[News] Venezuela - We Still Have Time to Change Course Away from Bourgeois Conciliation

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 5 11:28:08 EDT 2014

  "We Still Have Time to Change Course Away from Bourgeois
  Conciliation": An Interview with Activist and Aporrea Founder Gonzalo

May 3rd 2014, by Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt / 
Gonzalo Gomez


/The following is an interview with activist and founder of the 
progressive Venezuelan news website Aporrea.org, Gonzalo Gomez, 
conducted by the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt. Gomez 
speaks on Venezuela's current political moment in his capacity as a 
member of Socialist Tide, a critical left current which organises within 
the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).  Translation by 
Venezuelanalysis.com. /

*María Elena Saludas (CADTM-AYNA): What is your vision of the moment 
Venezuela is currently going through, both its government and its people?*

*Gonzalo Gomez: *From a political point of view, I speak as a member of 
Socialist Tide (Marea Socialista), because Aporrea is a popular media 
outlet, driven by a diverse team within the variety of thought of the 
Bolivarian revolution. After the passing away of Comandante Chavez, the 
bourgeoisie and their political expressions have felt that they have 
arrived at a moment for a counter-revolutionary leap; with the support 
of the imperialist sectors, of course. In this, they are cooperating 
with the most reactionary and mafia-esque sectors of the Latin American 
bourgeoisie, as shown by the close working relationship between the 
Venezuelan right-wing, [former Colombian President Alvaro] Uribe and 
Colombian paramilitarism.

They all seek to end the political hegemony that arose with the 
Bolivarian Revolution, to return the rebel Venezuela to the straight and 
narrow, and regain control of the oil revenue - the country's main 
source of foreign exchange and resources. As a class, the bourgeoisie 
has this purpose, although different sectors do not necessarily agree on 
tactics and timing.

Without a doubt, objectively their methods combine, and the 
contradictions produce a synthesis: the "stick" and "carrot" both fulfil 
their respective roles. Because both in Venezuela and in Latin America 
there is another face [of the reactionary forces], that is more 
conciliatory, devious; which has its advocates who seeks to destroy the 
Bolivarian Revolution through conciliation in obtaining concessions, the 
wearing down of the government, or the establishment of a coalition 
between the bourgeois sectors and members of the bureaucratic caste that 
has formed throughout the Bolivarian process.

The whip of the "guarimba" (street barricades) - a violent insurgency 
and paramilitary terrorism - serves the bourgeoisie by [allowing it] to 
reap the fruits of negotiation with the "carrot" of peace, at the 
negotiating table with the government of Nicolas Maduro. The "guarimba" 
and the acts of violence continue, even when they aren't gaining ground 
in the poorer layers of the population, and they are fundamentally an 
expression of the desperation of the small bourgeoisie and mercenary 
involvement. The only thing that has come out of the Peace Conference 
and the mesas [talks between the government and business groups], are 
concessions to business: price increases, facilities for the obtaining 
of larger amounts of dollars and the enjoyment larger portions of oil 
revenues. From these spaces they insist on the dismantling of the 
victories of the working class, of the campesinos [rural workers] and 
the popular sectors, such as job security and other achievements of the 
new Labour Law that employers and labour authorities are already 
ignoring in practice.

At the same time, the political leadership of the bourgeoisie is trying 
to make the Maduro government pay the political costs of the measures 
that are to be adopted at the demand of business, to ensure an 
increasing political attrition against the people. Clearly, the 
right-wing also has to pay a political price for their clumsy offensive, 
which has been seen with the majority of the public and their own voters 
rejecting their repugnant actions, such as assassinations and violent 
actions against public services, education centres, health centres, 
public transport and public property.

*CADTM: As mentioned at the beginning, there were multiple international 
campaigns to demonise President Hugo Chavez during the course of his 
mandate, the coup of 11/04/2002 (when he was very close to being 
assassinated), the "petroleum strike" and so many attacks that, without 
doubt, were used by Chavez to radicalise his political project. Do you 
think something similar is happening right now? And if not, what are the 
differences presented by the situation?*

*G.G: *Yes indeed. Previous coup attempts during Chavez's life were 
defeated by the Venezuelan people, and produced progress in the 
political project, both from the democratic point of view and with 
material, economic, social and sovereign victories. This helped Chavez 
to go on and radicalise the process despite Chavez also opening 
opportunities for dialogue with the bourgeoisie, but with the people 
mobilised and setting the agenda of discussion. I see that now the 
situation is different, because the violent pressure of the right-wing 
hasn't ceased, and the talks have given in to the demands of business, 
with the 12 points of industry of Lorenzo Mendoza. Chavez was the one 
who used to set the rules of the game, but now I feel this is not so, 
because there is no discussion of how entrepreneurs engage the 
government program - the Homeland Plan - and the right-wing abandoning 
violence, but there is an implied condition that the government gives 
them benefits that they are claiming, without the direct consultation of 
the people.

The bourgeoisie used to leech upon the oil revenue, but with Chavez and 
the Bolivarian Revolution we were able to change PDVSA [state oil 
company] from being a "meritocracy" and establish control over the 
currency exchange system to get hold of the dollars to invest in 
government social programs (the missions), large infrastructure projects 
and endogenous industrial development. However in recent years - and 
especially since Chavez became ill - the bourgeoisie has found ways to 
split and resume the looting of income, not without the help of the 
civil bureaucracy, the corrupt state apparatus and government sectors.

Without these levers that control the oil revenue and dollars, the 
fundamental supports of the socialist transition and the building of a 
non-capitalist economy based on social property will fall down.

What predominate the peace talks now are agreements with the capitalist 
sectors. At this stage we suffer from a [lack of] a real voice and the 
participation of the revolutionary element in the decision making 
process: the working class and the Bolivarian people. Chavez left us his 
legacy and a program that we voted for, and in one of his last messages 
he proposed a "Golpe de Timon" [Turn of the Wheel] in order to 
decisively advance towards a socialist transition. But another discourse 
is now being proposed, which is about the "co-existence of models". 
Discussion is no longer about socialism of the 21^st century, but of two 
systems, where in reality there only exists one: the capitalist system, 
though still with social regulations, political achievements and 
elements of sovereignty, seized by the revolution.

The government has not relented on important issues, like the amnesty 
requests for the counter-revolutionaries who have incurred in serious 
human rights violations and fascist-style actions. However the violent 
pressure and political pressure, the so-called "economic war", are a way 
to put the government against a wall - a trap that can only be escaped 
by calling upon the Bolivarian people for a broader and more forceful 
mobilisation and encouragement with measures favourable to their 
interests and expectations.

*CADTM: We know about the important social gains that have been produced 
in 15 years of the process of the Bolivarian revolution. We also have 
information about the sharpening economic problems in recent months 
(inflation, shortages of basic products, currency exchange issues and 
capital flight). What is your view of this? What's being done and what 
should be done? What proposals are being discussed within the left and 
grassroots movements? *

*G.G:* On one hand there is a "sustained economic war" that shows its 
effects in hoarding, scandalous speculation, extraction contraband [of 
goods to Colombia], currency fraud and capital flight, among other 
manifestations. However corruption and the bureaucratic braking of 
revolutionary transformation have prevented the advance of the primary 
[state-run] industries and new projects of rupture with capitalist 
logic; communal and social property, worker control, and the agrarian 
revolution. It's also necessary to recognise the problems for 
organisation, political education and the participation of social 
movements and the working class. We have a bureaucracy that appears more 
interested in benefitting from the transactions of the state captured 
from the bourgeoisie, and in reaching arrangements with them, than 
really driving the state to a revolutionary transformation.

Socialist Tide has been proposing that we need to go toward Chavez's 
"Turn of the Wheel" [in reference to a critical speech former president 
Hugo Chavez made following his re-election in October 2012] and not 
toward the "coexistence of models". We insist that we base ourselves on 
what we call the fundamental constituting elements of the Bolivarian 
revolutionary process, and that we need to rejuvenate the grassroots 
foundational process that this revolution opened. This is because in 
reality it seems to us that we've not moved past so called 
"representative democracy", and that democratic and protagonistic 
participation, as with popular power, is becoming a myth, because 
decision-making is concentrated in the hands of a bureaucracy that's 
inclined to give greater participation to the bourgeoisie than the 
working class and the people in the exercise of governance.

In various documents published throughout 2013 and the beginning of 2014 
we've presented our proposals as a political faction of workers, youths 
and grassroots activists that in our majority are members of the PSUV 
[United Socialist Party of Venezuela], although we lack [access to] true 
spaces for debate and decision-making in the party's heart. We propose 
various main points such as the following: (1) the recovery of salaries, 
(2) the full implementation of job security and the entire Labour Law 
passed by Chavez, (3) to stop the authorisation of price increase of 
basic goods, (4) to reactivate the social missions, (5) in the framework 
of the defence of the process , to end persecution and criminalisation 
of workers that fight for labour rights and conditions, with whom the 
government is sometimes more severe than with the right-wing, (6) to 
maintain the control and progressive distribution of the dollars that 
come from oil sales, because we denounce that the creation of the SICAD 
II [a new, more flexible currency exchange system] and the modification 
of the Law of Illegal Currency Exchange open the door to private sector 
appropriation of our oil wealth.

In the economy we have been saying that not one dollar more should be 
given to the bourgeoisie and that the state should monopolise all 
foreign trade below social and anti-corruption control, so that it is 
the only importer of our people's essential goods. This social and 
anti-corruption control is fundamental, because we have the phenomenon 
of bureaucratisation, and due to this we need the intervention of 
grassroots power and worker organisations. We propose national 
centralisation with social control [i.e. administrative accountability] 
of all the country's dollars, both those that enter through oil sales 
and those that are deposited in foreign accounts.

We say that there should be an intervention into the private banking 
system, with state and social control and the participation of banking 
workers, as with the centralised control in the same terms of all funds 
which publically-owned banks manage.

For us the recuperation of state production of food and items of basic 
consumption, and the reactivation and re-strengthening of the recovered 
[nationalised or worker run] companies, allowing the genuine exercise of 
worker control, is urgent. And facing the operation of hoarding, 
speculation and extraction contraband in which great private companies 
are involved, we believe that it's necessary to effect their 
expropriation below grassroots and worker control. It's not capitalists 
who should be called upon to "save" national production, as the 
government seems to be implicitly doing.

On 14 February 2014, at the beginning of the explosion of the 
"guarimbas" [militant opposition street blockades], we said in a 
statement that Socialist Tide decidedly declares its commitment in 
defence of the Bolivarian process against any coup attempt, even though 
this may be masked with mobilisations of sympathisers of the right wing 
in the streets. In this statement, our faction alerted that "to continue 
on the path of adaptation to the demands of the capitalists we will 
enter a situation of retreat and irrecoverable lack of control".

There we affirmed that for Socialist Tide it is an error and a danger to 
oscillate toward the application of measures demanded by the right-wing 
instead of sustaining and deepening measures like those applied on 6 
November 2013 [forced price reductions and sale of speculatively-priced 
goods], that were necessary to defend against the "economic war" and 
pro-coup plans promoted by the bourgeoisie, in the framework of the 8 
December municipal elections. These measures gave positive political and 
economic results, strengthening the government's and Bolivarian people's 
position in that moment.

Due to this we call upon the government of President Maduro to "rectify 
and implement anti-capitalist measures to guarantee supply, halt the 
uncontrolled increase in prices, and set in motion a new phase of the 
Bolivarian process," together with other measures [designed] for the 
political and economic emergency.

We aren't opposed to there being peace talks or dialogue [with the 
opposition], but these should be conducted with the agenda of the 
revolution and with the participation and effective consultation of the 
people, because the Venezuelan people voted in their majority for a 
government and a program that the opposition cannot continue trying to 
ignore or sabotage. That's where the issue of impunity enters that the 
opposition tries to use in reverse against the government and the 
people, when they [the opposition] are those responsible for very 
serious destruction and horrible crimes. That's why we say that the 
political leaders and instigators of the guarimbas, of fascist violence, 
such as Leopoldo Lopez, Maria Corina Machado and the mayor Antonio 
Ledezma, should be tried and punished with prison. Beyond them, their 
accomplices and financiers should pay reparations to the country for the 
damage caused, via the confiscation of their assets and bank accounts, 
and they should pay compensation to the victims.

The social organisations and political currents of the revolution are 
debating what to do, and what the course of the government and our 
revolutionary process should be.

*CADTM: The Venezuelan opposition is using violence and disinformation 
to supplant the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro with 
a transition government. What are the opposition's social, economic and 
political proposals? Do they have a list of demands or a program? What 
interests do they have and who is behind this project? *

*G.G: *The opposition, when it presented itself for presidential 
elections with the defeated candidate Capriles Radonski, had a program 
called the Program of the MUD [the opposition coalition]. This was 
neoliberal, but they tried to muddy the waters and give sectors of the 
Bolivarian people the impression that they would conserve some of the 
more important gains, such as the benefits of the missions [social 
programs]. However as soon as they rose up and refused to recognise the 
[April 2013 presidential] election result, the first thing they attacked 
was the missions, lighting Barrio Adentro modules [health clinics] and 
Comprehensive Diagnostic Centres on fire, just like how the guarimbas 
now are capable of burning centres for education or the distribution of 
subsidised goods to the people.

After the coup of April 2002, the opposition declared the suspension of 
all constituted public powers, flagrantly violating the constitution, as 
they have done again with every new destabilisation attempt and with 
fascist style violence. That, and what they do in everyday economic 
practice, as with their pro-imperialist conduct, is what indicates to us 
what their program is and not just what they may write on a piece of 
paper or what their spokespeople say. Before the explosion of the 
guarimba offensive a group of prominent bourgeois economists presented 
their vision of the political economy that should replace the 
government's one, and then in the Peace Conference the 12 Mendoza Points 
were presented [in reference to Lorenzo Mendoza, the executive president 
of Venezuela's food giant, the Polar Group], which included 
counter-labour reforms, elements of labour flexibility and the 
liberalisation of the economy in favour of capital and to the detriment 
of labour.

The whole bourgeois opposition would like to get rid of Maduro, with 
harder or softer methods, as does imperialism. However some understand 
that chavismo is a state of consciousness of the people and can't be 
erased all in one go. They perceive that it's a historical current with 
deep roots, linked to our national identity, a sense of independence and 
the Bolivarian ideology.  It is also linked to a set of social and 
political gains which are very appreciated by the people. It includes 
the Legacy of Chavez, and his sentimental-symbolic power, that already 
demonstrated its mobilising strength on 13 April 2002, in the struggle 
against the oil industry sabotage and strike, and in the presidential 
election of October 2012 and Chavez's funeral in 2013. Still today a 
good part of this force is channelled through Nicolas Maduro and other 
leaders of chavismo, despite the criticisms and weaknesses of the 
government. Therefore, there are sectors of the opposition, of the 
bourgeoisie, that understand that it's by penetrating and assimilating 
chavismo itself, or better said, its bureaucratic establishment already 
turned into bourgeoisie, that they can guarantee counter-reforms and the 
following liquidation of the Bolivarian revolution. This is the great 
strategy that's in motion.

*CADTM: The role of Venezuela, with the government of Comandante Hugo 
Chavez Frias and its continuation with President Nicolas Maduro, has 
been and is very important in the process of the integration of Our 
America: the emergence of the ALBA, of Petrocaribe [regional alliances 
led by Venezuela], of the Bank of the South, of the Sucre 
[currency]...etc. We believe that it would be a serious setback for the 
integration of the peoples if the correlation of forces in Venezuela was 
modified, or if this state coup attempt is intensified. How do you 
perceive the situation? Furthermore, do you think that the UNASUR [Union 
of South American Nations] is really contributing to the process of 
finding a solution to the conflict which has been unleashed? What does 
the so-called peace conference promoted by the government consist of, 
and what is your perception of this? *

*G.G: *Of course it would be a terrible setback for the integration of 
the peoples and for the full independence of Latin America and the 
Caribbean. But this isn't only decided within Venezuela. There is a 
whole global process being played out on the Latin American level, which 
includes the "institutional" coups in some countries, the changes that 
are being made in Cuba, the negotiations with the FARC [Revolutionary 
Armed Forces of Colombia], the new approach between [Ecuadorian 
president Rafael] Correa and the World Bank and International Monetary 
Fund, and where there are politicians that in the background work in 
favour of the conciliation of classes, as happens with [former Brazilian 
president] Lula da Silva.

The UNASUR serves the purpose of containing the impetus of imperialism 
and the violence of the Venezuelan right, but we shouldn't forget that 
the UNASUR brings together the Latin American bourgeois states and their 
governments, among which there are still governments with 
anti-imperialist and progressive characteristics, but it's not an 
autonomous space of the peoples themselves, nor of the working and rural 
classes of South America. Therefore, although it can work to diffuse the 
Venezuela right, it can also work to moderate the Bolivarian revolution 
and make it innocuous for the dominant bourgeois groups. It's necessary 
to try and use the positive aspects implicated in the existence of the 
UNASUR in favour of the peoples and not the prevailing oligarchies in 
our countries.

*CADTM: Thank you for the interview. We'd like you to finish with some 
final thoughts. *

*G.G: *We say in the statement I mentioned that we still have time to 
change the course of the conciliation with the bourgeoisie, of stopping 
the fascist offensive and of spearheading firm anti-capitalist measures 
with the democratic participation of the people that live from their 
labour. For this it is necessary that the Bolivarian government, that's 
being pressured by the bourgeoisie and imperialism from the right, feels 
the counterweight of the pressure of the worker and grassroots struggle 
to maintain the course toward the left. These sectors, for now, are 
waiting with expectation, observing what the government of Nicolas 
Maduro does and with its mobilising capacity intact, although contained.

However, maybe sooner rather than later, they could begin to come out in 
defence of their threatened gains, and then we'll see where things 
incline towards in Venezuela. This is what we're wagering on so that 
instead of being trapped in webs of conciliation, bureaucracy, 
counter-reform and utopian "coexistence" with capitalism, we can recover 
the Bolivarian revolution, so that it continues its course in the 
transition to socialism with the full exercise of democracy.

/Translated and edited by Ewan Robertson and Ryan Mallet Outtrim for 

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