Bolivia: The Empire Oversees Another Coup

Image from The Intercept

Bolivia: The Empire Oversees Another Coup

24-11-2019: It was one of the fastest nullifications of an election result for decades. On October 20, Bolivian President Evo Morales was re-elected with a margin of 10 percentage points, only to resign on November 10 in the face of a right-wing opposition with links to the US Empire. The opposition groups claimed the election results were fraudulent, but statistical analysis found that there were no irregularities with the process or counting of the votes.[1] One of the opposition groups has members of a Christian fascist organisation from Santa Cruz,[2] a hotbed of US government linked separatism. The main opposition candidate in the election, Carlos Mesa, is a named member of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington based “think tank” funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).[3]  The Organisation of the American States (OAS), a Cold War alliance of Latin American anti-communist governments led by Washington, chimed in with the call for “new elections”. After reported raids on his home, Evo Morales and former Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera have fled to Mexico, which offered them asylum.

US in regime change frenzy

Over the last eight years, the US ruling class has left no stone unturned in efforts to overthrow and depose governments from countries around the world seen to be too independent, or resistant to global US domination. In Libya, the US used NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) to destroy Green Libya, leaving a hellhole in its aftermath. In Syria, the US and its Western allies armed and funded barbaric ISIS mercenaries in an effort to remove the Syrian government. Here they were defeated by a combination of military and political defence from Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. Seething from this loss of face, Washington redoubled its regime change machinations, repeatedly attempting a coup in Venezuela, fostering fake uprisings in Sudan and Algeria, and funding faux “human rights” fronts in Cambodia and Thailand, to name but a few. Most brazenly, Wall Street has overtly and covertly backed ultra-violent right-wing separatists in Hong Kong, in a vain attempt to spread political unrest throughout China.

Unfortunately, the faulty political basis of Morales and his (misnamed) Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) offered Washington the easiest path to install domestic right-wing collaborators at the crucial time. Evo Morales was the first indigenous President of Bolivia, in a nation where the majority of the population are indigenous. Morales and Linera managed to govern Bolivia for 13 years, repeatedly winning elections, sometimes by landslides. The MAS government used redistributive social-democratic policies which resulted in some gains for Bolivian workers and the poor. Under Morales the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate was a steady 4.9% per year, and per capita GDP grew by over 50%. Poverty fell from 60% in 2006 to 35% in 2017. Unemployment nearly halved, the minimum wage increased threefold, and social transfer payments were given to millions of poor Bolivians, enabling many to enter full-time education for the first time.[4] Such measures were the basis of the popularity of the Morales government, especially amongst the Indian majority.

Reformism no solution

At the same time, the Morales government made repeated concessions to the agribusiness class and sought partnerships with capitalist industry in order to spur growth. It is not entirely wrong to use private sector capital to develop agriculture and use mineral resources, but it was often done at the expense of Bolivian workers, with little regard for the environment. In fact, Bolivian workers had to struggle and often strike against the Morales government, and in response Morales had little hesitation in sending in heavily armed police to severely repress them. In 2016, the COB (Bolivian Workers Central) trade union body called a strike in response to Morales closing Enatex, the state-run textile company, causing the loss of 1000 jobs. Hundreds of workers were arrested by the police repression ordered by the MAS government.[5] In 2013, miners launched a general strike against the Morales government for continuing the anti-worker pension scheme of the previous government, demanding “retirement with dignity”. The police repression was severe, with the arrest of 400 miners, with the Morales government in some cases demanding prison terms of up to six years![6] In 2011, some 5000 rural teachers embarked on strikes against the Morales government for a reasonable wage increase. The COB had to settle for less than their demands, after hundreds of riot police were unleashed against the teachers, resulting in nine wounded.[7]

The police Morales ordered to repress striking workers were the same police who in turn turfed Morales when the signal was given. Far from “socialism”, the Morales/Linera government was reformist at best, which used the armed forces of the bourgeois state against workers when they saw fit. There was no effort to build workers’ power, or workers’ militias, because Morales only sought a few reforms within the capitalist system, regardless of his rhetoric. Morales may have railed against capitalism, against US imperialism, and against the extreme danger of climate collapse in words – but his loyalty was always with the very system he denounced. Bolivian workers paid a heavy price for this. Now, Bolivian workers and the poor are left almost defenceless to face the fascist right, in paramilitary or government form, while Morales and Linera themselves have deserted the sinking ship.

Workers in Bolivia, and their peasant and Indian allies, need to politically break with MAS before they can take steps forward in their defence. Workers internationally need to resolutely oppose the US backed coup, while offering no political support to the remnants of the legacy of Morales. It is another lesson that capitalism cannot be reformed, and that real socialism begins with workers in power.

WORKERS   LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com
E: workersleague@redfireonline.com
PO  Box  66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] http://cepr.net/press-center/press-releases/no-evidence-that-bolivian-election-results-were-affected-by-irregularities-or-fraud-statistical-analysis-shows (24-11-2019)

[2] https://thegrayzone.com/2019/11/11/bolivia-coup-fascist-foreign-support-fernando-camacho/ (24-11-2019)

[3] Ibid, 2.

[4] https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/democraciaabierta/evo-morales-la-caída-del-héroe-de-la-transformación-boliviana-en/ (24-11-2019)

[5] https://nacla.org/blog/2016/07/05/why-bolivian-workers-are-marching-against-evo-morales (24-11-2019)

[6] www.internationalist.org/boliviageneralstrike1306.html (24-11-2019)

[7] https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2011/04/boli-a28.html (24-11-2019)

US/EU/AUST: Hands Off Venezuela!

Flag of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

US/EU/AUST: Hands Off Venezuela!
For Workers’ Power in Latin America

23-02-2019 – Self-declared “President” of Venezuela, the right-wing Juan Guaido, has called on the actual President Nicolas Maduro to step down – or else. Or else what? The Venezuelan military remains on the side of the Venezuelan government, and the governments of Russia and China – the only powers with the material ability to counter US imperialism – have recognised Maduro as President, and have denounced what amounts to a brazen attempt at violent regime change. Juan Guaido at this stage appears to have little chance of his coup – more or less obviously in collaboration with Washington – doing anything but floundering.

Unfortunately, there are ways in which this barely concealed US led (yet another) Latin American coup can “succeed”. Juan Guaido has set a deadline of February 23 for the Maduro government to allow “humanitarian” aid into the country.[1] The arrival and stockpiling of aid packages on the Colombian border with Venezuela is a re-hash of a trick used many times by the US ruling class when attempting regime change in Latin America. Deliver the aid, entice people to collect it, and use the cover of “aid” for a stock standard invasion. This time, Juan Guaido is calling for one million of his right-wing supporters to act as chaperones for the aid,[2] who will likely act as human shields guarding the entry of US or Colombian troops. Even those with little political awareness can see the trap being laid.

Tripwire for World War III

Working people the world over must be aware that we can ill afford to allow the Venezuelan government to be overthrown by US imperialism, with its backing from the European Union (EU) and lackey medium sized imperialists such as Australia. Whatever its shortcomings, the “Bolivarian Revolution” in Venezuela over 20 years has built a form of resistance to the onslaught of Western led “globalisation”. Even though the forces of Western capital give scant regard to the sovereignty of a nation which retains a shred of independence, it is vital that this principle be defended by workers. What is more, if the US Empire is not staved off at this point, it could set off a wider war across the Americas, setting the scene for what many believed was impossible 20 years ago – World War III.

Workers must not be cowed, however. Out of crisis emerges great opportunity. And whatever military power the Venezuelan right-wing opposition can count on, it cannot be won with arms alone. A political struggle must ensue, and it is one in which Venezuelan and international workers must prevail.

US President Donald Trump in his recent State of the Union address won stormy applause from Republicans and Democrats when he claimed that “America will never be a socialist country”. With the US working class in desperation, enduring economic hardships seemingly without end, Mr Trump and the housebroken Democrats should not be so confident. All the prerequisites for a socialist revolution in the US are there – but what is missing is genuine leadership of US workers. Arguably the foremost working class leader in world history – V.I. Lenin – understood more than most that the working class will not struggle to overthrow capitalism except under the leadership of revolutionary Marxists. This applies not only to the US, but also in the EU and Australia – and it is also the case in Venezuela.

Chavismo has run its course

No matter how many times the US ruling class, and the right-wing Venezuelan opposition it collaborates with, decry “socialism” in Venezuela; the reality is that the first steps towards it have not been taken. “Chavismo” – the movement named after Hugo Chavez when elected in 1998 – was always a political project which explicitly rejected the key lessons of 20th century socialism. That is, it rejected the need for a Marxist vanguard party to lead the workers in a struggle for state power. From the distortions of Marxism which conservative and bureaucratic leadership of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe brought about, the Chavistas drew the wrong conclusion that, therefore, the need for “the dictatorship of the proletariat” – a workers’ republic representing the working class in power – is obsolete. But today reality is starkly demonstrating that what is obsolete is Chavismo itself, or “Socialism of the 21st Century”. This was always a liberal vulgarisation of socialism, and an overt break with the first tenets of Marxism.

Chavismo under Chavez, or now under Maduro, was never about confrontation, let alone a contest, with Venezuelan capitalists. It was always an attempt to placate and pacify them. Maduro has bent over backwards to keep on reasonable terms with the Venezuelan capitalists, and by extension, with US imperialism itself. One result of this was leaving the banks in the hands of their private owners, and hence an inability to control hyperinflation – now likely to be running at 1 000 000 %.[3]  Needless to say, this drives up prices, especially of vital goods like food, fuel and medicine, to a level which is unaffordable for most Venezuelans. There are many examples of Venezuelan businesses hoarding goods to make them scarce, which pushes up prices. This can then be blamed on the government. In 2017, President Maduro accused bakeries of refusing to make bread, hoarding the flour to make more profitable brownies and cookies.[4] The absence of bread hits the poor – the base of support for Maduro – the hardest.

Steve Ellner claims that the economic problems in Venezuela have a three-fold source.[5] Firstly, the nosediving oil prices, which have declined precipitously since 2014. Secondly, the impact of US sanctions on Venezuela – which have even included sanctions on Cilia Flores, the wife of President Maduro. And thirdly, the mistaken policies of the Maduro government. Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, and the oil prices never sank before 2014. US sanctions also inevitably take their toll. But it is not simply a case of the “mistaken policies” of the Maduro government. The whole approach and framework of the false theory of “Socialism of the 21st Century” is at fault. Capitalism cannot be reformed, even with the majority of electoral support, expressed many times over 20 years.

Unity of the “people” ?

