For many on the left Chavez' Bolivarian Revolution is a beacon of socialism in practice. Hugo Chavez is identified with the resistance to those neoliberal strategies that began with the popular rising of 1989, the Caracazo.
That is why he still enjoys their support, despite the growing discontent with the course that the Bolivarian revolution has taken.
In 2002 and 2003 it was the mass mobilisation of the poor and the working class that defended Chavez and broke the bosses’ strike.
And Chavez’s social programmes, funded by oil revenues, has brought real improvements to Venezuela’s poor—local health programmes, free education, limited social housing, cheap food.
But these services are deteriorating, largely because of deep and widespread corruption in the Venezuelan state.
That reflects the rise of a new ruling group which, despite the red T-shirts and the revolutionary rhetoric, has enriched itself and created an apparatus of power accountable to no one.
Already the bureaucrats are manoeuvring for the moment when an ailing Chavez leaves power. They will serve their own interests.
The immediate question for the left and for activists, Chavez supporters or not, is the need to rebuild organisations on the ground that will be able to act independently of their rulers, whoever they are.
Such organisation would enable the Venezuelan masses to defend their own class interests—and to deepen a revolution that still has far to go.
Discussion Meeting of Bristol Stokes Croft Socialist Workers Party.
Thursday November 1st, 730pm 5th Floor, Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft