The Venezuelan Revolution at the crossroad
The Venezuelan revolution has been a source of inspiration for the workers, peasants and youth of all Latin America and on a world scale. The revolutionary masses have achieved miracles. But the Venezuelan revolution is not completed. It cannot be completed until it expropriates the oligarchy and nationalizes the land, the banks and the key industries that remain in private hands. After almost a decade this task has not been accomplished and this represents a threat to the future of the revolution.
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In essence this is a problem of leadership. Hugo Chávez has shown himself to be a fearless anti-imperialist fighter and a consistent democrat. But this is not enough. The Venezuelan oligarchy is bitterly opposed to the Revolution. Behind it stands the might of US imperialism. Sooner or later the Venezuelan revolution will be faced with the alternative: either, or. And just as the Cuban revolution was capable of carrying through the expropriation of landlordism and capitalism, so the Venezuelan revolution must find the necessary resolve to follow the same road. That is really the only way.
A pernicious role in all this is being played by the reformists, Stalinists and bureaucrats who have occupied key posts in the Bolivarian Movement and are striving to put the brakes on the Revolution, to paralyse it from within and to eliminate all elements of genuine socialism. These people are constantly telling Chávez not to go too fast, to be more moderate and not to touch the private property of the oligarchy. Ever since Chávez first raised the question of socialism in Venezuela the reformists and Stalinists have been concentrating all their energies on reversing the socialist direction of the Revolution, alleging that the nationalization of the land, banks and industries would be a disaster, that the masses are not mature enough for socialism, that the expropriation of the oligarchy would alienate the middle class and so on. The most consistent advocate and "theoretician" of this line of capitulation is Heinz Dieterich.
The Bolivarian Revolution is now at the crossroads. It has reached the critical point at which decisions will have to be made that will have a determining influence on the fate of the Revolution. The role of the leadership is of great importance. But here we find the greatest weakness. In the absence of a firm proletarian revolutionary leadership armed with the scientific ideas of Marxism, the lead has been taken by the Bolivarian Movement. This includes in its ranks millions of workers, peasants and revolutionary youths who are striving for socialism, but it lacks a clear, worked out programme, policy and strategy to carry out the aspirations of the masses.
In the absence of these key elements, the Movement comes under pressure from contradictory class forces, which are reflected in its ranks and especially in the leadership. This produces an unstable situation, with constant vacillations and hesitations. These contradictions, which at bottom express class contradictions, are reflected in the political evolution of Chávez himself. No unprejudiced observer can deny that over the past decade Hugo Chávez has evolved in a striking way. Starting out from the programme of the most advanced revolutionary democracy, he has come into conflict repeatedly with the Venezuelan landlords, bankers and capitalists, with the hierarchy of the Church and with US imperialism. In all these conflicts he has based himself on the masses of workers, peasants and poor people, which represent the genuine motor force of the Bolivarian Revolution, its only real base of support.
Time and time again the masses, showing an unerring revolutionary instinct, have defeated the forces of the counter-revolution. This fact engendered a dangerous illusion in the leadership and in the masses themselves, that the Revolution was some kind of triumphal march that would automatically sweep aside all obstacles. Instead of a scientific ideology and a consistent revolutionary policy, a kind of revolutionary fatalism gripped the minds of the leaders: that all was for the best in the best of all Bolivarian worlds. No matter what mistakes were made by the leadership, the masses would always respond, the counter-revolutionaries would be defeated and the Revolution would triumph. The corollary of this revolutionary fatalism was the idea that the Bolivarian Revolution has all the time in the world, that socialism will come eventually, even if we have to wait fifty or a hundred years.
It is ironic that this idea (more correctly, this prejudice) is held up by Dieterich and others as "new and original". In reality, it comes straight from the dustbin of discredited 19th century Liberalism. The bourgeoisie, at a time when it was still capable of playing a progressive role in developing the productive forces, believed in the inevitability of progress - that today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today. This idea (now completely abandoned by the bourgeoisie and its "postmodern" philosophers) was later taken over by the reformist leaders of the international workers' movement in the period of capitalist upswing before 1914. The reformist Social Democrats argued that revolution was no longer necessary; that slowly, gradually, peacefully, the Social Democracy would change society until one day socialism would arrive before anyone even realized it. These reformist illusions were shattered by the outbreak of the First World War and the Russian Revolution that followed it. Yet they are now fished out of the dustbin of history, dusted down and presented as the very last word in 21st century socialist "realism".
A further corollary is that the Bolivarian Revolution must confine itself to the narrow limits of bourgeois laws and constitutions. This is ironical, when the Venezuelan bourgeoisie has shown a complete disregard for all laws and constitutions. It has engaged in economic sabotage and constant conspiracies, it has boycotted elections and taken to the streets in violent protests; it has carried out a coup d'état against the democratically elected government and, had it not been for the revolutionary initiative of the masses in the streets, would have not hesitated to murder the President and institute a vicious dictatorship on the lines of Pinochet's Chile. All this is well known and does not need to be explained. In the defence of its class interests the bourgeoisie has shown no respect whatsoever for laws and constitutions. Yet the masses are expected to follow every dot and comma of the existing legislation and obey the "rules of the game", as if it were a game of chess or baseball. Unfortunately, the class struggle is not a game and it has no rules and no referee. The only rule is that in the end one class must win and the other must lose. And as the Romans used to say: Vae victis! (Woe to the defeated).
At first these methods appeared to work. For almost ten years the masses have loyally turned out at every referendum and election and voted overwhelmingly for Chávez. In so doing they were voting for socialism, for a fundamental change in the conditions of their lives. In the Presidential elections of December 2006 they gave him the biggest vote in the history of Venezuela. This was a mandate for change. But although some progressive measures were taken, including nationalizations, the pace of change was too slow to satisfy the masses' demands and aspirations. It would have been quite possible for the President to have introduced an Enabling Act in the National Assembly to nationalize the land, the banks and the key industries under workers' control and management. This would have broken the power of the Venezuelan oligarchy. Moreover, this could have been done quite legally by the democratically elected parliament, since in a democracy the elected representatives of the people are supposed to be sovereign. Let the lawyers squabble over this or that point. The people expect the government they have elected to act in their interests, and to act decisively.
Instead of decisive action against the oligarchy, which would have enthused and mobilized the masses, the latter were presented with yet another constitutional referendum. But how many referenda and elections are necessary to carry out what the masses want? The people are tired of so many elections, so many votes, so many empty speeches about socialism that present them with a beautiful picture that does not correspond with what they see every day. What do the masses see? After nearly a decade of struggle they see that the same rich and powerful people still own the land, the banks, the factories, the newspapers, the television. They see corrupt people in positions of power - governors, mayors, functionaries of the state and the Bolivarian Movement - yes, and in Miraflores also - who wear red shirts and talk about Socialism of the 21st Century, but who are careerists and bureaucrats who have nothing in common with socialism or revolution.
The masses see that no action is taken against corrupt officials who are lining their pockets and undermining the revolution from within. They see that no action is taken against the capitalists who are sabotaging the economy by refusing to invest in production and increasing prices. They see that no action is taken against the conspirators who overthrew the President in April 2002. They see landowners who murder peasant activists with impunity. They see that essential foods are scarce and they see government spokesmen denying that there are any problems. They see all these things and they ask themselves: is this what we voted for?
The fundamental strength of Hugo Chávez is that he has expressed the deeply felt aspirations of the masses. Anyone who has been present at a mass rally in Caracas has witnessed the electrifying chemistry that exists between the President and the masses. They feed off each other. The masses see their aspirations reflected in the speeches of the President, and the President goes further to the left on the basis of the reaction of the masses and in turn gives a fresh impulse to these aspirations. This "revolutionary chemistry" has been understood by the bourgeoisie, who are striving to break the link between Chávez and the masses. They have planned to assassinate the President, calculating that his disappearance will cause the Bolivarian Movement to fragment and disintegrate. They have organized a conspiracy in the upper layers of the Bolivarian Movement to replace him with a candidate who would be more "moderate" - that is to say, more amenable to the pressures of the bourgeoisie.
The main purpose of defeating the constitutional referendum was not at all to "prevent dictatorship" (none of the provisions of the reform could be interpreted in this sense) but to stop Chávez from standing again for the Presidency. This would open the way for the success of the conspiracy that is known as "Chavism without Chávez". It is well known that the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy has taken measures to isolate Chávez from the masses by creating an iron ring around the Palace of Miraflores. The threat of assassination is real and justifies tight security. But this can also be used as a pretext for secretaries to filter and censure, ensuring that only certain people have access to the President's office while others are excluded on political grounds. By these means the pressure of the masses and the left wing is reduced, while that from the bourgeois and the reformists is increased.
The narrow defeat in the constitutional referendum is being presented as a swing towards the "centre" - that is, to the right, and as proof that it is necessary to conciliate the middle class (that is, to capitulate to the bourgeoisie). This is the line that is being assiduously peddled by Dieterich and the reformists. If Chávez listens to them - and there are certain indications that he does - the revolution will be placed in extreme danger. The arguments of the reformists are false to the core. The opposition did not win the constitutional referendum: the Bolivarians lost it. After superhuman efforts, the opposition only increased its vote by about 200,000, whereas the chavista vote went down by about two million. That does not prove that there is a swing towards the "centre" but on the contrary, that there is a huge and growing polarization between the classes. It also shows that there are elements of tiredness and disillusionment in the masses who are the base of the Bolivarian Movement.
The defeat of the constitutional referendum was a warning that the masses are becoming weary of a situation where the endless talk about socialism and revolution has not led to a fundamental change in the conditions of their lives. The masses have been very patient, but their patience is being exhausted. The idea that they will always follow the leaders - that false and dangerous idea of revolutionary fatalism - stands exposed as completely hollow. Dieterich argues that the constitutional referendum was lost because Chávez tried to go too far too fast. On the contrary! It is the slow pace of the Revolution that is causing disillusionment in a growing layer of the masses. For them, the problem is not that it has gone too far too fast, but that it has gone too slowly and not far enough.
If this disillusionment of the masses continues, it will lead to apathy and despair. The time has come to turn the words into action, to take decisive measures to disarm the counter-revolution and expropriate the oligarchy. Failure to do this will prepare a counter-offensive of the forces of reaction that can undermine the revolution and prepare for a serious defeat. Is defeat inevitable? No, of course it is not. The Revolution can be victorious, but only on condition that the reformist wing is exposed and defeated politically. The Movement must be purged of bureaucrats, careerists and bourgeois elements and stand firmly on a socialist programme. On that condition it can succeed, otherwise no.
A peculiar variant of Permanent Revolution
The theory of the Permanent Revolution was first developed by Trotsky as early as 1904. The Permanent Revolution, while accepting that the objective tasks facing the Russian workers were those of the bourgeois democratic revolution, nevertheless explained how, in a backward country in the epoch of imperialism, the national bourgeoisie was inseparably linked to the remains of feudalism on the one hand and to imperialist capital on the other and was therefore completely unable to carry through any of its historical tasks. The rottenness of the bourgeois liberals, and their counterrevolutionary role in the bourgeois-democratic revolution, was already observed by Marx and Engels in 1848 and has been repeatedly confirmed by the experience of the colonial revolution for the past 100 years.
The situation is clearer still today. The national bourgeoisie in the colonial countries entered into the scene of history too late, when the world had already been divided up between a few imperialist powers. It was not able to play any progressive role and was born completely subordinated to its former colonial masters. The weak and degenerate bourgeoisie in Asia, Latin America and Africa is too dependent on foreign capital and imperialism, to carry society forward. It is tied with a thousand threads, not only to foreign capital, but to the class of landowners, with which it forms a reactionary bloc that represents a bulwark against progress. Whatever differences may exist between these elements are insignificant in comparison with the fear that unites them against the masses. Only the proletariat, allied with the poor peasants and urban poor, can solve the problems of society by taking power into its own hands, expropriating the imperialists and the bourgeoisie, and beginning the task of transforming society on socialist lines.
By setting itself at the head of the nation, leading the oppressed layers of society (urban and rural petty-bourgeoisie), the proletariat could take power and then carry through the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution (mainly the land reform and the unification and liberation of the country from foreign domination). However, once having come to power, the proletariat would not stop there but would start to implement socialist measures of expropriation of the capitalists. And as these tasks cannot be solved in one country alone, especially not in a backward country, this would be the beginning of the world revolution. Thus the revolution is "permanent" in two senses: because it starts with the bourgeois tasks and continues with the socialist ones, and because it starts in one country and continues at an international level.
In Venezuela Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution is being expressed in a peculiar way. Chávez first came to power on the programme of the bourgeois-democratic (or, more accurately, national-democratic) revolution. He did not propose to go beyond the limits of capitalism. But experience has demonstrated that it is impossible to carry out the tasks of the national democratic revolution on the basis of capitalism. Hugo Chávez has learnt many lessons from the living experience of the Bolivarian Revolution. Beginning as a revolutionary democrat, he has drawn the conclusion that in order to achieve its objectives the revolution must go beyond the bounds of capitalism. This means it is necessary to expropriate the bourgeoisie and move towards socialism. No other solution is possible.
The masses are the motor force of the process. All the attempts of the oligarchy and Washington to overthrow Chávez by a direct assault have failed. The reaction cannot overthrow Chávez - at this stage. But this situation cannot continue indefinitely. It is a struggle in which one side or another must win. The constitutional referendum of December 2007 was a serious warning. The Achilles' heel of the Revolution is the weakness of the leadership. The Bolivarian movement is a heterogeneous and confused movement, which reflects in its ranks the extreme polarization of class forces in society. Chávez, with the support of the masses, was moving to expropriate the landlords and capitalists. Imperialism is leaning on the right wing chavistas. At the top, there are lots of reactionary, counter-revolutionary elements. This means that there is a division along class lines of the Bolivarian movement.
The Revolution cannot stop halfway!
In order to achieve the objective of socialism what is needed is not a "Historical Project" as advocated by the utopian reformist Dieterich, but a revolutionary programme that links the struggle for the immediate demands of the masses with the perspective of the socialist transformation of society: that is to say: a transitional programme. In his weekly TV programme Aló Presidente, broadcast on Sunday April 22, 2007, President Chávez advised all Venezuelans to read and study the writings of Leon Trotsky, and commented favourably on The Transitional Programme, which was written by Trotsky for the founding congress of the Fourth International in 1938.
Responding to a call from a listener of the programme, Chávez explained that he had recently read the pamphlet, which he said was "worth its weight in gold" and added: "I cannot be classified as a Trotskyist, no, but I tend towards that, because I respect very much the thoughts of Leon Trotsky, and the more I respect him the more I understand him better. The Permanent Revolution for instance, is an extremely important thesis. We must read, we must study, all of us, nobody here can think he already knows", he stressed.
Chávez underlined Trotsky's idea about the conditions for socialism being ripe and said that this is certainly the case in Venezuela. President Chávez said he had been struck by Trotsky's statement that in Europe and other countries, the conditions for proletarian revolution were not only ripe but had started to rot. "This expression struck me in a powerful way, Maria Cristina [Minister of Popular Power for Light Industry and Commerce], because I had never read it before, what this means is that the conditions can be there, but if we do not see them, if we do not understand them, if we are not able to seize the moment they start to rot, like any other product of the Earth, a mango, etc."
That is absolutely correct. At present the objective conditions for socialist revolution in Venezuela are extremely favourable. But that will not last forever. Venezuela has not yet broken with capitalism but stands in an uneasy halfway position. There are great dangers in this. It is impossible to make half a revolution. The danger is that, by introducing some measures of nationalization and other progressive reforms, Chávez will make the operation of capitalism impossible, without having put in place the necessary mechanisms of planning and control that are the prior conditions for a socialist planned economy.
In the same speech Chávez referred also to the central thesis of Trotsky's Transitional Programme, when he explained that "the historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership." "Then", Chávez continued, "Trotsky points out something which is extremely important, and he says that [the conditions for proletarian revolution] are starting to rot, not because of the workers, but because of the leadership which did not see, which did not know, which was cowardly, which subordinated itself to the mandates of capitalism, of the great bourgeois democracies, the trade unions. Well, they became adapted to the system, the big Communist parties, the Communist International became adapted to the system, and then no one was able to take advantage, because of the lack of a leadership, of an intelligent, audacious and timely leadership to orient the popular offensive in those conditions. And then the Second World War came and we know what happened, and after the Second World War, and then the century ended with the fall of the Soviet Union and the fall of the so-called real-existing socialism".
This is a world apart from those who argue that there cannot be socialism in Venezuela because the level of consciousness of the workers "is not high enough". And, surprising though this might be, there are people even in Venezuela who argue precisely this. One of them is Heinz Dieterich, whose opinions are by now well known to us. But Dieterich is not alone. Chávez's words are also an attack against the Stalinist leaders of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) who have refused to join the new United Socialist Party. The PCV is a party that contains many honest and courageous working class militants, but the leadership has played a lamentable role during the Bolivarian revolution. Instead of being a vanguard party, arguing from the beginning that socialism was the only way forward, they did precisely the opposite. They spent the first years of the revolution arguing strenuously that the Venezuelan revolution was just in its "anti-imperialist democratic phase" and that socialism was not on the agenda. Only when Chávez spoke about socialism did the PCV dare mention the S word. And even now, they are still insisting that the current "stage" is that of "national liberation", one which demands a "many sided alliance of classes and social layers, including the non-monopolistic bourgeoisie"!!! 
Since Chávez started talking about socialism in January 2005, this has become a major subject of debate throughout Venezuela. Chávez's statement that under capitalism there was no solution for the problems of the masses and that the road forward was socialism represented a major step forward in his political development. He had started trying to reform the system and to give the masses of the Venezuelan poor decent health and education services and land, and he had realised through his own experience and reading that this was not possible under capitalism. But as soon as he mentioned socialism the reformists, bureaucrats and counter-revolutionary infiltrators within the Bolivarian movement panicked. They could not openly and publicly contradict the President because his words connected with the feelings and aspirations of the masses. Rather, they tried to water down the content of what he had said.
Chief amongst these is Heinz Dieterich who has tried to develop a "theoretical" justification against socialism, but dressing it in the robes of "Socialism of the 21st Century". Basically, he argues, socialism does not mean the expropriation of the means of production, but rather a mixed economy. That is to say, socialism, for Dieterich, really means ... capitalism. Like a magician, Dieterich thinks he can take Chávez's declaration in favour of socialism, put it in a hat, and pull out a capitalist rabbit.
Chávez in the first few months of 2007 expressed his increasingly impatience at the delaying tactics of the bureaucracy and the counter-revolution within the movement. In his comments about Trotsky he stressed: "Well, here the conditions are given, I think that this thought or reflection of Trotsky is useful for the moment we are living through, here the conditions are given, in Venezuela and Latin America, I am not going to comment on Europe now, nor on Asia, there the reality is another, another rhythm, another dynamic, but in Latin America conditions are given, and in Venezuela this is a matter of course, to carry out a genuine revolution". What a difference from the reformists and the Stalinists, who, even in present day Venezuela, still argue that the conditions are not ripe for revolution!
Dieterich and the Bolivarian Revolution
Now let us compare all this to the ideas put forward by comrade Dieterich. In the interview published in Rebelión (2/1/07) we read:
"Q. Do conditions for implementing Socialism of the 21st Century exist in Venezuela?
"A. Yes, now indeed they do. I mention only some. Two thirds of the population voted for the President with full knowledge of his banner of Socialism of the 21st Century. This is a substantial mandate of citizens. The advance of the educational and economic system and of the consciousness of the people has been remarkable. Latin American integration and the destruction of the Monroe Doctrine seem already unstoppable. The Armed Forces now are reliable, and three key sectors of the national economy are in the hands of the government: the state, PDVSA-CVG, and more than one hundred thousand cooperatives."
So far good, or so it seems. However, in an interview in Junge Welt, he says precisely the opposite. Evidently, when he says that conditions for implementing socialism exist in Venezuela, he means that they exist for his reformist tinkering, which does not threaten the rule of Capital in the slightest. And he delivers a stern warning: "Every other attempt to make steps toward socialism under today's conditions would lead rapidly to the collapse of the system because there is no basis of power from which to execute it." 
Dieterich now proceeds to list the factors that allegedly render impossible the socialist transformation of society in Venezuela: "The bourgeois state has not been destroyed, it has merely reorganized itself into a new way of governing. The church has not lost its influence. Eighty percent of the mass media are in the hands of large companies opposed to the government. Also, the kind of correlation of power that would allow for a repetition of what happened in Cuba or the Soviet Union is lacking."
If the bourgeois state is not yet destroyed, the task is to destroy it and rebuild it from the bottom up. And if eighty percent of the mass media are in the hands of large companies opposed to the government, then it is high time that this unacceptable situation was ended. The large companies should be expropriated, and the mass media should be taken out of their hand and placed in the hands of the people.
But that would be totalitarianism, our friend will exclaim. Not at all, we reply. Once the press is nationalized, we can guarantee access to the newspapers, radio and television to all parties and mass organizations, trade unions, co-operatives, etc., in proportion to their actual specific weight in society. On that basis, the different tendencies in the Bolivarian and workers' and peasants' movement would have several daily papers and television channels, and the present owners of the privately owned media can have the same right we now enjoy - to sell small duplicated newssheets and bulletins on the street corner advocating the joys of capitalism to anybody that wants to listen. Solon of Athens long ago answered the legalistic arguments of the reformists when he said: "The law is like a spider's web: the small are caught and the great tear it up." It is useless reading the oligarchy and imperialism lessons on morality and law.
The song that Dieterich sings all the time is very familiar to us. We have heard it many times before. We know the tune and we know the words too. The Mensheviks sang them long before 1917, only the Mensheviks sang far better than Dieterich does. They did their best to persuade the Russian workers and peasants that they could not take power. There were no conditions for it, you see! And in truth, the conditions in Russia in 1917 were a thousand times more difficult than in Venezuela at the present time. Nevertheless, the Russian workers and peasants, under the leadership of the party of Lenin and Trotsky, brushed the reformists to one side and took power in the October Revolution.
Once again the NEP
Heinz insists that the Venezuelan Revolution cannot go further than the NEP in Russia, which he completely misrepresents, as we have already explained. He says: "The new economic policy must be arranged in such a way that the social sectors that until now have been sidelined are strengthened: small farmers, industrial workers, small businesses. Naturally, that does not lead automatically to socialism. But a parallel development is made by devising structures for an economy of equivalence. That's the decisive difference." 
The whole point about it is that what our Professor advocates is naturally that it will not, cannot and must not lead (the word "automatically" is added to confuse the issue) to socialism. What will it lead to, then? To "a parallel development [...] made by devising structures for an economy of equivalence". What this means is anybody's guess! The words are plainly printed on the page, but nobody can say what they are saying.
What is an "economy of equivalence"? It is something that is quite unknown in all of Marxist literature (or, for that matter, non-Marxist literature). It is a strange creature that is neither capitalism not socialism, nor anything in between. In fact, it is a product of the ever-inventive brain of Comrade Dieterich, who has simply sucked it out of his thumb in order to confuse the issue. Dieterich says: "It's not going to be a matter of making a democratic revolution first and following it sometime later with a socialist revolution. It's a matter of doing both at the same time along parallel paths. That is the new, Latin American solution: safeguard against the Monroe Doctrine for survival while introducing socialist development.
