If you have been keeping up with the news from Venezuela, you probably know the Bolivarian revolution has entered a stage of deep and prolonged crisis. This crisis is not unexpected, since Venezuela has been the target of unceasing opposition and attempted subversion by the United States and the domestic allies among the bourgeoisie.
As The Nation put it:
“The economic crisis in Venezuela, though, is real, and the reporting on it has been stultifying. Shortages are being reported on with glee in the United States, with the takeaway being that the failure of the Bolivarian Revolution is inherent in the idea of the Bolivarian Revolution, in the fundamental premise related to socialism. Latin America has long served as a sharpening stone, on which ideas about what a proper, temperate, and responsible politics and market-based economics could be honed. Want to see where Sanders-style social democracy will lead? Cast your eyes south! Spectacle is always more fun to look at than structure, and despite the current shortage of toilet paper in Venezuela, the fact remains that poverty, inequality, malnutrition, lack of healthcare, and chronic violence in Latin America owe more to the neoliberal structural adjustment policies Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton put into place than political movements seeking to roll back those policies.”
According to The Nation’s correspondent,
“I spent five weeks in Caracas. It was worse than I imagined, but not in the way I expected. Most of the coverage has offered up scenes that rival anything coming out of Aleppo or Sudan or the Mediterranean: starving Venezuelans rummaging through trash or getting by on mangos, fleeing to the tune of tens of thousands a day—by raft to Curacao, overland to Colombia, on planes to anywhere they can—fending off outbreaks of malaria and diphtheria, locked in their homes at all times but especially after nightfall. One analyst recently stated that Venezuela’s current crisis is the worst in all of Latin America in the last 35 years. That’s in all of Latin America. Since 1981. No worse crisis. Period.”
As the government holds on to a thoroughly discredited currency control, for little more reason than to feed the corruption that keeps its inner core afloat, it has basically moved increasingly to dollarize more and more parts of the economy, both formally and informally. Last year it was real estate and auto sales. Now it’s extended to most food items, which are imported as Venezuela’s historic dependence on foreign products has deepened over the last decade plus.”
Dollarization is, by far, the most acute symptom of the crisis the Bolivarian revolution is going through right now not simply because it expresses the loss of confidence in the bolivar, but because it expresses the loss of confidence in the state itself. The shortages of commodities and high prices, as well as the domestic expansion of those commodities that no amount of bolivars can purchase, has nothing to do with the bolivar itself — which has always been a valueless token — but reflects a profound loss of confidence the state can maintain control of economic events.
As of this writing, it is unclear whether the revolution will weather this storm.
As I like to do from time to time, I will spend some time doing a thought experiment on how Venezuela can exit the impasse it now faces. The attempt is not intended to hand out free advice to folks who likely will ignore it anyways, but to clarify in my mind the options available for any movement facing this same situation in the future.
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