[News] Venezuela’s Revolution Faces Crucial Battles

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Feb 23 10:43:49 EST 2010

Venezuela’s Revolution Faces Crucial Battles

By <http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/federicofuentes>Frederico Fuentes

Source: <http://www.greenleft.org.au/2010/827/42532>Green Left Weekly
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

(Caracas) -- Decisive battles between the forces 
of revolution and counter-revolution loom on the horizon in Venezuela.

The campaign for the September 26 National 
Assembly elections will be a crucial battle 
between the supporters of socialist President 
Hugo Chavez and the US-backed right-wing opposition.

But these battles, part of the class struggle 
between the poor majority and the capitalist 
elite, will be fought more in the streets than at the ballot box.

So far this year, there has been an escalation of 
fascist demonstrations by violent opposition 
student groups; the continued selective 
assassination of union and peasant leaders by 
right-wing paramilitaries; and an intensified 
private media campaign presenting a picture of a 
debilitated government in crisis ­ and on its way out.

Chavez warned on January 29: “If they initiate an 
extremely violent offensive, that obliges us to 
take firm action ­ something I do not recommend 
they do ­ our response will wipe them out.”

The comment came the day after two students were 
killed and 21 police suffered bullet wounds in 
confrontations that rocked the city of Merida.

Chavez challenged the opposition to follow the 
constitutional road and a recall referendum on 
his presidential mandate if they truly believe people no longer support him.

Under the democratic constitution adopted in 
1999, a recall referendum can be called on any 
elected official if 20% of the electorate sign a petition calling for one.

He said if the capitalists continued down the 
road of confrontation, he would “accelerate the 
revolution”, which has declared “21st century socialism” as its goal.


The stepped-up campaign of destabilization is 
part of the regional offensive launched by the 
opposition’s masters in Washington.

Last year, the US installed new military bases in 
Colombia and Panama, reactivated the US Navy 
Fourth Fleet to patrol Latin American waters, and 
helped organize a military coup that toppled the 
left-wing Manuel Zelaya government in Honduras.

This year, the US has occupied Haiti with 15,000 
soldiers after the January 12 earthquake and US 
warplanes have been caught violating Venezuela’s airspace.

A February 2 report from US National Director of 
Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, labeled 
Venezuela the “leading anti-US regional force” ­ 
placing the Chavez government in Washington’s crosshairs.

A US military invasion cannot be ruled out, but 
the main aim of the US military build-up and 
provocations is to apply pressure on those 
sections of Venezuela’s Armed Forces, and others 
in the pro-Chavez camp, that would prefer to put 
the brakes on the revolutionary process to avoid a confrontation.

This is occurring hand-in-hand with a campaign of 
media lies, combining claims that Chavez’s 
popularity is rapidly declining with rumors of 
dissent in the military and government.

The US and Venezuelan elite hope to isolate and ultimately, remove Chavez.

The campaign is similar to the one unleashed in 
2007 to defeat Chavez’s proposed constitutional 
reforms, which would have created a legal 
framework for greater attacks on capital to the 
benefit of the poor majority but were narrowly defeated in a referendum.

The opposition hopes to fracture Chavez’s support 
base ­ the poor majority and the armed forces ­ 
and win a majority in the National Assembly (with 
which it is likely to move to impeach Chavez).

At the very least, the opposition is seeking to 
stop pro-revolution forces from winning a 
two-thirds majority in the assembly, which would 
restrict the ease with which the Chavistas could 
pass legislation. The current assembly has a 
large pro-Chavez majority as a result of the 
opposition boycotting the 2005 poll.

Revolution advances

The global economic crisis is hitting Venezuela 
harder than the government initially hoped. 
Problems in the electricity sector, among others, are also causing strain.

The government’s campaign to raise awareness 
about the effects of climate change and wasteful 
usage has minimized the impact of the opposition 
and private media campaign to blame the 
government for the problems in the electricity and water sectors.

Far from fulfilling right-wing predictions that 
falling oil prices would result in a fall of the 
government’s fortunes, Chavez has continued his 
push to redistribute wealth to the poor ­ and 
increased moves against capital and corruption.

This is occurring alongside important street 
mobilizations supporting the government (ignored 
by the international media, which gave prominent 
coverage to small opposition student riots).

There are new steps to increase the transfer of 
power to the people, such as incorporating the 
grassroots communal councils further into governing structures.

In November, Chavez announced interventions into 
eight banks found to be involved in corrupt 
dealings. A majority were nationalized and merged 
with a state bank to form the Bicentenary Bank.

Together with the Bank of Venezuela, nationalized 
in 2007, the state now controls 25% of the 
banking sector ­ the largest single bloc.

