[Editor’s Note: This document was discussed, amended and voted in July by the 2006 World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency. Most of the text was originally written as a draft in October 2005 in preparation for the Congress. In the process of discussion it was redrafted in February and then amended at in July. This has to be taken into account when reading it. For example the section of the document on Mexico was written long before the great revolutionary events that have been unfolding over the past couple of months. The document actually predicted that such a movement would break out if the ruling class attempted electoral fraud. September 2006]
The Venezuelan revolution
Every revolution passes through certain stages. This can be seen in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and even the English Revolution of the 17th century. Perhaps the best comparison for Venezuela, however, is the Spanish revolution of 1931-37. There is always an initial phase of euphoria, when the masses are aroused and get a feeling of their own power. It is like an enormous street carnival, a festival of universal joy and brotherhood. But then comes the second phase when the masses, starting with the most advanced and active layer, begin to realise that the fundamental problems have not been solved, that in essence nothing has changed.
The roots of the Venezuelan Revolution go back to February 1989- the Caracazo uprising, when the bourgeois "democrat" Carlos Andres Perez, the faithful servant of Washington, did not hesitate to massacre his own people in cold blood. That defeat produced a ferment in society that found an expression in a sector of the army officers. The unsuccessful coup organised by Hugo Chavez in 1992 ended in a new defeat and imprisonment. But, as Marx explained, the revolution needs the whip of counter-revolution. An enormous movement rose around the figure of Chavez - a peculiar movement, the result of the events of 1989. The masses flocked to the banner of "chavismo", in which they saw a new and untainted banner.
The victory of Chavez in the 1998 election was an historic rupture. The masses took their revenge on the ruling class for the defeat of the Caracazo. It was an event equivalent to the February revolution in Russia, or, more accurately, to the declaration of the Republic in Spain in 1931. After the victory of Chavez there was the sense of euphoria that always accompanies the first stage of the revolution. But there was soon a rude awakening with the coup of April 2002. From the very beginning the Bolivarian revolution met the hostility, resistance and sabotage of the oligarchy, with US imperialism behind it. The events of April 2002 were unprecedented. For the first time in the history of Latin America, the masses, without a party or a leadership, defeated the counter-revolution, which was already in power. Since then there has been a constant struggle between the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces.
The real motor force of the revolution is the masses. On three occasions they have defeated counter-revolution. The last time was the recall referendum of August 2004. We saw the marvellous instincts of the masses to defeat the oligarchy in the referendum, though they didn't want it in the first place. That victory took the movement to a higher stage. Beginning with the most advanced layer, particularly the working class activists, the realisation began to dawn that, despite some welcome improvements, nothing fundamental had changed, and that the greatest battles lay in the future. In particular after the recall referendum a ferment began to develop, and continues to the present time.
After the August 2004 referendum, things have moved to a higher plane. The balance of forces in society is favourable to the working class. The workers' confidence is on the rise. The debate around "cogestion" (co-management) is pushing things forward. What this confused formulation expresses is the striving of the workers for workers' control - and that can only have a lasting significance if it leads directly to expropriation and a socialist planned economy. This meets with the ferocious resistance of the bureaucracy and the pro-capitalist wing of the Bolivarian Movement. There is an increasingly critical attitude among the masses towards the Bolivarian bureaucracy (though not towards Chavez). The working class is now emerging as an independent force. The first expropriations have already begun. In Venepal and CNV the CMR played a leading role - a fact that is known to the workers.
At first Chavez said Venepal was an exception. Now he talks about hundreds of enterprises that should be nationalised under "cogestion". He has presented a list of 1,149 factories that have been closed by the bosses. He said they had to either re-open them under workers' control, or they would be expropriated. There have been numerous declarations in favour of socialism, and there is tremendous pressure from below to continue along this line. In fact, if the movement of factory occupations and workers' control in public sector companies has not gone further this has been mainly due to the weakness of the leadership of the workers' movement, in particular the UNT.
As on every other level there is a ferocious struggle between the workers and bureaucrats that is in essence a class struggle - between revolution and counter-revolution, the working class and the bourgeoisie, which has infiltrated the Bolivarian revolution and is trying to destroy it from within. This struggle is even reflected at the level of the Cabinet, where the split between the left wing and the right wing is becoming wider and sharper.
The question of power
The question of power is posed in Venezuela. In the past, the question of power would have to be settled relatively quickly. One side or the other would triumph: either reaction would take power in a bloody coup or the workers would take power. Chile in 1973 was the clearest example of this. But in Venezuela this has not happened. Events are proceeding in a different fashion. This reflects the class balance of forces: there is still enormous power in the hands of the workers who have not been defeated. On the other hand, we can see the weakness of the forces of reaction that are incapable of seizing power - at least for the present.
The counter-revolutionary forces have been defeated a number of times when they have attempted to take power. In April 2002 they had power in their hands but the coup was defeated. This was the first time in Latin American history that a successful coup was overthrown by the movement of the masses. Yet, incredibly, the Venezuelan Stalinists and reformists complain about the "low level" of the masses. These wretched petty bourgeois have absolutely no confidence in the masses and no perspective of ever taking power. They represent a completely reactionary and retrograde tendency that, if it had its way, would destroy the Revolution and hand power to the reactionaries. Then they would tour Europe weeping about the tragedy of Venezuela and blame the masses for "trying to go too far, too fast".
The masses in Venezuela have in fact shown extraordinary levels of revolutionary maturity. Yet they have not taken power. Why not? The only reason is the absence of the subjective factor: the revolutionary party and leadership. Objectively, there is no reason. The objective conditions could not be more favourable for carrying out the revolution. In the short term, at least, the reaction cannot succeed. The right wing showed its complete impotence when it boycotted the legislative elections. They are split and demoralised.
Given the patent weakness of the forces of internal reaction, Washington is becoming desperate. The petty bourgeois elements are scared of a military intervention from the United States. They continually shout, "The Americans are coming!" like the little boy who never tired of crying, "Wolf!" In reality, a direct military intervention by the USA is ruled out at the present time. The US imperialists are trapped in Iraq. Bush can't open a second front in Venezuela - at least not directly.
At this point the reaction cannot overthrow Chavez, but this situation cannot continue indefinitely. The fact that Venezuela holds large stocks of oil is undoubtedly another factor that allows it a certain breathing space and room for manoeuvre. This element has given the right wing of the Bolivarian Movement - the pro-bourgeois element - a false sense of security. However, it cannot be assumed that the present favourable class balance of forces will be maintained for any length of time.
The masses want change. Now that the chavistas have a decisive majority in the National Assembly there is no excuse for not taking decisive measures against the oligarchy. The masses will demand this. They will say: "the leaders must do as we say." A section of the leadership reflects the pressure of the masses. They want to go further along the line of expropriations and workers' control. But the right wing is dragging its feet. They express the pressures of the bourgeoisie and imperialism. This is the central contradiction that must be resolved, one way or another, in the next period.
The main feature in Venezuela is the enormous polarisation of left and right. One might expect a quick development to resolve this unbearable contradiction through the victory of either revolution or counter-revolution. In Russia in 1917, the entire process had run its course in just nine months - from February to October. By comparison, events in Venezuela seem to be far slower and long drawn-out. Someone has described it as "a revolution in slow motion." But there is a reason for this.
In Russia in 1917 there were two very clear options: either the victory of Kornilovite reaction or proletarian revolution under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party. But in Venezuela things are not so clear. The counter-revolutionary forces are demoralised, split and increasingly desperate. The opposition is very weak, there is no chance of them taking power at the present time. On the other hand, the working class is hindered by a lack of leadership: there is no Bolshevik Party, no Lenin and Trotsky. There is therefore no possibility of a rapid solution one way or the other.
