In 2011, the former European colonial powers, backed by the United States, with the complicity of the United Nations, worked with minority opposition forces to overthrow legitimate governments in Libya, Syria and the Ivory Coast. They trashed the very international law and basic human rights they cynically proclaimed to defend. In 1961, the Belgian and U.S. governments colluded directly in the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s elected Prime Minister.
Venezuela's Violent Right-Wing
No one should be surprised at how easily the majority of progressive opinion in the West is intimidated by bullying from the mainstream. The overwhelming majority of progressive Western media outlets and intellectuals either accepted or openly supported Western aggression and intervention in 2011, as if they had learned nothing in the 50 years following the martyrdom of Patrice Lumumba. The 2011 events faithfully re-enacted the catastrophe of the Congo 50 years earlier.
Subsequently, that country has suffered over five million deaths from civil war and foreign intervention, a holocaust shamefully ignored internationally. Similarly, the destruction of Libya and Syria have provoked catastrophic human suffering with millions displaced and hundreds of thousands killed. Now, the U.S. elites and their allies are applying the age old formula of 1961 and 2011 to Venezuela. What still passes for the Western Left should be ferociously defending Venezuela’s right to self-determination.
Instead, less blatantly than in 2011, majority progressive opinion has crumbled and folded against the same old imperialist psychological warfare offensive used against every imperialist target since the end of WWII. Most progressive comments on Venezuela implicitly validate corporate media spin that, as in Syria, Venezuela’s opposition can be neatly segmented into moderates and extremists when in fact the main opposition leaders refuse dialogue.
With great restraint, President Nicolas Maduro has banned the use of lethal force and persisted in efforts at negotiation. Extensive Western media coverage falsely promotes an image of government repression in Venezuela in sharp contrast to their failure in 2009 to cover murderous government repression in Honduras of massive peaceful protests against the country’s coup regime. Those protests lasted over four months, much longer than the Venezuelan opposition’s latest prolonged coup attempt. But events in Honduras received nothing like the coverage of the current crisis in Venezuela. Western media soft-pedalled events in Honduras because the U.S. authorities supported the coup, one they hope to see repeated in Venezuela.
Despite that self-evident fact, Western progressive opinion has effectively caved in to the false mainstream corporate media narrative that the Venezuelan opposition offensive is a legitimate one against a dictatorial government. That moral and political collapse makes itself evident in many ways.
The latest example in Europe is the illegal summary dismissal by a leading Swedish progressive media outlet of its most experienced journalist writing on Latin America, Dick Emanuelsson. Dick has covered Latin American news for over 35 years for the Flamman weekly. Based for many years in Bogota before moving to Tegucigalpa in 2006 where he works with his partner Mirian, Dick’s reports cover all of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Very clearly, Flamman’s decision is blatantly political and should certainly be seen in the context of the Swedish authorities’ support for U.S. attempts to censor Wikileaks in the case of Julian Assange. In Emanuelsson’s case, the decision will surprise no one with any experience with the phony progressive non-governmental and media sector in Western Europe and North America.
Just as Western governments trample human rights while claiming to defend them, so Western non-governmental sector managers abuse basic rights when it suits them. Obviously, Flamman’s editors can no longer accommodate Emanuelsson’s uncompromising support for radical political and social movements in Latin America because it conflicts with received wisdom in Sweden.
Emanuelsson is among the very few European reporters with a lifetime’s experience of reporting on Latin America and one of only a handful writing as revolutionaries. Over the years, his work on Colombia relentlessly exposed the paramilitary and narcotics links of Colombia’s ruling elite. He was practically the only European reporter writing first hand about the FARC-EP’s guerrilla struggle against successive corrupt genocidal Colombian governments and the persistent efforts of the Colombian guerrilla to work for peace.
Similarly, following the 2009 coup in Honduras, Dick and Mirian fearlessly reported the events of the coup itself, the murderous repression of the peaceful protest movement and the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Subsequently, along with a few North American activists, they have worked in constant solidarity with Honduran activists and reporters documenting the corrupt regimes of Porfirio Lobo and Juan Orlando Hernandez.
But now, the supposedly progressive editors of one of Sweden’s leading labor media outlets ignominiously dismissed Emanuelsson two years before retirement, despite his unique record of commitment and achievement.
In order to fire Emanuelsson, Flamman's editor blew out of proportion minor errors made in relation to a task that only takes up about 10 percent of his overall agreed workload, totally disregarding the Swedish Law of Employment's Protection – an odd thing to do for a media outlet that regards itself as a defender of worker's rights. No criticisms about his regular feature reports on Latin America nor about his overall coverage were issued. In fact, no such criticisms against his work have ever been made in almost 35 years!
The paper's readership has always regarded Emanuelsson's work as exemplary reporting unavailable elsewhere. On the basis of their flimsy pretext and ignoring his impressive track record, Flamman tried to dismiss him with no compensation. The flagrant illegality of the dismissal notice under Swedish labor law is beyond dispute. When his union intervened, Flamman upped their offer to a measly four month's salary, a recompense adding insult to the injury of chronic insecurity.
Flamman is an ostensibly left-wing weekly associated with the former VPK Left Communist political party which years ago aligned with acceptable pro-imperialist opinion in Sweden. That realignment is part of the general drift to the right in Europe which has seen the neo-fascist Sverigedemokraterna party become the second most popular in the country. Rather than fight that drift, many former communists and other progressives in Sweden have accommodated to it. That reality is clear from the support of most progressive opinion in Sweden for NATO’s role in the destruction of Libya and Syria and the decline in solidarity with Cuba.
Domestically, Flamman’s treatment of Emanuelsson reflects the accommodation of Swedish former communists with the neoliberal agenda of Sweden’s business sector. Like so many phony progressives across Western Europe, Flamman’s editors talk excitedly about Podemos in Spain, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor Party in the U.K. or even Syriza in Greece.
But their real commitments reveal themselves in the practice they apply to cases like that of Emanuelsson. People may or may not agree with the politics of his reporting any more than they have to agree with the politics of Julian Assange, but basic justice demands we should defend their fundamental human rights.