"In other revolutions, how was the step toward socialism taken? Lenin defined different requirements for different times. First, there was electrification. That meant the insight that the objective conditions for socialism did not exist - they could be only created. That allowed for the collectivization of agriculture. The whole movement of farm collectives was a result of the political necessity, for the future of the revolution, of bringing under party control the potential within the population of making a decision for it. That was the deciding factor. And Lenin realized, of course, that the Soviet Union would remain bourgeois in the medium term if the peasants were not brought under the ideological direction of the party and the workers." 
This presentation is completely dishonest. First, Dieterich confuses Lenin's ideas about building socialism with his position on socialist revolution. The two things are entirely different. Elsewhere he writes: "In my view, one can only do today in Venezuela what Lenin did in the New Economic Policy. Every other attempt to make steps toward socialism under today's conditions would lead rapidly to the collapse of the system because there is no basis of power from which to execute it." 
There is a small difference between the NEP in Soviet Russia and the present situation in Venezuela. In Russia the working class had already taken power. They had destroyed the old capitalist state and established workers' soviet power. The Bolsheviks stood at the helm of the workers' state and the land, the banks and the main industries were nationalized. Under such conditions, the fundamental gains of the October Revolution were in safe hands and it was possible to make certain concessions to foreign capitalists without endangering the soviet power. Lenin offered concessions to foreign investors in Russia.
This was both correct and necessary. The Bolsheviks did not have the economic or technological means of developing the vast mineral wealth of Siberia. It was correct to offer concessions to foreign companies to do this. On condition that they obeyed labour Soviet laws and paid taxes to the state, they could make big profits. But the state maintained a monopoly of foreign trade. Maybe Heinz has forgotten this "little detail", maybe he never knew, or maybe he chooses not to remember. Either way, his reference to the NEP in Russia is completely out of place and misleading.
If Dieterich is in favour of Lenin's NEP, we assume that he is also in favour of the working class taking power in Venezuela, expropriating the bourgeoisie and taking over the commanding heights of the economy? Under such circumstances and only under such circumstances would it be correct to talk about a NEP policy. However, when Dieterich speaks of a mixed economy he is talking about something entirely different. He is opposed to the expropriation of the banks and big industries in Venezuela (except PDVSA, which is nationalized already). That is to say, he is in favour of leaving intact the economic power of the oligarchy, confining the "socialist" element in the economy to the small businesses that are run as co-operatives.
By "mixed economy" he does not mean a socialist economy, where the bulk of the economy is in the hands of the state (and the state is in the hands of the workers) and there is a small private sector consisting mainly of small businesses. He means a capitalist economy, in which most of the key sectors of the economy are in the hands of the landowners, bankers and capitalists, and a minority, consisting mainly of small businesses are run as co-operatives. That is, he advocates a system that is the precise opposite of Lenin's NEP.
The role of the masses
The key to the success of the Bolivarian Revolution is the active participation of the masses. The Revolution will stand or fall depending whether the masses seize the initiative and the workers succeed in placing themselves at the head of the nation. The movement from below is gathering strength by the day, even by the hour. The workers are moving to take over the factories under the banner of Freteco. The peasants are moving to take over the land under the banner of the Ezequiel Zamora Peasants' Front. The idea of workers' control is gaining ground. The debate on socialism has penetrated every layer of society. There is a revolutionary ferment at every level.
Despite all this, comrade Dieterich does not want to see the real revolutionary movement of the masses and so he denies its existence. He behaves like Admiral Nelson, who looked through his telescope with his blind eye in order not to see a signal that was disagreeable to him. Dieterich has absolutely no confidence in the revolutionary potential of the masses. They do not figure as an independent creative force in his New Historical Project. This is the precise opposite of the view of Marx who said that the task of the emancipation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves. In the Preface to his masterpiece of historical materialism The History of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky describes the fundamental mechanics of revolution in the following way:
"The most indubitable feature of a revolution is the direct interference of the masses in historical events. In ordinary times the state, be it monarchical or democratic, elevates itself above the nation, and history is made by specialists in that line of business - kings, ministers, bureaucrats, parliamentarians, journalists. But at those crucial moments when the old order becomes no longer endurable to the masses, they break over the barriers excluding them from the political arena, sweep aside their traditional representatives, and create by their own interference the initial groundwork for a new régime. Whether this is good or bad we leave to the judgement of moralists. We ourselves will take the facts as they are given by the objective course of development. The history of a revolution is for us first of all a history of the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny." 
In normal periods the masses do not participate in politics. The conditions of life under capitalism place insurmountable barriers in their way: the long hours of labour, physical and mental tiredness, etc. Normally, people are content to leave the decisions affecting their lives to someone else: the local councillor, the professional politicians, the trade union official, etc. However, at certain critical moments, the masses burst onto the scene of history, take their lives and destinies into their hands and become transformed from passive agents into the protagonists of the historical process. One would have to be particularly blind or obtuse not to see that this is precisely the situation that now exists in Venezuela. In recent years, but especially since the attempted coup of April 2002, millions of workers and peasants have been on the move, fighting to change society. The masses, whether in Venezuela or any other country, can only learn from their experience. The working class has to go through the experience of the revolution in order to distinguish between the different tendencies, programmes and leaders. It learns by a method of successive approximations.
Trotsky explains: "The different stages of a revolutionary process, certified by a change of parties in which the more extreme always supersedes the less, express the growing pressure to the left of the masses - so long as the swing of the movement does not run into objective obstacles. When it does, there begins a reaction: disappointments of the different layers of the revolutionary class, growth of indifferentism, and therewith a strengthening of the position of the counter-revolutionary forces. Such, at least, is the general outline of the old revolutions. [...]"
"Only on the basis of a study of political processes in the masses themselves, can we understand the role of parties and leaders, whom we least of all are inclined to ignore. They constitute not an independent, but nevertheless a very important, element in the process. Without a guiding organisation, the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston-box. But nevertheless what moves things is not the piston or the box, but the steam." 
These remarks exactly fit the situation in Venezuela. It is impossible to understand the process by confining oneself to an analysis of the leaders, their class origins, statements and programmes. This is really like the froth on the waves of the ocean, which are only a superficial reflection of the profound currents beneath the surface. The trouble with Dieterich is that he is completely incapable of understanding that the fundamental motor-force of the Venezuelan revolution is the masses. The self-movement of the masses, the masses as a creative force, as the motor-force of the revolution, this is something that our Heinz is also unable to accept. In common with all the other intellectual snobs who inhabit the stuffy world of university "Left" circles, he has a profound contempt for the masses, who he sees exclusively in terms of the "poor suffering people" who the "educated" ladies and gentlemen of the universities are destined to save from their own ignorance.
No serious person can deny that it was the millions of ordinary workers, peasants and urban poor, who at every decisive stage have saved the revolution and pushed it forward. The conduct of the Venezuelan workers and peasants over the last decade has been exemplary and has shown a very high level of revolutionary consciousness. It is true that if the masses had had the guidance of a genuine mass Marxist party, the process would have been far easier, and probably would have already ended in triumph. But what is really astonishing is how far the masses have gone even without the guiding hand of a Marxist party. The formation of the PSUV was a big step forward but in itself it is not enough. The Party must be armed with a scientific theory, a policy and a programme for changing society. The need for Marxist theory has never been more urgent. In a revolution there is no time to play games or indulge in utopian experiments of the Dieterich type. There is no time to learn by trial and error, because in a revolution an error can have the most serious consequences.
Those who deny the need for revolutionary theory argue that the masses can learn everything they need to know form their own experience, without the aid of parties or leaders. This idea is perfectly childish. If your bathroom needs fixing you call for the aid of a plumber. What would you think of a plumber who tells you that he has never fixed a tap and has never studied plumbing but is quite sure that he can solve the problem by trial and error? What would you think of a dentist who, when you arrive with toothache calmly informs you that he has never extracted a tooth or studied dentistry but is quite willing to experiment on you anyway? No sensible person would allow such a dentist anywhere near his mouth. Yet it seems that revolutions, where there is much more at stake than a bad molar, can be approached in an utterly frivolous manner. This is a recipe for disaster.
Theory occupies a place in revolutions that military strategy occupies in war. A mistaken strategy in war will lead inevitably to mistakes in tactics and practical operations. It will undermine the morale of the troops and lead to all kinds of blunders, defeats and unnecessary loss of life. It is the same in a revolution. Mistakes in theory will sooner or later be reflected in mistakes in practice. A mistake in everyday life can often be rectified. Everyday mistakes are not usually matters of life and death. But revolutions are life and death struggles and mistakes can be paid for very dearly. Consequently, serious revolutionaries must pay serious attention to theory. They must make a careful study of past revolutions and draw the necessary lessons and conclusions from them. An arrogant attitude that says: "I have nothing to learn from revolutions of the past in other countries" is completely out of place. Likewise, the idea put forward by people like Heinz Dieterich that it is necessary to discard the "old" ideas of Marx and Lenin and look for an entirely new and original theory of "21st Century Socialism" is entirely false and harmful.
The fact is that under the influence of the "new and original ideas" of the reformists many mistakes have already been made in Venezuela. Many good opportunities have been lost. When the masses defeated the coup in April 2002, the counter-revolutionary forces were demoralized and in a state of disarray. It would have been possible at that time to carry through a peaceful socialist transformation of society. The oligarchy was powerless and there was no force that could have prevented it. But the opportunity was lost. The counter-revolutionaries were allowed to regroup for a new offensive - the bosses' economic sabotage - a few months later.
To this day, incredibly, there is not one of the conspirators in prison. In order to succeed the Bolivarian Revolution must be armed. But the first weapons that are needed are ideas - correct, scientific, revolutionary ideas that really correspond to the situation and the needs of the masses. Marx himself said that ideas become a material force when they grip the minds of the masses. And the only really consistent revolutionary ideas are the ideas of Marxism. It is absolutely imperative that the workers and youth of Venezuela, starting with the activists, the proletarian vanguard, should thoroughly acquaint themselves with these marvellous ideas. They are like a compass that points unerringly to the victory of the socialist revolution.
The role of the working class
Heinz Dieterich completely ignores the class composition of society and the class struggle, which he proposes to abolish altogether through the application of the economics of equivalence and other "new and original" ideas. Why does Dieterich refer only to "majorities" or the "the marginalized people of humanity" ("los marginados de la humanidad") in the context of the struggle against capitalism? It is well known that Marx and Lenin considered that the working class was the main force that would carry out the socialist revolution, in alliance with their natural allies, the poor peasants. Were they wrong? If so, why were they wrong? And who are these "marginalised people of humanity" to whom Dieterich refers? He does not say, so we are left looking for - an interpreter.
The Marxist point of view is entirely different to the sentimental and utopian concept of Dieterich. Why did Marx base himself on the proletariat and not the students, the intellectuals or the lumpenproletariat? It was not for any arbitrary reasons but because of the special role of the proletariat in production and the consequent reflection of this in class consciousness. Marxists analyze the different classes and layers in society and explain their relation towards the ruling class and towards each other. This is ultimately determined by their role in production. There is a minority of exploiters who own and control the means of production, and there is the working class, which creates the wealth of society through its labour. There are many sub-divisions but these are the two fundamental classes in society. If we ignore this fact, or try to blur the boundaries of classes by referring to unspecified "majorities", we immediately abandon scientific socialism and enter the realm of mystification and confusion. These are, in fact, the most characteristic feature of Dieterich's version of "21st Century Socialism".
The leading role of the proletariat in the revolution flows from the role of the workers in production, and the fact that participation in collective (social) production means that the working class develops a socialist (collectivist) consciousness. This is not the case with any other class. Through his or her life's experience, the proletarian learns to understand collective organization and discipline. This is the result of the hard school of capitalist production and exploitation, which prepares the worker for the class struggle. The working class and the bourgeoisie are two relatively homogeneous classes. They constitute two opposing poles, standing in a position of mutually exclusive antagonism. There may be periods of truce between them, but sooner or later the class struggle between wage labour and Capital breaks out anew, assuming a greater or lesser degree of intensity.
The normal weapons of the proletariat are the methods of mass struggle - the strike, the general strike, mass demonstrations, which act as a school that prepare it for the ultimate task of taking the running of society into its hands. The workers' movement everywhere is a school of democracy. Before the workers decide to strike, there is a democratic discussion in which opinions for and against are heard. But once the vote is taken, the workers act as one. Those who attempt to defy the democratic decision of the workers and break the strike are treated as scabs ought to be treated. The picket line is the concrete expression of the will of the majority.
In the course of a strike, the workers participate, think and discuss. Every worker knows that you learn more during one day on strike than in years of "normal" activity. In effect, every strike contains elements of a revolution, and a revolution is like a strike on a vast scale. Many of the processes that occur in the class are analogous, although the two are qualitatively different of course. But in both cases the key element is the active and conscious participation of the working class, which begins to take its destiny into its own hands instead of leaving the important decisions in the hands of other people. This is the essence of socialism, or, more correctly, of workers' power.
The question that is never answered seriously by Dieterich is this: how does the capitalist class, which is a small minority, manage to maintain its domination over the "majorities"? He cannot answer this question because he has not understood the class nature of society. His unscientific definition of dividing society into two abstract categories with no concrete content makes it impossible to understand the real class dynamics of bourgeois society. It would be impossible for the bourgeoisie to stay in power for a day unless it had the support of other groups within society.
Between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie there are other classes and sub-classes that provide the bourgeoisie with the support it needs to keep in power. There are millions of sub-exploiters and sub-sub-exploiters, without whose support the bourgeois parties would never win an election. There are small proprietors, small businessmen, small shopkeepers, professional people, lawyers, judges, civil servants and university professors. Then there are the self-employed "autonomous" people. Lastly, at the bottom of the pile, there is the lumpenproletariat, the declassed elements, beggars, criminals and so on.
So we see that on closer inspection, Heinz Dieterich's "majorities" are a very mixed bunch indeed. Moreover, the class composition in a country like Venezuela is far more complicated and varied than, for example, France, the USA or Japan. In particular, the peasantry plays a very important role. As in Russia in 1917, it would be impossible for the workers to take power without allies, and the natural allies of the working class are the poor peasants. Formally, the peasantry is a class of small proprietors. In Russia the landless peasants, who fought on the side of the Bolsheviks in 1917, nevertheless lacked a socialist consciousness. They aspired to the possession of land, that is to say, they aspired to transform themselves into small landed proprietors. The slogan "land to the tiller", despite its tremendous revolutionary significance, had a bourgeois, not a socialist, content. That was expressed after the Bolsheviks came to power.
However, there is nothing to say that the peasants cannot adopt a socialist standpoint. In the Spanish revolution of the 1930s, the peasants of Catalonia, Aragon and Andalusia took over the big estates of the landlords and ran them as collectives under democratic control. In Venezuela today the peasantry is a minority and does not have the same specific gravity as the peasantry in tsarist Russia, which was the overwhelming majority of society. But the struggle of the Venezuelan peasants against the big landowners - a key part of the oligarchy - is a very important part of the revolution.
The landless peasants are really rural proletarians. In the struggle for socialism they will stand firmly on the side of the working class. They have displayed a similarly high revolutionary class-consciousness. Under the leadership of organizations like the Ezequiel Zamora National Peasant Front, the peasants are fighting for the expropriation of the big estates and their conversion into collective property, administered by the agricultural workers themselves. That is the only correct programme for the Venezuelan peasantry, which, together with the urban working class, will fight for the nationalization of the land, and the expropriation of the oligarchy.
However, in the last analysis the fate of the Venezuelan Revolution will be decided in the towns and cities, where between 85 and 90 percent of the population lives. The working class must place itself at the head of all the other oppressed classes: the peasants and the urban poor, the unemployed, street vendors and shanty-town dwellers, the natural allies of the proletariat, who have also shown a tremendous revolutionary spirit. These are the real living forces in Venezuelan society. A fighting alliance between these classes, which will draw behind them the lower layers of the middle class, the small shopkeepers, etc., will mobilize the vast majority of the population and wield them into an irresistible force that will sweep everything before it.
How not to win the middle class
An argument often used by Dieterich and other 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 counter-revolution.
Using their economic power and their control of the mass media, the exploiting classes have mobilized the mass of middle class Venezuelans to oppose the revolution. Under the false flag of democracy they have organized 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.
However, as we have explained, 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.
A section of the opposition consists of people who have been deceived by the counter-revolutionaries. 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. In an interview published in Rebelión on 25 April 2004, entitled "Without the support of the middle class the process can be defeated", he was asked why the opposition in Venezuela was so violent. Dieterich replies:
"I believe that there is such virulence and we have lost a lot of the capital we had before, because we have not managed to convince the middle class and the petty bourgeoisie (sic) that the process is not their enemy. Lately the idea has been introduced that the workers are the subject of the transformation, which, in my opinion, means we are once again repeating the mistake of exclusive language." (My emphasis, AW.)
For this university professor, it is all a question of language. If only Chávez moderated his language and started to appear a bit more moderate, this would calm the nerves of the middle class and they would immediately leave the opposition and flock to the banner of Bolivarianism in droves. If only it were so simple! But let us begin by agreeing with Heinz on at least something. We agree that it is necessary to appeal to the middle class (which, by the way, is exactly the same as the petty bourgeoisie) and try to win at least part of them to the side of the revolution. The question is: how is this to be done? In an interview in Junge Welt, he says:
"The seizure of power to a large extent succeeded, though not as decisively as we wish. The question is whether we will be more successful in the formative stage than the Soviet Union and China, or whether we will also fail. We have one advantage over both of these historical examples: we are clear today about what a non-market economy is, and we have technical capacities that did not exist in the other two examples. For that reason I would say that today, for the first time, the objective conditions exist that can be used to convert this transition phase into a decision for socialism.
"But in any case it must all be done democratically. If at some point the people say, ‘We have reached the level of development of Costa Rica and that's good enough for us, we don't want any socialist experiments in Venezuela,' then there is nothing to be done. Democracy means that the majority rules. If the majority is satisfied with quasi-first world social conditions and does not wish to go any farther, socialism cannot be imposed." (My emphasis, AW.)
Comrade Dieterich says that socialism cannot be imposed but must be "done democratically". What is this supposed to mean? The majority in Venezuela are the mass of workers, peasants and poor people who are the basis of the Bolivarian movement and have voted massively in favour of Chávez and socialism. There is therefore no question of "imposing" socialism as far as the masses are concerned. Those who oppose socialism and loudly complain of impositions and dictatorship are a minority - the tiny minority of exploiters who have mobilised a section of the middle class to fight against the democratically elected government on the streets. In Venezuela it is only the middle class (and not all of them) who can enjoy "quasi-first world social conditions" and therefore does not wish to go any farther. In the same social category we must also include a large part of the Bolivarian bureaucracy, who enjoy a privileged position and secretly sympathise with the opposition.
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.
It is logical that those sections of society with something to lose should oppose socialism and demand that the Bolivarian revolution be halted. But they are not the majority but only a minority. Democracy is the rule of the majority and the minority must accept the decision of the majority. Yet Heinz Dieterich has repeatedly stated that unless the middle class agrees, it is wrong to carry out the socialist transformation of society. In other words, he argues that the majority must accept the decision of the minority - that is, the opposite of democracy.
How to win the middle class
How do we win the middle class? We will certainly not do this showing by weakness and vacillation. Winston Churchill used to say that attack is the best form of defence. It is absolutely necessary to carry the revolution through to the end. It is necessary to put an end to the stranglehold that the landlords and capitalists exercise over the economy by nationalizing the banks, the land and the major industries under democratic workers' control and management.
The reformists are convinced that the socialist speeches of Chávez, the expropriations and the revolutionary cogestión (joint management) implemented after these expropriations are mistakes that drive away the middle class, provoke imperialism, and minimize support for the revolution. In reality, the contrary is the case. What provokes imperialism is each measure that does not serve them in subjugating the masses and does not allow them to continue exploiting the wealth of the country, as they have always done. Support for Chávez will decline if speeches are made about socialism but not translated quickly into action. The result of the constitutional referendum of December 2007 was a warning in this respect.
The masses of the workers and the middle class need to see that socialism is not a distant dream but an immediate solution to their problems. We do not want to nationalize every small shop and business. That is not necessary or desirable. We should try to win over the middle class by pointing out that our enemy is the big capitalists and imperialism. 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 nationalization, which is in their interests. 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.
Without nationalizing the commanding heights of the economy, it will not be possible to take even half a step in the direction of socialism. By acting in this way, the President completely ignored the advice of his self-proclaimed advisers - including Heinz Dieterich. The latter was probably not very pleased, and was undoubtedly muttering (for the hundredth time) dark warnings about the danger of provoking the reaction and imperialism. But the workers of Venezuela and the rest of the world were delighted that the Revolution is striking blows against its enemies. They were quite right and Dieterich was quite wrong.
Immediately after taking office, the President announced a far-reaching nationalization programme: "Everything that was privatized will be nationalized," he stated. News of the nationalizations immediately provoked a wave of hysterical attacks from the defenders of capitalism. On Tuesday, 15 May 2007 James Ingham, the BBC News correspondent in Caracas, published an article entitled Nationalization sweeps Venezuela, which begins: "Private investors and the political opposition hate it; President Hugo Chávez's supporters love it. A whirlwind of nationalizations and threats to private companies is changing Venezuela's economic climate and threatens to widen a tense social divide. Mr Chávez is stepping up his campaign to turn Venezuela into a socialist state. He is taking more control of the country's assets and warning companies that do not agree with his vision that he will take them over."
This is precisely what comrade Dieterich has been warning us about! He has warned us that if we take action against private property we will earn the bitter enmity of the owners. The whole world will be against us. Public opinion will be against us. George Bush will be against us. Even the BBC will be against us. Everybody will be against us! Everybody? Well, not quite everybody. President Chávez's announcement of sweeping measures of nationalization was greeted with enthusiasm by the workers of Venezuela and all countries. It represented a big step forward for the Venezuelan Revolution and a serious blow against capitalism and imperialism. What has Heinz Dieterich to say about this? We do not know. Probably he has just kept quiet about it, in order not to annoy the President.
For years the propagandists of Capital have been assiduously spreading the myth that capitalism works better than a planned economy and the fairy story that the wonders of the market in the long run will solve all problems. To this Keynes famously replied: "In the long run we are all dead." The application of market economics in Latin America has been an unmitigated disaster for the masses, who did not benefit from the economic growth of the past decade, which has only served to increase the huge profits of the bankers, capitalists and, above all, giant foreign monopolies like Exxon. The concern of these gentlemen is not that the Venezuelans lack expertise to exploit difficult oil fields, but that the owners of Exxon will be deprived of their fat profits.
The foreign monopolies have been plundering the oil wealth of Venezuela for generations. They have extracted a vast amount of loot at the expense of the people of Venezuela. For most of the time they did not even pay taxes. Yet now, when the people of Venezuela are taking back what is their own property, these fat, pampered vultures are demanding compensation. It is the Venezuelan people who should be demanding compensation from the transnationals for all the wealth they have robbed for decades. The nationalizations carried out were absolutely necessary, but in themselves are not sufficient to break the power of the oligarchy and create a socialist economy.
The nationalization of the banks is absolutely essential if Venezuela is to finally break with capitalism. The banks are an essential instrument of economic policy and a powerful lever. The control of credit is an essential element in a socialist planned economy and must be in the hands of the state. This will enable the state to allocate resources and investment according to the general needs of society, not the profits of a few wealthy parasites. The question of nationalization lies at the heart of this critical stage, and upon the resolution of this issue the future of the revolution depends.
