Statement of the International Marxist Tendency
The December presidential elections are an important turning point in the development of the Venezuelan Revolution. They reflect the struggle between the Venezuelan workers and peasants and the oligarchy and imperialism. Our attitude towards these elections is therefore a key question.
Marxism has nothing in common with anarchism. We have never denied the importance of the electoral struggle as part of the class struggle. For the masses the question is very clear: a vote for Chavez is a vote for the revolution. On the other hand, the oligarchy and imperialism are doing everything in their power to bring about the defeat of Chavez. At bottom this is a class question and we must take our place side by side with the revolutionary workers and peasants fighting against imperialism and the oligarchy.
The counterrevolutionary forces have already started a campaign to discredit the elections. They will use all the means at their disposal to undermine them: bribery, corruption, slander and lies and all kinds of sabotage. They will have at their disposal considerable resources: the wealth of the oligarchy, the technology of the CIA, the backing of the US embassy, the yellow press and the rest of the prostituted media.
On the other side we have the revolutionary spirit, courage and dedication of millions of Venezuelan workers, peasants and urban poor, the revolutionary youth, the revolutionary sections of the army and the progressive artists and intelligentsia - in short, all the live forces of Venezuelan society, backed by the exploited masses of Latin America and the working class of the entire world.
The workers and peasants are fighting to transform society. Great advances have been made, but the final goal has not been reached. The power of the oligarchy has not yet been broken. As long as this is the case, the revolution cannot be irreversible and will be constantly under threat.
Elections and the class struggle
The electoral struggle is part of the class struggle. Although the decisive issues are always settled in the last analysis outside parliament - in the factories, on the streets, on the land and in the barracks - the electoral struggle is a means whereby the revolutionary forces can be mobilised and measure their strength against the counterrevolution.
The electoral struggle played a most important role in mobilizing the Venezuelan workers and peasants after the massacre of the Caracazo. Every victory on the electoral front (including the recall referendum of August 2004) has objectively strengthened the revolutionary tendency and weakened the counterrevolutionary tendency. It has helped to defeat and demoralize the forces of reaction and to create the most favourable conditions for carrying out the socialist revolution.
In the Russian Revolution of 1917, the existence of the soviets - revolutionary organs of workers' power - meant that the parliamentary element played a secondary role. When the Constituent Assembly was finally convened (after the working class had taken power through the soviets) it had already exhausted any progressive historical potential it might have had and was soon dispersed by the soviets led by the Bolsheviks.
However, it was by no means excluded that the Russian Revolution could pass through a phase of parliamentarism, as did the Great French Revolution of 1789-93. The Venezuelan Revolution has followed a path that is more similar to that of the French Revolution than that of the Russian Revolution. The elements of workers' power exist - in the occupied factories and the movement towards workers' control - but so far they exist only in an embryonic state. This means that the electoral front will continue to occupy a central position.
The revolutionary Marxists wholeheartedly support the re-election of Chavez, but at the same time we are fighting to carry the revolution out to the end. A decisive victory in the December elections must be followed by decisive measures to disarm the counterrevolution and expropriate the oligarchy. Only in this way can the revolution be made irreversible.
The electoral struggle, although important, cannot resolve the central question of power. It can create favourable conditions to carry out the revolution. But in the final analysis, the struggle for power will not be resolved by speeches and resolutions in parliament. The oligarchy will never surrender its power and privileges without a ferocious struggle. To shut one's eyes to this fact would be the greatest irresponsibility and a crime against the revolution.
The bourgeoisie and "legality"
We are told that we must uphold the rule of law. But what is the attitude of the oligarchy to legality? The landlords and capitalists speak constantly about "democracy" but in reality they only support "democracy" as long as it represents their class interests. But when elections return a government that does not represent the interests of the rich and powerful, when it tries to uphold the interests of the poor and exploited, then the oligarchy turns against democracy and resorts to extraparliamentary activity - sabotage, assassinations, and coup d'etats.
In 2002 these "democrats" organised a coup against the democratically elected government. Only the revolutionary movement of the masses saved the revolution. A few months later they organised the bosses' lockout and sabotage of the oil company PDVSA, which brought the economy to its knees. Again, only the working class saved the situation by threatening to occupy the factories and running the oil industry under workers' control.
The recall referendum was yet another attempt to destabilise the country and use the Bolivarian Constitution to overthrow the government. Of course, the first thing they would have done if they had succeeded would have been to abolish the right of recall along with the rest of the Bolivarian Constitution. Once again, it was the unerring revolutionary instinct of the masses that saved the situation.
Finally, in December 2005, the opposition boycotted the Legislative Elections, realising that they would have obtained a ridiculous result. By this action, they effectively declared war on democracy. They threw down a gauntlet to the people of Venezuela. They said: no matter how you vote, no matter who is elected, we intend to hold onto our power and privileges and we will fight to the death to defend them.
Thus, at every decisive stage of the revolution, the oligarchy has shown its complete contempt for all democratic, parliamentary and legal norms. They have consistently resorted to extraparliamentary methods to overthrow the government elected by the people. This is a fact that cannot be denied. We must draw the necessary conclusions. In order to advance the revolution must defend itself against the illegal and extraparliamentary agitation and aggression of the counterrevolutionary oligarchy. There is only one way to do this: the oligarchy must be defeated, disarmed and expropriated. That is to say, the struggle to win the Second Battle of Santa Ines must be linked clearly and firmly to the struggle for socialism.
The Bolivarian Revolution has taken giant strides forward, but it has yet to solve the fundamental problems. The main challenges facing the revolution are:
- the question of the economy,
- the question of the state,
- the lack of an organised expression of the revolutionary movement,
- the arming of the people.
After a decisive victory in the Presidential elections the Bolivarian Movement will enjoy a commanding position in the National Assembly and every other level of government. There will therefore be no excuse for not taking decisive measures against the oligarchy, which still owns and controls key points in the national economy. Unless this is rectified, there can be no talk of socialism or revolution and the Bolivarian Republic will always be in danger. The oligarchy will always use its control of banking and finance (80% in the hands of Spanish multinationals), food distribution (in the hands of two monopoly groups), telecommunications (in the hands of three or four multinational groups), the media (controlled by four powerful monopolies), private manufacturing, etc, to sabotage the economy. Despite initial measures of land reform the overwhelming majority of fertile land remains in the hands of a handful of landowners.
The National Assembly must introduce an enabling act to expropriate the land, the banks and finance houses and all major industries under workers' control and management. This is the prior condition for the introduction of a democratic socialist plan of production. All the wealth of Venezuela, in the first place its vast unused human resources, can be mobilized and put to work to build the houses, schools and hospitals that are needed. This is the only way to place the revolution on a firm basis and make it irreversible. All other proposals amount to mere reformist tinkering that will solve nothing and end in a crisis.
A real socialist planned economy has nothing in common with the bureaucratic totalitarian state that existed in Stalinist Russia. It is based on the democratic participation and control of the economy at all levels by the working people themselves, including the scientists, engineers, agronomists, planners, architects and economists. Freed from the dictatorship of private profit, the economy will expand at an unprecedented rate. Unemployment would disappear overnight and the basis would be laid for a general increase in living standards.
As the economy expands and the conditions of the masses improve, it will be possible to bring about a general reduction in working hours without prejudicing productivity. Under capitalism the introduction of new machinery and technology does not lead to a reduction of the working day, but on the contrary, to a continual expansion of the hours of work and a constant increase in the burden of labour. In a socialist planned economy, the generalised application of new technology will lead to a reduction in working hours, which is the prior condition for the participation of the masses in the running of industry and the state and in art, science and culture. This, and no other, is the real material basis upon which socialism of the 21st century will be built.
After nearly eight years of Bolivarian government, the state apparatus remains in a lamentable state. A genuine revolution cannot simply take over the existing state and use it for revolutionary purposes. The old state of the IV Republic was a state designed to defend the status quo and the interests of the exploiters, a capitalist state. It was based on corruption and violence against the people, a vast bureaucratic monster serving the interests of the rich and powerful.
That was the state the Bolivarian Revolution took over. What has changed? Some of the worst elements have been purged and there are some honest Bolivarian ministers and officials who are trying to carry out the wishes of the people. But in every ministry there are many people who wear a red shirt but who are enemies of the revolution and work against it. Corruption and abuse is widespread and the influence of counterrevolutionary elements is a constant threat to the revolution.
In order to succeed, the revolution cannot base itself on such a state, but must create a new state in its own image: a workers' state on the lines of the Paris Commune or the democratic workers' republic established by the Bolsheviks in Russia before it was destroyed by Stalin and the bureaucracy. Such a state would be under the democratic control of the workers, with salaries strictly limited to no more than the wage of a skilled worker.
All officials would be elected and subject to instant recall if they did not carry out the wishes of the people. Only in this way can the cancer of bureaucracy be extirpated from the body of the revolution and the conditions be established for the participation of the whole people in the administration of industry, society and the state, without which socialism would be just an empty word.
The need for an organised expression of the revolutionary movement
Without organisation the revolution cannot succeed. The masses hold tremendous power in their hands, but this power must be organised and directed to a central aim. Without this, it will remain a mere potential with no actual content. It will be dissipated in the air like steam, which becomes a power only when concentrated in a piston-box.
In Venezuela today, millions of working people are organised in tens of thousands of organisations, land committees, Bolivarian Circles, revolutionary assemblies, class struggle trade unions, water commissions, health care organisations, misiones, etc. But these are atomised and isolated. There is no national body in which they are represented and through which the experience of the masses in struggle can be shared and generalised. The Bolivarian political parties represented in parliament are widely regarded as purely electoral machines, unaccountable to the revolutionary people, and full of careerist and reformist elements.
The coming elections provide us with a great opportunity to perfect the revolutionary organisations of the masses. Electoral Battle Units for Socialism should be set up in every factory, barracks, school and neighbourhood, and linked at local, regional and national level through elected and recallable delegates. In such a National Revolutionary Assembly all the different tendencies and ideas that exist within the Bolivarian movement would be able to express themselves and put their proposals to the democratic decision of the organised revolutionary movement.
At every level it is necessary to promote the establishment of democratic revolutionary organisations that unite the workers, peasants, women, youth and revolutionary soldiers. These revolutionary mass organisations (the equivalent of the soviets in revolutionary Russia) will begin by organising the revolutionary struggle, but will inevitably end by taking power into their own hands. They are the embryo of the new society that is being formed within the womb of the old.
The establishment of such organisations is a key question for the revolution, and is essential for its success. They must be linked up on a local, regional and finally, national level. This is the most urgent task facing us.
Above all, it is necessary to press for the establishment of genuine proletarian organisations. The UNT must be united and strengthened as the basic organisation of the class and the cutting edge of the revolution. Too much time has been already wasted in internal squabbling. The UNT must start to act as a genuinely revolutionary union, not a talking-shop. Taking up the proposal of President Chavez, it must immediately draw up a plan of every abandoned or badly run enterprise and take it over under workers' control.
In addition to the UNT, there is the movement of occupied factories (Freteco). This is playing a key role in uniting and mobilizing the workers in the occupied factories. This is the cutting edge of the revolutionary movement and should be developed and extended to every region of the country.
Arm the people!
The imperialists are watching developments in Venezuela closely. They understand that a victory for Chavez in the Presidential elections poses a threat to them, not just in Venezuela but also in all Latin America.
Washington will try by every means to secure the overthrow of President Chavez, including assassination. It is true that at the moment they are trapped in a quagmire in Iraq and that this makes a direct military intervention by the USA extremely difficult. But it is not excluded that, in desperation, they might stage some kind of intervention, probably using the services of mercenaries or fascists from Colombia. The threat is very real and we must be prepared.
This is particularly the case in the countryside, where the land owners are already setting up paramilitary groups to defend their properties against agrarian reform. More than a hundred peasant activists have been killed already in disputes over land reform. This one-sided civil war in the countryside must be combated with the setting up of armed democratic self-defence committees under the control of the peasant organisations.
A people that is not prepared to defend itself with arms in hand deserves to be slaves. President Chavez has stated on many occasions that the people of Venezuela do not want war but will fight to defend their revolution against any foreign aggressor. The setting up of the reserve and the territorial guards is an attempt to arm the revolution against the threat of foreign intervention. Marxists welcome this step and will support all efforts designed to defend the revolution.
The UNT should participate in this effort by setting up workers' defence units in every workplace organised by the mass workers' assemblies and accountable to them. Every worker, peasant and student must learn how to use arms. The whole history of the revolution proves that the masses are the only consistent defenders of the revolution. Special schools should be set up to train military cadres from the ranks of the workers and peasants. There are plenty of revolutionary officers in the army who can educate and train the workers in military skills.
The reformists argue that such things will only provoke the imperialists and increase the danger of invasion. On the contrary! The more workers who learn how to use weapons, the broader layers of the population that are drawn into the task of military training, the greater the deterrent for imperialist aggressors and the greater the chance of a peaceful outcome. Let our slogan be that of the Roman Republic: "Si pacem vis, para bellum" - if you want peace, prepare for war.
For an internationalist policy!
A revolution that speaks in the name of Simon Bolivar must fight to carry out Bolivar's programme - the revolutionary unification of Latin America. But under modern conditions this can only be realised through a Socialist Federation of Latin America. An appeal should be made to the peoples of Latin America and the world to follow Venezuela's revolutionary road.
There are those who say that the revolution has gone far enough, that it is time to call a halt. That is not the spirit that motivated Simon Bolivar and his followers! They were not afraid to challenge the greatest powers on earth, even though they started with a tiny handful.
It is not enough to proclaim the revolution: the revolution must pass from words to deeds; otherwise, it will lead to scepticism and apathy, creating the conditions for counterrevolution. The revolution cannot stand still, or it will be defeated. It must march boldly forward, conquering one position after another.
It is not enough just to talk about socialism, while the land and banks remain in the hands of the landlords and capitalists. It is necessary to finish what has been started. A revolutionary leadership that is not prepared to go to the end is doomed to play a fatal role. In that case, it would have been better not to have started the revolution in the first place.
