Venezuela on a Knife-Edge

Middle class protest while the poor vote for the Constituent Assembly

Published: 3 August 2017
Author: Heiko Khoo

Here we reproduce an excellent article published on the Chinese news site,

Despite the ferocious and violent campaign orchestrated by the US backed Venezuelan opposition, the election of a Constituent Assembly was carried through successfully on Sunday 30th July. Delegates were elected from a wide range of organizations representing those sections of the population who have an interest in protecting the social gains of the revolution, by establishing mechanisms to reorganize economic and political power in the interests of the masses.

Venezuela’s popular revolution began in 1998 with the election of Hugo Chavez as the country’s president. Four years after his election in 2002, the opposition, backed by the United States, orchestrated a coup d’état, kidnapped the president, and installed a puppet regime. However, the depth of popular support for the revolutionary movement ensured that this coup d’état was swiftly brought to an end by a mass popular uprising.

Chavez had an extraordinary capacity to express the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the Venezuelan masses. He attempted to use the rules of capitalist democracy to shift the balance of power in favour of the poor and the exploited. Venezuela’s vast oil reserves gave Chavez leeway to secure progress in welfare, education, housing, women’s rights, healthcare and indigenous rights, and to enact hundreds of other progressive social and economic reforms. The living standards of the upper strata of society rose at the same time as the poorest sections of society were elevated out of economic penury.

The elite in Venezuela, as in much of South and Central America, is overwhelmingly composed of the descendants of European settlers. Their opulent lifestyle – shuttling between Miami and Venezuela – was destabilized and threatened by the increasing empowerment of the poor and oppressed, who, like Chavez, are descended from indigenous people or Africans. However, what use is money to the elite, if their cleaners, servants, cooks etc., do not respect the authority of those who believe they were born to rule?

High oil prices, numerous electoral victories, and the symbiotic relationship between Chavez and the aspirations of the masses, ensured that the revolutionary democratic transformation towards socialism made dramatic inroads. This neutralized and divided the opposition movement – paralyzing its ability to mobilize successful revolts against the government.

The opposition has always cried foul. So, whenever Chavez won an election they claimed it was fraud. When policies were introduced that they did not approve of, they orchestrated campaigns of violence and sabotage. The struggle against the revolution has been carried out by any means necessary.

When Hugo Chavez died in 2013, Nicolas Maduro became his successor. It is certainly true, that he lacked the unique qualities of his mentor, who could express and incarnate the mood and spirit of the masses.

At each stage of the revolutionary process, bureaucratic administrators controlled the flow of resources – from oil revenue to society – and accumulated power and wealth. Too often this generated a self-serving elite within the government, who filled their own pockets first. They issued contracts, grants and loans to their own associates, friends and family. Venezuela’s capitalist elite resented this upstart bureaucratic power which was eating away at its own opportunities for accumulation. It is certainly true, that corruption inside the state bureaucracy served to undermine the popular enthusiasm for the revolution.

Maduro therefore faced an increasingly powerful opposition movement, and this led to the defeat of the Socialist Party in the National Assembly elections of December 2015. Sensing blood, the opposition reignited its campaign to overthrow the president – emboldened by the growing popular discontent at corruption and by widespread anger at the economic crisis that followed from falling oil prices. Nevertheless, the revolution retained a strong social reserve of support amongst the masses; although passivity took hold, as a consequence of shortages of basic commodities like foodstuffs, toilet paper, medicines etc., which drained the energy and enthusiasm for the revolution.

Some sections in the ruling Socialist Party and the state, horrified by increasing social polarization, proposed that conflict could be ameliorated by negotiations and deals with opposition leaders. However, an irreconcilable clash of class interests lies at the root of Venezuela’s present crisis. This can only be resolved by the defeat of the capitalist opposition, or the defeat of the workers and the poor.

The Western media is full of wild claims about electoral fraud. In reality, Venezuela probably has the most secure system of voter verification in the world. So there is little doubt that the election of the Constituent Assembly was a legitimate process. Over 100 people have lost their lives this year -most of them government supporters – as riots, terrorism, sabotage and wrecking have become the standard mode of operation of the opposition. In fact, it is the inability of the opposition to galvanize sufficient support to overthrow the government that drives them to engage in acts of terrorism and violence. For example, a recent grenade attack against the Supreme court was organized by a former Venezuelan intelligence officer Oscar Pérez. This was widely praised by opposition politicians and by Western media outlets who treated this as a legitimate form of protest!

