Failures of the Western Left

by Andre Vltchek

It is tough to fight any real war. And it takes true guts, discipline and determination to win it.
For years and decades, the so-called ‘left’ in the West has been moderately critical of North American (and sometimes even of European) imperialism and neo-colonialism. But whenever some individual or country rose up and began openly challenging the Empire, most of the Western left-wing intellectuals simply closed their eyes, and refused to offer their full, unconditional support to those who were putting their lives (and often even the existence of their countries) on the line.
I will never forget all those derogatory punches directed at Hugo Chavez, punches coming from members of the ‘anti-Communist left’, after he dared to insult George W. Bush at the United Nations in 2006, calling him a “devil” and choking, theatrically, from the sulfur that was still ‘hanging in the air’ after the US President’s appearance at the General Assembly.
I will not be dropping names here, but readers would be surprised if they knew how many of those iconic leaders of the US left described Chavez and his speech as ‘impolite’, ‘counter-productive’, and even ‘insulting’.
Tens of millions of people have died because of Western imperialism, after WWII. Under the horrid leadership of George W Bush, Afghanistan and Iraq have been reduced to ruins… But one has to remain ‘polite’, ‘objective’ and cool headed?
Well, that is not how real revolutions have been ignited. This is not how the successful anti-colonialist wars are fought. When the real battle begins, ‘politeness’ is actually mostly unacceptable, simply because the oppressed masses are endlessly pissed off, and they want their feelings to be registered and expressed by the leaders. Even the search for ‘objectivity’ is often out of place, when still fragile revolutions have to face the entire monumental hostile propaganda of the regime – of the Empire.
But the question is: do most of the Western leftists really support revolutions and anti-colonialist struggles of the oppressed world?
I believe they don’t. And this is clearly visible from reading most of the so-called alternative media in both North America and Europe.
Whoever stands up, whoever leads his nation into battle against the Western global dictatorship, is almost immediately defined as a demagogue. He or she is most likely christened ‘undemocratic’, and not just by the mass and ‘liberal’ media, but also on the pages of the so-called ‘alternative’ and ‘progressive’ Western press. Not all, but some, and frankly: most of it!
Chavez actually received very little support from Western ‘left-wing’ intellectuals. And now when Venezuela is bleeding, the ‘Bolivarian Republic’ can only count on a handful of revolutionary Latin American nations, as well as on China, Iran and Russia; definitely not on the robust, organized and militant solidarity from Western countries.
Cuba received even less support than Venezuela. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, no attempt was actually made by Western leftists to bail the heroic nation out. It was China, in the end, which ran to its rescue and saved Cuban socialism. (When I wrote about it, I got hundreds of Western leftists at my throat, and in the end it took Fidel to confirm, in his ‘Reflections’, what I was saying, to get them off my back). Then, when the Obama administration began making dangerous advances on Havana, almost everyone in the West began screwing those cynical grimaces: ‘you see; now everything will collapse! They will buy Cuba!’ They didn’t. I travelled to the beloved green island, and it was so clear from the first moment there, that the ‘revolution is not for sale’. But you will not read it often in the Western ‘progressive’ media.


It is of course not just Latin America that is ‘disliked’ by the progressives in the West. Actually, Latin America is still at least getting some nominal support there.
China and Russia, two powerful nations, which are now standing openly against Western imperialism, are despised by virtually all ‘liberals’ and by most of the Western ‘left’. In those circles, there is total ignorance about the Chinese type of democracy, about its ancient culture, and about it’s complex but extremely successful form of Communism (or calls it ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’). Like parrots, the Western leftists repeat ‘liberal’ propaganda that ‘China is being capitalist’, or that it is being ruled by ‘state capitalism’. The internationalism of Chinese foreign policy is constantly played down, even mocked.
The hostility of the Western ‘left’ towards China has disgusted many Chinese leaders and intellectuals. I only realized the extent of this revulsion, when I spoke, last year, at the First World Cultural Forum in Beijing, and mingled with the thinkers at the China Academy of Social Sciences, the right (intellectual) arm of the government and the Party.
China can count on its allies in Russia, Latin America, Africa and elsewhere, but definitely not in the West.
It is pointless to even mention Russia or South Africa.
Russia, ‘the victim’ during the horrid Yeltsin years was ‘embraced’ by the Western left. Russia the warrior, Russia the adversary to Western imperialism, is, once again, loathed.
It appears that the ‘progressives’ in the United States and Europe really prefer ‘victims’. They can, somehow, feel pity and even write a few lines about the ‘suffering of defenseless women and children’ in the countries that the West is plundering and raping. That does not extend to all countries that are being brutalized, but at least to some…
What they don’t like at all, are strong men and women that have decided to fight: to defend their rights, to face the Empire.
The Syrian government is hated. The North Korean government is despised. The President of the Philippines is judged by Western liberal media measures: as a vulgar freak who is killing thousands of ‘innocent’ drug pushers and consumers (definitely not as a possibly new Sukarno who is willing to send the entire West to hell).
Whatever the Western ‘left’ thinks about North Korea and its government (and in fact, I think, it cannot really think much, as it is fully ignorant about it), the main reason why the DPRK is hated so much by the West regime, is because it, together with Cuba, basically liberated Africa. It fought for the freedom of Angola and Namibia, it flew Egyptian MIGs against Israel, it struggled in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) as well as in many other countries, and it sent aid, teachers and doctors to the entire continent devastated by the Western colonialist barbarity.
Much good it received in return! At best, indifference, at worse, total spite!


Some say that the Western ‘left’ doesn’t want to take power, anymore. It lost all of its important battles. It became toothless, impotent, and angry about the world and itself.
When in January 2016 I spoke at the Italian Parliament (ending up insulting the West for its global plunder, hypocrisy), I mingled a lot with the 5 Star Movement, which had actually invited me to Rome. I spent time with its radical left wing. There are some great people there, but overall, it soon became clear that this potentially the biggest political movement in the country is actually horrified of coming to power! It does not really want to govern.
But then, why call those weak bizarre selfish Western entities – the ‘left wing’? Why confuse terms, and by that, why discredit those true revolutionaries, those true fighters, who are risking, sacrificing their lives, right now, all over the world?


Wars are all extremely ugly. I have covered many of them, and I know… But some of them, those that are fought for the survival of humanity, or for survival of the particular countries, are inevitable. One either fights, or the entire Planet ends up being colonized and oppressed, in shackles.
If one decides to fight, then there has to be discipline and single-mindedness; total determination. Or the battle is lost from the very beginning!
When the freedom and survival of one’s motherland is at stake, things get very serious, ‘dead-serious’. Battle is not a discussion club. It is not some chat.
If we, as ‘leftists’, have already once decided that imperialism and colonialism (or ‘neo-colonialism’) are the greatest evils destroying our humanity, then we have to show discipline and join ranks, and support those who are at the frontline.
Otherwise we will become an irrelevant laughingstock, and history will and should judge us harshly!

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. Discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.


