Hugo Chávez (waving a replica of 19th century revolutionary Símon Bolívar's sword) has once again triumphed over the bastions of neoliberal capitalism. After 14 years in power, he won 55% of the vote on a record 81% turnout, proving to the World Bank, the IMF, Barclays, and the United Statess (among others) that the people want socialism, not corporate imperialism. As Seamus Milne notes in the Guardian, despite the fact that Chávez's opponent Henrique Capriles was backed by the US (whose antagonism toward his government is well-known and most noteably manifested itself in a failed coup in 2002) and outspent him three to one using virtually all of the private media to his advantage, it was a decisive victory. Only two states, in which most all of the wealthy & bourgeois reside, went to Capriles. The other twenty-one went to Chávez. Milne celebrates the importance of this victory,
Venezuela and its Latin American allies have demonstrated that it's no longer necessary to accept a failed economic model, as many social democrats in Europe still do. They have shown it's possible to be both genuinely progressive and popular. Cynicism and media-fuelled ignorance have prevented many who would naturally identify with Latin America's transformation from recognising its significance. But Chávez's re-election has now ensured that the process will continue – and that the space for 21st-century alternatives will grow.
Bolívar's revolutionary spirit and the cultivation of "twenty-first century socialism" continues with a clear mandate. But what does this mean for the rest of the world? Milne cautions us against trying to transplant the Latin American political model, however he does champion the social programs, nationalization of recourses, and direct democracy. Furthermore, in his powerful indictment of the failure of neoliberal capitalism, The Revenge of History, Milne demonstrates how the Latin American model counters against the catastrophic failure of both the ideology and policies that have dominated the first decade of the twenty-first century.
No doubt, for leftists the world over, Chávez's (along with other leaders privy to the principles World Social Forum) success has been tremendously inspiring and as the revolution continues, convincing. Richard Gott, author of Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution, reflects in the Guardian, that,
Some years ago, travelling on the presidential plane of Hugo Chávez of Venezuela with a French friend from Le Monde Diplomatique, we were asked what we thought was happening in Europe. Was there any chance of a move to the left? We replied in the depressed and pessimistic tones typical of the early years of the 21st century. Neither in Britain nor France, nor anywhere in the Eurozone, did we see much chance of a political breakthrough.
Chávez, recalling the revolutionary crowds of Paris in the 1830's who waved the cap of Símon Bolívar's, suggested that perhaps Latin America could come to Europe's assistance. At the time, Gott says, he was not convinced, "yet now I think that he was right". Others are as well. Many committed socialists and scholars alike, such as Tariq Ali, Owen Jones, and Gregory Wilpert champion Chávez's Bolívarian revolution as the driving counterforce against global neoliberal capitalism. Two centuries after Bolívar liberated Latin America from Spain's political rule, Chávez follows in his attempt to liberate Latin America from the economic hegemony of the United states and global capitalism. In the introduction to The Bolivarian Revolution, Chávez concludes that,
Bolívar's project did not die with him. "I awake every hundred years when the people awake," as El Libertador says in a poem by the great Pablo Neruda. The Venezuelan people have once again taken up that project, and with them the peoples of Latin America and of the world. They are waging a new struggle for a world of equals, a world of justice. The better world we want to construct is no longer only possible but absolutely essential. Things cannot continue as they are: either we change the world or it will end. This is something I am sure Bolívar would have understood, since he was always thinking of the destiny of the Americas and the world in the centuries to come. His project was always oriented toward the future. It was not possible then—but the future is now. There is no time to lose!
Indeed, Europe needs to learn from the pioneers in Latin America. Frantz Fanon, the post-colonial thinker and revolutionary, would have supported Chávez's liberatory project. As Fanon concludes in his call to the Third World,
if we want humanity to take one step forward, if we want to take it to another level than the one where Europe has placed it, then we must innovate, we must be pioneers. If we want to respond to the expectations of our peoples, we must look elsewhere besides Europe.
Hopefully, we will.
Visit the Guardian to read Seamus Milne or Richard Gott's article in full.