Venezuela: Chavez reiterates the call to arm the people

From the beginning the privately owned media and the leaders of the right wing opposition have tried to minimise and ridicule the discovery and arrest of foreign paramilitaries in Venezuela, as did the US government. But the truth is that there are clear links between these groups of "irregulars" and the Venezuelan and Colombian oligarchies, with the helping hand of the US.

This is so clear that even the editor of the daily "Ultimas Noticias", Eleazar Diaz Rangel declared last week to RNV radio that "the (main opposition umbrella group) Democratic Coordination does not dare issue a clear and unequivocal statement on the arrest of Colombian paramilitaries last Sunday in Caracas, since they know that these groups have links with sections of the extreme right wing opposition". In his Sunday column in "Ultimas Noticias" he added that for some years there have been plans for a military invasion of Venezuela, some of which have gone to the training stage.

According to the Sunday edition of "Panorama", there are now 122 paramilitaries who have been arrested and at least 8 army officers are involved. The involvement of active and retired army officers in these counter-revolutionaries' plans has been clear to most and the first arrests have taken place (amongst them two colonels and a captain) and arrest warrants have been issued for others, including many of the once famous "Altamira officers" (who called for a military coup in December 2002 and gathered in Altamira square). The fact that these paramilitaries had been able to penetrate Venezuelan territory and reach the vicinity of Caracas without having been detected and arrested beforehand proves the existence of counter-revolutionary elements within the state security forces. But it is clear that the Venezuelan oligarchy is involved in this murky affair, particularly those families which currently control councils and regional governments, as pointed out by retired general Acosta Carles.

The (paramilitary organisation) Colombian United Self Defence (AUC) have repeatedly denied their involvement with these paramilitaries on Venezuelan soil, but as Chavez himself explained on Friday, May 14, the leaders of these groups of irregulars have been clearly identified as AUC commanding officers. Furthermore there is additional proof linking the AUC with the paramilitaries arrested in Venezuela, and also of their links with powerful economic groups in Venezuela. The Sunday edition of "Ultimas Noticias" reports that: "In a payment centre in Medellin (Colombia) it became popular knowledge that the paramilitaries who are there receiving payment for vaccinations, extortion payments and smuggling, were offering 20 million dollars to bring a contingent of mercenaries to carry out duties in Venezuela".

As the comrades from the Revolutionary Marxist Current have pointed out, it is clear that the only way to take this revolutionary process forward is to expropriate the means of production and the banks from the hands of the ruling class. This should be combined with the education, organisation and training of workers' self defence militias as the only way to fight back against the bloody and violent attacks of counter-revolution.

Counter-revolutionaries and traditionalists

The bourgeois and opposition controlled daily "El Nacional" published on Monday, May 17, a two page report on the two leaders of the so-called Venezuelan Counter-Revolutionary Union (UCRV), who have been arrested by the (investigation police) DISIP for further questioning. The article made it clear that the UCRV leader openly and proudly admitted his membership of the extreme right wing "catholic" sect Family, Tradition and Property (TFP), which was created back in the 1960s and was banned in Venezuela in 1984 by the Lusinchi government, and is active in Colombia and Brazil, amongst other countries. Da Costa describes himself as the ideologist of the UCRV and its "Freedom Commandos", which he defines as "Minds without Body" and "peaceful" groups fighting against the rise of "communism" in Venezuela. It is clear that these Commandos are about as peaceful as were the extreme right terrorists of "Patria y Libertad" (Fatherland and Freedom) in Chile during the Allende government. It is important to remember that known leaders of the (extreme) right wing party Primero Justicia, have links with the TFP, which is why this party's mayors, particularly that of Baruta (where the Colombian paramilitaries were arrested) should be investigated in relation to these events, as demanded by MVR MP, Tarek Willian Saab.

But while all these facts are emerging, some reformist and petty bourgeois leaders which are part of the Bolivarian movement, were insisting on the "need for peace", that in Venezuela we had a "peaceful revolution", that civilians should be disarmed, and a long and disgraceful list of similar arguments. Try to talk about a "peaceful revolution" to the hundreds of worker and peasant leaders killed by the hired guns of the bourgeoisie! Try and talk about a "peaceful revolution" to the hundreds of community activists attacked and killed by the police forces in the hands of the counter-revolution! But Sunday's speech by Chavez was precisely the opposite of this "pacifism" (or rather, passivity) of these reformist elements. He made a clear appeal for the arming of the people and called on community and workers' leaders to immediately start the organisation of groups of people, further to those who are already in the reserve forces, to put into practice the slogan of an "Armed People".

The comrades from the Revolutionary Marxist Current have raised this slogan for some time, since as revolutionary Marxists, we understand that the ruling class will not give up its privileges without a serious fight. To talk about disarming the civilian population or retreat to conciliatory positions is a thoroughly counter-revolutionary attitude which can only condemn the Venezuelan revolutionary process to defeat. As our comrade Alan Woods likes to say: "One can peel an onion layer by layer, but one cannot skin a tiger claw by claw". With the increased activity of extreme right wing groups that we are witnessing, it is clear that, as we say in Venezuela, "later is too late".

Massive mobilisation

Before Sunday, May 16 there had already been some mobilisations against paramilitarism in Caracas and in other cities. On Friday, May 14, there was a picket in Plaza Brion in Chacaito, near the Colombian embassy. This was the preparation for what happened on Sunday, May 16. Caracas was once again flooded by the red tide. Private media tried to dismiss the size of the demo, as could be expected, but some of their journalists tried to justify the enormous red tide by also saying that people who were not chavistas were present. The comrades from Aporrea have presented an excellent picture gallery of the march on their website (http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=16605http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=16606http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=16607 and http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=16608), and another one can be found in the Venezuelan National Radio web site (http://www.rnv.gov.ve/galeria/thumbnails.php?album=33)

From early in the morning people started to gather in Petare and Parque del Este, in the East of the capital, while others made their way straight into Bolivar Avenue or gathered in Plaza Venezuela. The influx of people into the Bolivar Avenue was constant and became massive by lunch time when the vanguard of the march started to arrive.

Some government members and members of parliament spoke during the day, warning of the dangers of the paramilitaries. Communication and Information Minister, Jesse Chacon, explained that: "paramilitarism means cutting people in half with electric saws and burying people alive". The Ministers of Labour and Science and Technology both said that "the Venezuelan people every day show a more advanced level of consciousness", referring to the mass mobilisation we were witnessing and to the demonstrations which had taken place elsewhere in the country.

Our intervention and slogans were received with a lot of enthusiasm by those who came to our stall or bought our paper "El Topo Obrero" from the comrades who marched from Petare. The ideas of Marxism were extremely well received, particularly our call for the formation of workers' and peoples' militias, for the nationalisation of the monopolies and the banks etc, which are becoming increasingly popular. Clearly the masses of working people have already drawn conclusions that are by far more revolutionary that those of the party leaders and even some of the trade union leaders, but they do not know how to give a finished form to their aspirations. And this is why the role the workers' vanguard is indispensable. But this vanguard cannot present itself in a sectarian way, away from the masses with ultra left positions and trying to impose its own conclusions.

Chavez's speech and the tasks of the revolutionaries

More than a year ago, talking about the defeat of the bosses' lock out and the sabotage of the oil industry, comrade Emilia Lucena wrote that "As Trotsky explained in his History of the Russian Revolution, sometimes the whip of counter-revolution propels the revolutionary movement forward. This statement has been confirmed once again in Venezuela." We can repeat the same thing regarding the recent events with the arrest of the paramilitaries and the general line of the speech by president Chavez at the end of the demonstration.

On May 12, the activation of the National Defence Council had been announced, and is to be installed in permanent session. At that moment we were worried that, as happened during the Guarimba (the opposition orchestrated riots in February), the workers and the people would be left out of the tasks of the defence of the revolutionary process. As we have always stressed, the masses must play a fundamental role in the defence and deepening of the revolutionary process. This cannot be done apart from the Armed Forces, and particularly of its troops. We are not sectarian or ultra left and understand the important role that the troops have played in key moments, as was the case with the soldiers of the Military House in the retaking of Miraflores (Presidential) Palace, on April 13, 2002.

