Venezuela: counterrevolution raises its head - Heinz Dieterich and General Baduel - Part Two

Although Dieterich does his best to cloud the issue, the facts speak for themselves - Baduel has broken with the revolution, and now stands on the side of the counterrevolution. To propose the unity of the two forces - revolution and counterrevolution – is like hoping to unite fire and water.

Baduel's "concern"

"However, those observers are quite right who noted that Baduel had shown unmistakable signs of public concern at the evolution of the Bolivarian project that he saw: such as the scant will to fight against corruption, the inflationary development of the economy, the discretional use of the revenues from PdVSA and the lack of definition of the institutionality of Socialism of the XXI Century." [my emphasis, AW]

We have not the slightest doubt that Baduel and the entire rightwing of the Bolivarian Movement were concerned about the evolution of the Bolivarian project. Why were they concerned? They were concerned because the Revolution was beginning to go beyond the limits of capitalism and threaten the wealth and property of the oligarchy. They were concerned about the nationalizations and the non-renewal of the licence of RCTV - that nest of counterrevolutionary agitation and nerve-centre of the golpistas.

They were also concerned about corruption, but not for the reasons Heinz Dieterich gives. Everybody knows that Chavez is personally incorruptible but that he is surrounded by a layer of corrupt bureaucrats and careerists who are sabotaging the Revolution from within. These elements are the Fifth Column of the counterrevolution and are far more dangerous than the open counterrevolutionaries.

They complain about "the discretional use of the revenues from PdVSA". What a joke! As if the revenues of PdVSA were not always used for political ends! The only difference is that in the past the vast resources of PdVSA were used for the benefit of the oligarchy, its friends and political servants. Now these resources are no longer controlled by the bourgeois and they do not like it. Their protests about corruption stink of hypocrisy.

It is quite true that there are bureaucrats in PdVSA - and not only in PdVSA - who need to be purged. But how is this to be done? It is necessary to take a big broom and sweep out all these corrupt "Bolivarian" officials and create a new state that is fit to carry out the socialist transformation of society. This can only done by the active involvement of the masses, the workers and peasants, in the running of industry, society and the state.

What is needed is the expropriation of the oligarchy and the dismantling of the old, corrupt bureaucratic state machine. That is the only way to achieve a clear "definition of the institutionality of Socialism of the XXI Century." Is that what Baduel and Dieterich are proposing? No, it is not. They are vehemently opposed to this. They are against nationalization and workers' control. When they talk of "Socialism of the XXI Century" they do not mean socialism at all, but only capitalism under another name. That is why they are "concerned" at the direction taken by the Bolivarian project. They are determined to halt the Revolution in its tracks.

In fact, 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 is 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 nationalisation. 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 disorganisation". And 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 nationalisation 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 Chavez and Socialism of the XXI 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 is 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 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 21 Century" (See: Hugo Chávez, Raúl Baduel, Raúl Castro and the Regional Block of Power advance the socialism of the future"

The reason why Baduel is passing 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".

We can only draw one conclusion, Dieterich's ideas about his so-called "Socialism of the 21" century, provide a cover for counterrevolutionaries who are opposed to socialism.

A misleading analogy

Having begun by confusing the issue Dieterich continues on the same track, only this time he takes us back 2,500 years, to ancient Rome. Baduel, you see, is following the model of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus:

"When he left the Defence Ministry in July 2007, General stated that he was going to withdraw from public life for a time, to work on his farm and ponder his future as a public figure, like the consul Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus in Rome 2500 years ago. On Monday, November 5, this meditative phase ended with his dramatic eruption into the public debate on constitutional reform."

Anyone who has read the books and articles of Heinz Dieterich will know that he likes to quote all kinds of historical analogies. This is intended to create an impression of great erudition and thus place him in a position of unassailable intellectual authority. It also plays a role analogous to that of a squid, which, when it wishes to distract an enemy, squirts a large amount of ink. The amount of ink squirted by Heinz Dieterich would distract all but the most persistent opponent. But since we are very acquainted with this tactic it will not distract us. We are also aware that Heinz's historical analogies are frequently misleading.

Cincinnatus was a nobleman in the days of the Roman Republic. Unlike our modern Venezuelan landowners, he worked fields with his own hands.  One day a messenger arrived to inform him that Rome was being attacked.  Like a good patriotic Roman citizen he dropped his plough and went to the city to lead the army and city to victory.

