Sunday, August 1, 2010

¿Dónde está la Revolución?

Visitors to Venezuela have, for the past decade at least, commented on the fervor of Hugo Chávez supporters routinely - and spontaneously - demonstrating their love for their president and their enthusiasm for Venezuela's "revolución." There's only one problem with their demonstrations and enthusiasm: there was no revolution in Venezuela. There was an election.

Most people like to compare Venezuela with Cuba, and Chávez to Fidel Castro. Hugo Chávez may be an staunch admirer of Castro, but he is essentially the opposite of him. Chávez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998. And re-elected in 2000 and in 2006. Castro led a band of guerrillas in a violent takeover of Cuba in 1959 - a genuine and bloody revolution. What Chávez's success has demonstrated is that there are two kinds of Socialism: revolutionary Socialism and democratic Socialism. Many of Socialism's enemies may disbelieve in and deny that there is any such thing as democratic Socialism, but they are demonstrably wrong.

Legislating Socialist reforms in a democracy, especially one with a former oligarchical class structure, is not exactly like changing horses in mid-stream. It's more like changing the course of the stream itself. Unlike a revolution, which sweeps old regimes and their policies away in one violent upheaval, legislative reforms take a painfully long time to take effect. Chávez's enemies like to point out that his reforms aren't working, but this is not the fault of Socialism, but of democracy. In fact, Leftist reforms in a democracy are always disappointing because they take so long to have any impact. People, who are naturally apathetic and conservative (even George Orwell knew this), grow impatient with reforms and want to change governments before they can come to fruition.

Add to this the opposition from practically every other democratic country in the world that would be delighted to see Socialism fail one more time, even at the expense of people's livelihoods and the welfare of their families. I became a Socialist the moment I learned, in 2002, that virtually everything I have been led to believe about Socialism was a lie. The reasons behind all these lies are simple enough to comprehend. For the better part of forty years, Americans had to accustom themselves to the prospect that a nominally Socialist state, Soviet Russia, wanted to blow them all to smithereens.

But another reason for the lies I was told about Socialism is that too many people stood to lose too much if it were to come to pass. It is never the average Joes who want nothing more than to live a decent life and provide for their families that makes Capitalism such a "free-for-all in which the worst man wins."* It's the real Capitalists, the people who want impossibly more than they could ever need, the IMF and the World Bank, who have made Capitalism such an inequitous and unjust system. They are the people that Hugo Chávez is fighting against. There was an attempted coup in 2002, which threatened democracy itself, which was organized and led by members of the former ruling class. After briefly removing Chávez from power, the coup was defeated.

Venezuela is a small, poor country. Its oil resources have made it seem more important than it is. If Socialism is not allowed at least a chance to work properly by its internal and external enemies, the fault will not be Chávez's or Socialism's, but ours.
*George Orwell's words.

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