Venezuela: Counter-revolution Throws down a New Challenge

In the build up to the September elections, the right-wing opposition is preparing on several fronts. Economic sabotage is one of them, as are the manoeuvres on the part of right-wing elements within the Bolivarian movement itself. Meanwhile, all this is having a radicalising effect on the left.

By Patrick Larsen - In Defence of Marxism
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In the build up to the September elections, the right-wing opposition is preparing on several fronts. Economic sabotage is one of them, as are the manoeuvres on the part of right-wing elements within the Bolivarian movement itself. Meanwhile, all this is having a radicalising effect on the left.

New developments in Venezuela reveal that the counter-revolution is organizing to prepare a new prolonged battle against the Bolivarian government. On top of the deep economic recession, we recently saw new shifts in the alignments in the political landscape which can play a decisive role in the warm up to the parliamentary elections in September.

Blue Chavismo

Some three weeks ago, the governor of Lara state, Henri Falcón chose to abandon the ranks of the PSUV, after a long polemic with Chávez. The latter had accused him of being too close to the bourgeoisie of Lara and not really serving the interests of the workers and youth of that state. Falcón replied by slamming the door and joining the PPT (Patria Para Todos), a small party which supports the government but stayed out of the PSUV when it was formed in 2007. Since then, it has tried to act as a brake on Chávez, by promoting the cause for “reconciliation” and “dialogue” with the opposition.

Falcón spoke demagogically about the need for “tolerance”. “A revolutionary must build bridges, not put up traps nor denounce the right of the people to participate in the political party that they want”i, he affirmed. While trying to rally the petit-bourgeois and middle class elements around his calls for “democracy” and “freedom of political parties” (a strange demand, as this is already reality in Venezuela), what Falcón is really upset about are the recent declarations of Chávez accusing him of being allied to the bourgeoisie.

On March 14, Chávez commented on the case of Falcón in his weekly Aló Presidente show. He spoke in very harsh terms, not just of the governor of Lara, but also of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie as a class:

“Our revolution is not planning an agreement with the bourgeoisie. There is no possibility of an agreement or any deal with the Venezuelan bourgeoisie. There is no possibility of any agreement, nor can there or will there ever be and he who does think that there can be one, should abandon our ranks immediately.

“That is why the question of the governor of Lara, about which I was speaking yesterday with firmness in Barquisimeto itself, has come up. Because behind him there is a lot of manipulation going on, to which the governor pays service and to which the PPT pays service. That is regrettable, but it is a fact. “Oh no, we are with Chávez”. That is a lie. It is the bourgeoisie who stands behind this game. Don't you see that the bourgeoisie is applauding the Lara governor? Why don't they attack him? Because there are deals being made behind the scenes.”ii

This is the truth of the matter. The fact is that the vast majority of all right-wing newspapers were euphoric about Henri Falcon's desertion from the PSUV. Falcon and the PPT assures everyone that they stand for a “Blue Chavismo” (“Chavismo Azul”), which is supposed to be more “tolerant” than the kind advocated by Chávez himself. But that is just a smokescreen for saying thatthey have broken with Chávez and are in reality fighting for a completely different programme: Counter-revolution with a democratic mask.

In a recent interview to Últimas Noticiasiii, José Albornóz, the General Secretary of the PPT, said that it was a pity that people like Ismael Garcia and his party PODEMOS, had left the camp of the revolution, as they would have had much more influence within it. He thought it was just a regrettable misunderstanding and a matter of “wild, uncontrolled sentiments” that had led PODEMOS to betray the revolution in the run up to the constitutional reform referendum in 2007!

This is a most peculiar logic. The truth is that Ismael Garcia and his PODEMOS party were never revolutionaries, but social-democrats who for a time clung to the Chávez coalition, in order to try to slow down the pace of the revolution. But even the limited constitutional reform was too much for them to swallow, so they decided to join the opposition, that is the open camp of the counter-revolution, and run an anti-communist campaign for a NO-vote in the referendum. But for Albornoz this was just a misunderstanding!

What Albornóz is really saying is that his party is trying to do the same as PODEMOS (and before that, the MAS), that is to put a brake on the revolution and reach a deal with the ruling class. In other words, he represents a fifth column within the revolution. Many ordinary members of the PPT have understood this. More than 200 members decided to abandon the party and join the PSUV. But on the other hand, Albornóz informed that 20,000 people had applied for membership after the incorporation of Falcón. There is no doubt which class these 20,000 people belong to. It is the layers of the petit-bourgeoisie and of the bourgeoisie itself who are seeking an option to get rid of Chávez and the revolution altogether.

In recent years we have seen a long list of renegades, abandoning the revolution: Ariás Cárdenas (who then “rejoined” in 2006), the MAS, Pablo Medina, Luís Miquelena, Baduel, Ismael Garcia and PODEMOS and we could name many more. But this time, it is likely that Falcón will be able to organize wider layers of discontented middle class and bourgeois elements under the banner of “Chavismo azul”, “tolerance” and “reconciliation”.

Counter-revolution promotes chaos and violence

To this should be added recent opposition activity which is aimed at sabotaging and creating unrest wherever possible. In January we had the opposition middle-class students demonstrating and promoting violence in the streets with the excuse of the supposed closure of RCTV (a television channel which was taken off the air by its private license owners temporarily because they didn't respected Venezuelan constitutional rules). These activities left one chavista student activist killed in Mérida and several injured in other parts of the country.

