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Is Maduro taking Chavismo down the pragmatic path? An interview with Steve Ellner (part 2)

Steve Ellner

Steve Ellner addresses a forum in 2014 on Chavismo in Caracas, Venezuela.

In the first part of the interview (available here) conducted by Evaristo Marcano, Professor Steve Ellner contextualized government politics that favored those businesspeople who did not support the general strike of 2002-2003. According to him, the strategy was relatively successful from a political viewpoint, but not an economic one. In the second part of the interview, Ellner argues that populist policies also have to be contextualized in order to be objectively analyzed. At the same time, he calls for a critical examination of the assertion that the government’s social programs and labor policies have generated low levels of productivity.

E.M. Populism is a topic that has been widely studied and has generated considerable polemics. Renowned analysts specializing in Latin America have dedicated considerable effort to understand the phenomenon. Recently, Margarita López Maya, in an article published in a daily of national circulation, maintained that the upcoming elections in Venezuela will pit the populist model against democracy. By framing the issue in these terms, is she not ignoring the complexity of a phenomenon that, at least in Latin America, has many variations?

Is Maduro taking Chavismo down the pragmatic path? An interview with Steve Ellner (part 1)


Steve Ellner


 Steve Ellner addresses a forum on Chavismo in Caracas, Venezuela.

Steve Ellner is a well-known analyst of Venezuelan and Latin American politics and is a retired professor at the Universidad de Oriente. He has published scores of journal articles and over a dozen books, his last being the edited Latin America’s Radical Left: Challenges and Complexities of Political Power in the Twenty First Century, published by Rowman & Littlefield.

This interview by Evaristo Marcano was originally published in Spanish in and

Chavez non c’è più ma il Chavismo è destinato a restare

[English at]

Di Federico Fuentes

4 agosto 2015 -- ZNet Italy -- Se Hugo Chavez non fosse morto nel 2013, l’ex presidente venezuelano il 28 luglio avrebbe compiuto 61 anni. Tuttavia, anche se Chavez non c’è più, la sua impronta indelebile sul panorama politico del Venezuela, sopravvive.

Il 6 dicembre i venezuelani andranno alle urne per la ventesima volta da quando Chavez era stato eletto presidente per la prima volta nel 1998. L’elezione di dicembre per l’Assembela Nazionale si avvia a diventare   un’altra fondamentale battaglia tra le forze che per 15 anni hanno appoggiato o si sono opposte a Chavez.

Per le forze chaviste, la vittoria è vitale per la difesa  e l’intensificazione della loro “rivoluzione bolivariana.”

Per l’opposizione, il successo rappresenterebbe un passo importante verso la rimozione del successore di Chavez, Nicolas Maduro, o tramite un referendum  prima della scadenza del suo mandato nel 2016 o per mezzo del possibile uso del parlamento per metterlo in stato di accusa.

Nella maggio parte dei paesi, le persone in carica devono fare i conti  con un prevalente umore anti-politico riflesso nella maggiore mutevolezza  dei votanti e nei più rapidi  cambiamenti  di governo. Anche l’Australia, relativamente tranquilla, ha visto quattro diversi governi nello scorso decennio.

Venezuela: Chávez elment, de a chavizmus megmaradt

[English at]

Írta: Federico Fuentes

2015. augusztus 06 -- Green Left Weekly/Latin-Amerika Társaság -- A 2013-ban elhunyt Hugo Chávez egykori venezuelai elnök és forradalmi szocialista július 28-án lett volna 61 éves. Bár Chávez eltávozott, emléke a venezuelai politikai színtér kitörölhetetlen része maradt.

December 6-án Venezuela huszadik alkalommal fog az urnákhoz járulni azóta, hogy Chávezt 1998-ban először elnökké választották. Eközött a két időpont között a szegénypárti átalakítási folyamat jelentősen visszavetette a szegénységet és hatalommal ruházta fel a szegény többséget.

Komoly akadályokkal is felmerültek, amely akadályozzák és veszélyeztetik a „bolivári forradalom” – ahogyan a Chávez által vezetett folyamatot hívják – fennmaradását.

A decemberi nemzetgyűlési választás egy újabb kritikus ütközetet jelent azok között, akik 15 éven keresztül támogatták vagy ellenezték Chávezt.

A chavista erők számára létfontosságú a győzelem, hogy megvédjék és elmélyítsék a forradalmat.

Venezuela: Chavez gone, but Chavismo here to stay

By Federico Fuentes

August 5, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Had Hugo Chavez not passed away in 2013, the former Venezuelan president and revolutionary socialist would have turned 61 on July 28. However, though Chavez is gone, his indelible imprint on Venezuela’s political landscape endures.

On December 6, Venezuelans will go to the polls for the 20th time since Chavez was first elected president in 1998. Between then and now, a process of pro-poor transformation has significantly cut poverty and empowered the poor majority.

It has also confronted serious obstacles blocking further advances and threatening the survival of the “Bolivarian revolution”, as the process pushed by Chavez is known.

The December election for the National Assembly is shaping up to be another critical battle between forces that for 15 years either supported or opposed Chavez.

For the Chavista forces, victory is vital to defending and deepening the revolution.

Michael Lebowitz's 'The Socialist Imperative': 'A must-read for revolutionaries'

The Socialist Imperative: From Gotha to Now
By Michael A. Lebowitz
New York: Monthly Review Press, 2015.
264 pages

Order HERE.

For more by or about Michael Lebowitz, click HERE. For more by Doug Enaa Greene.

Review by Doug Enaa Greene

July 28, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Those who open Michael Lebowitz's new book, The Socialist Imperative, will find something far different and refreshing than the old apologetic Soviet manuals on the smooth workings of a planned economy. What they will discover is a collection of writings inspired by Lebowitz's lifetime of activism and profound solidarity with the oppressed and exploited under capitalism and his revolutionary vision of how to build a socialist alternative.

Venezuela: Maduro, ALBA express solidarity with Greece, reject 'financial blackmail'

By Lucas Koerner

July 1, 2015  --, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro voiced solidarity with the Greek government of Alexis Tsipras after the latter refused a payment of $1.8 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“I want to officially express solidarity to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Greek people on behalf of Venezuela”, said the socialist leader on his weekly television program shortly after the IMF deadline late June 30 evening.

Greece’s recently elected leftwing SYRIZA government rejected the harsh terms for a new bailout laid out by the Troika, composed of the IMF, European Commission (EC), and the European Central Bank (ECB), which would have meant a continuation of the severe austerity policies that have devastated the Greek economy over the last five years.

“Fear not, Greek sisters and brothers, the path forward is to break the chains of international financial capital and the IMF, to free yourselves from the yoke that tries to consume the people’s blood, the people’s labor, the wealth of countries, that is the path”, Maduro continued.

Venezuela: Millions vote in socialist party primaries

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro at the campaign close for primary elections for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, June 26, 2015. Photo: AVN.

June 28, 2015 -- TeleSUR English, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Millions of members of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) hit the ballot box on June 28 to vote for the left-wing party’s candidates for parliamentary elections to be held in December. "Here are these candidates, they are men and women who come from the people, they were nominated by the grassroots (of the party), now it is up to you to choose,” stated Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on June 26 during an event to celebrate the close of campaign.

Desmond Tutu reminded: 'Stand with Venezuela's right, you choose the side of the oppressor'

By Lucas Koerner

June 16, 2015 --, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In an op-ed published in the Spanish daily El Pais, titled "Free the Prisoners of Conscience in Venezuela", the renowned South African Archbishop and anti-apartheid militant Desmond Tutu foresakes neutrality in order to unabashedly take the side of the oppressor, namely the United States and the Venezuelan right wing.

El dilema populista, el pragmatismo y la izquierda en el poder en Venezuela

[English at]

Por Steve Ellner

02-06-2015 -- Rebelion -- Los izquierdistas en Venezuela han formulado varias explicaciones sobre los retos actuales, y el descontento creciente que enfrenta el país, el cual aumenta la posibilidad de que la oposición se apodere del control de la Asamblea Nacional en las elecciones al final de este año. En la lista de explicaciones está la comparación desfavorable de las cualidades superiores del liderazgo de Hugo Chávez con las inferiores de su sucesor Nicolás Maduro. (Este mismo razonamiento es utilizado frecuentemente por los miembros de la oposición, quienes –explícita e implícitamente – atribuyen las deficiencias de Maduro a sus orígenes obreros.) Una segunda explicación es que funcionarios corruptos son los responsables de la crisis económica actual, que incluye la escasez aguda de productos de primera necesidad y una inflación galopante que ha llegado a tres dígitos.

Venezuela: Chavismo on the horns of a dilemma

Over three months in the early part of last year, Venezuela was subjected to a campaign of violence and disruption known as the guarimba, organised by elements of the right-wing, US-backed opposition.

For more on Venezuela, click HERE and more by Steve Ellner HERE.

By Steve Ellner

May 22, 2015 -- VenezuelAnalysis, posted at Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Leftists in Venezuela put forward a number of different explanations for the pressing economic difficulties and growing discontent that has beset Venezuela and increases the possibility of an opposition takeover of the National Assembly in this year’s elections.

John Riddell on Michael Lebowitz: Dissecting the failure of Soviet ‘socialism’

Real Socialism

For more articles and videos by or about Michael Lebowitz, click HERE.

For more by or about John Riddell.

Review by John Riddell

The Contradictions of “Real Socialism”: The Conductor and the Conducted
by Michael A. Lebowitz
New York: Monthly Review 2012.

May 19, 2015 --, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- In current discussions of twenty-first century socialism, the work of Michael Lebowitz has a unique merit: it is rooted in the experience of Cuba and Venezuela, where efforts in recent decades to move toward socialism have been the most vigorous. Quotations from Che Guevara and Hugo Chávez set the tone.

Maduro and the market: Can Chavistas keep the revolution on track?

For more on Venezuela, click HERE and more by Steve Ellner HERE.

By Steve Ellner

May 13, 2015 – versions of this article were published in Red Pepper (April-May issue) and, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission of the author -- It’s a point of honour for Venezuela’s government that despite the sharp plunge in oil prices and acute shortages of goods, President Nicolás Maduro has ruled out austerity measures. In a recent TV interview conducted by former vice-president José Vicente Rangel, Central Bank president Nelson Merentes explained why, when he asked: “Do you remember what happened on February 27, 1989?”

On that date massive nationwide disturbances broke out after the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez announced sharp price hikes and negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, setting the stage for the 1992 military uprising led by Hugo Chávez. The memory of February 27 and the decision of the formerly left-leaning Pérez to come to terms with powerful economic groups as a way out of pressing economic difficulties undoubtedly weigh on Maduro’s response to the current situation.

Marta Harnecker interviewed: From Allende’s Chile to Chávez’s Venezuela

For more by or about Marta Harnecker, click HERE.

Marta Harnecker interviewed by Isabel Rauber, introduction and translation by Richard Fidler

April 21, 2015 -- Life on the Left, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Marta Harnecker (above), a Marxist writer and lecturer of Chilean origin, is one of the foremost international exponents of the revolutionary process in Latin America today.

In the following interview she outlines some of the lessons she has derived from her experience with the Popular Unity government of Chile’s Salvador Allende (1970-73) that are applicable to current attempts in Latin America to build “an alternative society to capitalism that is essentially democratic”.

'Extractivism' debate continues: Beyond lithium (and other poisons)

The Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia are home to over half the world's lithium deposits.

By Don Fitz

April 17, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Policies that expand “extractivism” in progressive Latin American countries bring up a host of contradictions: How do the short-term benefits of financial gain from extraction compare to its long-term destructiveness? What options are available for reducing poverty without increasing mining, logging and GMO monocultures? Could the climate change effects of extraction actually hurt the world’s poor more than helping them? How can struggles against extractivism chart a path to economies based on human need rather corporate profits?

