Venezuelan Democracy and Capitalist Hysteria

Anyone who follows political events in Venezuela knows that the government of Hugo Chavez narrowly lost a referendum to reform the constitution. If you read the American press, though, you’d have a hard time understanding anything more than that.

Mainstream U.S. media have consistently portrayed Chavez as a “would-be dictator” and and “authoritarian”. Never mind that he has consistently won elections that outside observers called free and fair. The run-up to the referendum was no different: see here for a New York Times editorial about Chavez’s “plan to become president for life”. Never mind that if you look at the actual referendum, you see that what was being proposed was merely to eliminate term limits for the President. I guess this means that by the standards of the Times, France, which also does not term-limit its Presidents, is a scary emerging dictatorship.

When Chavez lost the referendum, he graciously congratulated his opposition and accepted defeat (which is better than you can say for some recent American elections I could name). This puts his detractors in an odd position: on the one hand they would like to celebrate the defeat as a repudiation of Chavez’s left-wing “Bolivarian revolution”. On the other hand, it’s hard to portray someone as a crazed authoritarian when they are willing to calmly accept electoral defeat. The events surrounding the referendum certainly make people like Timescolumnist Roger Cohen–who compared Chavez to fascist dictator Francisco Franco–look pretty silly.

I’m generally supportive of Chavez and his Bolivarian movement, although they are certainly not without their flaws. But I’m not enough of an expert to be able to say for sure what the defeat of the referendum means. My impression is that the referendum itself was a mix of some good ideas and some bad ones, and that it was probably a political mistake to mix so many proposals together in a single package. If Chavez and his allies take their defeat as an opportunity to reflect on their mistakes and correct their errors, then the defeat could turn out to be a positive development for them and for the Venezuelan people. In particular, maybe this will move the Bolivarians away from a reliance on Chavez and his personal charismatic leadership, which has always seemed like a weakness of the movement to me.

  • Venezuela Analysis, a website that provides news and analysis from a pro-Chavista perspective.
  • Znet, which has a "country watch" on Venezuela.
  • Tariq Ali, who is usually a trustworthy analyst, has an article up about the referendum.
  • Robin Hahnel, the left-wing economist, has another take.

That's just for starters. Anyone with additional sources, please leave them in the comments.

UPDATE: The Nation has a forum on Venezuela up on their site.  The pieces by Weisbrot and Grandin are especially recommended


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Revolution at the Crossroads: Igniting the Socialist Resistance Against Trump

February 17, 2017 · $20.00 USD

Location: MayDay Space
Where: 176 St Nicholas Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
When: Friday, February 17th at 6 PM to Sunday, February 19th to 4 PM

Political Context

This Presidents’ Day weekend, the Young Democratic Socialists will gather for our annual winter conference in New York City titled Revolution at the Crossroads: Igniting the Socialist Resistance Against Trump. We did not choose the name lightly. In doing so, we call for leftists to collectively confront Trump and Trumpism at every possible opportunity. When a Trump administration attempts mass deportations of undocumented workers, when it attempts to register Muslims or roll back worker protections, when it attempts to take away reproductive, LGTBQ, civil, or any other rights, then we must militantly resist to prevent such measures.

To succeed, this must be explicitly socialist resistance. With liberalism having repeatedly shown itself incapable of combating the far right, it is now the time for socialists to openly declare our place in building the mass, multi-racial, and working class movement necessary for defeating the Trump administration. In this struggle, millennials will play an outsized role. That is why this conference comes at such a critical time—together we must create spaces for democratic and strategic discussion, spaces to gain organizing skills, and most importantly, spaces to form networks of young radicals for the future struggles ahead. These spaces will only come together if socialists come together. Join us this Presidents Weekend and help ignite the movement to defeat the Trump administration, continue the political revolution, and build the socialist alternative.

Key Deadlines

  • January 8th: Travel Scholarship for Air Travel (for application see below)
  • January 15th: Travel Scholarship for Non-Air Travel (ex: bus, car, train, etc.)
  • February 3rd: Early Bird Registration Ends - Tickets prices go up from $5 to $10
  • February 10th: Free Housing - We have limited free housing. You need to first register, then you will be sent an application for free housing.

Apply for a travel scholarship here! (First Deadline January 8, 2017)

Check out the working program (subject to change)