[Book] The Venezuelan Revolution - a Marxist perspective

Theses on revolution and counter-revolution in Venezuela

1) The Venezuelan revolution is at the crossroads. Having twice defeated the counterrevolution, the revolution is faced with a new and furious offensive. This means that the counterrevolutionary forces are not reconciled to defeat. They are increasingly desperate, and their desperation makes them even more determined and violent. Moreover, they are combining legal and semi-legal methods of struggle (the "referendum" campaign), with preparations for armed struggle. The former is for the purpose of propaganda for foreign consumption and has a secondary significance. The latter constitutes the essence of their strategy. This is combined with a campaign of economic sabotage, the disruption of the food distribution chain and acts of rioting.

2) The arrest of Colombian paramilitaries in Venezuela indicates the existence of a well-prepared conspiracy to overthrow the government and assassinate Chavez. The dangers faced by the revolution are therefore very real. The time has therefore come to draw all the necessary conclusions and to take steps that will strike decisive blows against the counterrevolution.

3) Venezuelan society is now extremely polarised for and against the Bolivarian revolution, to the right and left. On the left stand the Venezuelan workers, peasants and poor people, who are fighting to defend the revolution and carry it forward. On the right stand the Venezuelan counterrevolutionaries, led by the bankers, landlords and capitalists, who have succeeded in dragging behind them a large part of the middle class. The gulf between the two antagonistic camps is enormous. It cannot be bridged. All attempts at compromise are futile.

4) US imperialism continues to encourage, support and finance the forces of the internal counterrevolution, hoping that they can do the dirty work for it. But it has correctly concluded that the internal opposition is too weak to succeed on the basis of its own forces. Therefore, Washington is preparing a campaign of terror, using Colombian paramilitary forces that work in conjunction with the internal counterrevolutionaries. This amounts to a declaration of war.

5) Sooner or later, matters will be solved by a decisive victory of one side or another. The revolution has not yet passed the point of no return. All the gains made by the masses under the Chavez government can still be liquidated. The movement can be thrown far back. That is what the counterrevolutionaries are fighting for, while the workers are fighting to defeat them. The question of power has not yet been settled. In the not too distant future the decisive battle will have to be fought and won.

6) Who are the counterrevolutionaries? They are the same bourgeois who ruled Venezuela for decades. They looted and ruined the country, while filling their pockets and bank accounts with the wealth created by the working people. They are the local office boys of US imperialism. They are the same rotten and corrupt politicians and bureaucrats against whom Hugo Chavez rebelled, expressing the will of the Venezuelan people.

7) The programme of the counterrevolution is a mixture of lies, fraud and hypocrisy. They claim to stand for "democracy" but overlook the fact that Chavez has regularly won convincing majorities in every election. They claim to stand for the rule of law, but constantly violate the law – to the point of staging a coup to overthrow the democratically elected government. They claim to stand for order, but are constantly creating disorder and chaos as a cloak for their counterrevolutionary intrigues. They claim to be patriotic Venezuelans but have sold their country to US imperialism and have their fortunes in bank accounts in Florida. Now they are actively supporting an invasion of Venezuela by foreign counterrevolutionary forces.

8) In the struggle between revolution and counterrevolution, the counterrevolutionaries have one great advantage: the control of key points of the economy. During the so-called strike (in reality a bosses' lockout), the Venezuelan capitalists inflicted terrible damage on the economy. Total losses added up to over seven billion dollars. In addition to this, these so-called "patriots" have exported billions of dollars to banks in Florida, thus starving the Venezuelan economy of much-needed investment. Combined with this economic sabotage they are also disrupting the food distribution chain, controlled by three or four big monopoly companies, in order to create artificial price hikes and scarcity of basic foodstuffs. They are draining away the precious life-blood of Venezuela in an attempt to cause the maximum dislocation, unemployment and pain. They calculate that this will dampen the enthusiasm of the masses for the revolution. They also wish to cause chaos and disorder, in order to create the conditions for a coup by the army tops to "restore order".

9) The decisive element in the equation is the working class. The workers of Venezuela have already begun to fight back against the bosses' offensive. They have taken the initiative, in some cases have occupied factories abandoned by the bosses, begun to introduce elements of workers' control in some companies, set up democratic unions, forced the bosses to pay unpaid wages and benefits. These initiatives should be taken up and generalised. They show the way forward.

10) A particularly pernicious role is being played by the so-called "trade union leaders" of the CTV. These corrupt and degenerate labour lieutenants of Capital have long ago sold their soul to the bosses and the CIA. They have abdicated any right to be considered a legitimate part of the labour movement. They should be driven out of the movement.

11) The building of the UNT is an urgent task. We must strengthen and build the democratic unions and provide them with a fighting programme. Build a mass trade union federation! Work out a programme of demands based on the immediate needs of the workers: the fight against factory closures and unemployment, the high cost of living etc.

12) The UNT recently announced a campaign to organize 80 percent of the workforce into unions (which was publicly supported by president Chavez). This is a step in the right direction. By organizing the unorganised layers, the Revolution can cut the ground from under the feet of the old rotten right wing trade union bureaucracy. This initiative must be taken up energetically at all levels. At the same time, an appeal should be made to any workers who remain in unions affiliated to the CTV to fight to democratise those and join the UNT. In cases where this might not be possible new democratic unions should be set up, but always having the aim of organising the mass of the workers, and not only the most advanced layers.

13) To prevent sabotage, waste and corruption, the workers in industry must begin to exercise control over production. Corrupt officials must be dismissed. Managers who side with the counterrevolution and sabotage production, must be given an ultimatum: either desist from such activities and serve the people, or be dismissed with loss of pension and all other rights. Serious cases of sabotage should be met with arrest and imprisonment. Corrupt and counterrevolutionary directors should be replaced by people who are honest and devoted to the cause of the revolution. This can only be done effectively by introducing workers' democratic control and management.

14) Can the workers run industry? Those sceptics who question the ability of the workers to run industry have had their answer. It was the workers who defeated the attempts of the bosses to sabotage the economy in the bosses' lockout twelve moths ago. The workers of the PDVSA have demonstrated their ability to run even the biggest and most complex industries. They have done so with a high level of skill and competence.