In April 2008 Chávez announced the nationalization of large parts of the dairy and meat producing industries, as well as the nationalization of the cement industry and the re-nationalisation of SIDOR. These nationalizations are very important because they show the fundamental contradiction between private property and the interests of the majority of Venezuelans. Dairy plants were refusing to process milk because of the fixed prices that the government introduced. Three cement multinationals control the Venezuelan market, and while cement is much needed in the country to build houses, roads, hospitals and schools, they were exporting a large part of their production to the world market where they could get better prices and at the same time fixing artificially high prices for the internal market. SIDOR, privatised in 1997 and owned by an Argentinean multinational, was getting super-profits by using cheap state produced electricity and raw materials, over-exploiting the workers, and then selling steel to the world market which Venezuela had to buy in the form of manufactured products.
These nationalizations are a step in the right direction. But they are not enough. The banks, monopolies and most of the land remain in private hands, so that the whole of the Venezuelan economy cannot be integrated into a rational whole. Piecemeal nationalization and state intervention will create a situation where the normal functioning of a capitalist market economy is impossible. It will aggravate the flight of capital and encourage the resistance and sabotage of the capitalists, creating further shortages, unemployment and chaos. What is needed is a national plan of production, discussed and decided by the workers themselves, so that the urgent needs of the Venezuelan people can be fulfilled.
While we welcome wholeheartedly measures like the nationalization of SIDOR, we must also point out that the process remains unfinished. It is entirely false to argue, as the bureaucrats and reformists do, that we must proceed slowly and gradually in order not to upset the bourgeois and provoke imperialism. The bourgeois are already sufficiently upset and the imperialists are more than sufficiently provoked. There are worrying signs that all is not well with the economy. Inflation is rising, which is hitting the poorest sections hardest, and shortages are appearing at different levels. The capitalists are responding with a strike of capital and there is widespread sabotage, corruption and bureaucratic obstruction.
By delaying the inevitable showdown between the classes, we can only give time for the counter-revolutionary forces to regroup and organize new plots against the revolution. More seriously, by allowing the capitalists to continue their sabotage, creating artificial scarcities and disorganizing production, there is a danger that the masses will become tired of so many privations and fall into apathy and indifference. That is precisely what the reactionaries want. Once the balance of forces begins to move against the revolution, the counter-revolutionaries will strike again. And they have plenty of hidden allies in the leadership of the Bolivarian Movement who wish to halt the revolution and are waiting for the opportunity to turn against the President. The danger is still present. We therefore must act with urgency to tackle the problem at its roots.
The struggle for workers' control is an important element in the Revolution, but workers' control can only be an ephemeral phase if it does not lead to expropriation. This shows the unfinished nature of the Revolution and underlines the contradictions within it and the dangers facing it. At Inveval the workers occupied the factory and began producing under workers' control, while demanding the expropriation of the plant. They organized a factory committee to run the company and organize the struggle, which was successful. This is exactly the practical application of what Trotsky talks about in The Transitional Programme, where Trotsky wrote:
"Sit-down [occupation] strikes, [...] go beyond the limits of ‘normal' capitalist procedure. Independently of the demands of the strikers, the temporary seizure of factories deals a blow to the idol, capitalist property. Every sit-down strike poses in a practical manner the question of who is boss of the factory: the capitalist or the workers? If the sit-down strike raises this question episodically, the factory committee gives it organized expression. Elected by all the factory employees, the factory committee immediately creates a counterweight to the will of the administration."
In revolutionary times it is not enough to conduct the day-to-day struggle for immediate demands on wages and conditions, but rather to elevate the workers to the idea of taking power. As Trotsky explains in the Transitional Programme: "Trade unions are not ends in themselves; they are but means along the road to proletarian revolution.", and he adds "during a period of exceptional upsurges in the labour movement ... it is necessary to create organizations ad hoc, embracing the whole fighting mass: strike committees, factory committees, and finally, soviets."
The role of reformism
Chávez has shown that it is possible for revolutionaries to make use of the institutions of bourgeois formal democracy to mobilize the masses for the transformation. This policy has enabled him to win one election after another and served to rally and organize millions of workers and peasants to change society. However, the Revolution has still not passed the critical point where quantity becomes quality. Powerful forces are at work trying to halt the Revolution and weaken and sabotage it from within. The bourgeois counter-revolutionary forces are too weak to accomplish this task. It is being carried out by the Bolivarian bureaucracy - the right wing that represents a fifth column of the counter-revolution inside the movement, and consistently works to isolate the President and sabotage his decrees. The reformist wing is terrified of the masses and revolution and fearful of the bourgeoisie and counter-revolution. They are doing everything in their power to halt the revolution and prevent it moving in a socialist direction.
The Venezuelan Stalinists are the most consistent reformists. They repeat the same arguments of the Russian Mensheviks. They argue that the Bolivarian Revolution must limit itself to fighting for the bourgeois democratic tasks. They say that the Venezuelan Revolution is at the democratic stage and that the socialist tasks are not posed. They pay lip service to socialism - but only in the dim and distant future. They act like the Bourbons who "forgot nothing and learned nothing." They pose as the leaders of the proletariat but in reality they are defending a bourgeois policy. The PCV refuses to join the PSUV and has split over the question. But both the faction that joined the PSUV and those that remain outside defend the Stalinist-Menshevik theory of the two stages. They say that we must not touch private property, that we must remain within the bounds of capitalism - that is to say they defend a right wing position that, if it were accepted, would signify the inevitable defeat of the Venezuelan Revolution.
Heinz Dieterich has no party, no organization and no base in the working class or the "majorities" to which he constantly refers. He represents only himself. But he has powerful friends and backers: the right wing of the Bolivarian Movement, the bureaucracy and the reformists. They ensure that his books are published in large editions and his ideas are widely spread. This is quite natural because the current debate on socialism represents a serious threat to the reformists. They are doing everything in their power to erect barriers to prevent the workers, peasants and youth from arming themselves with the ideas of Marxism.
Contradictions in the Bolivarian Revolution
The December 2006 presidential elections marked yet another turn to the left in the Bolivarian revolution. The right wing of the Bolivarian movement was getting increasingly worried about the course events were taking, with Chávez talking of Trotskyism in the swearing in ceremony for the new Cabinet, and adopting an increasingly leftward course. The battle lines were drawn and the splits within the Bolivarian movement were become public, expressing themselves in the polemic about the founding of the new party. Chávez was acutely aware of this and in the first meeting of promoters of the new United Socialist Party, on March 24th 2007, he explained how "as the revolution deepens, as it expands, these contradictions will come out openly, even some that up until now had been covered up, they will intensify, because we are dealing here with economic issues, and there is nothing that hurts a capitalist more than his wallet".
In talking about the need for a revolutionary leadership Chávez quoted from Lenin: "Now, the leadership, this is why I insist so much in the need for a party, because we have not had a revolutionary leadership up to the tasks of the moment we are living in, united, orientated as a result of a strategy, united, as Vladimir Illich Lenin said, a machinery able to articulate millions of wills into one single will, this is indispensable to carry out a revolution, otherwise it is lost, like the rivers that overflow, like the Yaracuy that when it reaches the Caribbean loses its riverbed and becomes a swamp."
These words of Chávez were in tune and reflected the conclusions drawn by tens of thousands of revolutionary activists in Venezuela, in the factories, in the neighbourhoods, in the countryside. They are growing increasingly impatient and want to the revolution to be victorious once and for all. But there are other powerful pressures being exerted in the opposite direction. The destiny of the Revolution will be determined by the outcome of this struggle of opposed forces, which at bottom is a struggle between mutually exclusive class forces.
From the standpoint of the world working class the importance of these developments is self-evident. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the bourgeois have been organizing a furious campaign against the ideas of socialism and Marxism. They solemnly pronounced the end of communism and socialism. They were so self-assured that they even pronounced the end of history. But history has not ended. It has scarcely begun. After a decade and a half, the workers of the world can see the crude reality of capitalist domination. They promised a world of peace, prosperity and democracy. Now all the illusions of the bourgeoisie are in ruins. More and more people are becoming aware that capitalism offers no future for humanity.
There are the beginnings of an awakening everywhere: workers, peasants, young people, are on the march. The idea that revolution and socialism are off the agenda has been disproved in practice. The revolution has begun in Venezuela, and is spreading throughout Latin America, as when a heavy rock is thrown into a pond. The waves from the revolution are beginning to be felt on a world scale. People are asking: what is happening in Venezuela and what does it mean?
It is not necessary to be one hundred percent in agreement with Hugo Chávez, or to idealize the Bolivarian Revolution to understand the colossal significance of these events. Here for the first time in decades, an important world leader has proclaimed the need for world socialism and condemned capitalism as slavery. He has spoken publicly before millions of people about the need to read Marx, Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Trotsky. Above all, Chávez has mobilized millions of workers, peasants and youth under the banner of socialist revolution. The significance of all this is not lost on the imperialists, who are doing all in their power to destroy the revolution in its cradle. They are mobilizing powerful forces to crush the Venezuelan Revolution. The workers of the world must mobilize the might of the international labour movement to stop them. But the most dangerous enemies of the Bolivarian Revolution are to be found within the movement itself.
The declarations of General Raúl Isaías Baduel on 5 November 2007, when he came out against the constitutional reform referendum, were a key part of the counterrevolutionary offensive of the opposition against Chávez. Yet until his retirement in July 2007, Baduel was Defence Minister and apparently an ally of Hugo Chávez. Just a few months later, Baduel came out against the President. In a news conference, he described the President's proposed changes to the Constitution as "in effect a coup d'état" and a "non-democratic imposition that would put us into tragic retreat." This attack was clearly intended to cause a split in the ranks of the Bolivarian movement and promote a "No" vote in the referendum on the constitutional changes scheduled for December 2.
It is not a coincidence that General Baduel wrote the Preface to Heinz Dieterich's book Hugo Chávez and Socialism of the XXI Century and helped to launch it in Venezuela. One can say that Heinz Dieterich cannot be held responsible for the views and actions of Baduel. But what was his reaction to the General's statements? Was it to distance himself from Baduel? Did he repudiate what Baduel was saying? Not at all. On 8 November, Rebelión published an article by Heinz Dieterich entitled The Chávez-Baduel Break: Stop the Collapse of the Popular Project. In this article Heinz Dieterich tells us that "understanding the objective causes, consequences and possible solutions to this conflict is thus essential to avoid a triumph of the oligarchy and imperialism".
So what were these "objective causes"? Dieterich modestly informs us that he has "had a personal relationship of appreciation for both characters for many years". Heinz always likes to tell people that he is close to so-and-so and that he has met so-and-so. This is intended to give him a special authority and insight into affairs of state. He claims the right not only to tell us "what Chávez really means", but even to tell Chávez himself what he really means. Unfortunately, he now finds himself in difficulties, since Baduel and Chávez are in a head-on confrontation. How does Heinz get out of this little difficulty? Despite his friendship with both men, he "will not make a defence of either of the two protagonists, but a rational analysis, which seeks to contribute to a progressive solution of a grave situation."
Sybill in ancient Greece made mysterious utterances that nobody could understand. The priests then interpreted these utterances for the ignorant public. We would require the services of such a priest to answer a very simple question: in the conflict between Chávez and Baduel, where did Heinz Dieterich stand? He stood "in the middle". He tried to act as an arbiter between them, and in the process he placed himself above both - since the referee always decides in the case of a conflict and the referee's decision is final.
Dieterich defends Baduel
Pursuing his role as a Sybill-referee, Heinz informs us: "A key variable for understanding the conflict is the personality of both these military men, but this is not the time to introduce that variable in the analysis." This is classic Heinz Dieterich. It means: "I know these two men better than you. I know them better than anybody. In fact, I know them better than they know themselves. I also know that this is, at bottom, only a conflict of personalities. But I will not tell you how or why I know this, because then you would know as much as I do!"
Only a superficial mind seeks to interpret major political events in terms of personalities. This is a trivial approach to history and politics. It is on the level of sentimental novels and gossip journalism. It explains nothing at all. If Chávez and Baduel's personalities are different now, they were also different five or ten years ago. Why did the clash not occur then instead of now?
