Revolutionary Struggle, Not Chavez’s ‘Business Socialism,’ Will Win Workers’ Power

“Without a revolutionary Party, there can be no revolution.” – V.I. Lenin

The narrow December 2 loss for the Constitutional Reform referendum in Venezuela is a clear example of the above idea. The Chávez government’s plan to impose its “21st Century Bolivarian Socialism” in a bureaucratic top-to-bottom manner suffered a major political setback even though it lost by only 50.3% to 49.7%. The right-wing anti-Chávez forces only gained some 200,000 votes over the 2006 presidential election total. In 2006, 7.3 million voted to re-elect Chávez; this time approximately 4.3 million voted for his constitutional reform.

The Empire Strikes Back

There are many reasons for this decreased support for Chávez’s program. The right-wing waged a very aggressive campaign, financed by big money from both local anti-Chávez bosses as well as from the U.S. The Washington Post (12/3) reported that the anti-Reform movement was funded in no small part by the U.S. government. The Post cited U.S. documents obtained by National Security Archive researcher Jeremy Bigwood that revealed at least $216,000 was funneled through the Office of Transition Initiatives, a secret branch of the U.S. Agency for International Development, erected in Caracas in the wake of the failed April 2002 anti-Chávez coup.

As CHALLENGE has stated many times, Chávez represents a nationalist populist trend in Latin America which, under the guise of anti-imperialism, seeks a better deal from U.S. imperialism’s rivals, like China, Russia and even India. The U.S. bosses and their local allies have been fighting for their interests, using blatant anti-communism (they claim the constitutional reform would turn Chávez into a “red dictator” who would take babies away from their parents, and other lies). Coincidentally, Chávez proved to be a better “bourgeois democrat” than the right-wing opposition in accepting the December 2 loss. If the right-wing had lost, they would have raised hell. Of course, U.S. apologists never mention the many

U.S.-backed overthrows of elected leaders in Chile, Guatemala and elsewhere.

But the biggest cause of the loss was the Chavista movement’s internal weaknesses. Firstly, it isn’t really a revolutionary movement. The Chávez government attacked workers who actually fought their bosses like at Maracay (bathroom appliances) who tried to stop the closing of their plant. Chávez’s “land reform” has been limited to some unused land, without really touching big landowners. In the last few years, some 200 farmworkers have been killed fighting these landlords.

Chávez’s “anti-imperialism” has exploited Venezuela’s new oil supplies via “mixed enterprises” incorporating big foreign oil companies. While talking about “revolution” and “socialism,” his government limited itself to a few small reforms for poor workers, including medical services using some 20,000 Cuban doctors. But meanwhile poverty overall has risen. Chavista bureaucrats and bosses have enriched themselves and big companies have increased prices, squeezing any wage hikes for workers. The government did little to counter the lack of milk and other basic staples caused by hoarding bosses.

Former guerrilla leader Douglas Bravo, a left-wing critic of Chávez, exclaimed: “How can you pretend to build a 21st century socialism enriching a bourgeoisie that came about with this government through oil income…or not taking into consideration workers, poor people in the countryside, indigenous people and giving power to agro-business and rich Chavistas?” (El Mundo, Caracas, 12/3)

That’s why so many workers and their allies abstained from voting December 2. Meanwhile, the pro-U.S. right-wing forces will try to take advantage of their victory in continuing to try to topple the Chávez government through a military coup. (General Baduel, who until recently was Chávez’s Minister of Defense, and who joined the anti-Chávez forces just before the referendum, is their man for this.)

But the right-wing is not united. It represents many different bourgeois forces, included disenchanted former Chavistas. The Chávez camp will also try to regroup, building its bureaucratic Unified Socialist Party to push for its “businessmen’s socialism,” using workers and their allies as cannon fodder.

The real missing ingredient here is a revolutionary communist (not “businessmen’s socialist”) leadership to fight for the real liberation of workers from capitalism and imperialism. This liberation won’t come through electoral referendum, but through revolutionary class struggle. This is a crucial task since the dogfight between the pro-Chávez and pro-U.S. forces will sharpen and workers will wind up losing unless they break with all forms of capitalism, whether the Chavista type or the pro-U.S. type.

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