AskProfWolff: Socialism in Venezuela

A patron asks: "I recently encountered a video on the internet with Dr. Cornel West discussing the ideas of socialism with Tucker Carlson on Fox News. What I found most interesting was how Tucker immediately went to the Venezuela argument to “prove” socialism doesn’t work. What I didn’t understand is why Dr. West more or less accepted that argument by failing to cite all of the European countries who embrace socialism when asked by Carlson to cite examples of where socialism works. My question to you is why aren’t we, leftists, actively citing the European states that embrace socialism as proof that it works? My understanding is that the Scandinavian countries, France and others all have active socialist parties and adopt many socialist programs. Would you say that is accurate and if so could you provide a list of countries that do qualify as socialist?"

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Showing 2 comments

  • Mark Pope
    commented 2020-07-15 19:16:17 -0400
    Oil has always been seen as a blessing and a curse in Venezuela. Like most countries dependent on a single commodity, this “devil’s excrement” as it’s called in VZ, has created an economy heavily reliant on imports for domestic consumption. This has led to domestic production of oil related products but very little development and diversification of agriculture and manufactured goods for domestic consumption. Chavez made attempts at diversification, agrarian reform, and state support for domestic manufacturing but there were enormous cultural headwinds he had to face. The establishment of the mission system essentially created a parallel state that provided healthcare, education, etc. without dismantling the private sector. Capital flight, a political opposition heavily financed and supported by the US, and division within the coalition socialist party of the PSUV have all been part of the story since Chavez first came to power and that tension continues today.

    The US sanctions have added pressure to the economic difficulties facing Maduro today but the opposition is unable to mount a coherent campaign to oust Maduro. That should tell outside observers that there surely have been advances under Venezuela’s socialist government that the people are willing to hold on to even under sanctions and shortages. It is complicated and questionable as to how socialist the system is or has ever been under Chavez/Maduro but the impulse of the majority is clearly to support socialism, 21st century style, or whatever, over a return to the old oligarchical capitalist model.
  • Steve Greenberg
    commented 2020-07-14 16:17:10 -0400
    You forgot to mention the crippling sanctions the USA is imposing on Venezuela in order to destroy its threat to capitalism (or is it just a threat tuo ISA hegemony?)

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