What a dull and uninspiring lot our mainstream politicians are. When the future of the planet demands an alternative to neoliberalism and capitalism, what's on offer from our parliamentary democracy?

Absolutely nothing. It's just business as usual.

Come 2011 you will be asked what variant of neoliberalism you want to prevail for the next three years. There is no alternative on offer from any of the parties that presently occupy Parliament. This is, apparently, 'democracy in action.'

The great social democratic experiment of 'capitalism with a human face' has proven to be an historical aberration and the social democratic parties that once followed this reformist doctrine have surrendered to neoliberalism

All that the Labour Party believes in now is 'revitalising capitalism'. Can you think of anything more bereft of vision, of imagination, of passion?

But what else can we expect from a Labour Party whose leader thinks that the free market is the pinnacle of human development and who can barely acknowledge the social democratic history of his own party?

But, while the likes of Phil Goff and the Labour Party might think otherwise, some of us still think there is a world to win.

And many of us draw inspiration from developments in Latin America.

After enduring nearly two decades of the same failed neoliberal policies that continue to be pursued in New Zealand, Latin American countries began to reject neoliberalism and it has been Venezuela that has led the charge.

The election of President Hugo Chavez in December 1998 was the beginning of the end for neoliberalism in that country. It is Venezuela that stands as inspiration for all of those who do not accept that is no alternative to capitalism.

According to the Washington-based think tank, The Centre for Economic and Policy Research, during the highpoint of its neoliberal policies, Latin America’s economic growth between 1980 and 2000 was only 9 percent.

Poverty and inequality grew significantly - which is also something, of course, that has happened here during the course of 25 years of neoliberal rule.

But Chavez's '21st century socialism' has produced a dramatic turnaround.

While the failed policies of neoliberalism led ultimately to a global economic meltdown, Venezuela as enjoyed twenty consecutive quarters of economic growth.

The year 2004 stands out with an historical growth of 18.3%. The 2008 rate of growth was 4.9%. The economy has grown by 526.98% compared to the Venezuelan neoliberal economy in 1998.

During his eleven years in office Chavez has nationalized large areas of the economy, including major oil projects along with electricity and telecommunications companies.

The billions of dollars that would have ended up in the pockets of the multinational corporations has been used to improves the lives of the Venezuelan people.

These include long-term programs in the areas of health, education and welfare.

It is estimated that via these social programs, known as 'missions', about half of the Venezuelan population is in one type of educational program, ranging from literacy, high school completion, to university degrees.

Unemployment has fallen nearly 50% during President Ch├ívez’s administration, falling from 12% to 6.1% by early 2009.

In May 2007, the Venezuelan minimum wage became the highest in Latin America. In addition, workers receive a monthly bonus for food amounting to some US$140. Also, pensions have been increased to the minimum wage.

But the forces of neoliberalism continue to agitate against Hugo Chavez and Venezuela.

Indeed in 2002 a US-back coup , supported by Venezuelan business interests, attempted to remove Chavez but he was returned to power in a counter coup by the Venezuelan people some forty-eight hours later.

President Barack Obama, the 'great liberal hope' , is proving to be no friend of Chavez.

The first official report outlining the defence and intelligence priorities of the Obama administration devoted a lot of words to Venezuela.

The Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community targeted President Chavez as a major 'threat' to US interests.

Said the report:

'Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has established himself as one of the US’s foremost international detractors, denouncing liberal democracy and market capitalism and opposing US policies and interests in the region.'

Hilary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has regularly attacked Chavez.

Clinton, who has been warmly praised by Foreign Minister Murray McCully, recently expressed great concern' for democracy and human rights in Venezuela, accusing President Chavez of not “contributing in a constructive manner” to regional progress.

She also warned Venezuela not to develop a close relationship with Cuba.

In response, Venezuela has made it clear that it will not be intimidated by the Obama administration.

The Venezuelan National Assembly President, Cilia Flores said in January;

'When we thought there couldn't be anything worse than Bush along came Obama 'masked' as the 'hero of the film' but who emerged as 'more of the same,'.

Venezuela stands as an inspiration and a focal point for everyone seeking real change and that is why the forces of neoliberalism, of the rich and powerful, would like to see Hugo Chavez removed from office.


  1. Some things never change - like the propensity of this country's marginalised and ideologically sterile "revolutionaries" to seek inspiration from anyone and anything - so long as it's not from the aspirations and traditions of their own people.

    When Venezuela has gone the way of the Soviet Union, the Peoples Republic of China and Albania, Steve, where will you turn to next?

    Pointless question. Since we know already that, wherever it is, it won't be to New Zealand.

  2. Chris,
    Some things never change - like your propensity to rubbish anyone, any movement, that is left of the Labour Party - which is just about everyone these days.

    Readers should remind themselves of what Chris's exciting political 'alternative' is: continuing to support the neoliberal policies of the Labour Party and all the betrayals that that entails.

    I see precious little evidence of you drawing from the aspirations and traditions of the New Zealand working class by continuing to support a politcally bankrupt party like Labour.

