The huge response from ordinary people to the death of Hugo Chavez has highlighted the massive impact that the Venezuelan Revolution has had on millions of people worldwide. Never has the Venezuelan Revolution been more relevant than today. This explains why over 70 people came to see Alan Woods – editor of www.marxist.com and founder of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign – speak at the UCLU Marxist (University College London) society on the legacy of Chavez and the tasks of the Venezuelan Revolution now that its leader has passed away.
There is a phrase that says ‘nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.’ That not only explains the influence and respect Chavez was able to command, but also the widely noted influence that Alan Woods and the International Marxist Tendency had on Chavez. Marxist ideas are the only ones which can really explain revolutions and give a consistent, clear revolutionary programme with which to transform society. That is why Chavez recognised the value of Alan’s analysis of Venezuela and why the BBC and Daily Telegraph have featured Alan in their coverage of Chavez’ death.
The meeting was started by Alan pointing out the cynical irony with which leaders of Western capitalist nations have attacked Chavez. They have accused him of ‘irresponsibility’ and ‘recklessness’ with Venezuela’s oil reserves for daring to spend them on social programmes which have halved poverty, ended illiteracy and massively increased healthcare provision. Clearly it is far better to fritter away state finances on bailing out banks! Now there’s a vision of sound economic management if ever there was one! In the past, as Alan pointed out, Venezuelan oil wealth went straight into the pockets of American and European multinationals and a few Venezuelan oligarchs, whilst chronic poverty went untouched. The Western press never complained then.
Alan then summed up the experience of the Venezuelan Revolution, from the defeated rightwing coup of 2002 to the movement for workers’ control. The lesson of the Venezuelan Revolution is not the charisma, honesty and boldness of Chavez, although, as Alan pointed out in response to a question as to why the revolution happened in Venezuela and not, say, Chile, that has been vital. No, the real lesson is the heroism, sacrifice and militancy of the Venezuelan working class, which has rescued and driven forth the revolution time and again.
This force is also the key to the future for the revolution. The Venezuelan masses can only rely upon themselves. Alan spent some time explaining the difficulties and dangers for the revolution, in particular from inside the revolution, that is, from the Bolivarian bureaucracy, which often sabotages and holds back the process. Alan gave the example of where bureaucrats have blocked orders from Chavez to nationalise factories under workers control.
The meeting finished on the note that we need to build a revolutionary organisation in all countries, so that when and where revolutions break out, we have the structures and organisation to make sure that bureaucrats do not successfully sabotage the only solution to the crisis of capitalism the world over – that is, the expropriation of capitalism under workers control.