Hugo Chavez Redux

Here’s a welcome departure from mainstream Chavez-bashing, via the Monthly Review. I think it’s very sober in its appraisal of the pitfalls and the promise attached to HC’s surging popular support, and  his purported radical turn.

All the dangers that obtain to radical democracy loom large here. Chances are the Bolsheviks didn’t form their party thinking it’d end up a strong-arming, monolithic elite. Laclau reminds us that such is the price of populism and radical democracy – one cannot be sure that the risks taken will yield the results on has in mind at the start.

The other danger, of course, is a booming capitalist class in Venezuela, which runs the media and enjoys powerful U.S. support. Chavez must retain the support of the small but crucial Venezuelan middle class, which’ll be easier said than done as the ‘Chavez = Egomaniac Dictator’ barrage continues. The more steps Chavez takes to curb this assault, the more he’ll come to embody the very anti-democratic posture he’s trying to renounce.

I’m still sticking to my ‘Not Crap, with waffle factor’ vote on Hugo, but I want to know more.  I look forward to reading this book when Cassidy’s done with it.

4 Responses to “Hugo Chavez Redux”

  1. wobs Says:

    Laclau sounds downright Weberian in pointing out the unintended consequences of populism (or of social change, in general).

  2. minx Says:

    I want to read that book, too. Pat, what’d you make of Democratic approval of the new Defense Secretary, Gates, given his connection to the Iran-Contra scandal of the ’80s? (During which he claimed, of course, that the Monroe Doctrine allowed for the actions of the U.S.)

  3. lexdexter Says:

    if the dems’d had the guts to try and impeach over iran-contra, or even if they’d just made popular details of the CIA’s drug trade, or the effing death squads… well, things might be a bit different. rummy, cheney, baker and gates are smattered about the playing field twenty years later, thanks to the fact that ronald reagan so captivated america that it couldn’t even gag without him telling them to. “star wars” and shit. – p

  4. lexdexter Says:


    ambivalence towards utopia is the price laclau pays for his ability to shirk teleology. what seperates him from weber (and so many others), i think, is that laclau’s anti-utopian stance somehow works to focus his attention on tactical, hegemonic struggle. ‘radical democratic socialist politics for real,’ you might call it. or maybe you mightn’t.

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