What is the way to defeat reaction and imperialism?
On the afternoon of Saturday 4 August, various explosions on Bolivar avenue in Caracas interrupted the speech of President Nicolas Maduro during a parade to commemorate the 81th anniversary of the Venezuelan national guard. The explosions led to panicked scenes and the immediate evacuation of Maduro together with his wife and military leaders. That night, the Information Minister, Jorge Rodriguez, announced that there had been a terrorist attack carried out by drones loaded with C4 explosives. He said that 7 soldiers had been injured and several people had been arrested, with the attack attributed to sections of the right and extreme-right.
Later, the opposition journalist Patricia Poleo confirmed this version of events, publishing a statement by a group calling itself “the soldiers of Franela” claiming responsibility for the attack. The group in question are followers of the military chief Oscar Perez linked to the far right who dies in a shootout with the National Guard on 15 January of this year, and author of the terrorist attack on the Supreme Court in June 2017. The statement said that this attack was part of “operation Phoenix” with the objective of killing Maduro and bringing down the Venezuelan government. The next day, Maduro accused the outgoing President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, who has recently called for the overthrow of the Venezuelan government, of being responsible.
The violent, coup-plotting character of the Venezuelan right-wing
The violent, terroristic character of the right wing in Venezuela is news to no one. The capitalist media, right-wing governments around the world and many sections of social democracy, present these elements as mere “opposition forces fighting for democracy”. The reality is that these forces have habitually resorted to violence and terror: from the fascist coup of 2002 when they tried to kill Hugo Chavez (democratically elected by the Venezuelan people) and arrest his supporters, to the so-called “guarimbas”, fascistic and terrorist actions stimulated by leaders of the “opposition” like Leopoldo Lopez or Henrique Capriles Radonski.
The last “guarimba” episode caused over 100 deaths between March and July 2017 and there were even cases of lynching and people burned alive for declaring themselves Chavistas. These terrorist methods were one of the reasons for the defeat of the opposition offensive and of the MUD’s attempt to take power.
Their objective of sowing fear, paralysing the country and impeding elections to the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) provoked the mobilisation of the masses which yet again frustrated the plans of the right wing and their mentors: US imperialism and the reactionary governments of Colombia, Brazil and Argentina.
One year after the ANC elections: from mobilisation and hope to frustration and disenchantment
The attack of 4 August took place exactly one year after the government’s victory in the ANC elections. In those elections, while millions of the poorest mobilised to defeat the coup strategy of the right, millions of chavista voters and activists also used them to express their discontent with the capitalist policies of the Maduro government, by organising and supporting critical candidates and demanding a shift to the Left.
Since then, the response of Maduro , the state apparatus and PSUV (ruling party) bureaucracy has been to divide, isolate and repress all critical Left movements and confirm its policy of agreements with sections of Venezuelan capitalism, following the advice of its international advisers (especially the Chinese government which finances a lot of Venezuela’s debt). Their objective is not to defend or deepen the revolution but to stabilise Venezuelan capitalism with themselves in the lead, and dismantle in practice the most Left measures taken by Chavez due to the pressure of the masses.
In practice, Maduro has executed a clear shift to the right in government. His economic policies have led to constant price rises and cuts to the wages and rights of workers. He has gifted mountains of cash and “aid” to the new capitalists born from the ranks of the bureaucracy due to its control over the state, and to sections of the traditional bourgeoisie who have made agreements with the government. He has allowed multinationals from China, Iran and Russia – so-called “friends” – to make juicy profits thanks to mixed companies and trade deals to exploit our natural resources.
While a section of the capitalists and US imperialism still favour an economic collapse to allow them to rebuild their social base and bring down Maduro in order to form a government like Brazil, Argentina or Colombia, another section is in favour of agreements, at least temporarily, with the government. They would like Maduro himself or sections of the military leadership or bureaucracy, armed with a “chavista” discourse, to lead a transition which liquidates the gains of the revolutionary process.
This shift to the right is in the context of a situation where the vast majority of the working class and poor are struggling hard to survive along with their families. The accumulated fall in GDP over the last 3 years is over 40% according to some – a situation only comparable with the impact of a war! Annual inflation is around 46,000% according to the IMF, which predicts it could reach and incredible 1,000,000%! It is difficult to know the real dimensions of the situation as the Bank of Venezuela has stopped publishing information.
Strengthening of bonapartist and bureaucratic tendencies in the government
The attempts by critical sectors within the chavista rank and file and the workers’ movement to struggle against this situation have been dispersed and limited for the time being given the difficulties which the economic collapse generates for the organisation and participation of the masses. The demoralisation and scepticism which has been generated among wide sectors of the population by the rightward turn and the lack of a united and independent organisation of the working class with a clear decisive programme, which unites the popular demands and the Left opposition to the bureaucracy, is also a grave difficulty.
As well as the aforementioned economic policies, the bureaucratic control over mass organisations which were built in the period of revolutionary growth such as the CSBT Trade Union Federation and the PSUV has been reinforced. The PSUV is more and more a bureaucratic machine in which all dissent is crushed.
The PSUV acts as an appendage of the state apparatus, in a similar way to the Communist parties of the former Stalinist states (the USSR etc), with the difference that Venezuela is not a deformed workers’ state based on a planned economy but a capitalist state based on capitalist relations of production and dependent on the world market to an extreme degree (due to the oil factor).
This development, of not leading a revolution to the end and transforming it into a genuine socialist revolution based on workers’ democracy, is not something new in history. Something similar happened in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, the consequences of which are known. Maduro and his collaborators have a model to look up to: China, which is a clear promotor of state capitalism based on an authoritarian bonapartist regime which has broken any link with revolutionary traditions.