After the sharp decline provoked by the bosses' sabotage, the economy has rebounded and gone forward rapidly. In the recent period, 150,000 jobs have been created in Venezuela's public sector (as a result of the government "missions", etc.). However, only 40,000 have been created in the private sector. This shows the real attitude of the Venezuelan bourgeois to the revolution and Chavez. They are implacably hostile and cannot be reconciled by fine speeches. They do not trust the Bolivarians and do not invest.
In the end one class or another must triumph. The present situation, which can be characterised as an uneasy truce, can last for months, maybe years, with ebbs and flows. But sooner or later (it is impossible to be precise about the tempo) a showdown must take place.
The role of leadership
Marxism has never denied the role of the individual in history. There can be no doubt that Hugo Chavez has played an enormous role in the Venezuelan revolution, and that he has drawn some very advanced conclusions. That he has declared in favour of socialism is to be welcomed with every possible enthusiasm. But this socialism needs to be clearly defined. The task of the Marxists is to provide the necessary clarity: to dot the "Is" and cross the "Ts", and above all to spread and popularise the ideas of socialism among the workers and youth.
Having stated our support for Chavez against imperialism and the counter-revolutionary oligarchy, we have to add that our support cannot be unconditional. We do not give a blank cheque to any individual. Our attitude towards Chavez must be one of critical support. We support all the progressive measures he is carrying out, and urge him to go further, attacking the basis of bourgeois property, expropriating the landlords and capitalists. We energetically intervene in the debate on the nature of socialism, advocating Marxism and combating the confused and opportunist ideas of the reformists, who are striving to influence the President and push him in the direction of compromise with imperialism and the opposition.
At the same time, we insist on the independent role of the working class in the revolution. We support every action that tends to increase this role: factory occupations, workers' control, etc. We direct our fire against the enemies of the revolution: the landlords, capitalists and imperialists. Above all we direct our fire against the corrupt pro-bourgeois elements of the Bolivarian bureaucracy who are sabotaging the revolution and undermining it from within.
Within the Bolivarian leadership, opposing tendencies are emerging, reflecting the pressures of different classes. One section wants to go further. The other demands the reintegration of the opposition. They argue that it is dangerous that the counter-revolutionaries are not in parliament (a fairly logical result of boycotting the elections). The right wing Bolivarians demand that the majority must bow to the wishes of the minority. And this is what they call democracy! Fortunately, the masses have other ideas. There have been new expropriations as a result of the workers' initiative from below. The workers demand that the revolution be carried out to the end.
The reformist wing is striving to slow down and distort the different revolutionary measures that are attempted and to - through dialogue and negotiations with businesses - introduce within the government policies a whole series of proposals aimed at defending the economic power that is still in the hands of the bourgeoisie. They want a number of measures demanded by the employers to be implemented: price increases, grants to businesses, guarantees for private property, etc. This economic power in the hands of private businesses represents, in the current context of class struggle, the main weapon in the hands of the ruling class in order to undermine the social basis of the revolution and to create a balance of forces more favorable to them in the future which would allow them to implement their counter-revolutionary plans.
For these elements any idea of socialism and expropriations is anathema. Increasingly Chavez is coming into collision with the right wing elements in the Bolivarian bureaucracy. Right wing ministers mutter in corners against the President's "madness". They fear the masses and long to call a halt to the revolution. More than a few of them are in contact with the enemies of the revolution - the escualidos and the US embassy. Here lies the greatest danger to the Bolivarian revolution.
The reformists are like a man sawing the branch of a tree he is sitting on. Their policies will not soften the opposition of the imperialists and the oligarchy. On the contrary, they will encourage them to intensify their counter-revolutionary activity. At the same time they are discouraging the masses and creating dangerous moods of apathy and indifference. If this is allowed to continue, it can undermine the revolution completely. The bureaucracy acts like a Fifth Column. It sabotages the revolution from inside. This has led to sharp clashes at the top level. It is no accident Chavez has changed the composition of his cabinet and advisers.
The objective logic of the Revolution poses the need to expropriate the oligarchy. It would be possible for Chavez to lean on the masses to expropriate the oligarchy. But this would signify a split in the Bolivarian movement. This is something the President would like to avoid, but it is unavoidable. The MVR was always a highly heterogeneous and ideologically confused movement. At the top, there must be a large number of counter-revolutionary elements. Imperialism is leaning on the right wing "Chavistas" and organising intrigues with the corrupt elements that favour capitalism and secretly curse the President and the Revolution.
A struggle must open up, in which one side or another must win. Chavez can only win by leaning on the masses, by appealing to them and arousing them to struggle against the right wing. The masses, and the workers in particular, are coming to the correct conclusions: that the workers must control their leaders and their organisations. We see this in every election, when there are protests against the rigging of the electoral lists. This is the only real safeguard against the usurpation of the Revolution by a privileged caste of bureaucrats.
We base ourselves, not on individual leaders, but on the healthy class instincts of the workers and peasants, who are drawing revolutionary conclusions. The greatest danger to the revolution is that the masses will get tired of speeches and slogans while nothing is done to deal with the fundamental task of breaking the power of the oligarchy and driving out the corrupt careerists and bureaucrats who are sabotaging the revolution from within. The legislative elections of December 2005 already served notice on the government that the patience of the masses is not unlimited.
There has been an increase in the dissatisfaction of the masses, which at present is accumulating under the surface. There is a critical mood towards the overwhelming majority of the leaders (with the only exception of Chavez and very few others), although the dominant mood at present amongst the masses is the expectation that the shift to the left proposed by Chavez will soon mean profound changes in their living conditions. The recent victory in the National Assembly elections, the withdrawal of the opposition and the election of a new NA composed only of Bolivarian MPs, has made these expectations grow even further. "Now there is no excuse not to complete the revolution" - that is now the idea most Bolivarians.
Chavez received six million votes in the referendum, but in the legislative elections only three million voted. This was a warning. A mood of impatience is growing among the workers and peasants - and particularly the advanced elements - the working class activists in the unions and the Bolivarian organisations: "We've had enough of this, we need to finish the Revolution". This is absolutely correct, but insufficient. In order to turn the revolutionary aspirations of the masses into reality, they must be given an organised and conscious expression.
The level of abstentions in the legislative elections is an indication that the mood of the masses is changing. They are becoming impatient and frustrated with the slow progress of the Revolution. These are the early danger signs. If the masses lose faith in the Revolution and sink into apathy and indifference, the stage can be set for a new offensive of the counter-revolutionary elements. They can count on the support not only of the US embassy but also of numerous counter-revolutionary sympathisers in the upper reaches of the Bolivarian Movement.
The Venezuelan revolution has begun, in the same sense that the revolution in Spain began in 1931. If the Venezuelan workers possessed a Bolshevik party of 8,000 members they would have taken power by now. In the last analysis, however, the only guarantee for the success of the revolution is the existence of a revolutionary party with authority in the eyes of the masses. The party does not exist - yet. It has to be built. And how is this to be accomplished? Certainly not by proclaiming it, as the sectarians imagine. To build a serious revolutionary party it is necessary to work out the correct tactics, slogans, and methods in order to connect with the mass movement, or else the party will be finished before it has begun.
What is required is the construction of a powerful Marxist tendency with roots in the working class and in the Bolivarian Movement. The masses, whether in Russia, Venezuela or anywhere else, can only learn through their collective experience. The task of the Marxists is to fight shoulder to shoulder with the masses, going through the experiences with them and at each stage explaining and helping them to draw the correct conclusions. Only in this way can the Marxists win the confidence of the masses, starting with the most advanced elements, and win them for the programme of the socialist revolution.
