A revolution brought to its knees

Mike Gonzalez


History may tell us that in 2016 the Bolivarian Revolution ended. The ‘pink tide’ – ill-named for its political ambiguity – is ebbing at dizzying speed. But this tragic outcome has been met by the global movement that was so inspired by it, with two responses. There is silence – the sudden disappearance of Venezuela from the debates on the left - in Spain, for example; or there is a refusal to acknowledge what is happening, and a call for ‘solidarity’ with a revolution under siege. But solidarity with whom? The right wing electoral victory in December’s elections in Venezuela was met with disbelief by the government, and then it was simply ignored. But how was it possible that a process that enjoyed such consistent support under Chavez should have fallen apart in such short order after his death in 2013? The theory of an “economic war” waged against the Maduro government is a partial explanation. But it pales beside the internal erosion of chavismo. The devastating economic crisis, the astronomical inflation rates, the corruption of the regime itself, the emergence of a ruling bureaucracy whose manipulation of the symbolism of the Bolivarian revolution veiled a level of embezzlement of public funds of staggering proportions, demand explanation. The central issue for the future, and for the political movements that will re-emerge in Venezuela, is why and how this happened? The disarming and demobilization of the social movement that triumphantly overwhelmed the political and economic coups of 2002-3 is both cause and effect of the current crisis. This presentation will explore why and how this was possible and how a new bureaucracy emerged from revolution, appropriated it for its own purposes, and ultimately destroyed it. And as events unfold across the region, it is clear that the Venezuelan experience is exemplary, as progressive governments face a newly confident right itself mired in allegations of corruption.