Revolutionary Progression and Counter-Revolutionary Regression
On January 5, 2016 a new National Assembly took office in Venezuela. For the first time since the election of the late Comandante Hugo Chavez in 1999, the National Assembly is made up by a majority of counter-revolutionary right-wing politicians who are against the government of the Bolivarian Revolution and President Nicolas Maduro. However, although this new political landscape has brought with it new challenges for the Bolivarian Revolution, it does not mean that the Bolivarian Revolution, and with it the tremendous gains made by poor and working people in Venezuela is over, not by any definition of the word.
In the 17 years of the Bolivarian Revolution, the capitalist class in Venezuela and their imperialist allies have never once abandoned their campaign to overthrow the revolution. Their acts of economic sabotage, violence, coup d'etad and outright violations of the laws, constitution and sovereignty of Venezuela have only increased since the death of Comandante Chavez in 2013. These attacks intensified especially in the months leading up to the National Assembly elections this past December.
In this atmosphere it is no wonder that for many months now mass corporate media has been spelling out the end of the Bolivarian Revolution. Search the internet for news on Venezuela and the first article that comes up is “Venezuela is on the brink of a complete economic collapse,” from the Washington Post. Turn on the radio and hear an interview on the CBC program the Current predicting that Venezuela is heading towards becoming a “failed state.” These reports express loudly the goal of the U.S. government, their allies and the capitalist class in Venezuela – to force the collapse of government of President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution and to reverse the important social gains of poor and working people.
In the face of these new attacks, the Bolivarian Revolution is not just sitting idle and watching. Led by President Nicolas Maduro, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the Bolvarian people of Venezuela have set out upon their own process of reflection, planning, action and mobilization to defend and carry forward the Bolivarian Revolution. As Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said at the closing of the Third Congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), December 10, 2015 “We go to new battles in the spirit of Bolivar, and rise up to the challenges, setbacks and pains. And there is one word: We will go on a counter-offensive with a single force and a single spirit: triumph, triumph, triumph for independence and the people of Venezuela.”
The Bolivarian Revolution in Motion
An important part of defending the gains of the Bolivarian revolution has meant calling into action the people of Venezuela that have been carrying the revolution forward. Since the election, this has happened through meetings, debates and discussion happening across the country. Beyond meeting on the streets, the people of Venezuela, from farmers to mothers to electrical workers and teachers, have also continued to mobilize in the streets in support of the government of Nicolas Maduro and the measures that it is taking to strengthen the gains of the revolution against right-wing attacks.
In order to increase the voice of the people in Venezuela, one of the first actions that the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela took after the elections was to create the National Communal Parliament. On December 16, Diosdado Cabello, President of the outgoing National Assembly, announced the creation of this new body in order to strengthen the influence that Venezuela’s local communal governments can have on the legislative branch of government. What the exact role of the National Communal Parliament will be in the coming months in not yet known, but its creation marked another step towards building up the revolutionary counter-offensive against the right-wing in Venezuela.
Economic Sabotage in Venezuela
Most of the major media headlines today are focused on the struggling economy in Venezuela. Charts explaining the decline in GDP and the high rates of inflation are coupled with pictures of empty grocery store shelves or long lines of people waiting to purchase basic goods. Now the purpose of this article is not to explain the ups and downs of the Venezuelan economy, or to go through and refute the data on the Venezuelan economy as reported in the major commercial media. I will however, point out one important cause of the economic crisis in Venezuela that is missing from their reporting. Read the articles and they all place the blame for this economic crisis squarely on the shoulders of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the leadership of the Bolivarian Revolution. Although they may discuss the failing price of oil, which fuels much of the Venezuelan economy (oil revenue accounts for 96% of Venezuela’s earnings on exports), they never so much as touch the economic war and sabotage brought on by the U.S.-backed Venezuelan right-wing.
Take for example, the economic and social impact of the smuggling of basic goods out of Venezuela. In the year 2014 alone, the Venezuelan government seized 28,000 tons of food from smugglers attempting to take this vital necessity of Venezuela. If this food were just rice, that would be enough rice to feed 850,000 people for a year.
There is also massive hoarding in Venezuela, a practice wherein food and basic goods are left to spoil in warehouses rather then delivered to stores in Venezuela in order to create scarcity. This illegal and criminal practice is carried out by the richest people in Venezuela who continue to control the majority of the import, production and distribution of food products in the country.
In response to both the economic war and economic crisis, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution have been taking steps to overcome the current economic crisis and strengthen the Venezuelan economy since before the December elections. Now their struggle has intensified and the revolutionary forces in Venezuela are coming up an active opposition to these changes, not only from private companies in Venezuela, but by the new right-wing National Assembly.
The most comprehensive of these actions taken in order to defend the revolution has been the issuing of an Economic Emergency Decree by President Maduro on January 15, 2016. This 60-day decree allows for the President to take emergency economic measures, including “making resources from the 2015 financial year available, assigning extra funds to health, education, food, and housing; designing and implementing measures to prevent tax evasion; and giving the executive the ‘authorization to address the causes of the current situation,’” as reported by teleSUR.
President Maduro has also formed the National Council for Productive Economy, which includes government Ministers, members from the public and private sectors of Venezuela, mayors, governors and grassroots organizers. The 45 members of this new council are tasked with providing additional solutions as well as implementing and enforcing the new economic plan laid out by President Maduro in the economic decree thus far in each of Venezuela’s main economic sectors: hydrocarbons, petro-chemicals, agriculture, mining, telecommunications, construction, industry, military industry and tourism.
What is the U.S.-backed Right-Wing National Assembly Proposing?
“No, no and no, we are not going to permit it, you will have to overthrow me to pass a law of privatization!”
– President Nicolas Maduro in his State of the Union Address to the National Assembly, January 15, 2016
In contrast to the dynamic response of the government, people and institutions of the Bolivarian Revolution, what has the counter-revolutionary National Assembly accomplished in its first month in office? To start, they removed photos of the late Comandante Chavez as well as Venezuela’s national liberation hero Simon Bolivar from the walls of the National Assembly. This telling, but symbolic, action set-aside they have also demonstrated their counter-revolutionary agenda through concrete actions meant to reverse the gains that poor and working people have made in the Bolivarian Revolution.
As one example of this, on January 22, 2016, the right-wing controlled National Assembly voted against President Maduro’s Emergency Economic Decree. This Economic Decree was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, meaning not only that the Economic Decree was upheld despite the opposition of the National Assembly but also meaning that one of the first acts of the new National Assembly was in violation of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, a document ratified by a 72% vote in 1999.
Next, they exposed their agenda to try and turn Venezuela’s people-centred social missions into profit making machines. On January 30 legislation aimed at privatizing Venezuela’s social housing passed through its first reading in Parliament. As one marcher protesting this legislation explained to Venezuelaanalysis.com, “The majority opposition assembly is defending the rights of the banks, the construction and property lobbies that have been hit hard.”
On top of these specific decisions the right-wing National Assembly has also declared their intention to force the removal of President Nicolas Maduro from office through the mechanism of a recall referendum. I will not go further into this is this article, as it is explained in more detail in the article by Francisco Dominguez also published in this issue of Fire This Time newspaper.
However, even with a majority counter-revolutionary National Assembly now in office, overturning the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution and forcing President Maduro from office is not an easy battle. To begin with, the National Assembly is only one of Venezuela’s five branches of government, which also includes the Executive, the Judicial, the Electoral and the Citizen branches. Within this distribution of power there is also the fact that according to the Venezuelan Constitution, all laws passed in Venezuela can be subject to Constitutional review. In this way, even if a law to privatize housing, it might be rejected as being in violation of the Venezuelan Constitution, which guarantees the people of Venezuela the right to housing.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the counter-revolutionary right-wing will continue to play by the rule of law and constitution in Venezuela. Throughout their history they have again and again shown their willingness to break the law and use violent means to achieve their desired goals, for instance, in the April 2002 coup d'etad against President Chavez, a coup which the Venezuelan people overturned in less than 48 hours. And all along the way they have had the support of the world’s largest imperialist power, the United States government.
U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!
On the day that the right-wing National Assembly took their seats, the U.S. State Department sent a message of support, “The National Assembly can serve an important function in advancing and promoting a national dialogue focused on addressing the social and economic challenges facing the Venezuelan people.”
The tone of this message is no surprise when the party with the most seats in the National Assembly today is Primero Justicia, a political party that has received funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) ever since it was formed. It is also no surprise given the U.S. government’s constant attacks on Venezuela over the last 17 years of the Bolivarian Revolution. These attacks have included the financing and backing of the violent opposition, sanctions, military actions off the coast of Venezuela, as well as psychological operations like U.S.-based radio and TV programs intended to convince the people of Venezuela to overthrow their revolutionary government.
With the election of the counter-revolutionary National Assembly in Venezuela, these attacks by the U.S. government and their allies are only going to increase.
Poor and Working People in Canada Must Support Venezuela!
On the final day of 2015 the revolutionary government of Venezuela delivered its 1 millionth home through their social housing mission. Since it was created in 2011 the “Great Housing Mission” has provided safe and dignified housing for low-income people and families in Venezuela. After 1 million homes the project it still going strong towards the goal of providing affordable housing to 40% of people in Venezuela. Wouldn’t you say this is a great achievement given the political and economic battles taking place in the country today?
It is this achievement for poor, oppressed and working people in Venezuela and more that we are defending when we march together in Vancouver, Canada and around the world demanding “U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!”
As the United States closest neighbours we have an even greater responsibility to fight for an end to imperialist intervention in Venezuela and demand that the people of Venezuela be allowed to continue to carry the Bolivarian Revolution forward free from foreign meddling!
Although we do not know the exact path that the counter-revolutionaries will take on their mission to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution, we know that our brothers and sisters need our solidarity and action more now than ever. We must work to build a stronger and more united movement in solidarity with Venezuela, one that can bring together workers, students, immigrants, elders, poor and oppressed people across Canada and the whole world!
U.S. HANDS OFF VENEZUELA!
U.S. RESPECT THE SOVEREIGNTY AND SELF-DETERMINATION OF THE VENEZUELAN PEOPLE!
LONG LIVE THE VENEZUELAN BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION!
Follow Alison Bodine on Twitter:
Back to Article Listing