So called “Socialism of the 21st Century”, as practiced by Chavez and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), is at best left-leaning social-democracy. It has never made a political break with capitalism, and hence its impending downfall – perhaps at the hands of the invading US Empire. It is not possible to “unite the people” in Venezuela, or in the US, or Australia, or any country where capitalism rules. Capitalism means the division of society into the two great classes involved in production – capital and labour. For labour to release itself from under the heel of capital, and thus liberate all of society, the working class must take power in its own name. This cannot be done in the name of Chavismo, or Bolivarianism, or “the people” – for all of these attempt to “unite” classes with irreconcilable interests. Socialism is above all the working class in power, and this can only be achieved by splitting, not uniting, with the middle and upper classes, and especially the ruling class.

Yet this is not the strategy of the PSUV in Venezuela, and nor can it be. Their approach is to mobilise their own supporters, while at the same time cutting deals and making concessions to the political right-wing and the Venezuelan capitalists. The political intent is that of a united front with the capitalist class. Not only is the bourgeoisie entirely uninterested in such an alliance, these attempts further confuse and disorient the working class, and drive them away from the most essential first step – a political break with private capital and the reformist illusions of the PSUV. A political unification with the ruling class is always a recipe for stagnation and demoralisation, as workers wait interminably for signs of things improving.

If “unity” of all people in Venezuela is a mistaken strategy, it is doubly so internationally, including here in Australia. The Socialist Alliance (SA) has largely organised political solidarity with the Venezuelan Bolivarian process for years. It is again doing so, but again with the politics of “unity”, and this time including unity with the Labor Party. In its newspaper Green Left Weekly, SA call for the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to oppose the US led coup in Venezuela. They write: “The Labor leadership must reverse its decision to recognise Juan Guaido. It must also demand the coalition government pressure the US to lift its sanctions on Venezuela and rule out any military intervention.”[6]

Here the strategy is one where SA seeks to improve the policy of the ALP, so it can work together with the ALP, supposedly against an imperialist war. Yet the ALP represents one wing of the Australian ruling class – the same ruling class represented by PM Morrison and the Liberal Party. By extension, it seeks to lead the Venezuelan solidarity movement into a united front with the very ruling class which has loyally served the US ruling class in war since Korea in the 1950s. Working people can only lose through being politically subordinated, once again, to the major political parties and thus to Australian imperialism.

The Communist Party of Australia (CPA), alongside SA, retails the line of the reformist government of Venezuela, in calling for a “peaceful political solution to the crisis based on the principles of self-determination and non-interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation.”[7] In other words, the CPA calls for “dialogue” and “negotiations”, when the actions of US imperialism have clearly indicated that it will only accept the abolition of the Venezuelan government. Workers can hardly be empowered by staid calls on their own governments, and the US government, to come to what could only be a temporary agreement.

Workers to Power

Workers in Australia should note that while joint work with SA on the question of the current defence of Venezuela can be carried out, such co-operation is NOT possible when it comes to the question of Syria, Iran or Sudan. SA calls for “Hands Off Venezuela”, but for eight years strongly opposed both the demand “Hands Off Syria” and the organisation Hands Off Syria – as they vociferously backed US led regime change against the Syrian Arab Republic[8]. Likewise for Iran[9] and Sudan[10], SA again loudly advocate US led regime change – while simultaneously opposing US led regime change in Venezuela!

The CPA, in addition, is also an organisation that working people CANNOT be allies with on the question of Iran – where they concur with the Tudeh Party of Iran that the Iranian government represents a medieval dictatorship!![11] The US state department would approve. Nor can the CPA be an ally on Sudan, where it joins with SA to once again call for political power to be usurped and handed to a US backed opposition.[12] When it comes to Venezuela today, the CPA and SA are also only half correct. Granted, they call for the defeat of the US backed coup attempt, the non-recognition of coup leader Juan Guaido, and the lifting of US sanctions on Venezuela. Yet they also politically defend President Maduro and the PSUV – a reformist (and still capitalist) government which in practice attempts to conciliate US imperialism. What is required is the mobilisation of workers in Venezuela and across Latin America to confront and defeat US imperialism – through efforts to organise workers to take state power into their own hands. A workers’ state is the key mechanism through which imperialism can be temporarily staved off until workers internationally are able to bring down “their own” capitalism.

Such an approach, however, is anathema to the PSUV in Venezuela, and also to SA and the CPA on these shores. While in Venezuela the PSUV practice a “united broad front” with the Venezuelan business class, in Australia SA and the CPA practice a “united broad front” with the ALP, i.e. the “liberal” wing of the ruling class. In both cases, workers are thus tied politically to a coalition with the bourgeoisie – a recipe for complete disaster. In order for workers to either defend themselves against capitalist austerity, or against a US led coup, workers must know exactly who their enemies are and who are their allies. To the extent that the Venezuelan government and military defend the country against US-led overthrow, workers should not stand in the way, and even assist. At the same time, not one bar of political support can be offered to the PSUV. In fact, workers in Venezuela desperately need to forge the Marxist vanguard party which can begin the task of winning the most class-conscious Chavistas to the perspective of uniting the workers, rather than the “people”.This is the missing link that workers internationally are crying out for.

WORKERS   LEAGUE
www.redfireonline.com       E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-guaido/venezuelas-guaido-says-humanitarian-aid-will-arrive-on-feb-23-idUSKCN1Q1277 (18-02-19)

[2] https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/02/18/world/social-issues-world/venezuelas-juan-guaido-calls-million-volunteers-aid-standoff-maduro/#.XGlwWbhx2Uk (18-02-19)

[3] https://www.newsweek.com/venezuela-inflation-hits-833997-course-1-million-2019-1207509 (20-02-19)

[4] https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/04/07/522912791/venezuelas-bread-wars-with-food-scarce-government-accuses-bakers-of-hoarding (20-02-19)

[5] https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14334 (20-02-19)

[6] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/labor-must-oppose-trump-coup-venezuela (20-02-19)

[7] https://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/2019/1857/02-editorial.html (20-02-19)

[8] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/idlib-not-end-story (21-02-19)

[9] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/iranian-workers-protests-confront-regime-crisis (21-02-19)

[10] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/sudan-uprising-peoples-revolution (21-02-19)

[11] https://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/2017/1806/09-greetings-tudeh.html (21-02-19)

[12] http://cpa.org.au/guardian/2019/1856/14-sudans.html (21-02-19)

USA/AUST: Hands Off Venezuela!

Demonstration outside the White House against the US backed coup in Venezuela. Image from http://www.globalresearch.ca

USA/AUST: HANDS OFF VENEZUELA!
Workers to Power in Latin America
Statement of the Workers League

30-01-2019 – The Workers League condemns US and Australian imperialism for their open attempt at regime change in Venezuela, with their recognition of Juan Guaido’s self-declaration as President. Fresh from three years of accusing the Russian government – without a shred of evidence – of “meddling” in the US Presidential election of 2016, now both conservative and liberal wings of the US and Australian ruling classes brazenly attempt to subvert the 2018 election of President Nicolas Maduro, and install their own puppet, potentially (yet again) threatening the world with catastrophic war.

Most Venezuelans had reportedly never heard of Juan Guaido before he was elected the head of Venezuela’s national assembly. Now the whole world has, which looks on incredulously. Seemingly not even being aware of trying to appear to be rational, Washington and Canberra have been joined by the ruling cabals in London, Paris, Berlin and Madrid, who have repeated in unison that the Venezuelan government has “eight days” to call new elections – during which they will recognise Juan Guaido as interim leader of the country. To say this is an imperialist obliteration of national sovereignty would be stating the obvious. Not even the most outlandish spy novelist could write such fiction, yet this is reality.

The wounded beast of imperialism lashes out

Venezuela is the new target for regime change for Washington, after US imperialism arguably suffered its first defeat since the liberation of Vietnam in 1975 with its atrocious proxy war of regime change against the Syrian Arab Republic. The US was backed in this unspeakably barbaric war which hired the mercenaries of ISIS through the ruling classes of, inter alia, Britain, France, Canada, Australia and their allies in Saudi Arabia and Israel. Opposing this war was the Venezuelan government under both Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, along with the material assistance of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Unable to publicly admit being behind ISIS, Washington has, for the moment, realised political and military defeat in Syria – even though they still operate US troops illegally on the ground. Smarting from being blocked primarily by Russia, the US masters of war now pick what they see as an easier target – Venezuela.

The same imperialist forces – utilising the nefarious NATO – also conducted regime change against Libya in 2011. Again the Venezuelan government under Chavez voiced strong opposition. However, on that occasion Russia abstained, and Libya – a nation with the then highest standard of living in Africa – was destroyed. Since that time, no state or government has been able to be restored, and black slavery – a practice ended by the republic led by Colonel Gaddafi – has returned. Many of the same Western funded cutthroats were then transported to Syria to repeat the dose.

The end of  “Socialism of the 21st Century”

Washington sees Venezuela now as an easier target due to the fact that the right-wing now has almost the same amount of support as does the “Bolivarian Revolution” – the process begun by President Hugo Chavez in 1998 and continued by Nicolas Maduro since 2013. How has this situation come about? Workers must be told the truth. For all of its gains for working people and the poor, the Bolivarian process was not socialist, even despite the self-described intentions of its protagonists. The Bolivarian “revolution” was actually an attempt to reform capitalism, primarily using the mechanism of cross-class elections. Time and time again, throughout history, the working class has learnt the lesson that capitalism cannot be voted out of power – it must be overthrown. Yet the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) had no intention of studying, let alone abiding by, these crucial lessons previously learnt by workers the world over. The theory of “Socialism of the 21st Century” – where supposedly workers no longer need to construct their own state, but only be elected into power – is now dead in the water. If US imperialism has its way, Venezuela will not only have its false “Socialism of the 21st Century” exterminated, it will return to a stage worse than when the Bolivarian “revolution” began.

Despite this, workers in Venezuela and internationally cannot afford to allow the Venezuelan government to be overthrown by Washington. While many huge steps forward need to be taken by workers in Venezuela, a major defeat could re-energise the US Empire, and even embolden it to trigger the wider war which some elements of its ruling class see as the only hope to counter the rise of Red China, and the independence of Russia. This is why workers internationally should demand that China – as the world’s pre-eminent socialist power – step up to the plate and offer a lead by materially blocking US moves to overthrow Venezuela. This is also why workers internationally should welcome the mooted moves by Russia and Iran to militarily intervene to defend Venezuela from black reaction.

Forward to real socialism

The immediate task, therefore, is not only to defend the sovereignty of Venezuela, as necessary as that is. It is also urgent to lead workers to power in Venezuela, and throughout Latin America. For US imperialism cannot in the least be halted by capitalist republics, no matter how “democratic”. Classes must be arrayed against one another, rather than fruitless attempts to unite the “people”. While workers must not obstruct the Venezuelan military forces where they take measures to ward off the US Empire, at the same time there must be left-wing political opposition built to the PSUV – a party which is conservative, bureaucratic and corrupt even according to its own supporters. Committees for workers’ power in every workplace, school and university need to be established wherever possible. The most class conscious of these elements should forge the Marxist vanguard party needed to win the best elements away from Chavismo and for a real revolution. US/AUST: HANDS OFF VENEZUELA!

