Party for Socialism and Liberation Statement on the Venezuelan Election

PSL statement posted to Liberation News:

The outcome of the December 6, 2015 National Assembly elections in Venezuela is a major victory for the right-wing forces of counter-revolution and U.S. imperialism, and a severe blow to the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the Left in Latin America.

But it is not a historic defeat of the Left in the sense of the 1973 Pinochet/CIA coup in Chile or Hitler’s 1933 rise to power in Germany. In those and other counter-revolutions, the communist and socialist parties, labor unions and all progressive forces were crushed.

Despite its electoral defeat – in the midst of a severe economic crisis — the PSUV retains a strong mass base, the presidency and other important government positions on both national and state levels, and considerable support in the armed forces.

As of December 7, the opposition coalition, the “Democratic United Roundtable” (MUD) had reportedly won 99 of 167 seats in the National Assembly to 46 for the PSUV, with 22 to be decided. More than 50 national and regional parties belong to the MUD – including several with “socialism” or “green” in their names — but it is dominated by the COPEI (Christian democrats) and Acción Democratica (social democrats) the two historically dominant parties of the Venezuelan capitalist and upper middle classes. The MUD leaders have made it clear that they intend to overturn many of the social gains of the Bolivarian Revolution.

If the MUD wins at least 111 seats, it would be in a position to re-write the progressive Constitution approved by more than 78 percent of voters in 1999, and push for a referendum in 2016 to remove President Nicolás Maduro of the PSUV from office.

Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president in 2013, following the late leader’s tragic death. Chávez first took office in 1999 and was the initiator of the Bolivarian Revolution that dramatically improved life for millions of poor people inside the country and elevated the anti-imperialist struggle in Latin America.

In his speech following the December 6 election, Maduro pledged to continue the struggle. “The opposition hasn’t won, a counterrevolution has won . . . We have lost a battle today but the fight for a new socialism has barely begun,” said Maduro. “We see this as a slap to wake us up to act . . . We lost a battle, but the struggle for socialism and a new society begins now . . . It is time for a rebirth.”

Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly, and First Vice-president of PSUV, said in statement:

“Pain and sorrow was losing our Eternal Commander [Chávez]. Losing the election was simply a stumble. We must learn from the errors and move forward . . . In difficult times we raise the flags of Bolivar and Chavez to learn from them. We are unconquerable Bolivarians and Chavistas.”

In a message to Maduro, Cuban President Raúl Castro wrote, “I am sure there are new victories to come for the Bolivarian and Chavista Revolution under your leadership. We will always be with you.”

The Bolivarian Revolution and its impact

The outcome of the struggle in Venezuela has great importance for all of Latin America, which is why the U.S., long the dominant power in the region, has been pulling out all stops in its campaign to bring down the PSUV government.

In 2004, Chavez and Cuban President Fidel Castro announced the launching of the Bolivarian Alliance for Latin America, which promoted coordination in economy, social development, culture, science and more between their two countries. In the years that followed, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and several of the Caribbean island states joined. Governments oriented toward independent development in Latin America were elected in Brazil, Argentina and more.

These developments were viewed in Washington as a dire threat to U.S. hegemony over the region. The Obama administration has worked long and hard to undermine progressive and socialist governments and the Left in general across the region. The U.S. has supported the recent election of the right-wing, pro-imperialist Macri in Argentina — after months of destabilizing campaigns which weakened President Cristina Fernández’s presidency — and the move to impeach Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party in Brazil as part of this effort.

The State Department, the so-called National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. agencies have sent tens of millions of dollars and other forms of assistance to build up and organize the opposition in Venezuela. The U.S. has also imposed economic sanctions that have exacerbated the economic crisis in the country.

Venezuela has the largest-known oil reserves of any country in the world, and oil accounts for 95 percent of the country’s exports. Before Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution, U.S. and British oil companies reaped enormous profits with minimal royalties paid to Venezuela. Meanwhile, 80 percent of the people lived in poverty.

