[News] The Third Insurrectionary Moment of the Venezuelan Right

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 26 19:01:07 EST 2014

  February Traumas: The Third Insurrectionary Moment of the Venezuelan Right


By Jeffrey R. Webber and Susan Spronk - New Politics, February 26th 2014

"Today the counter-revolutionary Right is reactivating itself," 
according to long-time Venezuelan revolutionary Roland Denis, "taking 
advantage of the profound deterioration that this slow revolutionary 
process is suffering. Its reappearance and interlacing with 'democratic 
civil society' is a clear signal to the popular movement that we either 
convert this moment into a creative and reactivating crisis of the 
collective revolutionary will, or we bid farewell to this beautiful and 
traumatic history that we have built over the last 25 years."[1] 

For seasoned observers of Venezuelan politics, the events of the past 
week are a disheartening repetition of opposition-led resistance efforts 
that have yet again sought to undermine political stability in the 
country. This is not the first time in recent history that the 
opposition has resorted to "extra-parliamentary" tactics, including 
violence, to push their political agenda. Nor is it the first time that 
the mainstream media has provided generous airtime to opposition 
demonstrations in Caracas, repeating the sob stories of upper class 
Venezuelans "repressed" by the government because they cannot find 
toilet paper on the store shelves, or in a more laughable episode, 
ingredients to bake a cake.[2] 

As with most situations in which there has been a violent conflict over 
who controls the reins of the state, it is /possible/ to find fault on 
both sides. As a February 22^nd  report by the Centre for Economic 
Policy Research notes, "the political allegiances" of the victims of the 
violence so far "and their causes of death are varied." Of the eight 
deaths, two of the responsible assailants might be linked to the 
government, including a SEBIM agent (the Venezuelan intelligence 
service) who was not authorized to be at the protest. The head of SEBIM 
was subsequently fired and there is a warrant out for arrest of the 
agents who fired the shots.[3] 

Over the last few weeks, the functional role of the privately-owned 
media viewable in Venezuela, such as the Colombian television station 
NTN24 which also broadcasts in Colombia, and CNN en Español, based in 
the US, has been to promote and consolidate a matrix of opinion and 
interpretation around the recent events in Venezuela: "peaceful 
protests" have been lined up against "excessive use of force by state 
security apparatuses." This frame has found its echo in virtually all of 
the presidential or prime ministerial statements on the recent conflicts 
in Venezuela issued by Western imperialist states over the last number 
of days.

For example, on February 21, 2014 US Secretary of State John Kerry 
predictably called for an end to violence "on both sides," criticizing 
the Venezuelan government for imprisoning  "students and a key 
opposition figure" as well as limiting "the freedoms of expression and 
assembly necessary for legitimate political debate," such as revoking 
the credentials of CNN en Español reporters. [4] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn4> A 
closer inspection reveals, however, that the situation is less 
two-sided, to put it mildly, than Kerry and his spokespeople in the 
mainstream media would have us believe. Indeed, this February the 
counter-revolutionary forces have once again demonstrated blatant 
disregard for the basic principles of liberal democracy to which they 
theoretically subscribe.

One of the reasons that it is easy to defeat the opposition's claims in 
Venezuela (at least in rational argument) is that their attempts to 
manufacture consent are largely based upon a series of half-truths, lies 
and misdemeanors. Unfortunately these misdeeds are continually parroted 
in the mainstream press as if they were true with no apparent need for 
fact-checking. For example, on February 20, /The New York Times/, 
reported that "The only television station that regularly broadcast 
voices critical of the government was sold last year, and the new owners 
have softened its news coverage."[5] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn5> This 
is an outright lie according to the Carter Centre, which reported in 
2013 that private TV media has about 74 percent of the audience share 
for news, with the state share at just 26 percent, for "recent key 
newsworthy events."[6] 
withering budgets for investigative journalism might be to blame for 
some of this inaccuracy in reporting, it is more likely that the 
corporate media shares the opposition's vision of "democracy." In such a 
vision, any attempt to redistribute a mere fraction of the social wealth 
in a way that curtails the "freedom" to accumulate capital is a threat 
to social justice.

As John Kerry lambasts the Maduro government, "This is not how 
democracies behave," referring to the imprisonment of some instigators 
of the protests. By way of context and juxtaposition, on February 12, 30 
students were arrested in Venezuela in the wake of barricade building, 
Molotov cocktail attacks, and tire burning; 7,000 protesters were 
arrested during the days of Occupy in 122 cities of the United States 
between 2011 and 2013; and 153 students were arrested in the UK during 
the 2010 demonstrations against 300-percent hikes in tuition.[7] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn7> This 
is not even to get into what British journalist Gary Younge has called 
an "open season on black boys" in the United States by vigilantes, and 
the propensity for police officers to regularly kill unarmed black men 
with impunity in that country.[8] 

The real problem, it seems, is that democracy is supposed to entail 
competitive elitism and an exchange of office between bourgeois 
political parties (such as the Republicans and Democrats); it is not 
supposed to create room for alternative projects whose aim is to reform 
capitalism, the foundation of liberal democracy itself, by curtailing 
some of the "freedoms" associated with owning private property, such as 
controlling the media, buying elections, orchestrating corporate welfare 
projects, and supporting a foreign policy that keeps the world "free" 
for accumulation.

