The minor setback suffered by Venezuela’s ruling socialists in that country’s recent legislative elections underscore the huge challenge facing any socialist national economy struggling to survive in a global market economy.
The path of President Hugo Chavez’s 21st-Century Socialists would probably be a lot less difficult if Venezuela’s economy were relatively self-sufficient.
But Venezuela’s is a resource-based economy that relies heavily on oil exports to bolster its GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
And the deep global recession of the last couple of years has cut the world oil price to little more than half of what it was before the 2008 economic meltdown.
In the years of rising global demand for oil and steadily rising prices, Chavez’s government brought enormous change to the country’s economic structure, giving the poor and the working class a much higher standard of living and a real sense of hope for the future.
Thousands of doctors were imported from Cuba to provide quality health care to Venezuela’s rural poor.
The number of university students in the country more than tripled, with an overwhelming majority of them receiving free tuition and other financial assistance.
Public education was bolstered, public transit improved and a wide range of much-needed social programs were instituted.
But in making these urgently-needed changes, the Chavez government also unwittingly nurtured a level of expectations among the poor and working-class majority that could never be met in times of low global commodity prices.
Thus, as the deep global recession has edged into its third year, both the demand for oil and the world price of oil have remained stubbornly low.
Consequently, it has become increasingly difficult for Chavez and his 21st-Century Socialist to maintain much less expand the many progressive reforms it had launched.
Is it any wonder, then, that the Venezuelan masses have become somewhat disenchanted with the slow pace of economic progress?
By most objective measures, the Venezuelan government has weathered the hard economic times much better than most other countries.
But having stoked the flames of hope in a long-suffering people, Chavez has himself been the victim of his own hopeful, optimistic vision.
It is understandable that there is a high level of frustration and even anger among the Venezuelan masses as their lofty dream of very rapid change has been somewhat stymied.
Still, the Veneuelan people have not thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
They have given their socialist government another, albeit reduced, majority. Like the Democrats in the U.S., the socialists can still produce some change – but at a much slower pace.
And at least the Venezuelans – unlike the Americans and, increasingly, the Canadians, still have a democracy that allows them to elect a leftist government.
America has never had a viable leftist political party and the two in Canada – the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois – have become so tepid in their recent evolution as to be almost irrelevant.
And at least the Venezuelans – unlike Americans and Canadians – are still possessed of sufficient social cohesion and political consciousness to be able to overcome the electoral power of private election financing and the corporate mass media.
Long live 21st-Century Socialism! Long live the Bolivarian revolution!