Activists once known as the Left are so fixated on anti-Americanism that they can’t bring themselves to oppose any of the dictators the U.S. opposes, according to Ian Buruma, London-based author and professor of democracy.
Buruma writes in The London Times:
When the Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas managed to escape to the US in 1980, after years of persecution by the Cuban government for being openly homosexual and a dissident, he said: “The difference between the communist and capitalist systems is that, although both give you a kick in the ass, in the communist system you have to applaud, while in the capitalist system you can scream. And I came here to scream.”…
Last year a number of journalists, writers and showbiz figures, including Harold Pinter, Nadine Gordimer, Harry Belafonte and Tariq Ali, signed a letter claiming that in Cuba “there has not been a single case of disappearance, torture or extra-judicial execution since 1959…”
Arenas was arrested in 1973 for “ideological deviation”. He was tortured and locked up in prison cells filled with floodwater and excrement, and threatened with death if he didn’t renounce his own writing. Imagine what it must be like to be treated like this and then read about your fellow writers in the West standing up for your oppressors.
None of this is news, and would hardly be worth dredging up if the same thing were not happening once more. Hugo Chavez, the elected strongman of Venezuela, is the latest object of adulation by western “progressives” who return from jaunts in Caracas with stars in their eyes.
Chavez is not yet a Castro, let alone a Pol Pot….
As Ali, the ubiquitous applauder of Third World blowhards, put it: “Democracy in Venezuela, under the banner of the Bolivarian revolutionaries, has broken through the corrupt two-party system favoured by the oligarchy and its friends in the West.” But whether the corrupt two-party system will be replaced by a functioning democracy is the question.
Ali was lavish in his praise of Venezuela’s new constitution, which allows people to recall the president before he has completed his term of office. “A triumph of the poor against the rich,” he called it. In 2004 Venezuelans exercised their right to do just that by circulating a petition for a referendum. Chavez survived, but soon the names of the petitioners were made public, and anti-Chavistas were denied passports, public welfare and government contracts….
The common element of radical Third Worldism is an obsession with American power, as though the US were so intrinsically evil that any enemy of the US must be our friend, from Mao to Kim Jong-il, from Fidel Castro to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad….
The danger of Chavism is not a revival of communism, even though Castro is among its main boosters. Nor should anti-Americanism be our main concern. The US can take care of itself. What needs to be resisted, not just in Latin America, is the new form of populist authoritarianism….
The left has a proud tradition of defending political freedoms, at home and abroad. But this tradition is in danger of being lost when western intellectuals indulge in power worship. Applause for autocrats undermines the morale of people who insist on fighting for their freedoms. Leftists were largely sympathetic, and rightly so, to critics of Berlusconi [of Italy] and Thaksin [of Thailand], even though neither was a dictator. Both did, of course, support American foreign policy. But when democracy is endangered, the left should be equally hard on rulers who oppose the U.S. Failure to do so encourages authoritarianism everywhere, including in the West itself, where the frivolous behaviour of a dogmatic left has already allowed neoconservatives to steal all the best lines.
Left only a brand. Buruma’s point is so sharp it is painfully sad. The pseudo-liberals have taken control of the Left brand name so thoroughly that they feel free to label Right-wing dictators as “Left” and pretend that these freedom-snuffers are the vanguard of democratic socialist change.
All people have a right to liberal democracy, but half the world is denied virtually all liberty. The sooner the world is fully free, the safer, more creative and more fulfilled its population will be. The longer the world allows pockets of despotic darkness, the longer we’ll all suffer the drag against progress, and the more likely it is that we’ll see a tyrant apply modern technology to mass destruction.
Let’s ask the celebrity leaders of “the Left”: Which dictators do you believe are the most dangerous to “their people” and the world, and how do you propose ending their tyrannies? Which tyrants should be toppled first, or are revolutions of liberation no longer on the Left’s agenda?
Map of liberation. And let’s be daring here. Let’s not name Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf or Saudi Arabia’s King Abdallah, just because those autocratic leaders happen to be temporary allies of the United States. Removing them right now obviously would sabotage the chances of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If “the Left” can’t name one anti-U.S. dictator it would do something to remove, then it has surrendered to tyranny. If its leaders can’t map a road to global freedom, they have given up trying.
If they can’t distinguish between freedom and repression, if they worship power for power’s sake, they are the Right.