Unfortunately, the "democratic" space of the Internet has not fared much 
better. As Julia Buxton documents in her excellent analysis of social 
media coverage of recent protests, Twitter feeds have repeatedly 
circulated false and misleading images of the supposed state-sponsored 
violence in Venezuela, including images that are in fact of Egypt or of 
the repression by state security forces that have been disbanded. While 
such false reporting on social media by average folk might be expected, 
what is highly problematic is that such "reports" have then been 
circulated in mainstream press outlets such as the /ABC/ paper in Spain 
and the /Guardian/ newspaper in the UK.  As Buxton concludes, 
"journalists have yet to learn that authoritative reporting requires 
fact-based accounts, not recycled and unchecked tweets from Twitter -- a 
mechanism that can be used to promote delusion as well as democracy."[9] 

Where were the mainstream reporters during the post-election violence in 
April 2013, when a dozen government supporters died at the hand of the 
opposition? Where were they when the Chavistas swept the municipal 
elections by a margin of 10 percent of the popular vote in December 
2013? And where have they been every time a landowner has murdered a 
peasant leader?[10] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn10> While 
opposition supporters complain about the violations of human rights in 
Venezuela, the supporters of the Bolivarian process talk about the right 
to information, which is best produced by public and independently 
controlled and operated community media rather than by the employees of 
profit-seeking media conglomerates.

*Forgotten Archives of a "Democratic" Opposition*

It is tempting to imagine that there might be some truth in the 
pro-democracy slogans of the young people coalescing on the streets of 
Caracas, but the right-wing opposition in Venezuela, of which this 
student revolt is a part, has a less than stellar record of comporting 
itself within the constitutional parameters of bourgeois liberalism.

They attempted a coup d'état in April 2002, which temporarily removed 
Chávez from office with the support of the US government. When that 
avenue closed, and Chávez returned to power with the help of massive 
demonstrations of public support and military forces loyal to the 
President, they orchestrated a lockout of the oil industry in late-2002 
and early 2003, in an attempt to bleed the economy dry and foment 
discord among broad swathes of society. That effort soured as well. 
Indeed, with each lashing of the reactionary whip in these years there 
was an unintended deepening of self-activity, self-organization, and 
creativity of popular organizing from below.

The opposition logged a new electoral failure when their attempt to 
recall the President through a referendum in 2004 was defeated. They 
cried fraud, as they do in each election they lose, despite universal 
praise of the fairness and transparency of the Venezuelan electoral 
system from independent international observers.  In 2005, the 
opposition boycotted the National Assembly elections, withdrawing 
themselves from the electoral game in a misguided hope that the 
legitimacy of the political system under Chávez would be undermined 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn11> Similar 
to a small child who has lost her temper after losing the game for the 
umpteenth time in a row, the opposition's boycott amounted to a tantrum 
in which the opposition took its ball and went home. And similar to a 
small child who has become frustrated with playing by the rules, it has 
resorted to other options when faced with continual defeat: lying, 
cheating, and challenging the referee.

Last April, following the death of Chávez, presidential elections saw 
Maduro best Henrique Capriles, the right-wing candidate for the Mesa 
Unida Democrática (Roundtable for Democratic Unity, MUD), albeit it by a 
narrow margin of less than one percent of the vote. While this result 
was too close for many supporters of the Bolivarian revolution who had 
previously gained comfort from large margins of 10 percent, it would 
still count as a landslide victory in a country such as Canada where the 
Conservative Party formed a majority government in 2009 with only 38 
percent of the popular vote.

Predictably, the opposition's response to yet another electoral defeat 
was rage. Capriles and his supporters refused to recognize the veracity 
of the results and then staged violent protests causing the death of a 
dozen Bolivarian activists, while leaving another hundred or so injured. 
The violent vandals of last April also committed extensive property 
damage to public buildings and institutions. It is worth noting, 
furthermore, that unlike in the case of the recent Honduran elections -- 
widely recognized by mainstream human rights organizations to have been 
fraudulent, and which further consolidated right-wing strong man 
Porfirio 'Pepe' Lobo's grip on that country --  the US has never 
formally recognized the legitimacy of Maduro's presidency.[12] 

Once it was evident that provocation in the streets following the April 
elections was failing to destabilize the regime, or to rally new social 
sectors to the side of the opposition, the latter regrouped and 
reconsidered its tactics.[13] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn13> The 
MUD held internal elections to establish a new mandate for its 
leadership. Capriles came out on top once again, beating Leopoldo López 
and María Corina Machado, two personalities to which we will have 
occasion to return in a moment. The revised agenda for the Right was to 
frame the December 2013 municipal elections as a plebiscite on the 
legitimacy of the Maduro administration.

In the municipal elections, Chavismo won decisively, regaining some of 
the political ground lost in the presidential elections eight months 
earlier. In spite of a voluntary voting regime and a historical tendency 
of abstention in local elections, there was a turnout of 60 percent. 
Chavismo won by approximately 10 percent, capturing 242 mayoralties to 
MUD's 75. This unanticipated outcome for the opposition signified its 
failure since April last year to undermine the legitimacy of the Maduro 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn14> MUD 
proved itself incapable of disputing the hegemony of Chavismo in the 
electoral field, even during a year in which inflation rose very sharply 
to 56 percent and shortages of foodstuffs and other basic commodities 
began to proliferate.[15] 

*Surface Divisions, Integral Unities*

Shortly after the results were in, Capriles, now acting as governor of 
the state of Miranda, changed gears and responded to the second call in 
the post-municipal election period by President Maduro for opposition 
mayors and governors to meet with him in the presidential palace and 
work out a plan of peace and national reconciliation. A photo of 
Capriles and Maduro shaking hands in the palace was circulated widely in 
the media, ostensibly ending the Right's strategy of openly questioning 
the legitimacy of the constitutional President.