In those far-off days a Roman Dictator was elected for six months in times of national emergency, during which time he had total control. At the end of his period of office, he gave up power and went back to his farm. The Romans were very proud that their leader just wanted to serve them. To this day citizens of the USA like to compare George Washington to Cincinnatus. Washington also went back to his plough, and returned to his farm at Mount Vernon, where, unlike the Roman general, he did not work with his hands but relied on the services of his black slaves.

What has all this got to do with the case of Baduel? It has nothing to do with it and has been dragged in by the hair, as usual with Dieterich, to confuse the issue. Baduel was Minister of Defence, which is an important office, but hardly that of a dictator with total power. He was not called to power by the universal acclamation of the people of Venezuela but appointed by President Chavez, who has now decided to dispense with his services.

Baduel did not voluntarily relinquish power in order to work the land with his hands. He was removed and left office unwillingly, refusing to swear the oath of loyalty to Fatherland, Socialism or Death. This was an act of political insubordination that clearly indicated the way the General was thinking. He did not require time to reconsider his position, whether planting potatoes or not. His mind was already made up. In fact, it was already made up a long time ago.

Baduel was willing to follow Chavez as long as the Bolivarian Revolution remained within the limits of private property and capitalism. But the Revolution is moving beyond these limits and Baduel was unable to stop it from within. A clash with the President was inevitable, and once it came Baduel knew exactly what he had to do. The reason for the delay had nothing to do with Cincinnatus, potatoes or meditation but only the logistics of planning.

"There are, however, two fundamental differences with the historical model: a) the General was not convened by the State forces to ‘save Rome,' but volunteered motu proprio, on his own initiative, and b) he chose the time and place so as to ensure the maximum impact and surprise in order to launch his future political career. Part of the impact was due to the fact that some 18 days earlier he had publicly supported the constitutional reform."

Yes, every historical analogy holds good only within certain limits. But here it is false from start to finish. The above passage is so peculiar that one scratches one's head to find any sense in it (this is a sensation one frequently experiences when reading anything written by this author). Our modern Cincinnatus "was not convened by the State forces to ‘save Rome,'" No indeed! The "State forces" sacked the General precisely because he was a danger to "Rome" (that is, Venezuela).

Our Venezuelan Cincinnatus is now attacking those very "State forces" publicly, and openly supporting the counterrevolutionary opposition. This he is certainly doing motu proprio, that is, on his own initiative, and he certainly chose the right time and place "so as to ensure the maximum impact and surprise". That is to say, he chose the right time and place to inflict the maximum damage on the Bolivarian Revolution, the run-up to the December referendum. This he is doing, as Dieterich is compelled to admit, not for the benefit of the Republic, but "in order to launch his future political career". That is to say, he is doing precisely the opposite of what Cincinnatus did. Yet Heinz sees him as a heroic figure in the tradition of the Roman hero. This tells us a lot of how Heinz understands ancient history - and modern politics.

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 counterrevolutionary. No, the Professor detests the counterrevolution 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 counterrevolution, 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 will 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 has given him a lot of publicity, praising him as a hero. He is the hero of the hour - for the counterrevolutionaries. He is putting 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 is 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.

By citing the example of the Roman hero Cincinnatus, Dieterich is giving credence to the propaganda of the ruling class and the imperialists. Was Cincinnatus not a hero? And did he not save the Fatherland in its hour of need? The oligarchy is desperate and is looking for a strong man who can stand against Chavez and halt the Revolution. When they talk about "saving Venezuela" what they mean is saving the power and privilege of the oligarchy that is being threatened by the movement of the masses. They cry for Order. And what they mean is a coup and a dictatorship that will put an end to the Revolution and teach the masses a lesson they will never forget.

Centre or right?

Everybody knows that Baduel has gone over to the Right - straight to the camp of the counterrevolution - everybody, except Heinz Dieterich. He is convinced that "the offensive of the General seeks to occupy the political centre of the country".  And Dieterich expresses his unbounded admiration for the General's tactics:

"Raul Baduel is an extraordinary military man with strategic vision which explains the content and timing of his public statement."

Moreover: "The field of political battle chosen by the General was constitutional reform and the time, the start of the official campaign for the Yes vote and the violent protests on the right".

