The current counter-revolutionary offensive in Venezuela – what it means and how to defeat it

The non-renewal of the broadcasting licence to private TV station RCTV in Venezuela has been used by the oligarchy and imperialism to unleash the coup-plotting campaign they were unable to launch at the time of the December 3rd elections. Despite all the hue and cry over “freedom of expression” the real aim of the oligarchy in Venezuela is to create a situation of chaos, violence and confusion.

The current counter-revolutionary offensive in Venezuela This is a slightly edited version of the article which appeared on the website of the Venezuelan Revolutionary Marxist Current (CMR) by Yonie Moreno and William Sanabria, to which we have added some additional material for the benefit of an international readership. The original in Spanish can be read here.

The non-renewal of the broadcasting licence to private TV station RCTV in Venezuela has been used by the Venezuelan oligarchy and imperialism to unleash the coup-plotting campaign they were unable to launch at the time of the December 3rd elections.

Despite all the hue and cry over "freedom of expression" the real aim of the oligarchy in Venezuela is to create a situation of chaos, violence and confusion, and if they can, get someone killed in one of the demonstrations. This would allow them to create a favourable international climate and launch an open offensive against the Venezuelan revolution with a combination of the following methods: military coup, assassination of Chávez, imperialist intervention.

The Venezuelan capitalists and their international allies are growing increasingly worried about the advance of the Bolivarian revolution and its international repercussions. The recent nationalisations of CANTV and EDC (even though they were carried out with compensation), the threats to nationalise steel maker SIDOR and the banking sector (see Alan Woods' Venezuelan nationalisations - What do they mean for socialists?), the proposals of Chávez to create "socialist companies", and the setting up of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), are clear signs (despite this or that contradiction) of the willingness of the Venezuelan people and of president Chávez to push forward in a leftward direction.

The counter-revolution is combining all forms of struggle (economic sabotage, national and international media campaigns, destabilisation), but with the mobilisations around the case of RCTV they have decided to go one step further and to "test the water" of the mobilisation on the streets.

Their modus operandi is clear: at nigh time the setting up of burning barricades and organising of riots, mainly in the middle and upper middle class neighbourhoods of Caracas. During the day they organise so-called "peaceful demonstrations", mainly of students from private and elite state universities. Organised counter-revolutionary elements (paramilitaries, CIA agents, paid agents of imperialism) are active in these demonstrations throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and there have been several instances of shootings from these counter-revolutionary gangsters (see for instance the video of the demonstration outside the National Telecoms Office on Sunday night). These riots, far from being spontaneous actions, are well coordinated, encouraged, protected and organised by the opposition using the levers of power they still control (in opposition controlled councils in the East of Caracas mainly).

The current counter-revolutionary offensive in VenezuelaAlhough the counter-revolutionaries are trying to use the students, a section not demoralised by the previous defeats of the opposition, their numbers are not very impressive (10,000 at the largest demonstration so far). What the media are not showing is that the chavista demonstrations supporting the government decision on RCTV have actually been larger, including amongst the students. Did anyone see reports in the international media of the 30,000-strong demonstration of Bolivarian students? (See video here and a report in Spanish with pictures here).

The situation that is developing shows clearly that the arguments of the reformists ("if we touch the means of production the imperialists will have an excuse to attack us") are completely false. Imperialists do not need excuses. If they do not have any, they invent them. The measure taken of not renewing the licence to RCTV is perfectly legal, and does not even affect other private coup-plotting TV stations (such as Globovisión and Venevision). Despite this, they have launched an unprecedented campaign around the so-called "defence of the freedom of expression".

One thing that must be said clearly is that the balance of forces is still extremely favourable to the revolution, as shown in the massive election victory in the presidential elections of December 3rd, the largest victory since the beginning of the revolutionary movement. The masses expressed their clear will to move towards socialism and put an end to capitalism once and for all. That this mood is still present is confirmed by the process of registration to the new United Socialist Party which has broken all expectations with more than 4.5 million people registered (and there is still a week left). If this force were mobilised in an organised way with a clear aim, it would be more than enough to brush aside the counter-revolutionary gangs currently occupying the streets in the East of Caracas and the TV screens internationally.

President Chávez has called for a mass demonstration on Saturday, June 2nd at which 2 million people are expected to turn out, and he has warned that "if they come with another 11th we will respond with another 13th, and this time I will be leading it", in reference to the coup on April 11, 2002 and the revolutionary response which defeated it on April 13 (you can see a video of Chávez's speech here). This is a move in the right direction, but it must be accompanied by a plan of struggle that will mobilise and prepare the revolutionary forces.

It is not enough for the revolutionary movement to have the support of the majority of the population, this support has to be organised and mobilised in a bold manner. The initiative cannot be left in the hands of the counter-revolution.

Already before May 27 (the day the RCTV's licence expired) rank and file revolutionary organisations had organised a number of actions. Amongst them was the rally outside Globovisión and the occupation of the headquarters of the business federation Fedecamaras. These actions were organised as part of the "Oligarcas Temblad" plan (Tremble Oligarchs) by the Ezequiel Zamora National Peasant Front (FNCEZ), the Simon Bolivar Coordination Committee, the Alexis Vive Collective, and others. The slogan of the FNCEZ when occupying the building of Fedecamaras was "if they take away our food, we will take over their factories" (see a report of the action in Spanish with pictures here and an interview in Spanish with FNCEZ leader Simon Uzcategui here).

In an extremely worrying development that shows the seriousness of the situation in Venezuela, two leading members of the Simon Bolivar Coordination were gunned down last night as they were going back to their home. Carolina Azueje and Carlos Tovar had participated in the actions against Globovisión and Fedecamaras and had been shown repeatedly by Globovisión which singled them out in its reports of the action.

Some leaders of the UNT, particularly from the left wing class-struggle wing CCURA, have declared that, faced with any attempt to sabotage the economy they will organise the workers to occupy the factories. In Aragua (which saw a show of strength by the working class last week with the regional strike in support of the Sanitarios Maracay workers), the UNT has organised a detailed plan, listing the companies to be taken over in case of an attempt at a bosses' lock out. At SIDOR, the Argentinean owned steel maker in Bolivar, the workers have made statements along the same lines and have warned that they will raise the Venezuelan flag (i.e. take over the installations) if production is stopped. Already in the last few days some workplaces of the food and beverages monopoly POLAR have stopped work and "encouraged" workers to attend opposition marches.

The Revolutionary Marxist Current (CMR) is calling for a plan of action so that the UNT, the FNCEZ, the Revolutionary Front of Occupied Factories (FRETECO) and other revolutionary organisations put themselves at the forefront of the struggle against counter-revolution (read the full proposal in Spanish). The proposal is for the calling of mass meetings in workplaces and factories to pass resolutions in support of the government's decision on RCTV and to organise concrete actions. In all places where this is possible, workers should occupy the factories and run them under workers' control as a preventative measure. In all other places elements of workers' control and vigilance must be established to prevent economic sabotage.

This plan of factory occupations should start in the agro-business sector, which has already been hit hard by economic sabotage (see: Venezuela: Price regulation, food scarcity, speculation and socialism). The FNCEZ has already expressed its willingness to carry out such actions and has asked FRETECO for help and advice. An example of this kind of sabotage of food supplies was the case last year of 5,000 hectares of sugar cane that was not harvested because of the refusal of sugar companies to buy the produce, despite the fact that there are problems of scarcity of sugar in the markets. This year the figure could go up to 15,000 hectares.

As part of this plan of action, workers should set up Workers' Committees in every factory and workplace and these should be linked up to the Communal Councils that already exist to organise a coordinated fightback against counter-revolution, but also to serve as the embryo of the new state apparatus that the revolution needs in order to start the building of socialism. The struggle against counter-revolution must turn into a decisive blow against the capitalist state apparatus and move forward towards the nationalisation under democratic workers' control of the main levers of the economy (banks, large scale industry and the land).

The CMR is also proposing the immediate calling of assemblies of PSUV members in workplaces and neighbourhoods, to get them organised in Socialist Platoons to participate in an organised way in this plan of struggle. This would be the best way of steeling the cadres of the new party and of selecting the most capable leaders for it.

One of the first steps that need to be taken is to identify and single out the counter-revolutionary elements, paramilitary thugs and CIA agents that are operating under the cover of the opposition demos. Some of them have already been exposed publicly. We must demand that the Bolivarian government arrests them and expels them from the country. This would go a long way towards exposing the real character of these protests and undermining the international media campaign of imperialism.

Another important issue is the question of the Army. The idea that the Army is under control and is loyal to the revolution could prove to be fatal. In all revolutions we have seen how the revolutionary mood amongst the masses spreads into the ranks of the Army, amongst the soldiers and lower-ranking officers, but the higher echelons of the army officialdom usually side with the counter-revolution. While the revolution is in ascent and going forward these reactionary elements remain hidden and silent, waiting for the right time to act. We should not forget that general Pinochet promised both publicly and in private his loyalty to the Allende government right until the night of the military coup that smashed the Chilean revolution in 1973.

While it is true that the defeats of the counter-revolution produced a certain purging within the army, this was not complete and the oligarchy still has many tools at their disposal (political, economic, ideological) to win over these sections to their side. The only way to guarantee the military defence of the revolution against internal and external enemies is on the one hand to introduce full ranging democratic rights within the army, including the right of revolutionary soldiers and officers to discuss and organise politically, to organise mass meetings, etc. so that they can also be vigilant, and on the other hand by moving towards the arming of the people. The extension of the army reserve, the creation of the Territorial Guards, etc. are important steps in this direction, but it is urgent to develop Workers' Reserve Platoons and Workers' Territorial Guards, based on and accountable to the mass assemblies of workers in the factories and their Workers' Councils.

Above all the main mistake would be one of complacency, of thinking that because we are in a majority, we are right, we won the elections and that everything is therefore alright. A revolution cannot remain halfway. The only way in which the future of the revolution can be ensured is through the expropriation of the means of production and the replacement of the current state apparatus by a regime of workers' democracy. If the revolution takes up these tasks it will spread like an almighty tidal wave throughout Latin America becoming a point of reference for workers all over the world. This is the task that Venezuelan revolutionary youth, workers and peasants have in front of them.

Last minute: 600 representatives of revolutionary organisations in Venezuela led by the UNT-CCURA, FNCEZ and others (CMR and FRETECO included), have established a national network of social organisations to mobilise against the counter-revolutionary threat. The plan includes factory occupations to fight sabotage amongst other measures. More details in Spanish here