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January 27, 2019



But in politics you have to pick a side. I admit I do not know much about Venuzuala or the Bolivarian revolution. But this applies equally when I am told Venuzuala is a dictatorship. I feel like I am totally justified in apposing the UK taking a posisiotn of recognising the supposed leader of the supposed opposition as President of Venuzuala.

There is also a difference between supporting Chavez or Madura as an individual as apposed to supporting the aspects of the politics in Chavism.

If you want to compare it to the Russian Revolution it would be madness to appose the Soviets and Factory Commitees because one apposed Lenin.


Its weird how many 'Socialist Revolutions' turn out not to be socialist at all when they end up in an economic collapse and human rights abusing dictatorships..................as decided by socialists somewhere else who didn't have to put up with the conditions that resulted from actions they applauded only a few years ago.......


Marx may well have said that pre-capitalist subsistence economies were too poor to sustain a Communist revolution. But he did come up with a Manifesto with a catchy 10-point plan for implementing Communism in Europe in 1848, and he supervised two reprints of it in his own lifetime.

Are you seriously suggesting that the wealthiest country in Latin America 150 years later was so much poorer than those European countries were in 1848? Seems unlikely.


These is useless analysis. Yes Social Change would not work when material condition not support it, but the only way of knowing whether such material condition exist or not is to attempt social change. Its advocating after the fact historical reading.


I'd go so far as to say power structures make it impossible for the left to lead well? Any heirarchical system will lead to - in the eyes of the left - ultimate failure?

Unless power is distributed leaders will also be ultimately held responsible for all the errors and mistakes made by government. Even if it isn't directly their fault.

When we look at Corbyn - he tries to pass power to the Labour Party but this seems to fall dangerously between two stalls...


A lot of irrelevant rhetoric is followed by "Leftists, then, were wrong to back Chavez." This analysis is not "useless", because there is no analysis here at all.

Chavez made the lives of millions of his countrymen and the country overall much better. This is not in rational dispute, despite floods of propaganda. Leftists were so emphatically right to back Chavez that saying different shows that person is insane, ignorant or a fake leftist.

Chavez a little, and much more Maduro made the very common error of following insane exchange rate policies, instead of the simple and easy policy of floating. Mark Weisbrot and many other economists gave good advice which was not heeded. That is the prime problem of Venezuela, which caused or exacerbated all the others. Floating = facing reality. Multiple, fixed rates = magical thinking. That doesn't end well.

So now, the predators seek weakness, and come in for the kill. One may deplore this, one may criticize Chavez and more Maduro for their failures. But this article is nothing but victim blaming and fluffy nonsense.

B.L. Zebub

"What’s striking in this context is just how many mistakes many leftists made in supporting Chavez: I’m speaking here of all leftists, not just Ian."

Many leftists were indeed badly mistaken about Chávez, just like many centrists and rightists are mistaken about how to solve this problem.

But to claim that all leftists were mistaken is false and it's the kind of mistake people from rich, English-speaking countries make all the time. People who don't have a clue about what's going on beyond the borders of their own countries.


This is a post from August 8, 2011, during the London riots.


This is a Spanish Wikipedia entry (yes, there are such things):


Use Google Translate.


Moreover, it's clear that Chávez and Maduro failed miserably. There's no other way to put that. But they did not create the eternal crisis Venezuela is going through.

Chávez himself was a beneficiary of it.

Even the repression Maduro unleashed against protesters has a much bloodier precedent.

Either people completely forgot all about that or they never were aware of it, in the first place (which does not stop them from pontificating about things they have nothing intelligent to say).

And let me put this in black and white here so that people can mark my words: the next guy coming after Maduro will fail just like ALL his predecessors did.

Sure, he may have a brief honeymoon, exactly like Chávez did. (He may also forfeit this honeymoon and suppress dissent as savagely as they did in Chile). Oil prices may go up for a while, just like they go down. At any rate, for a while people will tolerate things.

Sooner or later, it all will go pear-shaped. Again, mark my words.


Much as I wish Maduro should go, and much as I generally disagree with what Daniel has written here, I find myself agreeing with him in opposing recognising the opposition leaders as President.