Then on March 21 we saw the 36-hour transport “strike” in Caracas. In reality it was a bosses' lockout, where the owners of the privately owned means of transportation decided to shut down traffic. But workers organized in the United Transport Union of Caracas, led by its president Richard Manbel, rejected this lockout and most of the bus drivers went to work anyway. Only 5% of the workers joined the strikeiv and services were therefore running more or less on a normal level. Thus the attempt on the part of the bosses failed miserably. Just as in the bosses’ lockout of December 2002, it was the actions of the working class which saved the situation.

Another key aspect of the counter-revolution's attempt to destabilize the country is the ongoing sabotage and speculation in the food sector. A recent investigation shows that the ratio of diversity of food products available was at its lowest in the months prior to the Constitutional Referendum in December 2007, which Chávez lost with a narrow margin, while food scarcity was at its highest.

This was by no means a coincidence. The capitalists in the food sector made a deliberate, and successful, attempt to saw confusion, demoralization and frustration among the masses who had previously voted for Chávez. They knew that they wouldn't be able to win the masses to the opposition camp, but their aim was to demoralize them. This was precisely what happened: Nearly three million people in the Bolivarian mass base abstained from voting, thus giving the escuálidos a marginal victory. Food scarcity in Venezuela is part of a concerted and well-organised counter-revolutionary campaign.

The possibility of this being repeated in the months preceding the September parliamentary elections is clearly present, as the main food distributors and markets are still in the hands of the Capitalists. Chávez is trying to extend the state-owned Mercal food markets, but in reality the expansion is very limited and only amount to 7%vi in total quantity of food available. This cannot make up for the colossal loss that is created by hoarding, speculation and the big inflation in the entire privately owned food sector.

The main problem is twofold: The privately owned food sector remains largely untouched (with small exceptions, such as Éxito and Cargill) and there is no monopoly on foreign trade. On the other hand, national food production remains very low and the agrarian reform of 2001 hasn't produced any significant distribution of the land to the poor peasants. Those peasants who did get a piece of land were in many cases refused the cheap credits that they had been promised and thus the land remains uncultivated.

The logical conclusion from this is that private property of food production, processing and distribution sectors is in direct contradiction with the democratic will of the majority of Venezuelans. The only way to solve this problem (which represents a deadly threat to the revolution) is by expropriating these industries and putting them under the democratic control of workers, consumers and peasant cooperatives, so that they can plan them rationally according to the interests of the majority of the people, and put an end to this counter-revolutionary and undemocratic sabotage.

The parliamentary elections

Gustavo Tarre Briceño, one of the hardened counter-revolutionaries and former leader of the social-christian COPEI party, recently said that “the government was that bad that it was actually possible to win the elections”. Obviously this is a crude exaggeration, which turns everything on it's head. The governments in the Fourth Republic were vicious protectors of Capital and served to maintain the exploitation of the great majority of workers and poor. Chávez was the first to break with this. Nonetheless, it is true that many reformists and bureaucrats surrounding Chávez are incapable of solving the most pressing problems of Venezuela, such as electricity, housing, food scarcity and people’s insecurity. The main reason for this is that they do not dare break with capitalism and private property.

In the same interviewv ii, Tarre Breceño explains the strategy of the opposition. He stated that even in the case of the Opposition not gaining a majority in the National Assembly, “parliament will convert itself into a center of national debate” and that this in itself would “represent a qualitative change”. Here we have an outline of the counter-revolution's perspective. Even if they only manage to win, say 40%, they will use all these MP's to block or delay government initiatives. They will make these legal representatives travel the country back and forth and mobilize the volatile masses of petit-bourgeois and middle class elements. This is the first part of a plan, the goal of which is to get rid og Chávez and bury the revolution.

Among the Bolivarian masses there is profound concern about this, but also a deep-rooted discontent with bureaucracy in the PSUV. This was reflected in an interesting interview a couple of months ago with Alberto Müller Rojas, the former PSUV vice-president, who said that “Chávez is sitting in a nest of scorpions”viii, referring to many of the reformists in the government and the party.

In the same Alo Presidente in which Chávez attacked Falcón and declared that there can be no agreement with the ruling elite, he once again stressed that the capitalist state must be done away with and criticised those who advocated “market socialism”, the most recent mantra of the reformists within the Bolivarian movement. These ideas connect with the critical mood which has developed amongst the rank and file of the PSUV.

It is in this context that the ideas of Marxism have a keen audience. Recently, the Assembly of Popular Movements in Caracas adopted the proposal of a programme for the PSUV presented by the Marxists as its own, and as a result it has been circulated for discussion to all congress delegates. The same ideas were enthusiastically received at assemblies of the Juventud Bicentenaria, the new front of revolutionary youth organizations. This confirms that the rank and file will keep struggling to change the PSUV and transform it into a tool that can complete the revolution once and for all.

Caracas, March 25, 2010


iÚltimas Noticias, 21 de Marzo de 2010, pag.16
iiAló Presidente, No. 35. Reproduced in Debate Socialista, 21 de Marzo, pag.
iiiÚltimas Noticias, 16 de Marzo de 2010
ivCorreo de Orinoco, 23 de Marzo de 2010, pag. 2
vThis statistics is taken from Correo de Orinoco, 21 de Marzo de 2010, pag. 6
viiÚltimas Noticias, 21 de Marzo de 2010, supplemento dominco, pag. 6-7