Venezuela, who is to blame?

Since the death of Hugo Chavez, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is in a state of turmoil. Protests, demonstrations and violent crackdowns are more or less common now. The leftist government of Nicolas Maduro was elected after the death of Chavez, who ruled Venezuela from 1999 until 2013. Hugo Chavez was a leftist populist who mixed Venezuelan nationalism with classic social democracy. Although anti-capitalist in his speeches, Chavez never abolished capitalism and led a movement to genuine democratic socialism. The government of Venezuela remains based on the same bourgeois principals as it always has been. The reactionary right-wing however tries to sabotage the economy, which in part led to shortages and empty stores. However the bureaucratic government is also responsible for the shortage, because of their own corruption and top-down control of state-enterprises!

The problem with Venezuela’s government is that is lacks socialism in almost every way. Although Chavez and Maduro cried that they are socialists this is not true. Some industries were nationalized under Chavez, but the majority of the economy is still owned by capitalists. The private sector is controlling the flow of goods and it is this private sector that has tried to sabotage the economy for two years. Why? Because the capitalists do not like the progressive nature of the government. Venezuela’s ruling class has always been anti-worker, anti-leftist and anti-socialist. Until 1999, political power was centralized in the hands of pro-capitalist parties. With support from the ( pro-capitalist ) media, they won all elections!

But in 1999 a former army officer named Hugo Chavez won the presidential elections, on a leftist populist program. While not revoluti onary socialist, Chavez promised to end the huge inequality. His Fifth Republican Movement was able to secure a full majority during the parliamentary elections in 2005, shocking the establishment to the core. Reactionary army officers had tried to remove Chavez by force in 2002. This coup was supported by the USA and all private media outlets. But thanks to massive mobilizations of workers and poor people, Hugo Chavez triumphed over the reactionary officers and was re-installed as president. Although the capitalist media branded him a ”communist” and a ”danger to democracy”, the populist president won every election and remained popular with the poor. This irritated the ruling class who bullied him and his government through their television networks. There are over seven television stations in Venezuela and they all opposed Chavez. Only the state owned network supported the president!

However revolutionary socialists are not win-out criticism of Hugo Chavez’s legacy. Although he was a progressive president, Chavez ruled authoritarian and favored a top-down model of government. This top-down system he ( wrongfully ) called socialism or bolivarianism, named after Simon Boliviar who he worshiped as a god. Chavez supporters have called it Chavismo, a mixture of socialism, left-wing populism, patriotism, internationalism, feminism, green politics and Caribbean and Latin American integration. But one of the enormous contradictions of this Chavismo is that it speaks of socialism and that Venezuela is socialist, but yet maintains capitalism and all the distortions and contradictions it brings. Also political and economic corruption are huge and have only grown under Chavez as he expanded the role of the state bureaucracy!

Not all supporters of the government are part of the working class of the poor. Opportunistic state-bureaucrats and some elements of the ruling class have allied with the government. These ”patriotic” capitalists claim to loyal to the ”Bolivarian Revolution” but in reality only serve their own greedy needs. Another group who is corrupt and greedy are some generals of the Armed Forces. Venezuela’s army has been a pole of corruption and abuse of power. Under the capitalist governments before Chavez, the top generals profited from this corruption. Hugo Chavez did not changed this as many elements of the army participate in smuggling of goods. It is estimated that 40% of all food is smuggled through Colombia into Venezuela with support from military officials!

There is a huge black market active, controlled by mafia organisations. They profit from the shortage economy and get rich over the back of millions of poor people. Meanwhile the government tries to criminalize street people who are known as ”buhoneros” in Venezuela, selling food, clothing and other goods. 42% of all workers belong to these ”buhoneros” and are now criminalized by a panicking government that cannot control the problems. Meanwhile the mafia organisations and the corrupt military officials are not targeted!

Finally you have the private sector itself who refuses to sell basic products unless the government stops price controls. By keeping products back, the capitalists try to force the government to deal with ”market” demands as they claim. Although price controls are active, regulations proofs to be very difficult as most private shops are not obeying the law. This is why state owned supermarkets have been created that offer basic goods at regulated prices. Although welcomed by workers and poor people these state supermarkets are too few in numbers. Also they do not have enough products for all. This is why shortages are seen in supermarkets as most people buy as many things as they can, fearing another shortage!

The problems facing Venezuela are huge. 95% of all incomes are generated through the selling of oil. If the oil prices drop then less money is made. Venezuela depends fully on the selling of oil and this is a major weakness. Before the rise of Hugo Chavez, the oil profits were enough to keep a small minority wealthy and happy. However millions of poor people depend on social programs who are paid by the profits generated from oil. There is little motivation to diversify the economy by the Maduro government. This is because far to many people inside the state bureaucracy profit from the corrupt system. Inefficiency and top-down management has led to disillusionment and rejecting by workers, which on the political spectrum strengthens the reactionary parties. They now speak in social democratic language to attract working class voters.

The on-going absurdity of the government supplying the parasitic ruling class with billions dollars while the majority of the population, being the working class and poor, continue to struggle to make ends meet must stop. But the only way it, along with all the other contradictions, will stop is through the conscious revolutionary struggle of the working class and the poor organised and armed with a revolutionary program for socialism!

Revolutionary socialists therefore call for;

• An immediate freezing of prices on all food and goods of necessity.

• The stamping of prices on all food, medical and other goods of basic necessity.

• An audit, carried out by the organs of popular power (the community councils, the communes etc), of all private companies that have received dollars from the government. That they be held to account for every dollar they’ve received. End the corruption that continues to impoverish the working class and poor.

• Implementation of progressive taxation and tax on luxury items. For an end to IVA (goods and sales tax) on foods and medicines.

• All power and independence to the community councils and communes (organs of popular power), without bureaucratic interference, to organise and monitor the distribution and sale of foods and other necessities in their community.

• For a planned economy organised by the committees of popular power where the real needs of society, and not the needs of the parasitic capitalist class, can be addressed. Such a plan must be developed under a perspective of sustainable growth and conservation of the environment.

• Nationalisation, under the democratic control of workers, of all importations and exportations of trade nationally and internationally, to end speculation and the flight of capital. This measure has been partially adopted by the government recently with the creation of Cencoex, but this institute continues to be controlled by the bureaucracy without any type of control or participation from below.

• Nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy- not one more cent to the ruling class!


A woman picks up groceries at a supermarket in Caracas

Shortages, a result of government inefficiency, corruption, mismanagement and sabotage by the capitalists!