There is no doubt that Venezuela is a disaster, and it has a particular poignancy here in the UK in that so many people on the left praised him Chavez and Maduro way beyond rational expectations. but Venezuela is not the only disaster in the world, and neither is it the only country to have dubious elections. It seems like blatant opportunism to act here and so get one over on naive western leftists when similar countries and regimes round the world go unchallenged.


"Its weird how many 'Socialist Revolutions' turn out not to be socialist at all when they end up in an economic collapse and human rights abusing dictatorships"

This seems a reasonable position. A socialist dictatorship is a fairly glaring contradiction in terms.

Getting from capitalism (however primitive/advanced) to socialism without falling foul of Michel's Iron Law is kind of the fundamental socialist problem. Forgoing vanguardism is probably a good place to start.

Nick Drew

@ "Premature revolutions, [Marx] thought, would end in failure. This was one of his predictions he got right"

That's a really handy circular let-out clause!


"Getting from capitalism (however primitive/advanced) to socialism without falling foul of Michel's Iron Law is kind of the fundamental socialist problem. "

You know what, we've chucked dozens of people off this tower, and not one of them has managed to avoid immediately falling to their deaths. Do you think that maybe humans weren't design to fly, or should we keep going? F*ck it, let chuck a few more off, I'm sure one's going to get the hang of this flying lark soon!


One trusts you're not quoting the Wright brothers.


One of the depressing things here is that they probably were right to back him when that was relevant, versus the coup attempt in 2002. What was idiotic was to double down, or maybe even worse, to stop paying attention and assume things were OK in Venezuela, which a lot of people plainly did.

It's been a long while since you could defensibly claim that it was a crooked regime but it meant well; it's been a humanitarian crisis for more than half a decade now. If you haven't noticed, you're evidently not paying attention, and you don't care as much as you think.

Ian Taylor

What the shit did I just read? TL:DR Only in the first world, where there is no left, should the left try and take power. great take



“A socialist dictatorship is a fairly glaring contradiction in terms.”

Agreed. Nothing could be less Marxist than the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

I guess that if you wind up with every lever of power in your society being held exclusively by Marxists, there’s no longer any dialectic at play.

Robert Mitchell

Chavez fed everyone and donated gas after Katrina because oil prices were high. Why should an increase in world oil production cause food shortages in Venezuela? Clearly worldwide capitalism fails to allocate resources efficiently.


"Agreed. Nothing could be less Marxist than the Dictatorship of the Proletariat."

That's a term for radical democracy. One would scarce characterise the Paris commune as a a nexus of braid, colonelcies and hegemonic state apparatus.

"I guess that if you wind up with every lever of power in your society being held exclusively by Marxists, there’s no longer any dialectic at play."

Perhaps the only thing conservatives and bourgeois liberals agree on (other than the profit motive, "merit," the thoroughgoing ghastliness of the proletariat, the advisability of private education and the inviolability of property) is that bourgeois liberals somehow constitute a left.

Christopher Herbert

My view of Venezuela's problems is that no one actually knew how to govern a mixed economy. The predators circling Venezuela today are just waiting to pick up the pieces they lost in the revolution. Then they will go back to being monopolists, pre Chavez style. There will be a lot of blood shed in that stage, all of them people not of wealth. Maduro needs to hire Bill Mitchell, but I suspect the sharks will get there first.

m. sam

I'm not entirely sold that it is a mistake to have supported Chavez. Though it is hard, if not impossible, to tell how much of the chaos and economic trouble is due to both economic war (such as capital strikes and sanctions) and outside agitation (such as supporting coups and mob violence). But what is for sure is these efforts have an impact, and most likely a large one.

To talk about the situation Venezuela and ignore them is dishonest; to place all the blame on the Venezuelan government is reprehensible. Especially if you are on the left because you should know better.

Zoltan Jorovic

You argument is about why Chavez was likely to fail which you translate into whether he should have been "backed" or not. This suggests one should only back winners. Surely people backed him because they felt that he offered an alternative to the "carry on as usual rich get richer and poor remain downtrodden and exploited" politics of most of Latin America (and, indeed, the world). That he failed to turn this around is tragic, but that does not mean he should not have been "backed" at the outset.

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