Alongside Capriles, the majority of oppositional mayors and governors 
also attended the dialogues with the President, and agreed to 
participate in a new program designed to reduce crime and enhance 
citizen security. The move toward moderation and dialogue was 
unpersuasive to the hardest elements of the ultra-Right within the MUD 
coalition, however, and the recent manoeuvring of López and Machado is 
in part an expression of this tension internal to the opposition.[16] 

For many on the Left of Chavismo, however, it is easy to exaggerate the 
divisions within the counter-revolutionary bloc, and in so doing 
dangerously obscure their basic unity of purpose.[17] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn17> "We 
are facing the classic counter-revolutionary schema," reads a recent 
communiqué of the revolutionary socialist current Marea Socialista 
(Socialist Tide, MS), which operates within the governing United 
Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). "It consists of applying pressure 
on the government to implement anti-popular measures and in so doing 
completely lose its social base, deepen its exhausted image in front of 
the Bolivarian people. As a result, they will be more open to the 
ousting of the government, whether that ousting is violent or soft. The 
government of Maduro is committing a grave error insofar as it believes 
that there is a 'violent' Right and another one that's 'peaceful,' with 
which the government can negotiate and which will respect the 
Constitution. As in the old combination of the 'carrot and the stick' 
these sectors converge among themselves around a common objective, the 
defeat of the Bolivarian Process."[18] 

"These days, fascist violence and the potential of a coup are taking 
place in a very distinct situation," to the one of 2002, notes Denis in 
the same essay cited above. His reservations on the depth of division of 
purpose in the camp of the Right are of the same register as the Marea 
Socialista communiqué. "That fascist subjectivity planted in 2002 has 
always remained, diminished but consolidated. In fact, López and 
Capriles, as the personalities most representative of this 'citizen' 
movement, have never separated themselves from it, albeit starting from 
their individually distinct hysterical psychologies and pathologies, and 
the divisions between them in their original party Primero Justicia. 
Today they appear as the leaders of the opposition, competing between 
each other for its singular leadership."[19] 

Leopoldo López, together with National Assembly congressperson María 
Corina Machado, called for the initial demonstration that kicked off the 
latest events on Youth Day, February 12, under the slogan "La Salida," 
or "exit," unambiguously signifying their intention to overthrow the 
democratically-elected government. "Opposition leader Leopoldo López -- 
competing with Capriles for leadership -- has portrayed the current 
demonstrations as something that could force Maduro from office," the 
American economist Mark Weisbrot reports. "It was obvious that there 
was, and remains, no peaceful way that this could happen."[20] 

The cartography of protest in Caracas has closely mirrored the 
socio-geographic divisions of the capital, featuring as it does a 
lighter-skinned and richer east, and a darker-skinned and poorer west. 
Middle class barricades were erected in the east, populated by the 
students of elite private universities, alongside students of the main 
state university -- historically, a cordoned off stomping ground for 
kids of the rich.[21] 

The west, on the other hand, was relatively free of unrest. In the days 
following the initial explosion of activity, the "peaceful" protests of 
the Right included attacks on 50 of the public buses from a new system 
that acts as affordable transport for the poor. The Bolivarian 
University, a new institutional network designed to incorporate the 
lower orders into the higher education system, was also besieged. And 
Cuban medical personnel working for the Barrio Adentro health program 
have been the targets of fierce physical offensives. According to 
numerous observers, paramilitary shock troops are operating behind the 
cannon fodder of right-wing students in the streets. In protests that 
are supposedly driven in part by the scarcity of foodstuffs and other 
basic commodities available to the population, rightist militants had 
the audacity to attack government vehicles delivering precisely such 

Capriles, meanwhile, has been reluctant to join the call for 
demonstrations in the streets, and indeed has piously condemned 
excessive violence by protesters while hoping that popular memory has 
faded with sufficient rapidity to leave in the past his leading role in 
calling out protests that led to a  dozen deaths last April. With 
Capriles there is always one hand discretely, cautiously maintaining its 
measure of the pulse of insurgent conspiracy. If that pulse grows 
sufficiently strong, he'll abandon the path of negotiation.

In another sign that the effects of aggressive student protests have 
thus far alienated moderate sections of the counter-revolutionary bloc, 
it seems that few political leaders on the Right of any importance -- 
beyond López and Machado -- have lent their formal backing to the 
violent posturing of student and paramilitary demonstrations.

One salient expression of this reality is the active twitter account of 
Ramón Muchacho, the conservative and fervently anti-Chavista mayor of 
Chacao, a wealthy eastern district of Caracas. This is what he had to 
say after a night of student protests in that municipality left the Bank 
of Venezuela and Provincial Bank damaged, alongside a judicial building, 
the offices of the Ministry of Transportation, and a local station of 
Metro Caracas: :  "We can see a terrible lack of leadership and 
direction. Only anarchy. Is this what we want? Will there be some limit 
to the violence and vandalism? Is what is occurring justified? Is 
someone going to assume responsibility?"[23] 

*Portrait of an Unrepentant Coup Plotter*

López, in state custody since February 17, and facing an array of 
charges related to sedition, is the most visible face of this third 
insurrectionary moment of the Venezuelan Right -- the first being April 
2002 and the second being the oil lockout of 2002-2003.[24] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn24> He 
hardly emerged out of nowhere. López was the mayor of wealthy Chacao 
before Muchacho. After finishing prep school in the United States, he 
studied at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the 
1990s, where he made contact with US establishment figures such as David 
Petraeus, ex-chief of the Central Intelligence Agency and confidant of 
Barack Obama in all matters connected to national security.

