Venezuela: The agrarian revolution - Revolutionary realism versus reformist utopia

The progress of the Venezuelan Revolution has inevitably brought it into conflict with the vested interests of the oligarchy. At every step the demands of the masses in both town and village clash with the so-called sacred right of property. Upon the resolution of this contradiction the future of the Revolution depends.

The Bolivarian Movement is a mass movement that originated as a movement for the national-democratic revolution – that is, a revolution that stood for a programme of advanced democracy, but which stopped short of challenging the foundations of capitalism. However, the progress of the Revolution has inevitably brought it into conflict with the vested interests of the oligarchy. At every step the demands of the masses in both town and village clash with the so-called sacred right of property. Upon the resolution of this contradiction the future of the Revolution depends.

The Marxists naturally supported the national democratic revolution and applauded Hugo Chavez’s courageous fight against the Venezuelan oligarchy and imperialism. Even on a capitalist basis, this was tremendously progressive, and it was, and remains our duty to defend it. Not to do so would be a betrayal. But we have always pointed out the elementary truth that in order to succeed, the Revolution sooner or later would have to go beyond the boundaries of capitalism and expropriate the Venezuelan landlords and capitalists.

Experience has proved we were correct. At every stage the Bolivarian Revolution has come up against the most ferocious resistance of the landlords and capitalists, backed by imperialism. In order to overcome this resistance, it has had to base itself on the only genuinely revolutionary classes: the workers and urban poor in the towns and cities and the poor peasants in the countryside. A decisive stage in this conflict is now commencing in the countryside.

Land distribution is an age-old aspiration of the poor of the Venezuelan countryside. The peasants desire to work the land and improve their standard of living. But this justified aspiration comes up against the fierce resistance of the big landowners, who, together with the bankers and big capitalists, constitute the cornerstone of the Venezuelan oligarchy. No real advance is possible in Venezuela unless and until the power of this oligarchy is broken. That is the real importance of the agrarian revolution.

Modest reforms

The attempt to move towards an agrarian reform has posed the central dilemma of the Bolivarian Revolution point-blank. It is not merely a question of modifying the existing set up. It must be swept away: the agrarian economic and social structure must be utterly transformed. As the Spanish Socialist Largo Caballero once put it: you cannot cure cancer with an aspirin. For this reason the Venezuelan peasants, like their brothers and sisters in the towns and cities, are drawing the most revolutionary conclusions.

In early January, President Chavez announced new measures to deepen and extend the agrarian reform, an essential component in the Bolivarian Revolution. The reforms themselves are quite modest in their scope, concentrating on the issue of under-exploited estates. Under a 2001 land law, the government can tax or seize unused farm sites. The Venezuelan authorities have identified more than 500 farms, including 56 large estates, as idle. A further 40,000 farms are yet to be inspected.

These measures are very modest and fall well short of what is required in order to fulfil the most elementary requirement of the national democratic revolution. Yet they were met with howls of rage from the enemies of the Revolution. The opposition has accused the state of “invading private property” and introducing “communistic measures”.

The protests of the Venezuelan opposition are mild, however, in comparison to the howls of rage in the international media. On 13 January the London-based Economist magazine carried an article attacking Chavez’s land reform. The occasion for its ire was the measures taken by the government to investigate the cattle ranch of El Charcote in Cojedes, a state in Venezuela’s northern plains, which is run by Agroflora, a subsidiary of a big UK food monopoly.

The Vestey Group is the owner of this huge ranch comprising no less than 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of pastures and woodlands, as well as a dozen other ranches elsewhere in the country. It has investments in beef and sugar in Argentina and Brazil as well as in Venezuela. It is a typical example of the way in which big foreign companies have taken over the key sectors of the productive forces in the continent and drained them for profit.

The Economist admits that the family that owns the company are famous (or rather infamous) in Britain for its long history of tax avoidance as well as for meat. Nevertheless it defends their absolute right to hold onto their land, since their title to El Charcote “goes back a century and has been upheld by the courts.” The article describes in colourful detail the spectacular way in which the inspection was carried out:

“On January 8th, the clatter of helicopters over the ranch heralded the arrival of Johnny [sic] Yánez, the chavista governor of Cojedes, bearing the country’s first “intervention order” against rural property. He was accompanied by some 200 troops and heavily armed police commandos. Mr Yánez, a former army captain, announced that private property was ‘a right, but not an absolute right’”.

A state commission now has three months to decide whether the ranch is unproductive or not legally held and thus can be turned over to peasant co-operatives under the terms of the land-reform decree of 2001. Two days later, President Chávez set up a similar commission at national level. Its task is to speed up and bring order to the land-reform drive.

The case for land reform in Latin America is unanswerable. In Venezuela, over 75 percent of farmland is controlled by fewer than 5 percent of landowners. Rural poverty is a cancer that blights millions of lives. Even the right-wing Economist agrees that “Unequal land distribution is one of the historical causes of the wider inequality that scars Latin American societies.” As President Chávez says, this is an injustice that must end. There can be no future for the Bolivarian Revolution without this. But an all-out assault on the property of the landlords will inevitably pose the question of the expropriation of the banks and industries as well. That is why the imperialists have raised such a hue-and-cry about the proposed measures.

Will agrarian reform damage production?

The bourgeois critics of land reform say that Chavez’s policies will have a negative effect on agricultural production:

“By harrying the private sector,” The Economist says, “the government has merely intensified Venezuela’s dependence on oil – and all the economic distortions that go with that. The government says Venezuela imports 70% of what it eats. The opposition retorts that food imports have risen by a fifth since Mr Chávez came to power, while agricultural production has fallen.”

The enemies of the Revolution are running around screaming about the threat to investment and productivity, when in reality what worries them is something else. What really frightens The Economist is the fact that the president’s promises have encouraged peasants to invade farms. It is arousing the rural masses from their slumber and bringing them into the revolutionary struggle. It is calling into question the “sacred principle of private property” and thereby is taking a big step in the direction of the socialist revolution. This is a prospect that fills the oligarchy and its imperialist masters with panic.

The Economist quotes with horror the words of Johnny Yánez: “Social justice cannot be sacrificed to legal technicalities,” adding darkly: “This assault on property rights is likely to scare off investment.” The article continues its tale of woe:

“Back at El Charcote, herds of Brahma cattle still graze. The Vestey company normally supplies 4% of the beef consumed by Venezuelans. It has been a pioneer in genetic improvements to the national herd. But Diana dos Santos, the firm’s local boss, says that at El Charcote all but one small pasture has been invaded; beef output has slumped. More than a thousand interlopers have put up rickety shacks and planted crops on the estate. They support the president—but despise Mr Yánez. So they may be evicted in favour of other, more reliable, political clients. And in a few years’ time these in turn will probably end up back in urban slums, while Venezuela will have lost a source of wealth.”

So there we have it! The big-hearted imperialists like the Vestey family have been so kind as to come to Venezuela with the best intentions in the world. Their only aim in life is to serve the people of Venezuela, feeding them with delicious beef, constantly improving the national herd with all manner of “genetic improvements” (we recall the kind of genetic improvements introduced by the British capitalist farmers in the United Kingdom, which gave us the blessings of mad cow disease). If incidentally they have earned a few bolivars by honest means, this was of course a secondary matter, in which neither the Bolivarian government nor the British taxman should take any interest.

Attitude of the petty bourgeois “democrats”

So crystal clear is the case for agrarian reform in Venezuela that even petty bourgeois groups, not noted for their love of Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, have had to grudgingly accept it. The Venezuelan human rights group PROVEA has welcomed the Venezuelan government’s war on big landownership, calling the political will shown by government and opposition State Governors as “positive.”

However, the revolutionaries should beware of praise coming from such quarters. The bourgeois “democrats” of PROVEA are no friends of the Bolivarian Revolution and their praise is a poisoned chalice that they offer to the Revolution, not to help it but to paralyse it and render it ineffective.

The government is being urged to be “inclusive” in its agrarian policy and to avoid rural violence. That is to say, it is being invited to represent the interests of all classes – the landlords as well as the peasants. It is being invited to make the lamb lie down next to the wolf. It is being invited to square the circle. In short, it is being invited to do what cannot be done. And those who advocate such nonsense actually consider themselves to be great “realists”! If the consequences were not so serious, it would be very funny.

When one is given a bill of support from such people, it is highly advisable to read the small print! And in the small print we read the following:

The process should be undertaken within the rule of law and rejects the possibility that bodies other than those established in the Land & Agrarian Development Law (ITDA) start processes of expropriating agrarian land.”

These are priceless pearls of wisdom! The hypocrites of PROVEA read us pious lectures on “the rule of law” but conveniently forget that for years the Venezuelan landlords have been beating, torturing and murdering peasants who dare to question their authority and demand their rights. The landowners do not feel bound by the “rule of law” and will fight by any means at their disposal to prevent a meaningful agrarian programme to be carried out. Whoever denies this is either a fool or a rogue.

The peasants are not fools and will not allow themselves to be cheated by smart lawyers and “democratic” demagogues. They know that the land will never be theirs unless they fight for it, unless the ruthless resistance and sabotage of the landowners is defeated. They also know from bitter experience that their interests cannot be guaranteed by bureaucratic measures and nice sounding speeches by men in smart suits in Caracas. They know that unless the agrarian reform is backed by energetic movement from below, it will remain a dead letter – like all such laws in the past.

Therefore the peasants are organizing themselves. They are taking initiatives to seize the land of the big landowners. Genuine democrats will not oppose such initiatives but support them enthusiastically. Only a corrupt bureaucrat and an agent of the counterrevolution fears the revolutionary initiatives of the workers and peasants! It is only these initiatives that have saved the Bolivarian Revolution time and time again. Those who seek to stifle the initiatives of the masses are consciously or unconsciously striving to weaken the Revolution, to deprive it of its main strength and motor force. The day these people succeed, the Revolution will be doomed.

Legalistic sophistry

These unlikely “Friends of the People” continue: “State Governors can promote and facilitate processes that correspond to the National Institute of Lands (INTI) and provide technical support but they cannot hand over land titles or touch land by expropriating.

Land owner’s rights of property must be respected along with legal processes, just and transparent administrative measures, opportune payment and just compensation.

“In the case of idle lands, owners must be guaranteed expedition of improvable farm certificates, as established in ITDA Art. 52.” (my emphasis)

These “clever” lawyers know the law back to front, inside out and upside down. Yes, they have studied their legal textbooks for many years, passed all their exams and made a lot of money out of using and abusing the law. They have turned the law into their private property – something that represents a very expensive cow that yields a lot of delicious milk for a privileged few. But the hungry masses, the poor peasant, the worker, the unemployed, have got very little out of it.

The Bolivarian Revolution has done a lot to rectify this position. It has torn up the old Constitution of the oligarchy and replaced it with a new and more democratic constitution. That is very welcome, but in and of itself it is by no means sufficient to change the position of the masses and to eliminate the injustices of the past, as so many Bolivarians so passionately desire.

The Bolivarian Constitution is only a weapon in the hands of the people. But a weapon is no use if it is not used to fight with. In the hands of the lawyers and bureaucrats the Bolivarian Constitution can be easily reduced to a scrap of paper – something that can be twisted and “interpreted” and turned into a dead letter. After all, even the most democratic constitution in the world has limited powers. It establishes certain limits within which the class struggle can be carried out. That is important because it can give a greater or lesser scope to the workers and peasants with which to carry out their struggle. What it can never do is to act as a substitute for the class struggle.

In order for the democratic Constitution to mean anything, it must be backed by mass action from below. Without that, it must remain only a dry husk, an empty shell devoid of all real content, the lifeless bones of a skeleton. Only the revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants can put flesh on these dry bones and fill democracy with a real content. To argue therefore that the Venezuelan peasants must confine themselves to what is acceptable to the lawyers, to accept “restraint”, to moderate their demands to what the bureaucrats consider “reasonable” – in short to sit back and wait for the land to be handed to them on a plate – would be to give up any possibility of a genuine agrarian reform ever being carried out in Venezuela.

The line of argument of these legalistic ladies and gentlemen is the height of arrogance and insolence towards the masses. As mentioned above, they inform us that “state Governors can promote and facilitate processes that correspond to the National Institute of Lands (INTI) and provide technical support but they cannot hand over land titles or touch land by expropriating.”

The first part of the sentence is surely redundant. It is to be supposed that all democratic state Governors are legally obligated to carry out the decisions of the legally elected government. Why need this be stated? Unless of course, there are Governors who are working in collaboration with the big landowners and the Counterrevolution to sabotage the decisions of the Caracas government.

Do such governors exist? Of course they do, and that is precisely why the peasants do not trust them to carry through a proper agrarian reform. That is precisely why the peasants have decided – quite rightly – to organize and to take their own initiatives. That is just what provokes the indignation of the “democrats” of PROVEA and other counterrevolutionaries, open and disguised.

The “sacred right of property”

Above all, the “Friends of the People” protest, the big estates must not be expropriated. Why not? Because that would be a violation of the sacred right to private property! But in a country where 75 percent of the productive land is in the hands of only about five percent of landowners, how is it possible to have a real agrarian reform without violating the so-called sacred right to private property? To renounce this would be to renounce the whole idea of agrarian reform in Venezuela. And that is just what our “democratic” men in suits would like, although politeness (and fear of the masses) prevents them from saying so openly.

