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Venezuela- the revolution at the crossroads

In Defense of Marxism- http://www.marxist.com
Workers International League- http://www.socialistappeal.org

The revolution at the crossroads
By Pablo Sanchez
In recent weeks Venezuela has finally been featured in the pages of the so-called serious British press. This is largely as a result of the effects of the right wing Venezuelan opposition campaign to try and organize a recall referendum.

The social situation in Venezuela, eight months after the defeat of the pro-coup lockout in December-January, continues to be characterised by a balance of forces favourable to the revolutionary struggle, which, despite all the difficulties and tricks conjured up by the forces of reaction, continues to enjoy massive support among the workers and poor masses. On the other hand, the counterrevolutionary opposition is still alive and kicking; directed and funded by U.S. imperialism; trying to use all possible methods with the sole aim of destabilising and sabotaging the government of Hugo Chavez and thus undermining the social base of the revolution.

Counterrevolutionary Provocations

On June 13, the right-wing party COPEI organised an anti-Chavez demonstration in Petare, one of the neighbourhoods of Caracas where support for the revolutionary process is strongest. The aim of this provocation was to create a tense situation (with casualties, if possible) to then be used nationally and internationally against Chavez.

The local police, on the orders of mayor Alfredo Peña, one of the opposition leaders, brutally attacked thousands of Petare residents, who had spontaneously mobilised against the counterrevolutionary provocation. Peña's cops broke the safety cordon established by the National Guard and the municipal police of Sucre (the municipality of which Petare is a part and which has a pro-Chavez mayor). Peña's cops fired on the residents and attacked the hospital with tear-gas bombs. There were a number of wounded, and some people could easily have died, as had happened some weeks previously in Catia, when a supporter of the pro-Chavez party MVR was killed.

This is just one of many examples which define the current situation in Venezuela. There is a campaign both in Venezuela and internationally to attack the Chavez Government. As The Guardian stated on Saturday August 16: "Venezuela is sharply polarised. Middle-class voters say they feel cheated: they voted for a politician who promised to end corruption and rejuvenate Venezuela, they say, but he has veered towards communism". Of course Chavez is no communist. Only through the eyes of the American imperialists and those defending their interests could he be considered a communist. The media internationally is trying to portray Chavez as a mindless dictator in order to justify future attacks against the revolution.

The most intelligent sections of the opposition are aware that after the victory of the workers and popular masses in December, when they defeated the pro-coup lockout organized by the capitalists and supported by the corrupt union bureaucracy of the CTV, a large part of their (anti-Chavez) social base was discouraged and demoralised. In Petare they barely mobilised 2,000 to 3,000 people, many fewer than the massive improvised demonstration, called in response, by supporters of the revolution.

At the same time that the opposition has been organizing this campaign, it has reached an agreement with the government on the mechanisms for holding a recall referendum. The aim of this is to gain time and to use this act to confuse international public opinion and to continue fooling its own social base. The agreement only confirms what has already been granted in the Bolivarian Constitution: that a recall referendum can be held against any elected official - whether it be President Chavez or any member of parliament, governor, mayor, or councilman - once he finishes half his term, by presenting a set number of signatures (they need about 20% of the electorate to be able to use the recall option). Once those signatures have been verified by the National Electoral Commission, then the referenda will be called in the order in which they have been requested

The opposition has presented the agreement as if it signified the actual calling of the referendum before a single one of the necessary steps for beginning the process has been completed. This is because, among other things, the polls already indicate a defeat for it. There are doubts that they will achieve legally the minimum 20% support needed. Its aim is to accuse the government of preventing the referendum from being held and violating the Constitution, in order to see if it can manage to re-incite its social base and be able to return to the offensive. For this, it is counting on the support of U.S. imperialism and of all the big private disinformation media. In Britain we might see an increase in the space that the "independent" and "respected" papers allocate to criticise the current Venezuelan government. The campaign has started, on the August 21 The Evening Standard had a piece about the recall referendum, of course they did not mention the huge demos to celebrate the third year of the Bolivarian government. Also when the workers defeated the coup, this was not considered newsworthy enough for these people.

