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From The Socialist newspaper, 9 August 2017

Venezuela: Capitalist offensive sharpens after assembly elections

Anti-Maduro protesters clash with the National Guard in Caracas, photo by Jamez42/CC

Anti-Maduro protesters clash with the National Guard in Caracas, photo by Jamez42/CC   (Click to enlarge)

The escalating civil strife and economic crisis in Venezuela is being used by western governments and the establishment media as a stick to beat socialists with. However, as Marxists in Venezuela explain in the following article, the Maduro state bureaucracy is incapable of mobilising the working class to defeat the capitalist counterrevolution.

Izquierda Revolucionaria and Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI Venezuela)

On 30 July elections were held to the new national constituent assembly (ANC) in Venezuela. US imperialism and the MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable - the coalition which unites the right and far-right) backed a campaign of threats and violence to stop them taking place. US and European imperialism and various capitalist governments have refused to recognise the results.

On the day of the elections, the MUD did not only call for a boycott. In the middle and upper class neighbourhoods which they control they threatened those wishing to vote, put up barricades blocking access to voting centres and even organised a terrorist attack in Caracas.

The fact that in this context, millions of people still went to vote in defiance of imperialism and the MUD, shows that there is still the potential to defeat the plans of the counterrevolution.

However, the only way this could happen is if the workers and poor are at the head of the state, instead of bosses and bureaucrats (as is currently the case), and if socialist policies are implemented.

Unfortunately, the general policy of the Maduro government continues to move in the opposite direction.

Capitalist policies

Under pressure from the capitalist class and as part and parcel of its policy of seeking alliances with so-called 'productive (or patriotic) bosses', the government has implemented measures against the interests of working class people.

Together with scarcity of basic goods and medicines and the highest inflation rate on the continent, this has increased discontent among the population. Such discontent has been used by the right wing to stir up conflict on the streets, resulting in a wave of violence.

However, the calling of elections did not halt the violence, but in fact intensified it. The opposition's campaign since April to overthrow the Maduro presidency has so far led to 125 deaths.

Hence the ANC election took place in an atmosphere of great pressure and tension. Many voting centres had to be moved due to the violence between representatives of the MUD and the police. In some voting centres, there was destruction of voting materials and armed clashes.

Bureaucracy vs rank and file

During these elections, sections of the rank and file of the Chavista movement (named after the late reformist president Hugo Chavez) went through a new experience of struggle against the government bureaucracy, deepening their criticisms of it.

The fact that 54,000 people enlisted independently as candidates for the ANC, over the heads of the bureaucracy and its lists, reflected a mood of rebellion which grew during the campaign.

The leadership of the fight against reaction cannot remain in the hands of the same leaders, increasingly distrusted by the masses, who have implemented capitalist policies and separated themselves from the people.

In many areas the ANC campaign was conducted through bureaucratic methods, breaking with electoral rules and using the electoral machine of the ruling PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) against the rank and file to guarantee victory to the bureaucracy's candidates.

This included pressuring state employees and beneficiaries of state benefits to vote, and to vote for government candidates - instead of convincing people with policies that could solve their problems.

Many critical candidates who fought against the leadership are now reflecting on the situation, and many have protested the results which, days after the close of polls, had not been fully released.

We defended a vote for those rank-and-file socialist candidates who raised criticisms of the government. These candidates put forward a revolutionary programme in defence of the gains won since Chavez's first election in 1998.

We also stand for fighting for these gains to be added to, satisfying the demands of the workers and poor and ending the power of the capitalists and bureaucrats, to solve the worst problems facing the population.

On the night of the elections it was announced that 8,089,320 people had voted, 41.53%. In the 2015 assembly elections, PSUV and its allies won 5,622,844 votes and Maduro won the presidential elections with 7,587,579 votes.

While we cannot simply believe government figures (as there was no transparent scrutiny of votes), it is clear that participation was still significant.

However, turnout in elections to a genuinely revolutionary constituent assembly, elected democratically in workplaces and communities, would have been much higher.

Venezuela is at a critical conjuncture. The road of the government - of capitalist policies and conciliation with capitalism and imperialism - can only lead to defeat, which would mean the loss of all social gains won and the continuation of poverty and exploitation.

In this situation, revolutionaries should defend a genuinely socialist programme to stop a victory of the pro-imperialist right wing. At the same time, we must struggle to build an alternative revolutionary pole to the government bureaucracy which does not want to break with capitalism.

This alternative is the organisation and mobilisation of workers and the poor to defend the gains of the revolution and extend them; uniting all the oppressed in a struggle to expropriate the capitalists and build a revolutionary socialist state to replace the current one, which remains capitalist.

Such a state would be based on workers' and neighbourhood councils, at local, regional and national level, elected and recallable at any time - and where every representative earns only the wage of a skilled worker.

A state where power and wealth is really in the hands of the workers and poor - achieved through democratic public ownership and control of the commanding heights of the economy.

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In The Socialist 9 August 2017:

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