In reality, the conflict between Chávez and Baduel is at bottom a class question. Personal and psychological elements played at best a secondary role. These men do not act in a social vacuum. Baduel reflected the ideas, the interests and the psychology of the bourgeoisie, while Chávez was expressing the aspirations of the mass of poor and oppressed people. That is why immediately Baduel was received as a hero and saviour by the bourgeoisie and the media nationally and internationally, while Chávez received the support of the workers and peasants. Again, only a blind man cannot see this.
Now we come to the causes of the conflict. Heinz informs us: "The accusations that Baduel has sold out to the extreme right, that his anti-communism has got the better of him, or that he is a traitor, do not get to the heart of the problem." This is a very strange formulation indeed! Either Baduel has sold out to the right and is a traitor, or he has not and is not. What does comrade Dieterich think? We do not know. He does not say. All he says is that these accusations "do not get to the heart of the problem." What kind of statement is this? It is the kind of lawyer's circumlocution and sophistry that is not supposed to explain but only to distract ones' attention.
Dieterich is very anxious to present his friend in the most favourable light. We are informed: "He [Baduel] is a man who acts on conviction, not expediency." These words amount to a defence of the General who is attacking the Revolution and supporting the counterrevolutionary opposition. Even if we accept what Dieterich says, that Baduel only acted from conviction, that would be no justification. A counterrevolutionary who acts on conviction, not expediency is more dangerous than an enemy who is guided by short-term personal considerations.
He reminds us that he "confronted the coup of April 11 " and informs us that the fact that he did not participate in Chávez's attempted coup in 1992 "has an explanation, which the leaders involved know and one day will be made public". Yet again he puts on the cloak of Sybill and hints that he (Heinz Dieterich) knows many secret things about which we are ignorant and about which he cannot speak. This is a very interesting argument. It is like a man who is asked to pay the rent at the end of the month saying: "I know a secret formula that will enable me to win the lottery, but I cannot speak of it now". This may impress some people, but it will not convince the landlord or prevent him from throwing his insolvent lodger, together with his secret formulas, onto the street.
Why did Baduel oppose the reform on November 5? Baduel was unable to accept the government project because he was already excluded, Dieterich tells us: "He was marginalized, and the primary responsibility for this marginalization was that of the government". So there we have it! The fault for this situation is not Baduel's because the poor man was "already excluded". Whose fault was it, then? Why, the government and the President, of course! What does this signify? In the present conflict, which, as we have already explained, is a class conflict, a clash between the forces of revolution and counterrevolution, Dieterich stands with the latter against the former. And no amount of sophistry and ambiguity can conceal this fact.
The line of argument used by Dieterich here is absolutely typical: it is lawyer's sophistry. Let us draw an analogy that will make this clear. A man is accused of burning down his neighbour's house with everyone inside it. He goes to trial and his defence lawyer is a friend who has known him for many years. Does his friend plead not guilty? No, he cannot do this, because the house was burnt down in daylight and everybody saw who did it. The case being hopeless, the lawyer resorts to trickery to save his friend. What arguments does he use? He does not deny the accusation (because he cannot) but argues that the accusation "does not get to the heart of the problem."
Having thus begun to confuse the jury and draw its attention away from the central accusation, he then continues to create a smoke screen of irrelevant matters:
1) I have known the accused for many years and he is a very nice man.
2) The accused only acts out of conviction. He only burned the house out of conviction. In fact, he always burns down houses out of conviction.
3) The house was very ugly and deserved to be burnt anyway.
4) The neighbours stopped inviting him to dinner and this made him feel marginalized. Therefore, the neighbours were responsible for his actions and deserved to be burned.
When this lawyer's rhetoric is stripped of its embellishment, its dishonesty is clear to any normally intelligent person. The lawyer does not deny that his client is guilty as charged. But he defends him as a person and tries to present his criminal actions in the best possible light. He then proceeds to justify the crime itself and to make the victims of the crime appear the aggressors and the criminal look like the real victim. If the lawyer is sufficiently skilful, he can sometimes succeed in persuading a jury to release the criminal, who then immediately proceeds to burn down more houses.
A ‘sincere' counterrevolutionary
Heinz Dieterich, as we have seen, did not deny that Baduel has gone over to the counterrevolutionary opposition. He could not deny this because everyone in Venezuela knew that it was true. He therefore attempted to justify his actions, presenting his counterrevolutionary speech as the action of a true democrat and patriot. He said he acted only out of conviction, not from bribery or other base motives.
Since we have not been present at the meetings between the General and the opposition and have no access to his bank account, we have no means of knowing whether this is true or false. However, let us note that Dieterich contradicts himself when he writes: "Part of the impact [of Baduel's statement] was due to the fact that some 18 days earlier he had publicly supported the constitutional reform." How did a "man of conviction" change his convictions about the Constitution in the space of 18 days? Evidently, the General's convictions resemble those of the politician who said: "All right, if you don't like my principles I'll change them!"
Even if we accept that he acted only out of conviction, this argument counts for nothing. Many of the greatest villains in history have acted out of conviction. The mad emperor Nero no doubt acted out of conviction when he burned Rome and blamed the Christians. Adolf Hitler always acted on the basis of very deep convictions - convictions of racial superiority and fascism. Both Tony Blair and George Bush are said to be motivated by deep convictions - imperialist convictions that they have a god-given right to rule the world. To justify his support for the criminal invasion of Iraq Blair told the British people: "I did what I did because I believed sincerely it was right". Does this make the crimes of these men any less atrocious because they were sincere and "acted from conviction"?
Many of the Venezuelan opposition are deeply convinced that Chávez is a dangerous revolutionary, a threat to the existing social order who must be overthrown and even killed to save the fatherland. Oh yes, they believe this quite sincerely. And from their class point of view they are correct. They are acting from conviction. The counterrevolutionary opposition sincerely defends the standpoint of the landlords, bankers and capitalists. Baduel sincerely defends the counterrevolutionary opposition. And Dieterich sincerely (we assume) defends Baduel. However, we are not interested in whether they are sincere or not, but what interests they defend.
The only way we can judge the actions of Baduel is not from the standpoint of personal sincerity but from a class point of view. For our part, we sincerely defend the standpoint of socialism and the working class. We defend President Chávez against the attacks of the counter-revolution. Not to do so in this situation would be a betrayal. And it is also the only way we can interpret the actions of those who use lawyer's sophistry to defend him.
If an arsonist is allowed to escape justice because of the arguments of clever lawyers, he will be free to burn houses. If a counter-revolutionary is tolerated, he will engage in counterrevolutionary conspiracies that threaten the lives of many more people than a single arsonist. In our opinion the Bolivarian Revolution has already been far too lenient with the counterrevolutionaries. How many of the golpistas of April 2002 are in prison? Until recently, not one, as far as we know. This is a serious mistake and the Revolution will pay a heavy price for such leniency.
Baduel and Dieterich
Baduel himself explained what his real concerns were at the time of his parting speech as Minister of Defence. While he dressed his speech in socialist phraseology, what he said was very clear. For instance, he declared that, "socialism is about distributing wealth, but before you can distribute wealth you have to create wealth" which is a typical argument of reformists everywhere against socialism and nationalization. He added that "a regime of socialist production is not incompatible with a political system which is profoundly democratic with counter-balances and divisions of power," adding that "we must move away from Marxist orthodoxy which says that democracy with division of powers is just an instrument of bourgeois domination". He said: "yes, we must go towards socialism, but this must be done without chaos and disorganization".
Using a very strange analogy with Lenin's New Economic Policy he said: "we cannot allow our system to become a type of State Capitalism, where the state is the only owner of the means of production". And added "war communism in the Soviet Union taught us that you cannot implement sharp changes in the economic system [...] the wholesale abolition of private property and the brutal socialisation of the means of production always have a negative effect on the production of goods and services and provoke general discontent amongst the population". It is quite clear what he was saying. These incorrect analogies with War Communism and the NEP in Russia are just a cover for what he was really saying: "we should not go towards nationalization of the economy".
Some people at the time argued that Baduel's speech was not a criticism of Chávez, but rather, that he was just putting forward his view of "democratic socialism" (that is, reforms within the limits of capitalism). These are by the way, exactly the same ideas that Heinz Dieterich has been putting forward under the name of Socialism of the XXI Century, socialism without nationalisation of the means of production, which is ... capitalism! It is for this reason that Baduel was so enthusiastic about Dieterich's ideas and wrote the prologue of the Venezuelan edition of his book Hugo Chávez and Socialism of the 21st Century.
In this prologue Baduel says very complimentary things about Dieterich's book: "I feel honoured, since I recognise in this work an immense contribution to the building of the theory of the new non-capitalist society". He adds that despite the appeal by the president to participate in the debate about socialism "after a while, Heinz Dieterich's contribution remains as an almost unique and compulsory point of reference, due to the clarity and simplicity of his ideas". Baduel was in fact, so impressed with Dieterich's ideas that he suggested that Chapter 7 of his book "should be published separately for massive distribution in schools, universities, trade unions, factories, hospitals, peasant communities, communal councils and in all those spaces where we need to generate a debate and a healthy discussion about the socialism that we want to build."
This has to be really embarrassing for Dieterich! The person who only a few months ago was praising his ideas so much has now broken with the Bolivarian project and joined the counterrevolution. Maybe this is the reason why Dieterich was so keen to argue that Baduel is not really a counterrevolutionary and that at the end of the day Chávez and Baduel should make an alliance. But one could argue that Baduel's ideas have changed and that therefore Dieterich is not really responsible for his latest ideological evolution. Nothing could be further from the truth. What attracted Baduel to Dieterich was Dieterich's idea that you can have "socialism" without nationalising the means of production. This was a kind of socialism that Baduel could live with. And this is what he explained in his parting speech on July 23. What did he say in his speech on November 5? Exactly the same thing. Let's quote him at length:
"The reasoning for the constitutional reform, as it has been presented, is to take the Venezuelan people towards a process of transition towards something which is generically called ‘socialism', without clearly explaining what is meant by this term. As I already said on another occasion when I departed from the Ministry of Defence, the word socialism does not have a uniform meaning, and can include regimes like that of Pol Pot in Cambodia and the Stalinist Soviet Union, as well as Nordic Socialism or European Democratic Socialism. Which socialism are we being taken to? Why are the people not being told clearly where the nation is being led to? As a people we must demand that we are told clearly the destiny of our future and that we are not lied to with a so-called Venezuelan socialism".
Baduel admits himself that his ideas have not changed! And Dieterich himself described Baduel's parting speech as a "great step forward for Socialism of the 21st Century".  The reason why Baduel went over to the opposition is clear: he sees that all the talk about socialism might actually mean socialism and he does not agree with that. He was happy to accept socialism of the Dieterich variety (i.e. Social Democracy), but he is completely opposed to genuine socialism. Chávez explained this very well when he said: "It is not strange that when a submarine goes deeper the pressure is increased and can free a loose screw, the weak points are going to leave, and I believe it is good that they leave".
A candidate - for Bonapartism
Heinz Dieterich is a utopian reformist, an academic who lives in a world of dreams yet (for some reason) considers himself to be a supreme political realist. It would not be fair to describe him as a counter-revolutionary. No, the Professor detests the counter-revolution and wishes to avoid it. Nor would it be correct to describe him as a revolutionary, since he also fears that the Revolution, which is being propelled forward by the "untutored masses", will go too far (has already gone too far) and will provoke (has already provoked) the counterrevolution. For Heinz all extremes are bad, and we must have moderation in all things. Therefore, the answer is in the Centre.
