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Venezuelan Masses Inflict Defeat On US Imperialism
REVOLUTION AND counter-revolution has swept Venezuela. The returning to power of the deposed president, Hugo Chavez, by a mass movement of workers and urban poor is a major setback for US imperialism and its plans for global domination.
Immediately following Chavez's return and the booting out of the bosses' stooge President, Pedro Carmona, a bitter Condoleeza Rice - Bush's national security adviser - said Chavez should: "right his own ship that has been moving in the wrong direction for quite a long time".
Events in Venezuela have moved at breathtaking speed. At 3am on Friday 12 April a military coup removed the left-leaning and populist President Chavez from the Presidential palace. But 48-hours later tens of thousands of his supporters, drawn mainly from the working-class districts of the capital Caracas, marched to the Miraflores (the palace), kicked out Carmona and reinstalled Chavez. Reports say that a dozen demonstrators were killed by reactionaries.
These tumultuous events - which graphically show the potential power of the working class to change society - follow months of political instability fermented by the powerful capitalist interests in Venezuela (the 'oligarchy') and by US imperialism.
Chavez (a former paratrooper who, as a junior officer, led a coup attempt in 1992) was elected President three years ago on a wave of popular support to end political corruption, eliminate poverty and modernise the country. He introduced a new constitution and radical reforms on land ownership and controls over capital.
These reforms made Chavez popular with the poor masses but hated by the rich oligarchy. And by pursuing a 'non-aligned' foreign policy, including friendly relations with Cuba, Libya, Iran and Iraq, he became a thorn in the side of US imperialism - particularly as Venezuela accounts for 15% of US oil imports.
On 23 February this year a US state department official bluntly stated that Chavez had to capitulate to its demands or "he's not going to finish his term". And given the tangible expressions of relief by US government spokesmen immediately following the military coup, it's clear that George Bush's administration and its CIA spy agency were involved in the failed coup from the start.
The bosses' counter-offensive against Chavez began with a strike on 10 December last year followed by a series of demonstrations drawn mainly from the middle class and wealthy districts of Caracas. These provoked large counter-demonstrations of workers and the poor.
The background to this increasingly bitter class conflict is a deteriorating economy. Falling oil prices (oil accounts for 50% of government income and without oil exports, the country would be bankrupt), an investment strike by the capitalist class, and the banks' refusal to provide loans to small farmers, added to the dislocation and turmoil.
The trigger to last week's crisis was the attempt by Chavez to install pro-government officials onto the board of the state oil company, PDVSA. This was countered by a reactionary stoppage on 4 April, organised by managers and the corrupt leadership of the CTV union federation.
The oil blockade was quickly developed by the capitalist class into a 'general strike' supported mainly in the middle class districts.
Then, on Thursday 11 April, a big demonstration in Caracas (150,000 people) began a march to the Miraflores to demand the President's resignation. Chavez denounced the strike and called on his own supporters to counter-demonstrate.
Recently, Chavez has begun creating a 'citizens militia' - the "Bolivarian circles" - a major source of conflict with pro-capitalist forces within the state machinery.
An armed clash resulted in the deaths of 13 people and over 100 injured. Reports suggest agent provocateurs were behind the shootings. This prompted a dozen high-ranking military officers to forcibly remove Chavez and appoint Carmona.
His short-lived regime, packed with members of the oligarchy, immediately began rounding up its opponents and liquidating the Bolivarian circles. It also suspended the constitution and closed down the National Assembly. This made several of the military coup backers uneasy. Many rank and file soldiers did not accept their officers' backing for the regime. Carmona also annulled Chavez's reforms and called off the general strike.
But these measures enraged the working class and poor who braved gunfire to storm the Miraflores and demand Chavez's reinstatement - a split and wavering military duly obliged and now it is Carmona who languishes in a military barracks!
Chavez in a rambling broadcast called for national unity and said there would be no witch-hunt of his opponents. But the clear lesson for the working class is that unless they take decisive action to politically neuter the capitalist class and its state machine, sooner or later reaction will again raise its ugly head.
On 8 March The Socialist warned the workers of the danger of counter-revolution pointing out that "the regime, despite its sometimes radical acts and rhetoric, has made no attempt to break from capitalism." It continued: "In order to defeat the forces representing the old corrupt order and imperialism, the masses have to take control of society."
In June 1973 a premature coup in Chile attempted to overthrow the elected Left reformist presidency of Salvador Allende. But this warning sign was not heeded by the leaders of the socialist and communist parties and in September the murderous regime of General Pinochet seized power.
To fight counter-revolution, democratically-elected committees of workers and poor must be established in industry and in neighbourhoods, with armed defence militias. Soldiers too should establish rank and file committee. There should be no trust in reactionary officers.
The Socialist calls for the workers and peasants to build their own independent and democratic movement and fight for a workers' government armed with a programme of socialist change.
Such a government would have to immediately nationalise the entire oil industry, the banks and foreign-owned multinationals and implement an emergency plan of production - democratically-run by the working class - to end the economic chaos and eliminate poverty.
A workers' government would appeal to the masses of Latin America to follow their path. International workers' solidarity would also be sought from the US and Europe.
This is now the urgent task facing Venezuela's working class as capitalism and imperialism licks its wounds.
In The Socialist 19 April 2002: