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Venezuela’s ‘historical development’

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech in Caracas on February 8 last year. AFP

Venezuela’s ‘historical development’

It would be tempting for some claiming to be Leftist-inclined to see in the Venezuela of today a “counter-revolution”.

From their viewpoint, if the former Hugo Chavez regime installed in Venezuela a truly socialist revolution, what we are seeing in present day Venuezela, where Chavez’s favoured successor President Nicolas Maduro is up against widespread popular protests born of material deprivation, among other factors, is a massive “counter-revolution”.

As world opinion assesses the merits of the arguments put forward by Opposition leader Juan Guaido to be considered “interim president” of Venezuela, it comes as a supreme irony that it is to no less a person than that joint architect of Russia’s communist revolution of October 1917 – Leon Trotsky – that we must turn, to a degree, to make some sense of the “great confusion under the heavens” in contemporary Venezuela.

In his monumental classic on Russia’s “Great October Revolution” of 1917, The History of the Russian Revolution, Trotsky wrote that the Russian people’s urge to revolt against the tsarist regime “was ever nourishing itself on the living experience of the masses which were soon to take their place on the revolutionary arena”.

The key phrase in the extract is “living experience”.

The masses who rose in revolt against the Russian monarchy in 1917 were not all well versed in Marx or Lenin, but were driven to desperation by deprivation and hunger.

Material needs which went unfulfilled, or “living experience”, drove them to take up arms against the tsarist state.

The same factors, in the main, are compelling vast sections of the Venezuelan people to revolt against the Maduro regime in Venezuela today.

It is quite some time since bread queues and rummaging for food became common sights in Venezuela. Thus have sections of the Venezuelan masses turned against their rulers.

It is likely to be argued in some quarters that “outside interference” is behind the Venezuelan revolt.

This may be so to a degree, but those experiencing hunger or “the agony of the stomach” hardly need any “outside” urging to take to the streets in protest against their rulers.

In a situation of uncurbed deprivation and hunger spontaneous popular revolts should only be expected.

Considering this, the observer is compelled to conclude that Venezuela is an exemplar of a failed “socialist revolution”, if at all there occurred in the country a “revolution” of that nature.

Refusing to be fooled by any Leftist rhetoric coming from their rulers, the Venezuelan people have chosen to make their disaffection felt.

In other words, the “revolution” failed to deliver the goods.

Not being blessed by the infinite tolerance and docility of, for example, their Sri Lankan counterparts, the Venezuelan people have chosen to demonstrate their sense of grievance to their ruling classes.

Social history is thus shaped, among other things, by the people’s keenly felt material grievances. This has been the case in the majority of social upheavals in human history.

To be sure, the US has recognised Venezuela’s “interim president”, while major Western powers, such as, Britain, France, Germany and Spain have said they would do likewise unless Maduro goes for a presidential election.

There seems to be ample proof here of a Western-backed “counter-revolution” but the wellsprings of revolt were material grievances and the popular backlash had got into full drive quite some time back.

Deprivation and hunger are, and have been, realities in Venezuela.

While the Opposition is winning the support of the West, Russia and China are on record as stating that there should be no “outside interference” in the country.

Hopefully, Venezuela will not degenerate into an arena for a Cold War-style contest of power among interested outside states.

To the extent to which a Cold War-type polarity deepens in Venezuela, to the same degree, finding a political solution to the country’s problems would prove difficult.

Ideally, the local antagonists to the conflict should be allowed to work out a solution to their issues by themselves.

However, outside backing for the conflicting sides would not come for free and those domestic parties hoping to bring a solution to the conflict would need to guard against falling into a neo-colonial trap.

For example, the Western powers backing the Opposition would want the latter to work according to their dictates on the question of future financial and material support.

If Venezuela submits to such pressures the chances are that it will be freely submitting to neo-colonial binds from which there would be no easy escape. Colonialism may be a thing of the past but neo-colonialism is very much alive.

It would be fatalistic on the part of observers to trace to external quarters entirely the origins of Venezuela’s present problems. One would need to go to another classic work to learn more about the obstacles lying in the way of the country’s wellbeing.

This book is none other than Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. The insights offered by this memorable work continue to be applicable to the global South, although it was written in the early 1960s.

In his book Fanon makes it amply clear that the power elites who took over the reins of governance from their colonial masters are failing their peoples utterly.

This is because these new political elites have degenerated into a parasitic class who “feather their nests” at the expense of the public.

Rather than work towards re-distributive justice, these new rulers become a law unto themselves and become engrossed with enriching themselves and their kith and kin.

Thus is the dream of socialism betrayed shamelessly.

The crisis in Venezuela should prompt all those interested in its future to study the country from this perspective.

Even if “socialist revolutions” are brought about in the global South, they stand the risk of being aborted if the South’s new rulers betray the people’s trust and work mindlessly and greedily towards their own enrichment and power. the island (sri lanka)/asia news network

Lynn Ockersz

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