The lithium fantasy

Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network broadsheet: 'Venezuela is not a threat'

“This is how much I care about your sanctions, Mr Obama.” Placard at anti-imperialist rally in Caracas held in the wake of Obama's March 9 declaration.

Click HERE for more on the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.

April 2015 -- Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, posted at Links International Journal of Socialisr Renewal with permission

[The following letter was written by Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and was originally published on March 17.]

By Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela

We are the people of Simon Bolívar, our people believe in peace and respect for all nations.

Freedom and independence

More than two centuries ago, our fathers founded a Republic on the basis that all persons are free and equal under the law.

Our nation made the greatest sacrifices to guarantee South American people their right to choose their rulers and to enforce their own laws today. The historical legacy of our father, Simón Bolívar, is always remembered. Bolívar was a man who gave his life so we would inherit a nation of justice and equality.

We believe in peace, national sovereignty and international law 

Venezuela: 'No more coups! No more interventions! Repeal the Executive Order, Mr. President!'

April 9, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following letter, signed by 30 academics, municipal councillors, trade union officials, journalists, solidarity organisation convenors and political party leaders from around Australia, was initiated by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign in Melbourne. It will be handed over the US consulates in Melbourne and Sydney on April 10. If you would like to add your name please email Denis Rogatyuk at

* * *

President Barack Obama
White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr President,

We, the undersigned individuals and organisations, reject your March 9, 2015, declaration deeming Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.

We also oppose the sanctions your administration has placed on a number of Venezuelan state officials and call for the immediate repeal of your Executive Order on Venezuela.

The reality is that Venezuela today is not at war with any nation, nor does it have military bases outside its borders. In fact, Venezuela is helping to mediate an end to the war in Colombia and has constantly championed peace in the region.

Venezuela and Greece strengthen partnerships

Venezuela's foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez (right) and Greece's foreign minister Nikos Kotzias. Photo: MPPRE.

For more discussion on SYRIZA's struggle against austerity, click HERE

March 7, 2015 -- TeleSUR English, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Venezuela has proposed trade and economic agreements that would make Athens one of Caracas' main trading partners. Venezuela and Greece solidified their bilateral partnership this week, when Venezuelan officials visited the Mediterranean country to meet the new SYRIZA government.

Venezuela's minister of foreign relations Delcy Rodriguez met with the new Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras on March 6, who said that solidifying the relationship between the two countries would mutually benefit the Greek and Venezuelan people.

Eric Toussaint: SYRIZA, Podemos and the way towards power for the people

Click for more on SYRIZA, Podemos, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador

By Eric Toussaint, translated by Adam Clark-Gimmig

February 18, 2015 -- Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Experience proves that left-wing movements can come to be in government, but nevertheless not hold power. Democracy, in other words the exercise of power by the people and for the people, requires much more.

The problem is currently being faced in Greece with SYRIZA, and will have to be faced in Spain with Podemos (if that party wins the general elections in late 2015), as it was faced in the past, in Venezuela with the election of Hugo Chávez as president in December 1998, in Bolivia with Evo Morales in 2005, in Ecuador with Rafael Correa in December 2006, or several decades earlier with Salvador Allende in Chile in 1970 |1|.

ALBA after ten years

By John Riddell

February 23, 2015 --, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- The following talk was given at a celebration of ALBA in Toronto, February 21, 2015.

* * *

Today we celebrate a decade of achievement of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA). For 10 years ALBA has stood on the world stage as a defender of peace, solidarity and popular sovereignty.

Before ALBA, Cuba stood alone for many years against the U.S.-led empire. But through ALBA, an alliance of countries, with wide influence and many friends among governments and peoples, now challenges imperialism on a range of issues. While representing only a few small and poor countries, ALBA exercises great moral authority and carries weight in world affairs. ALBA is the most effective international alliance based on solidarity in modern history.

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