“If there weren’t so many bureaucratic hands in the State apparatus, stopping resources from reaching the people, we would have overcome extreme poverty.” The newly elected MP of the PSUV in Aragua and ex-Minister for Women and Gender Equality, Maria León spoke with Lucha de Clases to draw up a critical balance-sheet of the September 26 elections, the sabotage of the Venezuelan oligarchy and the need for international solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution.
LC: What is your analysis of the September 26 election results?
ML: As a Venezuelan who has dedicated all of her political activity in favour of the social interests of working men and women, and for the struggle for socialism, I look at every political event from a class point of view.
In Venezuela we have the phenomenon that Marx and Engels refer to in The Communist Manifesto, which states: “Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.”
For me what is happening today in Venezuela and much of our America which is in struggle, involves not only the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but also the oligarchy and the working people. I say “working people” because some oligarchs, by the fact that they were born in Venezuela believe that they are part of the people and thus I use the term “working people” to avoid confusion.
What is happening? This country since the popular uprising against the oligarchy at the time of Zamora had not risen again. All the wars that have taken place since then to this day, have been carried out by different groups of the left, of the right, of people ambitious for power and glory, and some seeking justice, but none of these had involved the whole people as we have achieved since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution with comandante Hugo Chavez.
As each day passes the two major camps, that of the oligarchy and that of the people will become more clearly defined. The elections are a demonstration of this confrontation and a huge one at that, because so far, both the working class and the oligarchy were disguised and speaking of National Unity, the interests of the Nation…
For example, we were always told that in the Orinoco Belt there was bitumen and everyone had thought that they, for the national good, would deliver this bitumen which the multinationals found so difficult to process. We believed in this nonsense during the period of government of the oligarchy under the Acción Democrática and COPEI [Social Christian Party of Venezuela].
The oligarchy has now been unmasked. The people know who the oligarchy are and what interests they represent and it is equally clear who the working people are and the historical interests that we are defending. The elections are a demonstration of this.
What is the oligarchy doing? In the first place, we have not been able to take the state apparatus out of the hands of the oligarchy, because within the state apparatus, the revolutionaries hardly occupy any positions. Most of the Venezuelan state apparatus is still in their hands.
They are involved in the same old fraud, stealing as they have done throughout history, allowing arms trafficking, drugs trafficking to destroy the young workers, and the youth in the villages and when they fail to turn them into thugs to put them in prisons built for them, they send them to kill as we see happening daily. I accuse the oligarchy. Young people who die here are ordered to kill by the oligarchy.
Sure, the latter takes advantage of the problem of insecurity, as was always the case with slave owners, feudal lords, capitalists and oligarchs and this should frankly be called Terror. They are introducing drugs, prostitution, and all this poison. Polar [a big brewery and food company in Venezuela] gets our youth and our men drunk every week, only to kill them later on. When they introduce panic and terror, some of our forces that are not fully conscious of the class position they occupy in society become frightened and abstain.
It is clear that between the previous election and the September election more than a million of our supporters decided to abstain, on top of the general level of abstention. Where did these people go? The propaganda of the oligarchy about property and terror, saying that the government is doing nothing to resolve the question of lack of security, that the government is going to take your house away, the same house that Chavez himself gave you, but that he is going to take it away because it will be expropriated… All this led some of our people to abstain from voting.
Furthermore, it is clear that a lot of them [the bourgeoisie] are still in the state apparatus, because we have not kicked them out… And this after 11 years!? We see the same faces, the same people. They were not present in the previous parliament because they decided to boycott the previous  elections, you’ll find them in the executive, in the electoral commission, you’ll find them in all the corridors of power, in the ministries, in the mayors’ and governors’ offices. They are positioned there, preventing the people from achieving what they want and hindering the work of government.
Of course when they block our running of things, the result is that the people see that even when Chavez orders measures to be taken, these are not applied because there is a mass of saboteurs within the state machinery. That’s why our running of things has so many failings.
I am of the opinion that if there were not so many individuals belonging to the AD, COPEI and their offshoots, with their fingers in the State pie, stopping resources from reaching the people, we would have eliminated extreme poverty by now. We have reduced it but we could not removed it altogether because in the course of things we have people stealing and the state apparatus is full of such people. This is what is exacerbating the sense of insecurity, this is what is damaging services, the road network; everything is getting worse because it is not possible to really implement the Simón Bolívar Plan [the government’s general development programme]. The obstacles to carry out our policies, imposed by the State, which is still in the hands of AD, COPEI and their offshoots, in my opinion are one of the major causes of discontent and fear.
The other problem with the elections is that up until now we have educated both revolutionaries and non-revolutionaries in the idea that the main task of politicians is the struggle for power. Where does the problem lie? In the fact that it is presented as a struggle for the sake of power for oneself, and what is not explained is that when a politician is being formed, it is a struggle for power for the people.
Thus, anyone who aspires to a position of power does so not for the people, not as spokespersons of the people, but simply for oneself.
I create my group, you create yours, and then it becomes a struggle to the death amongst ourselves that loses sight of the main objectives: confronting the enemy, strengthening class consciousness, awareness of the fatherland… and thus it becomes a power-struggle between small cliques. This is one of the most terrible problems that we face. We have become politicised but we have to understand that politics must represent the interests of social classes. For the oligarchy that is very clear and they work for their interests. Among our own working people there is also awareness of this, but in our midst we also have groups that divide the movement because they follow this or that individual, or one or other of the factions fighting each other and in the meanwhile the enemy encourages all these contradictions. The oligarchy manoeuvres within our own forces to foment disunity and we end up ignoring the gravity of the situation, not seeing the wood for the trees.
