SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine

Issue 221 September 2018

Venezuela: Maduro assassination attempt

On the afternoon of 4 August several explosions on Bolívar Avenue, Caracas, interrupted the speech of president Nicolás Maduro during a parade on the 81th anniversary of the Venezuelan national guard. This led to panic and the immediate evacuation of Maduro, his wife and military leaders. That night, the information minister, Jorge Rodríguez, announced that there had been a terrorist attack using drones loaded with explosives. He said seven soldiers had been injured and several people arrested. The attack was attributed to sections of the right and extreme-right.

Later, the opposition journalist Patricia Poleo confirmed this, publishing a statement by a group calling itself the ‘Soldiers of Franela’, who claimed responsibility for the attack. They are followers of Óscar Perez, linked to the far-right and who died in a shootout with the national guard on 15 January. He had instigated the terrorist attack on the supreme court in June 2017. The statement said that the explosions were part of ‘operation Phoenix’ which aims to kill the president and bring down the government.

The violent, terroristic character of the right wing in Venezuela is news to no one. The capitalist media, right-wing governments and many sections of social democracy around the world, present them merely as ‘opposition forces fighting for democracy’. The reality is that they have habitually resorted to violence: from the 2002 coup to the so-called ‘guarimbas’, fascistic and terrorist actions stimulated by leaders of the ‘opposition’, like Leopoldo López or Henrique Capriles Radonski.

The 4 August attack took place exactly one year after the government’s victory in elections to the national constituent assembly (ANC). In those elections, while millions of the poorest mobilised to defeat the coup strategy of the right, millions of chavista voters and activists 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 bureaucracy of the PSUV ruling party has been to divide, isolate and repress all critical left movements. They have confirmed their policy of reaching agreement with sections of Venezuelan capitalism, following the line of their international advisers – in particular, the Chinese government which finances much of the country’s debt. Their objective is not to defend or deepen the revolution but to stabilise Venezuelan capitalism – with them at the top – and to dismantle the most left-wing measures taken, under mass pressure, by Hugo Chávez.

Maduro has executed a clear shift to the right in government. His economic policies have led to constant price rises and cuts to workers’ wages and rights. He has gifted mountains of cash and ‘aid’ to the new capitalists born from the ranks of the bureaucracy – from its control of the state – and to sections of the traditional bourgeoisie who have made agreements with his administration. Maduro 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 prefers agreements with the government, at least temporarily. They would like Maduro or sections of the military leadership or bureaucracy, armed with a ‘chavista’ discourse, to lead a transition which liquidates the gains of the revolutionary process.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the working class and poor are struggling to survive. The accumulated fall in GDP over the last three years is over 40% – comparable with the impact of a war! Annual inflation is around 46,000%, according to the IMF, which predicts it could reach an incredible one million per cent! It is difficult to know the real dimensions of the crisis as the Bank of Venezuela has stopped publishing information.

Attempts by sectors of the chavista rank and file and workers’ movement to struggle have been dispersed and limited, for the time being, given the difficulties which the economic collapse generates for the organisation and participation of the masses. Widespread demoralisation and scepticism also pose grave difficulties. It is a result of the rightward turn and the lack of united, independent working-class organisation on a decisive programme, uniting popular demands and the left in opposition to the bureaucracy.

In addition, bureaucratic control over the mass organisations built in the period of revolutionary growth, such as the CSBT trade union federation and the PSUV, has been reinforced. The PSUV is more and more a bureaucratic machine in which all dissent is crushed. One of the possible consequences of the 4 August attack is that it can serve to justify intensifying authoritarian measures and strengthen the tendency to criminalise protests and left-wing critics.

After humiliating defeats in regional and local elections in October and December 2017, the MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable) was unable to mount a united challenge in the presidential elections last May. Afraid of a new disaster, most of the parties in the MUD decided not to stand. The MUD was eventually dissolved.

The new strategy of a section of the counter-revolutionary opposition is to take advantage of the terrible economic conditions and social discontent to launch a so-called ‘Broad Front’ (FA). They are attempting to leave behind the discredited apparatus of the traditional right-wing parties, at least publicly, and present the FA as a coming together of social movements. For the time being, they have had no success and their base remains passive and demoralised.

Maduro was re-elected president, but 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 failed. The bureaucracy tried to portray the result as a great victory, but this is easily seen through.

Record abstention and the atmosphere of apathy reflected the collapse in its authority, especially when compared with the enthusiasm of Chávez’s election victories, Maduro’s first win in 2013, and even with the mobilisation for the ANC vote only a year ago.

Popular discontent could become even sharper with the latest measures announced by the government. Various economic policy chiefs have called for the end of currency exchange controls, which could actually aggravate inflation. Fundamental issues remain: the collapse of production, the strike of capital, and the looting of oil wealth by the capitalists and bureaucracy. With or without currency controls, it will be very difficult for the masses to escape from generalised misery and scarcity.

The situation in Venezuela is linked to the political and economic processes taking place throughout Latin America and the world. Currently, the space for a stable counter-revolution in Venezuela – led by the right wing or the bureaucracy itself – is not the same as in other historical moments. There is a sharpening of the class struggle throughout the continent – mass mobilisations in Brazil and Argentina, the historic presidential victory of AMLO in Mexico, the growth of the left in Colombia, and the insurrectionary movement in Nicaragua.

Weak and parasitic Venezuelan capitalism cannot guarantee a dignified life to the masses. The international ruling class presents the paralysis of the economy as the result of ‘socialism’. The reality is that the Bolivarian revolution was not completed. Chávez implemented progressive reforms which raised living standards but the measures necessary to end capitalism were never taken. Not the expropriation of the banks, land estates or big companies, or the destruction of the capitalist state with its bureaucracy, laws and institutions. A state really led by the workers and poor was never formed.

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.

Izquierda Revolucionaria (CWI Venezuela)

The full version of this article is available here - from the CWI website

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