Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

This ‘República Bolivariana’, the ‘República Bolivariana de Venezuela’, is in the north of the main South American landmass, bounded on the south by Colombia and Brazil and, to the south and east, by a rather fuzzy contested Amazon border with Guyana. Just off the coast to the east is Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. Caracas, the capital, is on the north coast; this is as much a Caribbean as it is a Latin America country.

This is the ‘Fifth Republic’, named in honour of Simón Bolívar, ‘El Libertador’ who led the independence struggle against Spain at the beginning of the nineteenth century for what is now Venezuela and Bolivia (and also Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama). A Bolivarian republic was declared in a new constitution in 1999 by President Hugo Chávez after his election. Chávez, elected under the rules of the 1961 constitution, convoked a National Constituent Assembly that paved the way for a constitution that was designed to enable wide-ranging changes which were ratified by a referendum soon after. 1999 was, then, a turning point in the history of Venezuela, marking a rapid shift in the balance of power away from the oligarchies that ran the country up to then in what was effectively an oil-producing dependent client-state of the United States.

The question that haunted supporters of Chávez until his death in 2013, and now haunts supporters of his successor Nicolás Maduro, is how far this shift in the balance of power was merely governmental or also economic. The economic factor has always been, of course, a deciding factor in a country marked by huge social divisions between the rich and the poor, between the wealthy inhabitants of parts of the main cities like Caracas, particularly Caracas, and the countryside and barrios which loom up on the mountains that ring the capital city. The middle classes certainly took a hit in the ambitious social programmes that Chávez instituted, but the super-rich have maintained control of the main industries, leading to suspicion that ‘socialism’ has been a sleight of hand; that there has not been so much an overthrow of the bourgeoisie but a mutation of a radical state apparatus that Chávez managed for a while into a corrupt committee of the ‘Boliburgesía’.

What is certain is that whatever concessions Maduro’s government makes now will not be enough for a Venezuelan bourgeoisie so closely tied historically to the US, one keen to rake back the privileges it once had before Chávez’s election. With the help of the enraged middle class which it mobilises in public demonstrations on the streets against Maduro, the diaspora and local bourgeoisie is intent on destroying this regime. It is intent on ridding the country of any pretension that the ‘fifth republic’ had to increase literacy and empower the poor, intent on replacing that fifth republic with something a good deal less ‘bolivarian’. They are smarting from erosion of their power, and all the more so by the formation in 2008 of the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, the PSUV, which is now Maduro’s power-base.

The process of building an alternative power-base for a revolt against the regime has been by way of economic sabotage and threat of invasion by the US, and hopes of breaking the military, turning it from being Maduro’s apparatus into theirs, if necessary through a coup. It is quite understandable that the socialist rhetoric of the regime should be taken at face value by opponents of invasion, supporters of Chávez and Maduro around the world who are willing to overlook all that has gone sour over these last twenty years. But gone sour it has, and mobilisation against sabotage and invasion by imperialism cannot be built on lies. We need to stare the truth in the face.

Before and after Chávez

Before Chávez there was Rafael Caldera, a fairly moderate politician in Venezuelan terms, but ‘moderate’ in this context meant gearing the economy towards the needs of the United States and turning the state forces against those who disrupted the political-economic project of business as usual in a dependent capitalist country.

Caldera was in power when I first visited the country in 1996 to teach a course at UCV, the Universidad Central de Venezuela, where Caldera himself had studied law and political science. UCV was a fairly liberal institution that operated as a resource-base for many of those who resisted the Caldera regime, and was home to radical academic groups influenced by liberation theology who were willing to work with communities in the barrios. People from these communities would sometimes turn up at UCV buildings and ask for help, and I was shown details of one housing project being set up in response to a demand for help, set up by staff in the architecture department.

Those communities in the barrios had risen up, or, rather, flooded down into downtown Caracas in February 1989 during what was known as ‘El Caracazo’. The government had implemented austerity policies demanded by the International Monetary Fund. The diverse legacies of that movement were to be found among supporters of Chávez in his own 1992 coup attempt against the regime before he was eventually elected, an indication of his mass popular support, particularly among the poor. Chávez had already set up the Movimiento Bolivariano Revolucionario 200, MBR-200, which planned that failed coup, and it was this organisation that was to become the Movement for the Fifth Republic in 1997 to support his candidacy in the 1998 presidential election. Resistance was therefore brewing in the widespread discontent with the regime in 1996, but the US and their local aides were still very much in power.

