Alan Woods speaks to Ultimas Noticias

Ultimas Noticias is the most widely read daily paper in Venezuela, and is followed by most Chavista activists. On Sunday 19th November, it carried a full-page interview with the editor of We reproduce a translation of the full text here.

ALAN WOODS: "To represent the people should not be a privilege"

Alessia Candito

Alan Woods, the celebrated British Marxist theoretician and leading member of the International Marxist Tendency, was one of the first to defend the government of President Chavez internationally. In 2003 he founded the international campaign Hands off Venezuela.

When did you first get interested in the political process in Venezuela?

I was interested in the Bolivarian Revolution almost from the beginning, when President Chavez won the election in 1998. But it was particularly during the coup of April 2002 and the subsequent bosses' lockout that the Marxists decided that it was necessary to get moving. The Revolution was in danger and it was our duty to defend it. That is why we created the international campaign Hands off Venezuela (HOV). We began with a very small group, but now we are active in more than forty countries throughout the world. For us the defence of the Revolution is not an academic question: it directly affects our struggle for the socialist transformation of society in every country in the world.

What do you think about the role that Venezuela is playing on a world scale?

The Bolivarian Revolution has become a point of reference for all the people who are raising their heads and beginning to fight back against a rotten system called capitalism that oppresses them. And this awakening of the masses is beginning everywhere.

Nevertheless, President Chavez himself has said on more than one occasion that this revolution has not yet finished....

I completely agree with that. The process has begun, and has achieved many important things. Nevertheless, there are other things that have still not been done. Moreover, the hour is approaching when the Revolution must make its mind up as to which direction it wants to take. The President has said many times that the only way to achieve the goals of the Revolution is through socialism. But there is a layer of reformists and bureaucrats, also inside the Bolivarian Movement, who continually sabotage each and every initiative that tends to carry the Revolution forward.

How can we overcome these obstacles?

First we must combat reformism on the ideological level. We must arm the Bolivarian vanguard with the ideas of scientific socialism. One of the problems is that the masses lack a consistent programme that can place their fight to change society on solid foundations. Of course, ideas by themselves are insufficient. Karl Marx pointed out long ago that the working class without organization is only raw material for exploitation. In order to win our struggles we must be organized.

Could the formation of a sole [revolutionary] party be a solution?

That depends on what type of organization is going to be set up. If we are talking about a genuinely revolutionary and democratic party, in which the control of the rank and file over the leaders is guaranteed, of course I would welcome it. But if what is meant is a coalition of bureaucrats drawn from the existing parties, I could never support such a project, which in any case would be doomed to failure.

Many people are talking about the problem of bureaucracy but nobody seems to know the answer to it. In your view, how can we get rid of this burden?

The best programme to combat bureaucracy was worked out by Lenin in 1917 and it consists of four very simple points. First, free and democratic elections of all the functionaries, with right of recall at any time with a minimum of formalities by the people who elected them. Secondly, no functionary should get a wage higher than that of a skilled worker: to represent the people should not be a privilege. Thirdly, Lenin advocated the setting up of a people's militia, so that the people itself could defend the state against enemies - both external and internal. The fourth and final point was that gradually all the tasks of administration of the state should be performed in turn by everybody. In this way the whole people would participate actively in deciding its own affairs. But the first condition is that the working people must take into their hands the reins of the Revolution.

What is role of the working class in this process?

Absolutely decisive. From the very first moment, the working class and the popular masses have been the real motor-force of the Revolution. It was the masses who saved the Revolution on more than one occasion: the coup of April 2002, the bosses' lockout, the recall referendum. The problem is that without a fundamental change in society, sooner or later the masses will begin to lose interest and fall into a mood of indifference. That is the real danger! At the moment, the opposition is weak and demoralised, but it still holds in its hands key levers of the Venezuelan economy. In order to effect a decisive change in society, it is necessary to expropriate the land, the banks and the large-scale enterprises. This is the prior condition for the establishment of a socialist planned economy, democratically controlled and administered by the working people, a system that would guarantee a decent standard of living for all.

So you believe that the only solution is socialism?

What other solution could there be? We live in a world tormented by hunger, poverty, terrorism, and this is really the final proof that the socio-economic system called capitalism has reached a dead-end. To use Lenin's words, capitalism is "horror without end". Today, more than ever, it is an urgent task to sweep away this corrupt and degenerate system and build a new world that will open a new stage in the history of humankind: that can be nothing else but socialism.