Heinz Dieterich insists that the General has not gone to the right. Where has he gone, then? He is now the candidate of the Centre, Heinz tells us. But what is the Centre? In Venezuela there is no Centre, except in the fevered imagination of Heinz Dieterich. In Venezuela there is a sharp polarization between left and right - that is, a sharp polarization between the classes, which has now become an unbridgeable gap. Everybody knows this. The opposition knows it, the masses know it, Hugo Chávez knows it, Baduel knows it, the US State Department knows it, a child of six knows it, and even George W Bush knows it. But Heinz Dieterich does not know it. He intends to solve all the problems of the Revolution by uniting everybody in the Centre and forming an alliance between Chávez and Baduel.
This means uniting revolution with counter-revolution, which is only a little more difficult than uniting fire with water, turning lead into gold or squaring the circle. However, our friend Heinz is not a man to be deterred by such small details. Baduel, he tells us, is very intelligently positioning himself as candidate for leader of the Centre. But the General has a small problem. The Centre does not exist. Having broken with the Bolivarian Movement (where he was always on the right) he has no alternative but to go even further to the right.
Baduel has no alternative but to find common cause with the opposition, with whom he has no real differences. Some of the more stupid oppositionists do not want him. They see anybody remotely connected with chavismo as an enemy. But the more intelligent ones who lead the opposition will welcome him with open arms. More importantly, the US State Department, which pulls the strings of the opposition, will certainly welcome him with open arms. This has a logic of its own.
Baduel chose his moment to secure the maximum impact on public opinion nationally and internationally. Naturally, the mass media controlled by big business gave him a lot of publicity, praising him as a hero. He was the hero of the hour - for the counterrevolutionaries. He put himself forward as the future Saviour of the Nation, a nation that has left the path of "democracy" and is sliding towards chaos and anarchy. A firm hand was needed to save the Nation. That means the hand of a General, and that General is called Baduel.
For anyone with the slightest knowledge of history, this is the language of Bonapartism. The real historical analogy for Baduel is not Cincinnatus but Napoleon Bonaparte who rose to power over the dead body of the French Revolution. It was Bonaparte who came to power on the slogan of national Unity and Order. That meant the crushing of the revolutionary masses who under the Jacobins had "gone too far". It means the deposing and murder of Robespierre and the other revolutionary leaders and a White Terror against their followers. It meant the restoration of rank and privilege and the domination of France by the bankers and capitalists, in alliance with those who had made their fortunes out of the Revolution through corruption and careerism and who were convinced that the Revolution had gone too far.
If he succeeds, Baduel will not be the candidate of the non-existent Centre but the candidate of the Reaction. He will not be the candidate of the middle class but of the oligarchy that exploits the fears and prejudices of the middle class. He will not be the candidate of moderation and democracy, but of ferocious counterrevolution. Insofar as he speaks of unity, what he means is the Bonapartist notion of standing "above all classes" and speaking for the Nation. But there is no Nation apart from the classes that make up the Nation. The Bonapartist Leader who claims to speak for the Nation in reality speaks for the rich and powerful who own the wealth of the Nation and who jealously guard it.
The attempts of Dieterich to show that there are more than two sides in conflict in Venezuela, and that there is a so-called Centre with which Chávez should negotiate and make agreements, are all in vain. Former general Baduel, who as we have seen was so enthusiastic about Dieterich's ideas, has now been given a medal as a "Paladin of Freedom" by the Cuban National Democratic Party, a small extreme right wing party based in Miami which supports which supports people like the self-confessed reactionary terrorist Posada Carriles.
The state and the struggle against bureaucracy
In Venezuela the old state apparatus, though weakened, is still in place. There are counter-revolutionary governors disguised as Bolivarians, bureaucrats left over from the Fourth Republic, corrupt elements and careerists at every level. This serves to underline the point that the Marxists have always stressed: the workers cannot take the ready-made state machinery and use it for their own purposes. The question of the arming of the workers and peasants and setting up of peoples' militias (that the Transitional Programme talks about) is a crucial one, and one that could be carried out quite simply. If the workers were to join the reserve force and territorial guard, in an organized way factory by factory, this would go a long way in creating a peoples' militia under the control of the workers.
The counter-revolution is becoming increasingly alarmed at the leftward course of the revolution. They are sabotaging any experience of workers' control. In the recent months they have also tried again to sabotage the economy by creating scarcity of basic foodstuffs. The way forward is to expropriate the oligarchy and build a new revolutionary state based on factory and neighbourhood committees. In order to carry this out a revolutionary party and a revolutionary leadership are needed. This is why all revolutionaries should be part of the new United Socialist Party, accompanying the masses in their experience and raising in it the ideas of Trotsky, the ideas of Marxism, which provide the most accurate guide for the victorious completion of the revolution. This is exactly what the comrades of the Revolutionary Marxist Current are doing, and what people like Dieterich and all the other reformists and bureaucrats are striving to block.
In order to succeed, the Bolivarian Revolution must purge the movement of alien class elements and transform it into an instrument fit to change society. The launching of the unified socialist party (PSUV) provides the revolutionary workers, peasants and youth with a possibility to do this. They must strengthen the party and win over new layers of revolutionaries drawn from the masses and completely dedicated to the cause of socialism. They must expose and drive out the corrupt elements, careerists and bureaucrats who have joined the movement only to further their own interests and will betray it as soon as the opportunity presents itself. The new party can become a genuine revolutionary workers' party only if it is scrupulously democratic. The rank and file must decide all questions and the leadership must be elected, revocable and composed of elements of proven honesty and dedication to the cause of socialism and the working class.
The trade unions are the other key element in the equation. The Marxists fight for trade union unity, while at the same time fighting for a democratic and militant trade union movement. The unions must give support to the progressive measures of the government, especially nationalizations, and fight to extend all measures to improve the living standards of the masses and strike blows against the oligarchy. But the unions must retain total independence from the state. Only free and independent unions can defend the interests of the workers, while simultaneously defending the revolutionary government against its enemies.
The twin enemies are opportunism and sectarianism. The fight against opportunism consists on the one hand in the fight against corruption, careerism and bureaucratism, on the other hand, the fight against alien ideas that have penetrated the movement, and especially sections of the leadership, who have succumbed to the influence of reformism and abandoned the revolutionary line. The workers and peasants are struggling for bread and land. The counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie is fighting to defend its power and privileges and destroy the Revolution. And the Founder of 21st Century Socialism is delivering lectures on peace, class collaboration and the "economy of equivalence". In such a serious situation the reformist-utopian recipes of Dieterich stand exposed as completely empty. They would be merely laughable if it were not for the fact that they are being widely distributed and promoted for reasons that are self-evident.
The struggle for bread
"Reading Lenin, who made a call to the Russian people to struggle against the scarcity of meat and bread, we notice the same method; a hundred years have passed but they did the same with the Russian people; the old capitalist state is still alive... I'm not referring to the state but to the capitalist situation, the system, above all in the economic field and this is another part of the subject, socialism needs to enter in the economic arena, if it doesn't it will not be socialism that we are building, it will not be a revolution we are making." 
Regular shortages of basic foodstuffs both in public and private markets and supermarkets are part of the low intensity economic war going on against the Bolivarian revolution. The oligarchy, especially in the agro-business sector, is organising this open economic sabotage. This is not new, but since the beginning of 2007 the intensity and regularity of "organised scarcity" has clearly increased. There are shortages of basic products like eggs, milk and meat. The supply of some products to the markets is irregular and is at prices above the official price established by the government. Almost two thirds (64.3 percent) of the productive capacity of the milk industry is standing idle. Six plants, with a total daily capacity of 4.7 million litres of milk, are producing only 1.7 million litres or 35.7 percent of total capacity. It is a real tug-of-war between revolution and counter-revolution on the strategic terrain of food supplies.
This confrontation is undermining the efforts of the government to guarantee food supplies. It is also a field where the weaknesses of the revolution come to the fore. The mere fact that the main food processing plants, transport and distribution networks are still in private hands - that is, in capitalist hands - is a serious threat against the revolution. The capitalists in the other sectors of the food processing industry repeat in unison "keep away from our profit margins or we will starve you". On the part of the bosses this is a way of retaliating against the price controls, but it is also a political tool aimed at destabilising the country, trying to foment unrest and finally undermining confidence among the masses in the effectiveness of the social reforms of the revolution. It is part of more general strategy to sabotage the revolutionary process from within.
Those "organised shortages" also affect the famous public network of cheap food outlets, the Mercales, some of which have been complaining that the volume of goods delivered has been reduced by 80 percent. Corruption is a part of the problem when deliveries are channelled away from these supermarkets to be sold at high prices on the private markets. This situation highlights the limitations of developing a public network of supermarkets alongside a private network. This is precisely the model of 21st Century Socialism that Dieterich is advocating! What is the problem? The problem is that even the moderate reforms and partial measures of public ownership, co-operatives, etc. that have been introduced so far are too much for the bourgeoisie to accept. They are determined to sabotage them. What does this prove? Only this: that the contradiction between public and private ownership must be resolved. Either the socialist elements will liquidate the capitalist elements or the latter will liquidate the former. There is no middle way.
A law against hoarding and speculation was approved. Strategic food stocks are being established to guarantee food for three months in case of urgency and the intelligence services have been put to work to uncover secret stocks throughout the country. The problem is that in its struggle against hoarding, speculation and illegal price increases the government is still relying on the old capitalist state apparatus, which is notoriously inefficient, corrupt and linked to the oligarchy. Through this apparatus the bureaucrats are sabotaging the efforts of the government. This is the reformist way of dealing with the problem and is ineffective.
In order to succeed, a revolutionary Leninist content must be given to price controls. In order to achieve effective price controls and to be successful in combating the phenomenon of hoarding, the masses and their organisations must be put into action, through elected bodies of inspectors based on the communal councils and the factory councils for instance. They would have the task of controlling prices, uncovering secrets stocks, etc. These would guarantee that there is no impunity and that the law would be used against speculators.
However, price controls are only a halfway measure. In a capitalist economy such as that in Venezuela any attempt at imposing price controls is answered by economic sabotage by the bosses and furthers destabilise the economy. The government's answer in the ongoing crisis in the milk industry has been to establish new publicly owned milk-processing plants. This is a step in the right direction, but it is still not enough though to cover the existing national demand for milk or to compensate for the deficit in production of the private sector. To make up for this, increasing imports is being proposed as a solution by some sectors in the government.
To guarantee a sufficient level of milk production the private processing plants must be expropriated and nationalised under the control of the workers and the peasants. The same needs to happen with the other branches of the food industry. They then need to be integrated into an urgent plan of food production (including developing agriculture through expropriation of the big landowners) and distribution based not on meeting profit margins but on the social needs of the revolution.
The bourgeoisie is attempting to sabotage the revolution, using the levers it has in its hands, ownership of land and industry. The aim is to cause economic chaos and put the blame on the government, thus undermining confidence in the government and prepare for a reactionary backlash. Economic sabotage and how it is combated is an important question at this stage of the Venezuelan revolution. It is a litmus test for the different political currents within the Bolivarian movement.
Revolution and Parliament
Ultra lefts and anarchists imagine that it is not possible to use parliament for revolutionary ends. This has nothing in common with Marxism. We are obliged to use parliament as we are obliged to use any other platform or democratic institution to organize and mobilize the masses. However, it is necessary to understand the limits of parliamentarism. Hugo Chávez used parliament and elections very effectively to organize and mobilize the masses after the defeat of the Caracazo. This has been a very important element in the situation. The electoral victories of the Bolivarians have served to demoralize and disorient the opposition and weaken the counter-revolutionaries. But ultimately parliament cannot resolve the fundamental questions.
Big business will do everything in its power to sabotage and wreck the economy in order to bring down a government pledged to socialist policies. We have seen this many times in the past. When they do not like certain policies, they organise conspiracies, economic sabotage, speculation against the currency and so on. Therefore, it is necessary to mobilise the working class outside parliament to set up elected committees in every workplace, to establish workers' control and management of the nationalised industries, to prevent the sabotage of the bosses.
