[Marxism] NYT: Chávez Again Seeks to End Term Limits

Steven L. Robinson srobin21 at comcast.net
Wed Dec 3 11:41:58 MST 2008

As a matter of principle, can one say that in all cases say that "term limits" are undemocratic?  In the real world, where we live, I think that the answer depends entirely on context.

I can certainly agree that in the specific context of the Venezuelan political situation,  term limits are unfortunate and should be abolished or modified.    

In the context of the US, where the major parties design the electoral system so as to assure their leading figures remain in power forever through gerrymandering, ballot access restrictions, etc, term limits have some benefit in that they at least force a rotation of personnel. In California, at least, this has resulted in the election of individuals  more liberal or to the left of those that would have held the positions had there been no term limits. Compare for instance,  California  state legislators , where there are term limits, to the Congressional delegation, where there are none. For instance,  in San Francisco in the state legislator we have two progressives, Leno and Ammiano, the lattter identifies himself as a socialist, while in Congress, we have two machine pols, Pelosi and Speir. Were term limits applied to Congress, we would almost certainly have, on balance, more progressive, or at least representatives more responsive to the electorate.

The right of immediate recall of the elected representatives is certainly a more chastening tool to use on elected officials - a right that, if I recall correctly, existed in the Paris Commune and spoken of highly by Marx and Engels.  Does the fact that the Venezuelan right wing used a right of recall to harass Chavez make the concept reactionary? I don't think so. On the other hand, Evo Morales used a right of recall for the benefit of his program.

It seems to me that term limits, in and of themselves, are not necessarily undemocratic, any more than other restrictions placed on qualifications for office. It is undemocratic that 30 year olds can't run for President of the US? Or that Californians can't elect New Yorkers to Congress?   It is conceivable that a workers government might impose term limits on its officials as a guard against bureacratism or the creation of an authoritarian personality cult.  SR

----- Original Message -----
From: Joaquin Bustelo 
To: srobin21 at comcast.net
Sent: Wed, 3 Dec 2008 17:58:46 +0000 (UTC)
Subject: Re: [Marxism] NYT: Chávez Again Seeks to End Term Limits

Steven L. Robinson writes: "How then do you explain the Mexican experience,
where one of the major demands of the revolution of 1910 was to impose term
limits on the Mexican Presidency?  

"Surely you can not say that in all cases and in all instances term limits
are a reactionary thing."

When applied against the Porfiriato the demand for no re-election was
progressive. But it simply meant out with this dictator. And the real
problem there was Porfirio Diaz's stealing of elections. "Term limits" in
general, on their face, are anti-democratic, designed as they are to
frustrate the popular will. In Latin America they're being used as a
rallying cry against Chavez as they were two decades ago against the
Sandinistas. And when the bourgeoisie needs one of their own re-elected, the
constitution gets changed (Uribe in Colombia).

It is an illusion to think that "democracy" is somehow "strengthened" by
such provisions. 



YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.

Send list submissions to: Marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu

Set your options at: http://lists.econ.utah.edu/mailman/options/marxism/srobin21%40comcast.net

More information about the Marxism mailing list