We also thought it was a mistake to say that the Colombian government was not involved in the affair of the paramilitaries, as Chavez declared a few days ago in a press conference. (Colombia's president) Uribe is nothing but a loyal servant of the interests of the Colombian oligarchy. The "paras" have always been used to do the dirty work of the Colombian army and the ruling class. This has been clearly explained by (the daughter of killed Colombian popular leader) Gloria Gaitan, who has correctly stressed that the Uribe government is clearly involved in these provocations serving the interests of imperialism and the Colombian and Venezuelan bourgeoisies in their attempts to invade the country. This is why many organisations in Colombia and internationally, including the Colombian guerrillas of the ELN, have denounced the purchasing of more than 40 AMX30 war tanks from the Spanish government, is not part of a so-called war on drugs against the guerrillas, but rather are part of an arms race started by the Colombian oligarchy in its desire to please their northern neighbour by invading Venezuela to smash the revolutionary process we are living through.

But we must stress that Chavez in general has made a shift to the left, one that revolutionary Marxists must support and push forward. On Friday May 14, in a phone interview with the state television channel, VTV, he declared that there are discussions about the "expropriation of any building, property or installation where there is proof that these paramilitary groups have been training". We add that these measures of expropriation must be extended to means of production as a whole, the banks, and all property in the hands of the Venezuelan oligarchy which are involved in this attempt to prepare an invasion. This would be the first step towards the complete expropriation of the means of production and the banks in the hands of the Venezuelan ruling class.

Even more significant is the speech which closed the march on Sunday. Previously we had already pointed out that it was a mistake if such a mass demonstration were called and not given clear tasks. But this was not the case on Sunday. Chavez pointed out clear aims for the workers' and peoples' leaders. He said that "in every neighbourhood, in every mountain pass, field, university, factory, jungle, in every place where there is a group "revolutionaries must start to organise and to form workers and peoples' militias." He added that "it is time for revolutionary security, to change the concept, reorient it, because we are still working with (old fashioned bureaucratic) IVth republic schemas". Chavez has understood the danger facing the revolutionary process by leaving the bourgeois structures intact upon which the state apparatus, including the Armed Forces, are based.

Chavez addresses the march, May 16

Chavez made an appeal, not only to the existing power structures, but also to the movement of the workers and the people to take the need of arming the people into their own hands. "In the next weeks, with the advice of the National Defence Council, I will start to give out directives and lines, I appeal for the support of the local councils, the social movements, the popular currents (…) Adult men and women, who are not in the reserve, but who are ready, in a different way, to become soldiers without having to go through the barracks, to receive military training and organise militarily for the defence of the country. (…) Nothing, nor nobody will be able to defeat Venezuela, with a conscious and organised people." The Minister of Defence, Gral Garcia Carneiro has already declared that they are mobilising within the Armed Forces to coordinate these tasks.

It is interesting to see the effect that the president's speech had on many layers, since even some of the trade union leaders, who had used conciliatory and pacifist rhetoric until now (calling on people to be passive) have been pushed to change their language. UNT (trade union) leader Marcela Maspero, declared that the UNT is already starting to coordinate its different federations and unions to form these Workers Brigades. (UNT leader Stalin Perez Borge has also declared that the "UNT will ask for a meeting with the defence minister so that the workers' militias can start receiving military training"). It is the responsibility of the rank and file to make sure that these slogans are put into practice. Workers in all factories must demand that their trade union leaders become involved and start the formation of these Workers' Brigades. As president Chavez said this is the duty of all. It cannot be left in the hands of the leadership only, we must all be involved, challenging the trade union, party and community leaders to play a role in the immediate organisation of workers' and peoples' self-defence brigades. This is the only way forward. This is the only real defence when faced with the advances of counter-revolution.

Faced with counter-revolutionary attacks, Workers' Self Defence Brigades!
Immediate expropriation of the oligarchy and its lackeys!
Deepend the revolution by advancing towards socialism!