Democracy is a good in itself, and a country that is not democratic (in the substantial, not procedural, sense), even if its power elite adopt a relatively enlightened development strategy, will eventually fall apart, for the power elite themselves will, sooner or later, begin to think, "Let's see, our counterpart in more economically liberal countries are making their countries richer and earning a great deal more money than we are. Why not make our economy more capitalistic?"
The history of state socialism is a demonstration of this: both in Russia and China, it was the power elite, not poorer workers and farmers, who first abandoned any vestigial commitment to socialism, transforming their countries in the neoliberal capitalist image (more disastrously in Russia than China, for the change there was much more precipitous, from which Russia has only recently begun to recover under Putin, thanks to oil booms, more efficient tax collection, and the undoing of some of the results of ill-considered privatization). By the time when their power elites ditched socialism, the populaces in both countries had already become depoliticized under decades of one-party rule with no organization of their own and little experience in democratic debate, so they failed to effectively counter top-down transformation for the benefit of not only the power elites but also international capital.
Can Iranians and Venezuelans defend the social gains of their respective revolutions from capitalists and their intellectuals, achieve new victories, and defend their nations from the empire?