Saturday, February 22, 2014

Taking the Fork in Venezuelan Road

In The Nation, George Ciccariello-Maher offers up an interesting view of the protests in Venezuela with a sympathetic focus on "democracy from below," as opposed to "liberal democracy."

At least in my eyes, here is the key quote:

Venezuela is indeed at a crossroads, having—in the words of the militant-intellectual Roland Denis—“llegado al llegadero, arrived at the inevitable.” It is the point at which the Bolivarian process itself—socialism in a capitalist society, thriving direct democracy in a liberal democratic shell—cannot survive without pressing decisively toward one side or the other: more socialist, more democratic, in short, more radical. This is not a crossroads simply between two possible forms of government from above: the Maduro government or its hypothetical right-wing alternative. It is instead a question of either pressing forward the task of building a revolutionary society, or handing the future back to those who can think of nothing but the past, and who will seek to fold the historical dialectic back onto itself, beaten and bloody if necessary. [Emphases in original]

This struck me because it gets down to the question of where these events are leading Venezuela. The opposition is the minority, but it is a large minority. Pressing more decisively in the direction of revolutionary socialism by definition means rejecting a very significant chunk of the Venezuelan population. Is that viable without protracted civil war? Can it happen without resorting to "beating and bloodying" that minority?

These are practical questions because such a society will require a much more aggressive use of the military internally, or at least I can't imagine how else that minority would be silenced. Is there some way of bringing that minority into the revolutionary fold without force?

Given how difficult and violent that route likely is (unless I am missing something in that regard) I would think the more likely result is more of the same. The opposition (especially since it seems to have no military support) will not take power, and the Maduro government will talk of deepening the revolution without truly doing so. As Yogi Berra allegedly once said, when you come to a fork in the road, take it.


Anonymous,  9:06 PM  

I think you are underestimating the desire for change among people who are not necessarily opposition voters, students and protestors. Increasingly the members of the working class will continue to join the opposition. Not because they want a return to corrupt liberal democracy. Nor the rule of elites. Quite simply the Maduro regime's economic performance will lead them to rebelling against the "revolutionary" status quo.

Anonymous,  12:35 PM  

I think you are missing the point here about more "radical democracy." The author is pointing out that there is a basic contradiction between state oriented politics focused on political parties and leaders like Maduro or Capriles and the desires of Venezuelans for direct democracy and control over their own future. It is the liberal democratic model that makes the current deadly split between right and left a political necessity. The vision of the future offered by radical democracy is what is being lost in this conflict.

Greg Weeks 3:04 PM  

No, this is the precise point I was asking questions about. If almost half of the country is not on board with the radical vision of the future, then what happens to them?

Anonymous,  3:53 PM  

I really don't see how participatory democracy in the form of collectives, worker's councils, etc. inherently excludes half the population. It is does exclude the privileges currently held by business and state elites (both in the opposition and government). The same two groups that are pounding their chests the hardest over these protests. Is that just a coincidence? Or does it speak to the existing contradictions of power and democracy in Venezuela?

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