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Venezuela, US Solidarity, and the Future of Socialism

Venezuela, US Solidarity, and the Future of Socialism

Steve Striffler

In the late 1990s and early 2000s popular forces in Latin America ushered in what came to be known as the pink tide, a hemispheric backlash against neoliberalism. Latin Americans succeeded in electing a diverse group of left-of-center leaders who advocated anti-neoliberal policies that ranged from limited income redistribution to more ambitious nationalization schemes.


I’m sorry, I just don’t feel like hearing how Chavez was the “bad left” right now. Judging from current circumstances, Lula (of the “good left”) seems to have left his country vulnerable to fascist takeover, kinda like the Dems.

Can we please get out of the habit of judging the countries we squash? Americans remind of the sensitive galactic police in Hitchhiker’s Guide.


I read through this piece twice, hoping to find more than criticism of the US left’s “inabilities” and “failures” to support popular movements in Venezuela and Brazil. The author seems not to understand how corporate media are the tools of wealth and privilege; how the voice of “millionaires working for billionaires” reliably drowns out the voices of the 99% in a montone of manufactured consent; and how the appearance of unanimity can be maintained in its absence.

With that said, I’m at a loss to account for the equivocation of Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and others; in refusing to call bullshit on the right wing’s pearl-clutching concern for human rights in Venezuela, while remaining silent about the atrocious violations committed by such “allies” as Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, where the US might be expected to have more influence, they give weight to the author’s contention that in the US, there is no effective left left.


I’m not sure if you really mean that. You seem quite sharp to me. My bet is you’ll find a way to crack this perplexing nut, with some thoughtful persistence.

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Maybe Sanders woke up to find a horse’s severed head in bed with him?


I would appreciate one of them to bringing up Colombia’s human rights record, and to ask why no one critically examines that (no one, as in it is almost never mentioned in the dominant media) and I would appreciate someone pointing out the absurdity of Colombia being involved in Venezuela because they care so much about human rights and democracy. Colombia is a human rights horror show. They, like Brazil, being involved in this should put the motives behind this to rest. Bernie cares about workers rights. Well, Colombia is the deadliest place for union organizers in the hemisphere. Kind of an important thing to bring up, yes?


I think he is serious about winning the presidency and probably doesn’t want to waste political capital on something as complex and difficult as this situation when we have so many domestic problems. I don’t say that to excuse them, but they do identify as “democratic socialists” and so them coming to the defense of a country that is depicted as Venezuela is in the media here is probably something that they have decided is too fraught with disaster. Besides anyway, these things are never decided by one or two politicians. If we all do the work needed to push back on this propaganda, and if we succeed, we provide more space for self described democratic socialists to step out more on the issue.

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You’re getting warmer…

Ah, what would we do without our cinematic Shakespeare, Coppola?

I think the author’s overview is a good one, but I agree with GuildF312S that it would have been good to mention the enormous role that our “consent manufacturing” corporate (neo-fascist) media has played in keeping the public confused and progressive politicians intimidated.

Bernie, AOC, Ro Khanna, and the “New Democrats” have been truly pathetic in their “resistance” to Trump’s despicable coup.

The author’s other major oversight is his failure to mention the one progressive (outside of the courageous Rep. Omar) who has been consistently clear and strong in her condemnation of this transparent regime-change op: REP. TULSI GABBARD… who also happens to be running for president.

Gabbard is the only presidential candidate, thus far, who promises real reform of both domestic and foreign policy… and for that she has been relentlessly smeared by the Democratic establishment and corporate media – including The Nation’s recent deplorable hit-piece.

And I’ll close, my fellow progressives, with a little reminder that Rep. Gabbard needs nearly 20,000 more individual donations (a dollar will do) before the democracy-strangling authoritarians who run the Democratic Party will allow her on the debate stage. Please consider making that donation, otherwise we’ll be stuck with neoconservative Warren and Biden, Booker/Beto/Harris/Gillibrand/Klobuchar (the empty suits, save for corporation cash), trick pony/single-issue Yang, and sad, feckless Bernie – when it comes to foreign policy – who accepts virtually all of Bolton/Pompeo’s framing of Venezuela today and has even called Hugo Chavez, the most popular leader in the hemisphere when he was alive, an amazing humanitarian, “a dead communist dictator.”

(Bernie, I love you on domestic policy, but but your foreign policy has always been SHIT. And while I would vote for you in the general, I will never forgive you for refusing to fight for our votes in 2016 – when we’d won by 5-10% thanks to your leadership and our grassroots efforts. And I despise your cowardice in refusing to call out the rigged primary in 2016 and the years since, instead joining in on the RussiaGate propaganda campaign designed to give the corrupt Democrats cover and push Donald Trump toward the New Cold War, while snuffing out the progressive energy you helped unleash.)

My Rx: Tulsi Gabbard 2020 – possibly Gabbard/Sanders, for cache alone – an unstoppable ticket!

(Because the rest are “centrist” – neocon/neolib – frauds who will only suffocate the left, capitulate to the right, and discredit “liberalism” along the way, paving the path for the next Trump.)


The article certainly didn’t say that. I read it as bemoaning the fact that this was the dominant narrative and there was no large and united, voices on the left to counter it. I have to agree with that analysis. He didn’t go into the why’s and hows of this, nor did he give any analysis of what changed between the time of Allende and Chavez - and that is a pity.


Describing Chavism and the Bolivarian Revolution as socialism does a disservice to the idea of socialism and does little to clarify for Americans what socialism really means. Who can be blamed for associating the Venezuelan Maduro regime with socialism when a host of left-wingers from Corbyn to Bernie Sanders sang the praises of Chavez and his “21st Century Socialism”.

In his own words Chavez explained that:

“I don’t believe in the dogmatic postulates of Marxist revolution. I don’t accept that we are living in a period of proletarian revolutions. All that must be revised. Reality is telling us that every day. Are we aiming in Venezuela today for the abolition of private property or a classless society? I don’t think so. But if I’m told that because of that reality you can’t do anything to help the poor, the people who have made this country rich through their labour – and never forget that some of it was slave labour – then I say: ‘We part company.’ I will never accept that there can be no redistribution of wealth in society. Our upper classes don’t even like paying taxes. That’s one reason they hate me. We said: ‘You must pay your taxes.’ I believe it’s better to die in battle, rather than hold aloft a very revolutionary and very pure banner, and do nothing…That position often strikes me as very convenient, a good excuse…Try and make your revolution, go into combat, advance a little, even if it’s only a millimetre, in the right direction, instead of dreaming about utopias.”

Chavez cannot be called a socialist in the proper sense of the term. He was a populist (and he was indeed very popular) nationalist leader who tried to improve the lot of the poor but circumstances meant that he could not go beyond state-capitalism and social reforms. Yes, Venezuelan workers gained some benefits from Chavez. His time in power saw an improvement for some of Venezuela’s poor.

Without the charisma of Chavez, Maduro has failed to maintain the impact of the palliative policies which were financed by oil revenue that suffered when oil prices dropped.

You can’t make capitalism work in the interest of the workers, even though you can bring in some temporary pro-worker reforms. The socialist conclusion is that you cannot defy the vagaries of the world capitalist system. In the end the economic laws of capitalism assert themselves. Palliatives can improve living conditions in some respects and temporarily create a gentler capitalism but ameliorative reforms cannot end capitalism.

The best way to assist the workers of Venezuela is to support a president that dragoons them into being fodder in a siege warfare with the USA. The current leftist supporters of Maduro put their concerns for the national rights of Venezuela before class solidarity, and in supporting the Maduro government, excusing the repressive parts of Maduro’s regime as mistakes, or excesses due to the American economic sanctions against it, the Maduro apologists excuse his actions as a necessary defence against US imperialist aggression. The shameful actions of Maduro in the suppression of workers’ rights in the name of protecting Venezuelan sovereignty has been to strengthen the hegemony of the ruling party elite.


On the world stage neoliberalism has been extracting wealth away from the masses of other countries for the benefit of US corporations, while the US masses (including the leadership of the left) has been fine with that. Now that it’s clear that neoliberalism has been for several decades extracting wealth from the US masses for distribution upwards, the masses here are not so happy.


On a recent KBOO interview an American reporter, formerly based in Philadelphia, was interviewed live from Caracas ( with the power outage still causing serious issues ). When discussing the supposed food shortages, he said they’re actually much worse in Columbia. Especially, along the shared border provinces.
Columbia is a disaster, after 5+ (?) years of bringing a negotiated peace to the countryside. Thanks for nothing, yet again, you butchers in the Obama Adm. The " pacification "* was a complete success if you’re a big fan of colonial rule and eradication of a nation’s ability to feed itself.


“Despite committed work by relatively isolated intellectuals and activists, too many social democrats in the US—willing to attack Trump on almost anything else—have either remained relatively quiet or (worse) largely accepted the premises of his imperialist foreign policy”

It could be that many are not interested in supporting autocracy of the right or left. We may not like full-on capitalism or socialism but would prefer to choose which or what part of either we want at the time, not either/or, all or nothing. Why can’t government change along with circumstances? And why does a party or politicians get to dictate to us?

Direct Democracy

Well, he did sign a “free trade” (i.e., investor rights deal) deal with them. So, put that in your pipe and smoke it union organizers.

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The contradictions of Chavismo, and there were and are many, pale in comparison to those of its opponents at home and abroad. That said, they can and should be critiqued, and that can be done while remaining foursquare defiant against neoliberalism and imperialism.

Solidarity should not be afforded any government, but the people of a nation. To the degree that Chavismo is an expression of their will to create a just society, it should be defended against assaults from Yanquis and regional rightists.

The Democratic Party, regardless of “wing”, will never provide safe harbor for such sentiments.


– Your examples are valid, but you don’t have to go that far from Venezuela. Next-door Colombia is a dangerous place for union and community leaders, peace and environmental activists, and indigenous and Afro communities. As Honduras was the main U.S. base to attack Nicaragua, Colombia is a squalid partner in undermining the elected government of Venezuela. And a major recipient of military and other ‘aid.’

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Joan, has this realpolitik served the left well in past? Hillary Clinton was surely the leading Dem. practitioner of realpolitik (loved the coup in Honduras, e.g.). It didn’t help her win, and probably wouldn’t have helped Venezuela had she in fact won.
Upholding Venezuela’s sovereignty is critical these days to stemming the right-wing tide in Latin America.

x1jodonn, I can’t praise your response enough. Although I hope Warren is a bit better than a neo-con.

The lack of mention of the US alphabet soup involvement in the destruction of the pink movement in South America makes this article irrelevant.