Nearly 30 bankers were charged and face trial 
over the corruption allegations. Significantly, a 
number of these had been closely aligned with the government.

One of them, Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, was a 
relatively unknown entrepreneur in the food 
sector who rose up the ranks of the business 
elite to own four banks and 29 Venezuelan companies.

Much of this meteoric rise was due to his ties 
with a section of the Chavez government, which 
provided him with generous contracts to supply 
government-subsidized Mercal food stores with produce and transportation.

This earned Fernandez the nickname the “Czar of Mercal”.

The arrest of another banker over corruption 
allegations, Arne Chacon, led to the resignation 
of his brother Jessie Chacon as Chavez’s science minister.

State institutions, militants of the Chavez-led 
United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and 
the National Guard have also moved to tackle 
price speculation following the January 8 
decision to devalue the local currency, the bolivar.

More than 1000 shops were temporary shutdown for 
price speculation in the first week after the announcement.

On February 13, Chavez announced that the 
government had come to an agreement with French 
company Casino to buy out 80% of its shares in 
the CADA supermarket chain, which has 35 outlets across the country.

Together with the recently nationalized Exito 
supermarket chain and the mass importation of 
various essential goods, the government is moving 
to take up a much larger share of the retail and distribution sector.

The bolivar devaluation means imported goods have 
become more expensive, lowering workers’ 
purchasing power. To compensate, the government 
decreed in January a 25% increase in the minimum 
wage (10% to be implemented in March and 15% in September).

Government sources told Green Left Weekly it is 
also studying a further wage increase and steps 
towards establishing a state monopoly over foreign trade.

Grassroots organizing

Despite the violent protests and slander 
campaign, a January poll by the Venezuelan 
Institute of Data Analysis (IVAD ­ generally 
accepted as one of Venezuela’s least biased 
polling companies) found more than 58% of 
Venezuelans continue to approve of Chavez’s presidency.

The same poll also found 41.5% believed the 
opposition should have a National Assembly 
majority, compared to 49.5% who didn’t.

Some 32.6% said they would vote for 
pro-revolution candidates, 20.8% for the 
opposition and an important 33.1% for “independents”.

That 33.1% will undoubtedly shrink by September. 
The question is whether this section will abstain 
(as in the 2007 constitutional referendum) or the 
revolutionary forces can organize themselves to 
win them over and deal a decisive blow to the right.

Three massive pro-revolution demonstrations have 
been held already this year, dwarfing the small, 
but violent, opposition protests.

A new grouping of revolutionary youth 
organizations, the Bicentenary National Youth 
Front, has also been created to organize the 
pro-revolution majority of youth and students.

The injection of organized youth into the 
revolution is vital for its future. This is 
needed, as Chavez noted in his February 12 speech 
to a mass demonstration of students in Caracas, 
to tackle the serious problems of reformism and 
bureaucratism that hamper the revolution.

Chavez has argued against those sectors of the 
revolutionary camp that insist it is possible to 
advance by strengthening the private sector and 
wooing capitalists. Chavez has repeatedly said 
the “national bourgeoisie” has no interest in advancing the process of change.

Chavez has emphasized the “class struggle” is at the heart of this process.

He said it was vital to combat the inefficiency 
and bureaucracy of the state structures inherited 
from previous governments that hold back and 
sabotage the process. “We have to finish off 
demolishing the old structures of the bourgeois 
state and create the new structures of the proletarian state.”

To help achieve this, the government has 
encouraged the creation of 184 communes across 
Venezuela. Communes are made up of a number of 
communal councils and other social organizations, 
bodies directly run and controlled by local communities.

Chavez has referred to the communes as the 
“building blocks” of the new state, in which 
power is intended to be progressively transferred to the organized people.

The recent creation of peasant militias, 
organized for self-defense by poor farmers 
against large landowner violence, is also important.

However, the biggest challenge is the continued 
construction of the PSUV, a mass party with 
millions of still largely passive members, as a 
revolutionary instrument of the masses.

In its extraordinary congress, which began in 
November and continues meeting on weekends until 
April, debates are occurring among the 772 
elected delegates. Differences have arisen 
between those who support a more moderate 
reformist approach and those arguing for a revolutionary path.

An important debate is over whether to back 
Chavez’s call for a new international 
organization to unite revolutionary forces 
globally to strengthen the fight for “socialism of the 21th century”.

The debates also included whether party members 
will elect National Assembly candidates, or 
whether this important decision would be left in 
the hands of a select committee (as more conservative forces preferred).

After the decision to hold primary elections for 
candidates was announced, Chavez said on February 
11: “I have confidence in the people, I have 
confidence in the grassroots, they will not defraud us.”

[Federico Fuentes is a member of the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau.]

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