The Left in Crisis

The Road to Change in Latin America
By Diana Raby
Jan 10, 2007, 00:17

Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc the left has been in crisis worldwide. The rise of the anti-globalisation and anti-war movements and of the Zapatistas could not hide the fact that the left no longer had credibility for most people.

But in the last few years Latin America has begun to inspire hope for change. The Venezuelan revolution has provided a radical challenge to US dominance, and president Hugo Chavez proclaims socialism as the ultimate goal.

In Bolivia president Evo Morales has nationalised natural gas and oil and pushed forward constitutional changes despite reactionary opposition.

Cuba defies predictions of collapse or chaos as Fidel Castro lies ill.

In Venezuela and Bolivia – for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall – governments based on working class and popular movements have taken power and begun to construct an alternative social and economic order.

The state is not dead, as the neoliberals claimed, and it is possible to defy international capital and wring major concessions from it.

Cuba – never fundamentally Stalinist despite its dependence on the Soviet Union – has survived and begun to work with Venezuela and Bolivia to create a new type of socialism.

But is Venezuela socialist, or at least beginning a process of transition to socialism? Most readers of Socialist Worker would say no. But eight years ago, when Chavez was first elected, few took his “Bolivarian revolution” seriously.

It is undeniable that Chavez’s government has done more to challenge capitalism and promote popular interests than any regime in the past 20 years.

To understand Venezuela, it is necessary first to understand Cuba. The Cuban revolution was not made by the old Communist Party, but by Fidel Castro and the 26 July Movement.

When the guerrillas triumphed on 1 January 1959, they did not talk about socialism or Marxism-Leninism, or even class struggle – but about social justice, economic independence from the US and Latin American liberation.

It was over two years later, in 1961, that Fidel first used the term socialism.

The Cuban revolution was radicalised by confrontation with the US and the dynamic of the popular movement.

But it would be grossly misleading to suggest – as many Marxists do – that Fidel and the leadership were simply driven forward by the people.

Fidel inspired the movement with his vision, courage and by maintaining unity and revolutionary leadership. And through crucial decisions throughout the dramatic transformation of 1959-63.

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