International Courrier Supplement
Written by the IS of the IWL ; UST (Socialist Unity of Workers), Venezuelan section of IWL
The right-wing oppositionist leader Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in to the police and was arrested on February 18. He was accused of “inciting violence” against Nicolas Maduro’s administration, after several days of demonstrations and bloody clashes with the government’s repressive forces and shock troops.
It’s a new fact which expresses the deep crisis facing the country, which was governed by the regime created by Hugo Chavez since 1999 (after his death in 2012, Nicolás Maduro became president).
However, Venezuela is not lightning in a blue sky. It occurs in the context of an economic and political crisis in several Latin American Popular Front governments (led by workers and the left in alliance with bourgeois parties) and populist (led by bourgeois parties with great popular support). These crises are currently plaguing the governments of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela and, to some extent, Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. Only the government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador stays solid.
These governments were a response of the national bourgeoisie to the revolutionary processes that rocked the subcontinent in the late twentieth and early twenty first century (Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela). The bourgeoisie appealed to this type of government to maneuver the situation of the bourgeois system which was defined by former Argentine president Eduardo Duhalde in 2002: “We are on the brink and across the forest we burn”
These governments had two elements in their favor. First, a rise in the world economic situation (2002-2007) and then a smaller impact of the global economic crisis, that began in 2007, due to high commodities’ prices. Second, given the lack of a working-class and socialist alternative, they appeared before the masses as “their government” that faced imperialism and got achievements.
However, despite their “leftist” language (Chavismo called itself “21st century socialism”), they took only some partial measures such as the expropriation of a foreign company or limited measures to alleviate poverty, such as unemployment grants in Argentina, the program “Bolsa Familia” in Brazil and the Venezuelan “missions”. On the other hand, the foundations of the imperialist capitalist semi-colonial domination remained intact (and has even accentuated).
The Chavista economic policy worsened and continues to worsen the current crisis because it not only didn’t break the country’s semi-colonial character, but, due to being part of a parasitic and rentier (people who live by “clipping coupons”, as Lenin said) bourgeoisie, wasted billions of dollars of the country’s oil revenue.
Today, the boom has come to an end, and the world economic crisis hits hard: the decrease of commodities prices and reduction of foreign investment due to changes in American financial policy result in capital flight, fiscal crisis, and very high inflation. Along with this, the struggles grow and important sectors of the working-class and popular organizations that used to back the government now break with it. Furthermore, the repression by the government grows.
Moreover, as the comrades from UST highlight in their article (below), there is no coup attempt. U.S. imperialism tries to erode the governments to defeat them electorally, both in Argentina and Venezuela, and do not bet, for now, in a coup d’état (Maduro said there was a “conspiracy” and expelled three U.S. diplomats).
All these governments (Maduro, Cristina Kirchner, Correa, Evo Morales and Dilma Rousseff) support each other when faced with protests. And use the same argument of “coup” to justify the crisis and condemning the protests. All of them, and Mercosur as a bloc, supported Maduro and denounced the protests of the Venezuelan people as “a coup”.
This is another historical evidence that the national bourgeoisies, despite their leftist speech, are unable to break the semi-colonial grips and free the subcontinent from poverty. This is a task that only a true socialist workers revolution can accomplish.
Read the following article by UST (Socialist Unity of Workers), Venezuelan section of IWL, on the situation of the country:
Before the facts of February 12: The workers need an independent policy
Convened by the Bureau of Unity (MUD) with the slogans “Out now, the street wins!”, demonstrations occurred in several Venezuelan cities with the presence of students and popular sectors. Clashes between protesters and repressive organizations, including paramilitary, left at least three dead, 69 wounded, and many arrested, among them, lots of students.
The socialists from UST did not take part in these protests and made a call for people not to go to the manifestations of these bourgeois parties because their slogans and their goals are not the same as the working class ones. They conceal- by relying on widespread discontent- their own austerity plans in favor of entrepreneurs and multinationals.
The UST repudiates the violent crackdown on demonstrators. The working class and popular sectors experienced first-hand this repressive escalation that just days ago imprisoned 10 oil workers and leaders who were demanding a decent collective contract, employees of Toyota Cumana had to withstand the pressure of the Bolivarian National Guard when they performed an action inside the plant, and the same happened with the strikers at Sidor. Civetchi workers remain jailed in Carabobo. They are criminalizing protests.
We defend the democratic right of workers, students, peasants and other popular sectors to come forward and protest, & at the same time we demand the immediate release of all those arrested for protesting.
Furthermore, we demand the investigation of the murders and all repressive and violent acts, so that justice is done. Accordingly, we propose the formation of an independent Investigative Commission, formed by human rights organizations and workers and popular organizations, to ensure that the investigations conducted by the judicial bodies are impartial, objective and well publicized.
Nicolás Maduro’s government attacked the demonstrations, accusing them of “fascists” and stating that “a coup was in march,” as happened in 2002-2003. With this speech he justifies repression. For the UST, there is at present no possibility of coup. The old coup conspiracies of the bourgeoisie and imperialism were defeated by mass mobilizations. No major military power is in favor of destabilizing the regime or launching an armed coup. The Bolivarian Armed Forces officials are involved in key ministries and local governments, they drive the main primary companies (steel, iron, cement, etc.), run their own TV channel, their own construction company, claim to be “partakers of the construction of 21st century socialism”, and their high echelons were homogenized after 2003.
