Hello Lenin! Students and Socialism in Venezuela

David Smilde, Tulane University
Hugo Perez Hernaiz, Universidad Central de Venezuela

This paper interviews pro-government activists at the height of Hugo Chávez Frias' "21st Century Socialism" in Venezuela, seeking to reconcile the contradiction between two realities. On the one hand, a large part of the world’s leading scholars and opinion makers hold the view that Leninist socialism is a discredited ideology and historical relic. On the other hand, there are people who find in it a vibrant, inspiring, meaningful orientation of practice in the contemporary world. And not just in Venezuela; in other contexts, Leninist socialism still has considerable appeal. Straughn (2009) has analyzed opinion polls that show over half of East Germans now say that socialism was a good idea but poorly implemented. As well, in the United States positive evaluations of the term "socialism" have significantly increased in the past decade. By addressing this contradiction through a study of activist students in Venezuela, we seek not only to understand socialism in Venezuela but the nature of political ideology and how to conceptualize it through the social scientific study of culture.

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 Presented in Session 10. Constructing and Obstructing Community