Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Venezuela/Soviet Union Analogy: does it hold water?

Some people, such as sonia-belle, do not like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or his attempt to setup a socialist state based on democratic principles. However, we must remind ourselves that Chavez is wildly more popular within his country than President Bush is in his.

Opposition to and critiques of Chavez take several different forms. Some people create an analogy between the current Venezuelan state and the Soviet Union. Analogies are nice when the economic and political conditions, circumstances, and actions are the same. What we have here is an analogy that does not work on any of those levels. It would appear that those who use the analogy are trying to create a polemic that causes fear in those who do not have a surface level understanding of either event—the creation of the Soviet Union and the rise of Chavez. The reactionary attitude that eschews all observation and evidence as the basis for premises in an argument against Chavez is self-defeating for those who wish to demonize Chavez. Let us say that Chavez is a demon, a point I grant only for the sake of persuasive argument. Not understanding and acknowledging the conditions that give rise to his popularity and his socialist program will do nothing but enhance his chances for success unless one feels that misunderstanding and rancor will carry the day despite their almost universal shortcomings.

Every large-scale experiment with regime and economic change is dangerous. The Chavez experiment is much less so than most. First, Chavez is playing off the global economy for Venezuela’s own purposes. Being an oil rich country he has the wisdom to sell it to the highest bidders rather than let neoliberal regimes bribe and corrupt him, and exploit the Venezuelan people. This bone sticks in the throats of neoliberal/neocon throats. Global trade is always wonderful right up until the point you are not the obvious winner.

Chavez is also building a grassroots participatory democracy to enhance local and regional economies. This has also made him very popular with the Venezuelan people.

The global capital game is played by bribe, corruption, unfair trade practices, and assassination if need be. This is another point that grates upon those who hate Chavez. Thus far, the Washington Consensus folks have not corrupted him nor deterred him from establishing a different kind of socialist state where the worker’s interests hold top priority.

We can expect all manner of scare tactics when it comes to Chavez. The Soviet Union analogy is the one that holds no water.

2 Comments:

At 8:51 PM, Blogger sonia said...

Chavez is playing off the global economy for Venezuela’s own purposes. Being an oil rich country he has the wisdom to sell it to the highest bidders rather than let neoliberal regimes bribe and corrupt him, and exploit the Venezuelan people.

You are wrong. Chavez is destroying the Venezuelan economy. He kicks foreign companies out of the country and nationalizes them without compensation. Result: nobody will ever invest in Venezuela. Money will flee from that country. And without investment, oil rigs won't be repaired and the oil production will fall. Chavez will falsely blame the CIA for acts of sabotage.

Because oil prices keep rising, the drop in oil production in Venezuela didn't yet result in a reduction in revenues. But he cannot count on it forever.

 
At 5:00 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Sonia,

Venezuela is playing catch-up with other countries such as Saudi Arabia, which has not allowed foreign companies to invest in oil production for fifty years. The recent seizure of the Orinico oil basin still gives foreign companies a 40% stake and Venezuela is reimbursing them. That is better than the U.S. gets from its so-called model oil partners.

Venezuela is nationalizing some domestic companies, but that does not mean he is kicking out foreign investment and companies. The decision to invest remains with foreign companies. They can accept the current trade and investment terms or not.

Of course, the Bush Administration feels that bullying tactics will keep the oil spigot open. Chavez has announced Venezuela will leave the IMF and World Bank in retaliation.

Meanwhile, U.S. dependence on foreign oil remains unabated.

Hell, if I was an investor in Venezuela I would question whether U.S. economic and political policy toward Latin American regimes could at least be rationalized instead of resorting to the same old alarmist rhetoric.

 

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