Thursday, 3 August 2017

Taking Sides on Venezuela























When there is a crisis overseas, you can tell a great deal about someone by how they react to it. In this case I'd like to draw attention to sundry calls on Jeremy Corbyn to condemn what is happening in Venezuela. Ever keen to pressure a leader they remain unreconciled to, Angela Smith and Graham Jones, ostensibly in their roles as members and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Venezuela, have added their voice to the gnashing of Tory MPs and hostile editorials. Why they are on this APPG after showing scant interest in Latin American affairs during their careers is something I'll leave the reader to ponder.

We know from the recent attacks on Jeremy Corbyn that the Tories, their press, and their helpers in the PLP have determined the best way to turn back the tide is to call his integrity into question. See, for example, how Venezuela concern trolling and its attempts to associate repression with Jeremy is taken further by The Sun's claim the Labour leader faces "fresh questions" over his ties to the Nicolas Maduro regime. What are these ties, exactly? We don't know because they do not elaborate, almost as if the truth doesn't matter. When they have run out of political attacks, insinuation and smear is all that remains. It just so happens Labour's statement is very clear, but that won't do. Some will not be satisfied until Jeremy renounces his previous support for Hugo Chavez and performs the kind of public repentance none of his critics would be prepared to do themselves - or even ask of any other politician.

That isn't to say what is happening in Venezuela isn't worrying, it obviously is. What we see is a pre-civil war situation in which the government and opposition are locked in a death spiral of struggle. Trying to understand what is happening means putting into the bin hyperbolic claims of Maduro's "dictatorship" and coming to terms with what is happening as it unfolds - a project hypocritical Tories and our nominally Labour MPs are utterly uninterested in.

A good starting point would be familiarising oneself with large quantity of current affairs writing available in English, both from the pro-opposition and pro-Maduro camps. As with all analysis, it's a good idea to situate recent political developments in the context of history which, in Venezuela in the post-war period was a history of coups and authoritarian government, and only restricted intervals of liberal democracy. It means understanding what happened to the Venezuelan economy over the same time frame and asking who benefited from its decades-long oil boom. We would need to look at the relationship between the present crisis and the onset of runaway inflation in 2014, the class character of the antagonists, and the role the interference of the United States has played in events. We must also avoid the sort of myth-making leftist accounts of revolutions and civil wars are fond, of playing the epigone Maduro to the saviour Chavez. Matters were better and circumstances different before Chavez's premature death, and while he enjoyed popular support and legitimacy this was in the context of a stronger economy and weaker opposition.

The precipitating factor for the current crisis was the 18 month-long collapse in oil prices, that saw the price fall from a high of $115/barrel to $35. All oil-dependent economies took a big hit, Venezuela included. However, the country's difficulties don't all result from this external shock: the economy had tipped into recession some six months prior. According to the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, inflation was turbo charged by the government's decision to tighten access to foreign exchange. As the dollar is a stable global reserve currency unlikely to be depreciated by inflationary pressures, the government inadvertently touched off a stampede for dollars which, in turn, caused inflation to spiral. The oil crisis further sapped government revenue, and so the money presses were set into motion, which only spurred inflation further. The problem is possible solutions, such an easing of currency exchange rules, are rejected by the government. As a result there have been widespread shortages, a return to arbitrage and barter, and a well-publicised scarcity of loo roll.

The opposition have made hay with this. They took to the streets in 2013 after Maduro narrowly won the presidential election, and have forced regular street confrontations with government forces ever since. They never accepted the legitimacy of Chavismo, even when the economy was booming and their bank accounts fattened on the proceeds, and when hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs were created. The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) is the catch-all anti-Chavista party comprising parties tied to the old elite - conservatives, liberals, and the centre left. Interestingly also signed up is Bandera Roja, a farcical Maoist ex-guerrilla outfit for whom Chavez and his United Socialist Party were/are "social-fascists". As an umbrella and with little policy to unite them, the MUD is entirely an anti-government force. It has nothing to say about the economic crisis except things are bad mmmkay, and would have trouble coming up with a policy platform that could address it - which is why they don't bother. A case of taking out Maduro first and worrying about the rest later is their organising principle. Still, in 2015 they capitalised on the situation and won 112 seats out of 167 in the National Assembly elections, and have managed to leverage their super majority to try and paralyse the government. Maduro for his part acknowledged his defeat, but then announced the setting up of an alternative "communal" parliament ostensibly to draw together representatives from the grass roots communal movement. Think of it as an attempt to formalise a situation of dual power, of bourgeois democracy vs soviet-style workers' councils. The problem for Maduro was its being a transparently self-serving move and the fact the communal movement is nowhere near as numerous or powerful as the soviet movement was in the Russian revolution. The fact it has only met once at Maduro's behest underlined its sham character and inability to circumvent the assembly.