In the hotel where I was staying in Chacao in the centre of Caracas, a big oil-industry guy from Texas told me that he could show me how to make big money. He was in his late fifties maybe and his check shirt struggled to cover his belly. His hair was slicked back over skin that looked like beaten leather. His fingernails curved around the tips of hands that he clapped together above his head as he shouted to the waiter, ‘Boy!’ He wore sunglasses at breakfast, and told me that people would do anything for you in this place if you asked them right; they were liable to be lazy and so you had had to tell them what to do. ‘Yes’, he said, ‘there is money to be made here’, ‘it’s here for the taking’, and, ‘if you’re interested, I can show you how it’s done’. I tried to avoid him, and was thankful he wasn’t there during the second week of my stay when I came back to Caracas after a weekend away in Canaima, back for the second week of teaching.

The teaching was in a tower block a metro-ride away from the hotel, and the School of Psychology of the Universidad Central de Venezuela was accessed through a shopping complex on the ground floor. That’s where we went for a coffee during the breaks, so many kinds of coffee. Most-times I was collected from my hotel and ferried to UCV; when I made my way there one time by metro and walked from the station to the department the teaching staff who had arranged the course I was teaching were horrified. I was warned time and again that the city was violent, including the area around the department.

It was a city built on oil, and the car was king, choking the urban centres and making walking hazardous. The district mayor of Chacao, where I was staying, was Irene Sáez who had been Miss Universe in 1981, and made the police on traffic duty wear white gloves, a sign of what a nice clean and safe place it was in contrast to other parts of the city. It was cute, and treated as a bit of joke by my hosts. (Irene Sáez is not to be confused with the 1996 winner, Alicia Machado, who was weight-shamed by Trump in 1996 and who became a progressive activist; Sáez was anything but.)

The senior professors in UCV were actually formally retired – the salaries and pension-age of academic personnel having been linked to that of the military in a concession wrought from the regime a few years before – and this meant that it was difficult for junior teaching staff to get permanent contracts and then promotion. It was a paradox, and one of the contradictions of UCV in relation to the regime, that these liberal voices in community-support initiatives in the barrios needed the university as a base, but also then effectively enabled the institution to run at a very low-cost. Some well-heeled well-meaning ‘community psychologists’ delivered free medicines to the barrios in their Mercedes. The university was being run down, and the email ran very slow.

Teaching was in the mornings, but one day we broke early to take to the streets in a demonstration that began at UCV and made its way in the hot sun to the Palacio de Miraflores, centre of government. This was to protest at the crackdown by the police and army against previous demonstrations that were in support of those still being harassed and arrested following the Caracazo and the MBR-200 coup attempt. Our section of the march against police violence chanted for UCV as one of the emblems of the resistance, with two main slogans; one was ‘U. U. U.C.V.’, and the other was ‘Por qué por qué por qué nos asesinan, si somos el future de América Latina’ (‘why do they kill us if we are the future of Latin America?’).

The threats were external and obvious, and part of a tense coexistence deal brokered with the regime was that the security forces not be allowed to enter the university campus. There were similar arrangements between the regime and universities in other Latin American countries. The threats were also, more worryingly, internal and implicit, provoking some paranoia inside the university; in particular there was speculation about the real identity of apparently ultra-left protesters, the ‘encapuchados’ – ‘the masked ones’ – who appeared on the edges of the campus, destroying property and then vanishing. I was told variously that they were leftists infiltrated by the regime, criminal gangs or outright provocateurs.

Colombians were also, I was told by nice liberal junior members of staff in the department, ‘untrustworthy’. This was because they were more likely to be poor, immigrants working as domestic helps, which seemed to be the case in the anecdotes told me in Caracas. In Parque Nacional de Canaima in the Amazon near the border with Brazil and Guyana I shared a cabin with a wealthy Colombian family who had just come over for vacation and a visit to Salto Ángel, the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfall. The ‘tepui’ high table mountains each had their own micro-climates and isolated species, inspiration for Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel The Lost World. The Colombians dressed well, perhaps a little inappropriately for jungle treks. Our local guide, Venezuelan, nudged me one day and pointed to them as we navigated a walk alongside a waterfall, whispering in a mixture of awe, disparagement and suspicion, ‘they really are stars aren’t they!’.

One of the students attending the course was Isabel Rodríguez Mora who I had seen briefly a couple of years before at a conference in Santiago de Chile, striding across the stage to receive an award for best undergraduate thesis. Her research was on community mobilization and repression. It was a dangerous topic and her supervisors were already worried about what might happen to her. She interviewed me for a local newsletter. A few months after I left Caracas, Isabel was arrested, and an international campaign against her detention was conducted among psychologists and other academics. She was released from prison in January 1997, and managed to get out of Venezuela to do post-graduate research soon after. Isabel and her supervisor Maritza Montero were my main points of contact immediately after my first visit, mainly because they travelled abroad more often and relatively easily, and it was through them that I heard about the election of Chávez the following year, and about their hopes and doubts.

Hugo Chávez in power

It was unclear whether Chávez would become president in 1998, but he was a popular voice for the poor, and the right was hopelessly divided. Irene Sáez, mayor of Chacao district, spent millions on publicity as an ‘independent’ candidate, but dropped out after rapid falls in the polls earlier in the year. By the time I returned for my second visit to Venezuela in June 1999, Chávez had been installed in the Palacio de Miraflores and had seen through the radical constitutional changes he had promised during his campaign.

The Sociedad Interamericana de Psicología congress at the Caracas Hilton, a biennial meeting for émigrés to return home and meet friends and go shopping as well as functioning as a contact point for some radicals, seemed to be trying hard not to speak about the new president or the new political situation. The congress site moves around Latin America amid much bureaucratic and political palaver, the society itself having been set up with US-American finance and agendas after the Second World War. A prominent US-American visiting speaker was mugged on his way to the hotel from the airport, but no one could blame Chávez for that.

The liberals and radicals in UCV were also divided. Isabel Rodríguez Mora was already joking that Chávez was a bit crazy, but perhaps better than the previous regime, though her mother was more critical. A third position was already beginning to emerge, that of the self-declared ‘Ni-Nis’, those who said no to Chávez and no to the right-wing opposition that was beginning to flex its muscles. ‘Look, this is a third world country’, said Isabel, pointing to the immense difficulties any radical regime would have in dealing with the massive inequalities and the determination of those with privileges to hold onto them.

It was already clear that if Chávez was to succeed, then that would have to involve taking big business interests into public ownership and, crucially, preventing the reprivatisation of the state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela S. A., PDVSA, which was already on the cards before his election as president, and which the right-wing had their eyes on as a main prize and as a sign to the United States that they were moving things in the right direction. Venezuela was then the fifth largest exporter of oil to the rest of the world, and the fourth largest supplier of oil to the US. PDVSA was a massive enterprise operating effectively as a separate state apparatus able to circumvent extraction laws, and although it had been formally nationalised in 1976, it operated in tandem with US oil interests, managed by a US-friendly team. The 1999 Constitution, which was drawn up after assemblies that included indigenous peoples affected by extractive mining, prohibited the reprivatisation of PDVSA, and Chávez began to appoint a new management board so that he could then push for an increase in oil prices in OPEC to fund reforms.

Oil was to become the financial power-base for the new regime, but also paved the way for a new twist on the clientalist mechanisms already entrenched in the Venezuelan state; instead of PDVSA and the President awarding kickbacks to loyal cronies, Chávez was able to himself bypass bureaucratic mechanisms and reach beyond them, below them, to deal with popular grievances. This was one of the sources of his popularity even then, that he would move fast and address popular complaints about lack of services; it had the predictable effect of reinforcing his personal power, fuelling the worries of liberals (and not only bad-faith bad liberals), those concerned with democratic procedures.

I urgently needed antibiotics, which Isabel took me to collect from under the almost closed shutters of a chemist, without a prescription and beyond their sell-by date. We travelled together to Colonia Tovar, a once isolated old German enclave dating from the mid-nineteenth century about forty miles from Caracas where you could eat the local strawberries in rolling green hills and Swiss-style chalets. A paved road led out of the edge of Caracas, a poor part of town which was shrouded on either side with tangles of illegal electricity and telephone wires trailing their way to shacks and shops.

By the time I got back to Caracas for my third visit, in September 2010, the division between the right-wing opposition and leftist ‘Chavista’ supporters of the regime had widened, and the space for the Ni-Nis all but closed down, though some of my friends there still held that position. Now Chávez had been in power for over ten years, and reports from visitors were mixed, as you would expect. During those ten years we had visits from Venezuelan students and friends and relatives of friends who would range in their opinions of Chávez from grudging admiration to outright hostility. The daughter and son-in-law of one of the professors at UCV came to dinner one evening, and things went well until we asked ‘What about Chávez’; all hell broke loose, almost a civil war in the kitchen in a raging argument between the two of them.

The ‘community’ activists in UCV were, apparently, most put out by the arrival in the barrios of Cuban medical teams who were effectively replacing the charitable work-teams that had been sent there on research visits and student-placement. The ‘oil for doctors’ scheme had begun shortly after a disastrous mud-slide on the outskirts of Caracas that killed 20,000 people, a catastrophe and humanitarian intervention that was research topic of Isabel Rodriguez Mora’s PhD from her new émigré base in Cambridge. Under the scheme Cuba provided Venezuela with around 31,000 medical personnel and training, and in exchange Venezuela handed over 100,000 barrels of oil a day. So, Chávez was unpopular with some of the UCV folk on two counts; he was rendering unnecessary those already working in the barrios and he was giving oil to another country. These complaints were sometimes tinged with national chauvinism, if not racism.

Isabel wrote about the way that political conflicts in Venezuela were increasingly polarised not only around class – poor districts of the city against the wealthier suburbs – but around race. In a 2005 critical psychology journal she described, in an article that was overall critical of Chávez, the way that street protests for and against the regime were being ‘feminised’, mobilising feminist arguments, and she noted how the Chavistas were racialised; this was not only in representations of them as poorer and more likely to be black but also on the streets in reality. The anti-Chávez mobilisations were overwhelmingly in richer whiter neighbourhoods.

Radical academic work was closing down at UCV by 2010, with professors who staffed the courses for free, really retiring from work there altogether, or emigrating. A special issue of Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community edited by Maritza Montero in 2004 had bizarrely barely mentioned Chávez. It was as if they could not bear to think about it, and would rather pretend that the Bolivarian revolution did not exist.

During this 2010 visit I stayed with and was ferried around by academic colleagues who were, by now, hostile to the regime. I gave a talk on ‘critical psychology’ at the private Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, and was told afterwards that I sounded ‘like a Chavista’. I must admit that every unfair whining petty complaint about Chávez during this visit made me more sympathetic to him. We would walk past a state-owned ‘Abasto Bicentenario’ supermarket that provided low-cost goods for poor people, for example, and be told that this was simply a ‘stunt’ that benefitted no-one and that anyone with any sense would not shop there anyway.

Parliamentary elections were taking place, and quite important ones since the previous parliamentary elections held in 2005 were boycotted by the opposition. This time they were standing as the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD, up against Chávez’s Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV. Our hosts were going to vote for the MUD. So, we were repeatedly told that Chávez was undemocratic and that there were no free and fair elections, and then taken to the polling station. It was in a quite posh area, and white parents in white linen suits left their kids in air-conditioned cars to line up outside and wait to vote.

It was difficult to get out of the country this time. Well, this because of the traffic which clogged the chaotic streets leading to the airport. We just made it. Two colleagues who had retired from UCV drove us while checking with Twitter every minute for details of road-jams, warning us that you cannot trust the radio reports. This was the dominant mode of avoidance and engagement; distrust of anything the government said or did. The liberals complained, and the right accused Chávez of being a communist, something he steadfastly denied. He was a populist who used socialist rhetoric that frightened a lot of people, but his economic policies were not even socialist. At the highpoint of the nationalisation process, just before Chávez’s death in 2013, the right-wing press and Venezuelan big business were squealing about the actually still very limited encroachments on their property and power.

After Chávez

If Chávez was bad, we were told, Nicolás Maduro who was elected president in 2013 after Chávez died was seen as worse. Chávez looked like a ‘mestizo’, not fully white, one crime in the eyes of opponents, and came from a middle-class family and so obviously a hypocrite, a double crime. Maduro, a bus-driver, was obviously not suited for office in their eyes. At one of the SIP conferences I was informed by a professor who was still at UCV that Maduro was ‘really Colombian’. The election was contested, then the result was contested, and the right has not let up since in a propaganda war and then a campaign of economic sabotage in which the large companies, still in private hands, have restricted the supply of basic goods and then blamed the government for shortages. The problem is that Maduro is a hopeless populist, little more than a caudillo.

