James Petras doesn't think so... his argument, in sum, is that Bolivia and Venezuela are in fact just normal capitalist countries, and that if the capitalists are complaining, it is because the store is no longer being given away in those places:
Both regimes have not abolished most of the essential elements of capitalist production, namely private profits, foreign ownership, profit repatriation, market access or supply of gas, energy or other primary goods, nor have they outlawed future foreign investments.
In fact Venezuela's huge Orinoco heavy oil fields, the richest reserves of oil in the world, are still owned by foreign capital. The controversy over President Chavez' radical economic measures revolves around a tax and royalty increase from less than 15 percent to 33 percent -- a rate which is still below what is paid by oil companies in Canada, the Middle East and Africa. What produced the stream of vitriolic froth from the US and British media (Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, etc) was not a comparative analysis of contemporary tax and royalty rates, but a retrospective comparison to the virtually tax-free past. In fact Chavez and Morales are merely modernizing and updating petrol-nation state relations to present world standards; in a sense they are normalizing regulatory relations in the face of exceptional or windfall profits, resulting from corrupt agreements with complicit state executive officials. The harsh reaction of the US and EU governments and their energy MNCs is a result of having become habituated to thinking that exceptional privileges were the norm of 'capitalist development' rather than the result of venal officials.
Now, the mainstream media has been reporting that poverty has been increasing under Chavez, as a typical propaganda swipe at so-called "Communist" regimes. Of course, the main response to the idea of poverty, itself, by the bourgeoises who run the American mass media, is to make fun of it -- otherwise what would be the point of TV shows such as "Survivor"? The accusations against the Venezuelan government have, however, been cleared up in an article recently published by Mark Weisbrot and friends (also here).
But, even though the situation isn't half as dire as the propagandists make it out to be, Venezuela is still a country with a high poverty rate. An improvement from 55.6 percent (the figure for 1997) to 37.9 percent (the figure for 2005) is definitely a good thing; yet 37.9 percent is still a lot of households. Clearly the Venezuelan government has not abolished poverty in Venezuela.
What this reveals, of course, is nothing really new: capitalism is really in control, even under Chavez' regime, and the crisis of exhaustion is upon us as a species. A paragraph from Kees van der Pijl's essay "International Relations and Capitalist Discipline" will illuminate the situation precisely:
My thesis is that a crisis of exhaustion is threatening a global society held together by capitalist discipline... This crisis can be specified as follows. First, a crisis of exhaustion of the biosphere will most directly compound the ongoing processes of original accumulation-urbanzation in the poorest parts of the world. Second, a crisis will occur of the internationalization of capital, characterized by a regression from international socialization of labour to disjointed circuits of money capital with a strongly speculative bent, undermining the world's productive capacity. Finally, there will come a crisis of the geopolitical expansion of the Lockean heartland (i.e. that part of the world that benefits most centrally from capital accumulation) -- entailing a withering of transnational civil society and a regression to bellicose imperialism.
So there it is... there are three big crisis that characterize this era -- the ecological crisis, the financial crisis, and the geopolitical crisis, and being slightly more leftist than thou will not exempt one from the universal human task of dealing with capitalism's increasing evisceration of the planet
Speaking of bellicose imperialism, President Bachelet of Chile is under pressure from Bush to shun Venezuela...