On Wednesday, November 8, Alan Woods addressed a packed meeting on the Bolivarian Revolution and Socialism in Mérida, Venezuela, at the invitation of the Front of Socialist Forces (Frente de Fuerzas Socialistas), the Ince, the Mérida Printing House and the Centro de Estudios Marx y Engels.
On his arrival in Mérida the organizers of the event had the opportunity to discuss with Alan over a pre-meeting lunch. Around the table, among other prominent leaders of the revolutionary and left forces were Umberto Martinez, President of the "IMECA" Printshop (which has recently printed extracts from Alan's book on the Venezuelan revolution), a member of the leadership of the Bolivarian Movement (MVR), Pedro Alvarez , director of the INCE, José Sanroque, a well-known political writer, as well as councillors belonging to the left wing of the MVR, and other comrades who are historical leaders of the revolutionary movement in Mérida.
Also present was the well-known left-wing intellectual, prolific writer and veteran of the Marxist movement Frantz Lee. Of South African origin, Frantz is now professor at the University of Mérida, where, together with his comrade and partner Jutta, he has organized a Marxist circle. Frantz offered his condolences for the death of Ted Grant and expressed regret that they had never met. He invited Alan to speak to interested students the next day. One of Frantz's postgraduate students, and organizers of the public meeting, the Spanish Marxist and member of the CMR, Eduardo Molinas, has just produced a book on the Bolivarian Revolution and socialism (due out this month) with an introduction by Alan Woods.
At half past six, around 800 revolutionaries packed the Centro Cultural Tulio Febres Cordero, the biggest hall in Mérida, an attractive town in the picturesque setting of the Andes, under the shadow of the Pico Bolivar, the highest mountain in Venezuela. A few weeks ago the Frente de Fuerzas Socialistas called a demonstration of 12,000 people under the slogan: "With Chávez to socialism!" and "With Chávez, against the bureaucracy!" This indicates a profound ferment in this city and a rapid growth of the revolutionary trend. A growing number of activists are dissatisfied with the slow pace of change and the paralysing influence of the bureaucracy and the reformists.
The event was also attended by older comrades, workers, trade unionists and peasants. Here, gathered under one roof, were all the most advanced elements of the Bolivarian movement in Mérida, such as the activists of the misión Vuelvan Caras, comrades from the Frente Francisco Miranda and representatives from different groups that make up the Frente de Fuerzas Socialistas. A group of peasant activists, members of the Frente Nacional Campesino Ezequiel Zamora travelled for more than three hours in order to attend the meeting.
The big majority of the meeting were youths, many of them wearing the red shirt of the Movimiento Bolivariano. They listened to the speech with great attention and evident enthusiasm. When Alan Woods made a devastating criticism of bureaucracy, this was greeted with wild applause and shouts of approval. They were completely in agreement with the analysis and perspectives for the Bolivarian Revolution put forward by the speaker.
Alan began his speech with a masterly explanation of the world context in which the revolution was unfolding. Unlike so many other speakers he explained the ideas of Marxism in a clear and simple manner, using concrete examples to illustrate his central thesis: the organic crisis of the capitalist system on a world scale and the beginnings of a reawakening of the workers' movement internationally, and the need to fight for a fundamental transformation of society.
Having explained and exposed the reactionary lies of the bourgeois alleging the death of socialism after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the leader of the International Marxist Tendency proceeded to analyse the Bolivarian Revolution, pointing out the gains but also emphasising the weaknesses and deficiencies.
The speaker stressed that the fundamental motor-force of the revolution was the working class and the masses, who have saved the revolution at every decisive stage and pushed it forward. Comrade Alan urged the necessity of creating a Marxist current within the Bolivarian movement as the necessary vehicle to concentrate the colossal power of the masses and direct it to conquer the strategic objective: the expropriation of the oligarchy. This can only be achieved by the working class placing itself at the head of the nation and taking power into its own hands, he said.
The central problem, Alan said, was the absence of a revolutionary party. This is the reason why the workers and peasants failed to take power in countries like Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia and Mexico, where the masses had power in their hands and let it slip through their fingers. In Venezuela, he continued, it was necessary to organize the vanguard in a revolutionary Marxist tendency as an indispensable prerequisite to advance towards the socialist revolution.
While urging maximum support for Chavez in the December elections, Alan warned that unless the revolution expropriates the capitalists, nationalizing the banks, the land and the key points of the economy in private hands, the counterrevolution at a certain point will go over to the offensive, posing a grave threat to the revolution.
Turning his fire against the reformists and revisionists like Heinz Dieterich, who he publicly challenged to a debate after December 3, he explained that there is no bigger danger to the revolution than the pernicious influence of these ex-Marxists, ex-Communists and ex-Maoists and ex-Trotskyists, who spread the poison of scepticism, pessimism and cynicism in the vanguard and the youth and strive to keep the movement within the confines of capitalism. He quoted the French proverb: "until the age of thirty, revolutionary. After that, a swine."
Alan sharply criticised the reformist intellectuals who maintain that the masses do not have the necessary political consciousness to achieve socialism as an argument against taking power. He pointed out that in every decisive moment of the revolution - the coup of April 11, the bosses' lockout, the recall referendum - it was the movement of the masses that defeated the reaction, demonstrating a very high level of revolutionary consciousness. "What more do you want from the working class?" Alan demanded. The workers have done everything possible to change society. If they have not yet succeeded, it is not their fault but that of the reformists and bureaucrats who refuse to give a lead and constantly hold the movement back.
The speaker then went on to explain that the only way to deal with bureaucracy was from below. He advocated the adoption of anti-bureaucratic measures on the lines of the programme advocated by Lenin in 1917: Election and recall of all officials in the soviet state, the establishment of a popular militia, no official to receive a higher wage than a skilled worker (this point was met with wild applause), and finally, gradually, as the productive forces increase, and the living standards and cultural level of the population raised, all the tasks of administration of the state should be performed by everybody in turn. This part of Alan's speech really connected with the audience who expressed their most emphatic agreement.
In conclusion, the author of Reason in Revolt made an appeal to the activists present to get organized, to participate in the construction of a genuine Marxist current within the mass movement with the aim of transforming it into a fighting revolutionary organisation able and willing to lead the masses to the only possible road to victory: the revolutionary conquest of power and the expropriation of the capitalists and the commencement of a genuine socialist revolution.
The meeting ended with the audience on its feet, with raised clenched fists, singing the Internationale - something practically unheard-of these days in Venezuela. This small detail shows with striking clarity the growing impact of the ideas of Marxism in the Bolivarian Movement and the rapid rise of the authority of the CMR among the vanguard of the Revolution. An even more palpable demonstration of this was the excellent sale of Marxist literature at the end: more than 800,000 bolivars worth of papers, books and pamphlets were sold. This shows the thirst for Marxist ideas that exists among the advanced guard of the Revolution. It gives us every reason for optimism in the final victory.
Merida, 9 November, 2006.
- Venezuelan Presidential Elections – A Crucial Turning Point for the Revolution by Jorge Martin (November 1, 2006)
- Venezuelan presidential elections: vote for Chavez, carry the revolution out to the end (September 2006)
- The Venezuelan Revolution and the struggle for socialism: Balance sheet, perspectives and tasks – Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four (June 21, 2006)
- Venezuela: Big May Day mobilisation in Caracas (May 4, 2006)
- The legacy of Venezuela's April 13 by Patrick Larsen (April 18, 2006)
- Statement of the Revolutionary Marxist Current on the debate on factory occupations and workers' control (April 2006)
- Nearly one thousand Venezuelan trade unionists meet: Towards the second national congress of the UNT by Patrick Larsen (April 4, 2006)
- Marxism, parliament and the Venezuelan Revolution - Venezuela after the elections: What now? by Alan Woods (December 19, 2005)
- Venezuelan trade unionists discuss workers’ management and factory occupations by Jorge Martin (October 24, 2005)
- Venezuelan trade union leaders discuss way forward for the revolution by Jorge Martin (September 26, 2005)
- Theses on revolution and counterrevolution in Venezuela - Part One & Part Two by Alan Woods (May 2004)