And again:

"Lacking a national organization and adequate funding to launch a national political campaign, the general transformed the growing controversy about the content and procedures for constitutional reform into the equivalent of what is in military terms the strategic reserve of a belligerent: a pre-organized force in stand-by for any offensive or defensive purposes. In the dramatic situation on Monday, after the demonstrations for and against the reform, a statement of the kind that he made, would give him an immediate global media forum, and within Venezuela, leadership of the political centre, which the country now does not have."

Dieterich writes like the commentator in a baseball match, remarking favourably on the technique of one of the players. But he pointedly declines to say which team he supports. Yes, we can agree that Baduel was a skilful counterrevolutionary and that his technique and timing are excellent from the point of view of the counterrevolution. His intervention was carefully organized to coincide with the violent provocations of the right-wing students on the streets and campuses. The General succeeded in adding to the chaos and instability and materially assisted the camp of the "No" vote. Bravo, Baduel!

If we were to look for historical analogies rather more recent than Cincinnatus, we can find plenty. Mussolini was an even cleverer tactician than Baduel. His tactics in 1919-23 were impeccable and resulted in his taking absolute power and establishing a fascist state in Italy. Does this entitle us to write with admiration about Mussolini, to present him as an extraordinary military man with strategic vision?

The thousands of Italian workers, socialists, communists, trade unionists who were murdered, tortured and imprisoned by Mussolini would find it hard to share such admiration. And in Venezuela the consequences of a victory of the counterrevolution would not be less serious. And let us not forget that before his conversion to fascism Mussolini had been one of the leaders of the Italian Socialist Party. Despite the self-evident fact that Baduel is acting in co-ordination with the rightwing, Dieterich continues to deny this:

"Contrary to what the official propaganda and sectarianism say, he is not a man of the extreme right, which by definition is extra-constitutional, but a man of the Law. His pronouncement in favour of the Constitution of 1999, against the excessive concentration of power in the executive branch, is the kind of speech that aims to occupy the political centre of the country."

This is based on several misconceptions. The extreme right is not necessarily "by definition extra-constitutional". Let us recall that Hitler skilfully made use of the Weimar Constitution to manoeuvre himself into power. With the help of big business he contested elections and even came to power by parliamentary means in 1933, thanks to the criminal policies of the German Stalinists and Social Democrats. The same was true of other fascists like Dolfuss in Austria and Gil Robles in Spain. Even today the European extreme right contests elections and has parliamentary representatives in several countries and even (until recently) a parliamentary group in the European parliament, which included Mussolini's granddaughter.

In Venezuela the counterrevolutionary opposition makes use of all the democratic and constitutional mechanisms open to it - or not, according to tactical considerations. They used the mechanism of the recall mechanism provided by the 1999 Constitution in an attempt to get rid of Chavez. Had they succeeded, they would have immediately abolished the right of recall and liquidated the Constitution. They failed because of the high level of revolutionary consciousness of the masses. In 2005 they boycotted the legislative elections because they knew they would be defeated and wanted to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the result. This got them nowhere, so last December they participated in the Presidential elections and mobilized their supporters in mass demonstrations. Once more the masses showed a very high level of maturity, coming out onto the streets and voting massively for Chavez. At present the opposition is combining extra-parliamentary methods (armed provocations, riots and economic sabotage) with parliamentary tactics (calling for a "no" vote). In other words, this is a purely tactical question for them.

In concluding that General Baduel has gone to the right and has joined the ranks of the counterrevolutionary opposition we do not need to refer to "official propaganda" or "sectarianism" (whatever that might be). We refer only to the facts, and facts are stubborn things. Is the "No" campaign in Venezuela being organized by the counterrevolutionary opposition with the support of US imperialism? Yes, it is. Is the intention of this campaign to discredit and overthrow Chavez and reverse the Revolution. Yes, it is. Is it co-ordinated with the violent provocations of the right-wing students? Yes, it is. Are the latter intended to sow chaos and instability and create an atmosphere favourable to a coup as in April 2002? Yes, they are.

