There are alternatives Left

April 21, 2011

Robert Zaretsky is surely right to note, following Albert Camus, that rebels must resist the temptation to enslave their oppressors ("Rebels know their limits", 7 April). However, he is wrong, in my view, to state that we should never "allow our rebellion to turn into a revolution".

For socialists, revolution is the only viable solution to the neoliberal outrages of autocratic governments, whether of the Mubarak kind - "the people aren't ready for democracy" - or of the ConDem sort - using the current crisis in capitalism to engage in an ideologically driven frontal assault on the welfare state, against the wishes of the people.

On 16 April, several hundred socialists met in London at a conference organised by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign to insist that there is an alternative to the coalition's plans, and that alternative is "defending the majority, not punishing the poorest".

Millions of Venezuelans have benefited from the radical social democratic reforms instituted by the government of Hugo Chavez over the past 13 years. People there are not demanding the enslavement of the oppressor, but rather the replacement of a failed system with the real possibilities of 21st-century democratic socialism.

The spirit of that engagement is epitomised by Venezuelan proposals to run its universities via a one-person, one-vote system involving all staff and students, not just academics. That this is a real possibility tells us much about the nature of democracy in that society; since it would be considered by most in the UK as an outrageous proposal, it tells us even more about the erosion of true democracy here.

Mike Cole, Research professor in education and equality, Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln

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