuela was a leading light – along with Fidel Castro, President ‘I’m a Dinner Jacket’ of Iran, the ghost of Muammar Gaddafi, and Bigfoot.”
Liddell traced this alliance-building strategy to Alexander Dugin’s Eurasian theory, which he dismissed as “nothing more than a rehash of Soviet/Russian Imperialism and its Machiavellian tendency to seek strange bedfellows in any tent, mud hut, or igloo on the planet.” Liddell concluded, “An ally, remember, is someone who acts in concert with you and makes sacrifices for you. Chavez was none of these things; in fact, quite the reverse. A leader who redistributed wealth to the less-White sector of his nation’s population and is mourned by the ANC, is hardly a fitting coffin-fellow for White Nationalists.”

The disagreement between Liddell and Bolton represents an important strategic choice for far rightists. Anticommunism and racial animosity have historically discouraged many rightists from even considering an alliance with leftists, and these barriers remain strong. At the same time, European New Right and national bolshevist influence have been growing in recent years among U.S. and other English-speaking fascists, and are cross-pollinating with other rightist doctrines. This is a dangerous development that could strengthen the right’s ability to present itself as the main insurgent challenge to the existing order. Leftists — whatever we think of Hugo Chávez and his impact on Venezuela — would do well to pay close attention.

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Note on Chávez and antisemitism
Many Jew-hating far rightists believe that Hugo Chávez was a fellow antisemite. In this, ironically, they rely largely on accusations against him by some mainstream Jewish groups. But many of these accusations are based on wrongly equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism or, in some cases, distorting Chávez’s public statements, as Chávez defenders on the left and even Venezuela's Jewish community leaders have pointed out. So far, I have not seen clear evidence that Chávez himself intentionally attacked or scapegoated Jews. However, some of Chávez’s supporters and close associates, such as Ceresole, have certainly done so, and Chávez (as far as I can determine) failed to criticize such bigotry from within his movement. He also used rhetoric that trivialized antisemitism (for example, equating Israel with Hitler) and — intentionally or unintentionally — played into anti-Jewish stereotypes and myths (for example, claiming without providing evidence that Israel was secretly bankrolling the Venezuelan opposition). For useful but flawed discussions of this issue, see Claudio Lomnitz and Rafael Sánchez’s “United by Hate” and “A Necessary Critique,” and Max Ajl’s rebuttal.