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

 

US Empire Rolls the Dice on Venezuela Invasion

Supporters of the Venezuelan government hold pictures of former President Hugo Chavez. Image from http://www.psmag.com

US Empire Rolls the Dice on Venezuela Invasion

27-10-2018 – It’s no secret. The US ruling class, through its various fronts, has attempted to overthrow the Venezuelan government repeatedly since Hugo Chavez swept to electoral power in 1998. There was a coup attempt in 2002, an attempt to shut down the state owned PDVSA oil company in 2003, a separatist plot in the Zulia region in 2008, and violent opposition led rolling street demonstrations in 2014 and 2017.[1] This year on July 8, US President Donald Trump laid the military option on the table. According to Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, Trump had a meeting with the then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then national security adviser HR McMaster, asking why the US could not “finish off” Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro through a military operation. Apparently Tillerson and McMaster managed to talk Trump out of that option.[2]

US government funding of Venezuelan opposition

Washington, however, continues to carry out everything but an actual military intervention to overthrow the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. While there is a substantial right-wing domestic opposition to the Venezuelan government, it would barely be able to sustain its multiple coup attempts without the financial and political backing of notorious US deep state operatives such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED is more or less the public face of the CIA, which poses as an aid organisation, but in fact exists to subvert and/or overthrow any government or country around the world which is perceived to be too independent from Wall Street. In Venezuela, it partners with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), to funnel funding to the opposition which repeatedly refuses to accept the results of elections within Venezuela which they lose. In 2015 alone, the US pumped $4.2 million into Venezuela through the NED and USAID.[3] The US government also funds the Broadcasting Board of Governors, to the tune of some $777.8 million[4]. This money runs the “Voice of America” news service, which for decades has beamed anti-communist propaganda into Cuba, and continues to do so throughout Latin America and Asia.

Yet it is not just faux media organisations which Washington funds and often creates. It is also entire opposition political parties. The NED, via the International Republican Institute (IRI), funds the right-wing coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), in violation of Venezuelan law. The IRI has virtually set up the opposition parties Primero Justicia and Voluntad Popular.[5] It is also no coincidence that these right-wing parties are heavily supported and backed by Venezuela’s wealthy and upper classes. For years, the majority of working class and poorer Venezuelans have stood by their “Bolivarian Revolution”.

Economic crisis undermines Chavismo

For around 15 years, the Chavista movement (or “Chavismo”, named after initiating President Hugo Chavez) was unassailable and virtually could not lose an election. The Bolivarian Revolution, with the overwhelming support of the majority of Venezuelans who have little personal wealth, did win substantial gains that leftists the world over could celebrate. For the first time, many people who could not afford to get an education were able to enroll. The minimum wage was increased, by government decree, repeatedly. Free health care centres were set up in poorer neighbourhoods which had rarely seen a doctor. Housing was built for those who could least afford to buy. Venezuela’s substantial oil wealth helped to fund these progressive steps which had never previously been contemplated.[6]

Hugo Chavez and the Chavistas claimed they were for socialism, and that this was the aim of their revolution. Chavista supporters no doubt consciously accept socialism, yet in practice the Bolivarian Revolution was always based on reforming the capitalist system. Chavistas may deny it, but the Bolivarian Revolution did not take the crucial first steps towards socialism – the organisation of the working class in preparation for the seizure of state power. For this, what is indispensable is the forging of a Marxist vanguard party – composed of the most advanced pro-working class fighters. Even Chavista supporters internationally would admit that the party created by Hugo Chavez, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), was not conceived as a Marxist organisation.

The Bolivarian Revolution itself was never a socialist revolution. This is something that genuine Chavista supporters in Venezuela and internationally have to face up to. Socialism begins with the working class creating its own power, overthrowing the rule of capital, and taking control of the major means of production, at least initially. None of this has been attempted in Venezuela – in fact, quite the opposite. Despite some abandoned factories being taken over by the government here and there, the major means of production remain in private hands in Venezuela. The entire banking system remains in the hands of the wealthy elite. Far from organising working class occupations and take-overs of critical public infrastructure, the Chavistas have restricted their political work largely to elections. Because the state remains in the hands of capital, all of the gains made by the Bolivarian Revolution can therefore be taken away by a lost election.

This reality is getting closer day by day. In fact, a US backed military intervention, or even just a classical Wall Street backed “opposition” movement creating enough chaos to topple the government, is on the cards. An actual socialist revolution enables the most advanced workers to destroy the capitalist state, and erect a workers’ state in its place, as the first step towards the transition to socialism. The critical factor is that the working class uses state power to win the majority of the working people, and integrates them into ruling the new society themselves – without and against the corporations and their wealthy backers. The Bolivarian Revolution, on the other hand, attempts to rule in the name of the “people” or “Venezuelans”. In a class divided society, however, uniting antagonistic classes is an impossibility. And so, without working class control of the banks especially, there is no chance of being able to control such things as runaway inflation. This is one reason why the right-wing opposition is able to make a comeback.

Negotiations while migration crisis expands

The PSUV and Maduro constantly enter into negotiations with Venezuelan capitalists and the opposition generally, in a vain attempt to somehow make enough concessions that might lead them to refrain from sabotaging the economy and the state. A genuine socialist leadership of a workers’ state would enter into negotiations with former capitalists who have been deprived of political power – but Maduro and the Chavistas do not lead a workers’ state, and they have no intention of expropriating even some of them. Their negotiations are based on the fantasy that Venezuelan business owners would somehow value all Venezuelans above their material wealth. But the opposition’s open consorting with and through Washington and all of their agents is a clear indication that the Venezuelan “captains of industry” are only loyal to the profits they can squeeze out of Venezuelan workers and the poor.

The Venezuelan rich classes are also part of the reason why there is a migration crisis between Venezuela and Colombia, and elsewhere. The hoarding of goods by businesses that refuse to sell or supply them to poor Venezuelans causes some to pack up their belongings and seek asylum where food and goods, not to speak of work, are available. Hyper-inflation, now barely measurable, pushes prices of basic goods out of reach. Some reports state that as many as 10 to 12%, or around 3.8 million, Venezuelans now live abroad in more than 90 countries.[7] Many of them flee Venezuela on foot, and large numbers of them cross the border into Colombia. Some move further through Ecuador and into Chile.

At the same time, the hypocrisy of the Colombian government blaming Venezuela entirely for this migration crisis stands out in stark relief. 50 years of war in Colombia, with right-wing paramilitaries regularly murdering left-wing guerrillas and perceived supporters has led to millions of Colombians fleeing for their lives. Venezuela has reportedly absorbed about 30% of this migration, with an estimated 5.6 million Colombians living in Venezuela, according to 2015 figures.[8] What is more, these Colombians benefit from the same rights as all Venezuelans, and make use of the government provided health care, education and housing!

Chinese investment assists oil industry

The Venezuelan oil industry, the exports of which make up around 95% of government earnings, is now at its lowest level in 70 years. Crude oil production is currently down to around 1.4 million barres per day (mbpd), which is about half of the average 2.4 mbpd Venezuela usually produces. It had a record high of 3.4 mbpd in 1997, and a record low of 0.594 mbpd in January 2003, during the opposition “oil lockout”.[9] The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a major recipient of Venezuelan oil, but due to the problems PDVSA is experiencing, it is struggling to send its shipments. In July, the China Development Bank approved a $250 million grant to PDVSA to boost oil production. This is on top of a $5 billion loan already approved, which exists alongside previous $50 billion oil-for-loan arrangements with the Asian economic powerhouse.[10] Workers should be clear – this assistance from the PRC stems from the predominantly socialist state led Chinese economy, of which its state owned oil production forms a part. Without the PRC’s largely collectivised and planned economy, based on public ownership of the major means of production, Red China would not be the world’s leading economic generator today.

While the economic assistance the PRC is able to grant Venezuela acts as a welcome countervailing factor to the threats of regime change emanating from the US Empire, it may not be enough to stave off the relentless sabotage the Venezuelan right wing opposition utilises, in concert with Washington. While the PRC’s assistance to Venezuela is welcome, the politics of the Communist Party of China (CPC) leadership is such that it does so in order to prop up the Venezuelan bourgeois system, rather than “socialism”. If the PRC was led by genuine Marxist internationalists, the assistance would be provided alongside political encouragement to raise the working class to power, in Venezuela and Latin America.

Defend Venezuela against regime change

The working class internationally is crying out for leadership, as capitalism drives human society ever closer to an abyss. There is scarcely any leadership coming from the left in the Western imperialist countries. The leaderships of the countries which broke from capitalism after World War II maintain their initial success in establishing the first steps towards socialism. In the PRC, the largely nationalised and planned economy guided by socialist state led development continues to outstrip the US, Europe, Japan and Australia. Yet the PRC leadership, along with their cohorts in Vietnam, Laos, the DPRK (“North Korea”) and Cuba concentrate their building of socialism within their own borders. Unfortunately, workers do not hear calls from them to join with them in a struggle to finally end global capitalist rule.

Neither, however, do such calls emanate from Chavismo. The movement led by Chavez and now Maduro has won substantial gains for the working class and the poor in Venezuela. Yet every reform made via electoral change, even one which has governmental power, can be taken away by capital as soon as the political conditions allow. The only way to not only protect the free health care, education, housing and other gains won by Chavismo, is to prepare the workers for the overthrow of corporate rule, via the destruction of the old regime based on vast inequality, and the construction of their own state. Unless the working class holds power, socialism only lives in words.

Workers in Venezuela have the task of winning over Chavistas to the perspective of a genuine struggle for the arming of their class and the rule of a workers government. Key to this is the forging of an internationalist Marxist cadre party. Workers internationally have the task of defending Venezuela against the dire threat of open imperialist intervention from the US Empire. There is a need for the military defence of the Venezuelan government against US imperialism, while preparing the political conditions for the supersession of Chavismo with a perspective of united action between the workers of Venezuela, Colombia, Latin America, the US and internationally.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66     NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14094 (27-10-2018)

[2] https://www.iol.co.za/sundayindependent/analysis/us-set-on-regime-change-in-venezuela-15898260 (27-10-2018)

[3] https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/US-Pumped-4.2M-in-2015-to-Destabilize-Venezuelan-Government-20170408-0006.html (27-10-2018)

[4] https://www.bbg.gov/strategy-and-performance/budget-submissions/ (27-10-2018)

[5] https://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/25/the-dirty-hand-of-the-national-endowment-for-democracy-in-venezuela/ (27-10-18)

[6] https://www.telesurtv.net/english/analysis/4-Gains-Maduros-Venezuela-Made-That-Mainstream-Media-Ignores-20170413-0026.html (27-10-2018)

[7] https://www.straitstimes.com/world/americas/how-the-venezuelan-migration-crisis-affects-south-america (27-10-18)

[8] https://www.telesurtv.net/english/analysis/Why-Do-Colombians-Continue-Migrating-to-Venezuela–20150910-0028.html (27-10-18)

[9] https://tradingeconomics.com/venezuela/crude-oil-production (27-10-18)

[10] https://www.dw.com/en/venezuela-secures-oil-sector-funding-from-china/a-44518822 (27-10-18)

US Hands Off Venezuela! For a Leap Forward to Socialism!

US Hands Off Venezuela!  For a Leap Forward to Socialism!

26-05-2017 – The images are as disturbing as they are frightening. Right-wing Venezuelans, knowing they have the direct and indirect backing of the US Empire, are literally burning down Venezuela. The most recent egregious example was the setting fire to a Venezuelan government supporter, on the grounds that he was a “Chavista”.[1] Right-wing opponents of the government led by President Nicolas Maduro also recently took a public bus driver hostage, and then set his bus on fire. Hispan TV reported the bus driver as saying “Honestly, if they had known that I support the Revolution….if I had said Homeland, Socialism or Death…. they would have killed me.”[2]

There is extensive evidence of US government funding for these ultra-violent hoodlums, as well as the conservative political parties themselves. In 2015, the US government delivered $4.26 million for Venezuela through the notorious US Agency for International Development (USAID), with most of this going to numerous anti-government organisations.[3] For years, the US government has not even attempted to hide their backing of the Venezuelan opposition to the Bolivarian Revolution. In 2014, the US federal budget allowed $5 million for funding opposition activities in Venezuela as a line item.[4] If there has been anything like this amount pouring in to these groups annually, one can only imagine the cumulative total over the 19 odd years of “Chavismo” (the movement led by former President Hugo Chavez).

The right-wing opposition to the Hugo Chavez led “Bolivarian Revolution” which swept to electoral power in 1998, has often been fragmented. In recent years, however, it has coalesced around the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) – a coalition of around 50 political parties and organisations, whose main point of unity does not extend much beyond anti-Chavismo. Its main leader is Henrique Capriles Radonski – a staunchly conservative anti-socialist, who seemingly does not baulk at either receiving aid from the US state, nor being seen to organise and lead violent anti-government actions, regardless of whether or not there are casualties. Radonski has Jewish ancestry, which may explain the MUD’s links to the Israeli state, which former President Chavez claimed in 2010, was also involved in funding the right-wing opposition.[5]

Gains for workers and the oppressed

Make no mistake, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela did win impressive gains for the Venezuelan workers and impoverished sectors. For example, Venezuelan Chavismo ensured that illiteracy had been eradicated by 2005. A National Public System was established to provide free access to health care for all Venezuelans. From 1999 to 2010, the number of doctors increased by 400%. The infant mortality rate was reduced by 49%. Since 1999, child malnutrition was reduced by 40%. Since 1998, the minimum wage was increased by over 2000%. GDP per capita increased from $4,100 in 1999 to $10,810 in 2011.[6]  And this is to name but a few. Internationally, bodies such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and Petrocaribe were established for Latin American and Caribbean countries to forge ties for trade and energy supplies not purely on the basis of buy and sell, but on mutual benefit. It also began to lay the groundwork for Latin American and Caribbean countries to break from the suffocating imperialist domination of Wall Street and the US deep state.

Nonetheless, all of these gains and more are imperilled by the political developments in Venezuela of the last few years, which are currently reaching a crisis point. We are entitled to ask how is it that all such gains can be reversed, given that they had the mandate of numerous election victories for 15 years?  Some try to explain the misfortunes of the current Venezuelan government in terms of the falling oil revenues. Venezuela is a major oil exporter and it is the case that the Chavez led Bolivarian government used oil income to fund health, education and other social spending. It is also the case that until mid-2014, a barrel of crude oil would sell for around $110, whereas in 2015 they fell below $50 a barrel and have hovered around that mark since.[7] On its own, however, this doesn’t explain the economic malaise, which is severe. For example, inflation reportedly reached 800% in 2016, while the economy shrunk by 18.6%.[8]

“Socialism of the 21st Century”

President Maduro blames anti-Chavismo capitalists for hoarding, creating artificial scarcity, in order to deliberately create these economic problems, in an effort to bring down the elected government. No doubt, there is a lot of truth to this. Yet this just points to the question of why such capitalists have such free reign to do their worst, to almost entirely bring down the Venezuelan economy with the government seemingly powerless to prevent it. To answer this, we have to examine the political motivation of the Bolivarian Revolution, and its leader’s adherence to what they term “Socialism of the 21st Century”.  Soon after winning governmental power in 1998, and witnessing the immediate hostility of the US government and elements of the Venezuelan ruling class to any sense of redistributing wealth, former President Chavez embarked on what he believed to be “socialism”. Later, he proclaimed to be building “Socialism of the 21st Century”. Analysing this slogan, we can see that the leading Chavistas, and many of their international supporters, wanted to distance themselves from “20th Century Socialism” – by which they mainly referred to the former Soviet Union.

To learn from the mistakes the workers of Russia endured at the hands of the leaders of the Soviet Union is necessary, however the Chavistas pushed themselves away from association with “20th Century Socialism” in the wrong direction. Rather than seeking more means to expand workers’ political decision making ability while maintaining the workers’ state, the Chavistas ended up rejecting the need for a workers state altogether. Put simply, they wanted to change the world without the seizure of state power, and the establishment of a workers republic. They explicitly rejected the key Marxist tenet of aiming for the “dictatorship of the proletariat” as the first step towards the beginning of the implementation of socialism. Consequently, they also dumped the Leninist conception of the need for a workers vanguard party to lead this historic struggle.