15) In any case, the workers will not be alone. They will count on the help of the majority of honest engineers, scientists, technicians and managers, who are not saboteurs or counterrevolutionaries and who genuinely wish to see a prosperous and successful Venezuela. The people of Venezuela have enormous reserves of talent and creativity. They will attract to their side all that is best in Venezuelan society, including the cream of the intellectuals. The creative talents of the people under capitalism are crippled by a system that places the profits of a few above the interest of the majority. This is also true of those who occupy managerial positions at the lower level. In a socialist planned economy, their skills will be put to good use in applying the most modern technology and methods to boost productivity in the interests of all.

16) Workers' control will immediately bring to light all the corruption, waste and nepotism, the excessive profits and perks of the bosses. Open the books! Compel all companies to reveal their real profits. Let the workers have all the information about the fat profits and perks, the swindles and theft. This would dramatically reduce waste and channel these resources into production for the development of Venezuela. However, workers' control in and of itself cannot solve the fundamental problems of society. It is only a transitional step towards the nationalisation of the means of production and a planned economy.

17) The elements of workers' control already exist. Some factories closed by the bosses have been occupied by the workers. During the sabotage of the oil industry, even Hugo Chavez expressed his support for the slogan "Factory closed, factory taken over by the workers", though then the government did not really take any serious action to solve the problem of the workers who had occupied the factories. Isolated instances of workers' control can only succeed partially and temporarily. What is needed is an overall plan of production that can integrate the different sectors of the economy and branches of production. But such overall planning and integration immediately comes up against the barrier of capitalist anarchy (the "market"). No real progress can be made unless these obstacles are overcome.

18) The principal power of the counterrevolution consists in its ownership of the means of production. It continues to exercise control over key points in the economy, which it uses to place a noose around the neck of the Venezuelan people. The only way to prevent this economic sabotage and to eliminate the waste and corruption that are the inevitable consequences of capitalism is to destroy the economic stranglehold of the bourgeoisie. As long as the counterrevolutionaries continue to hold economic power, the Revolution will be fighting with one hand tied behind its back.

19) The land, banks, insurance companies and big industries must be nationalised. This can be done by introducing emergency legislation through the congress, backed up by an appeal to the workers to take over from below, to introduce workers' control to prevent sabotage by the bosses and ensure a peaceful and orderly transition to a planned economy. The President of the Republic can explain this step to the people by going on television to expose the scandalous profits of the bosses, the waste, corruption and nepotism, the systematic sabotage of the economy.

20) By nationalising the key points of the economy under democratic workers' control and management, it will be possible to introduce a genuine plan of production that will mobilise all the productive resources of Venezuela for the satisfaction of the people's needs: a crash building programme of houses, schools and hospitals can begin straight away, using the country's considerable oil revenue to finance an ambitious investment plan. Unemployment would be eliminated, and all citizens would have the right and obligation to work. Such a plan, which would guarantee an immediate improvement in the living standards of the immense majority, is only possible on the basis of nationalization. You cannot plan what you do not control, and you cannot control what you do not own.

21) Unless decisive steps are taken to control the economy, the people of Venezuela will be faced in the future with growing economic chaos, unemployment and poverty. Venezuela's huge oil wealth will not be sufficient to prevent this. The bosses can use their economic power to sabotage and wreck the country's prosperity. But even without that, the attempt to combine measures of nationalization with the market economy will produce distortions and particularly inflation that will cancel out the gains and provoke economic dislocation. The nationalization of the key points of the economy is therefore an absolutely necessary and urgent measure of self-defence taken by the majority to protect its most vital interests and the most fundamental right – the right to life.

22) The first step must be the nationalization of the banks. An important section of the Venezuelan banking system is under the control of two Spanish banking groups. Furthermore a large part of all the money that circulates in the financial system over a year is actually state-owned money, either directly or through state-owned companies particularly PDVSA. However the control over these financial resources is in private hands and is used to finance the counter-revolution and sabotage the economy. Without the nationalisation of the banks it will be impossible to plan the economy. Control of credit is one of the most fundamental levers of the modern economy. Without this, nothing can be accomplished. The state must know how much money there is, where it comes from and where it is going. Strict national accounting is the prior condition for a planned economy.

23) Nationalization of the banks would allow the state to exercise real and not fictitious control over the economy, to control the flow of capital and investment into those fields that reflect the interests of the majority and the objective requirements of the economy. The bank employees themselves can play a key role in the nationalization of the banks. They know all about the swindles and speculative movement of capital. They know how the counterrevolutionaries are using large sums of money for the purpose of sabotage and intrigues. An appeal must be made to the bank employees to control the movement of capital, ensure a smooth handover of the banks and prevent acts of sabotage.

24) The gains of the revolution are real and palpable. Important measures have been taken in the interest of the workers, the peasants and the poor, particularly the land reform and the health and education plans which have reached millions. But all these gains are under threat. They can be reversed and they will be reversed if the counterrevolution gets back in the saddle. In order to guarantee the gains of the revolution, it must be made irreversible. This means a fundamental change in society. This poses the question of power.

25) Every revolution in history is ultimately settled by answering the question: who holds the power? Who is master of the house? Until this question is answered, the revolution is not finished. By beginning the Bolivarian revolution, Hugo Chavez threw down a challenge to the old oligarchy. Their power was challenged but not completely overthrown. A colossal struggle began, which has still not been decided one way or the other. Upon the resolution of this struggle everything depends.

26) At bottom, the question of power can be reduced to one thing: Who controls the state power? That is the decisive question. The state in the last analysis consists of armed bodies of men – the army, the police etc. In a normal capitalist regime, the bourgeoisie controls the state and uses it to oppress the majority of society and guarantee its power and privileges. It controls not only the army and police but also the judges, the bureaucracy and every other branch of the executive power.

27) However, there are exceptional periods in history, periods when the class struggle reaches deadlock, when things are not quite so clear-cut. Venezuela is now passing through such a complex situation. Is the Venezuelan state a bourgeois state? As long as the bourgeoisie remains the ruling class, as long as it continues to own and control the key points of the economy, as long as its economic power has not been broken, Venezuela remains a capitalist country, and the state therefore remains a bourgeois state. This means that the revolution has not been carried out to the end, has stopped half way, and therefore can still be reversed.

