Venezuela: What’s Been Learned Won’t Be Easily Forgotten: A Conversation with Antonio Gonzalez Plessmann

Chavez did a great job bringing in many things that benefited the poor, who had been severely repressed and exploited. He did a reasonably good job of turning the nation's resource of crude oil into a mechanism to fund social programs. What he failed to do was plan quickly enough to be ready for an oil-market downturn or drop in oil prices. Maduro followed Chavez's death and was as a deer caught in the headlights (making many fundamental mistakes when scrambling to counter fascism's wicked onslaught). That's why the US plutocracy via its CIA has been able to trample so easily on Venezuela.

Coupled with the near total censorship in the US-corporate-mainstream media, search engines, and social, you have ignorant masses around the world being further duped into believing the falsehood that democratic-socialism doesn't and can't work.

Add in all the right-wing coups in so many Pink Tide countries, and it will take a hemispheric revolution to set things straight.

In 2013 ... several crises came together which explain why the government changed course on many issues, including popular power. On the one hand, Chavez's death spelled the end of the charismatic and strategic leadership that had unified diverse sectors around a popular program. On the other hand, there was a drastic fall in oil prices (lasting from 2014 to 2016), which hindered our capacity to import the intermediate and final goods that the country needs.

It’s important to recall that, despite all that was done in terms of social inclusion, the [Venezuelan Revolution] had not significantly modified the country’s productive apparatus during the previous 15 years. That’s to say, the rentier economy was not transformed along the lines of a new leftist model. On the contrary, we became even more dependent on oil exports, which were 77% of total exports in 1997 but 94% in 2014!

Another structural problem, which has become very evident today, now that the state has fewer resources, is the widespread corruption of politicians, with most of the corruption involving using privileged access to foreign currency to make real or fake imports.

Yet beyond these structural problems, we also have to look at how badly the government managed the economy between 2013 and 2017, mostly through doing nothing or taking only short-term measures. Additionally, we saw a more radical onslaught on part of the local and international right, who saw the country’s economic and political crisis as an opportunity not only to achieve regime change, but, above all, to teach a lesson to the Venezuelan people. Their idea was to “show” the revolution’s failure and prove the impossibility of any effort to overcome capitalism by democratic means.

With the ebbing of progressive forces of the region, we see the right staging violent protests in 2014 and 2017, rejecting election results in 2013, and sabotaging the economy. Then comes a covert blockade and then later an open one together with interference by the United States and other right-wing governments. All this has made [Maduro’s] government very weak since its coming into being in 2013. The government manages to stay in power, but it fails to overcome the crisis, to say nothing about maintaining the program of a democratic transition to socialism.
... seizing power is not the same as controlling the state (which is the key thing in a revolution); still, in my opinion, merely accumulating forces from below cannot secure sustainable and structural changes.
The right-wing has never renounced state power, because the state continues to be the locus of a dense network of power relations that crisscross society. To turn away from the state is to lose the game by forfeit. Processes of societal change must be carried out both “from above” and “from below,” without turning our backs on these contested spaces.


Tom Usher

About Tom Usher

Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.