That all changed under the Bolivarian revolutionary government. Oil revenues were used to fund a vast array of social program, including nutrition, housing, healthcare, employment, education, literacy, childcare and more. Extreme poverty was reduced from 21 percent to 5 percent.

The drastic drop in world oil prices from over $130 to under $40 per barrel, something over which the government had no control, was a fundamental cause of Venezuela’s economic crisis and soaring inflation. Hardest hit were the poor and recently poor who had been the main beneficiaries and supporters of the Bolivarian revolutionary process, causing significant demoralization and demobilization among the Chavista base.

Another key factor in the inflationary crisis was the hoarding of consumer goods, massive currency theft and flight of capital engaged in by the biggest corporate enterprises in the country.

Socialism and revolution in Venezuela

The capitalist media and politicians in the U.S. commonly and falsely refer to Maduro, as they did to Chavez before him, as a “dictator,” despite the fact that this was the 20th national election – counting presidential, legislative, constitutional and referendum elections — in the country in the past 17 years. Most of the media remains in the hands of the right-wing, and played a key role in the MUD victory.

In fact, what is most needed in Venezuela is the rule of the working class; in Marxist terms, the dictatorship of the proletariat. In Venezuela, the progressive and pro-socialist forces of Chavismo hold the reins of government and have a strong influence in the military, but the power of the Venezuelan capitalist class has not been defeated. There is a kind of dual power in the country, two competing centers of power that represent opposing class interests.

Contrary to capitalist propaganda, the dictatorship of the proletariat — or to put it in another way, workers’ democracy — is the most democratic form of class rule because it represents the interests of the vast majority of society. Here in the supposedly “democratic” USA, we live under the dictatorship of the big capitalists — a tiny minority — who own all the productive wealth and decide what to do with it in their interests, not ours. Accompanying their economic power is an increasingly repressive state and mass incarceration.

The Bolivarian Revolution has been a great step forward for the people of Venezuela, Cuba and all of Latin America. The leaders have announced their intention to build a socialist society. We fully support them.

But the only way that the working class can actually take power is through a socialist revolution that “expropriates the expropriators” – that seizes the factories, banks, natural resources, means of distribution, and so on, most of which is in the hands of a tiny minority, the capitalist class. Such a revolution would break up the old state apparatus and fully consolidate power. A thoroughgoing socialist revolution is the only way that the productive wealth of society can be used to meet the needs of the people rather than enriching the few.

The leadership of the Bolivarian Revolution has had to function under the real conditions at hand. They have made great advances and contributions. It seems clear that neither Maduro, nor Chavez before him, believed that the requisite conditions had yet come into existence for carrying out such a revolution.

A socialist revolution cannot take place without society entering into a revolutionary situation or crisis, and revolutionary crises cannot be wished into being. They occur outside the control of either the ruling class or revolutionaries.

The Russian revolutionary leader Lenin described the conditions that bring about a revolutionary situation in a famous 1915 pamphlet, “The Collapse of the Second International.”

“(1) When it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the “upper classes,” a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth. For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for “the lower classes not to want” to live in the old way; it is also necessary that “the upper classes should be unable” to live in the old way; (2) When the suffering and want of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual; (3) when, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses…”

There have been many revolutionary situations in history that did not result in a socialist revolution succeeding, but there are no instances of such a revolution taking place where societies have not entered into an acute crisis.

“It is not every revolutionary situation that gives rise to a revolution; revolution arises only out of a situation in which the above-mentioned objective changes are accompanied by a subjective change,” Lenin wrote, “namely, the ability of the revolutionary class to take revolutionary mass action strong enough to break (or dislocate) the old government, which never, not even in a period of crisis, “falls,” if it is not toppled over.”

It is entirely possible that in the coming period the newly ascendant right-wing — which includes fascist elements — could, in its rabid desire to dismantle the Bolivarian Revolution, over-reach and engender a mass militant response. It would not be the first time in history that the “lash of the counter-revolution” drove a revolution forward.

The struggle over the future of Venezuela is now entering a new and entirely unpredictable phase, the outcome of which will be of tremendous importance for Venezuela, Latin America and the world. All those who stand for revolutionary internationalism must stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan revolutionaries at this critical time.

18 thoughts on “Party for Socialism and Liberation Statement on the Venezuelan Election

  1. Andy Craig

    Making excuses for the Chavista gang of kleptocratic thugs, is a good litmus test for those on the left who are principled and believe in civil liberties and free elections, vs. those who are going to ra-ra cheer-lead any dictatorship that positions itself as being on their “side.”

    I also refuse to call the Venezuelan national-socialists “Bolivarian” — which is sullying the name of a man who earned his rightful place in history (faults and all), associating him with a bloodthirsty ideology he had nothing to do with. It would be like if PSL re-branded itself as “Washingtonian,” or the American Nazi Party calling itself “Jeffersonian.” There is nothing Bolivarian about Chavismo.

  2. Dave

    “Despite its electoral defeat – in the midst of a severe economic crisis — the PSUV retains a strong mass base…and considerable support in the armed forces.”

    Wink wink, nudge nudge.

    But yes, when you can’t even buy toilet paper in the worker’s parade, little wonder the government was unpopular. Irregardless of ideology, Maduro just seems grossly inept.

  3. Cody Quirk

    “PSL are Nazis?”

    On the level of extremism and collectivism, yes. Only difference is that they focus on class instead of race.

    Same goes for communism in general.

  4. Green_w_o_Adjectives

    Wow, big surprise. Libertarians take the side of the global corporate empire and rehash the stereotypes of the lackey corporate media against the Venezuelan people and the Bolivarian revolution. We can’t have people controlling their own lives and their own economy…that would be communism…we need corporate/bankster control of all facets of life…that is freedom!

    Fortunately, young people are no longer interested in the (manifestly statist, elitist and pro-empire) Libertarian con game.

    For the record I don’t like price controls BUT I do wholeheartedly support Venezuelan experiments in co-operative and ecologically sane economic practices as well as economic practices whereby entire commodity production is done locally by communities who own and control their own means of production. This is the real Bolivarian revolution–the emphasis on price controls is merely Western media manipulation and neglects the obvious truth that if people didn’t get better prices by waiting in these lines, then they wouldn’t be waiting in those lines, but would simply buy stuff from other merchants.

  5. ATBAFT

    “whereby entire commodity production is done locally by communities who own and control their own means of production. ”

    Sounds cool. Is there some law preventing Venezuelans (or even New Yorkers or
    Peorians) from doing this voluntarily in their own communities to see how or if it would work?
    If there is such a law, I’m sure most libertarians would join you in seeking its repeal.

  6. Dave

    It seems to me like the Venezuelan people just voted for the “corporate/banker coalition.” By a pretty large margin, in fact.

    Clearly they are counter revolutionaries who fail to understand the glories of the worker’s paradise. Perhaps the Bolivarian’s “considerable support amongst the armed forces” can help defend the people’s revolution from the people’s stubbornness.

    In all seriousness, I don’t deny that Chavez was a skilled politician who was very popular during parts of his tenure. But his successor lacks most of his showmanship and general competence, and with oil so low a lot of weaknesses that the government was previously able to paper over are now becoming apparent.

    I will give credit to the government for allowing elections to take place, however. A lot of right-wingers were convinced they would be canceled or rigged, and we’ve seen that that’s not the case. That’s more than Cuba allows, which has been run by the same dynasty for going on 60 years now.

  7. Gene Berkman

    Socialism in Venezuela was able to survive under el Maximo Lider Chavez because Bush’s war on Iraq disrupted the world oil market and led to much higher prices for Venezuela’s oil exports. Russia & Iran both benefitted from high oil prices also.

    With the drawdown of troops in Iraq under President Obama the oil market has normalize, American production has gone up, and the price of oil is way down. The result is that the government of Venezuela no longer has the wealth needed to subsidize its domestic programs and its foreign aid to other left wing governments and revolutionary groups. That is what has led to the collapse of the Venezuelan economy.

