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, www.China.org.cn

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.

The Socialist Network – Bratislava Conference Report

Conference ReportThe Socialist Network last week concluded its 2014 Conference. The Conference was held from 3-5th of October in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia in Eastern Europe. Participating in the conference were comrades from Slovakia, Germany, Sweden, Cyprus, Pakistan, Turkey, Britain and Ireland. Thanks to all who organised the conference and contributed to its proceedings. Below is a brief summary of the Conference by our Web Editor. Video and audio recordings and photos will be made available shortly.

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Final Agenda for The Socialist Network Conference Bratislava 3-5th October 2014

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Final Agenda
:

Friday 11.00am ? The World Economy
Speaker:              Mick Brooks (online)

Friday 14.00 pm – The Developing World
Speakers:            Manzoor from Revolutionary Struggle in Pakistan (in person)
Noor Nieftagodien from Democratic Left Front South Africa (online)
Possibly Heiko Khoo from the UK speaking on China (online)

Saturday 10am – ?Socialists and the Mass Organisations?
with a special Focus on the European Left

Speakers:            Pat Byrne The Socialist Network Web Editor from Turkey (in person)
C. Panos from the Kokkino (Red) group in Greece (online)

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Khoo: 1914 marked the birth of the modern world

This year marks the most poignant of all historical anniversaries, 1914. That year the modern world was born. A long period of gradual development, of rising living standards, increasing knowledge, culture, progress, science and hope, vanished overnight. In the bright European summer of 1914 humanity stumbled into a nightmare from which it has never escaped. Like some inexplicable childhood trauma, the events of that year continue to haunt our waking dreams and shape our worst fears. Through this descent into a world ruled by an automatic, unconscious, machinery of barbarism — reason appeared to drown, in oceans of gas, mud, barbed wire, missiles and machine gun fire.

The strongest man was reduced to a creature weaker than a squealing rat. His greatest quality measured by his ability to drive bayonets into the bellies of his unknown brother, whose guts would feed a hundred rats and ten thousand maggots. These creatures were the real victors of the titanic battles for an inch of mud fought in Europe during the four years 1914-1918.

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Mandela and the communist spirit

Nelson Mandela’s death aroused a global chorus of praise for the man and his work. At the premiere of his biographical film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, wept when news of Mandela’s death reached her and Prince William. Bill Gates, who, with $67 billion, is the second richest man on earth, expressed profound admiration for Mandela’s struggle against apartheid and his campaigning on HIV/AIDS issues.

For the wretched of the earth – its 2.4 billion people living on less than $2 a day – Mandela was also their hero. This global carnival of tears; this celebration of his life and struggle, this festival of memories of revolutionary dreams is classless. Mandela’s death signals a momentary lapse into a universal emotional state that commemorates the colossal revolt of the masses against oppression. By unifying the psychic state of the princess and the pauper, the billionaire and the beggar, Mandela, in death, has awakened a moment of global mental unity, in which the idea of communism – of a society where there are no classes – temporarily penetrates the universal mind.

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Talking Turkey

The repression of a small protest against the commercial transformation of Istanbul’s Gezi Park in Taksim Square unleashed unrest which has shaken Turkish society to its core and posed a revolutionary challenge to the political leadership of the country.

The Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdo?an, and his Justice and Development (AK) Party have a large electoral mandate. He once appealed to the people with the following words: “I am not a king. I am your prime minister elected by my nation’s votes. I am your servant, not your master.” His utterances have now returned to haunt him from the streets. This self-proclaimed humble servant of the people now smears protestors as extremists and terrorists. They are sprayed with tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray, like insects facing the exterminator. At least three people have died so far, hundreds have been injured and more than a thousand have been arrested. How can this happen in a democratic state, a candidate to join the European Union and a staunch ally of the United States?

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