The permanent revolution
The initial objectives of the Bolivarian Revolution were very moderate. They did not mention socialism. They did not threaten private property. What did they propose? A genuinely democratic constitution and reforms to improve the lives of the masses, in health, education, etc., an agrarian reform and national sovereignty. That is to say, the programme of the national-democratic revolution.
The very fact that the Bolivarian Revolution had to inscribe these things on its banner almost 200 years after Bolivar is in itself a striking demonstration of the failure of capitalism and the utter bankruptcy of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie. 200 years later, the bourgeois has failed to carry out a single one of the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution. This is not only true of Venezuela. It is the case in all the countries of the so-called Third World. Under modern conditions the tasks of the national-democratic revolution can only be carried out by the working class in alliance with its natural allies, the peasantry and the urban poor. This was pointed out by Leon Trotsky as early as 1904 in his famous theory of the Permanent Revolution:
"The perspective of the permanent revolution may be summed up in these words: The complete victory of the democratic revolution in Russia is inconceivable otherwise than in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat basing itself on the peasantry. The dictatorship of the proletariat, which will inescapably place on the order of the day not only democratic but also socialist tasks, will at the same time provide a mighty impulse to the international socialist revolution. Only the victory of the proletariat in the West will shield Russia from bourgeois restoration and secure for her the possibility of bringing the socialist construction to its conclusion." (Trotsky, Appendix to Stalin)
These words remain completely true today. In order to sweep aside all the old barriers to progress, it is necessary to eradicate the power of the oligarchy. In order to carry out an agrarian reform that is worthy of the name, it is necessary to break the power of the big landowners, to nationalise the land and confiscate the big estates. A start has been made, but much more needs to be done so that the peasant will believe that the slogan of the agrarian reform is not just an empty phrase.
In the Russian revolution, the basic disagreement between Bolshevism and Menshevism was on this very point: the attitude to the bourgeoisie. Lenin absolutely refused to recognise that the Russian bourgeoisie was capable of leading its own revolution to the end, and history proved that he was right. The arguments of the opportunists and pro-bourgeois elements in Venezuela are not new. They merely paraphrase the arguments of the Russian Mensheviks when they argue that the Revolution must be careful not to alienate the middle class.
Trotsky continues: "‘we must cherish the support of non-proletarian parties,' repeated Plekhanov during the years of the first revolution, ‘and not repel them from us by tactless actions.' By monotonous preachments of this sort, the philosopher of Marxism indicated that the living dynamics of society was unattainable to him. ‘Tactlessness' can repel an individual sensitive intellectual. Classes and parties are attracted or repelled by social interests. ‘It can be stated with certainty,' replied Lenin to Plekhanov, ‘that the liberals and landlords will forgive you millions of ‘tactless acts' but will not forgive you a summons to take away the land.' And not only the landlords. The tops of the bourgeoisie are bound up with the landowners by the unity of property interests, and more narrowly by the system of banks.
The tops of the petty bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia are materially and morally dependent upon the big and middle proprietors - they are all afraid of the independent mass movement. Meanwhile, in order to overthrow tsarism, it was necessary to rouse tens upon tens of millions of oppressed to a heroic, self-renouncing, unfettered revolutionary assault that would halt at nothing. The masses can rise to an insurrection only under the banner of their own interests and consequently in the spirit of irreconcilable hostility toward the exploiting classes beginning with the landlords. The ‘repulsion' of the oppositional bourgeoisie away from the revolutionary workers and peasants was therefore the immanent law of the revolution itself and could not be avoided by means of diplomacy or ‘tact'." (Ibid.)
Marxists stand for socialism - for workers' power. But we are definitely interested in supporting the struggle against imperialism, and are willing to combine in action with the revolutionary democracy on one condition - that they actually do fight for the programme of the national democratic revolution and do not surrender and compromise with imperialism and the oligarchy. A section of the revolutionary democrats wish to carry the fight forward, and we will fight shoulder to shoulder with them, encouraging them to move forward. But there are other sections who do not want to go forward, who are afraid of the reaction of imperialism and the oligarchy, who are constantly seeking deals with the enemy, who call for moderation and so on. These are not really revolutionary democrats at all but only bourgeois liberals.