After the stint at Harvard, López returned to Venezuela, where he 
established relations with the Caracas offices of the International 
Republican Institute, an entity of the US Republican Party -- the 
institute lent López strategic and financial support. Beginning in 2002, 
the Republican Party, then in office under George W. Bush, flew López to 
Washington on multiple occasions to meet with functionaries of the Bush 
administration. That same year, López led the opposition march on the 
Miraflores Presidential Palace in the capital, which resulted in dozens 
of deaths and precipitated the short-lived coup and kidnapping of 
then-President Chávez. López is also a longstanding associate of 
ex-Colombian President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), with whom he met on 
numerous occasions over the last decade. Uribe was well known for his 
hard-line against the Chávez regime, which corresponded with his 
domestic war of terror against large sections of the civilian population 
in Colombia under the banner of "democratic security."[25] 

*Social Forces on the Right*

Back in 2002-2003, the counter-revolutionary bloc consisted mainly of 
the US embassy in Caracas, the highest echelons of management of the 
state-oil company PDVSA, the business confederation Fedecámaras, the 
Central de Trabajadores de Venezuela (Venezuelan Workers Central, CTV), 
the domestic hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and a variety of other 
oligarchic and conservative cross-sections of political society. This 
ugly melange was prettified through the lens of private media empires, 
both national and international, transforming the coup attempt into a 
struggle of democracy against tyranny.[26] 

Beginning in roughly 2008, the right-wing of the perennially divided 
student movement was sought out as a new vanguard through which to 
advance the opposition agenda. The counter-revolution had not enjoyed 
significant successes in linking organically to any other social subject 
that might otherwise have flag-shipped their enterprise. The large 
landowners and big business sectors that constitute their leadership are 
incapable of forging a national, unifying movement with the 
incorporation of wider social layers. The presence of the oppositional 
Right within the formal working class is minimal, as is its influence 
among the popular sectors more generally, at least for now. It is thus 
understandable, within its own logic, why the Right has sought out the 
students as a field of struggle.[27] 

In 2008, the US-based Cato Institute awarded the $US 500,000 Milton 
Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty to student leader Yon Goicoechea 
for his role in mobilizing protests against the government's suspension 
of private broadcaster RCTV's licence. Subsequently, a considerable 
chunk of the US$ 45 million in annual funding from US institutions to 
the Venezuelan opposition was directed toward "youth outreach" programs.

As an outcome of such financial backing and logistical training in media 
campaigns the right-wing Juventud Activa Venezuela Unida (United 
Venezuelan Active Youth, JAVU) became an increasingly active 
organization. In 2010, for example, JAVU led protests against ostensible 
state censorship of private broadcasters, as well as struggles framed as 
defending the "autonomy" of universities from state intrusion. Inside 
the heat of the internal divisions of the Right today, the students have 
openly aligned with the López-Machado faction, transforming themselves 
into the cannon fodder serving the ultra-Right. [28] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn28> "Students 
as the new social subject of the counter-revolutionary Right is 
something distinct from 2002," Denis observes. "They are favoured for 
their capacity to engage in permanent activism, above all students who 
do not work and who do not have any social responsibilities."[29] 

If the students are the visible brigades tearing up the cityscapes, a 
complex configuration of national and transnational networks forms the 
counter-revolutionary bloc of the present. Fedecámaras remains active, 
as do the major players in private media, national and international. 
Political parties, NGOs, and churches are all articulated under the 
umbrella of MUD. In terms of parties, this fragile unity contains Acción 
Democrática (Democratic Action, AD); Primero Justicia (First Justice, 
PJ); COPEI, Causa Radical (Radical Cause, CR); Voluntad Popular (Popular 
Will, VP); Proyecto Venezuela (Project Venezuela, PV), and a series of 
other smaller entities of the Right.

Among the multimillionaires backing the opposition is Pedro Carmona, 
often considered the father of/golpismo/ (coupism) in Venezuela. Carmona 
was briefly declared President by coup supporters in the midst of their 
abortive attempt to oust Chávez in 2002. Exiled in Colombia at the 
moment, he is said to maintain a network of complicity in Venezuela. 
Jorge Roig is one of the businessmen of Carmona's politicized network in 
Caracas, and Eligio Cedeño is a key contact in Miami. Both Roig and 
Cedeño are openly promoting economic boycott, shortage of goods, and 
hoarding at the moment. They are also alleged to have financed various 
/golpista /civil society groups, such as the NGO Humano y Libre (Human 
and Free).