28) The state is still a bourgeois state, but it is a bourgeois state with peculiar features. The most peculiar feature is that the bourgeoisie has – at least temporarily – lost control over key parts of its own state. This seems like a contradictory assertion, but it is only the expression of a real contradiction that exists in society. Venezuelan society is split right down the middle. The extreme class polarisation affects everything – including the state, which is itself split. A section of the army has gone over to the side of the Bolivarian revolution. This includes the overwhelming majority of the ordinary soldiers, the non-commissioned officers, but also a significant number of the officers, like Chavez himself. This creates enormous difficulties for the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, which does not have the same grip on the army and the officer caste that exists, say, in Britain or the USA.

29) Many officers sincerely support the Revolution. The upper echelons will have been purged following the collapse of the coup of April 2002. In general, the prevailing mood is unfavourable to the counterrevolution. The external threat posed by US imperialism and Colombia will have galvanised the natural instincts of the army to fight and rallied them round the President. The counterrevolutionaries, at least for the moment, find themselves in a difficult position. But from the outside it is difficult to say what the real balance of forces in the army is. This will only be made clear by events.

30) In the last analysis, the correlation of forces inside the army is determined by the correlation of class forces in society. To the degree that the Revolution advances and strikes decisive blows against its enemies, both internal and external, to the degree that the masses are roused and active, the revolutionary wing of the armed forces will take courage and be strengthened. But vacillations and retreats will dishearten the revolutionary wing and encourage the counterrevolutionaries.

31) Chavez and his supporters are leaning on the support of the masses to strike blows against the oligarchy and imperialism. They did not originally have a socialist perspective, but only the notion of clearing out corruption and modernising Venezuela. They wanted a fairer, more just and equal society, but imagined that this was possible without breaking the bounds of capitalism. But this immediately brought them into conflict with the bourgeoisie and imperialism. The masses took to the streets and imparted an entirely different dynamic to the process. The mass movement has provided a stimulus to Chavez and in turn he has encouraged the movement in a revolutionary direction.

32) When Hugo Chavez founded the Bolivarian Movement, he sought to clean out the stinking Augean stables that were Venezuelan political life. This was a limited and very modest objective – but it met with the ferocious resistance of the ruling oligarchy and its servants. It earned him the undying hatred of the wealthy and powerful, and the loyalty and love of the masses. Hugo Chavez for the first time gave the poor and downtrodden a voice and some hope. That is the secret of the extraordinary devotion and loyalty they have shown him. He aroused them to life and they see themselves in him.

33) That explains the equally extraordinary hatred the ruling class shows towards Chavez. It is the hatred of the rich for the poor, of the exploiter for the exploited. Behind this hatred is fear – fear for the loss of their wealth, power and privileges. This is a gulf that cannot be bridged by fair words. It is the fundamental class division of society.

34) The Revolution stands for democracy. But a consistent struggle for democracy inevitably brings the Revolution into conflict with the vested interests of the landlords, the bankers and capitalists and imperialism. That is to say, if the revolutionary democracy is to achieve its aims, it must be prepared to go beyond the boundaries of capitalism. It must take action to destroy the economic power of the oligarchy. Failure to do this will inevitably end in defeat, the victory of the counterrevolution and the complete eradication of democracy in Venezuela.

35) Though they swear by democracy in every other sentence, the Venezuelan oligarchy and imperialism are the enemies of democracy. They want a "democracy" in which anyone can say what they like as long as the wealthy minority decides what happens. The only class that is sincerely interested in democracy is the working class and its natural allies, the poor peasants and the urban poor. True democracy will only be achieved when the power of the oligarchy is destroyed forever and power is in the hands of the working people. What is needed is not the hollow fiction of bourgeois formal democracy, where real power is in the hands of the bankers and capitalists, but a genuine democracy of the working people, based on the nationalisation of the land, banks and big industries and a democratic plan of production.

36) The immediate programme must be: a) the amalgamation of the banks and the nationalization of the banking system, b) the amalgamation of the insurance companies and the nationalization of the finance sector, c) the abolition of commercial secrecy: open the books! d) workers' control and management of the PVDSA and all other big companies, and the nationalization of all other sectors of the petrochemical industry, gas and energy, e) the organization of the population into consumers' associations and co-operatives to control prices and distribution of food and other products, which can be carried out through the nationalisation of the monopolies which control the food distribution chain, f) the nationalization of the land, the expropriation of the big estates and the formation of peasant co-operatives to run agriculture, g) the nationalization of all big transport companies and the creation of a unified transport system, h) a state monopoly of foreign trade.

37) US imperialism is playing a game of cat and mouse with Venezuela. Having been defeated in two direct assaults, it is resorting to siege methods. It is putting pressure on other governments in Latin America to help it isolate the Venezuelan revolution, which it regards as a dangerous focal point for the discontent of the masses throughout the continent. It is threatening to bring Venezuela to its knees with economic sanctions. At the same time it is actively preparing a campaign of terrorism and subversion.

38) Fearing to intervene itself, Washington is actively conspiring with the leading circles in Columbia, not just to isolate Venezuela, and to put pressure on its, but even to prepare direct intervention against the Venezuelan revolution. It is constantly intriguing in the Organization of American States (OAS) to interfere in Venezuela's internal affairs. The role of the OAS is like that of a "friendly neighbour" who advises a man who is being attacked by a gang of bandits to stay still and not shout so loud, as this will only provoke the robbers and disturb the whole neighbourhood. With "friends" like these, the people of Venezuela have no need of enemies!

39) It is, of course, necessary to make use of diplomacy ? to take every possible measure to prevent the isolation of Venezuela, to develop friendly relations, trade etc., with Argentina, Brazil and, of course with Cuba. However, it would be extremely shortsighted to base oneself on this. Governments can change, and they can be brought under the pressure of imperialism. There is no guarantee that this will not happen in the case of Brazil or Argentina.

40) In the last analysis, the only real allies of the Venezuelan people are the oppressed workers and peasants of Latin America. They can always be depended on to defend the Venezuelan revolution, their governments cannot. Ultimately, the real defence of the Venezuelan Revolution consists not in diplomacy but in a consistent revolutionary and internationalist policy aimed at spreading the revolution throughout Latin America and beyond.

41) President Chavez has courageously stood up to the imperialists. He has said: "If there is an imperialist intervention we will fight them for 100 years." Undoubtedly the masses would be prepared to make the greatest sacrifices for the revolution. They have been aroused to political life and have been given new hope and a sense of their own human dignity. Thus, the masses have tremendous reserves of revolutionary energy. This is something the imperialists and counterrevolutionaries are incapable of understanding. However, to rely exclusively on the willingness of the masses to make sacrifices is a mistake. The masses can sacrifice their "today" for the "tomorrow" only up to a certain point. This must always be kept in mind.

42) Ultimately, the economic question is decisive. In 2003 alone, Venezuelan GDP fell by 18 percent, despite the high price of oil. According to some calculations, living standards have fallen to the level of the 1950s. By these means the counterrevolution is trying to undermine support for the government, which it blames for the results of its own sabotage. So far, the plans of the counterrevolution have not succeeded. The masses remain fiercely loyal to the revolution and to President Hugo Chavez. But such a situation cannot last indefinitely.

43) For the time being, the Venezuelan economy has been helped by the rising price of oil. In 2003 the price of a barrel of Venezuelan oil ($25.65) was about 17 percent higher than a year earlier. President Chavez has attempted to alleviate the effects of the crisis by introducing price and exchange controls. Part of the income of the PDVSA has been diverted to social and housing programmes. Strict exchange controls have boosted the BCV's internal revenues from $13 billion in January to $22 billion now. The devaluation of the official dollar rate from 1,600 to 1,920 bolivars has also helped. The growth rate is sharply up, although this is partly a reflection of a natural recovery after the steep fall brought about by the bosses' lockout.

44) These measures have partially succeeded in alleviating the conditions of the masses. They have served to buy time. But there will be a price to pay. On a capitalist basis, such measures tend to produce inflationary consequences. The bolivar is falling sharply on the black market. Inflation is rising at 27 percent annually – the highest rate in the region. In the long run, this is unsustainable. Sooner or later it will be reflected in new and severe economic crises, shortages and unemployment. Thus, the fundamental problem remains.

45) If the revolution does not advance, if it does not take over the commanding heights of the economy, the growth of unemployment and poverty can undermine the fighting spirit of the masses. For the time being, this does not seem to be the case. The economic recovery has provided a breathing space. The masses remain fiercely loyal to Chavez. The class balance of forces is still favourable to the revolution and unfavourable to the counterrevolution. But this can change. If the masses do not see a fundamental change , and above all decisive action against the counterrevolutionaries, frustration and disappointment can set in. The pendulum can swing back to the right.

46) Beginning with the less conscious, unorganised layers, a mood of apathy can set in among the masses. Seeing no real progress, the workers can become tired and disappointed. With every step backward, the reactionaries will take courage and pass onto the offensive. The vacillating elements can swing behind the counterrevolution. This mood can communicate itself to the state. Some of the "friends" of the revolution in the upper layers of the bureaucracy, the army and the police, can abandon the President and go over to the counterrevolution, alleging that the revolution has been taken over by "extremists" and is bringing nothing but chaos. The prostitute press will intensify its campaign of vilification and slanders. The stage will then be set for a counterrevolutionary coup under the banner of "Order".

47) The masses have expended enormous energies in carrying the revolution to where it is today. It has come a long way, but the decisive point has not yet been passed, and there is still a real danger that the whole process may be thrown into reverse. There is a growing awareness of this at rank and file level. Frustration is already growing among the activists. This is a warning. This frustration could lead to moods of impatience and ultraleft adventures on the part of a layer of activists who have moved far ahead of the rest of the class. This could have negative consequences for the revolution.

48) The reaction has been defeated, but it has not disappeared. It is waiting for a more favourable situation to act. The idea that it is possible to placate the counterrevolution by displaying "moderation" is extremely foolish and utterly counterproductive. The counterrevolution and imperialism cannot be placated by sweet words. This fact is shown by the scandal over the Colombian paramilitaries. Not "moderation" but decisive action is necessary.

49) The revolution has attracted many friends. Most of them are genuine and honest. But some of these "friends" are not acting in the interests of the revolution. They are not revolutionaries at all, but reformists. And it is the historical destiny of reformism always to achieve results that are diametrically opposed to those that were intended. They are, of course, guided by the best of intentions. But the way to a very warm place is paved by such good intentions.

50) The reformists say that we must not do anything that will provoke the imperialists, we must be cautious, diplomatic etc., etc. But the argument about "provoking" the imperialists is false to the core. The imperialists do not need to be provoked. They have been hostile to the revolution from the very first day. They have lost no opportunity to attack it. They have already organised two attempted coups and are preparing a third under the banner of the referendum. It is not this or that speech, or this or that action that provokes them ? they regard the very existence of the revolution as a provocation. They will not be satisfied until it is destroyed.

51) The false "friends" of the revolution and the pseudo-Marxists argue that, since the Venezuelan revolution is democratic and popular, not socialist, it cannot take action against private property. This is pure sophistry. The American Revolution of the 18th century was a bourgeois democratic revolution, yet the revolutionaries of 1776 did not hesitate to confiscate the property of the supporters of the English Crown. After the American Civil War, the United States government did not hesitate to confiscate the property of the Southern slaveholders worth billions of dollars in modern currency. These examples from American history show clearly that the demands of the revolution supersede the so-called sacred rights of property.

52) Since when did the property rights of an exploiting and oppressive minority carry more weight than the needs of the overwhelming majority? Democracy means the rule of the majority. And we stand for consistent democracy. The Venezuelan revolution, following the excellent example of the American Revolution, will likewise not hesitate to take measures to eliminate the economic power of the counterrevolutionary minority.

53) An argument often used by the reformists is that it is necessary to win over the middle class and therefore we must not go too far in attacking capitalism. The first half of this statement is correct, but it directly contradicts the second half. It is both possible and necessary to win over a large section of the middle class, but we will never succeed in doing this if we accept the policies of the reformists, which can only alienate the mass of the petty bourgeoisie and push them into the arms of the counterrevolution.

54) The exploiting classes are a small minority of society. They could not rule without the help of a large number of sub-exploiters and sub-sub exploiters. Using their economic power and their control of the mass media, they have mobilised the mass of middle class Venezuelans to oppose the revolution. Under the false flag of "democracy" they have organised street riots and clashes. Their shock troops are the sons of the rich ? the "sifrinos" – wealthy parasites, fanatically opposed to the masses. The enraged petty bourgeois resent the concessions made to the poor, which they see as a threat to their own privileges. They make a lot of noise when required, but they are really just human dust, easily scattered to the wind when confronted with the movement of the masses.

55) However, the petty bourgeoisie is not a homogeneous class. There are contradictions within the middle class that can be expressed in splits in the opposition. The upper layers of the middle class is composed of privileged elements – prosperous lawyers, university professors, bank managers and politicians – who stand close to the oligarchy and are its willing servants. The lower layers – the small shopkeepers, small peasants, bank clerks, etc. – stand closer to the working class and can be won over. However, the way to win over the lower ranks of the petty bourgeoisie is not to make concessions to their leaders (really their political exploiters) but to take the offensive against the big bankers and capitalists, to show an attitude of absolute firmness and decision.

56) A section of the opposition consists of people who have been deceived by the counterrevolutionaries. They can be won over to the side of the revolution. The way to win them over, however, is by carrying out measures to expropriate the big capitalists and adopting measures in the interests of the small shopkeepers and small businessmen. They must be convinced that the revolution is invincible and that their interests are best served by joining forces with the working class against the big banks and monopolies.

57) The so-called bourgeois "democracy" is a gigantic fraud, behind which lurks the DICTATORSHIP OF BIG CAPITAL. This dictatorship oppresses not only the workers but also the middle class. What is needed is not the hollow fraud of formal bourgeois democracy – in which real power is in the hands of the big banks and monopolies – but a real democracy – a democracy of the working people, based on the collective ownership of the land, the banks and industry.

58) It must be made clear that these measures of nationalization are aimed only at the big capitalists, bankers and landowners. We have no intention of nationalizing small businesses, farms or shops. These play no independent role in the economy, since they are utterly dependent on the big banks, supermarkets, etc. We will appeal to the small shopkeepers, etc., to support the programme of nationalisation, which is in their interests.

59) The nationalization of the banks will enable the government to grant small businesses cheap and easy credit. The nationalization of the big fertilizer plants will enable it to sell cheap fertilizer to the peasants. And by eliminating the middlemen and nationalizing the big supermarkets, distribution and transport companies, we can provide the peasants with a guaranteed market and a fair price for their products, while reducing prices to the consumer.

60) There are none so blind as they who will not see. Despite everything, there are still those who continue to advocate slowing the pace of the revolution in order to placate the counterrevolution and imperialism. They may be sincere in their views, but they are giving false and dangerous advice. It is not possible to stop the revolution half way. It is not possible to make half a revolution. Either the revolution is carried through to the end, or else it must perish.

61) The reformists consider themselves to be great realists. In reality they are the blindest utopians. They want a "more humane" capitalism. To demand that capitalism should be humane is to ask the tiger to eat grass instead of flesh. Not for nothing the Venezuelan capitalists are the bitterest enemies of the Bolivarian revolution. Not for nothing do they strive by all means to destroy it and overthrow Chavez. They can never be reconciled to the revolution. Fine words will not convince them. They must be defeated and disarmed. Their economic power must be terminated. There is no other way.

62) At the present moment, as Chavez himself has pointed out, the Venezuelan revolution resembles Sisyphus, the character in Greek mythology, who pushed a heavy boulder to the top of a steep mountain, only to see it roll back again. With a little effort, the boulder can be pushed over the top of the mountain, and the problem would be resolved. But if we stop, the boulder will slide back and crush many people in the process.

63) Only the revolutionary movement of the masses from below prevented the counterrevolution from triumphing at the time of the 2002 April coup. The masses defeated the reactionaries and imperialists. At this point it would have been simple to inflict a decisive defeat on the reactionaries, who were divided and demoralised. If the President had lifted his little finger, it would all have been over. The working class could have taken power peacefully, without bloodshed or civil war. Unfortunately, that opportunity was missed. The revolution showed itself to be very moderate and cautious.

64) What was the result? Did this moderation and caution impress the counterrevolutionaries? Did it placate them? It did not. It encouraged them. The counterrevolutionaries regrouped and prepared a new offensive, the so-called "strike" that aimed to paralyse the economy. Everyone knows that this "strike" was organized and planned by the CIA with the help of the Venezuelan bosses and corrupt trade union bureaucrats. Again, this attempt was defeated by the revolutionary movement of the Venezuelan workers.

65) After the first coup Hugo Chavez tried to be conciliatory to the reactionaries. He tried to negotiate with them and even reinstated the old directors of the PVDSA. They rewarded him by organising the bosses' lockout that inflicted serious damage on the Venezuelan economy. What lessons can we draw from this? Do we conclude that that a conciliatory attitude is the only way to disarm the counterrevolution and imperialism? Only a fool would say so. The real conclusion that must be drawn is that weakness invites aggression.

66) Experience has shown that the only firm base of support the revolution has is the masses, and in the first ranks of the masses, the working class. The masses wish to defend Chavez. How do they do this? Only by stepping up the movement from below, setting up action committees, learning how to use arms. The way to help Chavez is to wage an implacable struggle against the enemies of the revolution, to drive them from the positions of power they hold and prepare the way for a radical reorganization of society.

67) In other words, the key to success consists in developing and strengthening the independent movement of the working class, and above all by building the revolutionary Marxist wing of the movement. Our advice to the workers of Venezuela is: trust only in your own strength and in your own forces! Trust only in the revolutionary movement of the masses! That is the only force that can sweep aside all obstacles, defeat the counterrevolution and begin to take power into its own hands. That is the only guarantee of success.

68) . The reactionaries are now in a weak position, but a cornered animal can be dangerous. They are desperate, and this desperate mood of the opposition can lead to desperate methods. It is now quite clear that they are conspiring with Washington and its Colombian agents to assassinate Chavez and create chaos as the first step to a new coup. The greatest vigilance is required on the part of the mass movement to thwart the plans of the counterrevolution. Only decisive action by the masses can disarm the counterrevolution and render it harmless.

69) The only way to carry the revolution through to the end is from the bottom up. The most urgent task is the formation of action committees – committees for the defence of the revolution. But in the given situation, the committees must be armed. A people's militia is the slogan of the hour. The revolution can only defend itself against its enemies if it arms itself.

70) Chavez has called for the arming of the workers. He said: "Every fisherman, student, every member of the people, must learn how to use a rifle, because it is the concept of the armed people together with the National Armed Forces to defend the sovereignty of the sacred soil of Venezuela." This is a thousand times correct. A people that is not prepared to defend its freedom arms in hand does not deserve to be free. The general arming of the people is the sine qua non, not only for the defence of the revolution against internal and external enemies, but for carrying the revolution through to the end and defending the democratic rights of the people.

71) The words of President Chavez should immediately be translated into deeds. In view of the threat posed by the internal and external enemies of the Revolution, the government should set up special schools for the military training of the population. Competent officers loyal to the Revolution must provide the necessary training in the use of arms, tactics and strategy. The only way to answer the threat of aggression is by the formation of a mass people's militia. Every workers' district, every factory, every village, every school, must become a bulwark of the Revolution, prepared to fight.

72) The question of the state is the most fundamental question of all The President himself has complained about the systematic sabotage of the bureaucracy – the sabotage of parliament by the philibustering of the opposition, reactionary judges, policemen etc. How can the Revolution base itself on the old bureaucrats and functionaries inherited from the past? How can it place its trust in judges that were appointed by the old regime? How can the old state bureaucracy purge itself? No devil ever cut off its own claws! What is necessary is to take a big broom and sweep out all this rubbish. A new social order demands a new kind of administration – a genuinely democratic administration that comes from the people themselves and reflects their wishes and aspirations.

73) The government has carried out a partial purge of the state. That is positive, but it has not gone far enough. It is necessary to remove all the conservatives, all the open and hidden allies of the counterrevolution from positions of power and influence. All power must be in the hands of dedicated revolutionaries whose loyalty to the cause of the people is proven beyond question. A serious purge can only be carried out from below, by the masses themselves. The masses are impatient to act, to push aside all the obstacles that are preventing the Revolution from advancing and achieving all its aims. The key to success lies in developing and extending the mass movement and giving it an organized form.

74) The only way to carry the revolution forward is from the bottom up. The mass movement must be given an organised form and expression. This can only be done through the establishment of action committees, democratically elected in every workplace, workers' district, office, oil refinery and village. The committees must be linked up at all levels – locally, regionally and nationally. Only in this way can the basis be laid for a new power in society: workers' power.

75) The first task of the committees is to organise the struggle against the counterrevolution. They should patrol the workers' neighbourhoods, prevent crime and sabotage, arrest counterrevolutionaries and keep order. They should take over the control of transport and the supply of food and other basic necessities, control prices and root out speculation, corruption, profiteering and other abuses and ensure a fair distribution for all. In this way the masses can acquire experience in control, supervision, accounting and regulation, which will prepare them for bigger things when the time comes for them to participate in the running of society.

76) The Caracas Metropolitan Police and other police forces controlled by the opposition are known to be a centre of counterrevolutionary activity. They are operating as a state within the state, conducting provocations against the government, murdering people and causing chaos. This is completely intolerable. These reactionary forces must be disbanded and replaced by a popular militia under the control of the local revolutionary committees and the trade unions.

77) We stand for a genuine democracy – a workers' democracy, on the lines advocated by Lenin and put into practice by the Bolsheviks in 1917: a) free and democratic elections with right of recall of all state officials, b) a limitation on the salaries of officials, which should not be higher than that of a skilled worker; legitimate expenses can be paid, but must be open for inspection, c) the arming of the people, and the incorporation of the army into a popular militia, d) the involvement of the whole population in all the tasks of administration of industry, society and the state.

78) If the counterrevolution succeeds, the result will be a nightmare for the people of Venezuela. The smiling mask of "democracy" will immediately be discarded to reveal the ugly face of reaction. The bosses will be thirsting for revenge for all the defeats and humiliations they have suffered in recent years. They will want to teach the workers and the poor people a lesson they will never forget. They will exact a terrible revenge on the masses. They will crush the revolution in the dust, smash it utterly. This is a terrible prospect. But it is by no means inevitable. Everything depends on the working class and its leadership.

79) What is needed is a consistent revolutionary programme, based on scientific principles. That can only be provided by Marxism. To win this life and death struggle, sincerity and courage are not enough. Many times in history a brave army with many soldiers has been defeated by a smaller army of trained troops led by capable commanders. The role of a revolutionary Marxist party is analogous to that of trained troops and experienced commanders.

80) It is entirely false to counter pose the struggle for democracy and against imperialism to the struggle for socialism. The struggle for revolutionary democracy will only succeed to the degree that it becomes a struggle against the dictatorship of Capital. Therefore, the struggle for democracy, if it is to succeed, must lead directly to the struggle for workers' power and socialism. There is no "middle way" and all attempts to find a middle way will necessarily lead to disaster. They will end in the liquidation of the revolution and the total destruction of democracy in Venezuela.

81) There are some people who call themselves Marxists, but who have in practice completely abandoned the revolutionary standpoint of Marxism. Their "Marxism" is purely abstract and academic in character and bears no relation to the real world of the class struggle. They produce all kinds of "clever" and "intellectual" arguments to show that Venezuela is not ready for socialism, or that the time is not ripe (for such people the time is never right), and a hundred other arguments to persuade the workers not to try to take power. In reality, they have no faith in the working class or the revolution. They fear the counterrevolution, they fear imperialism, they fear the sound of their own voice, and they wish to transmit this fear to the workers.

82) In reality, the situation in Venezuela is completely mature for the transfer of power to the working class. The bourgeoisie has revealed its complete incapacity to rule. On the other hand, the revolution has not been carried out to the end. The only possible consequence of this is chaos. The revolution has advanced to a point where the normal function of capitalism is impossible. The capitalists withdraw their money and organise a strike of capital. Only the lucky accident of rising oil prices allows the government to maintain something like normal economic life. But this highly unstable situation cannot last. The struggle between the classes threatens to produce stagnation and collapse. It must be settled decisively in one sense or another.

83) The argument that Venezuela is not ready for socialism does not bear close examination. Venezuela is a potentially wealthy nation, with a superabundance of oil and other materials. The working class constitutes a decisive majority of society. The workers have demonstrated enormous courage, creativity and revolutionary spirit. They have shown their will to change society, and to take control of industry. What is required is a bold lead.

84) Opportunistic elements, masquerading under the name of socialism, maintain that the working class is not conscious enough to carry out the socialist transformation of society. This is merely the expression of the snobbism of middle class elements who have no knowledge of the working class or contact with it. All the experience of the working class struggle in Venezuela in the last few years demonstrates precisely the opposite. In so far as there is a problem of consciousness in the Venezuelan revolution, it is not a problem of the working class but of the leadership of the workers' movement which is lagging behind the class and failing to draw the necessary conclusions.

85) Behind the counterrevolution stands the might of US imperialism. The threads of all the intrigues, plots and conspiracies can be traced back to the US embassy and the CIA. US imperialism is irreconcilably opposed to the Bolivarian revolution because it has aroused the mass of poor and dispossessed people, giving them new hope and a sense of their own power and dignity. Washington is terrified because this is acting as a point of attraction and a beacon to the workers and peasants of all Latin America. They are determined to sabotage and crush the revolution.

86) The attitude of Washington was shown in the first coup, when the US government rushed with indecent haste to recognise the counterrevolutionary bandits. This exposed the lying hypocrisy of their arguments about "democracy". As always, the US imperialists only support "democracy" when it suits their interests. When they do not like the way the majority votes, they support counterrevolutionary coups and dictatorships. The fact that the coup in Caracas deposed a democratically elected government was only a small detail.

87) Everyone knows that the hand of Washington is behind every act of the counterrevolution in Venezuela. Even a blind man could see this. Yet there are still people who imagine that US imperialism will leave Venezuela alone if only the revolution is halted. This is the logic of a little child who hears noises at night and covers its head with a blanket. It imagines that if it is very quiet and closes its eyes, it will be out of danger. But adult people know that the way to confront danger is not by closing one's eyes.

88) Everyone agrees that imperialism is the most implacable enemy of the Bolivarian revolution. But what is imperialism? Imperialism is monopoly capitalism. It is a system of world relations based on the domination of the globe by a handful of big corporations, most of them based in the USA. The military activities of imperialism are only an expression of the interests of these big corporations. The headquarters of imperialism is in Washington, but it has its local office boys in Venezuela – the Venezuelan bankers and capitalists. The Venezuelan bourgeoisie dances to Washington's tune. A serious struggle against imperialism is therefore unthinkable without an implacable struggle against the bourgeoisie.

89) US imperialism is clearly preparing new attacks against the Venezuelan revolution. It is treacherously disseminating the lie that Venezuela is supporting the Columbian FARC guerrillas. This is a provocation that is intended to prepare the way for a future military intervention of the Columbian armed forces against Venezuela. The accusation that the Venezuelan government is guilty of supporting "narcoterrorism" is yet another indication that US imperialism is preparing to launch an armed aggression using the Colombian army and paramilitary groups. The recent declarations of the Colombian senate point unequivocally in the same direction. Now we have direct proof that the fascist thugs of the Columbian paramilitaries are already active on Venezuelan soil. They will be used as the shock troops of the counterrevolution. This perspective adds even greater urgency to the demand for the arming of the population.

90) In order to guarantee the future of the Venezuelan Revolution it is necessary to inflict a decisive defeat on the internal counterrevolution, to eliminate once and for all the Fifth Column that provides the US imperialists with a base for their operations against the Revolution, that is constantly involved in sabotage and is actively conspiring with foreign counterrevolutionary terrorists to plunge the country into chaos and bloodshed. It is necessary to carry through the Revolution to the end. That is the first step.

91) "But the Americans will invade!" our critics will exclaim. The logic of this argument is that if we do nothing, we will avoid the attacks of the counterrevolution and imperialism. The exact opposite is the case.

92) Naturally, we do not want a military conflict with either the USA or Colombia. But the way to avoid such a conflict is not to follow the advice of the reformists, but quite the opposite. The more decisive the attitude of the Venezuelan people, the more it shows that it is ready to fight, the less will be the appetite of US imperialism for a new military adventure. Conversely, the greater the vacillations, the more conciliatory the attitude, the greater will be the pressure of the warmongering faction in Bush's administration to intervene.

93) Despite its immense power, the room for manoeuvre of US imperialism is limited by the general world situation. It is bogged down in military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The mood of the masses in the USA is increasingly critical. Therefore, it is unlikely that it would contemplate a direct military intervention in Venezuela, even on the scale of its intervention in Haiti. It understands that Venezuela is not Haiti and it would be faced with massive resistance.

94) The power of US imperialism is vast, but it is not unlimited. In Iraq the American invaders are faced with a general uprising of the masses that they cannot defeat, despite all their tremendous military power. If they were faced with uprisings everywhere, they would not be able to intervene.

95) Napoleon stressed the vital importance of morale in war. It is not just a question of guns and military technology, but of the will to fight and win. The masses have already demonstrated that they are prepared to fight to defend the revolution. On two occasions they have defeated the counterrevolution. How much more enthusiastically would they fight once they had the power in their hands? Any attempt to stage an armed intervention against Venezuela would be met with strikes, demonstrations and uprisings. Iraq shows that it is impossible to hold down an entire people, when the people is armed and mobilised to fight. However, the best defence is an internationalist policy.