This didn't stop government attempts to squash the assembly. In March, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the formally separate judicial body akin to the US supreme court (but also stuffed with Maduro supporters) stripped the National Assembly of its powers and assumed its legislative functions. And then, two days later, went back and reinstated its powers. The Assembly retaliated and began moving against the judges. To head this off, in early May Maduro decreed the convention of a constituent assembly with far reaching powers, including those to rewrite Venezuela's constitution, modify term limits for the president and, entirely coincidentally, the power to dismiss parliament. The election of assembly members was sorted by electoral districts and with reserved positions for occupations and other interest groups, like trade unions and indigenous peoples. This method also meant the MUD parties would have had a difficult time winning significant representation to it, and therefore boycotted the election. This undoubtedly helped keep the turnout low (the figure itself is disputed) and helps put questions of legitimacy over the whole process in the view of establishment international observers. That however is not the only reason. Reports suggest government workers and employees in the state-owned enterprises were pressured to vote on pain of disciplinary measures or dismissal.

Herein lies the problem with what Venezuela's 'socialism in the 21st century' has become. The MUD-led opposition is wide but remains largely passive. The street battles seen on our TV screens are mostly small groups of activists from the wealthier neighbourhoods of Caracas. They are representative of the elite interests arrayed against the government, but are not and have a very difficult time articulating the anger and frustration of the people at large. It's one thing to get huge numbers for A-to-B marches, but difficult to mobilise for active, militant confrontation. Despite the deepening sense of crisis and falling of living standards, significant numbers of poor Venezuelans prefer to leave over finding salvation in the opposition's arms. And this presents a significant problem for Maduro and the PSUV too. In 2002 Chavez was saved by the intervention of millions against the CIA-backed coup to remove him. Come 2017 those masses are missing. This says a lot about the drip, drip draining of legitimacy away from Maduro. Constitutional shenanigans explain some of it, but there is the deadening effect of his attempts to sort the economy out. As we have seen in Europe, governments turning against their constituents' interests is bad for both. The Chavismo programme of nationalisation has rolled back, experiments with special economic zones modelled on China's experience, worker participation has been halted and in some cases, reversed, privileging debt payment over reinvestment, and, of course, feeding inflation by printing money rather than changing foreign currency policy have reduced swathes of their base to spectators. Were the mass enthusiastic and felt Maduro was their president leading their government, the opposition wouldn't even be in contention. But they don't and they are not actively defending the presidency - the crisis has left many fatigued, and the attitude the government has towards its people is almost Fabian in its outlook: the masses should vote and leave the building of Chavismo to the state. If socialism is something that is done to you or for you, don't be shocked if most people feel detached and alienated from the project.

Unfortunately the two likely outcomes do not look good. The MUD might talk a good democracy and profess care for human rights, but the moment they come to power such niceties would evaporate. The remnants of progressive policies are for rescinding and a neoliberal programme of privatisation and marketisation prepped as per Brazil and Argentina, and the only law respected being those governing property. Respect for free speech and assembly would be smashed under a crackdown on Chavez and Maduro supporters. The kinds of powers the Venezuelan government are using now are nothing compared to Latin American traditions of counterrevolutionary violence. Today's street protesters would be the witch-hunters, torturers and executioners of tomorrow. If this happens I have a suspicion the people hand-wringing and using Venezuela for point scoring in the advanced countries would quickly file the country down the memory hole along with the other unpleasant regimes they don't give a monkey's about. Surely then we should stick up for Maduro's government as the imperfect guarantors of what exists? The problem overhanging an uncritical defence is the appalling history of self-described socialist governments restricting and abolishing democratic freedoms, often in the name of emergencies (real and imagined) and then becoming something that is the very antithesis of human liberation. Democracy in a leftist movement and therefore a leftist government isn't a nice add-on for after the time the nasty capitalists have been done away with. It is necessary for the continued health and self-organisation of our class in the process of making a revolution. Chavismo is in danger because it has never allowed the masses to organise themselves, and appeals in this direction may be too late after all that has happened. And so a Maduro government is preferable to the opposition in much the same way, to pursue an idiot Newsnight question, Tony Blair was preferable to the Tories. But that doesn't mean we should be satisfied with, let alone apologise for Maduro's creeping authoritarianism. If people are concerned they should find out what the critical-Chavista movement are saying and finding out about their own attempts to carry forward the revolution. It's with them our sympathies should ultimately lie.

