Thursday, February 26, 2015

Venezuela: “Will they forget that they ever refused to lend a hand?”

Michael Albert has a new piece, “Whispering Venezuela?”, which tries to engage some sectors of the Left in an examination of the causes of their relative silence surrounding the ongoing efforts by the US government, in league with the Venezuelan Right, to destabilize and foment a coup against the country’s democratically elected government. Albert wonders about the reasons for this inaction in the face of a serious threat:
Neighborhoods organized, albeit with great difficulty, into councils, and councils into larger communes. Isn't this what an anti authoritarian, non violent, participation-advocating left wants?

Grass roots missions to solve social problems? Expanded education and health care? Democracy defended and plebiscites repeatedly taken and enacted? Do these and many other positive trends mean the Bolivarian project is flawless? Of course not. Do they mean that concern and criticism are unwarranted? Of course not. Do they mean the Bolivarian effort will succeed without doubt? Of course not. But the alternative to being a mindless sycophantic booster need not and should not be being silent or derogatory.

And in any case, why should Venezuela's project being less than perfect deter people from feeling outrage at the right wing and corporate opposition in Venezuela and at U.S. machinations seeking Venezuela's collapse? Why should the Venezuelan project being less than perfect prevent support for the best of Venezuela's efforts as well as constructive criticism of whatever one finds wanting?*

I think no serious progressive person would say the Venezuelan project being less perfect than some abstract textbook conception ought to terminate our support for it. Ought to silence our voices for it. Yet Venezuela being less than abstractly perfect often has had just that effect. Or so it seems to me. [emphasis added]
The article concludes sadly:
It is not the place of revolutionaries to watch world historic endeavors from the sidelines, either castigating aggressively or whispering unobtrusively due to thinking those endeavors aren't perfect, include errors, don't yet evidence complete and absolute freedom. Yes, someone looking on from the side, that way may, when the dust clears, in the socially worst case, be able to intone over the grave of the effort they rejected, ‘see, I told you so…I got it right. They failed’. What a sad kind of self affirmation that would be. And I have to wonder, in a vastly more preferable scenario wherein the rejected project persists and proceeds, will those same critics say, down the road, ‘I was horribly wrong’, or will they forget that they ever refused to lend a hand?
It’s quite perplexing to me that so many seem not to realize that in remaining silent on the matter they’re not only taking an extreme position on the Venezuelan government but in effect allying themselves with the US government and corporations and their view that they have the right to intervene in the democratic processes of Latin American countries. They’re in effect denying these countries’ claims to collective self-governance. They’re in effect choosing the alternative: a vicious neoliberal regime serving US-corporate interests. I can’t imagine that’s what anyone on the Left consciously wants, but it’s the scenario that history has well shown is made more likely by a policy of tacit abandonment.

A coup in Venezuela would have catastrophic consequences for democracy, for equality, for social justice and liberation (including secular) movements, for health, education, and other human rights, not just in Venezuela but throughout the region. People would die. They would be violently oppressed. Their life-chances would be sharply circumscribed. The power of Northern governments and corporations would be vastly increased, and their covert agencies more confident than ever in their ability to override democracy. If you make this more likely through your silence or inaction, you have no right to speak critically about Iran in 1953 or Chile in 1973.

* Here’s a somewhat more critical piece on the government’s policies. And here’s a more general post by me about leftwing movements and governments in Latin America.