96) It is true that US imperialism has colossal power and reserves. But does the Venezuelan revolution have reserves? Yes, it has huge reserves of support in the mass of downtrodden and oppressed people in Latin America and the working class of the whole world. That is why an internationalist policy is essential. Having taken power in its hands the Venezuelan workers must make an appeal to the workers of the rest of the continent to follow their example.

97) Everywhere in Latin America there is poverty, hunger and despair. A revolutionary appeal would not fall on deaf ears. The imperialists and reactionaries would be paralysed if there was a general revolutionary movement. This would have serious repercussions inside the USA itself, where the mood of the masses is already changing as a result of Bush's Iraq adventure.

98) The Bolivarian revolution cannot succeed if it remains within the confines of capitalism. Nor can it maintain itself indefinitely within the narrow confines of the national state. The Bolivarian revolution can begin in Venezuela, but its ultimate triumph depends on the overthrow of the rule of the exploiters throughout Latin America and beyond.

99) The original vision of Bolivar – that great son of the Venezuelan people – was not a national revolution, but a revolution that would unite the peoples of all Latin America and the Caribbean. That was really the only way in which the continent could achieve genuine independence, freedom and prosperity. But Bolivar's vision was betrayed by the bourgeoisie and the Creole aristocracy. The greedy and corrupt oligarchies carried out the Balkanisation of Latin America, dividing it up into national states that often waged fratricidal wars for territory. This fatally weakened Latin America and brought it under the domination of imperialism, draining its resources, destroying its huge potential and reducing its people to misery and despair.

100) Today Bolivar's vision of a united Latin America retains all its vitality. It is the only way forward. But it can never be realised on the basis of capitalism. The bourgeoisie has had almost 200 years to show what it can do, and it has been exposed as bankrupt. Only the proletariat, in alliance with the peasants, the urban poor and all other exploited classes, can realise this perspective. In order to do this, it must expropriate the landlords and capitalists and create a Socialist Federation of Latin America.

101) By uniting the vast economic resources of Latin America in a common socialist plan of production, the enormous economic potential of the continent can be realised for the first time. Compared to this, the miserable little schemes of the bourgeoisie, such as Mercosur, will be exposed as insignificant tinkering. In the space of two five year plans, enough resources would be generated to completely transform the lives of millions of men, women and children. That is the perspective we hold out to the masses of Latin America. It is the only cause worth fighting for. Once the masses realise the potential, they will fight with tremendous energy. Faced with a general revolutionary upsurge all over Latin America, the US imperialists would be rendered impotent. If they are not able to hold down Iraq, much less would they be able to hold down the whole of Latin America. Instead of intervening, they would be faced with revolutionary movements at home.

102) Sceptics will say this is utopian. But what is really utopian is the notion that by showing "moderation" we can avoid counterrevolution. The conditions for socialist revolution have matured in Venezuela, and are maturing all over Latin America. What is required is a courageous leadership that accepts this and acts accordingly. Those self-styled "realists" who are trying to halt the revolution half way, irrespective of their subjective intentions, are playing the game of the counterrevolution. What they advocate is the worst kind of utopianism.

103) The whole logic of the situation is impelling the working class to take power into its hands. This task would, however, be immeasurably easier if there existed a powerful Marxist tendency in the Bolivarian Movement, impelling it in this direction. But the Movement remains confused, its programme unclear. This confusion must be cleared away as soon as possible and the objectives of the movement spelled out with utmost clarity.

104) The forces of Marxism exist, but they are still too weak to provide decisive leadership. The most urgent task is to overcome this weakness as quickly as possible and unite all the forces of genuine Marxism as the only consistently revolutionary wing of the Bolivarian Movement. The unification of EL Militante with El Topo Obrero marked an important step in this direction. But it is only the first step. Others must follow.

105) The greatest danger for the Venezuelan Marxists is impatience, sectarian and ultraleft moods. The revolutionary Marxist current is at present a minority of the mass movement. We cannot impose our solutions on it. We must resist the temptations to present it with ultimatums. We must be patient with the masses, working side by side with them to win their respect and confidence. Our slogan must be that of Lenin in 1917: Patiently explain!

106) We must constitute ourselves as an integral part of the mass movement – the extreme left wing of the Bolivarian Movement. "But that means sacrificing the independence of the Party", the sectarians will exclaim. In reality, the independence of the Marxist wing is a political, not an organizational, question. We must remain absolutely independent in our ideas, programme, policies and methods. But we must also fight to carry these ideas into the mass movement, to fertilise it with the ideas of Marxism and to fight to win the majority. Conditions are ripe, since the concrete experience of the mass of working people in the last few years is already pushing them to draw the most advanced conclusions.

107) The first task is to win the advanced workers and the youth, who are active in and around the revolutionary organisations (Bolivarian Circles, revolutionary assemblies, democratic unions, etc). First we must win the advanced elements, and then through them we can reach the masses. We say to the activists of the Movement: We Marxists are also part of the Movement. We are ready to work for it, to build it, to strengthen it and to fight together with you against our common enemies. We do not seek to impose our ideas. All we ask is the right to defend our independent class standpoint and fight for our ideas within the Movement.

108) There is no contradiction between building the Revolutionary Marxist Current and participating actively in the Bolivarian Movement. In reality, the two things are inseparable. The Marxists must work and fight shoulder to shoulder with the masses, pushing the movement forward, and explaining at every stage what is necessary for the movement to succeed.

109) The first condition for our success is the education of the cadres. The only thing that separates us from the rest of the movement, apart from being the most militant and revolutionary elements, is our serious attitude to theory and ideas. Marxism is scientific socialism and a scientific standpoint is absolutely necessary if the working class is to succeed. We have a clear understanding of events nationally and internationally, a coherent method and strategy. By contrast, all the other trends are characterised by confusion, lack of clarity, ambiguity and the complete absence of a coherent strategy. The consequences of this will be cruelly exposed as events unfold. The workers and youth will begin to understand through their own experience the superiority of Marxism.

110) Either the greatest of victories or the most terrible of defeats – that is the choice before the Venezuelan revolution.

Mexico City, May 20th, 2004