    The opposition won because “it’s the economy, stupid.”

  8. Andy Craig

    “A lot of right-wingers were convinced they would be canceled or rigged, and we’ve seen that that’s not the case.”

    It wasn’t for lack of trying.

  9. Green_w_o_Adjectives

    “Sounds cool. Is there some law preventing Venezuelans (or even New Yorkers or
    Peorians) from doing this voluntarily in their own communities to see how or if it would work?
    If there is such a law, I’m sure most libertarians would join you in seeking its repeal.”

    What mitigates against it is 1) the capitalist legal/economic order, where money buys law and 2) the concentration of capital in the hands of a wealthy elite, which is essentially the long term result of #1.

    As Benjamin Tucker noted in 1926,

    “The four monopolies, unhindered, have made possible the modern development of the trust, and the trust is now a monster which I fear, even the freest banking, could it be instituted, would be unable to destroy. As long as the Standard Oil group controlled only fifty millions of dollars, the institution of free competition would have crippled it hopelessly; it needed the money monopoly for its sustenance and its growth. Now that it controls, directly and indirectly, perhaps ten thousand millions, it sees in the money monopoly a convenience, to be sure, but no longer a necessity. It can do without it. Were all restrictions upon banking to be removed, concentrated capital could meet successfully the new situation by setting aside annually for sacrifice a sum that would remove every competitor from the field.
    SSA.39 If this be true, then monopoly, which can be controlled permanently only for economic forces, has passed for the moment beyond their reach, and must be grappled with for a time solely by forces political or revolutionary. Until measures of forcible confiscation, through the State or in defiance of it, shall have abolished the concentrations that monopoly has created, the economic solution proposed by Anarchism and outlined in the forgoing pages – and there is no other solution – will remain a thing to be taught to the rising generation, that conditions may be favorable to its application after the great leveling.”

    In other words, the wealthy interests that control the productive process are so powerful, and so in command of the state apparatus, that American communities seeking to establish self-managed production (that could engage in mutual trade networks free of interference from capitalists they object to on ethical grounds),would need as a prerequisite not only the undoing of the capitalist legal order, but also the ownership of starting capital of their own (which might be furnished by taxing the wealth of the rich to form democratically managed credit unions). As it stands, in capitalism people can form cooperative enterprises, but their chances of succeeding against entrenched capital with deep pockets and state backing are slim. In addition, the capitalist legal/economic order does not incentivize ethical economics or ethical business practices either, which means that in order to compete with capitalists, cooperatives must often abandon the principles they start with, as the market conditions their behavior over time.

    What the Chavistas were trying to do was foster economic independence by establishing cooperative networks that could meet people’s needs independent of the globalist economic order. Triumphalism over the setback/defeat of the project seems like an odd position to take for people ostensibly in support of liberty and economic autonomy and opposed to the global imperial project. Yet in reality, there are many ideological affinities between the neo-liberalism of the imperialists and big-L Libertarianism in North America.

  10. Andy Craig

    …and Chavez would have gotten away with it too, if not for those meddling capitalists!

    Funny how that same excuse is offered every single time socialists wreck and impoverish a country and destroy civil liberties. The Stalinists were obsessed with “sabotage” and “spies,” too, but you also see the same excuse in Castro’s Cuba and Kim’s North Korea, and just about every other authoritarian hellhole. Chavez/Maduro were reading from a very well-worn playbook.

    But it’s OK, I’m sure the next country they move on to they’ll finally produce the New Soviet Man who can go back to Stone Age hyper-local trade-free hunter-gatherer autarky, without also going back to Stone Age standards of living. One of these days it’ll work…. and they’ll be unlimited free toilet paper for all and a chicken in every pot.

  11. paulie

    Reminder to everyone, save copies of your comments, we will be doing system rollback to 1:25 am on 12/8, which will erase all articles and comments made since then. I have the ones through 9:25 am today saved.

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