The social situation in Venezuela, five months after the defeat of the pro-coup lockout in December-January, continues to be marked by a balance of forces favourable to the revolution, which, despite all the difficulties and manoeuvres by reaction, continues to enjoy massive support among the popular masses. On the other hand, the counterrevolutionary opposition is not dead; directed by U.S. imperialism; it uses all possible tactics with the aim of destabilising and sabotaging the government of Hugo Chavez and thus undermining the social base of the revolution.
On June 13, the right-wing party COPEI was organising an anti-Chavez demonstration in Petare, one of the popular neighbourhoods of Caracas where support for the revolutionary process is strongest. The aim of this provocation was to create a tense situation (with casualties, if possible) to be used nationally and internationally against Chavez.
The metropolitan police, on the orders of mayor Alfredo Peña, one of the opposition leaders, brutally attacked thousands of Petare residents, who spontaneously mobilised against the counterrevolutionary provocation. Peña's cops violated the safety cordon established by the National Guard and the municipal police of Sucre (the municipality of which Petare is a part and which has a pro-Chavez mayor); Peña's cops fired on the residents and attacked the hospital with tear-gas bombs. There were a number of wounded, and some people could have died, as happened some weeks previously in Catia, when a supporter of the pro-Chavez party MVR was killed.
The most intelligent sectors of the opposition are aware that after the victory of the workers and popular masses in December, when they defeated the pro-coup lockout organized by the owners and supported by the corrupt union bureaucracy of the CTV, a large part of their [anti-Chavez] social base was discouraged and demobilised. In Petare they barely gathered 2,000 or 3,000 people, many fewer than the massive repudiation demonstration, which the supporters of the revolution improvised.
At the same time that the opposition is organizing these actions, it has signed an agreement with the government about the mechanisms for holding a recall referendum. Its aim with this is to gain time and to use this act to confuse international public opinion and to continue fooling its own social base. The agreement only confirms what has already been stated in the Bolivarian Constitution: that a recall referendum can be held against any elected official - whether President Chavez or any member of parliament, any governor, mayor, or councilman - once he finishes half his term, by presenting a set number of signatures, once those signatures have been verified by the National Electoral Commission, which calls referenda in the order in which they have been requested.
The opposition has presented the agreement as if it signified the calling of the referendum before a single one of the necessary steps for beginning the process was completed. This is because, among other things, polls indicate a defeat for it in a possible consultation. Its aim is to accuse the government of preventing the referendum from being held, and to accuse it of violating the Constitution, in order to see if it can manage to re-mobilise its social base and return to the offensive. For that, it is counting on the support of U.S. imperialism and of all the big private disinformation media.
The opposition also controls the Supreme Court of Justice and uses it to obstruct action by the government; the latest example was the verdict which nullifies the firing of participants in the bosses' lockout of the state petroleum company PDVSA. The government has replied that supporters of the coup will not be rehired. One of the opposition's tactics is to block the legislative power, the National Assembly (where Chavez' supporters have control by a narrow margin). At the same time it is exerting pressure on and trying to buy off deputies to obtain a majority in the National Assembly.
Economic Sabotage and the Workers' Response
But the main threat to the revolution is undoubtedly the economic sabotage to which the bourgeoisie and imperialism are subjecting the Venezuelan economy, thus aggravating the effects of the international crisis of capitalism and the wounds inflicted by the pro-coup lockout, from which the economy has not completely recovered. The number of factory closures, cuts in production, unpaid salaries and firings are reaching record levels. There are problems in the distribution of medicines and of some basic products, the price of which is rising while instances of hoarding and speculation are being discovered.
As in Chile or Nicaragua, the aim of U.S. imperialism and the oligarchy is that economic difficulties should demoralise part of the workers and poor that support the revolution and conclusively push the middle strata towards the right. What has prevented these plans once and again has been the powerful class instinct and the firm belief in the need for revolutionary change, which the workers and people of Venezuela possess. The most impressive thing about the Venezuelan revolution is the profound conviction displayed by the most humble (who are precisely those who are suffering the most in this situation) in the need for revolutionary change in the country.
The only way of preventing the success of the counterrevolutionary plans of the capitalists in the near future is precisely to finish the revolutionary process and to define, as soon as possible, how to solve the grave economic problems of the masses, and to accomplish the economic transformation of the country by beginning to advance towards socialism.
Workers in various enterprises (Fe'nix, CNV and others) continue to occupy these enterprises after they have been closed or the boss has threatened to fire them, and these workers are asking for financial support and raw materials from the government. Workers at other enterprises like Covencaucho, Sonorodve'n, etc., are carrying out bitter struggles. Among the workers of PDVSA and in general in the popular movement, the debate is growing over how to maintain real control by the workers and the people over this enterprise that generates nearly 80% of the wealth of the country, and how to make sure that the slogan with which the petroleum company lockout was defeated, "PDVSA belongs to the people," becomes a reality. What is lacking is a revolutionary organization capable of generalising and extending these experiences and giving them a socialist content.
Participation and organization from below, on the part of the masses, aimed at making workers' and popular control a reality, do exist. Since April 2002 - when the fascist coup was defeated - hundreds of organizations have sprung up in the neighbourhoods (Bolivarian circles, city land committees, popular movements, democratic, working-class unions, etc.), which now organise more than a million people. One of the principal tasks for revolutionaries is to defend the coordination and unification of all these popular organisms at local, regional and national levels through elected delegates, subject to recall, in such a way that there will be a national leadership which can guarantee democratic control over the process and bring together the different experiences in a unified process and allow the political conclusions of the movement to be advanced. The other principal task is to fight for that leadership to be
equipped with a socialist programme and aims.