On September 26 the people of Venezuela will be electing a new National Assembly. The reactionary Oligarchy, backed by imperialism, is taking advantage of the shortcomings of the revolution to strengthen its position and prepare for the counter-revolution. The Venezuelan revolution has gone a long way, but key economic levers are still in the hands of the Oligarchy. What is required is to fully carry out the socialist revolution and expropriate the capitalists and landlords. That is the only way of making the revolution irreversible.
The revolution has been developing in Venezuela over more than a decade and has now reached a critical turning point. Imperialism and its local agents, the Venezuelan oligarchy, are hell-bent on putting an end to the Bolivarian Revolution. It constantly uses the prostitute media to carry out a vicious campaign of defamation, slander and disinformation.
This campaign has reached unprecedented levels. Chávez has been variously described as a "barracks populist," a "strongman," a "firebrand," and "a psychopath”. He is supposed to be an “aggressive thug” who "flirts with megalomania" and whose behaviour “borders on the paranoiac." Earlier, they used to describe him as a “dictator” (some still do), but this language sits awkwardly with the well-known fact that over the past eleven years he has won more elections than any other political leader in the world.
In order to accommodate this unfortunate fact, they have been obliged to invent categories that were previously unknown to the political lexicon. They speak of an “elected autocracy”. The London Financial Times sees him as "increasingly autocratic" and presiding over something called a "rogue democracy." Behind this language is fear and hatred: the hatred of the rich and powerful for a man who has roused the masses to fight against their oppressors and their ingrained fear of the power of these same masses.
There is very good reason for the ferocity of the attacks against Venezuela on the part of the imperialists and their stooges in Latin America. They rightly fear that the Venezuelan revolution will not stop at the borders but will spread to other countries. The nationalisations in Venezuela set an example that others will want to follow. The speeches of President Chávez advocating socialism on a world scale have set the alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power from Washington to Mexico City and beyond.
The Latin American Revolution
At the present time Venezuela is in the front line of the revolutionary process that is taking hold all over Latin America. The radical policies of Hugo Chávez, his outspoken opposition to imperialism and his continued calls for world revolution have become a beacon of light to all anti-imperialist fighters in Latin America and throughout the world.
What really worries the imperialists is the fact that, in order to carry the Bolivarian Revolution forward, Hugo Chávez is beginning to take measures against private property, nationalising companies and land belonging to the Venezuelan oligarchy and big foreign transnationals. He has also called the workers to occupy factories left idle by their bosses and introduced elements of workers’ control in state-owned companies.
In the context of the crisis of capitalism, the imperialists are terrified that this example will be followed in other countries (this is already happening) and that the workers, not only in Latin America but also in Europe and the United States will begin to demand similar measures against big companies that plunder poor countries and exploit their workers to extract huge profits, damage the environment with oil spills and other forms of contamination and close factories as if they were matchboxes in order to earn bigger profits.
It would not be difficult to point to the problems and failings of the Bolivarian Revolution, which are due to the fact that it has not been carried through to the end. But despite all its deficiencies and limitations, the Venezuelan revolution represents a mortal danger for the ruling classes.
All over Latin America the masses are stirring. In Ecuador we had the election of Rafael Correa, who is said to model himself on Chávez and who had the backing of over 80 percent of the people. In Bolivia, Evo Morales, encouraged by the nationalisations in Venezuela, raised the question of nationalisation of the country’s natural resources and was faced with a revolt of the oligarchy, which can only be settled by the revolutionary action of the masses.
The Dilemma of Imperialism
The strategists of imperialism have come to the same conclusions as the Marxists: the conditions are ripe for a general revolutionary movement in Latin America that will have enormous consequences in the United States and on a world scale. The eye of the storm remains Venezuela, where, after a decade of struggle, the revolution is reaching the point of no return. It explains why U.S. Imperialism has taken new steps to control the situation.
The accusation that Chávez is pursuing an aggressive policy towards Colombia stands truth on its head. The agreement for the use of military bases in Colombia (which has been temporarily paralysed by the courts), the coup d'etat in Honduras, the military deployment of forces in Costa Rica and last but not least the attempt to set up new military bases in Panama, which will effectively surround Venezuela with a powerful U.S. military presence, all show who the real aggressor is.
This is what has led to the rapid deterioration of relations between Caracas and Bogota, which we witnessed in August. Under certain conditions this conflict, which on the surface seems to have subsided, could lead to an actual outbreak of hostilities between Venezuela and Colombia, which Washington has turned into an armed camp. The formation of a popular militia and the purchase of arms from Russia are not the expression of an aggressive foreign policy but purely defensive measures taken by Venezuela to counteract the aggressive policies of the United States.
All this shows that the imperialists have not abandoned their plans to overthrow Chávez, if necessary by force. However, the options of imperialism in Venezuela are now very limited. US imperialism, for all its wealth and military power, finds its room for manoeuvre severely restricted. In the past they would have not hesitated to intervene directly, sending in the Marines. But this is not possible at the present time. They have been forced to abandon Iraq and are embroiled in an unwinnable and unpopular war in Afghanistan. After the failure of the Iraq adventure, public opinion in the USA is turning against the war. It is therefore unlikely that Washington could launch another military adventure in Latin America at this time.
The possibility of a direct military intervention may have receded. But there are many other weapons in the arsenal of US imperialism. Washington is constantly seeking to isolate Venezuela internationally. It is constantly applying diplomatic, military and economic pressure to undermine the government of Hugo Chávez In addition to character assassination, there remains the option of actual assassination, which the CIA has undoubtedly been preparing for some time.
The born-again Christian, accomplished swindler and rabid reactionary Pat Robertson said: "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it... It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop." When he pronounced these words, he was only saying what others in more powerful positions were thinking. And these thoughts have not gone away.
Assassination remains a possibility. But despite its obvious attractions, what the reverend Robertson proposes holds serious risks for US imperialism. Despite Mr. Robertson’s optimistic opinions, the first result would be the cutting off of oil supplies to the USA. An assasination would cause a wave of anger and revulsion in Latin America and throughout the world. There would probably not be a US embassy left standing in the region. The bitterness against the USA would last for generations and lead to further uprisings and explosions.
Preparing a Parliamentary Coup
For all these reasons Washington is compelled to rely on the mechanisms of bourgeois “democracy” in an attempt to overthrow the Revolution by constitutional means. Herein lays the importance of the September national assembly elections in Venezuela. What Washington is planning is neither more nor less than a parliamentary coup. It seeks to liquidate the Bolivarian Revolution, not by external intervention, but by basing itself on the internal enemies of the Revolution. In order to do this, it will make use of the internal contradictions of the Revolution and the Bolivarian Movement itself.
The opposition is calculating on winning a sizeable number of seats in the new National Assembly. If they were to win a majority in September, or if they were to win a sizeable presence in the National Assembly, this could mark the beginning of a downward spiral for the Bolivarian Revolution. The petty bourgeois masses, who have been demoralised and passive in the recent past, would be encouraged by an electoral victory and go onto the offensive.
If the counter-revolutionaries are successful on September 26, they will use their position in the Assembly to sabotage the workings of the government, mobilise the middle class to come onto the streets and provoke unrest wherever possible. Even if they were to win only one third of the seats they would be able to block certain key decisions. They would engineer a series of clashes between the Assembly and the President. Their ultimate goal is to destabilise the country and create a situation where they can get rid of Chávez, be it by parliamentary or extra-parliamentary means. The threat is a very serious one.
Nobody in their right mind believes that fundamental decisions are made by laws and parliaments. Ultimately, all the important decisions are taken on the streets, in the factories, in the villages and in the army barracks. But parliament can play a significant role as a rallying point – either for the forces of the Revolution or the counter-revolution. That is why the outcome of the September elections is so important for the future of the Revolution.
If the counter-revolution triumphs, does anybody believe that it will respect the laws? The Bolivarian Constitution would be abolished the very next day. All the reforms of the last decade would be reversed. And what would happen to all those who supported the Revolution? Does anybody believe that the counter-revolutionary opposition will embrace them? Would the counter-revolutionaries make the kind of conciliatory gestures that Chávez has made to them so often, without any result? No! They would have the same implacable and vengeful attitude that has characterised every ruling class in history when they have defeated a revolution, summed up by the Roman saying: Vae victis! – Woe to the vanquished!
The victory of the counter-revolution in Venezuela would represent a serious blow to the revolution throughout Latin America. Bolivia and Ecuador would immediately be under terrible pressure. The Cuban Revolution, which is already threatened by capitalist counter-revolution, would be in greater danger than ever before. The effects would be felt on a world scale, with a new ideological offensive of the bourgeoisie against socialism. It is sufficient to pose the question concretely to understand what needs to be done.
Can the Counter-Revolution Succeed?
