The social and economic situation of Venezuela, after 14 years of Chavez government and more than a year of Maduro government, could not yield more than the results we are seeing today. It is necessary then to make a historical review to contextualize the present explosion of social unrest.
This succession of “socialist” governments and the present crisis can only be understood and denounced while knowing that the socialism which we are talking about is without any doubt a bourgeois “socialism”. It is the Social Democracy establishing its “workers” governments, claiming the national sovereignty, the defense of the national economy, pretending to rule for the class that it is precisely crushing. The Bolivarian revolution is conceived with nationalizations, a large income from oil, a huge bureaucracy, a lot of nationalism and populism, and sticks and crumbs for most of the proletariat. Venezuela is thus becoming the bastion of the fashionable 21st Century Socialism.
However, whether the means of production are state-owned or not doesn’t change anything. For us, proletarians, it doesn’t make any difference if the one who exploits us is a private owner, the national government or a multinational. Capital doesn’t have only one method to reproduce itself; it uses the one that is useful for its purposes of a better reproduction, for its own valorization. In this sense, if it uses state interventionism and pseudo-“socialist” logic, it does so onlyon occasions when it ends up being profitable for it, while conciliating at the same time the classes’ antagonistic interests and allowing it to continue to grow, to expand and to use the population with the excuse of the growth of the national economy. As a great fallacy, the bourgeois “socialism” pretends that socialism in one country exists, what as a nationalist (regional, partial) interest can be only the interest of the bourgeoisie aiming to atomize the proletariat. Whatever the shape it takes, every State is imperialist. Any dispute or alliance between States is nothing more than the consequence of the development of the national economies, i.e. of particular bourgeois interests and never the interests of the proletariat.
The Venezuelan crises were always associated, both by Chavez and Maduro, with attempts of putsch or Yankee plots, and codified as being the struggle against the right or the “imperialism”. In absolute coherence, the speech of Nicolas Maduro repeats that he is confronted with a “Coup d’état”, which would be similar to what happened in April 2002 with Hugo Chavez. The false dichotomy between a socialist country and an imperialist power that we denounced above strips off in turn with the trade agreements between these countries. The search for profit, as well as in other contexts the need to repress the proletariat in times of great social turmoil, forces to seek some new discursive subtleties to justify alliances and measures. This is demonstrated by the measures taken by Chavez towards the production of oil on his territory.
After the oil strike in 2002 the Chavez-led government set out to recover the country’s oil companies. Starting in 2005, a series of actions are being undertaken to recover the Orinoco Oil Belt, considered to be the largest oilfield on the planet. In 2007, the Law 5,200 was enacted, which instituted the nationalization of the Belt. Many joint oil companies are formed, in which the Venezuelan government obtains a majority shareholding through its state-owned oil and natural gas company “Petróleos de Venezuela Sociedad Anónima” (PDVSA), thus regaining control – and a large part of the royalties – of the companies that were in hands of international capitals.
In spite of the exaggerated and eccentric media propaganda against the US imperialism, a great ally in the formation of these joint companies was the multinational Chevron, known for the environmental disaster that it caused in Ecuador. Those who champion the“Socialism of the 21stcentury” as well as all those who support the capitalism always have a justification for these negotiations, when it is not “strategic” it is simply “necessary”. In Venezuela oil is the main source of income. The destinations for its crude barrels are mainly the United States and to a lesser extent Europe and some Latin American countries.
The economic agreements of the oil companies are disguised with speeches that point to the “oil sovereignty” and the promotion of the Social Missions. These emerged as an initiative of the Bolivarian national government and constitute a set of measures to serve the country’s popular sectors. They appeared in a climate of social and economic dispute, whose peak moments were the attempt of coup d’état in April 2002, the oil sector’s strike of December of the same year and the Revocatory Referendum in August 2004. To this day, the joint enterprises are recognized and extolled for “strengthening the social security of the country”while the budget allocated to the Missions grows.
If Venezuela had managed to limit the deterioration for a long time, it is because its oil shock force gives it a significant commercial and monetary advantage. But this is not enough to guarantee the stability of the currency and the flight of capital. Moreover, the redistribution of oil income produced an inflationary risk, confirmed today. During the last four weeks Maduro’s government announced almost every day, new measures that promise to remedy inflation and shortages. But beyond the passionate discussions between the government and the opposition, the discontent lives in the street.
When the carrot is rotten…
Now when everything has broken out, when the inflation in Venezuela is the highest in Latin America, when these great masses of men and women thrown into poverty and subjected to shortages and starvation have taken to the streets, one can no longer improve the situation with palliative measures based on popular measures. Maduro recently opted for similar decisions aiming at confronting what he calls “economic war” or “economic sabotage of stateless factions”. These measures, ranging from the Enabling Law of fair prices and costs, to a new system of subsidies to purchase basic products, to the implementation of a new exchange rate system and the restructuring of the administration of foreign currencies reserves in the country, point to interventionism and nationalization to strengthen the national economy. The outrageous official propaganda will not be more useful, nor the early pro-Maduro mobilizations or Christmas and carnivals periods. It is now time to have a closer look at what happens to the battered proletariat that inhabits the Venezuelan region.
On February 4thstudent protests broke out as a result of asexual assault on a student at the Experimental National University of Táchira. Some days later, on February 12th, a student demonstration in Caracas unleashed series of riots in the country. What began as a student protest against the situation of insecurity, ended up with state repression and a 14 students arrested. The following protests for the liberation of these students unleashed the tension that had been accumulating in the context of the economic crisis, the situation of scarcity of bare necessities and basic services, as well as the beginning of the application of a package of economic measures by the government. The demonstrations spread to other cities, especially Mérida, Táchira and Trujillo, and were also repressed by the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), as well as the famous paramilitary groups indirectly financed and directly initiated by the State.
In this context, a part of the opposition, such as the parties headed by María Corina Machado and Leopoldo López, wanted to take advantage of the situation and called for mobilization demanding, among other things, Maduro’s resignation, in an attempt to channel the protests, to legalize them, to politicize them. In turn, the other opposition parties that make up the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática [Democratic Unity Roundtable, translator’s note],a kind of hotchpotch of Social Democracy, progressive Christianism, reformism, liberalism (and we could continue…) that constitutes the main opposition in Venezuela, openly opposed the protests and called for abandoning the mobilizations for three days. This was ignored by the people who continued to take on the streets, thus overcoming the partiality of some and the passivity of others, while generalizing the protest for a great part of Venezuela.
The mobilizations spread throughout many parts of the country and were mostly convened through the “social networks”. In turn, in each zone, the opinions and reasons behind the mobilizations vary. In the case of Caracas they were carried out especially by sectors of the middle class and academics, and the demands were about political issues, such as Maduro’s resignation and the modification of the social and economic model. Inside of the country, popular sectors joined the protest while incorporating social demands such as criticism of inflation, scarcity and lack of basic services.
After some days of relative calm, on Saturday, March 22nd, demonstrations and clashes between government supporters and opposition forces resumed. This day of marches and counter-marches again led to riots and recorded numerous detainees and three deaths
The reasons for the protest range from demands on health, housing, and supplies of basic necessities, to claims about insecurity. However, these days of protest, apart from their verbalized reasons and their slogans limited in many cases, were a practical criticism and aimed at the destruction of symbols and institutions of the State and Capital. There were attacks against political parties headquarters, both from the opposition and pro-government. Attacks on the headquarters of state institutions and patrols of the Scientific, Judicial and Criminal Investigations Corps (the main state criminal investigation organ). In addition, there were raids on the Venetur Hotel (a state-owned property) and prolonged siege of the public television channel Compañía Anónima Venezolanade Televisión (VTV). In Táchira there were attacks against the headquarters of the Family Foundation, in the municipality of Chacao against the Banco Provincial and Banco Venezuela, and in Barquisimeto, at the headquarters of the Venezuelan National Telephone Company (CANTV).
None of these attacks is a guarantee against the possible codification of the protests towards the demand of partial reforms, but the mobilizations, the “guarimbas” (urban barricades) and attacks led by the proletariat of the Venezuelan region denounce with sticks and fury, once again, the inhumanity of Capital, its democratic facet and its parties, its media, its repressive wing and its strike forces. This and other revolts of we have been witnessing, occurring in different places and apparently for different reasons, although often ephemeral, have a connection of interests and struggle against exploitation, as the most human response against civilization, as a practical criticism against the law and order and its representatives, as a sample of the attempt to impose the human needs against those of the market and the capitalist social relations.
And as ever, when the carrot begins to rot… to use the stick approach is the only thing that remains. The armed wing of the State defends its unquestionable private property with imprisonment and torture. The repression by the GNB, the SEBIN and paramilitary groups succeeds in dissolving some protests at the same time as it unleashes others. The bluntly repression, detention and torture, the militarization of the city of Táchira, illegal searches, among others, have been the Venezuelan State’s preferred response to this series of attacks and riots, leaving 36 people dead, about 400 wounded and 1,600 detainees.
Now that the peroration of the popular power shows its true face, it is time to insist on the spontaneous nature of these revolts, and that beyond the slogans in which they are verbalized, they are ruptures of everyday life, a partial and incomplete expression of a class exhausted of living and dying in a suppressed way, a class alien to its humanity. The various forms in which these conditions are present in various States are but the various faces of our status as proletarians. To understand this is to understand that we are part of the same being, as we share the same miserable conditions of existence and we carry the capacity to put an end to this situation.
“If Socialism of the 21stCentury only wants to consolidate democracy, the market and nationalism, we should ask why to think it is about revolution? If it is only affirming those nauseating values in which we move every day. Both Correa with his citizen revolution and Chavez with the Bolivarian revolution do nothing more than showing us that capitalism changes its benevolent and popular image, but that it doesn’t abandon its essence of death.”
La Oveja Negra N° 15
[The Black Sheep]
(*) Translator’s note: the Spanish original version of this text proposes as a title (“El mito de la izquierda se cae de maduro”) a play on words which is untranslatable in English. Maduro is the name of Chavez’s successor at the head of the Venezuelan Nation-State but it means also “to be ripe”, “mature”.