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Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution’s fight for people’s power

Analysis by Edward C. Tolentino and Jim Byrne |
October 29, 2016
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Tucson, AZ - Since Nicolás Maduro became president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in 2013, the right-wing opposition has been fixated on overthrowing his government. The opposition has never recognized neither the constitution nor the legitimacy of the revolutionary government of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

What is the opposition trying to do?

The opposition is attempting to reverse a revolutionary process nearly 20 years in the making. With the assistance of their U.S imperialist partners, the opposition is using any methods necessary to create chaos, destabilize the country and call for U.S. intervention resulting in yet another 'regime change.' The variety of methods include: violent and murderous anti-government street barricades known in Venezuela as Guarimbas, hoarding food and necessities, price gouging, and coordinating with international mass media to slander President Maduro, the PSUV, and the national democratic revolution.

At an anti-government demonstration on Oct. 26 gun shots came out of the mob killing a police officer. These confrontations have the purpose of provoking police into a violent confrontation to be spread throughout the media to sway opinion that Maduro and the PSUV are unfit to democratically rule.

Having achieved significant improvements through their national democratic revolution, the Bolivarian Revolution faces a serious economic situation. Since the capitalist class still possesses great control over national production, distribution and import of goods, this economic situation is both a profitable one for capitalists and a political advantage. The U.S.-allied opposition wants to use their private ownership to punish the people by applying practices like hoarding basic goods and creating fictitious shortages, contraband, inducing inflation of prices. This amounts to economic sabotage with the goal of provoking social unrest.

2016 referendum

Having won a parliamentary majority for the first time in 17 years, the right-wing politicians grouped in the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) have determined the time had come to finally overthrow Maduro and with him all the gains of the revolution. Nevertheless, three representatives from the state of Amazona were placed under temporary suspension and prohibited from fulfilling their duties by the Supreme Tribunal Council (Supreme Court), due to investigations of electoral fraud. Not surprisingly, the opposition rejected the sentencing and had the representatives sworn in parliament. By failing to comply with a Supreme Justice ruling, this right-wing bourgeois parliament was declared, almost from its inception, in legal contempt and therefore all its actions were void and without legal authority.

For the rest of the 2016 year, this illegitimate parliament began to pass regressive laws that were deemed unconstitutional, not only because they sought to dismantle the social achievements of the revolutionary government, but because all acts by parliament had already been declared void by the Supreme Justice. Some examples of such laws were privatizing public housing, reforming organic labor and telecommunication laws, amnesty laws amongst others.

Despite a unified goal of removing Maduro, the right-wing politicians failed to initiate a recall referendum process as early as January 2016 because of internal divisions. The opposition, with no popular base, is ineffective politically because it is divided by self-interest and opportunism. They waited until May 2016 to finally request the National Electoral Council (CNE) begin the process. Important to mention is the fact that the CNE had announced that given the constitutional timeline the recall referendum would not happen until 2017, a decision not convenient for the opposition, since the constitution states that if a referendum is held after the president has already begun the last two years of his term, his vice-president would simply finish his mandate, and there would not be new elections as the opposition desires.

The constitutional referendum process is divided by three stages: First, the soliciting party must obtain signatures of 1% of the electorate. Second, after those signatures collected have been confirmed and validated by the CNE, they then must gather signatures from 20% of the electorate from each of the country’s 24 states, after which the CNE would then set a date for the recall referendum electoral process.

Once again the opposition failed to follow the simplest democratic procedures, proving the revolutionary government’s position that they fundamentally were not pursuing a referendum process, but instead sought only to mobilize the masses through deceit and advance their agenda of a parliamentary coup.

For the first stage, the opposition gathered 1.9 million signatures. Nevertheless, after the verification process, the CNE determined that 600,000 signatures were deemed inadmissible and fraudulent. These fraudulent signatures included deceased persons, minors, felons, and even stolen information from individuals who support the revolutionary process.

The second stage for signature gathering was originally dated for Oct. 26, 27 and 28 of 2016, but on Oct. 20 five state courts issued injunctions suspending the signature gathering in each of their respective states due to fraud. Following this legal ruling, the CNE moved to temporarily suspend the second stage of signature gathering and therefore the referendum process.

As is their unconstitutional custom, the MUD rejected both the court’s ruling as well as the suspension of the referendum process, calling for massive mobilization on the previous established dates. Furthermore, on Oct. 23 the right-wing opposition moved unilaterally towards impeaching Nicolás Maduro as president of the Bolivarian Republic through parliamentary decree, a move that was challenged by a spontaneous popular mobilization of the revolutionary masses, who stormed the parliament and interrupted the session.

It is extremely important to highlight that given the Supreme Court’s ruling recognizing the illegality of the National Assembly, president Nicolás Maduro who was unable to present the 2017 state budget to the parliament, had the patriotic congress of people’s power debate and approve the budget. This new budget will invest over 70% of its revenues to social programs in strategic areas such as health, education, housing, public transportation and the people’s communal councils.

As the class struggle continues to sharpen in Venezuela, president Nicolás Maduro has called for a dialogue between the PSUV and the MUD, seeking to avoid violent confrontations between both social forces. On the other hand, the MUD is rejecting all forms of dialogue and is committed to overthrowing the revolutionary government. They assert their intentions are for the National Assembly to impeach Maduro on Nov. 3 and have called for massive right-wing mobilization towards the capitol. In addition, they will approach the Organization of American States once again in hopes the Democratic Charter is applied against Venezuela. This level of political maneuvering by the political representatives of the bourgeoisie is considered treason under Venezuelan constitutional law.

What instruments of power are available to the revolutionary masses to thwart this?

The Venezuelan masses are mobilizing constantly to repel the attacks of the opposition, defend the gains of the revolution, and advance the revolutionary process in a socialist direction. There are several instruments available to them to achieve these goals. They have popular mass organizations that mobilize demonstrations that rally support for President Maduro. For example, with the threat of another overthrow, tens of thousands of supporters have surrounded the presidential palace the past two days to protect Maduro from the right wing. The other day, revolutionary militants even had to save a monument of the deceased President Hugo Chavez from being destroyed by the opposition.

For the working class, trade unions serve to battle private employers and advance the class struggle. At the governmental level, there are branches that are clearly in support of the popularly created Constitution. The executive branch led by Maduro, the Armed Forces, the judiciary, and the Electoral Council have all blocked the opposition’s attempt to undermine the constitution and the sovereignty of the country. There are also government created or supported organizations such as Peasant Militias, Popular Street Assemblies, local food distribution committees (CLAPs), and, most recently, 750 committees of workers to inspect the industrial operations in agriculture and pharmaceuticals, and countless others. It is important to recognize that all of these organizations have been created to address a serious social need, economic crisis, or political obstacle.

Each time the Bolivarian Revolution has encountered a challenge, internal or external, it has risen to meet and overcome it. We must have full confidence in the revolutionary masses to meet this latest attack by the opposition and the economic war by the comprador capitalist class.