In the international sphere, US institutions such as USAID and the 
National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have forged intimate ties with 
the right-wing opposition, providing logistical and financial support at 
every turn. The full extent of their involvement is unlikely to be known 
for several years, but through Wikileaks we know already a considerable 

NGOs proliferate domestically in the shadows of other actors. Among them 
is the Centro de Divulgación del Conocimiento Económico para la Libertad 
(Centre for the Popularization of Economic Knowledge for Freedom, 
CEDICE). CEDICE generates sustained critique of the economic policy of 
the government and openly supports boycott campaigns. Among its most 
important financial backers is the US-based Center for International 
Private Enterprise (CIPE).[30] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn30> It 
is a widespread belief within Chavismo, and with good historical 
precedent, that the whole range of domestic actors on the Right are in 
regular communication with the Pentagon, CIA, and State Department in 
terms of determining the range of tactics to be deployed over the next 

*The Regular Misery of Capital*

If that's the manufactured landscape of the Right, the latest impulse to 
return to extra-parliamentary insurrection is taking place within a real 
set of contradictions and crises internal to Chavismo. The eruption 
coincides with heightened expressions of structural weaknesses in the 
economic development strategy of the government. Underlying problems 
have come much more boldly to the fore since we wrote our recent article 
on the afterlives of Chávez in Venezuela last summer -- not least of 
these are the issues of inflation and shortages.[31] 

Discontent among layers of the Chavista grassroots is real, with a 
second move to devalue the currency very recently being introduced in 
capitulation to demands from the Capriles "soft-Right" contingent.[32] 
inflation is destroying workers' real salaries and makes virtually 
meaningless the recently decreed 10 percent increase in salaries. The 
social base of Bolivarianism has long been calling for an iron fist in 
dealings with the bourgeoisie, but the Maduro government has restricted 
itself to ad hoc and ineffective controls, laws, sanctions, and a series 
of other measures that do not cohere into an economic strategy.[33] 

Government accusations that the capitalist class is waging "economic 
warfare," while substantiated,[34] 
to downplay the absolutely routine problems created by capitalist 
activity in the normal process of capital accumulation in Venezuela. 
Manuel Sutherland, one of the boldest Marxist economists writing on the 
Venezuelan process at present is worth quoting at length on this topic:

"The government continues to believe in the fantasy of a patriotic 
bourgeoisie that will renounce the extraordinary profits it can capture 
through illegal imports and currency speculation. Unfortunately, the 
government cannot imagine a country in which capitalists don't 
appropriate 70 percent of the private sector GDP and massively exploit 
the workforce.... In sum, chavismo dreams of a reasonable and loving 
capitalist who obviously does not exist. With him it wants to negotiate, 
even though the normal action of these capitalists, that is to say the 
process of the accumulation of capital, is the cause of the country's 

It is very difficult to sustain the process even in its current state, 
never mind deepening and extending any long transition toward socialism, 
given the weight that private capital still enjoys in the economy. 
According to Sutherland, Venezuela experienced capital flight during the 
period of fixed exchange rates of around  $US 150 billion, the 
equivalent to approximately 43 percent of GDP in 2010. This looting of 
capital is part of what is driving the devaluation of the local currency 
and strengthening speculation in the parallel black market in dollars 
(in which dollars are sold for 15 times the official exchange rate).

The black market rate is the rate used by commercial vendors to set 
their prices, with the exception of the few products subject to 
regulation. So escalating prices, even setting aside the issue of 
hoarding, would still be a major issue requiring resolution. Those 
commercial actors who legally obtain dollars through official channels 
in order ostensibly to purchase imports of goods from abroad have no 
incentive to actually use the dollars obtained to this end; rather they 
have every incentive to divert those dollars illegally onto the black 
market in order to make extraordinary profits. This causes further 
scarcity of goods, increases in prices, and a fall in the quality of 
goods and services -- i.e. it is less a conspiracy of capital through 
economic warfare, than its regular behaviour given incentive structures 
that is at the root of the present economic crisis.[36] 

According to the communiqué of Marea Socialista -- a group which has 
repeatedly declared its decisive commitment to defending any and all 
rightist conspiracies against the Maduro administration -- the principal 
error of the government consists in its vacillation in economic policy 
since April 2013. The intervening period has witnessed the introduction 
of certain measures that can only be read as adaptations to demands from 
the Right. With the announcement the latest devaluation of the currency 
introduced earlier this month (called "SICAD 2"), which is similar to 
the system introduced in 2010 under Chávez, the government aims to free 
up an even more substantial part of the oil rent, the result of which 
will be even higher inflation. All of this, Marea Socialists warns, will 
deepen the crisis of scarcity. This announcement of a new Permuta 
dollar, embedded within the SICAD 2 arrangements, will achieve nothing 
but the deepening of social discontent and disorientation among the 
Chavista social base.[37] 

An appropriate redirection of economic policy, from the defensive to the 
offensive, according to Marea Socialista, would include the immediate 
escalation of anti-capitalist measures, such as: the establishment of a 
state monopoly under social control of all external commerce, and the 
assurance that the state be the only importer of essential goods for 
Venezuelan people; national centralization under social control of all 
dollars available in the country, whether they are dollars that enter 
through the oil trade, or those that are deposited in foreign accounts; 
massive intervention and state and social control over the entirety of 
the private banking system that presently operates in the country, in 
order both to finance economic planning and to simultaneously centralize 
control of all funds presently managed by the public banking system; the 
urgent recovery of state production of basic subsistence products to 
respond to the authentic shortage crisis; expropriation under workers' 
and popular control of the largest corporations involved in the biggest 
operations of hoarding, speculation, and contraband; a call for the 
peoples and governments of Latin America to lend support and solidarity 
through the supply of basic goods and medicines to confront the problems 
of the immediate moment and of the transition to the implementation of 
such measures.[38] 

*Bureaucratic Sclerosis*

In our recent article in /New Politics/, we tried to establish some of 
the basic analytical and empirical foundations for understanding a 
creeping bureaucratic sclerosis within the various organizations 
constituting the popular movement.[39] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn39> It 
is perhaps more evident than ever that a rigorous Marxist theorization 
of bureaucracy is required in order to understand some of the structural 
obstacles standing in the way of the advancement of the Bolivarian 
process in an anti-capitalist direction.

In a recent open letter from Caracas, Mike González, author of a 
just-released biography of Chávez, calls our attention to a "new 
bureaucratic class who are themselves the speculators and owners of this 
new and failing economy... they are to be seen delivering fierce 
speeches against corruption and wearing the obligatory red shirt and cap 
of chavismo. But literally billions of dollars have 'disappeared' in 
recent years, the extraordinary wealth accumulated by leading Chavistas, 
are the clearest sign that it is their interests that have prevailed, 
while the institutions of popular power have largely withered on the 
vine.... The right has hoped to trade on that disillusionment."[40] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn40> To 
speak of withering on a vine is perhaps to exaggerate, but but otherwise 
this is perceptive analysis. González singles out for treatment the 
growing military presence within the government, grouped around Diasdado 
Cabello, and the head of the oil company PDVSA and Vice President of the 
Economy, Rafael Rodríguez, but notes that there are others.

According to Roland Denis, there are real divisions within the 
capitalist class that are partially being expressed through the visible 
tensions in the current leadership struggle for hegemony in the 
right-wing opposition. There is, according to Denis, a national section 
of the bourgeoisie that has enjoyed a "paradise of profits over the last 
number of years, operating beneath a model of bureaucratic-corporatism 
and the state capitalism promoted through the economic development plan 
of the government." In this analysis, the rent captured through 
corruption and clientelist networks has generated profits for this 
national section of the bourgeoisie, just as it has for the internal 
bureaucratic layer of Chavismo identified in passing by González. As a 
result, the national section, represented politically by Capriles within 
the latest dispute on the Right, has not immediately lent its potential 
force (business strikes, open sabotage of the economy, internal coups, 
etc.) to the assault on power being orchestrated by López and Machado. 
Instead, the national section is interested in relative stability, and a 
regime transition which would not put into jeopardy the current paradise 
of profits.[41] 

The process of bureaucratization, according to Denis, is also 
responsible for the loss of an original vitality on the part of the 
grassroots organizations of Bolivarian process that have been 
transformed, to an ever deepening degree, into mere clients of the state 
-- made to respond to the incentive structures of a state-capitalist 
model of development in an oil-rich country, and too often mobilized in 
the interests of the bureaucrats of that structure rather than being the 
self-determining subjects of a revolutionary potential which at one time 
seemed more clearly present on the horizon: "the rentist, parasitic 
model of state capitalism... delivers a politics of control, 
concentration of power and the substitution of social control with 
technocratic and bureaucratic functionaries.... This is a model which if 
it is not called fundamentally into question, with measures to transform 
it radically in the short term, will lead to the continuation of out of 
control shortages and inflation...."[42] 

*Buying "Peace" within the Structural Violence of Capitalism*

A strategy of national reconciliation is destined to lead in time to 
full capitalist restoration and the reversal of the social gains 
achieved since Chávez assumed office in 1999. The "pacificism" of the 
Maduro government offers, for Denis, "a 'peace' that does not produce, 
does not create challenges and new levels of mobilization, but simply 
calls for support for the victimized figure of Nicolás and his 
government, sending off clear signals of weakness and the absence of an 
epic sense that every revolution must have."[43] 

Likewise, for Carlos Carcione, an incisive commentator on the socialist 
Left of Chavismo:

"A governmental campaign of calling for 'peace,' at a minimum untimely 
and bound to be frustrated. The maintenance of a doomed plan to search 
for an interlocutor in the bourgeoisie to establish a process of 
conciliation, rather than searching for democratic participation of the 
people who live from their labour, leading toward immediate 
anticapitalist measures. These are the salient symptoms of the times 
that over the coming weeks or months will decide, with a heavy emphasis 
on the weight of actions taken in the streets, the immediate future of 
what the world knows as the Bolivarian Process."[44] 

Some Chavista supporters, lacking such a critique of the 
bureaucratization of the process to date, offer an overly complacent 
view on the possibilities of resolving the present conflict. They point 
to the fact that, unlike in 2002, the Bolivarian forces are now much 
more consolidated. They control the oil rent which is obtained through 
the state oil company PDVSA. They control the armed forces and access to 
international reserves. And they have a much more prominent presence in 
the field of production and arena of the media.[45] 
<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_edn45> On 
its own, this is more a recipe for the consolidation of a bureaucratic 
state capitalism than a project of emancipatory socialism.

A recent communiqué from the Corriente Revolucionario Bolívar y Zamora 
-- Poder Popular Socialista (The Bolívar and Zamora Revolutionary 
Current -- Socialist Popular Power) resonates more profoundly with the 
best impulses of the poor in their own struggles for liberation within 
the Bolivarian process of the last 15 years. The winds of reaction in 
Venezuela in 2002 and 2003 unintentionally instigated the richest phase 
of self-organization and activity of the oppressed and exploited that we 
have witnessed thus far in the course of the Bolivarian process. The 
question is whether the Left of chavismo can win in the present 
conjuncture; can it put to rest all illusions fostered by the most 
conservative sections, and bureaucratized layers of the ruling party in 
any technocratic, negotiated "peace" with the "democratic" sections of 
the bourgeoisie. If the Chavista Left can manage this, it's not 
impossible that transformative renewal and vitalization of the process 
generally would be the result. It's on the table. It matters not just 
that this third insurrectionary moment of the counter-revolutionary 
Right is defeated, but /how/ it is defeated, and that it is 

The Bolívar and Zamora Revolutionary Current calls for the "ever greater 
opening of spaces to the people and not to assume that the people are 
merely a reserve bequeathed by the comandante [Chávez] that is available 
to be convoked in moments of risk or electoral conjunctures. It is 
necessary to free popular protagonism, its incipient power, popular 
power, the communal councils and communes, the collectives and social 
fronts, all of the enormous and marvelous diversity that if unleashed in 
full will be capable of storming heaven. Our biggest strength is the 
resonance of our ideas in the fertile soil of the grassroots - in 
political, cultural, ethnic, sexual, popular diversity. There we will 
find enormous concentrated energies. It's with these people that the 
struggle will be won in the street, but also in the struggle of ideas, 
of values, of ethics and of aesthetics, as they push to fully realize 
their concrete, revolutionary, fulfillment."

The project of counter-revolution nourishes itself on the diminution of 
revolutionary capacities, the bureaucratization of the once dynamic 
forces from below within the Bolivarian process. The project of 
defeating the counter-revolution therefore becomes one of 
re-establishing, through popular dialogue and grassroots assembly, the 
revolutionary initiative, to agree "on defensive actions, communication, 
the takeover of institutions, and the means of production -- all of 
which will no doubt take us to a higher level of confrontation, where it 
becomes a matter of raising unconditional demands rather than 
negotiation, much less submission."[46] 

Concretely, this might mean, among other things, putting an end to the 
impunity of the Right -- not just enforcing the full letter of the law 
against Leopoldo López, but calling for the detention of Capriles and 
all those responsible for the government supporters assassinated in 
April 2013 following the presidential elections. It might mean the 
incorporation of the grassroots into the highest levels of 
decision-making power in the government -- that is, the inclusion of the 
social and political organizations of the Bolivarian people, their 
rank-and-file unions, and their communes and councils, as well as the 
endowment of these bodies with authentic power. It might mean the 
encouragement and support for the independent struggles of the exploited 
who are currently fighting for improvement in their salaries and for the 
defence of their jobs, as in the case of the auto workers, or for their 
collective contracts, as in the case of electrical workers -- that is, 
the government must encourage, not criminalize, the legitimate, 
autonomous struggle of working people living from their labour even as 
it encounters the forces of counter-revolution, indeed to better its 
chances in this encounter.[47] 

Such a redirection would also likely require the renovation of 
leadership circles and the bringing to justice of those in the highest 
offices of the state -- judicial, legislative, and military -- who have 
used their posts for enriching themselves, resulting in the 
consolidation of a bureaucratic layer within the regime.  One place to 
start might be the renovation of the cabinet, beginning with the 
Ministry of the Economy. What of the reactivation of the commission for 
the transformation of the state, abandoned since 2003? It is also 
obvious to many that if a socialist transition out of the present crisis 
is desired, it will be necessary to establish a system of democratic 
planning, from below to above, from municipalities up to regions, with 
an immediate emphasis on restoring productive capacity, meeting the 
basic consumption needs of the population, and moving toward the 
socialization of the country's economy.[48] 

"The gravity of the current crisis," Carcione observes, "can be resolved 
in the manner in which we triumphed over the April coup [of 2002] and 
the oil sabotage [2002-2003], decisively unleashing the constituent 
power, the Bolivarian people. The search for conciliation with 
supposedly 'democratic' sectors within the pro-imperialist domestic 
Right will lose us the whole Process. It's a historic moment for this 
project of emancipation. The hour of truth has arrived."


<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref1> Roland 
Denis, "Desactivar el fascismo," /Aporrea/, February 19, 2014. Available 
online at: http://www.aporrea.org/oposicion/a182411.html. Accessed on 
February 23, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref2> Belen 
Fernandez, "Towards Another Coup in Venezuela?" Al Jazeera, February 19, 
2014. Available onling: 
Accessed February 25, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref3> Jake 
Johnson, "Venezuela: Who Are They and How Did They Die?" CEPR, February 
23, 2014. Available online: 
Accessed February 25, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref4> John 
Kerry, "Situation in Venezuela," U.S. Department of State, February 21, 
2014. Available online 
at:http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/02/221919.htm. Accessed 
February 25, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref5> William 
Neuman, "Protests Swell in Venezuela as Places to Rally Disappear,"/ New 
York Times, /February 20, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed February 25, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref6> Cited 
by Mark Weisbrot, "Does Venezuelan Television Provide Coverage That 
Opposes the Government?" Centre for Economic and Policy Research, 
February 24, 2014. Available online 
at:http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10400. Accessed February 25, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref7> Julia 
Buxton, "Venezuela: The Real Significance of the Student Protests" 
/Latin American Bureau/, February 20, 2014. Available online at: 
http://lab.org.uk/venezuela-%E2%80%93-student-protests. Accessed on 
February 22, 2014. Fort he occupy arrest figures see 
<http://occupyarrests.moonfruit.com/>. Accessed on February 25, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref8> Gary 
Younge, "Open Season on Black Boys after a Verdict Like This," 
/Guardian/, July 14, 2013. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 25, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref9> Julia 
Buxton, "Venezuela: The Real Significance of the Student Protests."

Jeb Sprague 
<http://alainet.org/active/show_author.phtml?autor_apellido=Sprague&autor_nombre=Jeb> and 
Joe Emersberger 
"Impunity for Venezuela's big landowners," ALAI, December 20, 2011. 
Available online at: http://alainet.org/active/51700. Accessed on 
February 25, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref11> For 
a recent commentary on the Right's record, see Mark Weisbrot, "US 
Support for Regime Change in Venezuela is a Mistake," /Guardian/, 
February 18, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 21, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref12> Atilio 
Borón, "La amenaza fascista," /Rebelión/, February 19, 2014. Available 
online at: 
Accessed on February 21, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref13> See 
the illuminating discussion of these matters by Gregory Wilpert on /The 
Real News Network/, February 22, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 23, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref14> Pedro 
Santander, "Diálogo o golpismo: Lo que está en juego en Venezuela," 
/Rebelión/, February 19, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 23, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref15> See 
Andrés Schipani, "Venezuela: Amid Unrest, Another Forex Mechanism," 
/Financial Times/, February 20, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 21, 2014. The figure of 56 percent inflation cited 
in this article is also the standard figure reported in sources close to 
the government.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref16> Santander, 
"Diálogo o golpismo."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref17> Nicmer 
N. Evans, "Oposición dividida pero no desunida y 'la salida'," 
/Rebelión/, February 6, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 21, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref18> Marea 
Socialista, "Rectificar y avanzar hacia la revolución económica: Para 
frenar la ofensiva de la derecha," /Rebelión/, February 15, 2014. 
Available online at: 
Accessed on February 21, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref19> Denis, 
"Desactivar el fascismo."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref20> Mark 
Weisbrot, "US Support for Regime Change in Venezuela is a Mistake," 
/Guardian/, February 18, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 21, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref21> Although 
it is also true that the student movement has always been divided, and 
its left-wing has had at different historical moments a presence within 
the elite state universities as well.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref22> Mike 
González, "Is Venezuela Burning? A Letter from Caracas," /Revolutionary 
Socialism/. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 22, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref23> Quoted 
in Manuel Sutherland, "Siete apuntes sobre las protestas en Venezuela," 
/Aporrea/, February 17, 2014. Available online at: 
http://www.aporrea.org/ideologia/a182254.html. Accessed on February 22, 

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref24> Andrés 
Schipani, "Opposition Leader Detained in Venezuela," /Financial Times/, 
February 18, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 21, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref25> Ana 
Esther Ceceña, "Leopoldo López: Agente de la CIA, el golpe, guarimbas, 
Uribe y el fascism,"/Herramienta/. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 22, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref26> Luciano 
Wexell Severo, "Golpe de Estado suave," /Rebelión/, February 21, 2014. 
Available online at: http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=181112. 
Accessed on February 21, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref27> Corriente 
Revolucionario Bolívar y Zamora -- Poder Popular Socialista, "Momento y 
perspectivas: la nueva asonada contrarrevolucionaria" /Rebelión/, 
February 19, 2014. Available online at: 
http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=181029. Accessed on February 21, 

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref28> This 
paragraph draws on Julia Buxton, "The Real Significance of the Student 
Protests." See also, Ana Navea, "Mentiras de la derecha para impulsar un 
golpe de Estado," /AVN/, February 20, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 21, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref29> Denis, 
"Desactivar el fascismo."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref30> Information 
in the last three paragraphs is drawn in part from Ricardo Martínez, 
"Los actores del golpismo en Venezuela," /RT Actualidad/, February 18, 
2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 23, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref31> Susan 
Spronk and Jeffery R. Webber, "Sabaneta to Miraflores: The Afterlives of 
Hugo Chávez in Venezuela," /New Politics /(Winter), 2014. Available 
online at: 
Accessed on February 23, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref32> Andrés 
Schipani, "Venezuela: Amid Unrest, Another Forex Mechanism," /Financial 
Times/, February 20, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 21, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref33> Manuel 
Sutherland, "Siete apuntes sobre las protestas en Venezuela," /Aporrea/, 
February 17, 2014. Available online at: 
http://www.aporrea.org/ideologia/a182254.html. Accessed on February 22, 

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref34> George 
Ciccariello-Maher, "#LaSalida? Venezuela at a Crossroads," /The Nation/, 
February 21, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 23, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref35> Manuel 
Sutherland, "Siete apuntes sobre las protestas en Venezuela."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref36> Manuel 
Sutherland, "Siete apuntes sobre las protestas en Venezuela."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref37> Marea 
Socialista, "Rectificar y avanzar hacia la revolución económica."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref38> Marea 
Socialista, "Rectificar y avanzar hacia la revolución económica."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref39> Spronk 
and Webber, "From Sabaneta to Miraflores."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref40> González, 
"Is Venezuela Burning?" See also, Mike González, /Hugo Chávez: Socialist 
for the Twenty-First Century/, London: Pluto, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref41> Denis, 
"Desactivar el fascismo."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref42> Denis, 
"Desactivar el fascismo."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref43> Denis, 
"Desactivar el fascismo."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref44> Carlos 
Carcione, "El Proceso Bolivariano en la hora de verdad," /Rebelión/, 
February 20, 2014. Available online at: 
Accessed on February 21, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref45> Luciano 
Wexell Severo, "Golpe de Estado suave," /Rebelión/, February 21, 2014. 
Available online at: http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=181112. 
Accessed on February 21, 2014.

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref46> Denis, 
"Desactivar el fascismo."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref47> Marea 
Socialista, "Rectificar y avanzar hacia la revolución económica."

<http://newpol.org/content/february-traumas-third-insurrectionary-moment-venezuelan-right#_ednref48> This 
paragraph draws on proposals that conclude Denis's extraordinary essay 
cited throughout this work.

Source: New Politics 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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