An increasingly desperate opposition will resort to increasingly desperate measures. And they have the backing of Donald Trump and the Spanish elite in particular. Governments throughout the Western world will denounce Venezuela as a dictatorship. Nicolas Maduro has warned that the revolution will protect itself by armed force if the opposition launches an armed rebellion.

It is undeniable that Venezuela is a society riven by sharp class contradictions which cannot be pacified by ‘normal’ democratic channels. Both camps recognize that the more decisive their action the more likely they are to succeed. Venezuela is therefore, a society headed towards civil war. This can be rapidly resolved, if the Constituent Assembly empowers the masses to take control of the decisive levers of power and to democratize the state. Then, it may be possible to rekindle the spirit of the revolution, and to create a more prosperous society based on popular organs of democratic control and administration.

Editor’s Note: Despite the completely one-sided reports in the international capitalist media that President Maduro is creating a dictatorship, the majority of the media in Venezuela is still controlled by the opposition, hardly a typical feature of a dictatorship.

Why are China and India Growing So Fast? State Investment

Published: 15 July 2017
Author: John Ross
(Senior Fellow Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, Beijing)

We reprint below an important new article by a leading Marxist economist based in China. 


The world’s two most rapidly growing major economies are China and India. Both China and India show a common pattern of development which differs sharply from the slowly growing Western economies. China and India’s fast expanding economies have rapidly growing state investment even while their private investment is either growing very slowly or declining. In contrast the slowly growing Western economies rely on private investment with no rapid growth of state investment. It will be shown below why rapid expansion of state investment is correlated with fast economic growth, while reliance on private investment leads to slow economic growth.

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America Continues To Radicalise

Video from last weekend’s People’s Summit in Chicago where Bernie Sanders sums up the current stage of the struggle.    Published: 14 June 2017

The rise of the Bernie Sanders movement on one side, and the election of Trump as US President on the other, were both a reflection of the growing discontent of American working people, and a spur to a wave of radicalisation taking place across the United States. A significant indication of this are the recent opinion polls that show that Sanders is now by far the most popular politician in the country with 63% support.

This wave is lifting the socialist movement, most notably in the incredible growth of membership in Democratic Socialists of America, a group that The Socialist Network has been in contact with in recent years. Next week we will carry an interview with some left-wing members of the DSA.


Social Democracy in Europe is Now Swinging Decisively to the Left

Capitalism-and-Social-DemocracyPublished: 5 June 2017
Author: Pat Byrne
(British Labour Party activist)

As Britain prepares for a new General Election in which a left-led Labour Party looks set to do much better than predicted, there are clear signs that the long swing to the right within social democracy in Europe is now running in the reverse direction.

In recent years, there has been much comment on the Left that social democracy was finished and that a new mass left movement was in the process of taking its place. The rise of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain were trumpeted as evidence for this widespread trend. While welcoming the rise of Syriza and Podemos, our Socialist Network also pointed to the potential of the left within social democracy to regain the ascendancy within the movement as an organic reflection of the rising discontent of working people hard-hit by the world economic crisis.

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Trump’s Victory Could Lead to a Big Shift to the Left in America

no-to-trumpPublished: 18 November 2016
Author: Pat Byrne

Trump’s controversial election as the next US President will soon come to be seen as a phyrric victory, ‘won’ on a false platform and a rotten bill of goods.

Never having held any public office, Trump has ignored at his peril the basic responsibilities that standing for election involves. He approached his campaign to become president as a super salesman making false and exaggerated promises left right and centre, and without a thought for the consequences. But political office is not like making a sale to a gullible customer, then ignoring their complaints while moving on to the next sucker. After an election the electorate can hold you to account.

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Turkey: After Last Week’s Dress Rehearsal Now We See a Real Coup in Action…

CollagePublished: 22 July 2016. Author: Tayfun Hatipoğlu.

Each day that goes by after the farcical “coup” supposedly organised by rebel army units, we see a real coup being put into operation by President Erdogan’s regime. One sector after another faces a massive purge. Already over 60,000 state employees have been arrested or fired. And many more are promised as those interrogated supposedly give up the names of their colleagues.

