All over the world, the international Left – including the global social justice movement – is peering sceptically at Venezuela, unsure of what to make of President Hugo Chávez’ alleged democratic revolution. Is Chávez the next Allende? Is the ‘Bolivarian revolution’ really revolutionary? Is it anti-capitalist? Or does he merely represent another chimera in a long line of populists who rile up the masses with rousing condemnations of US Imperialism, only to quietly cut deals with international capital?
The multitude of Bolivians who were blocking the roads, building barricades and surrounding the presidential palace – the peasants, miners, street venders, unemployed and many others – were the product of at least a half-century of revolutionary struggle against landlords, mine-owners, big-business people and the U.S. Embassy.
Beginning with the social revolution of 1952, which expropriated the mines and landed estates of the oligarchy and destroyed the military, the Bolivian workers and peasants forged their own class-based trade unions and militias. State power, however, was taken by the middle-class National Revolutionary Party (MNR), which began a process of re-establishing capitalist hegemony in alliance with the United States.
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