It denigrates the seriousness of the Venezeulan crisis to bring the question back to Jeremy Corbyn and what he should and shouldn't say. The Labour statement is a good starting place and once he returns from his hols he should adopt a critical standpoint. This isn't to appease the press but to emphasise that socialism involves a deeper, more thoroughgoing democratisation of social life. After all, the indispensibility of the latter to the former is the last thing our establishment would like to hear.

13 comments:

Paul Canning said...

Labour's statement is awful > https://storify.com/pauloCanning/why-labour-s-venezuela-policy-is-awful

Mark Livingston said...

I wonder what Tory-lite Angela Smith has to say about Yemen. Not a lot, I suspect.

Boffy said...

The point is that Corbyn should never have associated himself with the regime of Chavez/Maduro in the first place. It is just another example of the Left jumping on the bandwagon of some left demagogue, only to find themselves pulled down along with them when they are inevitably exposed for what they actually are. Its like George Bernard Shaw's blindness to the atrocities that were being carried out by Stalin's regime.

It is one thing for socialists to argue in favour of defence of some country that is embarking upon a radical course of action, and facing opposition by imperialism, as for example the USSR was, or Mexico was in the 1930's, or Venezuela was doing, or in a different way, Greece was doing after 2010, it is a completely different thing for socialists to confuse that with supporting or allying themselves with the regimes in those countries.

Trotsky was adamant about defending the USSR against imperialism, but equally adamant about criticising the regime of Stalin, and about opposing those socialists who wanted to avoid criticism of Stalin for fear of giving comfort to imperialism.

When Trotsky was in exile in Mexico, he supported measures such as the nationalisation of the oil companies, as necessary to the development of the economy, but he made no concessions to criticising the Bonapartist regime of Cardena, which had many similarities to the regime of Chavez in Venezuela.

I did not support the position of the AWL over Venezuela, as my posts to their articles on it demonstrate, because it was really an Oehlerite sectarian position, that basically told socialists in Venezuela to remain outside the mass organisations that the Venezuelan workers themselves were creating - it was much the same sectarian stance they were adopting at the time to the Labour Party in Britain, which they described at the time as a stinking corpse - but the general thrust of the analysis of Chavez as a bourgeois nationalist, like Cardenas, and his regime as Bonapartist was correct. And, their criticism over the way the Left in Britain was yet again fawning over such a regime, has again proven to be correct.

My criticism of their position was and remains that socialists have to stick with the workers, and their mass organisations, however, reactionary those mass organisations may become at any period, in order to keep the ear of the workers, and in order thereby to change those mass organisations, and steer them towards a more adequate programme.

In Venezuela the problem has been that the Left was not critical enough of the Chavez/Maduro regimes, and the same could be said about Syriza, whereas for a whole period before the rise of Corbyn, the left was too sectarian towards the Labour Party, and now has many years of lost ground to make up, a a result of its sectarian stand-offishness.

But, socialists should have no more truck with the Maduro regimes attacks on Venezuelan workers and civil rights than they should have had with Stalin's regime, and they should say so openly. Stalinism has discredited the name of Socialism far more than socialists should have allowed to happen. We should not allow Maduro to besmirch the name of our movement and ideas either.

Phil said...

I strongly suspect, Paul, that nothing would satisfy you other than Jeremy Corbyn's full-throated support for the opposition to Maduro. If they win Maduro's record will look the very picture of liberal democratic nicety.

Phil said...

This from 'Gwen' on Facebook:

What is going on in Venezuela is very serious, and there are really no heroes there except the common people of the country who have shown remarkable resilience and perseverance. I think the article is correct in describing the situation as a "death spiral." The government under Maduro keeps overstepping its legitimate bounds, but they are always able to rationalize it as necessary for "stability."

Top Five Signs I'm Not Going To Take Someone Serious When Talking About Venezuela

5. They talk about the economic problems of Venezuela without discussing the role of oil prices.

4. They talk about government violence without talking about the long history of right-wing violence in Latin America.

3. They go on endlessly about resource shortages (or lack thereof) without talking about why those resource shortages exist (or why resources are badly distributed).

2. They say something like "Venezuela proves socialism never works."

1. They are trying to get you to either unconditionally praise or condemn Maduro and/or the anti-government protestors.

Ed said...

“The point is that Corbyn should never have associated himself with the regime of Chavez/Maduro in the first place. It is just another example of the Left jumping on the bandwagon of some left demagogue, only to find themselves pulled down along with them when they are inevitably exposed for what they actually are. It’s like George Bernard Shaw's blindness to the atrocities that were being carried out by Stalin's regime.”

This is ludicrous. First of all, ‘regime’ is a fine term for socialists to apply to a democratically elected government in a country with free, multiparty elections and a pluralist media, as Chavez’s unquestionably was. Maduro’s government can indeed be accused of undemocratic behaviour since losing the assembly elections at the end of 2015, blocking the recall referendum and pulling various other stunts in a bid to hold onto power (although as Phil points out, the irresponsible extremism of the MUD leadership is also a big part of the picture). That cannot be used to rewrite the history of the last 15 years in Venezuela. Chávez headed a government, not a regime, that was freely elected because it was popular. He was no more a ‘demagogue’ than Tony Blair or Barack Obama or any other charismatic, eloquent politician. His government had real achievements to its credit, and Corbyn and other leftists had every right to praise those achievements. Invoking the atrocities of Stalin in this context is a cheap smear; nothing remotely comparable has happened in Venezuela. We can and should be sharply critical of what Maduro is doing today without indulging in ridiculous hyperbole or taking our rhetorical cues from the US State Department.

This is the basic problem with all these calls for Corbyn to ‘speak out’: Tom Harris made it crystal clear on Newsnight the other day, he doesn’t just want Corbyn to criticize what is happening today, he wants him to apologise in the most abject way for ever having said that there was anything positive about the Chávez government and its record in power. On that score, Harris and his cronies can go and take a running jump. There was every reason to draw up a positive balance-sheet of what Chávez had achieved in the 2000s. That should never have meant uncritical support or pretending there were no problems in Venezuela, but that should hold for any government.

If you look at South Africa today, for example, it has a lot in common with Venezuela: economic mismanagement, corruption in high circles, a president who is intolerant of dissent, and violence against protesters by state forces (the Marikana massacre was worse than anything that has happened in Venezuela recently). Does that mean anyone who celebrated the post-apartheid transition and the ANC’s accession to power in the 90s should now apologise? I’d say there are a few Tory nostalgists for apartheid who might say exactly that, but most of us would differ, I imagine. A party can lose its way after being in office for a long time and take the wrong path; it can end up destroying the positive work it did before. That doesn’t mean the positive work never existed in the first place.

Ed said...

Very good post anyway, Phil. One thing I’ve found that makes it even harder to find your bearings in looking at Venezuela today is this. I’ve always looked to the ‘critical-Chavistas’ you mention as a guide to what’s happening there. Nowadays that term is primarily used to describe people who were supporters of Chávez in the past but have now broken with Maduro’s government. But there have always been groups and individuals who supported Chávez in the big confrontations with the Venezuelan right, the US and regional reactionaries like Uribe, while still keeping a critical distance and pointing out the shortcomings, often very harshly. My rule of thumb is always to seek out voices like that, who are sympathetic but critical; any government is going to be flawed and you shouldn’t trust anyone who won’t talk about the problems.

Under the impact of the crisis, that sector of opinion has split; now you have people who call for a clean break with Maduro and the PSUV, and people who still say there’s no alternative but to support them against the opposition, warts and all. The group Marea Socialista, for example, has split into two factions on that basis; the statements from the two sides are worth reading:

http://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article5006

http://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article5041

http://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article5005

http://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article5042

And the same goes for foreign scholar-activists who have produced some excellent work on Venezuela. People like Greg Wilpert and Steve Ellner, who were never uncritical cheerleaders, argue that it’s still necessary to support Maduro against the opposition; people like Julia Buxton reject Maduro outright and say that the only way out is a negotiated pact between the government and the opposition. Jacobin has published some good pieces lately from diametrically opposed perspectives:

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/05/venezuela-crisis-maduro-opposition-violence-elections-economy

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/07/venezuela-maduro-helicopter-attack-psuv-extractivism-oil

https://jacobinmag.com/2017/07/venezuela-elections-chavez-maduro-bolivarianism

I think the reason for the confusion among ‘critical-Chavistas’ is that there’s no good position really available. If you say the PSUV is completely bankrupt as a political vehicle and it’s time to build a third force between the government and the opposition, I think that’s unquestionably right in the long run, but I just don’t see how it can be done in a short space of time, over the next few months. If you say the PSUV is still the only shield against the right-wing parties taking power and going on the rampage, you’re left relying on Maduro and his allies to chart a way out of the crisis, which they’ve completely failed to do over the past 18 months.

The whole situation is deeply depressing. A big part of the population now defines themselves as ‘ni ni’, which means they support neither the government nor the opposition; I can fully sympathise with that, it’s a pretty rational choice given the record of both PSUV and MUD. But right now the ‘ni ni’ option doesn’t exist; one of those forces has to control the state, and as Phil says, there’s every reason to believe that the right-wing leaders would go on the rampage if they got back into power, like Temer’s regime in Brazil, only much more violent and vengeful. The best outcome that’s still half-way realistic is some kind of negotiated pact that avoids a head-on confrontation (the Vatican has got involved trying to promote that option; the OAS, on the other hand, has been giving uncritical support to the most extreme elements in the opposition).

Boffy said...

"If you look at South Africa today, for example, it has a lot in common with Venezuela: economic mismanagement, corruption in high circles, a president who is intolerant of dissent, and violence against protesters by state forces (the Marikana massacre was worse than anything that has happened in Venezuela recently). Does that mean anyone who celebrated the post-apartheid transition and the ANC’s accession to power in the 90s should now apologise?"

The people who should apologise are those who failed to point out the nature of the ANC's politics all along, and why they would inevitably lead to the kind of situation that exists in South Africa today. And the same is true in relation to those who failed to point out the nature of Chavez' politics too.

What was required in both cases was to build an alternative socialist, working-class based movement in opposition to both Chavez and Mandela/ANC not on a sectarian basis of standing apart from the actual working-class and its mass organisations from where they actually were, but of organising and fighting alongside them within those organisations until such time as they could be broken away from the existing leaderships.

Jonathan said...

If you want to hear what Corbyn should say about Venezuela Phil try this from the Socialist International

http://mailchi.mp/socialistinternational/venezuelan-government-deepens-break-with-democracy-and-increases-repression-and-violence-698621?e=a801418b68

jim mclean said...

Find it sad that the greatest ally the Government has at the moment is Goldman Sachs who have bought up the national debt.
Maduro is in a worse mental state than Trump, the Army through Padrino Lopez have been in full control for over a year. The UK left should have opened up debate about the situation a long time ago.

Ed said...

The Socialist International is some kind of moral beacon now, is it? Good grief, how parochial can people be. The SI is bad enough in Europe, but once you get into the wider world it’s the absolute pits. They allowed Hosni Mubarak’s party to join when he was the dictator of Egypt, along with the parties of various other despots (Laurent Gbagbo, for example). When it comes to Venezuela, they have allowed several far-right opposition groups to join: ‘Popular Will’, led by the thuggish fanatic Leopoldo Lopez, and the relic of the old regime AD, whose leader, Henry Ramos Allup, is a supporter of Alvaro Uribe, and cheered on the defeat of the referendum on Colombia’s peace agreement last year.

Those parties knew exactly what they were doing when they submitted their membership applications to the SI; they knew it would accept absolutely anyone, and they would buy themselves a cheap coat of whitewash (I’ve seen people brandishing the fact of their membership as proof that the opposition isn’t right-wing at all and is in fact ‘centre-left’). And now they have the SI issuing statements backing them to the hilt. If Lopez, Ramos Allup and their chums do take power in Caracas and go on the rampage, sending death squads into the barrios in the style of their hero Uribe, I expect deafening silence from the SI on the matter.

BTW, I see that the chorus of right-wing Labour MPs shrieking that Corbyn must ‘speak out’ has now been joined by John Spellar, whose last notable action was teaming up with the Tories to water down a report on the abuses of the Saudi regime so that arms sales for their war in Yemen could carry on. Out of nowhere, Spellar has discovered a passionate concern for democracy in Venezuela, but not in Brazil, or Colombia, or Honduras, or any other Latin American country whose government is still on good terms with the US State Department. As a counterpoint to this nonsense, I’d recommend following Julia Buxton, a real expert on Venezuela who has been harshly critical of Maduro’s government but treats these opportunists with the appropriate contempt:

https://twitter.com/BuxtonJulia

Ed said...