This is not simply a debate over which set of rhetoric is best able to build socialism. Whether one refers to it as a workers state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, or workers democracy, the effect is the same. Working people are in need of a state of their own, not to reproduce the rule of a minority over a majority, as in all previous historic states, but to hold down their capitalist adversaries, whose resistance to the rule of the poor will be furious. A workers state, led by a vanguard party or parties, is also necessary to guide workers, born and raised under capitalism, towards the new values of socialist society – cooperation, mutual benefit, solidarity and internationalism. The politically class conscious workers are needed to lead the less class conscious towards these goals. The most politically class conscious elements are usually located within the leading party or parties.

For all of their declarations of socialism, in fact the Chavistas junked the most basic part of socialism. Socialism begins with the overthrow of the capitalist state, and the forging of a workers state which will, in Marx’s words, make “despotic inroads” into the ownership of capital. Capital enables capitalists to profit from the exploitation of the labour of others. At the least, a socialist government would aim to take control of the banks and the major means of production, such as ports, railways, roads, and telecommunications and so on. It would have to mobilise working people for this vital task. In Venezuela, however, the creed of “Socialism of the 21st Century” prevented ANY of these crucial tasks from being attempted. Consequently, the Maduro government is not able to prevent major economic sabotage by some capitalists, the shortage of goods, high unemployment, runaway inflation, and more.

The right-wing is very adept at capitalising on these difficulties, especially given the links of the right-wing opposition to the dark forces of the US deep state. Shortages of consumer goods, electricity blackouts, falling production – the right-wing elements, now led by MUD, can easily point the finger at what they claim is “socialism” and draw a whole swathe of workers and underemployed poor over to the agenda of the far-right. The intense irony of the situation is that it is precisely because the Maduro government is NOT socialist, that the right wing are able to gather thousands to their side – despite thousands still remaining loyal to the “Bolivarian Revolution”.

“Government of the Left”

It is a lesson which has been learnt before, but will now have to be learned all over again. It is the age-old question of reform versus revolution. No matter how radical the wording, it is a fatal illusion to believe that capitalism can be reformed into socialism, or even into a system which doles out a few larger crumbs to the masses. For all of their efforts, many of which can be applauded, in the end the Chavistas are attempting to reform capitalism. The belief that electing a “government of the left”, or someone or some party who is more “left-wing”, to administer the existing capitalist state has come undone repeatedly throughout history, often with tragic consequences. Salvador Allende in Chile in the early 1970s paid for this illusion with his own life, and the people of Chile went on to endure 17 years of US backed military dictatorship. In 2015, the people of Greece elected the SYRIZA party to head the government there, with huge hopes. It took just a few hours for the “left-wing” SYRIZA to form a coalition with the far-right ANEL party. It went on to abandon any pretence of resisting the crushing austerity measures demanded by the bankers of the European Union (EU), and rapidly agreed to measures which were even more harsh than that the previous conservatives dared to impose. The suffering of the working people of Greece is almost indescribable, with employment opportunities, health care, pensions, education and so on being decimated. The suicide rate remains at unprecedented levels. It may be the last time Greek workers will trust a “government of the left”.

The right-wing in Venezuela know exactly what they want, and they are prepared to use mass violence to achieve it. They do not have to topple the capitalist state, as they aim simply to replace the leading personnel of the capitalist state with some of their own, with the financial and political support of Wall Street. They have demonstrated a willingness to set fire to people themselves to get their way.

The left in Venezuela, and internationally, has to once again learn the lesson that it is not possible to vote for socialism. Socialism can only come about through the organisation of the workers into a class, and the organisation of the most class conscious workers into a party which is firm with its allegiance to Marxism. The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is in no way a vehicle for this task. We have no illusions about how difficult it is to raise millions of workers to the political level needed for the seizure of state power, let alone how to maintain the rule of the poor once achieved. There are no guarantees in class struggle. Yet this task cannot be begun until this is the perspective and outlook of the leading parties and organisations of working people in Venezuela.

US imperialism has specialised in regime change operations in the first years of this century. Afghanistan, Iraq, Honduras, Libya, Syria, Ukraine – all have either been overthrown or violent attempts have been made working with the most reactionary elements on the ground, up to and including fascists. To prevent yet another case, working people in Venezuela, and internationally, need to demand that the US cease all political and financial interference in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. This struggle against wars of regime change is also a struggle to form a workers party fit to lead the struggle for socialism, and no less in Australia. US HANDS OFF VENEZUELA!

WORKERS LEAGUE

PO  BOX  66   NUNDAH QLD  4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-image-idUSKBN18I2HF (26-05-17)

[2] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/As-Opposition-Burns-Bus-Venezuela-Slams-Violence-Against-Youth-20170514-0009.html (26-05-17)

[3] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/US-Pumped-4.2M-in-2015-to-Destabilize-Venezuelan-Government-20170408-0006.html (26-05-17)

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/18/venezuela-protests-us-support-regime-change-mistake (26-05-17)

[5] http://empirestrikesblack.com/2013/01/henrique-capriles-radonski-israels-man-in-venezuela/ (26-05-17)

[6] http://www.globalresearch.ca/50-truths-about-hugo-chavez-and-the-bolivarian-revolution/5326268 (26-05-17)

[7] http://www.bbc.com/news/business-29643612 (27-05-17)

[8] http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/20/venezuela-2016-inflation-hits-800-percent-gdp-shrinks-19-percent-document.html (27-05-17)

A man was set alight by violent right-wing Venezuelans, attempting to bring down the government. Image from http://www.thenation.com