It should be left to the Venezuelan people to decide if socialism has run its course

Left Foot Forward asks ‘has Venezuelan socialism has run its course?’ The answer coming loud and clear from the Venezuelan people themselves is 'no'.

Left Foot Forward has been following events in Venezuela closely and we’ve encountered widely differing opinions on the left as to the nature of the Venezuelan government. We decided therefore to ask two of our writers the question: ‘Has Venezuelan socialism run its course?’

The answers we got were very different. This is the first; an article by Rob Marchant of Labour Uncut which argues that Venezuelan socialism has run its course will appear shortly.

Arguing that Venezuelan socialism has not run its course is Colin Burgon, former Labour MP for Elmet and current chair of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

Left Foot Forward asks ‘has Venezuelan socialism has run its course?’ The answer coming loud and clear from the Venezuelan people themselves is ‘no’.

They have given their view at the ballot box numerous times, including four sets of elections in fourteen months. Each time the Venezuelan right-wing opposition coalition has lost. In December president Maduro’s coalition won mayoral elections by 10 per cent.

The opposition had said this was a referendum on the government – the opposition were rejected again. This fits a pattern of Hugo Chavez continually winning election after election, all internationally verified as free and fair.

So it is clear from this electoral support that Venezuelans think the process of change that began with Hugo Chavez’s election in 1998 has something to offer and want it to continue. Only those who disregard the views of the majority of Venezuelan’s can claim this process has run its course.

Indeed, it is this ongoing majority support for Venezuela’s progressive, elected government that has driven this current wave of anti-democratic, right-wing violence in the country.

This has been initiated by an element of Venezuela’s right-wing opposition that has grown frustrated with its own repeated electoral failings – time after time the Venezuelan people keep choosing the ‘wrong’ option.

They certainly know that Chavismo hasn’t lost its appeal – or they would wait until the next set of elections and defeat the government. They have a chance in 2016 to vote out their government as Venezuela’s constitution contains a uniquely democratic measure of a ‘recall referendum’ that means any politician can be recalled mid-term.

Instead, the current violence from elements of the right-wing stems from the announcement in January of a strategy of opposition protest leaders for the La Salida (The Ousting) of the government of President Maduro before his constitutional mandate ends in 2019.

This wave of violence has, at the very least, caused deaths by setting up of burning roadblocks and trip wires at head height , thrown Molotov cocktails and firebombs at government and public service buildings including electricity sub-stations and even trucks carrying government subsidized food; and included a siege of the state TV station VTV.

In contrast, the government has repeatedly condemned all violence and called for peace and talks with the opposition.

Such anti-democratic actions are not new to Venezuela’s opposition. La Salida is led by extremists politicians Leopoldo Lopez and María Corina Machado (an ally of George W.Bush) who were both involved in the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez. And just as the US was involved in the 2002 coup, it continues to fund anti-democratic elements of the opposition working for regime change.

As Venezuela expert  Dr. Julia Buxton has explained, the protest leaders “offer no governance plan, with ‘salida’ serving as a hash tag, not a strategy, according to one opposition blogger.

Just as in 2002, radicals have forgotten that the people they must convince are Venezuelan voters, not international opinion. There can be no short cut to replacing a movement and government that is genuinely popular. Attempting to induce regime overthrow is unnecessary when the option of a recall referendum is available, and it is irresponsible when the outcome of violent change will only be a cycle of violent revenge.

Again it’s interesting what Venezuelans think of the current situation. A poll done by the Venezuelan company ICS had found that 82 per cent believe the opposition protests are violent with 86 per cent of Venezuelans opposing the violent roadblocks. Furthermore, despite the impression given by distorted media coverage, the numbers on peaceful pro-government marches have dwarfed these opposition activities.

Of course, problems exist in Venezuela, but the recent election victories of Maduro’s coalition in this context show that the population trusts the government to provide answers to them. Unsurprising really, in that it’s the very same government which has delivered incredible social achievements, from providing free health care and education to millions for the first time, to bringing millions of people out of poverty.

Indeed, even in times of economic difficulty, last year poverty and unemployment continued to fall.

It should be left to the Venezuelan people to decide if their model has run its course when they cast their votes at the next set of elections.

In the meantime we should respect the recent election results and the will of the people and reject the violence of anti-democratic elements of the neo-liberal opposition who are preparing the ground for a coup that would benefit only the elites.

For more information visit the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

36 Responses to “It should be left to the Venezuelan people to decide if socialism has run its course”

  1. Matt Willgress

    I think the point re current prominent leaders of the right-wing opposition protests playing a role in the 2002 coup is one that really needs to be drawn out.

    As the Washington Centre for Economic and Policy Research think-tank has explained, Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado supported the 2002 coup actively; in López’s case he participated in it (when he was mayor of the Chacao area) by supervising the arrest of then-Minister of Justice Ramón Rodríguez Chacín. Police dragged Rodríguez Chacín out of the building where he had sought refuge into an angry mob, who physically attacked him. Corina Machado notably was present when the coup Government of Pedro Carmona was sworn in, and signed an infamous coup decree dissolving the democratically elected Congress, the constitution and the Supreme Court.

    Additionally it’s worth noting that Sumate, an organisation that Machado established, has received substantial funding from the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington and she was feted by President George Bush whom she met at the White House as the piece mentions.

    More info at http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/violent-protests-in-venezuela-fit-a-pattern

  2. venezuelana

    It’s rather interesting the way these authors do not mention the raise of criminality (25,000 murders in ONE year), the inflation (around 56% in 2013) and the shortages of basic products like milk, flour and medicines. It amazes me to see how people sitting in their desks in front of a computer in the UK and the US defend the “revolution” without living in Venezuela with the problems that Venezuelans face every single day. It’s a slap in the face of all the 13 protesters that have been killed and their families, the almost 600 that have been jailed and the dozens that have been tortured that YOU think this is US-backed plot and not genuine protests from people that want their problems to be solved.

  3. Denis

    Has socialism run it’s course? On the contrary it is a beacon of hope of how to prioritise people in the midst of the economic crisis – rather than austerity which grinds away at living standards and offers no solution. It is no surprise therefore that the opposition which has links to the violent coup and has friends with Bush shows it’s true colours with anti democratic measures including violence and terror.

  4. STKT1

    Denis, you clearly have no idea whatsoever what is going on in Venezuela.

  5. Jonathan Roberts

    I’m not quite sure how this chimes with this report from Human Rights Watch – http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/02/21/venezuela-violence-against-protesters-journalists

  6. Alex Kypriotakis Weijers

    STKT1, you clearly have no idea how Venezuela inspire us for great things for my country and the world and that we have had enough of capitalist expoitation.

  7. George

    Good article – a useful balanced antidote to all the misinformation that has been circulating this last week or so. It should be basic common sense that the left opposes outside interference into a sovereign country’s democratic politics (unlike the sinister antics of the US) and that it celebrates social progress, which Venezuela has experienced by all credible measurements. Of course the country has its social ills, but what country hasn’t?

  8. Louise

    The reality is that, despite problems, Venezuelans keep voting for Chavismo. They do it because for the first time millions of people have a better life – they have free schools and free health care, for the first time people have social security, pensions and a safety net to protect them from extreme poverty.

    You may not agree with the process, but no-one can credibly deny it is the will of the majority. The biggest problem right now is the wave of violent protests by a small section of the opposition who refuse to recognise the democrative will of the people. Those who set up burning road blocks stopping people getting to hospital should be condemned. Those who set up trip wires at head height – beheading innocent motorbikers should be condemned. Those who throw Molotov cocktails at electricity sub stations and government buildings should be condemned.

    The only way forward is peace and dialogue.

  9. STKT1

    If you are genuinely inspired by what is happening in Venezuela, then that is truly sad.

  10. Sam Browse

    Good article – it’s good to see someone point out that pro-government marches actually dwarf the size of the opposition marches. This just isn’t mentioned in most of the coverage of what’s happening in Venezuela.

    Given that they’ve been unable to defeat the government in democratic elections for the last 14 years, I think it’s also really important to say that violence benefits no one but the opposition in this situation. They want to foment as much chaos as possible as justification for a coup. It’s no accident that the same people who plotted the coup against the government in 2002, Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado, are the very same people who are leading the violent protests today. They are well practised at destabilising democratically elected governments!

  11. The_Average_Joe_UK

    We have idiots in this country. We call them the left. It does not
    matter what happens that disproves what they are saying, they simply
    dismiss anything they don’t like as “right wing”. People are dying in
    your country and these idiots write this drivel. LEFT foot forward will
    publish it.

    They are convinced the socialism despite failing
    everywhere is a good idea. They are happy to reduce everything and
    everyone to the same basic impoverished level because its fair.

    To explain it to you being of the LEFT is a religion, that way you can dismiss all the stuff that shows you’re wrong.

  12. Selly

    The progress in Venezuela – the massive expansion in healthcare, education up to university level, reduction in poverty and the fall in malnutrition is clear and that these outcomes are the result of a democratic process is also clear. The voice of the Venezuelan people has repeatedly been to support Chavismo, and its continuance under Maduro, to address the problems that do exist. The peaceful marches in support of the government have been huge. It is genuinely baffling that there needs to be a debate about whether to support the democratically elected government or a ‘minority of a minority’ that is exercising such violence – including attacking transport trade unionists, road blocks and attacking government subsidised food vans! – and that have been involved in previous undemocratic attempts to overthrow the elected government.

  13. Ben Studd

    Excellent article. You don’t have to be a Chavista or a Socialist to believe that Venezuela’s future should be decided at the ballot box. Those who instigated ‘La Salida’ represent a small minority of the opposition intent on undermining the democratic process because of their own failure to garner enough public support to achieve their goals. Anyone considering supporting this attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government should make themselves fully aware of the abuses of the previous regime, and the kind of regime the 2002 coup plotters thought they had re-installed. Chile’s 1973 Coup stands as one of the many sobering reminders of what this could be, as does the US-backed 2009 Coup in Hondaras.

  14. Madrid Uno

    “It’s good to see someone point out that pro-government marches actually dwarf the size of the opposition marches.”

    1. No they don’t. That is pure guff. You write without any knowledge.

    2. Not withstanding that the pro govt marches are not bigger than those of the opposition, many of the pro govt marchers are forced to march or lose their jobs. Just last weekend, all employees of PDVSA were told where and when to march and failure to attend meant a sacking.

    Paz y Amor.

    M1

  15. Paul Taylor

    Read this article about how HRW has been co-opted to a US foreign policy agenda and it begins to make sense http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-hypocrisy-of-human-rights-watch/5367940

  16. Sam Browse

    Looks pretty big to me:

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zb9nj7zyt3dnure/AQ1NPduw1b

    What’s the source for the PDVSA claim?

    Finally: I take it that you support a violent coup against a democratically elected government?

  17. Span Ows

    you need to look a bit more. A march for peace is what you are looking at and most Venezuelans want peace: had Maduro called for a march in favor of government etc then the numbers wouldn’t have been so impressive: the ‘opposition’ march in Caracas last weekend was the biggest in Venezuela for decades, (Valencia, Maracay, Merida, Barquisimeto, Maracaibo, San Cristobal etc all had massive marches) mostly white wearing opposition-favouring but peace-wanting Venezuelans, you fall for government propaganda and most of the coverage within Venezuela is enforced media imbalance. It is not just PDVSA, is is all government employees just as they were before with Chavez, have been ‘obliged’ to attend and wear red!

    The fact that this article calls the opposition ‘right wing’ demonstrates that the writer has absolutely NO IDEA of what is going on. This isn’t a left-right argument but that is what Maduro et al want the outside world to think, Capriles is centre left, more communist than ‘right wing’ (he’s not communist, i say that just making a point)

  18. Span Ows

    I suggest you look at what Sumate does before making it sound like a sinister opposition coup mongering group.

  19. Span Ows

    The peaceful marches in support of the opposition have been ‘huger’. The fact that you are ‘genuinely baffled’ suggest you need to learn a little more about the country and what has been happening. Minority of a minority? You must be on about some other Venezuela, because someone got 51% suddenly means the 49% count as nothing?

  20. Span Ows

    The ballot box, that cure all phrase to make everything seem perfect: missing ballot boxes (proven), faulty voting machines (proven), dead and buried voting regularly (proven), physical abuse at voting stations (proven), people voting many times (proven)…dude, you make reasonable comments but get all the facts first.

  21. oonarichard squince

    It is important that the facts about Venezuela get out and this article does just that. Whether it is living participative democracy or massive social progress Venezuela is an inspiration to so many on the left world wide , who see their own ‘social democracies’ pursuing an austerity agenda.Of course Venezuela is not perfect , but look at where it started and where it is now (health care,education, housing,minimum wages, food subsidies) and where its popular Government (winning the majority in almost annual elections since 21st century socialism was voted in) is planning to go. We should not be surprised by the claims of the US funded opposition but their return to violence after losing yet another election by 10% shows their desperation. Even one of their leaders Capriles, intimately involved in the attempted coup in 2002, opposes their methods. But whatever their methods, the opposition and its false claims, lies etc are hoping to motivate progressives across the world to become disillusioned with the achievements of the Venezuelan people .I as a socialist for one are not falling for that. If only we had Governments with one tenth of the integrity and political and economic bravery of the Venezuelan government ! The opposition want a return to the past of corrupt oil oligarchs, This Venezuelan Government needs the support of all progressives-whether socialists or just democrats. I welcome the President’s call for peace. I call on socialists to offer solidarity.

  22. Paul Jones

    “Left Foot Forward has been following events in Venezuela closely”

    Yeah, it’s editor James Bloodworth clearly has a strong grasp of what’s going on there. That’s why he tweets things like

    “Venezuelan General Viva has publicly refused to continue taking orders from the Cuban Armed Forces”: http://bit.ly/1elpO26

    Please. Let’s have a bit of a reality check.

  23. S&A

    ‘After the uprising of the 17th of June
    The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?’

    The GDR in 1953, Venezuela 60 years later. Nothing changes except the names of the regimes, and the useful idiots from the West who accept their hospitality for a couple of weeks a year, and praise them from a convenient distance for the rest of it.

  24. Ben Studd

    A number of references to proof there but no evidence to back it up, and in fact strong evidence to the contrary in most cases. Venezuela has one of the most advanced voting systems in the world specifically designed to prevent multiple voting, userpation of identity and voter interference. Voting machines are activated by biometric data, a paper copy is deposited in the ballot box to ensure the voter is happy with their preference, and all campaigns are given a copy of the electoral register to verify and sign off in advance of the election.

    The Carter Centre report on the April 2013 election found that “the Venezuelan population, and the political parties and candidates in general, have demonstrated confidence in the performance and integrity of the automated touch-screen voting machines in accurately counting the votes cast on April 14”. In 2012, Jimmy Carter stated “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

    To advocate a coup on the basis of Venezuela’s electoral system being invalid is as preposterous as it is chilling. The Idea that the population were so unhappy with the presidential election that they lost faith in the process is further rejected by the results of the December municipal elections, in which pro-government candidates won 256 mayoralties to the opposition’s 76.

  25. S&A

    Your first name is Owen, and your nickname is ‘Own’.

  26. robertcp

    I am less enthusiastic about the government of Venezuela than Colin but Venezuelans can get rid of their government through free and fair elections. That has often not been the case in Latin America.

  27. Max

    Dear Mr. Colin,

    Interesting article, but I believe
    that to have any sort of eloquent point of view on the situation in Venezuela
    one must live in the country. From an outside perspective it is very easy to
    criticize the opposition and label them as ‘extremist’ and ‘right wing’, but if
    you would carefully listen the speeches of leaders such as Leopoldo Lopez,
    Maria Corina Machado, and Henrique Capriles, you would realize that they have a
    very pragmatic and clear agenda on how to run my country. Unlike Nicolas
    Maduro, the bus driver, these are all very prepared politicians who have the capability
    to lift Venezuela out of the misery and dictatorship it is currently suffering.

    An inflation rate of over 50%,
    24,000+ homicides per year (one of the highest in the world), a deteriorating
    economy, shortages of basic supplies such as toilet paper, medicines, sugar,
    etc, and a social unrest that has caused the violent death of 14 civilians who
    are simply speaking their minds and peacefully protesting, are all product of
    the Hugo Chavez/ Maduro dictatorship.

    Furthermore when we speak about the
    Venezuelan electoral system, it is evident that the CNE (Consejo Nacional
    Electoral) is fixed. Following Maduro’s ‘electoral victory’, Capriles asked for
    a fair recount; do you remember what the government did with the ballot
    boxes??? I’m sure you don’t because you don’t live in Venezuela, and since the
    media is censored you do not have access to information that would be available
    in any fully democratic and transparent nation. They burned the ballot boxes to
    eradicate evidence.

    So Mr. Colin I please encourage you
    to visit Venezuela before writing such article. And if I can give you a piece
    of advice I would recommend removing any items that attract attention such as
    watches, rings, nice garments, etc, as you might get robbed, kidnapped, or even
    murdered once you land in Maiquetia Airport in Caracas.

    Best Regards,

    Max

    Venezuelan citizen and student studying Economics/ Finance & Global Perspectives,
    in Boston, USA.

  28. Gareth Stone

    Are any of you guys concerned about the inflation in Venezuela? Any savings held before Chavez have lost almost all their value…

  29. ana

    This article is paid propaganda.

  30. Paul

    Most Venezuelans want peace. Quite so. So why is this faction of the opposition so violent?

  31. Sparky

    Socialism: it just doesn’t work.

  32. Alex Kypriotakis Weijers

    I choose living instead of survival for everyone. If some people want the opposite that’s sad.

  33. Span Ows

    Why do you think? Got their dinner money nicked?

  34. Span Ows

    http://www.cartercenter.org/countries/venezuela-peace-elections.html

    Not all good. They so underestimate the “concerns about the unequal campaign conditions created by an incumbent president running for re-election”

    And your comment sounds like an ad for the voting machine company, explain how many stations reported malfunctions, some options not selecting correctly (guess which ones), screens not scrolling or showing all pictures (note: http://s25.photobucket.com/user/SpanOws/media/Venezuela14Aballot_zps9a6ab934.jpg.html )

    In the 2012 ballot paper 4 of the parties represented by a photo changed allegiance but the change wasn’t made to the nominations card and it was ruled that if a voter marks one of those four parties their vote will be void. And the Electoral Commission insisting any vote audit wouldn’t affect the election outcome! hmmmm

    Re your final paragraph WHO is advocating ‘a coup on the basis of Venezuela’s electoral system being invalid’?

  35. Andrew

    I don’t think capitalism is working out that great at the minute.

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