Venezuelan Revolution

Chavez five years 6 Image chavezcandangaThe Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela can be traced back to 1989, when the masses of workers and poor rose up against an IMF-imposed package of austerity measures. Carlos Andres Perez responded by sending the army to kill unarmed protesters, leaving hundreds dead. This led to a failed uprising of junior military officers, led by Hugo Chavez, against the government in 1992. On release from jail, Chavez stood in the 1998 presidential election and won against the joint forces of the regime, opening up a revolutionary period.

Faced with imperialist aggression and coup plotting by the oligarchy, Chavez used the country's oil resources to carry out a widespread programme of social reforms, particularly in the fields of housing, education and healthcare. Companies were nationalised and workers occupied their factories. In 2005, Chavez declared that the aim of the revolution was socialism. But this revolution was never completed.

Back in 2005, Alan Woods, in The Venezuelan Revolution: A Marxist Perspective, explained that it is impossible to make half a revolution:

“[T]he Venezuelan Revolution has begun, but it is not finished, and it cannot be finished until the power of the Venezuelan oligarchy is broken… This means the expropriation of the land, banks and big industry under workers’ control and management. It means the arming of the people... It means that the working class must organise independently and strive to place itself at the head of the nation. And it means that the Marxist tendency must strive to win over the majority of the revolutionary movement.”

The current crisis in Venezuela is being blamed on socialism by reactionaries in all corners of the planet. It is, therefore, vital that all socialists have a good understanding of the history of the revolution, its achievements and its shortcomings. 

More than 13,000 tonnes of food have been seized in the last two weeks in Venezuela as part of the Food Sovereignty Plan launched in order to fight speculation, hoarding and sabotage in the food distribution chain. In announcing the measures in his radio programme Allo Presidente on January 22, president Chávez said that "among the responsibilities of the government one of them is to attack the capitalist model, the monopolies and rackets, so that the people, the workers, together with the revolutionary government can take the country forward".

The Venezuelan revolution has inspired the workers, peasants and youth of all Latin America and on a world scale. Over the past decade 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.

The proposals for constitutional change have been defeated by 50.7% to 49.3%. The opposition hardly increased its absolute vote, but there was a high level of abstention. This is a warning. The masses are demanding decisive action not words! It may be that this defeat will have the opposite effect. It can rouse the masses to new levels of revolutionary struggle.

Economic sabotage is an underexposed and underreported tool of the counterrevolution in Venezuela. It is part and parcel of a general plan of destabilisation of the revolution in the run-up to the referendum. The limits of reformism in combating food scarcity stress the need for bold measures, like nationalisation of the food industry and the mobilisation of the masses. No time can be lost!

No sooner had I finished my article,Venezuela: counterrevolution raises its head - Heinz Dieterich and General Baduel (parts One and Two)when I was sent yet another of Dieterich's articles, which the Professor seems to produce with the same ease as a machine churning out sausages. This time it was a reply to my Cuban friend and comrade Celia Hart, who has clearly incurred the Professor's wrath by her negative comments on the very same article I have dealt with here.

The Marxists have long argued that the only way forward for the Venezuelan revolution is to strike blows against the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie, by expropriating the bankers, landlords and capitalists, etc. However, there are other voices saying rather different things. One of the most persistent of these voices is that of Heinz Dieterich, who has been waging a noisy campaign in favour of what he calls “Socialism of the XXI Century” - a strange kind of socialism indeed in that it differs very little from capitalism.

In the build up to the forthcoming December referendum on constitutional reform some of the reformist elements within the Bolivarian movement are coming out with their true colours. General Baduel, recently resigned Minister of Defence, has openly joined the Opposition, as has "Podemos" a party that was part of the government coalition. Open appeals to the military officer caste to rebel are also appearing in the media. This highlights the dangers to the revolution and the urgent need to complete it.

The overwhelming victory of Chávez in the presidential elections last December marked a new shift to the left in the Venezuelan revolution, followed by the setting up of the PSUV, nationalisations, workers' control, enabling power. In a speech at the summer school of the International Marxist Tendency, Jorge Martin analysed the stage the revolution is at, the dangers it faces and outlined the way forward.

The non-renewal of the broadcasting licence to private TV station RCTV in Venezuela has been used by the oligarchy and imperialism to unleash the coup-plotting campaign they were unable to launch at the time of the December 3rd elections. Despite all the hue and cry over “freedom of expression” the real aim of the oligarchy in Venezuela is to create a situation of chaos, violence and confusion.

Chavez has announced sweeping measures of nationalisation. This represents a big step forward for the Venezuelan revolution and would be a serious blow against capitalism and imperialism. Big enemies are lining up to stop this process, the most dangerous being inside the Bolivarian movement itself. It is now time to go all the way and put an end to capitalism in Venezuela and spread the revolution to the rest of Latin America.

Using the old and tested mechanism of organising economic sabotage from within, the Venezuelan oligarchy is consciously manoeuvring to organise “food shortages”. The government has imposed price controls and is attempting to set up publicly owned food industries, but in order to successfully combat this sabotage it must go all the way and expropriate the oligarchy as a whole.

At the swearing in of his new government, Hugo Chavez announced radical new measures, including an enabling law that would allow for the nationalisation of key sectors of the economy. He also explained that it is necessary to “dismantle the bourgeois state”. All this confirms what the Marxists said after the elections in December. The balance of class forces has tilted enormously in favour of the masses.

After the massive electoral victory on December 3, Chavez has put a big emphasis on the need to turn towards socialism. As part of this he is proposing a new party, built from the bottom up, to bypass the bureaucracy.

The central thesis of this book from beginning to end is the following: that the Bolivarian Revolution can only succeed if it goes beyond the boundaries of capitalist private property, expropriating the oligarchy and transforming itself into a socialist revolution. The Revolution has begun, but it is not finished.The old state apparatus is still largely intact and a number of key economic levers (including the banks and the land) remain in the hands of the Venezuelan oligarchy.