What is Badel's role in all this? Is it to occupy the political centre of the country? No, it is not. He has publicly aligned himself with the extreme rightwing, which seeks to destroy the Revolution and throw Venezuela back. His intention (which Dieterich finds so technically excellent) is to sow chaos and instability, which is the same aim being pursued by the right-wing provocateurs. Faced with these facts how can one deny that the General has gone over to the side of the counterrevolution? Because he calls himself a democrat and makes reference to the Constitution of 1999? So does every other right-wing demagogue in Venezuela (although they opposed the Constitution of 1999 at the time!).

But let's look at what Baduel actually said in his speech in which he broke with Chávez. It is true that he did not appeal openly for a military coup. But he said the following: "This project of a new constitution promotes polarisation and contributes to confrontation amongst Venezuelans. It is absurd to try to build it around an ideology, on the contrary, it should be a social pact of the widest consensus amongst all Venezuelans, otherwise, a broad majority will not accept it and will always try to change it even if they have to resort to violent means to do so". [my emphasis, AW]

What he is saying clearly is that unless Chávez withdraws the constitutional reform and agrees to one that pleases the counterrevolutionary opposition, then they will use violent means to oppose it. This is clearly a threat! And not a democratic, parliamentary one.

Furthermore, Baduel ended his statement with a warning not to "underestimate the capacity of Venezuelan military men to analyse and think", which can only be interpreted as a coded appeal to the armed forces to come out against the reform and the referendum.

If something looks like a sausage, smells like a sausage and tastes like a sausage, there is a very high possibility that it is a sausage. If a man acts like a counterrevolutionary, thinks like a counterrevolutionary and speaks like a counterrevolutionary, there is an equally high possibility that he may be a counterrevolutionary. 

Break with Chavez

In the section entitled The break with the President and the decisive battle we read:

"The statement by the General does signify, of course, an open break with the President and the Bolivarian project, which the chief of state has been shaping from 2003 to date. The timing may seem brutal, because it launches a "war" with no quarter, in the style of Bolivar. The immediate withdrawal of the bodyguards of the General and his family by the Ministry of Defence, at the end of the press conference, is one example of this situation. But it is obvious that Baduel considered all the bridges were burnt and that, in going on the offensive, he decided that maximum force had to be used."

Dieterich remarks in passing that Baduel has broken with the President and the Bolivarian project. He makes this remark as if it were an insignificant detail, something perfectly natural, which should not cause us any undue surprise or shock. "Oh, by the way, Baduel has broken with Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution: pass the mustard, please."

Why does he write in this way? Because he wishes to make Baduel's betrayal look like something unimportant. Moreover, as we shall see, he wishes to stitch together an agreement between Baduel and Chavez. He continues to prettify Baduel. Not satisfied with comparing him with the Roman hero Cincinnatus, he now compares him with Simon Bolivar - the Liberator: "The timing may seem brutal, because it launches a "war" with no quarter, in the style of Bolivar." Was it also in the style of Bolivar to side with the rich and powerful against the poor and downtrodden, with the oppressors against the oppressed? We do not think so.

The timing was brutal because it was aimed to coincide with the violent provocations of the rightwing and the counterrevolutionary agitation against the constitutional changes. But Dieterich places the word "war" in inverted commas, once again, in order to make Baduel's act of aggression seem less severe, a mere trifle, not a real war at all, but only a playful little game, a "war" of words, a little misunderstanding between friends who ought to be reconciled as soon as possible so as to put an end to the "war".

But no, this is not a game but precisely a war - a class war - and the war has been launched in earnest. It is a war between two mutually antagonistic and irreconcilable camps. And as Dieterich correctly says, it is a war with no quarter. Both the revolutionaries and the counterrevolutionaries know this. They know they are playing for the highest possible stakes. As for Heinz Dieterich, he adopts the policy of "one of sand and one of cement". In one sentence he places "war" in inverted commas and in the next he says:

"The intervention of the General amounts to a decisive battle, because if the President does not win the referendum, or if he does not win at least 60 percent of the votes, he would be forced to call new elections. That is, the call for a "no" vote is much more than a simple electoral issue or a debate on the constitutional prerogatives of the state and people: it is, for now, the decisive battle on the kind of country created by the President in the last four years from the proclamation of "Venezuelan socialism" to the fundamental changes that he is trying to introduce to the Constitution of 1999." [my emphasis, AW]

So in a couple of sentences we pass from a phoney "war" to - a decisive battle, a battle to decide the kind of country Venezuela is going to be. And that is partially correct. The Venezuelan Revolution has been a series of battles in which the antagonistic classes have fought ceaselessly to conquer ground, inch by inch. The ground has been defended stubbornly by the ruling class and all those with large fortunes and powerful interests to defend. The latest battle is the constitutional reform and the December referendum, which will indeed be an important stage in the struggle to determine what kind of society Venezuela will have.

