The recent attempted assassination of Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro has once again focussed attention on the deepening economic, social and political crisis in the country. Izquierda Revolucionaria (CWI in Venezuela) in the following article explains that Maduro is using his party and the state bureaucracy not in defence of ‘socialism’ but instead to manage capitalism and retain power.
On the afternoon of 4 August, various explosions on Bolivar Avenue in Caracas interrupted the speech of President Nicolas Maduro during a military parade.
That night, the information minister Jorge Rodriguez announced that there had been a terrorist attack carried out by drones loaded with C4 explosives. He said that seven soldiers had been injured and several people had been arrested, with the attack attributed to sections of the right and extreme right.
The group claiming responsibility for the attack – ‘soldiers of Franela’ – are followers of far-right linked military chief Oscar Perez, who died in a shoot-out with the national guard in January, and author of the terrorist attack on the supreme court in June 2017.
The 4 August attack was part of ‘operation Phoenix’ with the objective of killing Maduro and bringing down the Venezuelan government.
The violent, terrorist character of the right wing in Venezuela is news to no one. The capitalist media, right-wing governments around the world and many sections of social democracy, present these elements as mere opposition forces fighting for democracy. The reality is that these forces have habitually resorted to violence and terror.
The last ‘guarimba’ (violent street barricades) episode caused over 100 deaths between March and July 2017. These terrorist methods were one of the reasons for the failure of the opposition offensive and of the MUD’s (electoral opposition coalition) attempt to take power.
The 4 August attack took place exactly one year after the government’s victory in the constituent national assembly elections. In those elections, while millions of the poorest mobilised to defeat the coup strategy of the right, millions of Chavista (supporters of the late president Hugo Chavez) voters and activists also used them to express their discontent with the capitalist policies of the Maduro government, by organising and supporting critical candidates and demanding a shift to the left.
Since then, the response of Maduro, the state apparatus and PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela – the ruling party) bureaucracy has been to divide, isolate and repress all critical left movements. At the same time it has reaffirmed its policy of agreements with sections of Venezuelan capitalism, following the advice of its international advisers (especially the Chinese government which finances a lot of Venezuela’s debt).
Their objective is not to defend or deepen the revolution but to stabilise Venezuelan capitalism with themselves in the lead, and to dismantle, in practice, the most left measures taken by Chavez due to the pressure of the masses.
In reality, Maduro has executed a clear shift to the right in government. His economic policies have led to constant price rises and cuts to the wages and rights of workers.
He has gifted mountains of cash and ‘aid’ to the new capitalists born from the ranks of the bureaucracy due to its control over the state, and to sections of the traditional bourgeoisie who have made agreements with the government. He has allowed multinationals from China, Iran and Russia – so-called friends – to make juicy profits thanks to mixed companies and trade deals to exploit our natural resources.
While a section of the capitalists and US imperialism still favour an economic collapse to allow them to rebuild their social base and bring down Maduro, another section is in favour of agreements, at least temporarily, with the government. They would like Maduro, or sections of the military leadership or bureaucracy, armed with a Chavista discourse, to lead a transition which liquidates the remaining gains of the revolutionary process.
This shift to the right is in the context of a situation where the vast majority of the working class and poor are struggling hard to survive along with their families. The accumulated fall in GDP (national output) over the last three years is reportedly over 40%.
Annual inflation is around 46,000% according to the International Monetary Fund, which predicts it could reach an incredible 1,000,000%!
The attempts by critical sectors within the Chavista rank and file and the workers’ movement to struggle against this situation have been dispersed.
Demoralisation and scepticism has been generated among wide sectors of the population by the rightward turn. Also, the lack of a united and independent working class party possessing a clear and decisive political programme of demands – and which unites the left opposition to the bureaucracy – represents a grave difficulty.
Furthermore, the bureaucratic control over mass organisations which were built in the period of revolutionary growth, such as the CSBT trade union federation and the PSUV, has been reinforced.
The PSUV acts as an appendage of the state apparatus, in a similar way to the communist parties of the former Stalinist states (the USSR, etc) – with the difference that Venezuela is not a ‘deformed workers’ state’ based on a planned economy, but a capitalist state based on capitalist relations of production and dependent on the world market to an extreme degree (due to the size of the oil industry).
Maduro and his collaborators have a model to look to: China, which is a clear promotor of state capitalism based on an authoritarian Bonapartist regime (ie the state ‘balances’ above the contending social classes) and which has broken any link with revolutionary traditions.
Despite Maduro’s continuous pompous declarations about socialism and revolution, his policy consists of using the state and party apparatus to manage capitalism and remain in power.
One of the possible consequences of the 4 August terrorist attack is that it can serve the bureaucracy to justify intensifying authoritarian measures and strengthening the tendency to criminalise protests and left-wing critics.
The counterrevolutionary opposition is trying to take advantage of the terrible economic situation and social discontent by launching the so-called ‘Broad Front’. However, for the time being they have had no success and their base remains passive and demoralised.
In the presidential elections Maduro was reelected with an abstention rate of over 50% and the support of less than 30% of the electorate. Imperialism and its Venezuelan puppets refused to recognise the results but their calls to protest on the streets were a failure.
The bureaucracy tried to portray the result as a great victory, but this is easily seen through.
Popular discontent could become even sharper with the new measures announced by the government, including the recent savage devaluation of the currency.
Many Venezuelans have voted with their feet and sought refuge in neighbouring countries. The scale of this exodus is, in turn, producing huge social problems in Brazil, Colombia and elsewhere.
The fundamental problem remains the collapse of the productive economy and investment strike, and the looting of oil wealth by the capitalists and bureaucracy.
Weak and parasitic Venezuelan capitalism cannot guarantee a dignified life to the masses. The international ruling class presents the paralysis of the Venezuelan economy as the result of ‘socialism’.
The reality is that the Bolivarian revolution was not completed. Chavez implemented progressive reforms which raised living standards. But the measures necessary to end capitalism – the nationalisation of the banks, land estates and big companies, and the destruction of capitalist bureaucracy, laws and institutions – were never taken.
The only alternative is a genuinely socialist programme which takes, once and for all, the economic and political power from the hands of the capitalists and bureaucrats and puts it in the hands of the workers and poor.