Is it conceivable that the opposition could succeed in its plans? Every conscious worker and peasant fervently hopes that it will not. But in politics, as in war, hopes are never enough. There is nothing more dangerous than the kind of blind optimism that hides behind empty phrases such as “the Revolution is irreversible”. It is necessary to proceed on the basis, not of hopes and sugary illusions, but on hard facts. We are in a war, and in warfare it is always preferable to overstate the enemy’s strength rather than to underestimate it.
Where does the main danger lie? It lies in the fact that the socialist revolution has not been carried to its conclusion and that the bourgeoisie still controls key points in the economic and social life of the country. This fact was pointed out by President Chávez at the Extraordinary Congress of the PSUV. He said that there can be no transition to socialism in Venezuela as long as the bourgeois state of the 4th Republic is still in place and key parts of the economy are still in the hands of the oligarchy.
This was one hundred percent correct. The two main obstacles that stand in the way of the advance of the revolution are private ownership of the key sectors of the economy, and the continued existence of the bourgeois state. It is impossible to maintain this situation of a so-called mixed economy in which the capitalist element prevails, provoking disruption and chaos, food shortages, inflation, factory closures and the flight of capital.
All these things have a serious effect on the masses. The survival of capitalism reflects itself in a fall in living standards. It is true that the masses still have faith in Chávez and are loyal to the Revolution. But this loyalty must not be abused and it cannot be maintained merely by speeches and exhortations. The fact that the opposition was able to win the elections for mayors and governors in poor areas, such as Petare in November 2008, was already a warning. If the government does not take decisive action to solve the needs of the masses, demoralisation can spread and manifest itself in the form of abstention in forthcoming elections.
On the other hand, the survival of the old state and bureaucracy represents a mortal danger for the revolution. The bureaucracy is fiercely opposed to socialism and the revolution and is doing everything in its power to sabotage it. Nobody in their right mind could imagine that it is possible to move towards socialism while this corrupt monster is still in existence. This was pointed out by Chávez at the PSUV Extraordinary Congress, when he quoted from State and Revolution, where Lenin explains that the destruction of the bourgeois state and its replacement by a workers’ democracy is the prior condition for moving towards socialism.
The reformists do not wish to speak of these problems. They use a hundred and one “clever” arguments to prove that the working class cannot and must not take power. They consider that socialism is a utopia, while they are realists. Faced with the onslaught of the counter-revolution, they bury their heads in the sand like a frightened ostrich and hope the danger will go away. This “realism” is in fact the worst kind of utopianism. It represents a very serious danger to the revolution.
President Chávez has repeatedly warned of the danger of the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy, which is neither more nor less than the Fifth Column of the bourgeoisie within the Revolution and the Bolivarian Movement. The recent desertion of the PPT is only the latest in a long series of examples, which proves the existence of this reformist and bureaucratic Fifth Column. How many more are still present and ready to betray?
The IMT and the Elections
What is the attitude of the International Marxist Tendency to these elections? It goes without saying that the Marxists will call for a vote for the PSUV in these elections. We must fight to defeat the counter-revolutionary opposition. The only way to achieve this objective is to mobilise the masses – the real base and motor-force of the Revolution. The workers and peasants must be motivated and enthused. But this is only possible if the PSUV stands clearly and unambiguously for socialist and revolutionary policies, and carries them out in practice.
However, the fight for socialism consists of a series of partial battles. The Revolution must not take a single step back, but strike blow after blow against the class enemy. The most urgent and immediate task is to defeat the counter-revolutionary opposition, to block its attempt to return to power by using the democratic mechanisms provided by the Bolivarian Constitution. We therefore appeal to every worker and peasant, to the youth, to the women, to the trade unionists, to all the living forces of Venezuelan society to vote for the candidates of the PSUV on September 26.
Some people who call themselves “lefts”, or even worse, “Marxists” have adopted a light-minded and irresponsible attitude to the September elections. They advocate abstention, or even worse, join the ranks of the counter-revolutionary opposition. This is a complete abandonment of revolutionary politics. When the class lines are clearly drawn, and when the choice is between Revolution and Counter-revolution, whoever crosses the line is guilty of betrayal.
From the very beginning of the Venezuelan revolution, the Marxists of the IMT have defended the revolution and highlighted its significance for revolutionaries throughout the world. This occurred, while many so-called leftists denied that a revolution was taking place and categorically wrote off the possibility of a turn towards a socialist path. Eleven years later our stand has been completely vindicated. Even though the revolution has not taken the decisive step towards socialism, it is clear that the idea of socialism has gained the ear of the masses who are fighting to achieve this aim.
The strengthening of the Marxist tendency inside the ranks of the PSUV, the PSUV Youth and the UNT would be a powerful tool in advancing this process and defeating the counter-revolution once and for all by destroying its economic power and thus completing the Venezuelan Socialist Revolution. The International Marxist Tendency, organized in Venezuela around the paper Class Struggle (Lucha de Clases) is fighting to push the Revolution forward, to advance towards the final and decisive victory. But the final victory depends on the outcome of a series of partial battles. Whoever is incapable of defending the ground that has been won in the past will never be capable of advancing to the conquest of power.
Carry Out the Revolution to the End!
While defending the revolution against the attacks of imperialism and the counter-revolutionary opposition, at the same time the Marxists have a duty to warn of the dangers in the present situation. The Venezuelan counter-revolutionary opposition is trying to take advantage of each and every mistake committed by the government. Unsolved problems such as housing, the growth in crime-rate and recently the blackouts in the energy system, are being used by the opposition to generate apathy among the masses that support the revolution.
It is not possible to stop the revolution half way. It is not possible to make half a revolution. The masses are loyal to the Revolution but they will not permanently accept this situation. Sooner or later it must be settled. Chávez has taken important steps forward but it is necessary to finish the job. Once the Venezuelan revolution carries out the task of eliminating landlordism and capitalism, it can very rapidly spread to other countries in Latin America. That is the inner meaning of the Bolivarian revolution: the objective necessity to unite the divided continent of Latin America and raise it to a qualitatively new and higher level of development in accordance with its colossal economic potential.
The Spanish socialist leader Largo Caballero pointed out that you cannot cure cancer with an aspirin. Serious problems demand serious solutions. When Abraham Lincoln won the Civil War, he understood that one cannot leave economic power in the hands of the enemy. He expropriated the wealth of the Southern slave-holders which today would be worth trillions of dollars. In doing this, he did not pay much attention to constitutional niceties. In fact, he would never have won the war if he had been obsessed with laws and constitutions.
Long ago Cicero wrote the famous phrase: Salus Populi Est Suprema Lex: The salvation of the people is the ultimate law. We can now say, with equal justification, the salvation of the Revolution is the ultimate law. To prevent the counter-revolutionaries from winning control of the National Assembly is a necessary step to prevent the liquidation of the gains of the last eleven years. But in and of itself it is insufficient. The only way to defeat the opposition and remove the threat of counter-revolution forever is by liquidating the economic power of the oligarchy, expropriating the landowners, bankers and capitalists and introducing a socialist plan of production under democratic workers’ control.
The reformists argue that to act in this way would be to provoke the imperialists and reactionaries. That is absurd. The imperialists and reactionaries have shown by their actions that they do not need any provocation to act. The workers, peasants and poor people of Venezuela are looking to Hugo Chávez to carry out his promise to make the Venezuelan revolution irreversible. This can only be done by directly challenging the so-called sacred right of private property. Unless economic power is taken out of the hands of the counter-revolutionary oligarchy, the Bolivarian revolution could never be victorious and the gains of the revolution would never be safe.
For those who are hypnotised by legal considerations, we point out that there is a constitutional mechanism that can be used for this purpose: an enabling act to nationalise the land, the banks and the major industries. Chávez still has the formal power, a large majority in the national assembly and the popular mandate to carry out the expropriation of the oligarchy – the prior condition for a movement in the direction of socialism. But the time to act is now. Tomorrow it will be too late.
This is the only possible perspective if we wish to put an end to the domination of Latin America by US and world imperialism. But it is a perspective that stands radically opposed to nationalism. It stands for the radical abolition of frontiers that have artificially divided and balkanised Latin America for 200 years. It is also of necessity an anti-capitalist (socialist) perspective, since it can only be achieved by breaking with the bourgeoisie. Power must pass to the working class and its natural allies, the poor peasants and the urban poor and semi-proletarians.
The idea of the Socialist United States of Latin America is an idea that can unite and mobilise the masses of workers, peasants and revolutionary youth of Latin America for an all-out struggle against imperialism and capitalism. It contains not a single atom of utopianism but flows from objective necessity. It is the slogan of the present that holds the key to the future.
Defend the Bolivarian Revolution!
Defeat the counter-revolutionary opposition!
Fight for a PSUV majority in the National Assembly!
Carry out the programme of the Socialist Revolution!
London, September 7th 2010