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Venezuela: Faced with the petty-bourgeoisie thrust into street actions by the capitalist crisis, the proletariat needs its independent class organization and its revolutionary party!
During the past 3 weeks the reactionary petty-bourgeois opposition has mounted numerous demonstrations, most of which ended in violent clashes. The list of victims continues to increase: by the time this article was written, there have been 29 deaths, more than 600 wounded, and more than 1200 arrests.
The demonstrations began after a “parliamentary coup” (or “auto-coup” aimed at dismissing opposition parliamentarians) against the National Assembly, which was annulled after 2 days. Further weighing on the political climate was the judgment of ineligibility against the leader of the bourgeois opposition, Henrique Capriles, and repression against other opposition leaders, victims of aggression and intimidation by Chavist bands (The so-called “collectives”) and state security organs. It is certain that this was throwing oil on the fire.
To understand a little of this furious activity of the middle classes, we must go back to the year 2002 when they were used as mass to maneuver to try to topple Chavez. Subsequently things calmed down for a long time, thanks, no doubt, to the dizzying rise in oil prices which determined an economic upturn. But things began to deteriorate after the global economic crisis of 2008 (which resulted in a recession in Venezuela in 2009 and 2010), but especially since 2015 when, after Chavez's death, Maduro came to power.
THE PRICE OF “PARAYA” CHEESE INCREASED BY 21,563%!
It is obvious that Venezuela is experiencing an economic situation that is becoming more difficult every day: the economy contracted by 18% last year, the third successive year of recession. Unemployment is over 25%. There is also the problem of the shortage of common products – which is the premier factor in the inflation – causing them to disappear from official channels only to reappear on the black market where they can experience a price increase of up to 21,563 % of the official price. The minimum wage plus the Cestaticket (2) is 148,638 Bolivars, while the cost of living for an average family is estimated at 772,000 Bs (3). Inflation is responsible for this difference, totaling an increase of 440%. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.) has judged official figures to be not credible, and the opposition has called for humanitarian aid for the population...
Indeed, in parallel with the great demonstrations of the Democratico-Putschist opposition, some popular sectors have begun to mobilize against the Clap (ration card system set up to combat the lack of basic products), wherein they see only alms which fall far short of covering the food needs of the vast majority of those who receive this “benefit” (4).
THE ROOTS OF THE CRISIS
The economic crisis in Venezuela is a direct consequence of the international capitalist crisis; the global economic downturn has reduced the need for oil, resulting in a fall in its price: the price of a barrel which reached a high of 140 dollars in 2015 is now around 50 dollars. But oil is the preponderant resource of the country which holds the largest proven reserves on the planet: it accounts for 95% of exports and provides two-thirds of the State’s revenue. The efforts of OPEC (the cartel of oil producers, of which Venezuela is a founding member) have undoubtedly made it possible to raise the price significantly from 30 dollars, but this is completely insufficient to restore the country’s finances. According to an analysis by Deutsche Bank last year (5), the price of the barrel has to reach 200 dollars to balance Venezuela's finances!
This situation is not the result of fate, but rather the consequence of the vampirism of petroleum capitalism. Without any serious and real diversification towards other sectors (industry and agriculture), since Chavez’s time, it takes all resources and plunges the masses, including the petty bourgeoisie, into destitution, in order not to interrupt the flow of capital needed by the multinational oil company PDVSA: the supposedly staunch anti-imperialist Chavista leaders (6), give absolute priority to the payment of the debt to the international financial community in order to continue to obtain credits to maintain and develop the oil industry: the populace must be starved to feed the capitalist monster!
CLEAR AS MUD?
Apart from the motives and goals already mentioned of this movement which has vowed to occupy the streets “until the fall of the tyranny” (sic!), the program of the MUD (“Democratic Unity Table” – an alliance of opposition groups and parties), is practically unknown. The President of Parliament Allup and the economist Guerra, who are both members of the MUD, have simply said that there will be a major transition to a process of measures and policies that are totally opposed to those of the current government. This does not bode well for the great mass of workers and even for the middle classes who support the MUD but who will inevitably be gobbled up by it! In a word, it will be necessary to ever keep tightening the belt and the first thing they will do is to liquidate the already timid social measures implemented in the Chavist period and which were financed solely by the high price of oil. Another opposition economist says: “we must give more freedom to the entrepreneur and the employer to adjust the length of the working day” ... this is a bare-faced “neo-liberal” program, using the measures necessary to capitalism in times of crisis, without attempting to modify its laws as the “brains” of Chavism claimed to do.
THE MIDDLE CLASSES THRUST INTO THE PROCRUSTEAN BED
Although it is a class or a half-class with certain means of living and production, at the present moment the petty-bourgeoisie is caught like a specimen in pincers, squeezed between the two fundamental classes of the capitalist system, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In this period of crisis, it is afraid of being precipitated, even more than the proletariat itself, downward to the lowest levels of the social pyramid, eventually tumbling into the lumpen-proletariat. It is prepared to lend itself to any fascist-type adventure when faced with the threat of proletarianization. It revolts against the blows that capitalism inflicts on it, but there is no doubt that at any moment it may turn against the proletariat, which is also under attack. Marx said in The Manifesto that the middle classes are reactionary and that it is only by abandoning their actual class interests that they can become revolutionary.
In the French revolution the petty-bourgeois were revolutionaries when aligned with the proletariat against the monarchy, but then they immediately betrayed and countenanced the massacre of the proletarians. In the Russian Revolution they were revolutionaries against Tsarist absolutism, to which the Kerensky government remained faithful, but after October they became reactionaries. In a bourgeois (or semi-bourgeois) revolution as in Russia, they can play a decisive revolutionary role in spite of their congenital instability. But under the capitalist regime their conservative tendencies are much more pronounced. Trotsky writes that “the petty bourgeoisie is economically dependent and politically atomized. That is why it cannot have its own policy. It needs a ‘Chief’ who inspires confidence. This individual or collective leader (that is to say, an individual or a party) can be provided by one or other of the two fundamental classes, either by the great bourgeoisie or by the proletariat” (7). It’s well known that the heads of the MUD belong to the most notable and wealthy families of Venezuela...
If the proletariat has the strength to struggle against capitalism, if it succeeds in organizing itself firmly on independent class bases, it can attract at least certain fractions of the petty bourgeoisie against the bourgeois order. But if the proletariat does not have this strength and if, on the contrary, it merges into an interclassist movement, the petty-bourgeois classes will inevitably turn to the big bourgeoisie who will also inevitably use them against the proletariat.
The present great manifestations must not provoke illusions. It would be disastrous for the proletarians to tail the movement of the middle classes of the country. The proletariat has no alternative but to organize itself independently of the escualidos (the “dirty” as the partisans of the bourgeois right are called) and the Chavists. Its organization must be a class organization for the exclusive defense of its class interests: it is the only possibility for extracting certain petty-bourgeois strata away from capitalism and neutralizing others. Otherwise it is the old or new bourgeoisie of Venezuela which will impose its interests as the exploiting class even at a time of crisis, the burden of the solution of which only the proletarians will bear, meaning – today under Chavism and tomorrow, perhaps under an “escualido” regime: hunger, misery, exploitation!
It follows then:
No alliance tailing behind the petty-bourgeois in the name of the defense of the country or of democracy, which is only a way of disguising the interests of the dominant bourgeoisie, an alliance that would be nothing but the pathway to an assured massacre, but rather reconstitution of the international and internationalist proletarian class party to lead the struggle against national and international capitalism!
(1) The Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) estimates that the country's economy will fall by 7.2%, an estimate close to that published last week by the IMF: -7.4%.
(2) The cestaticket (food voucher), is a salary supplement intended solely for food; currently the Cestaticket has a value far higher than the value of the minimum wage. The vast majority of those who qualify are either unemployed or small traders (kiosk operators, street vendors, shopkeepers, etc.). But behind this function there is another: to reduce the percentage of benefits and remuneration to be taken into account for the calculation of pensions, etc.
(3) According to the Centro de Documentación y Analisis of the Venezuelan Federation of Teachers (Cendas-FVM), this cost had 1,068,643 Bs in March, an increase of 15% compared to the previous month!
(4) The Clap (Local Distribution and Production Committee) is a system organized in the popular districts for the distribution, by apartment, of baskets containing basic necessities: a small help received every 15, 20 or 30 days to compensate for shortages. Its impact is more a matter of propaganda than of effective and sustainable action. However, right now, it has a fairly large impact, affecting 3 million inhabitants (the government doubles this figure) of lower-income neighborhoods.
(6) An official document from the recently published Federal Electoral Commission (FEC) indicates that the Citgo donated $ 500,000 to Donald Trump's Inaugural Presidential Committee. See http://docquery.fec.gov/pdf/286/201704180300150286/201704180300150286.pdf.
An organization linked to the Democratic Party (USA) considered this gift from a foreign country illegal and filed a complaint. “The Citgo is a subsidiary of PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company; It has more than 6000 petrol stations (...) 3 refineries and more than 48 terminals of deposit and distribution” in the United States. See https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citgo
If proof were needed of the demagogic character of the anti-imperialist propaganda of the Chavist leaders, this is one of the clearest (among many others)!
(7) See Trotsky “Whither France?”, October 1934.
International Communist Party
April, 29th 2017
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