It is absolutely necessary to understand that the Venezuelan Revolution is not an isolated act but part of a revolutionary chain that extends right across Latin America. Ultimately, this chain leads to the USA itself. Every revolution is linked to every other. The allegation from Washington that behind every revolutionary disturbance in Latin America is the hand of Hugo Chavez is false and absurd. But what is undeniably true is that the example of the Bolivarian Revolution provides a point of reference and acts as a powerful magnet attracting millions of poor workers and peasants who are seeking a way out on the revolutionary road. This is a fact of tremendous potential historical significance!
We must add the word "potential" for the simple fact that the Bolivarian Revolution has as yet not revealed its full potential. An acorn is not yet an oak tree. An embryo is not yet a human being. They are such only as a bare potentiality. Whether or not that potential will ever become actual depends on a number of factors. The fact is that the Venezuelan Revolution has begun, but it has not yet passed the line of no return, and it cannot do so unless it takes decisive action to break the power of the oligarchy once and for all.
The Bolivarian revolution has taken a number of steps to improve the conditions of the masses. It has introduced a democratic constitution. It has stood up to imperialism. It has begun an agrarian reform and nationalised some firms. These developments are progressive but not yet socialism. The majority of the capitalists have not been expropriated. The landlords still hold the majority of the land. The old bourgeois state has been partially purged and is riddled in a way that is increasingly more clear by class contradictions which to a large extent make it difficult for the bourgeoisie to use at present against the revolutionary process. There are even important elements of decomposition.
However, one of the main weaknesses of the revolutionary process is that this has not been replaced by a new state apparatus controlled by the working class and other sections of the people, which could be used as a basis for the further development of the revolution until the end. Some parts of the old state apparatus, particularly the structure and chain of command of the police forces and the Army itself are basically intact. The longer this contradiction within the state situation remains and is combined with the maintenance of capitalist forms of property and production relations in the economic field, the bigger the risk that the bourgeoisie might be able to recover complete and direct control of the state apparatus and use it for its counter-revolutionary aims.
As long as these tasks are not carried out, the revolution will always be in danger. With the oligarchy and its political representatives no deals are possible. No negotiation will yield any positive results, no amount of reasonableness, kind words, concessions or compromises will lessen their fanatical hostility to the Revolution. On the contrary, experience has shown that they interpret moderation as weakness - and weakness always invites aggression. Consequently, those "realists" - reformists, social democrats, etc. - who argue for moderation will only achieve the opposite of what they intended.
It is a very serious mistake to think that the hostility of the imperialists can be lessened by slowing down the revolution or by adopting more "moderate" policies. Imperialism and the Venezuelan oligarchy cannot permit the revolution to advance or even to exist. There can be no question of reconciling tendencies that are mutually exclusive. Those who advise Chavez to adopt a more moderate stance in order to save the revolution may do so from sincere motives, but they are harming the cause of the revolution and placing it in grave danger.
A military intervention?
The reformists constantly try to frighten the workers and peasants with the spectre of a US intervention. As a matter of fact, the US has already intervened and continues to intervene in Venezuela. On each occasion it has failed. And while it would be irresponsible to underestimate the power of US imperialism, it would be even more irresponsible to overestimate it, and to imagine that the power of the USA is unlimited.
Under present conditions the USA would find it difficult to intervene directly in Venezuela, at least in the sense of a military invasion. They have their hands full in Iraq. Moreover, they know very well that they would encounter ferocious resistance on the part of the whole people. A US invasion of Venezuela would make Iraq look like a tea party by comparison. Chavez is a military man and is not afraid of war or weapons. He is organising 2,000,000 reserves, which means effectively arming the population. And one has to take into consideration the effects internationally. There would be an explosive situation throughout Latin America, where not a single US embassy would be left standing. Last but not least there is the question of the effects in the USA itself, where the Latinos now represent the largest minority group, consisting mainly of poor exploited people.
Of course, Washington has other weapons in its armoury. It is working feverishly to isolate Venezuela economically and politically. But here too they have not had much luck. They tried to intervene against Venezuela through the organisation of American States (OAS). But the other bourgeois regimes in Latin America are afraid to intervene in Venezuela because of effect it would have in their own countries. The US, for all its might, was not even able to get the FTAA signed. Rice and Rumsfeld could find no support against Venezuela. They were politically defeated at the OAS meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Instead of having firm control over the situation, they are on the defensive. This was clearly shown by Bush's visit to Argentina.
Despite these setbacks, American imperialism cannot tolerate Chavez and his revolution because of the effects he is having in the whole of Latin America. Further acts of aggression are inevitable, even if they do not include direct military intervention. The strategists of imperialism understand the South American revolution as the Marxists do. They have a long-term plan for combating revolution in Latin America. They are intervening indirectly and increasingly in Colombia. The Colombia Plan is supposed to be a "war against drugs". In reality it is an anti-insurgency plan. By arming Colombia, they have transformed the whole military balance of forces in the region. The Colombian armed forces are now among the strongest in Latin America. US imperialists have turned the country into a gigantic armed camp.
They are using methods that they used in Vietnam, including dropping large quantities of defoliants on forests and farmland. These poisonous chemicals - akin to the notorious Agent Orange - are really weapons of mass destruction. They have sent "advisers" - as in the early days of Vietnam - to boost the armed forces of the "democrat" Uribe. The latter leans on the fascist paramilitaries who are also active within Venezuela. It is evident that they plan to assassinate Chavez with the active assistance of the CIA. George Bush and his partners in crime are not against this kind of terrorism. They are training special assassination squads in secret installations in Florida. If all else fails, they will engineer a border incident and push Colombia into a war with Venezuela.
Here we see the insolence of the US imperialists: Chavez buys 100,000 AK-47s from Russia and the US protests that this is a threat to its interests. Washington has pumped billions of dollars worth of arms into Colombia, but this is not supposed to represent a threat to Venezuela! They say Chavez will give these weapons to the FARC guerrillas in Colombia. This is not true. They will be used for modernising the weaponry of the Venezuelan military and the old weapons will be given to the Reserve. Chavez is preparing for war - quite correctly. The difference is that the arming of Venezuela is a defensive act of a weak country threatened by a mighty enemy, whereas the arming of Colombia is a monstrous act of aggression of a powerful country against a whole continent.
It is possible that under certain circumstances they might decide to intervene through Colombia. But even that is very risky option. Revolutions do not respect frontiers. A war with Venezuela could lead to the overthrow of Uribe, not Chavez. It would be a signal for the Colombian guerrillas to step up their attacks. The Colombian army would find itself fighting on two fronts. Such a war would be deeply unpopular in Colombia. There are at least one million Colombians in Venezuela. Chavez has given them full citizenship rights. They are in contact with their families and friends back home. In addition there would be the effects throughout Latin America and in the USA itself, where the Latinos are now the biggest ethnic minority, overwhelmingly poor and exploited. How would they react?
Even the assassination of Chavez poses real risks for Washington. To say the least, it is a problematic option. It would unleash revolutionary forces throughout the whole of Latin America and lead immediately to the cutting off of all Venezuelan oil to the US (15 percent of the US supply). Even in Colombia, despite terrible repression against the workers movement, there have been general strikes and factory occupations. The Left Bloc won the local elections in Bogotá. On the other hand, the guerrilla war continues, despite all Uribe's attempts to end it. If the USA pushes Colombia into war with Venezuela, it will merely aggravate all the internal contradictions in Colombia, where Uribe's control on power is not as firm as it appears.
See also Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Five