World in View: Venezuela crisis demands a new vision

June 30, 2017

From the July-August 2017 issue of News & Letters

The lack of a fully coherent social process, including in the very foundation of “21st century socialism” beginning in the Hugo Chavez era, left the door open for neoliberalism to come roaring back.

Venezuela today is buffeted by a whirlpool of economic, political and social forces causing tremendous human suffering.

The collapse of oil prices and the government’s mismanagement of resources have had a severe impact. Venezuela is dependent on the price of oil, capitalism’s key commodity. Food, medicine and other essentials are in short supply. Hardships have fallen disproportionately on the urban masses, employed and unemployed.

There have been violent assaults from the Right, with authoritarian responses from President Maduro’s government. The vast majority of the masses of Venezuelans have not taken part. However, they have not strongly defended Maduro’s rule, which is marked by economic mismanagement, corruption and political manipulation.


“Socialism” from above with one guiding leader, a military bureaucracy focused primarily on the importance of egalitarian distribution and leaving much room for corruption—all under the guidance of the State with a capital S—cannot be a substitute for constructing socialism from below, beginning with the reorganization of the production process in factory and field controlled by the masses themselves. The legacy of Chavez and of “21st century socialism” in general are seriously called into question.

Do some of these difficulties and contradictions flow not alone from the power of capital—which is not to be underestimated—but as well from the failure by Chavez and those who call themselves socialist or Marxist revolutionaries to work out an emancipatory philosophic vision?


Despite the serious difficulties, there are tendencies within the Left in Venezuela, as well as in the Latin American Left, who are not giving knee-jerk, uncritical support to Maduro. They are trying to work out critical support to the Venezuelan masses, along with opposition to neoliberalism and U.S. imperialism. To do so compels working out an emancipatory vision that can set the ground for theories and practical activities reaching toward a new human society.

—Eugene Walker

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