The press of course went into high dudgeon, and not just for the obvious reason that it's one thing for opponents in the Middle East to call the United States the Great Satan and another thing for the president of a Latin American country to personally single out its president as Beelzebub, on US soil no less.
I think what really rankled was that Chávez was claiming a privilege that had long belonged to the United States, that is, the right to paint its adversaries not as rational actors but as existential evil. Latin American populists, from Argentina's Juan Perón to, most recently, Chávez, have long served as characters in a story the US tells about itself, reaffirming the maturity of its electorate and the moderation of its political culture. There are at most eleven political prisoners in Venezuela, and that's taking the opposition's broad definition of the term, which includes individuals who worked to overthrow the government in 2002, and yet it is not just the right in this country who regularly compared Chávez to the worst mass murderers and dictators in history. New Yorker critic Alex Ross, in an essay published a few years back celebrating the wunderkind Venezuelan conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, fretted about enjoying the fruits of Venezuela’s much-lauded government-funded system of music training: “Stalin, too, was a great believer in music for the people.”
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Greg Grandin reviews Robin Blackburn’s latest books for the Guardian. Grandin describes Blackburn’s The American Crucible not as “the capstone of an influential career” but rather as “a catching of breath and a continuation of arguments initially made by the great original theorists of the Atlantic World system.” In this monumental new book, Blackburn explores some of the historical conceptions and misconceptions of the complex system which sustained slavery and its economy in the Americas, with a new focus on the Haitian revolution:
The centrepiece of The American Crucible is Blackburn's measured reconstruction of the chronology of the Haitian revolution and its influence on freedom movements in the United States, Spanish America and Brazil, a persuasive rebuttal of scholarly assessments that the revolution was exceptionally bloody or that its leaders instituted a new form of anti-European racism.