FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Demo Derby in Venezuela: The Left’s New Freewheeling Politics

by

Caracas.

What happened last week in Venezuela has the appearance of a demolition derby. President Nicolás Maduro, whose PSUV socialist party is something like a rickety 1970s Thunderbird, picked up speed on Friday and smashed into the opposition’s equally crusty ride as it was lurking around the edges of the field, lost in daydreams about an easy transition.

It was a good move. As a result of the collision, a few doors fell off Maduro’s already scrappy vehicle. The opposition, on the other hand, was left with an almost completely crippled and useless chassis. Moreover, Maduro had formerly assured that the Vatican’s hulking Impala station wagon — experienced in all kinds of fairground acts — was at hand to steamroll whatever remained in the field.

As always, Venezuelan politics offers stunning demonstrations about how to struggle radically for power. Years of sitting on what is possibly the planet’s largest oil reserves have provided a rich training ground in power games that far exceed the imagination of most of the world’s politicians. This latest move on the part of the government was one that required careful balancing and timing, despite the smashup nature of its concluding step.

Here is how the whole thing happened. The government had been facing the ugly prospect of a referendum to revoke the president in 2017. This voting process, even if it wouldn’t take Chavism out of power (since the constitution dictates that the vice president will assume power if the president is revoked during the last two years of his term), would almost surely have showed high disapproval of the government. What to do? It was a burning question since the Venezuelan opposition had already won an ample majority of votes in last year’s parliamentary elections.

The headquarters of actually-existing Chavism was not going to passively let itself be immolated. First, it worked out a way to slow the opposition’s apparently inexorable advance toward the referendum by having the Supreme Court rule that the twenty percent of the voting population’s signatures needed to go forward with this process should be collected in every one of Venezuela’s twenty-three states. This is something hard, though not impossible, for the opposition to do in states with dispersed populations.

However, it also worked on another more daring angle: that of claiming that the one-third of fraudulent or questionable signatures in the more than a million and a half signatures already collected to initiate the referendum process should invalidate the whole procedure and require the referendum’s indefinite postponement.

This latter was a bold and dangerous move. So first the government bloc began testing the ground, by having the invalidation decision confirmed by lower penal courts. It only had the National Electoral Council pronounce once it had secured the support of the head of the military, Vladimir Padrino López. With that key piece in place, it revved up the apparatus’s engines and went barreling into the opposition with the new ruling, smashing up its prospects of a referendum.

Maduro is an experienced driver and knew that sparks would fly: that there would be yelps about violation of the rule of law, protests, international commotion, etc. Indeed, there was smoke and fire but in the end the Socialist Thunderbird, however clipped in the wings, would be sitting in the middle of the field with almost nothing else budging.

This is all very interesting and surely worth studying in poli-sci departments worldwide. But is it good for anything except maintaining power?

The truth is that the left finds itself up against the ropes globally. For that reason, the consensus in Cuba, China and Venezuela today seems to be that one must maintain power and sovereignty at any price. Even if it means smashing up your own apparatus and adopting two-thirds of the program of your enemy. In a radical revision of traditional leftist politics, today’s rebellious governments hope that by preserving a minimally sovereign platform, they will at some later day be able to resume advancing on the social front.

This is a hope, but it is far from being a certainty. From their celestial repose, Marx and Lenin may be peering down at today’s leftist governments and be genuinely puzzled by their bizarre, even desperate politics. Yet those who have boots on the ground can look to Maduro and recognize that at least he is not doing nothing. Despite a few bruises on his forehead, the President is now humming My Way in a battered machine that undoubtedly dominates the field.

More articles by:

Chris Gilbert is professor of political science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.

February 22, 2018
T.J. Coles
How the US Bullies North Korea, 1945-Present
Ipek S. Burnett
Rethinking Freedom in the Era of Mass Shootings
Manuel E. Yepe
Fire and Fury: More Than a Publishing Hit
Patrick Bobilin
Caught in a Trap: Being a Latino Democrat is Being in an Abusive Relationship
Laurel Krause
From Kent State to Parkland High: Will America Ever Learn?
Terry Simons
Congress and the AR-15: One NRA Stooge Too Many
George Wuerthner
Border Wall Delusions
Manuel García, Jr.
The Anthropocene’s Birthday, or the Birth-Year of Human-Accelerated Climate Change
Thomas Knapp
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Russiagate
February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail