Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/756/16314
Venezuela after Chavez: Which road for the working class?
Johan Rivas, Socialismo revolucionario (CWI, Venezuela)
The news of Hugo Chavez's death brought thousands of Venezuelans rushing to Caracas's main square, the Plaza Bolivar, to lament.
There was an inevitable outpouring of emotion and feeling of loss. But the massive crowds were also defiant and combative and made clear they would continue the struggle.
They chanted: "Bourgeois make no mistake - here there is a revolutionary people!" and "Now, more than ever, revolution and socialism!"
For years, the right-wing bourgeois press called Chavez a "dictator". The hypocrisy and hostility of the right wing is an important factor when analysing the political situation in Venezuela.
However, equally important is the role played by bureaucrats and opportunists inside the 'Chavismo' movement, who must be defeated.
It is these elements that want to deny the role played by the working class and mass popular movements in the revolutionary processes that have developed.
However, the nationalisations that took place after the failed right-wing coup in 2002 and the social reforms that brought millions of Venezuelans out of extreme poverty, were mainly due to the working class, the youth, the peasants and the poor who demanded these actions and supported their implementation.
We must continue to support and fight for a deepening of these reforms, while linking them with the need to fight for socialism.
Today the right wing is calling for "national unity" and the government is calling for "peace". But the unity we want to see, among the masses and real, lasting peace will only be possible with the defeat of capitalism, the dismantling of the capitalist state and introduction of a democratic socialist alternative.
The fact that capitalism and its state remain was recognised by Chavez. He said: "In Venezuela, we have advanced a lot, but there is still much to do, the capitalist structure is intact as is the bourgeois state".
Unfortunately, he did not then conclude and explain what was necessary for fundamental change.
Despite recent events, the right wing remains on the offensive against the working masses. This is clear from the actions of the bosses and reaction for over a decade; financial speculation, ensuring the scarcity of staple foodstuffs and engineering high inflation, and de-industrialisation.
Politically, however, the ruling class is divided between the reactionary, even neo-fascist 'radicals' and the pro-democracy capitalist 'moderates', who are a majority on the right at this stage.
Furthermore, the right overall cannot rely on a solid social support base to gather enough strength to defeat Chavism.
The government is correct when it says that the Venezuelan capitalist class is parasitic and that it lives on the profits of petroleum and the importation of the goods, services and manufactured products.
At the same time, the government, who in its own way maintains this parasitic class, is at a crossroads.
The government tries to operate within the limits of capitalism, introducing economic measures, such as the recent currency devaluation that will put the weight of the economic crisis on the working class and the poor.
But, at the same time, it is the working class and poor that the government relies on for its support.
However, enormous grassroots pressure, although with a confused idea of revolution and socialism, can pressurise a post-Chavez government to adopt a more radical position.
Failure to do so would only see it moving quickly to the right and to threaten the reversal of the reforms won during the last 14 years.
Presidential elections to determine who succeeds Chavez will take place in a few weeks. Although there is a very small chance that the right could triumph, this is highly unlikely and it is most likely that political control will remain in the hands of Chavismo.
It would be a mistake for the Chavismo movement to think that it can govern in the same way that Chavez did.
Both Nicolás Maduro (vice-president) and Diosdado Cabello (president of the National Assembly) know that, as the political leadership of Chavismo, they need to manage the situation with care.
The revolutionary Left today is fragmented and dispersed but there are at least small and significant steps to re-organise, as we have seen over the last six months.
An example of this was a national Bolivarian meeting of revolutionary organisations that took place over the last months.
A section is working towards the construction of a political leadership to the left of the current leadership.
This, together with economic uncertainty and a right-wing offensive, are challenges that the leadership of the ruling PSUV party will have to confront.
The right wing has been very careful not to initiate any radical actions that may provoke a social explosion.
The perspectives for Venezuela are not certain. But to think that the death of Chavez means the death of Chavismo is an error, as it assumes that Chavismo will only move towards the right.
However, sections of the government will attempt to go in this direction, to try and appease capitalism and imperialism.
The urgent task now is to fight for the conscious, independent self-organisation of the working class, the peasants and the poor.
We must expose the bureaucratic, reformist contradictions of Chavismo, defeat the right wing and demand and fight for a revolutionary, democratic, socialist programme.
We cannot fall into the 'democratic' bourgeois logic of the government, of defending the 'sovereignty of the Fatherland'.
This means rejecting the idea that the revolution is 'national' and making clear it is an international question.
We call and fight for the construction of a federation of revolutionary, democratic socialist nations across the Americas and further.
It is only this that will guarantee the revolutionary triumph in Venezuela and beyond.
In The Socialist 13 March 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party review