These ladies and gentlemen prattle on about “just compensation”. But if anyone is entitled to just compensation it is the millions of peasants who have been exploited, cheated and oppressed for centuries by the landlords who have enriched themselves at the cost of the people. Their ranches and mansions have been built out of the blood, sweat and tears squeezed out of generations of poor men, women and children. And where did they get their property from in the first place? The land was not theirs to start with. It was seized from the native population by violence and trickery. Where was the “just compensation” then?

These “clever” sophists try to blind us with legal niceties. But the whole history of Latin America shows that the parasitic class of landlords has never shown the slightest regard for such legal niceties when it was a question of their own selfish interests. They obtained the land through violence and have held it ever since by violence. What was stolen from the people must be restored to the people. The question of compensation does not enter into it. The landlords have made their fortunes on the back of the people. They do not deserve a single cent more.

PROVEA states that the government cannot deliver titles on private lands, if it has not undertaken expropriation procedures beforehand and followed Constitution Art. 115 regarding the expropriation of lands considered of social interest or public utility. The talk about legal niceties is only a smoke screen designed to confuse the issue, as in phrases like:

“In the case of idle lands, owners must be guaranteed expedition of improvable farm certificates, as established in ITDA Art. 52.”

Our friends in PROVEA inform us that the Revolution must do this and must do that, and that it cannot do this and cannot do that. Really? But the essence of a Revolution is that it expresses the will of the people; that it stands for the interests of the majority over those of the minority. The laws that were made in the past were made by the rich minority to defend their own power and privileges. A Revolution that allowed itself to be paralysed by such laws would not deserve the name of a Revolution at all. It would be only a bureaucratic game, a fraud and an illusion.

When the masses voted by an overwhelming majority last August to endorse the Bolivarian Revolution, they did not intend their clearly declared intentions to be frustrated by their enemies who, having been ejected by the front door, are now seeking to re-enter by the back door. Having been defeated in open battle, they are resorting to manoeuvres and intrigues, hiding behind the law and using delaying tactics. If we accept this, it would mean subordinating the will of the majority to the machinations of a wealthy and privileged minority. Democracy would be reduced to a hollow phrase. The tail would wag the dog.

Fortunately, the masses have no intention of allowing this to happen.

The peasants mobilize for action

We recently received an interesting report of The Venezuelan Peasant Congress from El Nuevo Topo, signed by E. Gilman. This brief report clearly shows the real attitude that is developing at the base, not only among the workers but also among their natural allies, the poor peasants. In it we read the following:

“Caracas: On February 5th and 6th took place in Tucari the ‘Peasant Conference in Defense of National Sovereignty and for the Agrarian Revolution,’ sponsored by the Frente Nacional Campesino Ezequiel Zamora.

“Nearly 100 delegates met at the Berbere Cooperative, which is a collective farm run by largely Black farmers.

“Though there was universal support for President Hugo Chavez, the Agrarian Reform Law was severely attacked as it allows only lands over 5000 hectares to be expropriated and these lands need to be uncultivated to be covered by the law. The peasants criticized the Agrarian Reform Institute, which they claimed was so slow and bureaucratic that owners of latifundios would cut down whole forests off the land while the Agrarian Reform Institute made up its mind. Also many had received defective seed from the Institute. Many peasants who have taken lands directly have complained local judges are on the side of the landowners and have had local police drive them off the land [...]

“The conference discussed the need for armed self-defence as well as the possibility of guerrilla warfare if there is a U.S. invasion. They defended the need to build collective farms rather than dividing up the land. There was discussion on the need for accounting and discipline with those who refuse to work. The Conference agreed to set up a school on the Berbere farm to teach collective agriculture.

“The peasants discussed blocking the Panamerican Highway to get their demands. The only discordant note was from the local Mayor who told the peasants to have more patience and that the law was like a ‘father who makes rules for his child’. Her proposal for patience for solidly rejected. Many peasants stated they felt a ‘revolution within the revolution’ was necessary to have genuine People’s Power (Poder Popular.)”

These few lines speak louder than all the books and articles that have appeared on the Bolivarian Revolution. Here we see the dialectical relationship between the masses and the leadership of Hugo Chavez at work. Reflecting the pressure of the masses, the government approves an agrarian reform. The peasants take heart from this measure and press their demands. They express “universal support for President Hugo Chavez”, but at the same time they point out the limitations of the new law. It is welcome, but it does not go far enough. They therefore decide to help the government to go further by stepping up their actions from below.

The announcement of the new measures has prompted hundreds of land invasions and these have been met by the killing of dozens of peasant activists by the landlords and their agents. But as yet very little land has actually been awarded. This is admitted honestly by some officials. “That’s a self-criticism the revolution has to make,” says Rafael Alemán, the official in charge of the review at El Charcote. “We have not pushed this process forward.”

This need not surprise us. The machinery of government is slow and cumbersome. The bureaucracy cannot be an adequate instrument for revolutionary change. It drags its feet, fulfilling its obligations without enthusiasm, or even sabotaging the laws passed by the Bolivarian government. In its ranks there are many escualidos and disguised counterrevolutionaries. The peasants do not trust it, and they are right not to trust it. They criticize the Agrarian Reform Institute for its slowness and bureaucratic methods that help the owners of lantifundios to sabotage the reforms. They know – and the whole people know – that only the mass revolutionary movement can carry through the revolution!

Displaying an unerring revolutionary instinct, they answer the critics of the agrarian reform in a way that shows a very high level of political maturity. The enemies of the agrarian reform say: the break-up of the big landed estate into individual peasant plots will damage productivity and cause chaos and hunger. The peasants reply: we are for the expropriation of the big estates – but we do not insist on their division into a multitude of small peasant holdings. We advocate the establishment of collective farms on which the land can be cultivated in common, using all the advantages of modern machinery and technology and economies of scale. To do this it is not necessary that the land should be owned by a handful of rich parasites!

The revolutionary peasants are not fools. They fully understand the need for accounting and discipline on the collective farms. They will be run democratically by the producers themselves. Those who refuse to work will be disciplined by the rest of the collective, which is interested in establishing a high level of productivity, and to this end proposes the establishment of schools on the farms to teach the science of agriculture. What has this highly responsible attitude got to do with the grotesque caricature of “ignorant peasants” sabotaging scientific agricultural production that the western apologists of the landlords like to present us with?

Reformism or revolution?

Some sections of the leadership have tried to soothe the nerves of the opposition, reassuring them that the present measures do not threaten private property. Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel has said farmers and ranchers with their titles in order and their lands productive have “nothing to fear.” But such assurances will do nothing to calm the fears of the property-owning classes or reduce their implacable hostility to the Bolivarian Revolution.

In a recent report on we read the following:

“Carabobo State Governor Luis Felipe Acosta Carlez is gearing up to face an embarrassing spate of land grabs and squatters that has divided the pro-government Movimiento Quinta Republica (MVR).

“Sporting red T-shirts and using revolutionary lingo, people have been invading private property and allegedly idle lands throughout Carabobo.

“The State Public Security Secretary has been entrusted with organizing preventive controls in all zones and to establish dialogue with illegal squatters.

“The Governor has been accused of vacillating in tackling the problem and has reacted preparing a decree of emergency to establish points of control to prevent people from other States invading lands and properties.

“The National Guard (GN) and State Police will join the plan and the aim is to secure a pacific eviction of lands ... part of the operation is to root out professional or political squatters and to prosecute them.”

Of course, it is necessary to distinguish between land occupations carried out by landless peasants and fraudulent activities carried out by so-called “professional squatters”, who in some places have invaded plots in order to sell them later. Such activities are the work of parasites and counterrevolutionaries and must be condemned. But in the first place it is wrong to use such incidents to try to condemn land occupations in general, and in the second place, the only way to prevent cases of fraudulent land occupations is to develop and extend genuinely revolutionary land occupations organized by democratically elected peasants committees.

Every genuine revolutionary democrat is duty bound to support the agrarian revolution. But in order to succeed, the most energetic revolutionary measures will be necessary. The peasants cannot depend upon the bureaucracy to give them the land. They know that they can depend only on their own strength. That is why they are getting organized, preparing to take direct action to get possession of the land.

The revolutionary mobilization of the peasants is the only guarantee that the agrarian reform of the Bolivarian Revolution will be carried into practice – that it will not remain a dead letter, a meaningless piece of paper lying in the drawer of some bureaucrat in Caracas. The peasants are realistic people. They understand that, whatever laws are passed in Caracas, the landowners will not give up their power, land and privileges without a fight. If they want the land they will have to fight for it!