    It's disappointing that you cannot even acknowledge the great strides Venezuela has made. I find it inspiring but you are clearly intimidated by the achievements of the Venezuelan people.

  3. The consensus which is emerging from those who analyse Venezuela without the benefit of Chavista spectacles is that the Venezuelan Government is coming under increasing pressure from its own supporters to deliver on the promises made more than ten years ago.

    As this pressure intensifies, Chavez and his supporters are stepping-up their revolutionary rhetoric. Brave headlines, however, are no substitute for economic and social policies that do more than simply transfer the country's oil revenues among the Venezuelan poor.

    This latter policy is (predictably)fuelling a runaway inflationary spiral which is (equally predictably) steadily undermining the broader Venezuelan economy.

    As more and more of the poor realise that they can't eat political rhetoric, the electoral fortunes of Chavez's opponents will rise. He will then face the choice of either accepting defeat, or moving to abrogate the constitutional and democratic rights he has for so long championed.

    We will then have yet another example of how very difficult it is to turn revolutionary rhetoric into tangible and permanent gains for both the working-classes AND the slum-dwelling lumpenproletarians of the developing world.

    Their interests - as Venezuela under Chavez demonstrates - are not always and everywhere the same.

  4. The 'growing consensus' is against Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution? Clearly someone hasn't told the Venezuelan people this, who clearly remain firmly behind Chavez. Chris has just been watching too much Fox TV.

    It seems that Chris - who I recall also supported the US invasion of Iraq - has joined the campaign to delegitimise the Venezuelan government in the months leading up to the elections for the national assembly in September.

    US secretary of state Hillary Clinton's attacks on Venezuela during her recent trip to South America were one of the opening salvos of this campaign.

    Chris is keen to play up Venezuelan's inflation rate but simply ignores its economic growth, except to imply - incorrectly - that is merely due to Venezuela's oil reserves.

    As an aside, the inflation rate under the neoliberal government of Caldera was 57 percent - under the Chavez govt it is less than half that. Its not satisfactory and the govt has acknowledged that.

    Indeed if Venezuela is in the kind of economic trouble as Trotter would like us to believe, how does he explain twenty quarters of consecutive growth? Why has it been one of the countries least effected by the global meltdown?

    Chris finds one or two mistakes or problems with the Venezuelan government, and uses it to discredit the entire Bolivarian revolution, and therefore, the possibility that other ways are possible.

    Indeed Chris doesn't want to acknowledge that Venezuela's rejection of neoliberalism could actually be successful. It kind of makes you wonder what Chris's politics are these days.

  5. Once again, Steve, you resort to blatant misinformation when challenged.

    FYI - I totally opposed the US invasion of Iraq. Wrote columns and articles against it. Marched against it.

    Get your facts straight before you slag people off - otherwise it's you who ends up looking desperate and stupid.

    Another good way to end up looking stupid is to believe every item of propaganda disseminated by so-called "revolutionary" regimes.

    I recall reading breathless, and glowing, Maoist accounts of "The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" - now universally acknowledged to have been an unmitigated political, social and economic disaster for the Chinese people.

    While I have a lot of admiration for Chavez and his achievements, I'm not so foolish as to believe that he is anything more than a flamboyant populist politician, of a type all-too-familiar to South Americans, who is operating in an increasingly difficult political and economic environment, and whose strategic and tactical options grow fewer and more fraught with danger with every passing year of his presidency.

    Historically speaking, his odds are not good.

  6. According to an open letter John Minto wrote to you on October 30 2007:

    'When the US/UK launched the attack on Iraq in 2003 you sided with Tony Blair against the rest of mankind. Why is it with the big issues you seem to lose the plot? '

    Actually, I don't believe everything I hear about the Chavez govt but I also recognize that the lives of ordinary Venezulans has improved dramatically. I also recognise that we must defend Venezuela - and Bolivia - against the US's attempts to destabilise both govts.

    Its disappointing that you again link the achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution with the failed Stalinist regimes of the past.

    You seem to think that, inevitably, any revolution ends in disaster. I'd say that was just your political prejudice showing rather than any rational assessment.

  7. John Minto's open letter - oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

    As is so often the case, John was way off in his accusations, and by your carelessness you have only compounded his error.

    As someone who commits his opinions to the MSM on a weekly basis it is a relatively simple matter to check my stance on the issues of the day.

    What I actually praised were the world-healing sentiments expressed by Tony Blair in his speech to the British Labour Party Conference in late-2001 - at least eighteen months BEFORE the US-led invasion of Iraq.

    And, getting back to the original subject of our debate, I would simply note that the lives of ordinary people have improved dramatically all over the South American continent since the end of the military dictatorships in the 1990s - not only in Venezuela.

    And, not surprisingly, it's also my view that the gains made under the moderate social-democratic governments of Brazil, Uruguay and up until the last few months, of Chile, will prove to be the more enduring.

  8. Anyone willing to adjust their opinions given recent events?


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