Despite two years of economic difficulties in Venezuela, as well as months of organized violence and destruction at street barricades by some sectors of the opposition, a majority of Venezuelans continue to firmly support socialism. But what is the way out of this difficult situation? Over the next few months teleSUR English will be providing a deep analysis that contrasts with that of the mainstream, hearing from people on the ground in Venezuela. This first contribution was written collectively by members of the Tatuy television collective*, in Merida, Venezuela.
In order to understand the Venezuelan reality, it is necessary to go beyond the headlines that appear every morning on a smart phone and go beyond the basic news treatment by some local radio or TV outlets, as Venezuela is not only facing a series of controversial circumstantial situations, but also has set out a social, cultural, and political project that defines contemporary world history and is facing an important crossroads: the challenge of losing or preserving and deepening a socialist revolution.
Many other nations, peoples, and organizations throughout the world have many expectations about the future of the Bolivarian revolution. Will the current economic crisis be overcome? What does the future hold for Colombian-Venezuelan relations? Will the people continue to support the party of Chavismo? Will the lack of basic goods condemn the revolution? To answer these questions it is necessary to do a review of the structural causes of the recent political and economic phenomenons in this country.
Despite the amount of time the Chavista government has been in power, and despite the advances in various social matters, the Bolivarian process has not been able to overcome capitalist and rentier logic based on a single-product economy, dependent entirely on the price of oil, with limited industrial development, which worsens with the ongoing global crisis. All of this is in addition to the moral blow with the death of the promoter of the revolutionary project in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who promoted overcoming that dependency, the diversification of the economy, the political strengthening of the state, welfare and a series of goals organized within his last platform, known as the Plan of the Homeland. Other contradictions have emerged in this process that impede the radicalization of the socialist project: the opportunist and reformist policies that have been inherited by old political traditions, which in the face of today’s ambiguity, do not fight against corruption and bureaucracy but rather maintain it, which undoubtedly slows the strategic objectives of the revolutionary plan. This situation is the result of a power struggle between two antagonistic socio-economic models within a revolutionary process with pacifist characteristics.
In the midst of this contest, the immediate reaction by a part of the hegemonic national and international powers has been swift, precisely because the Bolivarian revolution has acted as a brake on their economic, financial, and political interests, becoming an alternative to the prevailing neoliberal model. Violent barricades with painful results, economic sabotage, a boycott of the national oil company and even a coup d'etat, have been some of the reactions of the historically dominant class. Now they have sharpened and are using different political strategies, such as the hoarding of basic goods, hyper inflation, the devaluation of the national currency, the export of contraband goods in the border regions, currency flight, social decomposition, among other problems that have, without a doubt, affected the daily life of the Venezuelan people. They are putting the Bolivarian government in “check” and feed the perception of ungovernability, precisely in the year that will electorally define the confidence of the people in their process, in the upcoming National Assembly elections (in December).
Nonetheless, the Chavista government has spared no effort in confronting these different issues, efforts that have essentially consisted of a solid alliance between the government, the armed forces, and the organized people; a strong institutional presence grounded in the optimal management of different areas like the distribution and subsidy of basic foodstuffs, adjustment and control of prices, citizen security, the spreading of education to the masses, the stimulus of the productive apparatus through research and funding, without forgetting a coherent participation on the international scene, which coincides with solidarity with other countries in the world. But unfortunately this has not been enough to defeat the aspirations of the empire and the national bourgeoisie: the majority of national production is still in the hands of private companies; the state-owned companies or those created by the revolution have not reached an optimal organizational level nor optimal operation; the role of the party of the revolution, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, has been timid and ambiguous in overcoming the logic of electoralism, diminishing the strength of the role of a vanguard organization that guides its government and its people through the true revolutionary paths. In addition, the government of Nicolas Maduro has based its strategy on dialogue and consensus with the enemy; which evidently has not resolved the conflict, to the contrary, it has worsened it.
In that sense, the establishment of new means of defending the revolution is indispensable. In the words of Chavez in the speech that was called Strike at the Helm: “Conditions that guide the transition to socialism … with this new cycle starting, we must become more efficient in the revolutionary construction of a new political, economic, social, and cultural model.” This will only be achieved through the radicalization of what, until this point, has been built. Starting with urgent policy measures in different areas, such as the nationalization of the banking sector, placing the financial apparatus at the service of the revolution, avoiding the flight of capital abroad, speculation and the increase of activity of the parallel currency exchange market, nationalization of foreign trade, planning of imports, activating national production and regulating prices. Also, conglomerating all nationalized companies, bringing them together in an organic system that President Maduro himself requested in September, 2014: “We must strengthen the administrative, direction, management capacity (...) create a large conglomerate of the system of state-owned and socialist enterprises in Venezuela, with its various corporations that will group together service and production facilities.” A measure that has been delayed but one that represents a key way out of the dependence on oil profits and traditional commercial relations, all those manifestations of capitalist logic. Demands made by President Chavez in October 2010, “Please, I plead you to listen to this reflection … let us put our knowledge to work on the creation of a new system, let us not convert production into commodities automatically. That is capitalism!”
Other measures will be just as necessary; the immediate rescue of the revolutionary spirit, offering up clear measures to reinvigorate the morale of the people, reaffirming conviction in socialism as a way to overcome the barbaric capitalist system that degenerates and puts humanity in real danger. In the words of the heroic theoretician Che Guevara, “The state sometimes makes mistakes. When one of these mistakes occurs, a decline in collective enthusiasm is reflected by a resulting quantitative decrease of the contribution of each individual ... Work is so paralyzed that insignificant quantities are produced. It is then the time to make a correction.”
To rectify in this case is not to use a cliché in the vocabulary of the old left. Instead, it speaks to the need to go to the root of the issue, to transform the essential. We should understand that the crossroads facing the Bolivarian revolution is not for more dividends and benefits, but between a murderous, outdated and harmful system like capitalism, and a system of organization that is liberating and highly humanist, such as socialism.
The Bolivarian government has the obligation to rectify its policy of conciliation between classes, it has the obligation to radicalize. Many think that radicalization means losing the government, but in reality if you do not radicalize you cannot govern. The government has on its side a people that is majority Chavista, that in times of heightened class struggle and electoral polarization strongly advances and provides a crucial support. Likewise, the Venezuelan government receives the majority of foreign currency through oil revenues.
If it doesn't radicalize, austerity and the far right will impose themselves, or the path of conciliation will eliminate the socialist characteristics of the revolution and convert it into a social-democratic ogre in the style of the Mexican PRI party, remaining in power but at the expense of its own revolutionary sense of existence. The path of conciliation means being resigned to reforming the rentier capitalism that characterized the Venezuelan economy and merely decorates the bourgeois structure of the Venezuelan state.
While there are no definitions, while the above isn't clear, uncertainty prevails in the population, discontent increases, confusion prevails. By way of a government of "national unity", demobilization will be gradual and monitored, with the possibility of civil conflict.
*The Tatuy television collective is based in Merida state and aims to cover news and issues from a local and socialist perspective: working with communal councils and social organizations to ensure that television isn't just passively watched, but is a communication tool for organizing. It receives some support from national government organizations, but depends mostly on the volunteered time of dedicated members.