Venezuelan revolution after Chavez’s demise
Hundreds of thousands of the Venezuelan masses poured onto the streets of Caracas and other cities, towns and villages of the country to mourn and pay tribute after the death of an icon who had championed the cause of the oppressed and the proletariat unforeseen in recent history. But the grief at Chavez’s demise was not restricted to Venezuela and Latin America. The shock of his death was palpable among the conscious workers and masses across the planet. The masses in the demonstration in Venezuela were chanting: “We are all Chavez” and “Chavez lives”. It is not accidental that there were jubilations in the bourgeois neighbourhoods of East Caracas and in Miami; the reactionary escaulidos were openly celebrating. The exuberance and glee of the imperialists, right-wingers and the ruling elites throughout the world was not concealable. Chavez, who had been fighting cancer for almost two years, died at a relatively young age of fifty eight. After fourteen years as president of Venezuela, the post for which he won several elections, he has left a legacy that will be a beacon of hope for generations of toilers and haunt the ruling classes and oppressors around the world.
Hugo Chavez, the son of a schoolteacher, was an army officer who tried to overthrow the regime of the vicious exploitative oligarchy in Venezuela through a military coup in 1992 that was unsuccessful. He was arrested and imprisoned. After his release he campaigned on a programme of the emancipation of the oppressed and won the election in 1998. At that time he was not a declared socialist but more of a revolutionary democrat. However, as Chavez tried to carry out the tasks of the national democratic, or the bourgeois revolution, and took measures to improve the lot of the Venezuelan masses, he was confronted by the Venezuelan bourgeois and imperialism. In April 2002 he was deposed by a military coup orchestrated by US imperialism and the Oligarchy. But within 48 hours that coup was defeated by a mighty upsurge of the Venezuelan masses and the young army officers and soldiers. Chavez was brought back to Caracas and reinstated as the President by the revolutionary upheaval of the toiling classes.
Without the abolition of capitalism a workers’ democratic state cannot be formed. There are lots of opportunist elements that enter the parties in power for perks and privileges from the state.
This was a turning point for Chavez and the Venezuelan revolution. He proclaimed that after the fall of the Soviet Union socialism was not dead and embarked on the path of twenty-first century socialism. Massive reforms were carried out that lifted vast numbers out of misery, poverty and squalor. Large sectors of industry, the economy and landed estates were nationalised, including imperialist monopolies and corporate capital interests. There was a torrential campaign by the bourgeois media internationally and Chavez was maligned as no other leader in the world by the intelligentsia and the corporate media serving the interests of capitalism. Chavez was rejecting the theories of the ‘end of history’ and ‘clash of civilizations’. He began espousing socialism and communism with a renewed verve that was spreading across Latin America and far beyond. This then combined with the new wave of class struggle that erupted on a world scale after the world capitalist crisis broke out in 2008.
Chavez initiated massive reforms for the oppressed classes that made substantial changes in the lives of the people. Health and education were made free and for all. Doctors appeared for the first time in every shanty town and village of the country. Poverty was reduced from 81 percent to 23 percent within a decade. The literacy rate shot up to 97 percent. Twenty two new public universities were built in this period. His first step was to nationalise the oil industry under the state oil company, PDVSA. This institution was responsible for funding the health sector directly. Twenty five thousand doctors were brought in from Cuba to facilitate the health sector. In return the oil supplies from Venezuela to Cuba were either free of cost or heavily subsidised. Women were granted an equal status in society and reforms were carried out in different sectors of society and the economy. These measures had revolutionary repercussions throughout Latin America with a left-wing swing that brought socialist leaders to power through elections in Bolivia, Ecuador and several other countries who embarked on a similar policy and programme as that of Chavez.
What is needed, are not sentimental speeches, but to put into practice the socialist programme that Chavez always advocated: the abolition of capitalism through the expropriation of the bankers, landlords and capitalists. This is the authentic legacy of Chavez. The revolution he started has to be completed.
However, capitalism was not totally abolished and much remained in private hands, and this gave a foothold to the oligarchy and the imperialists. These reactionary forces tried to sabotage the economy and the reforms. They raised prices, hoarded essential commodities creating artificial shortages and carried out disinvestment. This gave rise to growing social problems and to violent crime which was in many cases instigated by the agents of the oligarchy. But in every election and at every crucial juncture the masses came out in favour of Chavez and the revolution when it was threatened by the right-wing reaction and imperialism. The revolution has been in continuance for more than a decade. One of the main factors why this revolution has not achieved a decisive socialist victory is the lack of a Leninist revolutionary party, the necessary instrument for the proletarian vanguard for completing a victorious revolution. Although Chavez did create the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) from diverse left groupings, it was not a cadre organisation with unanimity of ideology and strategy. In any case a Bolshevik Leninist party cannot be created from above while one is already in state power. Without the abolition of capitalism a workers’ democratic state cannot be formed. There are lots of opportunist elements that enter the parties in power for perks and privileges from the state.
Elections will be held probably in thirty days. Chavez’s appointed successor and PSUV candidate Nicolas Maduro will most probably win. Maduro has promised to maintain Chavez’s “revolutionary, anti-imperialist and socialist legacy”. But the PSUV is not a homogeneous party and the imperialists will try to use the right-wing elements in the party to reverse the reforms and sabotage the revolution. The working class and the rank and file must ensure that this is not allowed to happen. What is needed, are not sentimental speeches, but to put into practice the socialist programme that Chavez always advocated: the abolition of capitalism through the expropriation of the bankers, landlords and capitalists. This is the authentic legacy of Chavez. The revolution he started has to be completed. The Marxist current in the PSUV will have to play a decisive role of leading this endeavour. It will generate a socialist revolutionary wave that will engulf Latin America with revolutionary repercussions far beyond.