It is necessary to issue an appeal to the members of the police and the armed forces to support the democratically elected government (many of the officers and the overwhelming majority of the rank and file are Chávez supporters), immediately pass a law recognising the democratic right of soldiers to join parties and trade unions and legalising the right to strike for soldiers and police, and calling on them to arrest any officers who are plotting against the government. There must be measures to win over the middle class, the small businessmen and shopkeepers, who are being ruined by big business and the banks. Above all, a nationalised planned economy under the democratic control and management of the working class will enable us to eliminate unemployment and introduce the six hour day and four day week, while increasing production and raising wages.
By mobilising the working class on this basis, Chávez would rapidly cut the ground from under the feet of reaction. Any attempt to organise a counter-revolutionary conspiracy would be brushed aside. Under these conditions, a peaceful transformation of society would be entirely possible. The example of a democratic workers' state in Venezuela would have an even greater impact than Russia 1917. Given the enormous strength of the working class, and the impasse of capitalism everywhere, the bourgeois regimes in Latin America would fall rapidly, creating the basis for the Socialist Federation of Latin America and, finally world socialism. That is the perspective we offer.
In reality, what we propose is not so difficult. If the reformist leaders dedicated one tenth of the energies they spend in defending capitalism on mobilising the might of the working class to change society, the socialist transformation could be accomplished quickly and painlessly. But we warn that, if they fail to do this, the way will be prepared for a catastrophe for the working class. The failure to carry through a complete transformation of society in Venezuela will make the normal functioning of capitalism impossible, creating the conditions for conspiracies of the bourgeois with the tops of the armed forces for a coup, which this time could be successful.
Is a peaceful revolution possible?
The central argument of Dieterich and all the other reformists is that an assault on the private property of the oligarchy would mean terrible chaos, civil war, and the streets running with blood. In fact, this is not the case. It is possible to carry out the social revolution without civil war, on one condition: that the working class and its leadership acts with determination and energy to disarm the counter-revolutionaries and mobilize the masses for the revolutionary transformation of society. In the writings and speeches of Lenin from March 1917 right up to the eve of the October insurrection he constantly reiterated the theme that the reformist leaders should take power into their own hands, that this would guarantee a peaceful transformation of society. He insisted that the Bolsheviks were wholeheartedly in favour of this, and that, if the reformist leaders were to take power, the Bolsheviks would limit themselves to the peaceful struggle for a majority inside the soviets. Here are a couple of examples of how Lenin put the question (there are many more):
"Apparently, not all the supporters of the slogan ‘All Power Must Be Transferred to the Soviets' have given adequate though to the fact that it was a slogan for peaceful progress of the revolution - peaceful not only in the sense that nobody, no class, no force of any importance, would then (between February 27 and July 4) have been able to resist and prevent the transfer of power to the Soviets. That is not all. Peaceful development would then have been possible, even in the sense that the struggle of classes and parties within the Soviets could have assumed a most peaceful and painless form, provided full state power had passed to the Soviets in good time." 
"No other condition would, I think, be advanced by the Bolsheviks, who would be confident that really full freedom of propaganda and the immediate realisation of a new democracy in the composition of the Soviets (new elections to them) and in their functioning would in themselves secure a peaceful forward movement of the revolution, a peaceful outcome of the party strife within the Soviets.
"Perhaps this is already impossible? Perhaps. But if there is even one chance in a hundred, the attempt at realising such a possibility would still be worthwhile." 
"Our business is to help do everything possible to secure the ‘last' chance for a peaceful development of the revolution, to help this by presenting our programme, by making clear its general, national character, its absolute harmony with the interests and demands of an enormous majority of the population." 
"Having seized power, the Soviet could still at present - and that is probably their last chance - secure a peaceful development of the revolution, peaceful elections of the deputies by the people, a peaceful struggle of the parties inside the Soviets, a testing of the programmes of various parties in practice, a peaceful passing of power from one party to another." 
And here is how Trotsky sums up the position in The History of the Russian Revolution:
"The transfer of power to the Soviets meant, in its immediate sense, a transfer of power to the Compromisers. That might have been accomplished peacefully, by way of a simple dismissal of the bourgeois government, which had survived only on the good will of the Compromisers and the relics of the confidence in them of the masses. The dictatorship of the workers and soldiers had been a fact since the 27th of February. But the workers and soldiers were not to the point necessary aware of that fact. They had confided the power to the Compromisers, who in their turn had passed it over to the bourgeois. The calculations of the Bolsheviks on a peaceful development of the revolution rested, not on the hope that the bourgeois would voluntarily turn over the power to the workers and soldiers, but that the workers and soldiers would in good season prevent the Compromisers from surrendering the power to the bourgeois.
"The concentration of the power in the soviets under a regime of soviet democracy, would have opened before the Bolsheviks a complete opportunity to become a majority in the soviet, and consequently to create a government on the basis of their program. For this end an armed insurrection would have been unnecessary. The interchange of power between the parties could have been accomplished peacefully. All the efforts of the party from April to July had been directed towards making possible a peaceful development of the revolution through the soviet. ‘Patiently explain' - that had been the key to the Bolshevik policy." 
As a matter of fact, it would have been entirely possible to carry out a peaceful transfer of power, without civil war or bloodshed in Venezuela in April 2002. Unfortunately, the opportunity was lost and the counter-revolutionaries were allowed to regroup and prepare for a new offensive. The tactic of conciliation of the class enemy advocated by "realists" like Dieterich, far from guaranteeing a peaceful solution, will have precisely the opposite results to those intended.
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 counter-revolution and imperialism. They may be sincere in their views, but they are giving false and dangerous advice. Either the revolution is carried through to the end, or else it must perish. Chávez 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.
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 pears from an elm tree. 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 Chávez. 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.
After the 2002 coup Hugo Chávez 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 organizing the bosses' lockout that inflicted serious damage on the Venezuelan economy. What was the result? Did this moderation and caution shown by the President after the collapse of the coup impress the counter-revolutionaries? Did it placate them? It did not. It encouraged them. The counter-revolutionaries regrouped and prepared a new offensive, the so-called strike that aimed to paralyze 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 of the CTV. Again, this attempt was defeated by the revolutionary movement of the Venezuelan workers.
What lessons can we draw from this? Do we conclude that that a conciliatory attitude is the only way to disarm the counter-revolution and imperialism? Only a fool would say so. The real conclusion that must be drawn is only this: that weakness invites aggression. 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 Chávez. 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 Chávez 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.
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 counter-revolution and begin to take power into its own hands. That is the only guarantee of success.
The only way to carry the revolution through to the end is to mobilize the masses for direct action. 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. Four years ago Chávez called for the arming of the people. 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.
The words of President Chávez 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 worker's district, every factory, every village, every school, must become a bulwark of the Revolution, prepared to fight.
Socialism - the only road!
Lenin once said that "capitalism is horror without end." It is sufficient to take a quick look at the state of our planet today to see the correctness of this assertion. The economic crises, wars, terrorism, political convulsions, hunger, disease and poverty, are not separate and unrelated phenomena. They are only the external symptoms of a global crisis of capitalism. The economic malaise that affects the entire continent of Latin America is part of this general crisis. Despite its almost unlimited resources, the continent is tormented by tremendous human suffering, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, disease. The gap that separates rich from poor has widened into an unbridgeable abyss. This produces an explosive mixture that undermines stability and causes frequent social and political convulsions.
To put things more clearly: the central problem is imperialism and capitalism. The giant corporations are trying to control the whole world and plunder it for profit. They are supported by the big imperialist bullies, in the first place the USA, which enjoys unprecedented power and uses it to make and unmake governments and subject whole countries and continents to its will. Not one of the problems facing the masses can be solved without an all-out struggle against capitalism and imperialism. Here we have the first point of disagreement with the reformists. They believe that it is possible to achieve our ends without a radical break with capitalism. They agree that things today are perhaps not quite as nice as we would like them to be, but that can change. All that is necessary is a little patience and moderation and all will be well.
Dieterich's whole approach is that of an abstract and lifeless schema that leaves out of account the class contradictions in society, and the determination of the oligarchy and imperialism to halt the revolution. Dieterich talks a lot about "the bourgeois counter-revolution advanced by the domestic oligarchy and the reactionary sectors of world capitalism." But he has not the slightest idea how to fight against this threat. In fact, his policies would guarantee the victory of the counter-revolution and the defeat of the revolution. He is like a man who meets a thug on the street corner and says to him: "Please don't bother to knock my teeth out. I will knock them out myself!" Like every reformist in history, Dieterich is anxious to prove just one thing: that the workers cannot take power and must not take power. That is the sum total of his wisdom and the reality of his message, once all the professorial verbiage has been stripped away. He constantly strives to frighten the working class with the spectre of counter-revolution: the gringos are coming! The oligarchy will overthrow us! They will assassinate the President! Remember what happened in Chile! And so the dreary litany goes on and on.
When Simon Bolivar first raised the banner of revolt against the might of the Spanish Empire, this seemed to many to be completely impossible. No doubt if Heinz Dieterich would have been alive at the time he would have poured scorn on the Libertador, as he now does with the Marxists. Yet Bolivar, starting with a small handful of supporters, eventually triumphed, just as Chávez, whose cause at first seemed hopeless, triumphed because he mobilized the masses for a struggle against the oligarchy. The battle is not yet over and victory is not guaranteed. It never is. But one thing is clear: the only way to succeed is to rouse the masses to revolutionary struggle.
Either the greatest of victories or the most terrible of defeats: these are the only two alternatives before the Bolivarian Revolution. Those who promise an easy path, the path of class compromise, are in reality playing a reactionary role, creating false hopes and illusions and disarming the masses in the face of the counter-revolutionary forces that have no such illusions and are preparing to overthrow Chávez as soon as the conditions permit it. They are continually acting to destroy the revolution. The idea that they will cease their counter-revolutionary acts if we "show moderation" and conciliate with the reactionaries is foolish and very dangerous. On the contrary, such behaviour will only serve to embolden them and encourage them.
Of course, in isolation, the Venezuelan revolution cannot ultimately succeed. But it would not be isolated for long. Revolutionary Venezuela must make an appeal to the workers and peasants of the rest of Latin America to follow its lead. Given the conditions that exist throughout the continent, such an appeal would not fall on deaf ears. The working day could be reduced immediately to 30 hours a week without loss of pay. As a reform to demonstrate the superiority of socialist methods, it would have immense consequences worldwide. But what is even more important, as Lenin explained, it would give the necessary time for the entire working class, to run industry and the state.
A socialist plan of production, controlled from top to bottom by the working class, would lead to immense increases in production, despite lowering the hours. Science and technique, liberated from the chains of private profiteering would develop to an unheard of extent. Democracy would no longer have its present restricted character but would be expressed in the democratic administration of society by the whole population. The basis would be laid for an enormous flowering of art, science and culture, drawing on all the rich cultural heritage of all the peoples of the whole continent. This is what Engels called humanity's leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. That would be genuine Socialism of the 21st Century: the only way forward for the people of Venezuela, Latin America and the world.
London, 7th May 2008
|<< 11. The state and revolution||Contents|
 from the Theses of the XIII Congress, 2007.
 Dieterich, En Venezuela se han creado condiciones para construir el Socialismo del Siglo XXI. My emphasis, AW
 Interview to Dieterich by Junge Welt, Weighty Alternatives for Latin America, 7/1/2006.
 Ibid. My emphasis, AW.
 Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, Preface, my emphasis.
 See: Hugo Chávez, Raúl Baduel, Raúl Castro and the Regional Block of Power advance the socialism of the future.
 Extract from Hugo Chávez’s speech at the first meeting of the “Propulsores” of the Partido Socialista Unido – United Socialist Party, 24/3/2007.
 Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 25, p. 184
 Ibid., Vol. 21, pp. 153-4.
 Ibid., p. 257.
 Ibid., pp. 263-64.
 Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Vol. II, pp. 312-3, my emphasis.