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Venezuela and the fight for working-class power

By Sean Orr |
November 10, 2018
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President Nicolás Maduro.
President Nicolás Maduro. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Chicago, IL - On November 1, John Bolton gave perhaps the sharpest anti-communist speech by a U.S. National Security Advisor since the end of the Cold War. While celebrating the election of far-right thug Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil as a “positive sign” for South America, he condemned Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as “the Troika of Tyranny… the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere.” He declared that all peoples of Latin America should “look to the north, look to our flag” and that soon “the Troika will crumble, the people will triumph, and the righteous flame of freedom will burn brightly again in this hemisphere.”

American imperialists see these countries as an inexcusable threat to their dominance. They have tried a 60-year blockade of Cuba; a five-year regimen of sanctions, fascist violence and acts of sabotage against Venezuela; and just this year attempted to relaunch a civil war in Nicaragua through violent street blockades. They have failed in all their efforts. Of all these countries, Venezuela is most clearly in the crosshairs. It is pinned between two countries (Colombia and Brazil) whose presidents are committed to crushing the Bolivarian Revolution, even by military means. They are backed to the hilt by the Trump administration and the U.S. monopoly capitalist class.

Already, imperialism is in open economic war with the Venezuelan people. Five years of sanctions, acts of internal sabotage, global market volatility, and exploitations of structural economic weaknesses (dependence on natural resources exports to pay for food and consumer goods imports) have left the country devastated. Every year, productive levels drop and inflation soars. It is important to remember that, until the opening salvoes of economic war, the United States was Venezuela’s largest trading partner.

Yet every day, millions of workers and campesinos struggle. They rebuild their economy to meet the needs of the people. Miraculous efforts have been made. Millions of families are now provided free food by the Local Provision and Production Committees (CLAPs). Workplaces abandoned by capitalist firms have been seized by the workers and are now run by them through the state, communes, or workers’ productive councils (CPTs). Since their legalization earlier this year, nearly 1000 companies are now run by CPTs. In the countryside, unused or misused land is being seized by campesinos to grow corn, potatoes and whatever else is needed to stock the grocery shelves.

Their efforts do not happen in a vacuum, however. With every advance towards a new, sovereign economy, the imperialist noose tightens. Such pressure has led many Venezuelans to migrate to neighboring countries looking for economic opportunity. It is worth noting that many have returned home, victims of unemployment and discrimination, and more return every day.

Workers demand control

Yet, the Venezuelan workers advance. This past month, the Constituent Congress of the Working Class came to a close. It was convened by workers to determine their role in the new economy to be built. Workers assemblies across the country spent a month collectively debating and formulating proposals. President Maduro, chairing the closing assembly on October 11, declared that the Congress “is the one that, in the past 20 years of revolution, has formulated the most accurate and concrete proposals to take the path of building productive socialism.”

A ‘socialist business management’ model will be implemented across the economy via a step-by-step program, starting with six ‘micro-missions.’ Oil production in Zulia and a major refining complex in Falcón will be placed under worker control, along with the entire production chain of the aluminum, iron and steel industries. This includes Sidor, the largest steel mill in South America. One micro-mission will direct worker-run companies to produce milk and cereal, guaranteeing every child in school a free breakfast, while another will focus on the production and distribution of personal hygienic products, which until now have mostly been imported. In order to carry out these micro-missions, trade unionists and revolutionary workers will form Brigades for the Operation of Socialist Production (BOPs).

The decision to start this model in the oil and heavy metals industries, the pillars of the state-owned sector, is worth noting. These are historically critical industries for the Venezuelan economy and have been significantly harmed by the economic crisis. Their productive capacities are not where they should be. The Maduro government is putting its trust in the organized working class to renew these crucial productive forces and produce in the interests of the nation.

While oil and heavy industry facilities under worker control will face little opposition (except from corrupt local officials), food production and distribution is still dominated by Polar, a privately-owned monopoly. Control over food has allowed comprador capitalists to continue raising the price on grocery shelves, “the Right’s main tactic” in the economic war, according to the PSUV’s Julio Escalona. Worker control of milk and cereal production and distribution - even if in the interests of schoolchildren - will be seen as a threat to their interests.

On October 20, another gathering of workers came to a close: the 4th National Congress of the Communes. The communes are the leading edge of the revolutionary push in Venezuela, and among the many demands from the 4th Congress is a National Communal Parliament to replace the current National Assembly, with corresponding State and Local Communal Parliaments to take over legislative responsibilities.

A ‘communal state’ - the demand of all revolutionary groups in the Bolivarian movement - may yet come to fruition.

Class war in the countryside

In the western countryside, a stronghold of the comprador bourgeoisie where power is rooted in the land, class war rages. Here we find land seizures being organized by the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), which soared in prominence in the campesino movement since the leading role they played in the Admirable Campesino March over the summer. It is no wonder that since the March’s conclusion, communists find themselves at the top of the hit list for the large landowners’ thugs. On October 31, Luis Fajardo, a top organizer of the march and a Central Committee member of the PCV, was gunned down. The Party is mobilizing its resources to defend the campesinos now engaged in land seizures and is demanding that the national government bring the killers to justice.

Alongside the communists fighting the landlords, we see the long reach of Bogotá. The Colombian-Venezuelan border is not any kind of barrier - it is mostly unpopulated, undeveloped and wide open. Every day smugglers cross from Venezuela, and fascist paramilitaries cross from Colombia. The death squads that served the Colombian oligarchy in their war against the FARC now serve their Venezuelan counterparts in their war against the Bolivarian Revolution. Gun battles are not uncommon. On November 4, three Venezuelan soldiers were killed and a dozen injured by paramilitaries near the Colombian border. This open border is the greatest threat to the territory of the Bolivarian Republic and the gains of its people.

“We must advance”

This week, the Constituent National Assembly (ANC) announced that their draft of the new constitution is nearly complete. Much has happened in Venezuela in the 14 months since the ANC was first convened. The masses - workers, campesinos, communal activists - are in motion and will not turn back to a past of subservience to monopoly capital. In the words of Nicolás Maduro, addressing the delegates of the Constituent Congress of the Working Class, “If the enemy attacks, we will advance and advance and advance. No one can hold us back, neither today nor ever. We cannot accept being led astray or held back by imperialism. No, we must advance, and demonstrate that the Bolivarian project is the most just, humane and fitting project that has ever existed in Venezuela.”