Thursday, October 26, 2017

Lessons About Chavismo

Steve Ellner has an article in Monthly Review outlining his ideas about the lessons of the Bolivarian Revolution. It's worth looking at largely to see exactly how Venezuela gets framed from the left. Two things stand out for me.

First, he skates around but does not directly address the tension between "direct democracy" (which is intended to replace representative democracy) and protection of civil liberties. More specifically, does the opposition deserve any rights? He does not say so, but the answer appears to be no. He lauds Nicolás Maduro for playing "hardball" and putting people in prison, saying they deserve it and it is a positive sign of "perseverance." Working with non-Chavistas, in fact, is a bad idea:

if left unchecked, the government’s relationship with sectors of the bourgeoisie will solidify and continue to undermine the leadership’s socialist commitments.
He does not mention nullifying elections when the opposition win them, but clearly that would detract from the mission of socialism as well. Where non-Chavistas fit into Venezuela at all is unclear (is it simply a choice between jail and silent non-representation?).

Second, he notes problems with Chavismo but they tend to be on the margins. Tactical questions. He does not even like the idea of blaming both sides equally:

by censuring the government and opposition in equal terms, the ex-Chavistas obscure the vital fact that the latter is the aggressor, while the former has been relentlessly attacked, compelling it to take emergency measures, with damaging long-term effects.

The causes of the economic crisis are not addressed directly, but the multiple references to the opposition's hostility leaves little doubt where he leans.

All this made me wonder about calls for dialogue. If it is a bad idea to work with capitalists and to give the opposition representation, then what can dialogue ever achieve? By definition, such dialogue is supposed to entail compromise of some sort on both sides, but you cannot allow compromise if it undermines socialism. Where does that leave Venezuela?


shah8 3:38 AM  

The thing is, it's patently clear today that it's a bad idea. People who do, generally don't wind up the happier for it.

And frankly, I think you and people like you need to deal realistically about this. If I were a leftist in Latin America, there isn't any way I'd ever have anything more than a rigorously national bourgious class a la the Chinese. Anything else risks overthrow and worse.

If democracy in Latin America is going to get targeted by the authors of post-colonial arraignments and and finance guys, then people aren't going to be for democracy. Deal with it. Jeez.

And oh yeah, let's not fete Bolsonaro, please (well, not anymore than we have).

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