The opposition also controls the Supreme Court of Justice and uses it to obstruct action by the government; the latest example being the verdict which nullifies the firing of participants in the bosses' lockout of the state petroleum company PDVSA. The government has replied that supporters of the coup will not be rehired. One of the opposition's tactics is to block the legislative power, the National Assembly (where Chavez' supporters have control by a narrow margin). At the same time it is exerting pressure on, and trying to buy off, deputies to obtain a majority in the National Assembly.

Economic Sabotage and the Workers' Response

But the main threat to the revolution is undoubtedly the economic sabotage, which the bourgeoisie and imperialist powers are subjecting the Venezuelan economy at this moment in time, thus aggravating the effects of the international crisis of capitalism and the wounds inflicted by the pro-coup lockout, from which the economy has not completely recovered. The number of factory closures, cuts in production, unpaid salaries and firings are reaching record levels. The economy has contracted by 29% in the first quarter of this year alone (The Guardian, 16 August 2003). There are problems in the distribution of medicines and of some basic products, the prices of which are rising while instances of hoarding and speculation are daily being discovered.

As in Chile and Nicaragua, in the past, the intention of U.S. imperialism and the oligarchies is that the economic difficulties should demoralise those workers and poor who support the revolution and decisively push the middle classes towards the right. What has prevented these schemes time and again has been the powerful class instinct, and the firm belief in the need for revolutionary change, which the workers and people of Venezuela possess. The most impressive thing about the Venezuelan revolution is the profound conviction displayed by the most humble (who are precisely those who are suffering the most in this situation) of the need for revolutionary change in the country.

The only way of preventing the success of the counterrevolutionary plots of the capitalists in the near future is precisely to complete the revolutionary process and to define, as soon as possible, how to solve the grave economic problems of the masses, and to accomplish the economic transformation of the country by advancing towards socialism.

Workers in a number of various enterprises (e.g. Fenix, CNV and others) continue to occupy their firms after they have been closed down or the boss has threatened to fire them, and these workers are asking for financial support and raw materials from the government. On August 17 the workers of Venepal (a paper company with millions of dollars of debt) decided to take control and carry on with production. The workers of CNV were present and supportive. This is another step in the rise of the organised working class as a revolutionary entity. We ask all our readers to support the struggle of the Venezuelan workers by sending solidarity messages to break the trap that the imperialists are building for the Venezuelan working class

Workers at other enterprises like Covencaucho, Sonorodven, etc., are involved in bitter struggles. Among the workers of PDVSA and in general inside the popular movement, the debate is growing over how to maintain real control by the workers and the people over these enterprises, which generates nearly 80% of the wealth of the country, and how to make sure that the slogan with which the petroleum company lockout was defeated, "PDVSA belongs to the people," becomes a reality. What is lacking is a revolutionary organization capable of generalising and extending these experiences and giving them a socialist content.

Participation and organization from below, on the part of the masses, aimed at making workers' and popular control a reality, do exist. Since April 2002 - when the right wing coup was defeated - hundreds of organizations have sprung up in the neighbourhoods (Bolivarian circles, city land committees, popular movements, democratic, working-class unions, etc.), which together now organise more than a million people. One of the principal tasks for revolutionaries is to defend the coordination and unification of all these popular organisations at local, regional and national levels through elected delegates, subject to recall, in such a way that there will be a national leadership which can guarantee democratic control over the process and bring together the different struggles in a unified way and allow the political tasks of the movement to be advanced. The other principal question is to fight for that leadership to be equipped with a socialist programme and aims.

September 2003.

See the website of the Venezuelan Marxists, El Militante.

See also:

The Venezuelan people responds - Here is your referendum! By Hermann Albrecht (August 2003)
Venezuela: the revolution faced with economic sabotage By Miguel Campos (June 28, 2003).
A year after the coup - The red tide floods Bolivar Avenue once again By Jorge Martín. (April 21, 2003).
The defeat of the bosses lock out and the sabotage of the oil industry deepens the revolutionary process.
By Jorge Martín. (February 26, 2003)
Opposition "strike" or bosses lock out?- An eyewitness account by Jorge Martín (January, 2003)
Venezuela between revolution and counterrevolution By Alan Woods (December 10, 2002)
The Venezuelan Revolution in Danger By Alan Woods in Buenos Aires (December 6, 2002)

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