The opposition has staged provocations on the streets, and there have been deaths on both sides, with the 2017 clashes operating as a dress rehearsal for a full-scale revolt and perhaps a coup. The Maduro government has responded by tightening security, and, driven ahead with extractive mining projects in indigenous land areas, something which has enabled the right to recruit new supporters from among the dispossessed. The very allies that the regime needs are being alienated in the process, and the ecological dimension of any possible socialist transformation in Venezuela is under threat.

These contradictions were already pointed out in two of the best guides to the process unrolling in Venezuela; the 2008 survey of the promise and shortcomings of the revolution, The Real Venezuela, by Iain Bruce in 2008, and the 2010 collection Venezuela Speaks! Voices from the Grassroots edited by Carlos Martinez, Michael Fox and Jojo Farrell. Meanwhile things get worse and worse, politically and economically. In June 2019 it was reported, to the delight of the opposition that the last store in the government-owned Abastos Bicentenario supermarket chain had closed. Every contradiction discussed by Bruce and noted in the accounts collected together in Venezuela Speaks! is intensified.

The human rights situation in Venezuela is now very grim, with Amnesty International noting a series of systematic abuses of power, ranging from attacks on protesters to extra-judicial killings by the regime. The fact that Juan Guiadó’s supporters are also clearly willing to resort to violence, including in the April 2020 botched ‘invasion’ by mercenaries linked to the US, is not an excuse for this. The regime’s response merely makes it easier for the opposition to recruit the poor who are under increasing pressure as Maduro imposes austerity measures.

Left solidarity and critique

The most recent face-to-face discussion I had with friends from Venezuela was with two political comrades from opposing organisations that were, in different ways, still Trotskyist. I have to say, though I am reluctant to admit it here, that the anti-Chavista comrade was leaner, taller and whiter than the more obviously working-class supporter of the regime. Stereotypes have a basis in reality and play back into the political debates. One of the comrades was a member of LUCHAS, which still operates as a critical left voice of the Maduro regime, and tries to participate in the PSUV and the government controlled trades unions, though with increasing difficulty. Expressed loyalty to the Bolivarian revolution is not enough; any criticism is taken as a sign of secret allegiance to the right-wing opposition. LUCHAS will not save itself because of its name, the ‘Liga Unitaria Chavista Socialista’. LUCHAS had split from Marea Socialista which the other comrade was still a member of.

Marea Socialista has a much more explicitly critical perspective on the Maduro regime. The row between members of the two groups was specifically over the agreement of representatives of Marea Socialista to participate in talks with Juan Guaidó. Guaidó was educated at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello and George Washington University, former member of the MUD and clearly a place-holder for US interests. Marea Socialista insisted that they had made no concessions in these talks and had been clear about their position, which was to defend every gain of the Bolivarian revolution, but it was a bad move. LUCHAS was, understandably, incandescent and Marea Socialista demanded acknowledgement of the censorship of one of the few platforms of dissent inside Venezuela, the site.

It is clear that Guaidó is a willing agent of the US, and will implement a Chilean-style ‘solution’ to the situation in Venezuela. Nicolás Maduro is not Salvador Allende, and he has himself worsened the conditions in the country, setting in place the very pre-conditions for a coup. The strengthening of the armed forces is designed to protect the state from external attack, but a successful coup will itself rely on key elements of the army coming over to the opposition and placing their bets on Guaidó. Both LUCHAS and Marea Socialista issued statements condemning the attempted coup in April 2019, both published on the website of the Fourth International, an organisation that was desperately trying to maintain comradely working relations between two groups of revolutionary socialist activists who have taken different paths through the tangled reality of Venezuelan pretend-socialism.

Disappointingly, but understandably, Marea Socialista felt betrayed by the Fourth International’s support for LUCHAS, and so, in late 2019, they linked up with the International Socialist League which has a better position on Venezuela. The response by LUCHAS to the COVID-19 crisis has included abject praise for the regime’s handling of the crisis and a craven response and appeal to Maduro to listen to his old compañeros and build socialism, some hope. The future of human rights and the possibility of any socialist renewal, redeeming the promise of the Bolivarian revolution, will depend on the left groups working together at this time of crisis while speaking out against the abuses of power that prepare the way for dictatorship.

Apart from the internal problems, the external policies of Chávez and then Maduro have been disastrous, allying with despotic regimes around the world, ranging from Mugabe in Zimbabwe to Assad in Syria, and all with the hope of impressing a new possible client interest in China or Russia, not to mention toxic ‘solidarity’ with the Palestinians that has slid from critique of Zionism at times into antisemitism. Attempts by Chávez to woo Putin did succeed to some extent, requiring some diplomatic manoeuvres to show loyalty to other corrupt capitalist regimes around the world that were sucking up to Russia, but it was always clear that Russia was playing a strategic geo-political game and would have any ally in power in Venezuela that would be complaint. Pragmatics, as always, override political principles for Russia, and in May 2020 Rosneft, the country’s biggest oil producer, pulled the plugs on Maduro. China has been keen to move into Venezuela as another willing client state. The process of economic alignment begun under Chávez has been ramped up by Maduro, and Venezuela is now China’s biggest investment opportunity in Latin America. However, China has been playing cat and mouse with Maduro, closing contracts and then seeing rich pickings in the COVID-19 crisis, yet further evidence that neither regime can be considered to be socialist.

Foreign policy is in the service of economic trade deals which worsen the grip of private enterprise on the country, something that has never really been tackled, a deadly mistake, and this toxic foreign policy agenda is then parroted by sympathetic media outlets like Telesur which was set up by Chávez with its headquarters in Caracas. From there come reports of the demonstrations against the regime in Nicaragua which are systematically skewed in favour of the Ortega government. This makes it all the more difficult to mount campaigns against imperialist intervention. With friends like that, activists ask, what kinds of friends are these?

Here you have to remember what the campist project is. It is one thing to support socialist regimes, or regimes moving to socialise the means of production and distribution, against attack, but it is quite another to pretend that regimes that are not at all socialist are on our side. Campism wipes away these differences on the assumption that there are two great ‘camps’ or blocs in the world, and that if one of them is progressive, oriented to Russia, say, or China, then every regime allied with those blocs is also portrayed as progressive, must be treated as our friend, must be let off the hook and, when it comes down to it, have their crimes hidden from view in order to build solidarity with them.

Some campists who had previously overlooked problems with the regime have recently thought better of it, citing a number of reasons for their disillusionment, which include the failure to escape from the ‘oil extraction’ trap; that is, that Chávez relied for his success on being able to give handouts to the poor using oil money which relies on the despoliation of the environment. The Orinoco Mineral Mining Arc project is the last straw for ecosocialists who have been tempted to fall in line with the Maduro regime. This oil extraction trap is something that fed the populist character of Chávez and then Maduro, who has seen his popularity fall. The relentless destabilisation campaign from outside Venezuela has then been able to key into popular discontent. These are the key contradictions of a project that was always ‘top down’, something that even sympathetic commentators noted.

It should be remembered that while the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution prevented the reprivatisation of the state oil company, PDVSA, the company continued to operate as if it was a private enterprise, fulfilling the regime’s agenda in a weird kind of public-private partnership that never took power away from big business and the large property owners. Despite the name sometimes given to this Bolivarian project, and despite the name of Chávez’s own political party, this was never a socialist country.

The Bolivarian revolution was at the head of the so-called ‘pink tide’ in Latin America. After the election of Chávez in 1998 we saw Lula elected in Brazil in 2003 and then Evo Morales in Bolivia three years later. Imperialism and its local agents are now on the offensive, but we need to know who is a friend and who is a liability. We need to be clear what we are defending when we defend a regime from imperialist attack, and so we have to be clear that a big part of the problem is precisely the enemy, the bourgeoisie, at home, at home in Venezuela itself.

There was a serious promise of socialism in Venezuela, but of a type that needs to be located in the context of military and populist leaderships in Latin America that are more concerned about their own charismatic authority than with the construction of entirely new forms of power in the hands of those who produce the wealth. Blueprints imposed from above disconnected from economic transformation cannot ever be socialist, a lesson that has been drummed home over the past century since October 1917.


This is one of the Socialisms series of FIIMG articles