In the final analysis, the future of the Bolivarian Revolution will be determined by the degree to which it spreads to the rest of Latin America and beyond. That idea was understood by Che Guevara, when he said that the Cuban Revolution could only be saved by creating "one, two, three, many Vietnams".
US imperialism is a powerful enemy. It has colossal reserves. But the Venezuelan Revolution has even bigger potential reserves - the support of millions of oppressed and exploited workers and peasants in Latin America who see the Bolivarian Revolution as a ray of hope in the darkness. To the degree that the revolution takes bold steps forward, striking blows against its enemies and forcing the counterrevolutionary oligarchy and imperialism onto the defensive, the confidence and militancy of the masses will grow everywhere.
Already the revolutionary movement is spreading to other countries, as we see in the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia and the extraordinary movement against electoral fraud in Mexico. Peru and Ecuador are not far behind. What is needed is a bold lead, a decisive step to eradicate landlordism and capitalism in Venezuela once and for all. Once that step is taken, the revolutionary flame will spread like a forest fire to one country after another.
If the Bolivarian revolution is to succeed, it must spread to other countries, starting with a Socialist Federation of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. Its message will soon spread to other countries, including the USA, where discontent is growing by the hour.
Against opportunism! Against sectarianism!
On the eve of the Second Battle of Santa Ines, the Revolution stands at the crossroads. The masses, and particularly the vanguard, are beginning to tire of talk and speeches. Lenin once warned that talk and rhetoric has destroyed more than one revolution. It is time to translate the speeches into action! Only by carrying out a revolution within the revolution can the danger of counterrevolution be averted. But this is only possible on the basis of a Marxist policy.
Marx and Engels long ago pointed out that the Communists do not form a party separate and opposed to other working class parties. The Marxists are the most advanced part of the workers' movement. All revolutionary Marxists must strive to unite the masses around the programme of the socialist revolution, expressed as a series of transitional demands, from the smallest economic, social or democratic demand to the conquest of power. We must strive to build links to the mass of the workers, peasants and revolutionary youth who today are to be found in the ranks of the Bolivarian Movement.
Our first task is to unite the proletarian vanguard - the most advanced elements of the workers and youth - around the transitional programme of the socialist revolution. But we must not separate ourselves from the mass of revolutionary Bolivarians who wish to fight the twin dangers of counterrevolution and imperialism. The comrades of the Revolutionary Marxist Current (CMR) have started this work and must be fully supported by Marxists all over the world.
Those sectarians who dedicate all their time to attacking Chavez and splitting the revolutionary movement only discredit the name of Marxism in the eyes of the masses. Marx and Engels, the founders of scientific socialism, explained long ago in the Communist Manifesto that the place where Communists must work is inside the mass movement, not outside it. Let us speak clearly: outside the Bolivarian Movement (that is to say, outside the movement of the masses in Venezuela) there is nothing.
The imperialists and counterrevolutionaries understand the importance of the Bolivarian Movement and are trying to undermine it from within, using corruption to create a Fifth Column in the leadership of the Movement. The struggle against the counterrevolution is therefore impossible without a resolute struggle against opportunist wing of the Movement and the pro-bourgeois elements in the leadership.
The only way to defeat the counterrevolution and lead the masses towards the socialist transformation of society is to conduct a determined struggle against the right wing of the Bolivarian Movement, to drive out the opportunists, careerists and bureaucrats and to transform the movement into a revolutionary instrument capable of actually leading the masses.
The best leaders of the Movement are those who come from the masses and have no interest except to defend the interests of the masses, not professional politicians and bureaucrats. We demand that the salaries of the leaders should be limited to no more than those of a skilled worker. All expenses must be open to inspection by the rank and file, and all leaders must be elected by the rank and file and subject to recall.
In order to wage a serious struggle against opportunism and bureaucracy the proletarian vanguard must be organised. This is the most urgent task of the Venezuelan Marxists, who must fight side by side with the rest of the mass movement, dealing blows against the class enemy, while simultaneously explaining to the most advanced workers and peasants the meaning of events and patiently explaining the programme of revolutionary socialism in language that is accessible to the masses. That is the task that the CMR, the Venezuelan section of the International Marxist Tendency has before it.
The destiny of the Venezuelan Revolution is organically tied to the perspectives of the Marxist tendency. The Marxists will stand or fall according to their ability to penetrate the Bolivarian Movement and win it to the programme of revolutionary socialism. And the Bolivarian Movement will stand or fall according to its ability to transcend the limits of the bourgeois democratic revolution, expropriate the oligarchy and carry out the socialist revolution, not in words but in deeds.
[This statement was passed at the World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency in Barcelona, in August 2006]
- The Venezuelan Revolution and the struggle for socialism: Balance sheet, perspectives and tasks – Part One, Part Two and Part Three (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)