Saturday, March 25, 2006

Chavez and the international far left

Venezuela is one of the most divisive issues on the international far left today. Groups such as Socialist Appeal in Britain and Democratic Socialist Perspective in Australia have become enthusiastic de facto Chavistas. Others - such as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty in the UK - advance an almost anarchist critique of the Bolivarian regime.

The recent heavy duty polemic between Paul Hampton of the AWL and the CPGB’s Nick Rogers will not have escaped readers of the British left press.

I avidly follow Latin American politics from Spanish-language sources. But Hampton and Rogers slug it out at such a high level that much of their argument went over my head. Perhaps that’s a sign that neither of them were landing their punches.

From what I know about the country, I’d count myself as a critical backer of Chavez. No, make that 'highly critical backer'. OK, he’s from a military background and - depending on the direction of events - might yet emerge as just another bog standard Latin American caudillo.

On the other hand, he’s one of the few politicians on a global scale engaged in building mass popular opposition to neoliberalism. It would be crazy to argue that workers in Venezuela should prefer the notoriously corrupt local social democracy against el presidente.

In the latest exchange on this question, the AWL have published a damning review of a new SWP pamphlet on Venezuela, under the almost certainly bogus by-line of ‘Pablo Velasco’. I do wish Trot groups would drop the laughable practice of pretending to have supporters they simply haven‘t got. It doesn’t fool anybody, comrades.

If you need a taster of what 'Velasco' has to say, here’s the money paragraph:

‘Chavez does not head a workers’ government, nor does he promote working class politics, whatever the rhetoric about “socialism”. For the working class to take power in Venezuela today, it will have to smash the existing state, a state currently headed by Chavez. It will have to expropriate capital currently protected by Chavez’s government. That makes Chavez a class opponent of Venezuelan workers, an obstacle in the way of their own self-liberation.’

First three sentences? Sure. The fourth? Well, I doubt if the class struggle in Venezuela - or South America as a whole, come to that - would be at its current pitch were it not for the activities of Chavez. The balance sheet isn’t all negative.

PS: English language translations of selected articles from Fraccion Trotskista's journal Estrategia Internacional are available here. A touch ultra-leftist for my liking, but invariably informative. If your Spanish is up to it, bookmark this page.

PPS: My old mate Roland offers a similarly indecisive vacillating Pabloite perspective on Venezuela over at his blog Storyboard.


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