PROVEA says more than it intends when it calls on the Public Ministry to speed up investigations into the assassination of numerous social activists in the countryside. What does this mean? Only this: that a bloody civil was is already raging in the countryside; that the landlords and their hired pistoleros are killing peasant leaders every day with complete impunity; that for the poor peasants the “rule of law” is just an empty phrase. And what solution do our learned friends propose for this problem? To ask the Ministry to “speed up its investigations”. That is a praiseworthy suggestion, and we have nothing against it in principle. But the peasants know that the wheels of justice move slowly and the armed agents of the counterrevolution move swiftly. It is their lives that are at stake and they must do something to defend themselves.

Everybody knows that in the last few years many peasants have been killed by the landlords and their armed gangs. In the report of the peasant congress we read: “At the end of October 2003, in Barinas, 120 policemen helped the large landowners destroy a school on the occupied land as well as giving the landowner 240,000 pounds of corn produced by peasants.” This is not an isolated case. The reactionary landlords are mobilizing to defeat the peasants and defend their power and privileges. They have no hesitation in resorting to violence. They have money, arms and influence. And, as this report shows, they are being aided by parts of the state apparatus.

Those who preach moderation and restraint to the peasants in order to avoid civil war in the countryside are missing the point. The point is that there is already a civil war in the countryside. This can only be cut short by the most determined revolutionary action by the peasants themselves, backed by their natural allies, their brothers and sisters in the towns and cities – the working class. The peasant will not remain with his arms folded while the reactionary gangs paid and armed by the landlords beat, intimidate and kill them.

“The conference discussed the need for armed self-defence as well as the possibility of guerrilla warfare if there is a U.S. invasion.” Yes! But the enemy of the Venezuelan peasants is not only U.S. imperialism. The enemy is at home! The Venezuelan oligarchy is nothing more than the local agency of U.S. imperialism. As long as it holds onto the land, the banks and key points of industry, the gains of the Revolution will never be safe, and the agrarian revolution will remain a mirage.

The peasantry must arm itself! That message has been given more than once by President Chavez. It is time to put it into practice. What is needed is not a guerrilla war, but organized self-defence, the establishment of democratically elected peasants committees in every village, armed with whatever weapons they can obtain to defend the people against the armed gangs of the counterrevolution. The committees should link up on a local, district and national basis, and in turn must link up with the committees of the workers in the urban centres.

This is the only way to bring about a peaceful and orderly transfer of power to the people in the countryside. The peasant committees can play a dual role: first, to mobilize and organize the peasant masses for the swift carrying out of an agrarian revolution, and then to establish democratic control over the management and administration of the collectivised estates. No other way is possible.

The agrarian revolution, if it is to succeed, must challenge the power of the oligarchy, and not only in the countryside. In order that agricultural production should not suffer irremediable damage, the expropriated farms must be run on collective lines. That can only succeed if they are guaranteed the necessary finance, cheap credits, cheap fertilizers, tractors and combine harvesters, lorries for transportation, and guaranteed markets for their products. That can only be achieved if they are integrated in an overall plan of production.

The first step in achieving this is the nationalization of the banks. Without control over finance and credit, it is impossible to control and plan the economy. It would be like trying to drive a car with no brakes, accelerator or gear-stick. The nationalization of the land and banks is an absolutely necessary measure – even as part of the national democratic revolution. But then the question would immediately be posed: why stop there? Why not expropriate the big firms that still remain in private hands? (We are not interested in the small ones.)

The reason why the oligarchy and the imperialists are panicking over the agrarian reform is precisely because they understand its underlying logic, which is to place a question mark over the so-called divine right to private property. That is absolutely correct! Instead of apologising and assuring the landlords and capitalists that they have nothing to fear, the Bolivarian Revolution should place at the top of its agenda the expropriation of the property of the corrupt and degenerate Venezuelan oligarchy.

President Chavez has stated correctly that capitalism is slavery. He has said that the future of the Bolivarian Revolution must be socialism. We agree with him one hundred and one percent. He has also publicly supported Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution. What does this say? It says that under modern conditions the tasks of the national democratic (“bourgeois democratic”) revolution cannot be carried out by the bourgeoisie, and that the national democratic revolution can only succeed if it transforms itself into a socialist revolution.

The history of Venezuela – and the whole of Latin America – for the past 200 years is a graphic confirmation of this assertion. On the basis of capitalist slavery, no way forward is possible. It is necessary to break with landlordism and capitalism once and for all. That is the real meaning of the slogan: Revolution within the Revolution. It is the only way forward!