As in any bonapartist regime, they try to keep internal divisions within certain limits. Some sections which have gone too far in their corrupt practices, or who have demanded a more abrupt turn to the right have been purged for fear of provoking a social explosion. However, despite Maduro’s continuous pompous declarations about socialism and revolution, his policy consists in using the state and party apparatus, combined with some clientelist measures and selective repression and threats against critical voices, to manage capitalism and remain in power.
One of the possible consequences of the 4 August terrorist attack is that it can serve the bureaucracy to justify intensifying bonapartist and authoritarian measures and strengthening the tendency to criminalise protests and Left wing critics.
There is no way out under capitalism
After humiliating defeats in the regional and local elections in October and December 2017, the MUD was unable to mount a united challenge in the Presidential elections of May this year. Afraid of a new disaster, the majority of parties in the MUD decided not to stand. The MUD has eventually been dissolved and the new strategy of a section of the counter-revolutionary opposition is to take advantage of the terrible economic situation and social discontent to launch a so-called “Broad Front” (FA). They are attempting to leave behind (at least publicly) the discredited apparatus of the traditional right-wing parties, and present the FA as a coming together of social movements. For the time being they have had no success and their base remains passive and demoralised.
In the Presidential elections Maduro was re-elected with an abstention rate of over 50% and the support of less than 30% of the electorate. Imperialism and its Venezuelan puppets refused to recognise the results but their calls to protest on the streets were a failure. The bureaucracy tried to portray the result as a great victory, but this is easily seen through. Record abstention and the atmosphere of apathy during the campaign reflected the collapse in their authority, especially when compared with the enthusiasm provoked by Chavez’s electoral victories, Maduro’s first victory in 2013 and even with the mobilisation for the ANC elections only one year ago.
Popular discontent could become even sharper with the new measures announced by the government. Various economic policy chiefs have made declarations calling for the end of currency exchange controls, which instead of controlling inflation, as they predict, could aggravate it. The fundamental question remains the collapse of the productive economy and strike of investments, and the looting of oil wealth by the capitalists and bureaucracy. With or without currency controls, it will be very difficult for the masses to escape from generalised misery and scarcity.
Fight for a socialist, anti-capitalist, anti-bureaucratic policy. All power to the workers and poor
It would be a mistake to see the situation in Venezuela as separate from the political and economic processes taking place throughout Latin America and the world. In the current context, the space for a stable counter-revolution in Venezuela (be it led by the right wing or the bureaucracy itself) is not the same as in other historical moments. There is a sharpening of the class struggle throughout the continent – mass mobilisations in Brazil and Argentina, the historic victory of AMLO in Mexico, the growth of the Left in Colombia and the insurrectionary movement in Nicaragua.
The campaign launched by the PSUV bureaucracy to denigrate the mass uprising in Nicaragua, by comparing it to Venezuela’s ‘guarimbas’ is symptomatic. The reality is that it is the working class and popular base of the Sandinistas which is mobilising, developing organs of self-organisation and fighting against the savage repression and capitalist policies of the bourgeois bonapartist government of Daniel Ortega. Nicaragua is an example of what happens when a leadership which arises from a revolutionary movement goes over to the camp of the capitalist class and applies measures against the working class and poor.
Weak and parasitic Venezuelan capitalism cannot guarantee a dignified life to the masses. The international ruling class presents the paralysis of the Venezuelan economy as the result of “socilialism”. The reality is that the Bolivarian revolution was not completed. Chavez implemented progressive reforms which raised living standards. But the measures necessary to end capitalism were never taken. Not the expropriation of the banks, land estates, or big companies, or the destruction of the capitalist state with its bureaucracy, laws and institutions. A state really led by the workers and poor was never formed.
The only alternative, now more than ever, is a genuinely socialist programme which takes, once and for all, the economic and political power from the hands of the capitalists and bureaucrats and puts it in the hands of the workers and poor.
Join Izquierda Revolucionaria and fight for such a programme!
1. Direct workers control in all public and private companies to struggle for a freeze in prices, local food production, and the satisfaction of all the needs of the people against capitalist and bureaucratic sabotage.
2. Wage increases above inflation. Discussion and application of collective wage agreements. Incorporate all sub-contracted workers on permanent contracts. Re-employ all revolutionary class fighters sacked by bosses and bureaucrats. Unemployment pay for all the unemployed.
3. Confiscation and nationalisation of all closed and under-utilised companies and barren lands, with the immediate hiring of workers, farmers and students to work on them, developing democratic workers’ control. Nationalise all businesses which sabotage the economy under democratic control.
4. Create a state company with a monopoly on foreign trade. Workers’ and democratic control to fight against speculation, inflation and corruption and guarantee full food self-sufficiency.
5. Nationalisation of the banks, land and industry under workers control, to democratically plan the whole economy in the interests of the people to satisfy social need
6. Create a public health system which is free and universal and guarantees quality care. Expropriate private clinics and put them under democratic control to guarantee healthcare to all with no discrimination.
7. Create a public construction company to build infrastructure, homes, universities etc, run under democratic control to commit to a plan of building 500,000 homes per year, and end the housing deficit in 3 years.
8. Non-payment of the foreign debt! The imperialists are submitting us to misery via sanctions to pay through our misery for their massive wealth accumulation.
9. Create a socialist state based on workers, farmers, and students’ councils, on a local, regional and national level. All representatives must be elected and re-callable at any time by assemblies of their sector. Representatives should dace the accountability of their base at least every 6 months and earn no more than the average wage of a skilled worker, to put an end to corrupt bureaucracy.
Neither capitalists nor bureaucrats! All power to the workers and poor!