Editorial Left Online, published in August, 5.
Translation: Marcio Drumond
Today, 5th August, the Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly works start. However, the main imperialist countries do not recognize the elections held on the 30th. Donald Trump’s government has adopted sanctions against President Nicolas Maduro. The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS/OEA), Luis Almagro, declared the elections are illegitimate. Mercosur, led by Brazil (Temer) and Argentina (Macri), announce new sanctions against the country. The European Union, especially Spain, did not recognize the legitimacy of the elections either. For the socialist left movement, those facts should say a lot by themselves.
Yesterday, 4th August, the right-wing opposition alliance MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable), held a new protest march against the inauguration of the constituent deputies. The fact is that today the siege of the country has reached one of its highest points.
But truth be told: the responsibility for this situation largely lies with Chavism itself. Almost 20 years after Hugo Chávez was elected for the first time in 1998, the so-called Bolivarian socialist revolution did not take any serious action against capital. With that, Chavism was unable to change the country’s economic structure.
Venezuela continues to depend on oil exports and still imports almost everything. Oil revenues continued to account for about one-third of its GDP, 80% of export revenues and more than half of state funding. Without the resumption of agricultural production and without a national industry, the country continued to import more than 90% of products, goods, and services.
With the rise of oil prices started in the first decade of the 2000s, rather than structural changes, Chavismo favoured an agreement with sectors of the bourgeoisie and the accomplishment of compensatory social policies. It is true that they significantly raised the country’s HDI. But, predictably,, without structural changes, this advance was fleeting. With the fall in oil prices, the country began to come down. In 2013-2014 a recession began and, with that, popular discontentment. This is one of the main explanations for MUD’s victory in the 2015 legislative elections.
Despite the disastrous policies of Chavism, which finished paving the way for the right-wing counter-offensive, we cannot forget that the aim of imperialism is to resume direct control of the country, particularly its oil reserves. To achieve that, they need to remove the government by putting an end to any mediations.
The rise of Chavism was possible due to the heroic struggle of the Venezuelan people that has become a reference since the famous 1989 popular rebellion, known as “Caracazo.” That process allowed Venezuela to become a country politically more independent of imperialism. The counterrevolutionary offensive underway aims to not only defeat the government, but completely subordinate the country and mainly push back the advance of popular struggles, not only in Venezuela but across the whole Latin American region.
The rise of the right-wing and pro-imperialist groups
Since their victory in the December 2015 legislative elections, MUD has launched a campaign to oust President Nicolás Maduro. With no majority in the National Assembly, the government started to rely on the judiciary to govern. During 2016, the opposition tried to interrupt the presidential term by means of a recall referendum. The Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) prevented that attempt. At the beginning of 2017, MUD began to demand the anticipation of the presidential elections declaring the government incompetent, for abuse of power.
Hounded by the opposition, and instead of resorting to popular power, Maduro attempted to withdraw the legislative power from the National Assembly, transferring that to the TSJ. Three days later he retreated, and shortly thereafter, on 1st May, he called the elections for a National Constituent Assembly on 30th July.
However, this initiative that could be a strong resumption of the offensive against the right-wing campaign, has been undermined by the government’s bureaucratic control over the electoral process. Left-wing forces, independent groups and activists have faced strong obstacles to nominating and legalizing their candidacies. A little bit more than 5 thousand candidates of the 55 thousand enrolled have obtained their nomination. Almost all the candidates of the Communes and the trade unions, popular, peasant and indigenous sectors are directly connected to the government. A process that is not supported by a broad democracy prevents the necessary unity to face the right-wing, besides diminishing the strength and legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly itself.
The opposition wasted no time. They decided to intensify the mobilizations and confrontations through lockouts, marches and barricades (“guarimbas“) to prevent the elections. There were cases of Chavists burned alive and candidates being murdered. The government carried out marches and mobilizations, while repressing the opposition demonstrations through the National Guard and the Popular Collectives, also increasing the number of victims. According to some sources, these clashes have already resulted in around 120 deaths between April and July of this year.
In a climate of very high pressure, with barricades and without transport, the elections took place. Then came the accusations of fraud. Despite all of that, the National Constituent Assembly has been settled and today begins its work. The Imperialism increases the siege, while some sectors already wave with the possibility of negotiation.
The challenge for the left socialist movement
The revolutionary socialists must fight to build an alternative to both the Maduro government and the right-wing opposition. The strategy must be the overcoming of Chavism. To do so, it is necessary to strengthen the social forces of the revolution by relying on both the defence of a working-class and socialist program and the mobilization, self-organization and self-defence of the working class and popular masses.
However, in this moment of extreme polarization, the construction of this alternative is put at the forefront of the struggle to defeat the counterrevolutionary offensive of the right-wing, the OAS (Organization of American States) and imperialism. A socialist and revolutionary alternative is not built from a third field that in practice does not exist. Doing so is falling into pure abstentionism. The unity of action necessary to defeat the counterrevolution does not mean to grant any illusions into Maduro’s government. It is the same political location when we stood against Dilma’s impeachment. As is well known, that did not mean supporting the policy, much less the Dilma-Lula-PT class reconciliation project.
There are some left-wing forces that are currently seeking to overthrow Chavism struggling in the right-wing opposition terrain, and they are wrong. In fact, that is an even more serious mistake than at this time equalling government and opposition. By placing themselves in the trenches of the right-wing opposition, defending the fall of the government and boycotting the Constituent Assembly, they lose all class criteria, confusing revolution with counterrevolution. We do not build an alternative in unity of action with MUD or imperialism. This is not the case where we must strike together and march apart.
In those dramatic times Venezuela is passing through, the Latin American left has as its main task helping to defeat the counterrevolutionary offensive. It is urgent that the working class and the sister nations act and call for solidarity actions in all the necessary ways.
At the same time, it is necessary to demand from the constituent deputies a socialist solution for the country. It is urgent that the character of the current Constitution protecting private property, financial trades and profit be modified, precepts on which exploitation, oppression and social inequality are based.
The new constitution should ensure the adoption of measures such as the nationalization of foreign companies, the immediate expropriation of the right-wing putschist companies, a 100% state PDVSA under the control of the workers. It is essential that the State assumes control of trade and distribution. Along with this is the need to nationalize the financial system. This is the only way to combat speculation and prevent capital flights. The suspension of the payment of the external debt – to date punctually paid despite the immense crisis that penalizes the country – is vital for investments in infrastructure, housing, health, and education. Finally, it is necessary to democratize the Armed Forces and a State based on workers’ and popular power.
These are, in short, some of the main challenges of the socialist left in Venezuela