We have seen this technique before from would-be dictators in history. Hitler burnt down the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, then blamed it on the communists in order to justify the introduction of an emergency and the assumption of executive powers. He then proceeded to round up all his opponents and launch his murderous regime. In the Soviet Union, Stalin used the assassination of his rival and Leningrad Party Boss Kirov to justify a four year purge of Soviet society that led to the murder of millions.

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Failed ‘Coup’ in Turkey only Strengthens President Erdogan’s Grip on Power

Pro-government supporters beat soldiers after “coup” collapses

Published: 17 July 2016.
Author: Tayfun Hatipo?lu.

The failed “coup” in Turkey has significantly bolstered the position of President Erdogan?s regime, giving him an excuse to go even further in repressing his critics. The farcical coup was virtually tailor-made to help President Erdogan?s AK Party regime further strengthen its power, while simultaneously giving it a claim to be ?defenders of democracy?. No wonder Erdogan greeted the coup as a ?gift from god?.

Far-fetched as it may seem to think that this coup was actually stage-managed by the regime, suspicions are raised by the fact that neither the President, the Prime Minister nor any of his ministers were arrested or injured, or any government buildings occupied. Nor, by chance, was there any damage done to Erdogan?s beloved new Presidential Palace, the prime symbol of his overweening ego. And what kind of coup would allow the President to issue a video appeal online as soon as events began to unfold, fire on his hotel after he had left it, and then allow him to fly unhindered a few hours later into Istanbul?s Ataturk airport to a waiting crowd of his supporters?

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The Transition To Socialism

Published: 10 July 2016.
Author: Jonathan Clyne (TSN Policy Coordinator).
Intro by: TSN Editor.

Below is Chapter 3 of the first draft of a new book written by Jonathan Clyne entitled ?The Transition to Socialism?. This will form the basis of a discussion at a future meeting of The Socialist Network’s international coordinating committee as part of a process of creating a new Socialist Manifesto. For this discussion around the book we wish to encourage the widest participation and feedback from members of the Network and the socialist movement in general.

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Modern Imperialism and the Working Class

Modern ImperialismPublished: 6 July 2016.
Author: Michael Roberts.

The IIPPE workshop in London on modern imperialism, organised this week by Simon Mohun, Emeritus professor of political economy at QMC London University, was highly appropriate for two reasons.

First, it brought together those scholars with the latest works on modern imperialism. Both John Smith?s new book and that of Tony Norfield have been reviewed on my blog. Smith?s book has won the prize from the Monthly Review and Tony?s has been included on the short list for the Isaac Deutscher prize for the best Marxist book of the year, previously won by many eminent leftists and Marxists. And Lucia Pradella had a book Globalization and the Critique of Political Economy: New Insights from Marx?s Writings, Routledge, 2014 that was also shortlisted for Isaac Deutscher in 2015.

The other reason, of course, was Brexit. The decision of the British people to vote in a referendum to leave the EU brings into focus the history of British imperialism and its impact on the consciousness of the British people. And the workshop spent some time considering the importance of British imperialism in the 21st century. It may be only the 5th largest economy by GDP, but as Tony Norfield has shown, it is still second only to the US as an imperialist power, when finance and military might are considered. The split in the British ruling class between its past imperialist ambitions and its recent need to integrate with Europe has come to a head with Brexit.

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Britain’s Labour Crisis – Defend Jeremy Corbyn, Bring Labour MPs under Membership Control

jeremy and refugees

Published: 4th July 2016.
Author: John McDonnell, British Labour Party Shadow Chancellor.
Intro by: TSN Editor.

A move to unseat Jeremy Corbyn, the left wing leader of the British Labour Party, has just been launched following a vote of no confidence in Jeremy by a majority of Labour members of parliament (172 votes to 40). Although the move is supposed to be based on criticism of Jeremy’s performance in the EU Referendum campaign, it has now emerged that it is part of a careful plan by his political enemies inside the Labour Party that was developed ten months ago after he was elected by a big majority of Labour members to be their leader. The timing of the plan is to remove Jeremy before the Labour Party Conference this Autumn which is expected to agree some significant changes, and forestall the possibility of many right-wing Labour MPs being deselected by their local constituency parties. 

Below we print the speech given last week on the crisis by Labour’s Shadow Chancellor (Finance Minister) in support of Jeremy:

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