In the concrete case of Caracas, why did we lose an MP by a small number of votes (300 or 400) and instead the People’s Electoral Movement, that stood independently, won 6,000 votes? What happened? Why did these votes not go to Tania Díaz, the PSUV candidate? We are failing in something, but why? Because the enemy is united by a single interest: their hatred towards Chavez.
On the other hand the only thing that unites us is love, but we also need to develop hatred, hatred of the oligarchy, because so long as we pay homage to Mr. Oligarch, we will not be able to define the two opposing camps that are the oligarchy on one side and the people on the other. I suggest that we stop saying love, love, love … But replace it with “love for the people, and hatred of the oligarchy!” As Alí Primera said, “When there are no longer the oppressed, then I will sing about peace.” Therefore, I love all human beings, but we must hate the oligarchy and we must not give them a single vote, we must sow love, but also class hatred.
Of course we won! That’s not up for discussion; we have a majority in the Assembly, but we could have won 110 MPs, which is what we were aiming for. Why did we fail to achieve this? Because the national and international oligarchy has a worked out strategy and we on the other hand did not know how to, and were not able to, create among our people a class based rejection, such that no worker would watch Globovisión or any other TV channel of the oligarchy. They will never get into my house. If they come to my house, they will have to with weapons in hand to take me prisoner, but I will never turn on a TV channel to hear an oligarch speak.
The oligarchy hates the people. They kill us, they prostitute us, they starve us off, and they alienate us. Food disappears and we, on the other hand, are sending them love messages. It is like the slaves should be sending messages of love to the slave-owners. The only thing that the slave could do was to hate his slave-owner, and my appeal is therefore this: We have had enough of “love” and if they hate the people, we hate the oligarchy.
LC: In your speech you talk about the working people, the working class. Do you think that the speeches and policies of some officials, aimed at those business people who call themselves socialists, but who exploit their workers, humiliate and mistreat them, are being successful or have they added elements of confusion and malaise among the workers?
ML: I think so. They are like chameleons, they change. They are entrepreneurs of the AD and COPEI and of all kinds of parties. They have white legs, green bellies and wear red berets; in other words a monster. For me that is how I see them: white legs, green bellies and red beret. They are types that appear in all movements.
If you read the history of the struggles of our indigenous people you’ll find, as always, there were many that sold out to the oppressor, but to an oppressor that manipulates them as in our case. Here we have some businessmen who are manipulators, who pretend to be at the service of the government… But others think differently, we have to be analytical. In the category of working people, there is room for honest, private producers that do exist.
The latter know what their fate is: not that of accumulating money and becoming a monopoly, but rather that businesses in the end should all be in the hands of the people and workers. They will go forward, but together with the workers. But towards those who seek to make a lot of money and create monopolies, we have to apply the idea of hatred of the oligarchy. This is not about a law to control them, no; it is a matter of hate towards the oligarchy…
Why does our President call this the “Campaña Admirable” [admirable campaign], 200 years after the death of the Liberator? What did Bolívar say in this campaign? “Spanish and Canarians rest assured of your death even if you are indifferent. Americans can count on your lives even if you are guilty.”
It was not about whether you are black, or whether you are white, none of that. If you are with this process of emancipation you will have life with all the flaws you may possess. If you are with the colonisers, you are going to die. He made a declaration of war to the death. Of course, taking into account the conditions of today, I am not saying that the oligarchs should die. But their power to exploit must be brought to an end; their ability to exploit and enslave us must die. And to those who live we say welcome, welcome to life in the workers’ society.
We do not hate them as people; we hate them as a class. As people have the same sense of humanity towards them as we do with all the others, but as a class they should disappear and the time for this has come here in Venezuela with the Bolivarian Revolution, where the beginning of the end has come for them. They will perish as Venezuelan oligarchs, as Latin American oligarchs, as global oligarchs.
LC: The Hands Off Venezuela and the Bolivarian Congress of Peoples organised solidarity activities in 61 countries, with the aim of countering the negative propaganda of the world press in the run-up to the elections of 26 September. What message would you give to all those comrades who read this interview?
ML: First of all, I would like to send you my personal thanks as a revolutionary and a Venezuelan. To me, this class divide that exists in Venezuela is the same as in the rest of the world and there is no other solution for the exploited of the world, than the one expressed by Marx: Workers of all countries unite! Working men and women of the world, unite! The struggle in Pakistan, Palestine, the struggle of any people, of Peru or Bolivia … it is the same fight.
Humanity currently has two options before it: to continue the path to destruction through capitalism or march united towards socialism to save humanity. Here there is no middle ground; the scientists say so, and we see it every day with the natural disasters in the world.
Today the words of Marx are more relevant than ever before and this campaign that you, the International Marxist Tendency with Alan Woods, and all the other fighters like yourselves and other Venezuelan fighters, have organised, these acts of solidarity are with us and with yourselves, because what we are doing is defending the world, we are not advocating any selfish interest.
The revolution means happiness for all humanity. We all know that no people can liberate itself on its own. The only way to freedom and justice is with the unity of those who love, who fight against discrimination and betrayal, against everything that is harmful to humanity. So, I urge you to extend this solidarity, this Hands off Venezuela, so that we can hear these words in all countries.
I remember that once we set up the Hands Off Vietnam campaign. That is to say, “bloodstained hands of imperialism out of our countries”, because we want to be free. You can count on my support, my gratitude, my admiration and awareness that without international support no people can ever be completely free. Only be being united can we be free. Thank you for these days of solidarity; continue to organise them and extend them, in the awareness that when we fight for others we are fighting for ourselves, and for our sons and daughters.