The FT had an interesting report on Venezuela a couple of days ago that I’ve just read today. It focuses on Henrique Capriles, who is the only opposition politician to have shown evidence of thinking seriously about why Chávez was popular and how to respond to that (the rest of the opposition figureheads, Lopez, Machado, Ramos Allup, have spent the last 15 years thinking ‘one more coup and we’ll have our country back’ and going no further). Capriles ran quite a good presidential election campaign against Chávez in 2012, presenting himself as a moderate, centre-left politician, even calling himself ‘Venezuela’s Lula’ (although Lula himself backed Chávez), and promising to maintain the Chavista social programmes (I wouldn’t trust him to do that if he got into power, but at least he saw the need to support those programmes verbally). He ran again against Maduro and came close to beating him; after that, he was displaced by the more extreme opposition leaders who reverted back to the coup-mongering strategy.

Anyway, Capriles is now talking about the need to reach out to the people who supported Chávez but are fed up with Maduro (I’ll paste a couple of chunks, it’s behind a paywall I think):

‘Henrique Capriles, twice a presidential candidate and leader of the biggest opposition party in Congress, said an increasing number of socialists were fed up with Mr Maduro even though they still believed in Chávismo — the populist leftwing movement founded by the president’s charismatic predecessor Hugo Chávez. “They defend Chávez and we don’t,” Mr Capriles said in an interview at his campaign headquarters in Caracas. “But still we can sit down and talk.” Mr Capriles on Sunday met former interior minister Miguel Rodríguez, who has fallen out with the government. The opposition leader is also hoping to reach out to Luisa Ortega, who was sacked as attorney-general on Saturday after months of criticising the regime, as well as her husband and leading Socialist party member Germán Ferrer, and former ombudswoman Gabriela Ramírez. All were once central to Chávismo.’

Some rather obvious relevance to the attacks on Corbyn over Venezuela from the likes of Spellar, Tom Harris and Graham Jones—they are saying that it’s not enough to criticize Maduro today, you have to condemn everything that’s happened in Venezuela since 1999 and apologize for ever having thought differently. But here we have one of the main opposition leaders saying it’s necessary to work with people who weren’t just Chávez supporters, but served in his government. Well, well, well …

There’s also this:

‘A recent poll found that 21 per cent of the population regard themselves as Chávistas, 42 per cent as opponents and a high 34 per cent register as neutral, suggesting the potential for a broader coalition against Mr Maduro. About 44 per cent believed Venezuela’s crisis would be resolved through “dialogue and negotiation between Chávistas and opponents” while 19 per cent said it would only be solved by “a decisive confrontation between the two sides”. A further 18 per cent said the crisis would be resolved through military intervention, either foreign or local.’

https://www.ft.com/content/f79179ec-7aa7-11e7-9108-edda0bcbc928?conceptId=d7f93f54-8378-35aa-a0e8-fb06d37ba7d5

So in the last 24 hours we’ve had more attacks on Corbyn because he called for dialogue, negotiation and compromise between the government and the opposition in Venezuela, rather than condemning Maduro outright and depicting the present crisis as a struggle between good and evil, liberty and oppression (Jones and Spellar have been saying precisely that). Newsnight wheeled out one of the leaders of Lopez’s ‘Popular Will’ party to demand that Corbyn give uncritical support to the opposition in its push to oust Maduro without any negotiated pact or transition. But it turns out Corbyn is closer to popular opinion in Venezuela than the screamers who’ve just learned how to find the place on the map. Well, well, well, who would have thought it …

Boffy said...

Ed,

What does any of this have to do with anything?

Nigel Farage turned out to be closer to a lot of voters in Britain than many other politicians, does that mean that Farage's ultra nationalist politics were right, and should not have been criticised? Socialism is not populism.

Nor is it lesser-evilism, or what-aboutery. No socialist doubts that the right-wing opposition in Venezuela are hypocrites, and worse than Chavez/Maduro, or that Spellar and co. simply seek an opportunity to attack Corbyn on whatever grounds. That doesn't change the fact that Chavez was not a socialist, let alone Marxist, but simply a bourgeois nationalist, and that those who attached themselves to that bandwagon, just as happened with Stalin, Mao, Castro, Ho, Mandela and others, and will happen with Maduro, Morales et al not only mislead the working-class, and lead them towards disaster, but also thereby open the door for those right-wing hypocrites to use that previous support to besmirch the name of socialism itself.