On the other hand, Chavismo is the majority force in the National Assembly and Maduro could not be removed by this way.
But neither are any of the so called “pro-imperialist right-wing bourgeoisie” sectors, despite their obvious internal divisions, willing to support a coup. Imperialism itself also doesn’t advocate this policy. It prefers to press the government to deepen as much as possible the austerity that is already been done (devaluation, cuts in public expenditure, low wages, etc.) to erode it until it can be defeated by a “petition for revocation of the mandate” or in the 2015 elections for the National Assembly representatives, prior to the presidential elections.
If any possibility of coup exists, the UST would be in the front row against it and demanding the government the confiscate the assets of imperialist companies of oil, medicine and goods, banks, as well as all of companies belonging to the bourgeoisie of the coup. And we would be requiring arms for the people.
Why are the demonstrations so massive?
The marches and demonstrations called by the MUD were important. But in fact, these leaders rely on widespread discontent that exists across the country among workers, the youth and popular sectors. This dissatisfaction is based on the lack of essential goods and the long lines to get any product, very high inflation, low wages, covert devaluation, disinvestment in basic industries, the repression of struggles and so on. Working people are watching the implementation of a harsh austerity plan “by installments” that the right has been demanding and Nicolás Maduro is applying. So we live much worse than before.
Some are well off
This situation does not affect everyone to the same extent. The financial and banking systems, according to official records, earned US$ 33 billion, importers sell their stocks for a “fair price” until they run out. Corruption allows some rich to get richer and “shell” [oil] companies acquired more than US$ 20 billion that Cadivi “cheerfully” gave them, and until today, nothing is known of this monumental fraud, despite that the statutory bodies have a detailed list of the names of these companies. The multinationals that share mixed-ownership companies (such as Repsol and Chevron, among others) are increasingly grabbing the best gas and oil fields.
The austerity plan is harshening
Meanwhile, PDVSA and the state’s debts are increasing. The foreign debt, according to the Central Bank, is worth US$ 104 billion, leading the state and PDVSA to pay interests of US$ 11 billion this year. Where will this money come out from? The government is rehearsing a “way out”, warning that gasoline prices will rise, although with “no hurry”, as well as public services. But, as this will not be enough, it will unleash its “best argument” that it is freezing labor collective contracts for years…
What about “21st Century Socialism”?
For years, the ruling party has been saying that all their measures take the path “towards socialism”. All sacrifices posed to the workers were made in the name of “future generations and the achievements of the revolution.” However, reality contradicts these speeches: those who benefit from huge profits are the multinationals, mixed-owned and food companies, banks and financial firms, the “shell” companies that grease the palms with cheap dollars for speculation, and the big corrupt state bureaucracy. Therefore, Maduro was not ashamed to admit that their policies against “speculation and corruption” safeguard “the rules of the real and true capitalist game that is related to profit rates.” He said: “I know what I’m doing; to those who underestimate me, whether the ultra-left or the ultra-right, I know what I’m doing” (El Universal 17.01.2014). And it is true.
Neither the government nor MUD and its leaders
Workers and popular sectors should face the austerity plan that the government is applying. We must organize and fight back. We can’t allow the workers to pay the burden of a cheap dollar for speculators. We should not accept to be the ones who pay the foreign debt and the royalties for multinational oil companies with poverty wages, food shortage, & cuts in public health and education.
We can’t fall into the fairytale that the MUD parties and their leaders are a way out and therefore we should participate in their protests. Not at all! They are not against the devaluation; they have been demanding such a measure for a long time now. They are not against low wages. It’s what the Fedecámaras and any employer want! They are against independent trade unions and in favor of multinational oil companies, importers and banking and financial business. Their struggle is to control these businesses which today are dominated by the PSUV and officialdom.
It is a complete mistake for trade union and student leaders to give support to the MUD demonstrations. The same for those workers’ federations and leaders that back the government. Both tie the working class to different employers’ projects. Workers should fight for an independent policy from the government and the right-wing.
A workers’ and popular program
To build an independent policy, the working class and popular sectors need a program for the country, which includes general pay increases according to the staple foods and periodically adjusted for inflation. The nationalization of all oil fields and the end of the mixed-owned companies (joint ventures). Oil revenues must be invested in education, health and housing. Imprisonment for the corrupt officials. Independent investigative commissions against corruption and against the protests’ repression. Full democratic rights for all. Real recognition of all unions elected by the workers. Workers’ and popular control of the entire economy.
Unity to fight!
The complicity of some union leaders with the government and the cowardice of others who do not want to organize any fight and others who are linked to bourgeois projects keep us divided, and in actuality leave workers and popular sectors at the mercy of the MUD and their parties’ demagoguery. Workers need unity to fight. The Sidor workers gave their example of unity to struggle. The oil workers from Anzoategui released their imprisoned colleagues with unity.
Some leaders have been meeting to denounce the current labor situation before the ILO. And also made some statements. These reports and statements by the Trade Unions Unity (composed among others by FADESS, UNETE and CCURA) are important, but insufficient. These currents should broadly call all unions and political sectors which are willing to discuss and implement a workers and popular program, in defense of all democratic rights, and which responds to the most pressing questions to propose a plan to fight for this program. The UST will encourage and be part of such convocation.
On the other hand, we will continue to fight for the political independence of the working class and the construction of an independent, democratic political tool that intends to fight for a government of the working class and popular sectors so that workers never have to choose one of the many bourgeois options.