Photo: Fernando Díaz Villanueva, retrieved.

Venezuelan politics have been a laboratory for all political and social theories these last few years, in at least two ways: First, the high price you pay for this experience; second, how hard it is for any theory to make sense of what has happened for two decades now.

Consider, for example, what’s going on with the notion of revolution. Those ruling the country since 1999 claim that a “revolution” is happening, despite how it’s practically impossible to fit these events into any concept of revolution handled in political science. The use of quotation marks is mandatory. 

According to Marxist theory, it’d be offensive to call this a “revolution,” because they’re using the word for a process that has destroyed the working class, obliterated productive forces in an unprecedented fashion (in terms of worldwide economic history), and has turned Venezuela into one of the most unequal societies in the world.

Those ruling the country since 1999 claim that a “revolution” is happening, despite how it’s practically impossible to fit these events into any concept of revolution.

Then there’s the issue of “ending the revolution,”  brought to the foreground by the apparent changes of the local economy, thanks to the “dollarization” and the consumer bubble of small and exclusive areas in Caracas.

How to end a revolution is one of the most algid topics in political theory and practice. It’s so complex, that many important revolutionary thinkers have suggested that a revolution can never be seen as something that can end, and doing so would be treason. Trotsky, for instance, coined the concept of “permanent revolution” and, on a more modest intellectual level, Regis Debray wrote about a “revolution within a revolution.”

But our issue is simpler. We’re dealing with an economic disaster brought by the chavista-madurista administration, that has forced the local apparatchiks to switch gears in their handling of the economy. If, hypothetically, we call what’s been going on a “revolution,” this turn of direction would be its end. The thing about this ending, this “counter revolution,” is that it’s not the result of a violent act coming from the enemies of the “revolution,” or a counterstrike by those who once held power and were displaced. No: this is a result of their own decomposition, the corrosion that bloomed within itself.

If, hypothetically, we call what’s been going on a “revolution,” this turn of direction would be its end.

Some observers perceive an attempt to get some economic oxygen by chavista leaders. Allowing remittances in, allowing shameless money laundering, looking the other way when it comes to the endless economic regulations in place, allowing the proliferation of imported goods stores, and informal valets asking for dollars in the street; all those economic rascalities would become a “model”, allegedly inspired by the Chinese economy. If we’re talking about models, like someone told me the other day, then we’d have to talk about a Haitian model: a very small, but very wealthy group, surrounded by a miserable nation.

Because there’s actually no model. What we have is what we’ve said; a bunch of “moves” to see what sticks. There’s no turnabout in the economy, that would need two things to make sense: a place to turn from and a destination. We could argue about having the former (turning from a sort of ruinous nothing where the only option available is trying to escape), what’s nowhere to be seen is the latter. There’s possibly no other place in the world with such an entropic economy, so lost, as today’s Venezuelan economy. It’s not even “wild capitalism,” like some say there’s in China. You know what wild capitalism is and which are its terrible rules; what we have here is an economic jungle, where no one knows if there are rules or not, which those would be, or if the ones that would exist would be valid. Trails might be trails or dead ends, nothing points the way to anything and if there’s a goal, no one knows how long it’s going to take us reaching it.

Because there’s actually no model. What we have is what we’ve said; a bunch of “moves” to see what sticks.

Some say that the problem is not that we don’t know where we’re turning to, but that we haven’t turned at all (even without a destination). That we’re in the same place we’ve been for the last 20 years: the rulers will keep doing whatever they want, breaking any agreement that they reach with this or that company, taking away the imported goods stores when they feel like they’ve overcome the heat from their own incompetence. All it takes is the “expropriate!” order that we remember so well. An “expropriate!” that can be called an endogenous model itself, without having to look for Asian demonyms for a genuine national product.

So, there it is, ladies and gentlemen: the “revolution” ended. A revolution that never was.

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Lawyer and political scientist. Founder of the School of Political Studies of the UCV, where he taught History of Political Ideas and the Venezuelan Political System. Individual of number of Venezuela's National Academy of History. Visiting Professor at St. Antony's College, Oxford University. Since 2000, he has been conducting the radio program La Linterna at RCR. He was Director of El Diario de Caracas and Deputy to the National Congress. He has published several books on Venezuelan political history, oil history, analysis of the Venezuelan political system.