European Fellow Travelers Refuse to Criticize Venezuelan Dictator

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro meets with officials in Caracas, February 19, 2015
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro meets with officials in Caracas, February 19, 2015 (Prensa Miraflores)

Seventeen Latin American nations, including those run by leftists, agree Venezuela is now a “dictatorship” under Nicolás Maduro.

For most of his presidency, Maduro has ruled by decree. When the opposition won a majority of the seats in parliament, he replaced it with a Constituent Assembly full of cronies. Critical lawmakers have been arrested. A “truth commission” is being established to investigate thoughtcrimes. Instead of seeing high crime and low growth rates as evidence of the failure of Venezuela’s socialist experiment, the crude and homophobic Maduro entertains anti-American and anticapitalist conspiracy theories.

Yet left-wing admirers of Hugo Chávez will not see his heirs for the thugs they have become. Read more

Sánchez Makes Good on Promise to Move Spain’s Socialists to the Left

Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016
Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)

Pedro Sánchez is making good on his promise to move Spain’s Socialist Party to the left.

In the clearest sign yet of a new program, the Socialists refused to vote for a European trade pact with Canada in the national legislature last week.

Their deputies in the European Parliament did endorse the treaty when it came up for a vote there in February.

The ruling conservatives managed to ratify the treaty anyway with support from smaller parties in the center. But the Socialists’ abstention is a sign of things to come. Read more

Does the British Election Mean Anything for America?

British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27
British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

As always, yes and no.

Yes, because the ideology of austerity-driven neoliberalism, that which is championed by Theresa May’s suddenly flailing government, is a major component of the ruling Republican Party in the United States. It’s what Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, believes in: cuts to public services to benefit the private market.

Yes, because Brexit, the alt-right-driven anti-immigrant, anti-globalization geopolitical self-harm project is propelled by the same forces that elected the current head of the Republican Party, Donald Trump.

But also no. Read more

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Is Not the French Bernie Sanders

France's Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015
France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015 (European Parliament)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s late surge in the French presidential election has invited comparison with the unexpected success of Bernie Sanders in last year’s Democratic primary in the United States.

The comparison is not altogether off in the sense that Mélenchon’s rise is largely due to the unpopularity of technocratic socialism under the incumbent president, François Hollande. Sanders’ candidacy similarly reflected a disillusionment in the centrist incrementalism of Hillary Clinton.

But there is no comparing the policies of the French candidate, who is backed by the Communist Party, to those of the senator from Vermont, whose views would be mainstream in France. Read more

Another Anti-EU and Anti-NATO Candidate Rises in France

France's Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 2015
France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 2015 (European Parliament)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, France’s far-left presidential candidate, has pulled within striking distance of qualifying for the second voting round in May.

Mélenchon shares third place with the center-right Republican candidate, François Fillon, in recent polls.

But whereas Fillon’s support has been stable for months, Mélenchon’s has surged from a low of 12 percent a few weeks ago to just under 20 percent today. Read more

The Future of the Middle East is Turkey, Iran and Islamic Socialism

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders is shown a map of Turkey in Ankara, January 6, 2015
Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders is shown a map of Turkey in Ankara, January 6, 2015 (BZ/Aad Meijer)

It may not seem it, what with the Islamic State’s suicide bombers lashing out, Israeli soldiers shooting wounded Palestinians and the war in Yemen grinding on, but the Middle East’s broad new outlines are starting to show.

They appear in front of the Turkish tanks on their way to Raqqa; in the brightly-lit press conferences of the White House; in the ballot printing factories of Tehran and in the banks of Dubai.

They are both a return to history and step further into it. Nation states founded on the borders of great empires are reasserting themselves and the assault on neoliberal economics will give way to Islamist socialism. Read more

Purists Hurt Left’s Chances in France, Could Do Same in Italy

Enrico Rossi, the president of Tuscany, addresses a plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels, June 15, 2016
Enrico Rossi, the president of Tuscany, addresses a plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels, June 15, 2016 (EU/Tim De Backer)

It doesn’t look like the two left-wing contenders for the French presidency will be able to do a deal.

I wrote here a few days ago that Benoît Hamon, the mainstream Socialist Party candidate, and the far left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon could have bested the French center. A left-wing unity ticket would qualify for the second voting round in May, according to the latest polls. Marine Le Pen of the National Front is expected to qualify as well. Forced to choose between a leftist and a nativist, a majority of French voters would likely opt for the former.

But neither Hamon nor Mélenchon is willing to play second fiddle, as a result of which the left won’t stand a chance. Read more