Activity 5 (b): The state-oriented route to freedom: the case of Venezuela

2 hours


To help us to:

  • Understand the possibilities and drawbacks of the state-oriented route to freedom in the 21st century, using the case study of Venezuela
  • Answer 5 key questions regarding the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela: analysis, visions of the future, forms of resistance, political strategy and prefigurative politics.


Venezuela is in the midst of a serious political and economic crisis. Ordinary people are being hard hit by high food prices and shortages of basic necessities, including medicines. As a result, millions of people have fled Venezuela for neighboring countries. There have been reports of political repression and a rise of authoritarian rule by President Nicholas Maduro. Economic sanctions and political interference by the USA continue. Countries like China, Cuba and Russia have sided with Venezuela.

Venezuela is a country that led the anti-imperialist push back in Latin America from the 1990s. The country was at the head of what became known as the “Pink Tide” against neo-liberalism. Countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina were part of this resurgence. Socialism of the 21st century was the vision outlined by Hugo Chavez, and initial steps in this direction were taken. What were these steps? What were the shortcomings of this experiment? And what has led Venezuela to the crisis of today? The various tasks to follow will be dealing these questions.

Task 1

You will be divided into small groups. In your groups, talk about what you understand the crisis in Venezuela to be, using the articles provided. Prepare to give a quick feedback to plenary.

This will be followed by a short presentation, using visuals, on the current crisis and the various countries involved as well as locating the various actors on the world map.

We have 25 minutes for this task

Task 2

You will be divided into reading groups, to grapple with the radical transformation in Venezuela. You are encouraged to take notes and prepare comments and questions, in preparation for engaging a presentation that follows in Task 4. All groups will read a selection of paragraphs from the following readings:

R. Burbach, M Fox and F. Fuentes, Latin America’s Turbulent Transition and Temir Porras “Escalation Could Lead to a Catastrophic Outcome” (An interview).

Upon completion of the readings, please answer the following questions and record your responses on newsprint.


  • How did the Bolivarian movement understand the nature of the problems in Venezuela?
  • What vision of the future drove the movement?
  • What forms of resistance were employed by the movement?
  • What political strategy was chosen by the movement?
    • Who were the social forces driving the revolution?
    • What was the attitude of activists to the question of employing state power to win freedom?
    • How were activists organised?
  • How did the revolution impact on mass political participation, and did it throw up alternative forms of organization?

You have 45 minutes for this task

Task 3

To sharpen our engagement for the next task, we will watch a snipped from the film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised which is about the coup against the Chavez government in 2002 and the re-instatement of Chavez government by ordinary people and the lower ranks of army.

We will have 25 minutes for this task

Task 4

The facilitator will present on the background and evolution of the Bolivarian revolution, the possibilities and drawbacks of using the state as an arena of struggle; the role of Latin America in the push back against neo-liberalism as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the Venezuelan experience. This will be followed by engagements from the groups with questions and comments.

Please refer to the reading pack for:

R. Burbach, M. Fox and F. Fuentes. “Venezuela’s twenty-first-century socialism” in Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions (Zed Books, 2013)

Temir Porras, “Escalation could lead to a catastrophic outcome”, Jacobin, 10/11/2019.

Last updated December 15, 2019 6:16 pm