April 2016        

Venezuela: The struggle continues

Paul Dobson

On 6 December last year the US-backed Venezuelan opposition achieved a victory in the parliamentary elections, winning a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. As only their second victory in twenty attempts, it must have tasted very sweet following eighteen years of almost continuous losses.
     Some claim that this spells the end of Chavismo, that it is proof that Maduro is not fulfilling Chávez’s legacy, or that internal divisions in the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela will now split the government apart. None of these things has happened so far.
     The Communist Party of Venezuela, which has never formed part of a government during the years of the Bolivarian Revolution but has been a staunch ally, has continued an unaltered line of struggle since the defeat, arguing that its main demands and proposals—which fell on deaf ears before—are now more valid than ever.
     The election result was a reactionary response from a people with a fierce, rebel attitude who have adopted the role of the protagonist. Knowing their strength, and tired of the lack of solutions to economic woes, we can say that this was not a rejection of the project to build socialism, which still maintains massive support, but rather a cry for help from a people who are battered by inefficiency, corruption, and watery and confused policies from the government.
     Venezuela is—as we all are—in the midst of a class war, only here it is a bit wilder than in other places. The contradictions that existed before the December election still exist, and have since become deeper and clearer. How can one build socialism within the economic, political and social limits of a capitalist structure? How much does national unity behind anti-imperialist banners trick us into forming strategic alliances with our class enemies? Can socialism be built by social movements rather than by an organised working class?
     The best response I heard from a comrade following the defeat in December was that now things were “sabroso” (juicy, tasty). As the class war intensifies, as the contradictions come to the fore, as the limits of a bourgeois system are pushed to their breaking-point, the role of communists continues to be to promote ideological clarity, to avoid popular mistakes, to stimulate and animate the mass of the people, and to ensure that the opportunity for genuine, structural change that deals definitive blows to capitalism is not lost.
     The Communist Party has reinforced its efforts to convince the government that only with a deepening of the Revolution, only with the incorporation of the workers in the decision-making process, only with more people power, only with far-reaching structural changes, can Chávez’s legacy be defended. Unless we advance we will undoubtedly stagnate and go backwards.
     Maduro described the election result as a “slap in the face to wake us up” and has called for a revision of the mistakes being committed, changing what needs to change, opening a public discussion about where we should go, about what went wrong, and bringing the popular movements into government. Three months later we are still awaiting clear decisions and measures.
     The Communist Party continues to stress the strategic importance of the alliance with the multi-class, often reformist and frequently reactionary government party so as to confront one of the major antagonistic contradictions facing Venezuela: nation v. imperialism.
     At the same time, efforts have been stepped up to form a closer, class-based alliance to address the second major antagonistic contradiction facing the country: capital v. labour. With the Great Patriotic Pole (the broad electoral alliance that backs the government) withering, the Communist Party is creating Popular Revolutionary Blocs with class allies who are committed to the structural changes needed to make socialism a reality rather than just a trademark of social democracy.
     The response of the masses, the poor and the conscientious revolutionaries has been to pass through a natural and necessary process of low spirits, shame, and confusion, which gradually evolves into steadfastness, resolve, and fight, qualities that are very much needed for the battles to come, which could well include a recall referendum (which the opposition would probably win), the release of thousands of terrorists from prison, street actions by fascist groups, and possibly even a coup d’état if a stalemate is declared.
     Capital, on the other hand, is slowly coming to realise that its economic problems are not to be solved with an opposition-controlled National Assembly. No simple law can fix decades of economic distortions derived from an oil-dependent economy with a parasitic, non-productive bourgeois class and a poorly formed working class which is used to living off the scraps of the national oil income rather than earning a living.
     As the opposition bask in their upsurge, many believe that the government will have to work very hard to be in power in three years’ time, or even in six months’ time. The right-wing president of the National Assembly has even declared that “Maduro has no more than six months left,” and that “measures are being brought forward to remove him,” despite his mandate lasting until 2019, unless a recall referendum is held.
     While the people clamour for strong responses to devastating inflation, increasing shortages, black markets, smuggling, and hoarding, the opposition are pushing through privatisation laws, are on the point of signing an amnesty law for pardoning thousands of terrorists dating back as far as the coup d’état in 2002, the oil lock-out in April 2003 and the more recent guarimbas (street barricades) in 2014 and are doing all they can to justify foreign intervention. The people definitely did not vote for this.
     Will Maduro be able to manage the internal divisions between the bourgeois elements in the government who wish to establish a “New Labour” style social democracy and those who genuinely want to destroy capitalism and its political representation—a bourgeois state? Will he do enough to keep his allies on board? Will having a scapegoat now allow him some room for manoeuvre, or are we, the revolutionaries in Venezuela, doomed to become an opposition, persecuted and silenced as before, with the Bolivarian project discarded and the struggle returning to the disheartened communities and steamy hot streets, leaving the comfortable bureaucratic meeting-rooms of government to the bourgeoisie once more?
     One of the crucial factors may be Maduro’s willingness to take decisive measures. He has finally accepted the importance of industrialising Venezuela, of fiscal reform, of devolving power to the organised people, of a hard fist in the fight against corruption, all of which have been policies promoted by the Communist Party in solitary isolation for years. While the people and their allies demand firm measures that will change the structural problems that have led us to this dire economic situation, too often we are given excellent-sounding speeches, uncompleted projects or simply reformist sticking-plaster that guarantee the undeniable social advances achieved by Chávez and Maduro since 1998.
     What is certain is that, in whatever form it may be, the slogan is still “Chávez lives! Struggle continues!”

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