In this important battle Baduel has taken sides with the counterrevolution. And Heinz Dieterich has taken sides with Baduel. In one sense, however, we can agree with Heinz Dieterich. Whoever wins this battle, the war will have yet to be won. A constitution, after all, is only a bit of paper. It reflects the existing balance of forces. It is necessary to win this battle, but once it is won, we must continue to mobilize and fight for the socialist programme to be carried into action. Deeds, not words and bits of paper, are what the Revolution needs in order to triumph.

However, before we reach X, Y and Z we must first get to A, B and C. The battle of the December referendum must be won before the Revolution can defeat its main enemies. And in order to defeat its main enemies, it must first clear the ground, pushing to one side all those self-styled "friends" who are constantly advising it to compromise, retreat and surrender, and not to give battle because it may lose. If Simon Bolivar had listened to the advice of such "friends" when he raised the standard of revolt with just a handful of followers, the peoples of Latin America would still be languishing under the boot of Spanish colonialism. Yet Professor Dieterich presumes to speak in the name of Bolivar!

The question of the state and the armed forces now occupies a key position in the revolutionary equation. The bourgeois state has been disintegrating for some time. But no new state power has been created to take its place. This is a dangerous situation. The formation of a new state power necessarily entails a new kind of army - an army of the people, a workers' and peasants' militia. The new Constitution includes provisions for the setting up of a Bolivarian Popular Militia (Art. 329) "as an integral part of the Bolivarian Armed Forces" and states that they shall be made up of "units of the military reserve ". That is more than one and a half million Venezuelans. Such a force would be a powerful revolutionary instrument for fighting the enemies of the Revolution both inside and outside national frontiers.

It is not by chance that one of the issues which led to the removal of Baduel as a Minister of Defence was his opposition to the question of a militia army in his debate against Muller Rojas.

If the trade unions were organizations worthy of the class they would immediately take up this proposal and set up workers' militias in every factory and workplace. The workers must learn the use of arms in order to defend their conquests, to defend the Revolution against its enemies and to proceed to new conquests.

As for the army, like every other army it reflects the society in which it lives and breathes. The overwhelming majority of the soldiers, NCOs and junior officers are for the Revolution, just as the overwhelming majority of the population is. In the upper echelons there are honest officers who loyally serve the people and the Revolution. But the higher you go in the upper ranks the less clearer the situation becomes.

The only way to ensure that all the Baduels are removed from the army is by introducing democracy into the army, allowing the soldiers full freedom to join political parties and trade unions. Officers should be subject to election at regular intervals, as should every public official. Those who are loyal to the Revolution would have nothing to fear.

The balance of forces

Professor Dietrich now shows a most tender concern for the fate of President Chavez:

"The intervention of the General amounts to a decisive battle, because if the President does not win the referendum, or if he does not win at least 60 percent of the votes, he would be forced to call new elections." [my emphasis, AW]

Heinz Dieterich does not want the President to hold a referendum - because he might lose! On this logic, Chavez should never have stood in an election or held any referendum in the past, because he could have lost at any time. This is an argument, not against Chavez's reforms, but against democracy in general. We know that the masses, the workers and peasants, do not exist for Heinz Dieterich. He has no time for them, he has no faith in them, he does not trust them. All his trust is deposited with bureaucrats and generals like Baduel. Yet the main motor force of the Revolution has been the movement of the masses.

To make matters worse Dieterich invents a new barrier: Chavez must get at least 60% of the votes or else call an election. Why? Who says so? A referendum, like any election, is won or lost by a simple majority. Chavez is under no obligation to call an election since he has only recently won an election by an overwhelming majority - in fact, the biggest majority in the history of Venezuela. Yet again Heinz Dieterich is trying to frighten the Revolution into beating a retreat.