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Oct 8, 2016 2:58 AM

*This will be my 3rd time posting this. I was about to give up (and put it up on my blog in the ‘disappeared’ category) hen OG got back to me about it and informed me that it wasn’t them. They said that too many links leads to moderation and a message informing he poster of that fact. But I saw nothing at all after hitting send, both times. Just to move this along, I’ll post one more time, but with all the links removed.
This is a very interesting, and disturbing, article by Andre. I completely agree with him. And completely disagree with him. He’s absolutely right, from the standpoint of one who doesn’t possess faith and thinks – like Noam Chomsky, with whom he wrote “On Western Terrorism” – that unless we (imperfect, limited) human beings heal humankind and the planet that we’ve fairly destroyed, then salvation won’t happen. I don’t hold it against Andre. (But I also don’t speak for God in matters of judgement.) I can’t really think that God would object to people, who are pushed to the point where they are being deprived of life (not just Starbucks), using force to lift off the boot of the oppressors/attackers. Jesus himself wasn’t a pacifist, contrary to what some say. He just didn’t see it as his time to fight, as we understand fighting. (He will fight, soon, but I resist the urge to project onto him my limited, imperfect human understanding. Armageddon will indeed be a ‘battle’ between good and evil, between God and his chief adversary and all those who follow that adversary. What will that look like? I don’t know. When I watch Luke Cage or some such fantasy, I can’t wait till the hero kicks some ass because that’s how I’ve been conditioned to think by this world. I don’t think that it makes me evil. But I note the effect.)
“I will not be dropping names here, but readers would be surprised if they knew how many of those iconic leaders of the US left described Chavez and his speech as ‘impolite’, ‘counter-productive’, and even ‘insulting’.” Andre’s dropping of names would be a bit difficult for him, I’m sure. His one-time co-author, Noam Chomsky, was one of those who was unimpressed with Chavez’s ‘Devil’ speech. I sort of went along with that objection by Chomsky, but not enthusiastically. My instinct was not to. Andre just jogged me awake to what I really feel and think about Chomsky’s soft comment about Chavez. It’s not the first time Chomsky dumped on the man. No Chavez wasn’t perfect. Reportedly, He truly failed to show solidarity (later on in his political life) with oppressed and abused people outside of Venezuela (opponents and critics of Colombia’s rightwing government and Honduran victims of the coupist government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa), even as he inspired them and received their support. See James Petras’s (Canadian Dimension magazine) article titled “Chavez’s Right Turn: State Realism Versus International Solidarity.”
Andre’s article reminds me of another article I read recently on the Common Dreams website, namely “The Debate: They Both Bombed It” by Robert Koehler. Koehler’s very good point is that Trump’s style, which includes using grenade-like language, is what accounts for his popularity (however great that is). I pondered that and concluded that there’s no reason that there can’t be a left-wing version of Trump. That is, I think that there would be one (in politics) if so many leftists weren’t somewhat or completely fake. (I see that in the alt media as well. I used to believe in so many orgs and writers who, eventually, revealed their true colors. And some, like Sanders, do use grenade-like language, but the walk doesn’t match the talk, which we will see become soft, or collaborationist, with time.) I don’t know Al Franken’s voting record (I haven’t yet looked into it), but I’m curious. Jesse Ventura made the obvious point about Al Franken when he was asked what his fellow Minnesotan’s ascendance to the Senate might mean for their state: “I don’t know. He’ll be a Democrat. You’re talking to the high priest of the third-party movement… It’s just another Democrat, in my opinion.”
“The leftwing version of a thunderous, fascist Trump-like character would be one who could, unlike a Donald Trump, mix his grenade-like language with facts and stats. That would be the difference. He would sound much like Bernie Sanders but would be genuine and would walk his (or…) talk. Bernie Sanders was only ever outside the Democratic Party establishment ‘officially’, as others have noted.” – my response to the Common Dreams article by Robert Koehler titled “The Debate: They Both Bombed It” (http://bit.ly/2e0EDOw). As for Bernie’s fake outsider status, See Paul Street’s CounterPunch article titled “Ruling Class Games And Qualifications: On And Beyond The Bernie-Hillary Spat.”
Also, Yes there’s demonization by the US of target countries – because of resistance to US domination and also because of the potential challenge that a powerful state poses to US domination – and that demonization includes exaggerations. I think we should stick to pointing those out ‘and’ to being specific in the process. I think we should stick to facts rather than engage in our own demonization (of demons), ‘if’ that demonization includes exaggeration, which isn’t truth. China? Where you can’t have a free internet and had better be careful about using words like ‘democracy’? Andre might find this passage from James Petras’s Canadian Dimension article (linked to above) interesting:
In the mid-1970’s, the Peoples Republic of China’s ‘reconciliation’ with the US, led to a turn in international policy: ‘US imperialism’ became an ally against the greater evil ‘Soviet social imperialism’. As a result China, under Chairman Mao Tse Tung, urged its international supporters to denounce progressive regimes receiving Soviet aid (Cuba, Vietnam, Angola, etc.) and it withdrew its support for revolutionary armed resistance against pro-US client states in Southeast Asia. China’s ‘pact’ with Washington was to secure immediate ‘state interests’: Diplomatic recognition and the end of the trade embargo. Mao’s short-term commercial and diplomatic gains were secured by sacrificing the more fundamental strategic goals of furthering socialist values at home and revolution abroad.
As a result, China lost its credibility among Third World revolutionaries and anti-imperialists, in exchange for gaining the good graces of the White House and greater access to the capitalist world market. Short-term ‘pragmatism’ led to long-term transformation: The Peoples Republic of China became a dynamic emerging capitalist power, with some of the greatest social inequalities in Asia and perhaps the world.

Oct 6, 2016 7:39 PM

Of course Cuba was bailed out by the West. When Cuba defaulted on its debts in 1986, its borrowings from European banks was the highest per capita in Latin America. Castro had fooled the bankers into gifting his revolution billions. Then later Cuba only emerged from the so-called ‘Special Period’, because of the money sent home by the 2 million Cubans that live and work abroad, mainly in the US and Europe, and because of the money brought into the country by the tourists from Canada and Europe. If Mr Vltchek thinks the ‘revolution is not for sale’, then he clearly doesn’t understand what a lot of women are saying to him. Finally and most remarkably are the imports from the US. A Cuban in Havana is likely to buy bread made from wheat grown in Kansas and pay for it with money earned in Miami. Of course, neither the Cuban nor the US Government want to admit this, because both governments prefer to keep the Cuban people subjugated.

Oct 4, 2016 8:11 PM

Coincidentally, I was just thinking about this; whatever happened to the Left? Why no demonstrations against the attack on Syria? The almost absolute absence in the corporate media of any serious critical voices has a lot to do with it. People who used to get their stuff published; like Pilger, Ali, Hersh, have been vanished, almost exciled from our media. So people don’t know what’s really happening there. There are no alternative views allowed anymore, and the Guardian is leading the war hysteria, not questioning it, so huge swathes of liberal/left opinion is effectively neutered. The coverage is far, far, worse than before the attack on Iraq, which compared to today was a time of wonderfully open and vigerous debate. Of course, what the powerful learned from this, was that it should never be allowed to happen again. Which, is rather depressing.
I think the central problem, not just for the left, is that not enough of our soldiers are being killed in these wars. That seems to make all the difference. The problem with Vietnam was that too many Americans were dying and from respectable, hard-working, decent families and many of them middle class ones too. Having one’s darling son come home in a box, tends to focus the mind of what’s going on. It wasn’t that one was particularly concerned with the mass barbaric slaughter of the Vietnamese victims, it was the American casualties that hurt. Since Vietnam things have changed radically. The Draft, or conscription, was phased out, something I now deeply regret supporting, and the Army has become professionalised and the middle class aren’t dying in large numbers anymore.
Today, increasingly we’re using proxy armies, like IS and the employment of mercenaries has exploded. Most people have no idea that the State Department is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on mercenary armies in Afghanistan and Iraq and these contracts are very, very, lucrative indeed for the western corporations involved.
The crux is that we don’t care how many foreigners are killed, as long as our loses are kept low, and the military knows this, and we don’t have any idea how many are being killed, and we probably prefer it that way; wars are so fucking… unpleasant. Most people are stunned if one mentions the real deathtoll from the long attack on Iraq. No, luv, it’s not thousands. It’s millions. Half a Holocaust, and saying that, can get you banned from the Guardian!

Oct 4, 2016 7:18 PM

I’ve read many of Vltchek’s articles over at CounterPunch website. At first he comes across as an original thinker on the left: he travels to far away lands, to countries far and wide, covering the cause of Communism, anti-imperialism, etc. He writes passionately, boldly. But last summer he wrote some really nasty articles about Czechs being collaborators with the Nazis–I mean really raking them over the coals and most definitely inaccurately so. This was during the height of the Ukraine conflict and that US military convoy from Poland to Germany. I sent him an email politely questioning the accuracy of his claims about the Czechs being avid collaborators with the Nazis and–kaboom!–he became totally unhinged making shit up, putting words in my mouth, etc. My complaint with this guy is he acts like he’s the left’s man, a revolutionary of some type….but if you dare to question him he can get very hostile, very quickly–not even making any sense. Or let me put it this way: this article is about “failures of the western left”. For Vltchek this means he wants leftists to pull together and for example help out Cuba after the fall of Communism; but ironically Mr Vltchek personifies the real problem with today’s left: the inability to work together, to put minor differences aside; the constant infighting and bickering between different left camps. And why the hostility to someone questioning your articles? He will have none of it if you don’t agree with him speaking from personal experience. Enjoy his piss and vinegar articles, but not so sure Mr Vltchek is the left’s man to tell the left how to organize itself. He’s not so much of a ‘we’ man; but rather a bit more of a self-promoting ‘me’ man. Just being honest.

kevin morris
kevin morris
Oct 4, 2016 5:27 PM

I have studied of china for many years. The country doesn’t have a complex form of communism; rather it is a dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party over the Chinese people. The state offers none of the benefits that left- leading states might be expected to offer to their people, such as free housing, free medical treatment, free education, generous unemployment and sickness benefits and old age pensions. The huge banking reserves that China seemed intent on lending to the rest of the world only exist because the Chinese, fearing penury without the support of a benevolent state, save much more than others. China has a moribund legal system and many of its corrupt apparachiks are able to take advantage of the fact as those held in prison without charge after protesting corrupt land deals often discover to their cost.
China treats Tibetans whose lands it has occupied illegally since 1950 with the sort of contempt that is on a par with the United States’ treatment of those in Latin America and the Middle East. China is engaged in policies that are causing serious ecological damage to the Changtang- the Tibetan Plateau and to the rivers of South East Asia.
Most of those Chinese who are concerned at their government’s policies remain silent for fear of the real and often dire consequences of political dissent. Meanwhile, the general population for many of whom the disasters of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and Tiannmen Square are still painful, if only as memories gained as children on their mother’s knee, remain relatively sanguine providing the CCP’s policies remain successful and there is no return to the sort of policies that Mao espoused.
Contrary to the view expressed above, It strikes me that the left are all too sanguine about the China. Whilst one can understand that the west has been all too happy to do business with the China, the left’s silence on the country’s human rights abuses are a cause for concern.

Oct 4, 2016 7:57 PM
Reply to  kevin morris

Human rights? Theresa May just announced European human rights rules do not apply on the battlefield; one might rather think that the battlefield is where human rights are most needed. France opted out of the European Court of Human Rights altogether in november 2015. In Italy asylum seekers no longer have the right to appeal. In Austria the right for asylum is limited to 35.000 requests per year.
Soon the concept of human rights will only be a distant memory.

Kenneth Lindemere
Kenneth Lindemere
Oct 4, 2016 9:16 PM
Reply to  passerby

Human rights is just a catch-phrase that’s used by the West to justify the wars that oppress dissenting opinions and steal the valuable resources of the world’s less fortunate.

kevin morris
kevin morris
Oct 5, 2016 11:09 AM
Reply to  passerby

So you conflate the position here with that in China do you?
I suggest that you have exercised your human rights by expressing your opinions freely and in a public medium. Had you done so in China there is a good chance that you would have met with official harassment at the very least and the real possibility of a long jail sentence..
There really is no comparison. As I have said above, the left in the West tend to be sanguine about China. Given their dangerously damaging environmental policies in Tibet, their appalling treatment of minorities and their cruel, barbaric and often totally arbitrary treatment of offenders I remain extremely surprised at the ignorance on such matters when it comes to the response of those all to ready to criticise aciions in their own countries.
Of course, human rights abuses in the west are reprehensible and need condemning but there is no reason they should be ignored when they take place in China.

Oct 4, 2016 12:54 PM

western left fall begun during 80ties, when leaders of left-wing parties realised that there was far more money from oligarchs and tycoons than from donations and membership fees…they had to modify their ideology a bit – turned their backs to working class, and embraced lgbt and radical feminist “genderism” ideology…

Oct 4, 2016 12:34 PM

There is no such thing as a liberal (moderate, timid, obedient, …) left. Because these bastardised spawns are just right’s (e. g. capitalism’s) servants. Maybe, some of us will not like this idea. Get used to it, then.

Feb 19, 2021 6:48 AM
Reply to  Nerevar

Half a Holocaust, and saying that, can get you banned from the Guardian! wobble man casual fun game

Oct 4, 2016 11:13 AM

When I was a kid, Jesuit priests tried to convince me I was a sinner because Eve ate an apple, long before I was born.
A couple of weeks ago, someone tried to convince me we needed to accept refugees. He told me I was guilty because of colonial crimes committed in Africa, long before I was born.
We’ve gone a long way if we can’t tell the difference anymore between a Jesuit priest and a left-wing sympathizer.

Seamus Padraig
Seamus Padraig
Oct 4, 2016 6:11 PM
Reply to  cliff

Yup. Political Correctness is our new civic religion, and being white is the new original sin.

Oct 4, 2016 8:21 AM

Speaking from a realist perspective the ‘left’, albeit a rather nebulous concept, is nonetheless guilty of a nauseating sentimentalism which has proven to be a vital tool for the imperialists. From their perspective, the world consists of ‘nice’ countries or ‘nasty’ countries (usually) referred to as ‘regimes’. And the nasty/backward regimes should be summarily dealt with by the nice/enlightened ones. Soft power, hard power if this fails. Mass murder is okay and well as a general destabilisation of the global order in order to bring the American dream to the benighted masses outside of the US global empire, who are apparently yearning to be like America.
Actually, it really doesn’t, and shouldn’t matter, what the internal systems of governance of any sovereign nation state are, provided that they do not threaten another sovereign nation’s vital interests. As far as I am concerned the internal affairs of Mali or Papua New Guinea (where I believe they practice cannibalism) should be a matter of complete indifference as far as my country’s foreign policy is concerned. Putin can eat babies for breakfast, but as long as he doesn’t threaten any other countries – outside of Russia’s sphere of influence, yes it does have one – he’s okay with me; moreover, we should develop and maintain diplomatic relations with other states who are similarly disposed to us.
But according to our ‘leftist’ world improvers we should actively intervene in the internal affairs of other sovereign states, this is not only a right bestowed from heaven but an actual duty. This is a useful cover for blatant imperialism, to engage in regime change genocide and the general destabilisation of the global order. It was the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 which ended the wars of the Reformation and attempted to infuse the global (European) order with some sort of order and peace. But this system is now considered passe by the reactionary post-modernist cliques, both the centre-left and centre-right elites now ensconced in the political and media institutions. I don’t know who said it but this lunacy is best summed up in the following. ”The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’

Oct 4, 2016 5:54 AM

Reblogged this on EU: Ramshackle Empire and commented:
The whole of politics has been shifting to the right in the west. Even in Sweden this is so, neutral still but leaning towards America. Yet global hegemony is in decline everywhere, and it is only a matter of time before the balance shifts decisively in favour of Russia and China.