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

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