The class balance of forces remains enormously favourable for the socialist revolution in Venezuela. That was proved yet again by the result of the Presidential election last December. Although nine years have passed (and what years!), despite all the difficulties, the shortages, the hardships, the sabotage and corruption, the persistent media offensive, the masses have remained absolutely firm and unwavering in their support for the Revolution and socialism. But sceptics like Dieterich do not see this. They see only problems, difficulties and dangers. When assessing the chances of Baduel and Chavez he writes:

"However, it is difficult to predict accurately the consequences. Raul Baduel has undoubtedly lost the great support that he had within the ranks of hard-line "Chavismo". We will have to see if the support he wins among the Centre and disappointed Bolivarians can compensate for this loss of political capital. On the part of the President, it remains to be seen if he can mobilize electoral forces which were previously undecided or inert in his favour." 

It is certain that Baduel has lost all support among the Bolivarian masses who represent the decisive majority of Venezuelan society. The talk about "hard-liners" merely echoes the poisonous propaganda of the right-wing media. As for "disappointed Bolivarians", they will hardly support Baduel. If Bolivarians are disappointed, it is not because the Revolution is going too fast but on the contrary, because it is not going fast enough, not because it is going too far but because it is not going far enough.

That is why it is essential that, after winning the referendum, it is necessary to carry all the promised measures into practice immediately, sweeping all resistance to one side. The only way that the President can mobilize electoral forces which were previously undecided or inert in his favour is not by making deals with the opposition and retreating from his programme but by showing the utmost determination to carry through the socialist transformation of society. Everything indicates that the masses will once more rally to the defence of the Revolution and vote "yes".

One by one, we have stripped away the false and demagogic arguments of Heinz Dieterich, who is now practically as naked as the day he was born. But we will leave him a jacket to cover his nakedness and from his sleeve he pulls his last remaining card:

"Within this calculation it is necessary to remember that one of the characteristics of Venezuelan politics is that from 1999 onwards, the government has failed to reduce the opposition bloc, which has a hard core of around 35 to 40 per cent of the population, which is a fairly high platform for any government to jump in a crisis." [my emphasis, AW]

The opposition has regularly been defeated in every election and referendum in the last nine years. In 2005 they did not even stand in the legislative elections because they knew they would get a ridiculous result. In the Presidential elections of December 2006 they were massacred. Yet, like a repeating groove on an old gramophone record, Dieterich keeps on harping on the idea that the opposition is tremendously strong and the revolutionary forces are tremendously weak.

This is nonsense. The revolutionary forces are stronger than ever, and this is shown by the phenomenal growth of the PSUV, which, with 5.5 million members, must be the biggest political party in the history of any country. Moreover, the class struggle is not only a question of electoral statistics. The millions who vote for the opposition are mainly petty bourgeois elements. The shock troops of the counterrevolution are hijos de papa - spoilt middle class brats, as Chavez correctly called the student provocateurs. They would be scattered very quickly in any serious conflict with the workers and peasants.

"A phase of uncertainty"

The biggest concern to our friend Heinz is that Venezuela is entering a phase of uncertainty. But who is responsible for this uncertainty? There is no uncertainty on the part of the masses, who have repeatedly demonstrated their burning desire to change society, to overthrow the oligarchy and to move towards socialism. This will to change society was demonstrated yet again in the Presidential elections last December.

It is the opposition that is doing everything in its power to create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, in order to destabilise the democratically elected government and create the conditions for a coup. In this dirty work, the opposition counts on a most valuable asset in the person of Baduel. This is admitted in so many words by Dieterich:

"There is no doubt that the intervention of the General has caused two important effects: a) has reinforced all the forces of the ‘No' vote, from the radicals to moderates; this is a historic responsibility of enormous dimensions that undoubtedly will weigh on the conscience of General until the end of his life, and b) has ruled out abstention as an option."

So there we have it: the General's intervention has reinforced all the forces of the ‘No' vote, that is to say, has reinforced the counterrevolutionary opposition. This, we are informed, is "a historic responsibility of enormous dimensions that undoubtedly will weigh on the conscience of General until the end of his life". Dieterich is afraid of the revolution "going too far". But he is also afraid of the counterrevolution "going too far". He therefore asks the General to think carefully before acting. He appeals to Baduel's conscience. A most touching detail!

