The Triumph of Politics, The Return of the Left in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, George Philip & Francisco Panizza, Wiley and Polity Books, 19.20 €

The Triumph of PoliticsOf course everybody remembers Hugo Chàvez’ notorious speech at the UN General Assembly back in 2006 when he announced that he could still smell the sulfur at the podium from the devil’s visit the other day, obviously referring to then-US President Bush. Some would argue that, on an international level, Chàvez’ socialist agenda became effectively more verbal and Chàvez himself became a bit ridiculous. But it is not that simple. Philip’s and Panizza’s historical and comparative analysis of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador’s political development brings the region’s leftist politics into a fresh and serious light. The authors thoroughly examine and compare the role of the military, mass protests, populism, national referendums, natural resources and regional integration in the three case studies, while assessing their impact on socialist politics. They make the case that while we usually see liberal democracy with strong checks and balances as the ‘good’ version of democracy, democratic socialism, with focus on majority rule and direct participation of the people in decision-making, is also a legitimate version of democracy. As one of the staunchest critics of US imperialism and neoliberalism, Chàvez attracted a polarized mixture of opinions, while a middle ground for a more objective assessment of socialist politics in Latin America was missing —until now.

J. H.