Venezuela and the Left: A Forum


I’ve written an introduction to a forum, up now at Dissent magazine. The left has had a tricky relationship with Venezuela over the last couple of decades. It has often defended the country from liberal and right-wing attacks. But what did the left see clearly in Venezuela, and what did it miss? The forum has three essays, written by María Pilar García Guadilla, Jeffrey Webber, and Pablo Stefanoni, analyzing various aspects of the phenomenon.

Venezuela’s presidential crisis has produced antagonistic camps who see these matters in incompatible terms. Figures like Rubio and Elliott Abrams apply an anti-totalitarian framework to the situation and conclude that they are on the side of right, working to dislodge a dictator. (Abrams, Trump’s special envoy on Venezuela, was a major figure in the Reagan administration’s illegal wars in Central America in the 1980s, which he viewed in similar terms.) For the political right, Venezuela is experiencing a crisis of socialism, plain and simple.

On the other hand, many on the international left, starting from an anti-imperialist framework, see the United States trying to remove another left-wing government in Latin America and have rallied against such actions. But is it possible to do this without defending the government of Maduro? Anti-imperialism must remain a core principle of the left; but Venezuela presents a powerful conundrum, for it is clear that Maduro takes advantage of the left’s anti-imperial commitments to cast himself in the role of a twenty-first-century Salvador Allende. That allows Maduro to push aside his share of responsibility for economic crisis, domestic repression, official corruption, and entanglement with criminal networks. Some on the left—but by no means all—have made excuses for Maduro’s government, by attributing current conditions to outside forces to a far greater degree than can be justified by the basic timeline of events. What kind of response, then, can the left offer to Venezuela?

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