We doubt very much that the General will lose much sleep over this appeal to his finer instincts. In serious matters like the class struggle the consciences of generals are rarely troubled. But whereas Dieterich appeals to Baduel only to examine his conscience, he demands much more from Hugo Chavez. He demands complete surrender to the counterrevolution. What does he propose? Only this: a strategic alliance between Chavez and Baduel.

Yes, you read that correctly! In order to save the Revolution, Chavez must ally himself with the Counterrevolution. How does Heinz arrive at this wonderful conclusion? As usual, he tries to frighten us with the spectre of defeat:

"The danger of defeat, absolute or relative, of the ‘yes' vote, opens once again a chronically chaotic phase in Venezuela that in a few years could finish the government of Hugo Chavez. And if Chavez leaves the Miraflores Palace, the integration of South America could be halted. That is what is at stake."

 This is the scenario he paints: if there is a referendum on constitutional reform, Chavez may not win (an absolute defeat), or he may win with les than 60% (a relative defeat). The possibility that he might win does not enter into Heinz's calculations. He foresees the worst possible variant: defeat (absolute or relative) in the December referendum will open up a chronically chaotic phase ending in Chavez being ejected from the Palace and a halt to the integration of South America.

We leave aside the observation that the only way to achieve a genuine and lasting unification of Latin America is by revolutionary means, as Simon Bolivar understood very well. As long as the oligarchies continue to dominate, all talk about the integration of South America is just so much hot air. The last 200 years is sufficient proof of that. Once the Venezuelan Revolution is carried through to the end, which means the expropriation of the landlords and capitalists, the workers and peasants of Latin America would follow its lead, creating the conditions for a socialist federation of Latin America.

The first task is to finish what has been started: to carry out the socialist revolution in Venezuela. But this is what Baduel and Dieterich do not want:

"To avoid this uncertain future and prevent right and imperialism from taking power in Venezuela, it will be necessary for Chavez and Baduel to reach a negotiated settlement that is based on a strategic alliance between the country's political centre and Bolivarianism."

What Dieterich proposes is to unite Revolution with Counterrevolution: that is, to unite fire with water. How is this miracle to be achieved? Both sides must make some concessions. What concession does he demand of Baduel? He suggests that the General examine his conscience. This is not really much of a concession! What concession does he ask of President Chavez? Let him speak for himself:

"It would be convenient to stop seeing the new constitution as a sacred cow and see it for what it is: a legal modus vivendi built on the correlation of forces in a given historic moment. Otherwise, we run the risk of paying the political price being paid by Evo Morales in Bolivia, as a result of the Constituent Assembly."

What does this mean? It means that, in order to please General Baduel (who represents only himself), Hugo Chavez (who represents the overwhelming majority of the people) must change his policies which he was elected to carry out, cancel the referendum and abandon the constitutional reform. This would mean abandoning the movement towards socialism, leaving the land in the hands of the landlords, the banks in the hands of the bankers and the factories in the hands of the capitalists. It would also mean that the majority would surrender to the minority. This is the precise opposite of democracy. But for Heinz Dieterich it is just what democracy means: the tail must wag the dog.

If President Chavez were mad enough to pay any attention to Heinz Dieterich he would certainly lose power and very quickly. Such an abject surrender to the forces of reaction would demoralize the millions of people who voted for a decisive change last December and are looking to the President to carry this out. Once the reactionaries saw that the masses were no longer prepared to fight, they would organize an offensive on all fronts. They would stage provocations and cause chaos on such a scale that the conditions for a coup would be created and this time it could be successful. That is the real scenario that would occur if Dieterich were listened to. Fortunately, he will not be listened to.

The example of Evo Morales is relevant, but not in the sense intended by Dieterich. The problem with Evo Morales is not that he confronted the oligarchy but that he did not confront it with sufficient strength and determination. The kind of policy advocated by Dieterich has been attempted by Evo Morales with fatal results. It is impossible to arrive at a compromise with the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie by moderation and negotiation. That only encourages them to intensify their campaign of sabotage and provocation.

Those like Heinz Dieterich who argue that the Bolivarian Revolution has gone too far and must retreat are playing a pernicious role. It is impossible to make half a revolution. Either the Revolution advances and strikes blows against the counterrevolution or it will begin to unravel and decline, allowing the initiative to pass to the reaction. Thus, the so-called "realism" of Dieterich turns into its opposite. As the English proverb goes: weakness invites aggression.

London. 21st November, 2007.

See also: