That Social Democrat curse: we must all be on the left

We suffer politically in Venezuela from a curse that we cast in the 1958-1960 era, when we got rid of our last right wing dictatorship while trying to make sure Fidel Castro Communism would not take over us.  We failed at both since right now we suffer of a new attempt at a fascist neo-totalitarian system while Fidel Castro has succeeded in turning Venezuela into a Cuban protectorate.  But I digress.

"A" left celebrates its newly found "unity" today in Barquisimeto
The curse that Venezuela suffers is that no political party has dared to call itself anything beyond "right of center", and even when it happened, very reluctantly, it doomed from the start any chance of success to reach power.  AD of course already inherited its ADECO appellation from being linked to Communism (AD-COmunista).  When Rafael Caldera became serious about reaching power he self styled his COPEI into "Social Christian" even though its origin was way more into a conservative religious place.  Since they both were "center left" all new parties defined themsleves as further to the left (MAS: Movimiento al Socialismo; Causa R: radical left, PPT: more leftist secession of CausaR, etc, until Chavez and his outright XXI century socialism, a.k.a. communism light so far, Castro inspired).

Why such a self imposed restriction?

I suppose it would deserve a treatise but this will be for others to write.  The executive summary originates from the AD propaganda of the late 40ies which became a self fulfilling prophecy of sorts: El Pueblo's wisdom which can only base its values on solidarity and sharing.  I suppose that up to a point AD thought it was a way to let its message reach a mass which was going directly from near stone age tribalism to oil wealth modernism; but the system stuck its gears and it was made worse when COPEI and Caldera decided to reach power on a faster track by becoming an AD light, sort of.  The only serious attempt at a more liberal approach to economy or society came under the second presidency of Carlos Andres Perez of AD and it cost him his presidency through the hands of AD who dumped him under the pretext that he misled them into his reelection.

I do not mean to make a judgment call on 60 years of Venezuelan politics.  Considering myself a social democrat European style (more accurately an old fashioned Liberal US before Reagan and daily Kos made it a bad word), I should be elated that no political party in Venezuela was right wing.  But I am not, not at all.  The fact of the matter is that it was all a lie all along as AD right wing practices could only reconcile themselves to its original left wing ideology by transmuting the whole into crass populism of which Chavez has been the most strident expression.  On this respect one could argue the case that Chavez has merely been the most Adeco Venezuelan president.  After all his rule is based on social largess and outright corruption, just as AD and COPEI rules were (though very far from the summits reached by chavismo).  Amen of chavismo adding its attempt at making Venezuelan a single gigantic PSUV tribal unit.

If we are in the dire straits we are today it is that since 1958 Venezuela has never had a real debate on society and economy.  It has always been a given that any Venezuelan government would be stationary (Caldera 1, Leoni to a point) or would be lurching further left than the original Betancourt (CAP 1, Lusinchi, Caldera 2).  The only two opportunities where a feeble attempt at re-discussing our national agenda was hinted at were under CAP 2 and early Herrera. But these failed fast becasue these presidents never truly intended to open a debate and CAP 2 just wanted to impose his vision regardless of its consequences.

Thus Venezuela never had a major debate such as it happens in normal democracies.  For example we can cite the Great Society of Johnson or the Reaganomics of Reagan and we could attribute the current failures of the GOP and Dems this decade at not being able since Bush second term to really start the needed, cyclical debate (1).  Or we can cite in Europe Thatcher, de Gaulle or Gonzalez who won their debate and set their societies for decades.

But in Venezuela circumstances were that the fear of Castro and our military past never allowed for such a debate and never allowed for a true center right democratic party such as we see elsewhere routinely gaining and losing power through elections.  Populism under the disguise of social democracy has always been our lot, Venezuela having reached the dubious record of having at least three political parties registered simultaneously at the International Socialist organization....

If I have allowed myself to extend on this very brief and rather un-nuanced survey of Venezuelan "ideologies" in past decades it is to make sure you can understand better what happened in Barquisimeto today.  Namely a series of democratic leftist groups (belonging to the International Socialist or not) have decided to try to form a common umbrella organization such as to be able to run a single candidate for the opposition primaries.  The event was apparently more successful than expected since the stadium chosen was quite filled up with not unimpressive images. 

The groups from the atomized opposition to Chavez include the PPT now finally in the opposition for good, but also PODEMOS (a member of the I.S.) and Causa R (who could have gotten a seat at the I.S. had it wanted to) plus minor players.  However the ecumenical aspect of the meeting was respected when other groups such as Primero Justicia sent delegates to welcome the initiative, and thus not making quite clear the real objective of the day.

It is too early yet to figure out if what I predicted long ago will come to materialize: three major opposition tendencies fighting it off in the primaries and then uniting behind the eventual winner, but a first step to move for a true democrat socialist left front has been taken today.  If all works out, a vocal Falcon today could maybe become the unity candidate for that "frente progresivo" (progressive front) including at the very least PPT, PODEMOS, Causa R and possibly MAS, and other smaller groups.  Leaving AD, UNT and ABP to form a more traditional Social Democrat group and PJ as the lone centrist group as attempts to form a more neo liberal group seemed doomed to fail yet again.  Even though of course they will all call themselves "progressives".....

Still, chavismo is not fooled and an amazingly virulent partisan note was posted in what is supposedly the Venezuelan News Agency, ABN. That "press agency " is becoming increasingly a propaganda  embarrassment and I wonder if anyone really reads them regularly.  At any rate, if you read Spanish take the time to read that note where all opposition participants at Barquisimeto today are described as deserters and all right wingers, as chavismo cannot tell (pretends not to know?) the differences between the multiple groups of the opposition alliance.


1) Tea Partiers and GOP do not seem able to really open the debate because the type of debate I am discussing here must be free of any religious component to be real and avoid becoming an imposition, with all the rejection that comes with it, and hence the difficulties to impose it.  Long gone are the days where Regan could use the religious right to win and drop it afterward to enact his reforms.  As for the Democrats they have lost long ago a sense of state since their 60ies social vision has now become the norm of the US, no matter how much one might disagree with that.  Obama cannot really go further to the left, the more so in time of crisis, while of course the Democrats cannot admit of past errors.  Hence the US dead-lock that will probably last through another presidential term....