FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bolivia and Venezuela Offer an Alternative to Neo-Liberalism

by DERRICK O'KEEFE

In Bolivia, Evo Morales has swept into the presidency after years of popular mobilization; the long-suffering indigenous and poor majority is demanding an alternative economic and social order.

In Venezuela, seven years after Hugo Chavez first won power, the Bolivarian Revolution is demonstrating an alternative path, powered by a people awakened to political action and in the process of transforming their society.

Part of the reason for the resurgent radicalism in Latin America is the fact that the United States government — for all their efforts at sabotage and asphyxiation — has never been able to fully eliminate the Cuban Revolution. Immediately following news of his massive election victory, Morales passed on this unsubtle message via Cuban television:

I want to tell the Cuban people, its government and its leaders: thank you, for showing how to govern, to Latin America and the rest of the world, and for defending its dignity and sovereignty. (Morales Praises Castro in Cuban TV Interview,, Agence France-Press, December 20, 2005)

Back in 1999, the year Chavez was inaugurated as Venezuela,s President, capitalism was still at the height of its triumphalism (until late in the year, at least, when the twin specters of a raucous protest in Seattle and Y2K paranoia intervened).

In addition to the bombast of fashionable neo-liberal intellectuals, and the scolding insistence of right-wing politicians, we would do well do recall that the deans of social democracy had also, by the 1990s to be sure, fallen in line to prostrate themselves before the market and justify the rule of capital. The Left, in power, at least in the form that Canada and Europe had known it as mass social democratic parties, has seemed all too willing to impose, or all too impotent to oppose, neo-liberal measures and legislation.

A remarkably colourless (in terms of both the pigmentation and the style of the writers) and vapid collection of essays — published the same year that Chavez came to power in Venezuela — outlined the perspectives of social democracy,s statesmen as of the late 1990s. The Future of Social Democracy (Russell, 1999) includes contributions from noted leftists, like Shimon Peres, who recently formed a new political party in Israel with Ariel Sharon, and Bob Rae, the dismal former New Democratic Party (NDP) premier of Ontario who used a column a few years ago in the ultra right-wing National Post to formalize his defection (Parting Company with the NDP,, April 16, 2002). Rae,s essay is the book,s concluding one and includes, believe it or not, a sentence analogizing Tommy Douglas, Marin Luther King Jr. and Tony Blair!

Without dwelling on this dry little book too long, it is worth noting the rigid and sectarian line explicitly laid-out by editor Peter Russell in his introduction:

– “the social democracy advocated here must be and is reformist, not revolutionary social democratic, not democratic socialist.

– “Social democracy,s mission has become not replacing capitalism with an alternative economic system but humanizing capitalism both nationally and internationally.

– “capitalism is the only economic system capable of producing the wealth needed to sustain a full and rewarding life for all citizens. (Rusell, PP.8-9)

None of the essays — including the one by Canada,s former NDP leader and outgoing Member of Parliament Ed Broadbent strays from Russell,s narrow confines. In an era of rampant privatization, respectable, social democracy has prostrated itself before the market as just another shade of liberalism.

Many prominent social democrats have in fact formally become liberals. Taking just a couple of recent Canadian examples, former British Columbia N.D.P. premier Ujjal Dosanjh is now the federal Liberal Minister of Health, while Rae is a darling of Liberal governments at both the provincial level as well as in Ottawa. Last year, for instance, the former Rhodes scholar angered student groups by recommending that the Ontario Liberal government further deregulate university tuition fees.

The Future of Social Democracy also makes almost no mention of any of the organizations in the Global South that have continued to emerge to challenge neo-liberalism. Despite the stated global outlook, the myopic vision of the leaders of the West,s major social democratic parties is startling. The lionization of capitalism,s efficiency and productivity seems all the more absurd, of course, from the perspective of the impoverished majority in the neo-colonial world, where for centuries labour and natural resources have produced the wealth of Western Europe and North America.

Today, global capitalism is being challenged most directly in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez,s own discourse has sharpened dramatically against international capital in recent months and years. The Bolivarian leader has made repeated calls for the building of socialism for the 21st century,.

The Bolivarian Revolution is carrying out a transformation of both the reality of Venezuela and of the global alignment of political forces. The gains of el proceso are preciously concrete, as seen in rising rates of literacy and education, mass expansion of health care services, land reform, new housing for the poor, and an explosion in cooperative worker co-managed enterprises. These reforms are part of a revolutionary process with a continental and global dynamic.

Forget TINA.

Regardless of what we are told by the guardians of economic and political power, there is an alternative. All progressive-minded people would be wise to look closely at Venezuela, Bolivia, and at the social movements of Latin America, where the people are leading the way towards a future beyond neo-liberalism.

DERRICK O’KEEFE is co-editor of Seven Oaks.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 01, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Hillary: Ordinarily Awful or Uncommonly Awful?
Rob Urie
Liberal Pragmatism and the End of Political Possibility
Pam Martens
Clinton Says Wall Street Banks Aren’t the Threat, But Her Platform Writers Think They are
Michael Hudson
The Silence of the Left: Brexit, Euro-Austerity and the T-TIP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Marx on Financial Bubbles: Much Keener Insights Than Contemporary Economists
Evan Jones
Ancillary Lessons from Brexit
Jason Hirthler
Washington’s Not-So-Invisible Hand: It’s Not Economics, It’s Empire
Mike Whitney
Another Fed Fiasco: U.S. Bond Yields Fall to Record Lows
Aidan O'Brien
Brexit: the English and Welsh Enlightenment
Jeremy R. Hammond
How Turkey’s Reconciliation Deal with Israel Harms the Palestinians
Margaret Kimberley
Beneficial Chaos: the Good News About Brexit
Phyllis Bennis
From Paris to Istanbul, More ‘War on Terror’ Means More Terrorist Attacks
Dan Bacher
Ventura Oil Spill Highlights Big Oil Regulatory Capture
Ishmael Reed
OJ and Jeffrey Toobin: Black Bogeyman Auctioneer
Ron Jacobs
Let There Be Rock
Ajamu Baraka
Paris, Orlando and Turkey: Displacing the Narrative of Western Innocence
Pete Dolack
Brexit Will Only Count If Everybody Leaves the EU
Robert Fantina
The First Amendment, BDS and Third-Party Candidates
Julian Vigo
Xenophobia in the UK
David Rosen
Whatever Happened to Utopia?
Andre Vltchek
Brexit – Let the UK Screw Itself!
Jonathan Latham
107 Nobel Laureate Attack on Greenpeace Traced Back to Biotech PR Operators
Steve Horn
Fracked Gas LNG Exports Were Centerpiece In Promotion of Panama Canal Expansion, Documents Reveal
Robert Koehler
The Right to Bear Courage
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Spin Masquerading as Science Courtesy of “Shameful White Men of Privilege”
Eoin Higgins
Running on Empty: Sanders’s Influence on the Democratic Party Platform
Binoy Kampmark
Who is Special Now? The Mythology Behind the US-British Relationship
Mark B. Baldwin
Russia to the Grexit?
Andrew Wimmer
Killer Grief
Manuel E. Yepe
Sanders, Socialism and the New Times
Franklin Lamb
ISIS is Gone, But Its Barbarity Still Haunts Palmyra
Mark Weisbrot
A Policy of Non-Intervention in Venezuela Would be a Welcome Change
Matthew Stevenson
Larry Cameron Explains Brexit
Cesar Chelala
How Tobacco Became the Opium War of the 21st Century
Joseph Natoli
How We Reached the Point Where We Can’t Hear Each Other
Andrew Stewart
Skip “Hamilton” and Read Gore Vidal’s “Burr”
George Wuerthner
Ranching and the Future of the Sage Grouse
Thomas Knapp
Yes, a GOP Delegate Revolt is Possible
Gilbert Mercier
Democracy Is Dead
Missy Comley Beattie
A Big F#*K You to Voters
Charles R. Larson
Mychal Denzel Smith’s “Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: a Young Black Man’s Education”
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Four Morning Ducks
David Yearsley
Where the Sidewalk Ends: Walking the Bad Streets of Houston’s Super-Elites
Christopher Brauchli
Educating Kansas
Andy Piascik
The Hills of Connecticut: Where Theatre and Life Became One
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail