Presented at ‘Towards a Cosmopolitan Marxism’, Historical Materialism Annual Conference (in association with Socialist Register and the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial. I had become concerned at the proliferation of ‘left’ critiques of events in Venezuela, which, it seemed to me, represented a profound misunderstanding not only of what was actually happening but of the constraints on it arising from the unrelenting hostility of Venezuela’s powerful capitalist class, its close ties with the US, and the highly polarised country which Chavez and his supporters had inherited from their predecessors. This reflected two wider weaknesses on the Western left: it could not understand the real economic structure of the world, and it refused to try and understand history. Instead it judged everything by abstract, moralistic critieria which, at based, reproduced the shallow and unreconstructed prejudices of Western liberalism. These are pretty damning failures. So I wrote this paper, as much to try and elaborate a more scientific approach for my own satistfaction, as to influence people who had already abandoned science for a self-confirming, superficial and smug world view which they had no intention of subjecting to the withering critique of reality.