This is the second of a two-part article by Luis Bonilla-Molina. Part I can be read here.
The groups opposing the Venezuelan government are fragmented and, in many cases, links between them are by now broken.
All groups are reactively anchored to the government’s agenda and lack initiative. They have also suffered from increasing disenchantment from their bases due to a double discourse that combines verbal radicalism with permanent acts of conciliation.
The first group is made up of the actors which met in [the government-opposition negotiations in] Mexico. They are close to the original political fractions of the parties Primero Justicia (Julio Borges and Henrique Capriles), Voluntad Popular (Leopoldo López and Juan Guaidó), Un Nuevo Tiempo (Manuel Rosales) and Acción Democrática (Henry Ramos Allup). These are parties that have been juridically intervened and whose [current] authorities have been designated ad hoc. One of the points of negotiation in Mexico is the return of the party acronyms, accounts and properties [to their original leaders]. This opposition group is called the ‘G-4’.
Most of these parties are renewed political expressions of the interests of the old bourgeoisie. Their agenda is linked to their class interests and transnational capital. They seek harmonious integration between national and transnational capital: a task that has had difficulties since the 1980s.
Faced with the new geopolitical global distribution, these parties seek to control the state (or a fraction of it) to capture the revenue from the extractivist logic that capital has assigned to the region within the fourth industrial revolution framework and the consumption of imported goods. It is a sector without an alternative capitalist project to extractivism.
The second group is made up of business leaders who act as their own representatives since they do not trust the political mediators that pretend to represent them. Its most visible face is [Polar Group President] Lorenzo Mendoza, who has not ruled out being a presidential candidate.
The third grouping is the so-called Democratic Alliance, which brings together parties Avanzada Progresista (Henry Falcón) and the so-called “scorpions” (authorities designated by the judicial intervention) of Democratic Action (José Bernabé), Primero Justicia, Voluntad Popular, COPEI, Venezuela Unida, Movimiento Ecológico de Venezuela, Unidad Visión Venezuela, Compromiso País, Bandera Roja, UPP89, Opina, Soluciones (Claudio Fermín), Movimiento Republicano, NUVIPA, Prociudadanos, Movimiento al Socialismo, Min-Unidad and Alianza Centro. This group is the one that has reached the most agreements and partial negotiations with the government. For this reason, they are considered to be a government-linked opposition by the G-4 parties.
In the fourth group are the most radical players (María Corina Machado, Antonio Ledezma and Andrés Velásquez), who promote the application of the [OAS-backed military pact] Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Treaty (TIAR) and a US invasion. They are isolated after the ousting of the Republican Party from the White House.
The fifth is the Popular Revolutionary Alternative (APR), led by the Communist Party and a long list of former members of parties that were [judicially] intervened, such as Patria Para Todos (PPT) and the Tupamaros parties, but also REDES Party, Izquierda Unida, Nuevos Caminos Revolucionarios (NCR) and a plethora of local and regional organizations that accompanied the Maduro government until recently.
The APR is a dissidence group on the left. It seeks to connect with the labor movements. However, since its formation, the APR has not been able to show the capacity to mobilize or articulate its discourse with the Latin American left, which is why it has not built real force nor is a factor in favor of the labor movements in the negotiations.
The sixth group is made up of academics and intellectuals that are structured around the Platform in Defense of the Constitution (PDC) and Critical Thinking groups. It is often referred to as “dissident Chavismo,” although this phrase does not represent all the expressions of the group. This group does not have any mobilization capacity that may enable them to be taken into account in a negotiation.
The seventh brings together sectors of the left that articulate from the ecological, indigenous, feminist and educational movements in defense of imprisoned workers, alternative journalists, and other leaders. This sector, although disjointed at present, is the most dynamic and creative. A convergence of their forces could be a determining factor in enabling another political option with a real presence to evolve, but so far there are no signs of this happening.
A separate block comes from the recent PSUV primary elections, where new local and regional leaders emerged, many of them from the communes. Some of these local leaderships were already respected while others had been invalidated. The commune movement equates to an awakening of the constituent spirit.
The eighth group is the very weak Trotskyist radical left. After having produced a significant regroupment early on in the century, they fractured as a result of their evaluation of the Chávez government. At present, in the case of Marea Socialista and the Partido Socialismo y Libertad (PSL), they have been joining in specific struggles, but they have had problems when attempting to insert themselves in mass movements. They have failed to position themselves as a reference point, and in the case of LUCHAS (a rupture from Marea Socialista), its work has focused on propaganda with little insertion into social struggles.
The ninth grouping is very marginal: a fundamentalist and ultraconservative right led by Chávez’s former minister for planning Felipe Pérez Martí. This group seems to come from the germ of a Trump or Le Pen-style right, with the addition of religious messianism.
Geopolitics as a determining factor
A hidden agenda will be on the table at the Mexico negotiations. This agenda will attempt to convince the US, European Union and allied countries that Venezuela does not represent a communist threat, something that Maduro has been working on in recent years.
The separation of the Communist Party and other allies with a leftist past from the government coalition and the front line of the administration has been a clear and unequivocal signal in that regard.
Now, the government delegation in Mexico will show that not only can a broad and democratic route be built towards the November 21 mega-elections, but that Maduro is a determining factor in the arbitration and agreements between the different bourgeois fractions.
The disarticulation of the anti-government groups confirms the fact that Maduro is today’s strong man of Venezuelan politics. His government and his way of relating and negotiating with the right-wing opposition by subordinating their initiative to his agenda constitutes a safeguard for the articulation between transnational and national capital.
The real problem behind the current negotiation
The Mexico negotiation may well be the beginning of a new period of cohabitation between the Maduro government and the G-4 opposition, which may cause some minor friction with sectors of the so-called Democratic Alliance opposition. This tension and the way in which it is resolved could facilitate or prevent the construction of a new long-term government agreement (which, of course, does not contemplate presidential changes).
It seems that — contrary to what some proclaim — this arrangement will be expressed modestly in the November election results. In the current circumstances, the G-4 opposition could obtain important mayoralties and councils, but few governorships.
The progressive, gradual and sustained suspension of US sanctions will be a determining factor in the political stabilization and strengthening of Maduro’s Caesarism for the coexistence and articulation of the different bourgeois fractions.
However, peace for the main bourgeois group may mean the boiling over of growing social instability: the people have suffered an unprecedented and dramatic loss of quality of life and purchasing power.
And the world of labor?
The prospects of peace on the horizon can be seen in dozens of prosecuted and arrested workers’ leaders. With monthly salaries under double [US dollar] digits, accumulated inflation that exceeds one million percent and a sustained devaluation of the currency, it is foreseeable that the struggles of the working class, public employees and wage earners, in general, will begin to blow up.
This may lead the government further down the authoritarian path or towards a sustained negotiation with the unions in pursuit of a substantive recovery of the quality of life [of workers]. The problem for the government is that the new litter of workers’ leaders that has emerged seems to be far from both the oppositions and the government, both of whom have bureaucratic machines that do not have the capacity to contain social discontent.
Is there a transition?
There can be no transition away from the Maduro government in the short term. On the contrary, his ability to control the political situation is in a process of consolidation. The different opponents to his government do not seem to be strong enough to create favorable conditions to force any transition. What may happen is the beginning of political cohabitation, with the ensuing distribution of power quotas between the government and the right-wing oppositions.
The left-wing alternatives, on the other hand, are going through a crisis of their own. Neither the Platform in Defense of the Constitution nor the radical left have the social articulation needed to reverse the current situation in the short term. The Popular Revolutionary Alternative generated expectations well above what it has been able to deliver, trapped as it was in the logic of the revolutionary party and the mass fronts.
No option to the left of Maduro has managed to become a relevant factor in terms of mobilization: they have not even managed to clarify the real situation in Venezuela to the continental left. The government’s authoritarian drift can be seen as a determining factor, but even during dictatorship the left historically has been able to mobilize the masses.
In this context, democratic social struggles play a fundamental role in the democratic recomposition of the political, economic and social landscape. The radical left, rather than worrying about consolidating partisan micro-apparatuses, should open itself to new and chaotic forms of organization that might allow it to relate to the fabric of resistance that is woven into society.
What to do?
It is time to reorganize the left from the localities. It is urgent to get out of the bizarre discussions about political theorems and rebuild ourselves from the struggles, putting aside the vanguard party epistemology and recovering the humility of accompaniment and learning from concrete social struggle. The left has always reinvented hope from the ashes. It’s time to do so again.
Recuperating hope and mobilizing capacity is much more likely to be achieved in localized community, social and alternative activities than in right or left political parties currently, and this is where national life must be rebuilt.
Migration may be the factor that tipped the balance in the coming years. Millions of Venezuelans left the country to survive, and in that process they have experienced the barbarism of neoliberalism as well as the solidarity from normal people in other lands. To the extent that sanctions are lifted and political violence is averted, many will return and, potentially, become a determining factor for another possible Venezuela, a Venezuela of social justice, equity, solidarity and democracy.
Can we recover the ability to do political work on the streets? That, and no other, is what makes dreams happen by vibrating and opening the way to radical change.
Luis Bonilla-Montilla is a university professor and researcher at CLASCO’s International Research Center-Other Voices in Education (CII-OVE). He recently won the International Social Justice Award (2020) award from the Paulo Freire Democratic Project of Chapman University, USA.
Translation by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.