News and Analysis

Open letter to President Hugo Chavez from Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network

Mr Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias,
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Dear Mr President:

We hear the news about your fourth trip to Iran with some concern. We believe that the Iranian regime is using your name and popularity among the Latin American masses, and progressive and anti-globalisation activists throughout the world, to falsely present a similar image for itself.

Your Excellency, this regime is fundamentally different from your government which enjoys popular support that has been demonstrated many times (including the August referendum). This is a regime which came to power by crushing the mass movement of a quarter of the population against poverty and against dictatorship. That movement was led by the workers of Iran. Instead of helping the beginnings of workers’ control over industry they imposed a religious dictatorship which eventually made the workers’ living and working conditions worse than during the reign of the pro-American Shah.

Workers in Iran have no right to strike, no right to form their independent organisations and are seeing successive amendments to the limited Labour Code which exclude ever larger sections from any legal protection. The most vulnerable workers - women - find themselves at the total mercy of the bosses and managers. The situation is particularly bad for women who are the sole breadwinner of their families.

During this year’s May Day celebrations dozens of people were beaten and arrested simply for attending a public rally. The ongoing court case involving activists in Saghez, in Iranian Kurdistan, stands as a clear testament to the lack of rights, arbitrary treatment by the legal system, and the absence of any official accountability. There is nobody in parliament or any government post that is in favour of workers being in control of the way they work and the way they live. At the same time, the regime’s elite, their families, and a whole array of officials and supporters, are amassing great wealth from the country’s oil and gas revenue. While the numbers of unemployed (about 3.5 million), street children (over 200,000), prostitutes (around 300,000) and destitute people reach higher and higher levels, the Islamic Republic’s highest authorities are pouring their vast wealth into foreign bank accounts.

The current high price of oil is in no way benefiting the Iranian masses: there are no special health clinics being set up for the poor, no doctors being brought in from abroad, no extra money is being spent on fighting illiteracy or reducing poverty. In fact new measures are being taken to sell 65% of nationalised industries to the private sector, the Labour Code is being watered down regularly, the range of activities in the ‘free trade zones’ is being expanded, and so on.

We therefore ask you to question your Iranian hosts about their record on democratic and labour rights as well as the living standards of the workers and the poor. If they wish to be your equal they should explain why they have killed hundreds of thousands of the most valiant sons and daughters of the masses, why they have driven millions into exile, why they hold the remaining millions in a virtual prison that is being prepared for the imperialists to come in and exploit in the near future.

Yours respectfully,

Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network
November 29, 2004

BM IWSN, London WC1N 3XX, England.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - http://iwsn.topcities.com/

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Many revolutionaries wrinkle their faces when the Venezuelan process is labelled as a "revolution". Nevertheless, there exist signals showing us that the way has been started and the experiences that have taken place during the last five years are being multiplied, letting us see that, in fact, something revolutionary is happening. Knowledge of this and the consequent support for these actions will strengthen the people, reflecting the definitive transformation; should this not happen, undoubtedly the reformist leaders of the process will be exceeded by the revolution itself.

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Washington and the opposition are behind the terrorist plot against Chavez

Colombian paramilitaries arrested in Venezuela

by Alan Woods

The arrests near Caracas on Sunday of up to 80 Colombian paramilitaries linked to the political opposition confirm suspicions that the counterrevolution is resorting to ever more desperate and violent measures to overthrow the government of Hugo Chavez. Reports from Caracas state that the Colombians had been arrested in a dawn raid on a farm, on the outskirts of the capital, Caracas, belonging to a Cuban exile.

During his weekly radio and TV broadcast, Hello President, Mr Chavez said that 53 paramilitary fighters were arrested at the farm early on Sunday and another 24 were picked up after fleeing into the countryside. Officials say that 90 people have been detained altogether, although some arrests may have been made later. Another 40 people are still being sought.

The country's security forces were uncovering additional clues and searching for more suspects, he said, adding that the arrests were proof of a conspiracy against his government involving Cuban and Venezuelan exiles in Florida and neighbouring Colombia. President Chavez stated that the plot was backed by Venezuela's mostly pro-opposition news media and said that the raids had "eliminated the seed of a terrorist group".

"Now they are importing terrorists," Chavez said of his opponents, adding that the farm - in the municipality of El Hatillo - was owned by Roberto Alonso, a Cuban exile with links to Venezuelan and Cuban exiles.

For some time there has been evidence that Colombian death squads were active on Venezuelan soil. Now this is proved beyond all doubt. There can be no question that these paramilitary thugs were plotting to strike against the government in Caracas.

Opposition leaders tried to dismiss the claim, calling the raids on a farm less than 10 miles from the capital a manoeuvre to divert attention from their efforts to oust Chavez in a recall vote. They immediately attempted to play down the significance of the arrests, after it was revealed that the only weapon found in the raid was a single handgun.

"They didn't even have a nail clipper, their boots were all polished and their uniforms were ironed," opposition leader Antonia Ledezma told the Associated Press news agency.

The fact that the paramilitaries were not found in possession of more serious weaponry does not prove that they were not on a serious mission. It only indicates that we are in the presence of a very well organised conspiracy with a wide network of support and a military infrastructure inside Venezuela itself. The arms for the paramilitaries will be situated elsewhere – probably in some safe house in Caracas. This would make it safer for them to move around the country without the risk of arrest for the illegal possession of arms.

It is public knowledge that the right wing opposition has continuously conspired to overthrow his government with US backing. In April 2002 they organised a military coup to establish a "democratic dictatorship". That coup was defeated by the movement of the masses. Later they organised a so-called "strike" – really a bosses’ lockout that did serious damage to the economy but was defeated by a movement of the workers.

The latest attempt to provoke a coup was the so-called referendum campaign, when the opposition resorted to massive fraud, including the signatures of dead people, children and people who deny ever having signed. It is their complete failure to win a majority in Venezuela that has impelled them onto the road of terrorist acts.

The heated denials of the opposition do not carry the least weight. They offer no explanation for the presence of Colombian paramilitaries on Venezuelan soil. What were they doing there? Evidently, these individuals were on holiday, or for the good of their health! However, whether this little visit would have been healthy for other people is another matter!

The truth is self-evident: The captured men were being trained by the opposition to stage a coup. Daniel Fonseca, a neighbour living near the farm where the paramilitaries were caught, said the men had been at the farm for about 15 days.

"I saw them twice when riding [my] horses," Mr Fonseca told the Associated Press. "They were dressed as civilians and I saw some of them with 9mm pistols."

The farm was equipped with abundant quantities of food, provisions, clothes and about a hundred mattresses. Venezuelan Defence Minister Jorge Garcia told Reuters news agency there was clear evidence of a conspiracy. "You don't think these are killers?" he said. "Whatever they came here for, it wasn't to play marbles or to plant yucca."

Venezuela's defence minister, General Jorge Garcia Carneiro, said investigators believe the alleged conspiracy was led by former General Felipe Rodriguez, who led the 2002 rebellion against President Chavez in 2002. General Rodriguez's whereabouts are not known.

The Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, praised Venezuela for the arrests and the Colombian government has promised full support in the investigation. "It is unacceptable for any Colombian to be committing crimes in that country," Foreign Minister Carolina Barco was quoted as saying.

But nobody will be fooled by this. Uribe cannot publicly admit the involvement of his government or armed forces in such a blatant act of interference in a neighbouring state. But the relations between the Colombian armed forces and the CIA with the fascist paramilitaries is an open secret.

Salvatore Mancuso, a senior commander in the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), an umbrella group for the country's paramilitary factions, denied his forces were involved. "We deny the accusations against us by Venezuelan leaders," Mr Mancuso told Colombia's RCN television, countering that Chávez was working with Colombia's two largest rebel groups.

For its part, Washington also denies any involvement – of course. US state department spokesman Richard Boucher rejected accusations of US involvement as "baseless and irresponsible".

So there we have it. Nobody is responsible. A gang of professional assassins and right wing terrorists turns up in the vicinity of Caracas, but nobody knows anything about it. Such an operation requires serious organisation and generous funding. But nobody is responsible.

The facts speak for themselves. The hand of Washington is clearly behind the latest plot – and all the others. "There are people in the United States who keep thinking how to start a war in Venezuela so that they can justify an invasion," Chavez said.

This assertion is confirmed by the facts. Washington has been systematically building up the Colombian armed forces under the pretext of the infamous Colombia Plan. The USA has poured in money, arms and men and this has completely transformed the regional balance of forces.

As we have already pointed out, before he was ejected by the Spanish people, Aznar sent a large shipment of tanks to Colombia. This was supposed to be part of the anti-drugs, anti-guerrilla war, but tanks are of no use in jungles and mountains. They are only of use in a conventional war against another state. And that state is called Venezuela.

Both the government of Bogota and Washington are involved up to their necks in conspiracies and armed provocations against Venezuela. The abject failure of all the CIA’s plots to overthrow Chavez by relying on internal forces obliges them to look towards external intervention. That means war. Recently the Colombian Senate passed a resolution calling on the Organisation of American States (OAS) to intervene against Venezuela.

A few weeks ago an American general stated publicly that Venezuela was now a threat to the interests of the USA in South America. It is quite extraordinary that such a statement should be made by a military figure at all. But if we bear in mind that the general in question, General James Hill, is the head of the US army Southern Command, we immediately see the seriousness of the implications.

The attitude of Washington towards the Venezuelan Revolution is well known and extensively documented. Therefore its denials are worthless. US imperialism wants to get its hands on Venezuela’s oil. But there is an even more pressing reason for its desire to overthrow Chavez.

The Venezuelan Revolution is acting as a beacon and a point of reference to the poor and downtrodden millions throughout Latin America. Washington cannot afford this. Bush has said publicly that he will not rest until Chavez is removed from power. The US military intervention in Haiti was a preparation for an intervention against Venezuela. And if US imperialism succeeds in Venezuela, the way will be open for further merciless pressure on Cuba.

Everything points to a systematic preparation for armed intervention against the Venezuelan Revolution. But there is one small problem here. US imperialism is embroiled in a military quagmire in Iraq that is draining its resources and causing growing unrest at home. Bush cannot afford to involve the US army in another military adventure in the immediate future.

This, however, does not mean that there will be no military action against Venezuela. The CIA is infinitely resourceful and has many irons in many fires. It will not use US military personnel (except as "advisers" and for logistical support – that is to plan the operations, and to arm and finance them). But it will make use of foreign mercenaries – hired cutthroats and fascists who have unofficially been on the CIA’s payroll for years – to do the dirty work.

These gangsters are conveniently located in Colombia. They can cross the border with Venezuela at any time, slipping in and out to do their murderous work. They are dressed in civilian clothes and speak Spanish with a local accent. They receive support, hiding places and finance from the Venezuelan oligarchy and the right wing opposition. Best of all, they do not officially work for the Colombian government or anyone else. If they are found they will deny everything. Nobody is responsible for them. What more can one ask?

Venezuelan state television has been showing pictures of armed police guarding groups of young men dressed in green camouflage. The farm has been turned into a camp complete with sleeping quarters and cooking facilities. The men were using the camp to plan an attack on a military installation in Caracas. This is connected with a broader plan to destabilise Venezuela and create the conditions for a provocation that could drag it into a war with Colombia. This is textbook CIA procedure.

The studied denials from Washington, Bogota and the Venezuelan opposition will fool nobody. In a murder inquiry the first question that must be asked is: who gains? In this case, the question answers itself. The people who ardently desire the elimination of Hugo Chavez and the overthrow of his progressive government are George Bush and the Venezuelan oligarchy.

The CIA and the Venezuelan opposition have collaborated on three occasions to overthrow the legally elected government and have failed. They have not abandoned their plans but only modified them to take account of the unfavourable balance of forces inside Venezuela. The present events could have been foreseen, and they were foreseen. It was never a question of "if", but only "when and how."

The recent events confirm what we have said many times: the Venezuelan Revolution is in danger. The immediate task of the Marxists is to denounce the plans of the US imperialists, to expose them before the public opinion of the world and to mobilise the international labour movement in defence of the Venezuelan Revolution.

A really pernicious role is being played by the mass media in the West. The newspapers and television companies are in the hands of the millionaires and the enemies of socialism and the working class. Masquerading under the false banner of "press freedom" they spread the most disgraceful lies and slanders about what is happening in Venezuela.

Incredibly, some elements in the labour movement have allowed themselves to be deceived by this black propaganda and are playing a despicable role, repeating the lies and slanders put in circulation by the CIA and the right wing Venezuelan opposition in order to confuse and disorient public opinion. They try to hide behind the right wing leaders of the CTV, whose links with the CIA are public knowledge, and who actively backed the coup of 2002.

In addition to launching a campaign of systematic disinformation, the millionaire press has organised a conspiracy of silence so that the working people of Europe and the USA do not know what is happening. It is vital that this curtain of silence is torn down and that the international labour movement is made aware of the intrigues of US imperialism against Venezuela.

The imperialists always act like thieves in the night, under the cover of darkness. It is necessary to shine a bright light on their secretive and murderous activities. It is time to organise a massive protest movement to denounce the counterrevolutionary intrigues of Washington and its agents in Venezuela, and also the despicable role of the hired press that is a willing servant and an active accomplice of imperialism.

There is no time to lose! Organise protests and pickets outside the US and Colombian embassies. Send letters of protest to the governments of both countries. Pass resolutions of support for Venezuela in every trade union branch and other labour movement organisation. Let them know that the eyes of the world are on them and that they will not escape condemnation but stand exposed as the common criminals they are.

Down with imperialism!

Defend the Venezuelan Revolution!

Hands off Venezuela!

London, May 12, 2004

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Chavez reiterates the call to arm the people

By Hermann Albrecht,
Revolutionary Marxist Current, Venezuela

From the beginning the privately owned media and the leaders of the right wing opposition have tried to minimise and ridicule the discovery and arrest of foreign paramilitaries in Venezuela, as did the US government. But the truth is that there are clear links between these groups of "irregulars" and the Venezuelan and Colombian oligarchies, with the helping hand of the US. This is so clear that even the editor of the daily "Ultimas Noticias", Eleazar Diaz Rangel declared last week to RNV radio that "the (main opposition umbrella group) Democratic Coordination does not dare issue a clear and unequivocal statement on the arrest of Colombian paramilitaries last Sunday in Caracas, since they know that these groups have links with sections of the extreme right wing opposition". In his Sunday column in "Ultimas Noticias" he added that for some years there have been plans for a military invasion of Venezuela, some of which have gone to the training stage.

According to the Sunday edition of "Panorama", there are now 122 paramilitaries who have been arrested and at least 8 army officers are involved. The involvement of active and retired army officers in these counter-revolutionaries' plans has been clear to most and the first arrests have taken place (amongst them two colonels and a captain) and arrest warrants have been issued for others, including many of the once famous "Altamira officers" (who called for a military coup in December 2002 and gathered in Altamira square). The fact that these paramilitaries had been able to penetrate Venezuelan territory and reach the vicinity of Caracas without having been detected and arrested beforehand proves the existence of counter-revolutionary elements within the state security forces. But it is clear that the Venezuelan oligarchy is involved in this murky affair, particularly those families which currently control councils and regional governments, as pointed out by retired general Acosta Carles.

The (paramilitary organisation) Colombian United Self Defence (AUC) have repeatedly denied their involvement with these paramilitaries on Venezuelan soil, but as Chavez himself explained on Friday, May 14, the leaders of these groups of irregulars have been clearly identified as AUC commanding officers. Furthermore there is additional proof linking the AUC with the paramilitaries arrested in Venezuela, and also of their links with powerful economic groups in Venezuela. The Sunday edition of "Ultimas Noticias" reports that: "In a payment centre in Medellin (Colombia) it became popular knowledge that the paramilitaries who are there receiving payment for vaccinations, extortion payments and smuggling, were offering 20 million dollars to bring a contingent of mercenaries to carry out duties in Venezuela".

As the comrades from the Revolutionary Marxist Current have pointed out, it is clear that the only way to take this revolutionary process forward is to expropriate the means of production and the banks from the hands of the ruling class. This should be combined with the education, organisation and training of workers' self defence militias as the only way to fight back against the bloody and violent attacks of counter-revolution.

Counter-revolutionaries and traditionalists

The bourgeois and opposition controlled daily "El Nacional" published on Monday, May 17, a two page report on the two leaders of the so-called Venezuelan Counter-Revolutionary Union (UCRV), who have been arrested by the (investigation police) DISIP for further questioning. The article made it clear that the UCRV leader openly and proudly admitted his membership of the extreme right wing "catholic" sect Family, Tradition and Property (TFP), which was created back in the 1960s and was banned in Venezuela in 1984 by the Lusinchi government, and is active in Colombia and Brazil, amongst other countries. Da Costa describes himself as the ideologist of the UCRV and its "Freedom Commandos", which he defines as "Minds without Body" and "peaceful" groups fighting against the rise of "communism" in Venezuela. It is clear that these Commandos are about as peaceful as were the extreme right terrorists of "Patria y Libertad" (Fatherland and Freedom) in Chile during the Allende government. It is important to remember that known leaders of the (extreme) right wing party Primero Justicia, have links with the TFP, which is why this party's mayors, particularly that of Baruta (where the Colombian paramilitaries were arrested) should be investigated in relation to these events, as demanded by MVR MP, Tarek Willian Saab.

But while all these facts are emerging, some reformist and petty bourgeois leaders which are part of the Bolivarian movement, were insisting on the "need for peace", that in Venezuela we had a "peaceful revolution", that civilians should be disarmed, and a long and disgraceful list of similar arguments. Try to talk about a "peaceful revolution" to the hundreds of worker and peasant leaders killed by the hired guns of the bourgeoisie! Try and talk about a "peaceful revolution" to the hundreds of community activists attacked and killed by the police forces in the hands of the counter-revolution! But Sunday's speech by Chavez was precisely the opposite of this "pacifism" (or rather, passivity) of these reformist elements. He made a clear appeal for the arming of the people and called on community and workers' leaders to immediately start the organisation of groups of people, further to those who are already in the reserve forces, to put into practice the slogan of an "Armed People".

The comrades from the Revolutionary Marxist Current have raised this slogan for some time, since as revolutionary Marxists, we understand that the ruling class will not give up its privileges without a serious fight. To talk about disarming the civilian population or retreat to conciliatory positions is a thoroughly counter-revolutionary attitude which can only condemn the Venezuelan revolutionary process to defeat. As our comrade Alan Woods likes to say: "One can peel an onion layer by layer, but one cannot skin a tiger claw by claw". With the increased activity of extreme right wing groups that we are witnessing, it is clear that, as we say in Venezuela, "later is too late".

Massive mobilisation

Before Sunday, May 16 there had already been some mobilisations against paramilitarism in Caracas and in other cities. On Friday, May 14, there was a picket in Plaza Brion in Chacaito, near the Colombian embassy. This was the preparation for what happened on Sunday, May 16. Caracas was once again flooded by the red tide. Private media tried to dismiss the size of the demo, as could be expected, but some of their journalists tried to justify the enormous red tide by also saying that people who were not chavistas were present. The comrades from Aporrea have presented an excellent picture gallery of the march on their website (http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=16605, http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=16606, http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=16607 and http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=16608), and another one can be found in the Venezuelan National Radio web site (http://www.rnv.gov.ve/galeria/thumbnails.php?album=33)

From early in the morning people started to gather in Petare and Parque del Este, in the East of the capital, while others made their way straight into Bolivar Avenue or gathered in Plaza Venezuela. The influx of people into the Bolivar Avenue was constant and became massive by lunch time when the vanguard of the march started to arrive.

Some government members and members of parliament spoke during the day, warning of the dangers of the paramilitaries. Communication and Information Minister, Jesse Chacon, explained that: "paramilitarism means cutting people in half with electric saws and burying people alive". The Ministers of Labour and Science and Technology both said that "the Venezuelan people every day show a more advanced level of consciousness", referring to the mass mobilisation we were witnessing and to the demonstrations which had taken place elsewhere in the country.

Our intervention and slogans were received with a lot of enthusiasm by those who came to our stall or bought our paper "El Topo Obrero" from the comrades who marched from Petare. The ideas of Marxism were extremely well received, particularly our call for the formation of workers' and peoples' militias, for the nationalisation of the monopolies and the banks etc, which are becoming increasingly popular. Clearly the masses of working people have already drawn conclusions that are by far more revolutionary that those of the party leaders and even some of the trade union leaders, but they do not know how to give a finished form to their aspirations. And this is why the role the workers' vanguard is indispensable. But this vanguard cannot present itself in a sectarian way, away from the masses with ultra left positions and trying to impose its own conclusions.

Chavez's speech and the tasks of the revolutionaries

More than a year ago, talking about the defeat of the bosses' lock out and the sabotage of the oil industry, comrade Emilia Lucena wrote that "As Trotsky explained in his History of the Russian Revolution, sometimes the whip of counter-revolution propels the revolutionary movement forward. This statement has been confirmed once again in Venezuela." We can repeat the same thing regarding the recent events with the arrest of the paramilitaries and the general line of the speech by president Chavez at the end of the demonstration.

On May 12, the activation of the National Defence Council had been announced, and is to be installed in permanent session. At that moment we were worried that, as happened during the Guarimba (the opposition orchestrated riots in February), the workers and the people would be left out of the tasks of the defence of the revolutionary process. As we have always stressed, the masses must play a fundamental role in the defence and deepening of the revolutionary process. This cannot be done apart from the Armed Forces, and particularly of its troops. We are not sectarian or ultra left and understand the important role that the troops have played in key moments, as was the case with the soldiers of the Military House in the retaking of Miraflores (Presidential) Palace, on April 13, 2002.

We also thought it was a mistake to say that the Colombian government was not involved in the affair of the paramilitaries, as Chavez declared a few days ago in a press conference. (Colombia's president) Uribe is nothing but a loyal servant of the interests of the Colombian oligarchy. The "paras" have always been used to do the dirty work of the Colombian army and the ruling class. This has been clearly explained by (the daughter of killed Colombian popular leader) Gloria Gaitan, who has correctly stressed that the Uribe government is clearly involved in these provocations serving the interests of imperialism and the Colombian and Venezuelan bourgeoisies in their attempts to invade the country. This is why many organisations in Colombia and internationally, including the Colombian guerrillas of the ELN, have denounced the purchasing of more than 40 AMX30 war tanks from the Spanish government, is not part of a so-called war on drugs against the guerrillas, but rather are part of an arms race started by the Colombian oligarchy in its desire to please their northern neighbour by invading Venezuela to smash the revolutionary process we are living through.

But we must stress that Chavez in general has made a shift to the left, one that revolutionary Marxists must support and push forward. On Friday May 14, in a phone interview with the state television channel, VTV, he declared that there are discussions about the "expropriation of any building, property or installation where there is proof that these paramilitary groups have been training". We add that these measures of expropriation must be extended to means of production as a whole, the banks, and all property in the hands of the Venezuelan oligarchy which are involved in this attempt to prepare an invasion. This would be the first step towards the complete expropriation of the means of production and the banks in the hands of the Venezuelan ruling class.

Even more significant is the speech which closed the march on Sunday. Previously we had already pointed out that it was a mistake if such a mass demonstration were called and not given clear tasks. But this was not the case on Sunday. Chavez pointed out clear aims for the workers' and peoples' leaders. He said that "in every neighbourhood, in every mountain pass, field, university, factory, jungle, in every place where there is a group "revolutionaries must start to organise and to form workers and peoples' militias." He added that "it is time for revolutionary security, to change the concept, reorient it, because we are still working with (old fashioned bureaucratic) IVth republic schemas". Chavez has understood the danger facing the revolutionary process by leaving the bourgeois structures intact upon which the state apparatus, including the Armed Forces, are based.

Chavez addresses the march, May 16

Chavez made an appeal, not only to the existing power structures, but also to the movement of the workers and the people to take the need of arming the people into their own hands. "In the next weeks, with the advice of the National Defence Council, I will start to give out directives and lines, I appeal for the support of the local councils, the social movements, the popular currents (…) Adult men and women, who are not in the reserve, but who are ready, in a different way, to become soldiers without having to go through the barracks, to receive military training and organise militarily for the defence of the country. (…) Nothing, nor nobody will be able to defeat Venezuela, with a conscious and organised people." The Minister of Defence, Gral Garcia Carneiro has already declared that they are mobilising within the Armed Forces to coordinate these tasks.

It is interesting to see the effect that the president's speech had on many layers, since even some of the trade union leaders, who had used conciliatory and pacifist rhetoric until now (calling on people to be passive) have been pushed to change their language. UNT (trade union) leader Marcela Maspero, declared that the UNT is already starting to coordinate its different federations and unions to form these Workers Brigades. (UNT leader Stalin Perez Borge has also declared that the "UNT will ask for a meeting with the defence minister so that the workers' militias can start receiving military training"). It is the responsibility of the rank and file to make sure that these slogans are put into practice. Workers in all factories must demand that their trade union leaders become involved and start the formation of these Workers' Brigades. As president Chavez said this is the duty of all. It cannot be left in the hands of the leadership only, we must all be involved, challenging the trade union, party and community leaders to play a role in the immediate organisation of workers' and peoples' self-defence brigades. This is the only way forward. This is the only real defence when faced with the advances of counter-revolution.

Faced with counter-revolutionary attacks, Workers' Self Defence Brigades!
Immediate expropriation of the oligarchy and its lackeys!
Deepend the revolution by advancing towards socialism!

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Theses on revolution and counterrevolution in Venezuela

Part Two

By Alan Woods

53) An argument often used by the reformists is that it is necessary to win over the middle class and therefore we must not go too far in attacking capitalism. The first half of this statement is correct, but it directly contradicts the second half. It is both possible and necessary to win over a large section of the middle class, but we will never succeed in doing this if we accept the policies of the reformists, which can only alienate the mass of the petty bourgeoisie and push them into the arms of the counterrevolution.

54) The exploiting classes are a small minority of society. They could not rule without the help of a large number of sub-exploiters and sub-sub exploiters. Using their economic power and their control of the mass media, they have mobilised the mass of middle class Venezuelans to oppose the revolution. Under the false flag of “democracy” they have organised street riots and clashes. Their shock troops are the sons of the rich ‑ the “sifrinos” – wealthy parasites, fanatically opposed to the masses. The enraged petty bourgeois resent the concessions made to the poor, which they see as a threat to their own privileges. They make a lot of noise when required, but they are really just human dust, easily scattered to the wind when confronted with the movement of the masses.

55) However, the petty bourgeoisie is not a homogeneous class. There are contradictions within the middle class that can be expressed in splits in the opposition. The upper layers of the middle class is composed of privileged elements – prosperous lawyers, university professors, bank managers and politicians – who stand close to the oligarchy and are its willing servants. The lower layers – the small shopkeepers, small peasants, bank clerks, etc. – stand closer to the working class and can be won over. However, the way to win over the lower ranks of the petty bourgeoisie is not to make concessions to their leaders (really their political exploiters) but to take the offensive against the big bankers and capitalists, to show an attitude of absolute firmness and decision.

56) A section of the opposition consists of people who have been deceived by the counterrevolutionaries. They can be won over to the side of the revolution. The way to win them over, however, is by carrying out measures to expropriate the big capitalists and adopting measures in the interests of the small shopkeepers and small businessmen. They must be convinced that the revolution is invincible and that their interests are best served by joining forces with the working class against the big banks and monopolies.

57) The so-called bourgeois “democracy” is a gigantic fraud, behind which lurks the DICTATORSHIP OF BIG CAPITAL. This dictatorship oppresses not only the workers but also the middle class. What is needed is not the hollow fraud of formal bourgeois democracy – in which real power is in the hands of the big banks and monopolies – but a real democracy – a democracy of the working people, based on the collective ownership of the land, the banks and industry.

58) It must be made clear that these measures of nationalization are aimed only at the big capitalists, bankers and landowners. We have no intention of nationalizing small businesses, farms or shops. These play no independent role in the economy, since they are utterly dependent on the big banks, supermarkets, etc. We will appeal to the small shopkeepers, etc., to support the programme of nationalisation, which is in their interests.

59) The nationalization of the banks will enable the government to grant small businesses cheap and easy credit. The nationalization of the big fertilizer plants will enable it to sell cheap fertilizer to the peasants. And by eliminating the middlemen and nationalizing the big supermarkets, distribution and transport companies, we can provide the peasants with a guaranteed market and a fair price for their products, while reducing prices to the consumer.

60) There are none so blind as they who will not see. Despite everything, there are still those who continue to advocate slowing the pace of the revolution in order to placate the counterrevolution and imperialism. They may be sincere in their views, but they are giving false and dangerous advice. It is not possible to stop the revolution half way. It is not possible to make half a revolution. Either the revolution is carried through to the end, or else it must perish.

61) The reformists consider themselves to be great realists. In reality they are the blindest utopians. They want a “more humane” capitalism. To demand that capitalism should be humane is to ask the tiger to eat grass instead of flesh. Not for nothing the Venezuelan capitalists are the bitterest enemies of the Bolivarian revolution. Not for nothing do they strive by all means to destroy it and overthrow Chavez. They can never be reconciled to the revolution. Fine words will not convince them. They must be defeated and disarmed. Their economic power must be terminated. There is no other way.

62) At the present moment, as Chavez himself has pointed out, the Venezuelan revolution resembles Sisyphus, the character in Greek mythology, who pushed a heavy boulder to the top of a steep mountain, only to see it roll back again. With a little effort, the boulder can be pushed over the top of the mountain, and the problem would be resolved. But if we stop, the boulder will slide back and crush many people in the process.

63) Only the revolutionary movement of the masses from below prevented the counterrevolution from triumphing at the time of the 2002 April coup. The masses defeated the reactionaries and imperialists. At this point it would have been simple to inflict a decisive defeat on the reactionaries, who were divided and demoralised. If the President had lifted his little finger, it would all have been over. The working class could have taken power peacefully, without bloodshed or civil war. Unfortunately, that opportunity was missed. The revolution showed itself to be very moderate and cautious.

64) What was the result? Did this moderation and caution impress the counterrevolutionaries? Did it placate them? It did not. It encouraged them. The counterrevolutionaries regrouped and prepared a new offensive, the so-called “strike” that aimed to paralyse the economy. Everyone knows that this “strike” was organized and planned by the CIA with the help of the Venezuelan bosses and corrupt trade union bureaucrats. Again, this attempt was defeated by the revolutionary movement of the Venezuelan workers.

65) After the first coup Hugo Chavez tried to be conciliatory to the reactionaries. He tried to negotiate with them and even reinstated the old directors of the PVDSA. They rewarded him by organising the bosses’ lockout that inflicted serious damage on the Venezuelan economy. What lessons can we draw from this? Do we conclude that that a conciliatory attitude is the only way to disarm the counterrevolution and imperialism? Only a fool would say so. The real conclusion that must be drawn is that weakness invites aggression.

66) Experience has shown that the only firm base of support the revolution has is the masses, and in the first ranks of the masses, the working class. The masses wish to defend Chavez. How do they do this? Only by stepping up the movement from below, setting up action committees, learning how to use arms. The way to help Chavez is to wage an implacable struggle against the enemies of the revolution, to drive them from the positions of power they hold and prepare the way for a radical reorganization of society.

67) In other words, the key to success consists in developing and strengthening the independent movement of the working class, and above all by building the revolutionary Marxist wing of the movement. Our advice to the workers of Venezuela is: trust only in your own strength and in your own forces! Trust only in the revolutionary movement of the masses! That is the only force that can sweep aside all obstacles, defeat the counterrevolution and begin to take power into its own hands. That is the only guarantee of success.

68) . The reactionaries are now in a weak position, but a cornered animal can be dangerous. They are desperate, and this desperate mood of the opposition can lead to desperate methods. It is now quite clear that they are conspiring with Washington and its Colombian agents to assassinate Chavez and create chaos as the first step to a new coup. The greatest vigilance is required on the part of the mass movement to thwart the plans of the counterrevolution. Only decisive action by the masses can disarm the counterrevolution and render it harmless.

69) The only way to carry the revolution through to the end is from the bottom up. The most urgent task is the formation of action committees – committees for the defence of the revolution. But in the given situation, the committees must be armed. A people’s militia is the slogan of the hour. The revolution can only defend itself against its enemies if it arms itself.

70) Chavez has called for the arming of the workers. He said: “Every fisherman, student, every member of the people, must learn how to use a rifle, because it is the concept of the armed people together with the National Armed Forces to defend the sovereignty of the sacred soil of Venezuela.” This is a thousand times correct. A people that is not prepared to defend its freedom arms in hand does not deserve to be free. The general arming of the people is the sine qua non, not only for the defence of the revolution against internal and external enemies, but for carrying the revolution through to the end and defending the democratic rights of the people.

71) The words of President Chavez should immediately be translated into deeds. In view of the threat posed by the internal and external enemies of the Revolution, the government should set up special schools for the military training of the population. Competent officers loyal to the Revolution must provide the necessary training in the use of arms, tactics and strategy. The only way to answer the threat of aggression is by the formation of a mass people’s militia. Every workers’ district, every factory, every village, every school, must become a bulwark of the Revolution, prepared to fight.

72) The question of the state is the most fundamental question of all The President himself has complained about the systematic sabotage of the bureaucracy – the sabotage of parliament by the philibustering of the opposition, reactionary judges, policemen etc. How can the Revolution base itself on the old bureaucrats and functionaries inherited from the past? How can it place its trust in judges that were appointed by the old regime? How can the old state bureaucracy purge itself? No devil ever cut off its own claws! What is necessary is to take a big broom and sweep out all this rubbish. A new social order demands a new kind of administration – a genuinely democratic administration that comes from the people themselves and reflects their wishes and aspirations.

73) The government has carried out a partial purge of the state. That is positive, but it has not gone far enough. It is necessary to remove all the conservatives, all the open and hidden allies of the counterrevolution from positions of power and influence. All power must be in the hands of dedicated revolutionaries whose loyalty to the cause of the people is proven beyond question. A serious purge can only be carried out from below, by the masses themselves. The masses are impatient to act, to push aside all the obstacles that are preventing the Revolution from advancing and achieving all its aims. The key to success lies in developing and extending the mass movement and giving it an organized form.

74) The only way to carry the revolution forward is from the bottom up. The mass movement must be given an organised form and expression. This can only be done through the establishment of action committees, democratically elected in every workplace, workers’ district, office, oil refinery and village. The committees must be linked up at all levels – locally, regionally and nationally. Only in this way can the basis be laid for a new power in society: workers’ power.

75) The first task of the committees is to organise the struggle against the counterrevolution. They should patrol the workers’ neighbourhoods, prevent crime and sabotage, arrest counterrevolutionaries and keep order. They should take over the control of transport and the supply of food and other basic necessities, control prices and root out speculation, corruption, profiteering and other abuses and ensure a fair distribution for all. In this way the masses can acquire experience in control, supervision, accounting and regulation, which will prepare them for bigger things when the time comes for them to participate in the running of society.

76) The Caracas Metropolitan Police and other police forces controlled by the opposition are known to be a centre of counterrevolutionary activity. They are operating as a state within the state, conducting provocations against the government, murdering people and causing chaos. This is completely intolerable. These reactionary forces must be disbanded and replaced by a popular militia under the control of the local revolutionary committees and the trade unions.

77) We stand for a genuine democracy – a workers’ democracy, on the lines advocated by Lenin and put into practice by the Bolsheviks in 1917: a) free and democratic elections with right of recall of all state officials, b) a limitation on the salaries of officials, which should not be higher than that of a skilled worker; legitimate expenses can be paid, but must be open for inspection, c) the arming of the people, and the incorporation of the army into a popular militia, d) the involvement of the whole population in all the tasks of administration of industry, society and the state.

78) If the counterrevolution succeeds, the result will be a nightmare for the people of Venezuela. The smiling mask of “democracy” will immediately be discarded to reveal the ugly face of reaction. The bosses will be thirsting for revenge for all the defeats and humiliations they have suffered in recent years. They will want to teach the workers and the poor people a lesson they will never forget. They will exact a terrible revenge on the masses. They will crush the revolution in the dust, smash it utterly. This is a terrible prospect. But it is by no means inevitable. Everything depends on the working class and its leadership.

79) What is needed is a consistent revolutionary programme, based on scientific principles. That can only be provided by Marxism. To win this life and death struggle, sincerity and courage are not enough. Many times in history a brave army with many soldiers has been defeated by a smaller army of trained troops led by capable commanders. The role of a revolutionary Marxist party is analogous to that of trained troops and experienced commanders.

80) It is entirely false to counter pose the struggle for democracy and against imperialism to the struggle for socialism. The struggle for revolutionary democracy will only succeed to the degree that it becomes a struggle against the dictatorship of Capital. Therefore, the struggle for democracy, if it is to succeed, must lead directly to the struggle for workers’ power and socialism. There is no “middle way” and all attempts to find a middle way will necessarily lead to disaster. They will end in the liquidation of the revolution and the total destruction of democracy in Venezuela.

81) There are some people who call themselves Marxists, but who have in practice completely abandoned the revolutionary standpoint of Marxism. Their “Marxism” is purely abstract and academic in character and bears no relation to the real world of the class struggle. They produce all kinds of “clever” and “intellectual” arguments to show that Venezuela is not ready for socialism, or that the time is not ripe (for such people the time is never right), and a hundred other arguments to persuade the workers not to try to take power. In reality, they have no faith in the working class or the revolution. They fear the counterrevolution, they fear imperialism, they fear the sound of their own voice, and they wish to transmit this fear to the workers.

82) In reality, the situation in Venezuela is completely mature for the transfer of power to the working class. The bourgeoisie has revealed its complete incapacity to rule. On the other hand, the revolution has not been carried out to the end. The only possible consequence of this is chaos. The revolution has advanced to a point where the normal function of capitalism is impossible. The capitalists withdraw their money and organise a strike of capital. Only the lucky accident of rising oil prices allows the government to maintain something like normal economic life. But this highly unstable situation cannot last. The struggle between the classes threatens to produce stagnation and collapse. It must be settled decisively in one sense or another.

83) The argument that Venezuela is not ready for socialism does not bear close examination. Venezuela is a potentially wealthy nation, with a superabundance of oil and other materials. The working class constitutes a decisive majority of society. The workers have demonstrated enormous courage, creativity and revolutionary spirit. They have shown their will to change society, and to take control of industry. What is required is a bold lead.

84) Opportunistic elements, masquerading under the name of socialism, maintain that the working class is not conscious enough to carry out the socialist transformation of society. This is merely the expression of the snobbism of middle class elements who have no knowledge of the working class or contact with it. All the experience of the working class struggle in Venezuela in the last few years demonstrates precisely the opposite. In so far as there is a problem of consciousness in the Venezuelan revolution, it is not a problem of the working class but of the leadership of the workers’ movement which is lagging behind the class and failing to draw the necessary conclusions.

85) Behind the counterrevolution stands the might of US imperialism. The threads of all the intrigues, plots and conspiracies can be traced back to the US embassy and the CIA. US imperialism is irreconcilably opposed to the Bolivarian revolution because it has aroused the mass of poor and dispossessed people, giving them new hope and a sense of their own power and dignity. Washington is terrified because this is acting as a point of attraction and a beacon to the workers and peasants of all Latin America. They are determined to sabotage and crush the revolution.

86) The attitude of Washington was shown in the first coup, when the US government rushed with indecent haste to recognise the counterrevolutionary bandits. This exposed the lying hypocrisy of their arguments about “democracy”. As always, the US imperialists only support “democracy” when it suits their interests. When they do not like the way the majority votes, they support counterrevolutionary coups and dictatorships. The fact that the coup in Caracas deposed a democratically elected government was only a small detail.

87) Everyone knows that the hand of Washington is behind every act of the counterrevolution in Venezuela. Even a blind man could see this. Yet there are still people who imagine that US imperialism will leave Venezuela alone if only the revolution is halted. This is the logic of a little child who hears noises at night and covers its head with a blanket. It imagines that if it is very quiet and closes its eyes, it will be out of danger. But adult people know that the way to confront danger is not by closing one’s eyes.

88) Everyone agrees that imperialism is the most implacable enemy of the Bolivarian revolution. But what is imperialism? Imperialism is monopoly capitalism. It is a system of world relations based on the domination of the globe by a handful of big corporations, most of them based in the USA. The military activities of imperialism are only an expression of the interests of these big corporations. The headquarters of imperialism is in Washington, but it has its local office boys in Venezuela – the Venezuelan bankers and capitalists. The Venezuelan bourgeoisie dances to Washington’s tune. A serious struggle against imperialism is therefore unthinkable without an implacable struggle against the bourgeoisie.

89) US imperialism is clearly preparing new attacks against the Venezuelan revolution. It is treacherously disseminating the lie that Venezuela is supporting the Columbian FARC guerrillas. This is a provocation that is intended to prepare the way for a future military intervention of the Columbian armed forces against Venezuela. The accusation that the Venezuelan government is guilty of supporting “narcoterrorism” is yet another indication that US imperialism is preparing to launch an armed aggression using the Colombian army and paramilitary groups. The recent declarations of the Colombian senate point unequivocally in the same direction. Now we have direct proof that the fascist thugs of the Columbian paramilitaries are already active on Venezuelan soil. They will be used as the shock troops of the counterrevolution. This perspective adds even greater urgency to the demand for the arming of the population.

90) In order to guarantee the future of the Venezuelan Revolution it is necessary to inflict a decisive defeat on the internal counterrevolution, to eliminate once and for all the Fifth Column that provides the US imperialists with a base for their operations against the Revolution, that is constantly involved in sabotage and is actively conspiring with foreign counterrevolutionary terrorists to plunge the country into chaos and bloodshed. It is necessary to carry through the Revolution to the end. That is the first step.

91) “But the Americans will invade!” our critics will exclaim. The logic of this argument is that if we do nothing, we will avoid the attacks of the counterrevolution and imperialism. The exact opposite is the case.

92) Naturally, we do not want a military conflict with either the USA or Colombia. But the way to avoid such a conflict is not to follow the advice of the reformists, but quite the opposite. The more decisive the attitude of the Venezuelan people, the more it shows that it is ready to fight, the less will be the appetite of US imperialism for a new military adventure. Conversely, the greater the vacillations, the more conciliatory the attitude, the greater will be the pressure of the warmongering faction in Bush’s administration to intervene.

93) Despite its immense power, the room for manoeuvre of US imperialism is limited by the general world situation. It is bogged down in military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The mood of the masses in the USA is increasingly critical. Therefore, it is unlikely that it would contemplate a direct military intervention in Venezuela, even on the scale of its intervention in Haiti. It understands that Venezuela is not Haiti and it would be faced with massive resistance.

94) The power of US imperialism is vast, but it is not unlimited. In Iraq the American invaders are faced with a general uprising of the masses that they cannot defeat, despite all their tremendous military power. If they were faced with uprisings everywhere, they would not be able to intervene.

95) Napoleon stressed the vital importance of morale in war. It is not just a question of guns and military technology, but of the will to fight and win. The masses have already demonstrated that they are prepared to fight to defend the revolution. On two occasions they have defeated the counterrevolution. How much more enthusiastically would they fight once they had the power in their hands? Any attempt to stage an armed intervention against Venezuela would be met with strikes, demonstrations and uprisings. Iraq shows that it is impossible to hold down an entire people, when the people is armed and mobilised to fight. However, the best defence is an internationalist policy.

96) It is true that US imperialism has colossal power and reserves. But does the Venezuelan revolution have reserves? Yes, it has huge reserves of support in the mass of downtrodden and oppressed people in Latin America and the working class of the whole world. That is why an internationalist policy is essential. Having taken power in its hands the Venezuelan workers must make an appeal to the workers of the rest of the continent to follow their example.

97) Everywhere in Latin America there is poverty, hunger and despair. A revolutionary appeal would not fall on deaf ears. The imperialists and reactionaries would be paralysed if there was a general revolutionary movement. This would have serious repercussions inside the USA itself, where the mood of the masses is already changing as a result of Bush’s Iraq adventure.

98) The Bolivarian revolution cannot succeed if it remains within the confines of capitalism. Nor can it maintain itself indefinitely within the narrow confines of the national state. The Bolivarian revolution can begin in Venezuela, but its ultimate triumph depends on the overthrow of the rule of the exploiters throughout Latin America and beyond.

99) The original vision of Bolivar – that great son of the Venezuelan people – was not a national revolution, but a revolution that would unite the peoples of all Latin America and the Caribbean. That was really the only way in which the continent could achieve genuine independence, freedom and prosperity. But Bolivar’s vision was betrayed by the bourgeoisie and the Creole aristocracy. The greedy and corrupt oligarchies carried out the Balkanisation of Latin America, dividing it up into national states that often waged fratricidal wars for territory. This fatally weakened Latin America and brought it under the domination of imperialism, draining its resources, destroying its huge potential and reducing its people to misery and despair.

100) Today Bolivar’s vision of a united Latin America retains all its vitality. It is the only way forward. But it can never be realised on the basis of capitalism. The bourgeoisie has had almost 200 years to show what it can do, and it has been exposed as bankrupt. Only the proletariat, in alliance with the peasants, the urban poor and all other exploited classes, can realise this perspective. In order to do this, it must expropriate the landlords and capitalists and create a Socialist Federation of Latin America.

101) By uniting the vast economic resources of Latin America in a common socialist plan of production, the enormous economic potential of the continent can be realised for the first time. Compared to this, the miserable little schemes of the bourgeoisie, such as Mercosur, will be exposed as insignificant tinkering. In the space of two five year plans, enough resources would be generated to completely transform the lives of millions of men, women and children. That is the perspective we hold out to the masses of Latin America. It is the only cause worth fighting for. Once the masses realise the potential, they will fight with tremendous energy. Faced with a general revolutionary upsurge all over Latin America, the US imperialists would be rendered impotent. If they are not able to hold down Iraq, much less would they be able to hold down the whole of Latin America. Instead of intervening, they would be faced with revolutionary movements at home.

102) Sceptics will say this is utopian. But what is really utopian is the notion that by showing “moderation” we can avoid counterrevolution. The conditions for socialist revolution have matured in Venezuela, and are maturing all over Latin America. What is required is a courageous leadership that accepts this and acts accordingly. Those self-styled “realists” who are trying to halt the revolution half way, irrespective of their subjective intentions, are playing the game of the counterrevolution. What they advocate is the worst kind of utopianism.

103) The whole logic of the situation is impelling the working class to take power into its hands. This task would, however, be immeasurably easier if there existed a powerful Marxist tendency in the Bolivarian Movement, impelling it in this direction. But the Movement remains confused, its programme unclear. This confusion must be cleared away as soon as possible and the objectives of the movement spelled out with utmost clarity.

104) The forces of Marxism exist, but they are still too weak to provide decisive leadership. The most urgent task is to overcome this weakness as quickly as possible and unite all the forces of genuine Marxism as the only consistently revolutionary wing of the Bolivarian Movement. The unification of EL Militante with El Topo Obrero marked an important step in this direction. But it is only the first step. Others must follow.

105) The greatest danger for the Venezuelan Marxists is impatience, sectarian and ultraleft moods. The revolutionary Marxist current is at present a minority of the mass movement. We cannot impose our solutions on it. We must resist the temptations to present it with ultimatums. We must be patient with the masses, working side by side with them to win their respect and confidence. Our slogan must be that of Lenin in 1917: Patiently explain!

106) We must constitute ourselves as an integral part of the mass movement – the extreme left wing of the Bolivarian Movement. “But that means sacrificing the independence of the Party”, the sectarians will exclaim. In reality, the independence of the Marxist wing is a political, not an organizational, question. We must remain absolutely independent in our ideas, programme, policies and methods. But we must also fight to carry these ideas into the mass movement, to fertilise it with the ideas of Marxism and to fight to win the majority. Conditions are ripe, since the concrete experience of the mass of working people in the last few years is already pushing them to draw the most advanced conclusions.

107) The first task is to win the advanced workers and the youth, who are active in and around the revolutionary organisations (Bolivarian Circles, revolutionary assemblies, democratic unions, etc). First we must win the advanced elements, and then through them we can reach the masses. We say to the activists of the Movement: We Marxists are also part of the Movement. We are ready to work for it, to build it, to strengthen it and to fight together with you against our common enemies. We do not seek to impose our ideas. All we ask is the right to defend our independent class standpoint and fight for our ideas within the Movement.

108) There is no contradiction between building the Revolutionary Marxist Current and participating actively in the Bolivarian Movement. In reality, the two things are inseparable. The Marxists must work and fight shoulder to shoulder with the masses, pushing the movement forward, and explaining at every stage what is necessary for the movement to succeed.

109) The first condition for our success is the education of the cadres. The only thing that separates us from the rest of the movement, apart from being the most militant and revolutionary elements, is our serious attitude to theory and ideas. Marxism is scientific socialism and a scientific standpoint is absolutely necessary if the working class is to succeed. We have a clear understanding of events nationally and internationally, a coherent method and strategy. By contrast, all the other trends are characterised by confusion, lack of clarity, ambiguity and the complete absence of a coherent strategy. The consequences of this will be cruelly exposed as events unfold. The workers and youth will begin to understand through their own experience the superiority of Marxism.

110) Either the greatest of victories or the most terrible of defeats – that is the choice before the Venezuelan revolution.

Back to Part One

Mexico City,
May 20, 2004

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Theses on revolution and counterrevolution in Venezuela

Part One

By Alan Woods

1) The Venezuelan revolution is at the crossroads. Having twice defeated the counterrevolution, the revolution is faced with a new and furious offensive. This means that the counterrevolutionary forces are not reconciled to defeat. They are increasingly desperate, and their desperation makes them even more determined and violent. Moreover, they are combining legal and semi-legal methods of struggle (the “referendum” campaign), with preparations for armed struggle. The former is for the purpose of propaganda for foreign consumption and has a secondary significance. The latter constitutes the essence of their strategy. This is combined with a campaign of economic sabotage, the disruption of the food distribution chain and acts of rioting.

2) The arrest of Colombian paramilitaries in Venezuela indicates the existence of a well-prepared conspiracy to overthrow the government and assassinate Chavez. The dangers faced by the revolution are therefore very real. The time has therefore come to draw all the necessary conclusions and to take steps that will strike decisive blows against the counterrevolution.

3) Venezuelan society is now extremely polarised for and against the Bolivarian revolution, to the right and left. On the left stand the Venezuelan workers, peasants and poor people, who are fighting to defend the revolution and carry it forward. On the right stand the Venezuelan counterrevolutionaries, led by the bankers, landlords and capitalists, who have succeeded in dragging behind them a large part of the middle class. The gulf between the two antagonistic camps is enormous. It cannot be bridged. All attempts at compromise are futile.

4) US imperialism continues to encourage, support and finance the forces of the internal counterrevolution, hoping that they can do the dirty work for it. But it has correctly concluded that the internal opposition is too weak to succeed on the basis of its own forces. Therefore, Washington is preparing a campaign of terror, using Colombian paramilitary forces that work in conjunction with the internal counterrevolutionaries. This amounts to a declaration of war.

5) Sooner or later, matters will be solved by a decisive victory of one side or another. The revolution has not yet passed the point of no return. All the gains made by the masses under the Chavez government can still be liquidated. The movement can be thrown far back. That is what the counterrevolutionaries are fighting for, while the workers are fighting to defeat them. The question of power has not yet been settled. In the not too distant future the decisive battle will have to be fought and won.

6) Who are the counterrevolutionaries? They are the same bourgeois who ruled Venezuela for decades. They looted and ruined the country, while filling their pockets and bank accounts with the wealth created by the working people. They are the local office boys of US imperialism. They are the same rotten and corrupt politicians and bureaucrats against whom Hugo Chavez rebelled, expressing the will of the Venezuelan people.

7) The programme of the counterrevolution is a mixture of lies, fraud and hypocrisy. They claim to stand for “democracy” but overlook the fact that Chavez has regularly won convincing majorities in every election. They claim to stand for the rule of law, but constantly violate the law – to the point of staging a coup to overthrow the democratically elected government. They claim to stand for order, but are constantly creating disorder and chaos as a cloak for their counterrevolutionary intrigues. They claim to be patriotic Venezuelans but have sold their country to US imperialism and have their fortunes in bank accounts in Florida. Now they are actively supporting an invasion of Venezuela by foreign counterrevolutionary forces.

8) In the struggle between revolution and counterrevolution, the counterrevolutionaries have one great advantage: the control of key points of the economy. During the so-called strike (in reality a bosses’ lockout), the Venezuelan capitalists inflicted terrible damage on the economy. Total losses added up to over seven billion dollars. In addition to this, these so-called “patriots” have exported billions of dollars to banks in Florida, thus starving the Venezuelan economy of much-needed investment. Combined with this economic sabotage they are also disrupting the food distribution chain, controlled by three or four big monopoly companies, in order to create artificial price hikes and scarcity of basic foodstuffs. They are draining away the precious life-blood of Venezuela in an attempt to cause the maximum dislocation, unemployment and pain. They calculate that this will dampen the enthusiasm of the masses for the revolution. They also wish to cause chaos and disorder, in order to create the conditions for a coup by the army tops to “restore order”.

9) The decisive element in the equation is the working class. The workers of Venezuela have already begun to fight back against the bosses’ offensive. They have taken the initiative, in some cases have occupied factories abandoned by the bosses, begun to introduce elements of workers’ control in some companies, set up democratic unions, forced the bosses to pay unpaid wages and benefits. These initiatives should be taken up and generalised. They show the way forward.

10) A particularly pernicious role is being played by the so-called “trade union leaders” of the CTV. These corrupt and degenerate labour lieutenants of Capital have long ago sold their soul to the bosses and the CIA. They have abdicated any right to be considered a legitimate part of the labour movement. They should be driven out of the movement.

11) The building of the UNT is an urgent task. We must strengthen and build the democratic unions and provide them with a fighting programme. Build a mass trade union federation! Work out a programme of demands based on the immediate needs of the workers: the fight against factory closures and unemployment, the high cost of living etc.

12) The UNT recently announced a campaign to organize 80 percent of the workforce into unions (which was publicly supported by president Chavez). This is a step in the right direction. By organizing the unorganised layers, the Revolution can cut the ground from under the feet of the old rotten right wing trade union bureaucracy. This initiative must be taken up energetically at all levels. At the same time, an appeal should be made to any workers who remain in unions affiliated to the CTV to fight to democratise those and join the UNT. In cases where this might not be possible new democratic unions should be set up, but always having the aim of organising the mass of the workers, and not only the most advanced layers.

13) To prevent sabotage, waste and corruption, the workers in industry must begin to exercise control over production. Corrupt officials must be dismissed. Managers who side with the counterrevolution and sabotage production, must be given an ultimatum: either desist from such activities and serve the people, or be dismissed with loss of pension and all other rights. Serious cases of sabotage should be met with arrest and imprisonment. Corrupt and counterrevolutionary directors should be replaced by people who are honest and devoted to the cause of the revolution. This can only be done effectively by introducing workers’ democratic control and management.

14) Can the workers run industry? Those sceptics who question the ability of the workers to run industry have had their answer. It was the workers who defeated the attempts of the bosses to sabotage the economy in the bosses’ lockout twelve moths ago. The workers of the PDVSA have demonstrated their ability to run even the biggest and most complex industries. They have done so with a high level of skill and competence.

15) In any case, the workers will not be alone. They will count on the help of the majority of honest engineers, scientists, technicians and managers, who are not saboteurs or counterrevolutionaries and who genuinely wish to see a prosperous and successful Venezuela. The people of Venezuela have enormous reserves of talent and creativity. They will attract to their side all that is best in Venezuelan society, including the cream of the intellectuals. The creative talents of the people under capitalism are crippled by a system that places the profits of a few above the interest of the majority. This is also true of those who occupy managerial positions at the lower level. In a socialist planned economy, their skills will be put to good use in applying the most modern technology and methods to boost productivity in the interests of all.

16) Workers’ control will immediately bring to light all the corruption, waste and nepotism, the excessive profits and perks of the bosses. Open the books! Compel all companies to reveal their real profits. Let the workers have all the information about the fat profits and perks, the swindles and theft. This would dramatically reduce waste and channel these resources into production for the development of Venezuela. However, workers’ control in and of itself cannot solve the fundamental problems of society. It is only a transitional step towards the nationalisation of the means of production and a planned economy.

17) The elements of workers’ control already exist. Some factories closed by the bosses have been occupied by the workers. During the sabotage of the oil industry, even Hugo Chavez expressed his support for the slogan “Factory closed, factory taken over by the workers”, though then the government did not really take any serious action to solve the problem of the workers who had occupied the factories. Isolated instances of workers’ control can only succeed partially and temporarily. What is needed is an overall plan of production that can integrate the different sectors of the economy and branches of production. But such overall planning and integration immediately comes up against the barrier of capitalist anarchy (the “market”). No real progress can be made unless these obstacles are overcome.

18) The principal power of the counterrevolution consists in its ownership of the means of production. It continues to exercise control over key points in the economy, which it uses to place a noose around the neck of the Venezuelan people. The only way to prevent this economic sabotage and to eliminate the waste and corruption that are the inevitable consequences of capitalism is to destroy the economic stranglehold of the bourgeoisie. As long as the counterrevolutionaries continue to hold economic power, the Revolution will be fighting with one hand tied behind its back.

19) The land, banks, insurance companies and big industries must be nationalised. This can be done by introducing emergency legislation through the congress, backed up by an appeal to the workers to take over from below, to introduce workers’ control to prevent sabotage by the bosses and ensure a peaceful and orderly transition to a planned economy. The President of the Republic can explain this step to the people by going on television to expose the scandalous profits of the bosses, the waste, corruption and nepotism, the systematic sabotage of the economy.

20) By nationalising the key points of the economy under democratic workers’ control and management, it will be possible to introduce a genuine plan of production that will mobilise all the productive resources of Venezuela for the satisfaction of the people’s needs: a crash building programme of houses, schools and hospitals can begin straight away, using the country’s considerable oil revenue to finance an ambitious investment plan. Unemployment would be eliminated, and all citizens would have the right and obligation to work. Such a plan, which would guarantee an immediate improvement in the living standards of the immense majority, is only possible on the basis of nationalization. You cannot plan what you do not control, and you cannot control what you do not own.

21) Unless decisive steps are taken to control the economy, the people of Venezuela will be faced in the future with growing economic chaos, unemployment and poverty. Venezuela’s huge oil wealth will not be sufficient to prevent this. The bosses can use their economic power to sabotage and wreck the country’s prosperity. But even without that, the attempt to combine measures of nationalization with the market economy will produce distortions and particularly inflation that will cancel out the gains and provoke economic dislocation. The nationalization of the key points of the economy is therefore an absolutely necessary and urgent measure of self-defence taken by the majority to protect its most vital interests and the most fundamental right – the right to life.

22) The first step must be the nationalization of the banks. An important section of the Venezuelan banking system is under the control of two Spanish banking groups. Furthermore a large part of all the money that circulates in the financial system over a year is actually state-owned money, either directly or through state-owned companies particularly PDVSA. However the control over these financial resources is in private hands and is used to finance the counter-revolution and sabotage the economy. Without the nationalisation of the banks it will be impossible to plan the economy. Control of credit is one of the most fundamental levers of the modern economy. Without this, nothing can be accomplished. The state must know how much money there is, where it comes from and where it is going. Strict national accounting is the prior condition for a planned economy.

23) Nationalization of the banks would allow the state to exercise real and not fictitious control over the economy, to control the flow of capital and investment into those fields that reflect the interests of the majority and the objective requirements of the economy. The bank employees themselves can play a key role in the nationalization of the banks. They know all about the swindles and speculative movement of capital. They know how the counterrevolutionaries are using large sums of money for the purpose of sabotage and intrigues. An appeal must be made to the bank employees to control the movement of capital, ensure a smooth handover of the banks and prevent acts of sabotage.

24) The gains of the revolution are real and palpable. Important measures have been taken in the interest of the workers, the peasants and the poor, particularly the land reform and the health and education plans which have reached millions. But all these gains are under threat. They can be reversed and they will be reversed if the counterrevolution gets back in the saddle. In order to guarantee the gains of the revolution, it must be made irreversible. This means a fundamental change in society. This poses the question of power.

25) Every revolution in history is ultimately settled by answering the question: who holds the power? Who is master of the house? Until this question is answered, the revolution is not finished. By beginning the Bolivarian revolution, Hugo Chavez threw down a challenge to the old oligarchy. Their power was challenged but not completely overthrown. A colossal struggle began, which has still not been decided one way or the other. Upon the resolution of this struggle everything depends.

26) At bottom, the question of power can be reduced to one thing: Who controls the state power? That is the decisive question. The state in the last analysis consists of armed bodies of men – the army, the police etc. In a normal capitalist regime, the bourgeoisie controls the state and uses it to oppress the majority of society and guarantee its power and privileges. It controls not only the army and police but also the judges, the bureaucracy and every other branch of the executive power.

27) However, there are exceptional periods in history, periods when the class struggle reaches deadlock, when things are not quite so clear-cut. Venezuela is now passing through such a complex situation. Is the Venezuelan state a bourgeois state? As long as the bourgeoisie remains the ruling class, as long as it continues to own and control the key points of the economy, as long as its economic power has not been broken, Venezuela remains a capitalist country, and the state therefore remains a bourgeois state. This means that the revolution has not been carried out to the end, has stopped half way, and therefore can still be reversed.

28) The state is still a bourgeois state, but it is a bourgeois state with peculiar features. The most peculiar feature is that the bourgeoisie has – at least temporarily – lost control over key parts of its own state. This seems like a contradictory assertion, but it is only the expression of a real contradiction that exists in society. Venezuelan society is split right down the middle. The extreme class polarisation affects everything – including the state, which is itself split. A section of the army has gone over to the side of the Bolivarian revolution. This includes the overwhelming majority of the ordinary soldiers, the non-commissioned officers, but also a significant number of the officers, like Chavez himself. This creates enormous difficulties for the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, which does not have the same grip on the army and the officer caste that exists, say, in Britain or the USA.

29) Many officers sincerely support the Revolution. The upper echelons will have been purged following the collapse of the coup of April 2002. In general, the prevailing mood is unfavourable to the counterrevolution. The external threat posed by US imperialism and Colombia will have galvanised the natural instincts of the army to fight and rallied them round the President. The counterrevolutionaries, at least for the moment, find themselves in a difficult position. But from the outside it is difficult to say what the real balance of forces in the army is. This will only be made clear by events.

30) In the last analysis, the correlation of forces inside the army is determined by the correlation of class forces in society. To the degree that the Revolution advances and strikes decisive blows against its enemies, both internal and external, to the degree that the masses are roused and active, the revolutionary wing of the armed forces will take courage and be strengthened. But vacillations and retreats will dishearten the revolutionary wing and encourage the counterrevolutionaries.

31) Chavez and his supporters are leaning on the support of the masses to strike blows against the oligarchy and imperialism. They did not originally have a socialist perspective, but only the notion of clearing out corruption and modernising Venezuela. They wanted a fairer, more just and equal society, but imagined that this was possible without breaking the bounds of capitalism. But this immediately brought them into conflict with the bourgeoisie and imperialism. The masses took to the streets and imparted an entirely different dynamic to the process. The mass movement has provided a stimulus to Chavez and in turn he has encouraged the movement in a revolutionary direction.

32) When Hugo Chavez founded the Bolivarian Movement, he sought to clean out the stinking Augean stables that were Venezuelan political life. This was a limited and very modest objective – but it met with the ferocious resistance of the ruling oligarchy and its servants. It earned him the undying hatred of the wealthy and powerful, and the loyalty and love of the masses. Hugo Chavez for the first time gave the poor and downtrodden a voice and some hope. That is the secret of the extraordinary devotion and loyalty they have shown him. He aroused them to life and they see themselves in him.

33) That explains the equally extraordinary hatred the ruling class shows towards Chavez. It is the hatred of the rich for the poor, of the exploiter for the exploited. Behind this hatred is fear – fear for the loss of their wealth, power and privileges. This is a gulf that cannot be bridged by fair words. It is the fundamental class division of society.

34) The Revolution stands for democracy. But a consistent struggle for democracy inevitably brings the Revolution into conflict with the vested interests of the landlords, the bankers and capitalists and imperialism. That is to say, if the revolutionary democracy is to achieve its aims, it must be prepared to go beyond the boundaries of capitalism. It must take action to destroy the economic power of the oligarchy. Failure to do this will inevitably end in defeat, the victory of the counterrevolution and the complete eradication of democracy in Venezuela.

35) Though they swear by democracy in every other sentence, the Venezuelan oligarchy and imperialism are the enemies of democracy. They want a “democracy” in which anyone can say what they like as long as the wealthy minority decides what happens. The only class that is sincerely interested in democracy is the working class and its natural allies, the poor peasants and the urban poor. True democracy will only be achieved when the power of the oligarchy is destroyed forever and power is in the hands of the working people. What is needed is not the hollow fiction of bourgeois formal democracy, where real power is in the hands of the bankers and capitalists, but a genuine democracy of the working people, based on the nationalisation of the land, banks and big industries and a democratic plan of production.

36) The immediate programme must be: a) the amalgamation of the banks and the nationalization of the banking system, b) the amalgamation of the insurance companies and the nationalization of the finance sector, c) the abolition of commercial secrecy: open the books! d) workers’ control and management of the PVDSA and all other big companies, and the nationalization of all other sectors of the petrochemical industry, gas and energy, e) the organization of the population into consumers’ associations and co-operatives to control prices and distribution of food and other products, which can be carried out through the nationalisation of the monopolies which control the food distribution chain, f) the nationalization of the land, the expropriation of the big estates and the formation of peasant co-operatives to run agriculture, g) the nationalization of all big transport companies and the creation of a unified transport system, h) a state monopoly of foreign trade.

37) US imperialism is playing a game of cat and mouse with Venezuela. Having been defeated in two direct assaults, it is resorting to siege methods. It is putting pressure on other governments in Latin America to help it isolate the Venezuelan revolution, which it regards as a dangerous focal point for the discontent of the masses throughout the continent. It is threatening to bring Venezuela to its knees with economic sanctions. At the same time it is actively preparing a campaign of terrorism and subversion.

38) Fearing to intervene itself, Washington is actively conspiring with the leading circles in Columbia, not just to isolate Venezuela, and to put pressure on its, but even to prepare direct intervention against the Venezuelan revolution. It is constantly intriguing in the Organization of American States (OAS) to interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs. The role of the OAS is like that of a “friendly neighbour” who advises a man who is being attacked by a gang of bandits to stay still and not shout so loud, as this will only provoke the robbers and disturb the whole neighbourhood. With “friends” like these, the people of Venezuela have no need of enemies!

39) It is, of course, necessary to make use of diplomacy ‑ to take every possible measure to prevent the isolation of Venezuela, to develop friendly relations, trade etc., with Argentina, Brazil and, of course with Cuba. However, it would be extremely shortsighted to base oneself on this. Governments can change, and they can be brought under the pressure of imperialism. There is no guarantee that this will not happen in the case of Brazil or Argentina.

40) In the last analysis, the only real allies of the Venezuelan people are the oppressed workers and peasants of Latin America. They can always be depended on to defend the Venezuelan revolution, their governments cannot. Ultimately, the real defence of the Venezuelan Revolution consists not in diplomacy but in a consistent revolutionary and internationalist policy aimed at spreading the revolution throughout Latin America and beyond.

41) President Chavez has courageously stood up to the imperialists. He has said: “If there is an imperialist intervention we will fight them for 100 years.” Undoubtedly the masses would be prepared to make the greatest sacrifices for the revolution. They have been aroused to political life and have been given new hope and a sense of their own human dignity. Thus, the masses have tremendous reserves of revolutionary energy. This is something the imperialists and counterrevolutionaries are incapable of understanding. However, to rely exclusively on the willingness of the masses to make sacrifices is a mistake. The masses can sacrifice their “today” for the “tomorrow” only up to a certain point. This must always be kept in mind.

42) Ultimately, the economic question is decisive. In 2003 alone, Venezuelan GDP fell by 18 percent, despite the high price of oil. According to some calculations, living standards have fallen to the level of the 1950s. By these means the counterrevolution is trying to undermine support for the government, which it blames for the results of its own sabotage. So far, the plans of the counterrevolution have not succeeded. The masses remain fiercely loyal to the revolution and to President Hugo Chavez. But such a situation cannot last indefinitely.

43) For the time being, the Venezuelan economy has been helped by the rising price of oil. In 2003 the price of a barrel of Venezuelan oil ($25.65) was about 17 percent higher than a year earlier. President Chavez has attempted to alleviate the effects of the crisis by introducing price and exchange controls. Part of the income of the PDVSA has been diverted to social and housing programmes. Strict exchange controls have boosted the BCV’s internal revenues from $13 billion in January to $22 billion now. The devaluation of the official dollar rate from 1,600 to 1,920 bolivars has also helped. The growth rate is sharply up, although this is partly a reflection of a natural recovery after the steep fall brought about by the bosses’ lockout.

44) These measures have partially succeeded in alleviating the conditions of the masses. They have served to buy time. But there will be a price to pay. On a capitalist basis, such measures tend to produce inflationary consequences. The bolivar is falling sharply on the black market. Inflation is rising at 27 percent annually – the highest rate in the region. In the long run, this is unsustainable. Sooner or later it will be reflected in new and severe economic crises, shortages and unemployment. Thus, the fundamental problem remains.

45) If the revolution does not advance, if it does not take over the commanding heights of the economy, the growth of unemployment and poverty can undermine the fighting spirit of the masses. For the time being, this does not seem to be the case. The economic recovery has provided a breathing space. The masses remain fiercely loyal to Chavez. The class balance of forces is still favourable to the revolution and unfavourable to the counterrevolution. But this can change. If the masses do not see a fundamental change , and above all decisive action against the counterrevolutionaries, frustration and disappointment can set in. The pendulum can swing back to the right.

46) Beginning with the less conscious, unorganised layers, a mood of apathy can set in among the masses. Seeing no real progress, the workers can become tired and disappointed. With every step backward, the reactionaries will take courage and pass onto the offensive. The vacillating elements can swing behind the counterrevolution. This mood can communicate itself to the state. Some of the “friends” of the revolution in the upper layers of the bureaucracy, the army and the police, can abandon the President and go over to the counterrevolution, alleging that the revolution has been taken over by “extremists” and is bringing nothing but chaos. The prostitute press will intensify its campaign of vilification and slanders. The stage will then be set for a counterrevolutionary coup under the banner of “Order”.

47) The masses have expended enormous energies in carrying the revolution to where it is today. It has come a long way, but the decisive point has not yet been passed, and there is still a real danger that the whole process may be thrown into reverse. There is a growing awareness of this at rank and file level. Frustration is already growing among the activists. This is a warning. This frustration could lead to moods of impatience and ultraleft adventures on the part of a layer of activists who have moved far ahead of the rest of the class. This could have negative consequences for the revolution.

48) The reaction has been defeated, but it has not disappeared. It is waiting for a more favourable situation to act. The idea that it is possible to placate the counterrevolution by displaying “moderation” is extremely foolish and utterly counterproductive. The counterrevolution and imperialism cannot be placated by sweet words. This fact is shown by the scandal over the Colombian paramilitaries. Not “moderation” but decisive action is necessary.

49) The revolution has attracted many friends. Most of them are genuine and honest. But some of these “friends” are not acting in the interests of the revolution. They are not revolutionaries at all, but reformists. And it is the historical destiny of reformism always to achieve results that are diametrically opposed to those that were intended. They are, of course, guided by the best of intentions. But the way to a very warm place is paved by such good intentions.

50) The reformists say that we must not do anything that will provoke the imperialists, we must be cautious, diplomatic etc., etc. But the argument about “provoking” the imperialists is false to the core. The imperialists do not need to be provoked. They have been hostile to the revolution from the very first day. They have lost no opportunity to attack it. They have already organised two attempted coups and are preparing a third under the banner of the referendum. It is not this or that speech, or this or that action that provokes them ‑ they regard the very existence of the revolution as a provocation. They will not be satisfied until it is destroyed.

51) The false “friends” of the revolution and the pseudo-Marxists argue that, since the Venezuelan revolution is democratic and popular, not socialist, it cannot take action against private property. This is pure sophistry. The American Revolution of the 18th century was a bourgeois democratic revolution, yet the revolutionaries of 1776 did not hesitate to confiscate the property of the supporters of the English Crown. After the American Civil War, the United States government did not hesitate to confiscate the property of the Southern slaveholders worth billions of dollars in modern currency. These examples from American history show clearly that the demands of the revolution supersede the so-called sacred rights of property.

52) Since when did the property rights of an exploiting and oppressive minority carry more weight than the needs of the overwhelming majority? Democracy means the rule of the majority. And we stand for consistent democracy. The Venezuelan revolution, following the excellent example of the American Revolution, will likewise not hesitate to take measures to eliminate the economic power of the counterrevolutionary minority.

Continue to Part Two

Mexico City,
May 20, 2004

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The targets are Venezuela and Cuba

New Intrigues of US imperialism

By Alan Woods in Mexico City

On May 1, Fidel Castro denounced the United States before a million marchers in Havana. The Cuban leader also denounced the European Union as a mafia allied with Washington, and went on to criticise some Latin American governments, namely Mexico and Peru. Castro accused the two countries of joining the herd of hypocrites who voted to condemn Cuba at last month's meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Mexico was, he declared, now a mere pawn of the United States, its “prestige and influence gained in Latin America and the world... turned to ashes”.

These comments were no more than the truth. Under the government of Vicente Fox, Mexico has become completely dependent on Washington, and a loyal ally for its foreign policy. Following Washington's dictates, Fox joined in the noisy chorus of condemnation of Cuba over "human rights". Mexico's relations with Cuba have therefore been tense since Fox's election victory in 2000.

These condemnations, coinciding as they do with the exposure of the systematic abuse of human rights by the US forces in Iraq, cut very little ice with most people here in Mexico, who are broadly sympathetic to Cuba and bitterly hostile to US imperialism. So when Fox demanded the recall of the Mexican ambassador from Havana and ordered the Cuban diplomats to leave, the response of the masses was anything but favourable. The diplomatic crisis between Mexico and Cuba has deepened the political crisis in Mexico and further undermined Fox and his right wing PAN government.

In 2002, the rift between the Fox government and Cuba became public when Castro walked out of a summit hosted by the Mexican president in Monterrey. Castro then released an audiotape of a phone call in which his host told him in no uncertain terms that he must leave early so as not to embarrass George Bush. The famous telephone conversation has become universally known in Mexico by Fox's graphic (and not terribly diplomatic) phrase "Come, y te vas" (You eat, then you leave).

However, the tensions between Mexico and Cuba are more complicated than this. For many weeks the political life of Mexico has been rocked by a scandal in which the present mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has been accused of involvement in a corruption scandal. News of the scandal every day fills the columns of the newspapers and the television screens, and is now at the very centre of the politics of this country.

The PAN government and its friends in the mass media accuse associates of López Obrador of receiving sizeable bribes from Carlos Ahumada, a Mexican businessman. Ahumada, a very shady character, apparently filmed himself paying these bribes to functionaries of the PRD (the centre-left party to which López Obrador belongs). However, the accusations have not got much of an echo among the people of Mexico, who are accustomed to believe (not without reason) that all Mexican politicians are corrupt and take bribes as a matter of course. The question is therefore why only the opposition PRD has been singled out for exposure.

The answer is not hard to understand and most Mexicans understand it very well. It is clearly part of a carefully worked-out strategy by Fox to bring discredit on the PRD and blacken the name of the popular mayor of Mexico City. The reason is that the popularity of Fox and the right wing PAN has plummeted. The old PRI party that governed Mexico for many decades, is split and in crisis. Therefore it is quite possible that the PRD could win power in the Presidential elections in 2006.

This has implications that go far beyond the borders of Mexico. The prospect of a PRD government would be most unwelcome in Washington, which is attempting to eliminate all governments in Latin America and the Caribbean that do not blindly obey its commands. The removal of Aristide in Haiti through the direct military intervention of the US army was one indication of this aggressive policy. The attempts to overthrow Hugo Chávez in Venezuela are another. The increased pressure on Cuba is yet another.

The infamous Colombia Plan is calculated not only to increase the stranglehold of the USA on Colombia but on the whole of Latin America. Finally, the so-called Free Trade Agreement for the Americas (ALCA) is an attempt to get complete control of all the natural wealth, minerals and oil of the continent, and to conquer a monopoly of its huge market, free from competition from the European capitalists.

The fall of the Fox government would be a serious blow to these plans of US imperialism. The PRD is seen as a threat in Washington. Despite all the attempts of the PRD leaders to adopt a moderate stand and renounce radical policies, the US imperialists do not trust it. They fear the masses who stand behind the PRD ‑ and in this they are not mistaken. They are terrified of a new version of Chávez on their frontiers. The hand of Washington is therefore clearly behind the recent scandal and the ever more strident attacks on the PRD.

For reasons known only to himself, Ahumada fled to Cuba immediately after the exposure of the corruption scandal in February. Cuba involved itself in Mexico's explosive political scandal when it deported him back to Mexico last week. Before deporting him, Cuban officials said that Ahumada had confessed to them that he was part of a conspiracy by Fox's people to bring the mayor down.

Mexico's government countered by accusing two Cuban Communist Party officials of spying during a recent visit to Mexico. Fox ordered the recall of the Mexican ambassador from Havana and the expulsion from Mexico of a number of Cuban diplomats and Communist Party members accused of carrying out "activities incompatible with their status". Peru also announced that it was withdrawing its ambassador from Havana.

This action is without precedent in the history of relations between Mexico and Cuba. Diplomatic relations between the two countries still exist, but only on a minimal level. Hitherto, relations were generally good. It is an unprecedented diplomatic crisis.

On May 6th the US State Department released a 500-page report, the outcome of a six-month policy review, on ways to step up American pressure against Cuba. Its proposals include restricting visits by Cuban Americans and cutting their remittances home by half; curbs on spending by Americans who travel legally to Cuba; and boosting support for anti-Castro elements and for propaganda broadcasts aimed at the island.

President Bush said the United States would also spend $59m (£33m) over the next two years to promote the goal of "a democratic Cuba" (read a capitalist Cuba), including US$18m to counter Cuba's jamming of anti-Castro broadcasts.

This latest attempt at bullying will not succeed. It has infuriated the Cuban people who staged a massive demonstration on the streets of Havana. About one million marched along the Malecón, Havana's harbour boulevard, in the protest. Posters portrayed George Bush wearing a Hitler moustache alongside a Nazi swastika, while others carried pictures of Iraqi prisoners abused by US soldiers, with the slogan: "This would never happen in Cuba."

Fidel Castro said the march was "an act of indignant protest, and a denunciation of the brutal, merciless and cruel measures" announced by Bush. The Cuban leader denounced and ridiculed the US President, George Bush, saying he was a fraudulently elected leader trying to impose "world tyranny". He vowed that Cuba would never become a neo-colony of the United States.

He went on to accuse the United States of fighting "wars of conquest to seize the markets and resources of the world", while Cuba was sending abroad thousands of doctors to save lives. He insisted that Bush had "neither morality nor any right at all to speak of liberty, democracy and human rights". [For the full speech see: http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/discursos/2004/ing/f140504i.html ]

The lies of the Fox government and the new measures taken by US imperialism against Cuba have served to infuriate the Mexican public that is already tired of its anti-working class policies of neo-liberalism, downsizing and precarious jobs. Thousands of Mexicans spontaneously demonstrated at the Cuban Embassy this week. They understand clearly that their government is being shamelessly manipulated by US imperialism in the furtherance of its own reactionary policies and interests.

This is a fact. All these intrigues have been organised and orchestrated by the US State Department. It is very clear that all these events are interconnected and form part of a general plan of US imperialism to increase its domination of Latin America, silence all criticism and overthrow governments that refuse to bend the knee to George W Bush.

The latest attempt to bully and isolate Cuba is partly –but not totally ‑ dictated by electoral considerations. George Bush's hold on power gets shakier by the day. He needs to secure Florida in the Presidential election. This means adopting measures that will please the Cuban Mafia in Miami and other right wing groups. Several prominent member of the Cuban-American Mafia have top jobs in the Bush administration (although one, Otto Reich resigned this week as the special envoy to Latin America).

This miserable gang of mafiosi, thieves, drug dealers, cutthroats and pimps masquerading as respected businessmen and "democrats" are waiting in the wings for their return to Cuba where they hope to resume their crooked activities under the protection of the government of Washington, as in the "good old days" before the Cuban revolution. As an insurance policy for their future well-being they pay millions into the coffers of the Republican party. They naturally expect some kind of downpayment on their investment, and their good friend in the White House has just obliged them.

The recent intrigues are dictated by considerations that go far deeper than mere electoral tactics. After the fall of the USSR US imperialism has achieved a virtual monopoly of power in the world. Colossal power brings colossal arrogance. Drunk with power, the most reactionary circles of the US establishment are determined to impose American domination throughout the entire world.

This fact expresses itself most clearly in the policies of George Bush and the neo Conservative faction that until recently controlled his actions. Despite the defeat that is staring it in the face in Iraq, the right wing clique that has seized control in the White House is already preparing new adventures and new explosions.

The right wing of the Bush administration and its friends in the Pentagon would probably like to prepare the ground for an invasion to secure "regime change" in Havana. They have learned nothing from Iraq and are probably calculating that with the attention of the world focused on the Middle East, a couple of little adventures in Latin America will not be noticed.

These people are really quite unbalanced. They would be prepared for anything, but they no longer have the influence they enjoyed before the debacle in Iraq. The neo Conservative wing are losing ground. The war in Iraq that they planned and encouraged is ending in a complete debacle for the United States. The revelations of brutality and torture have completely demolished the last excuse for the invasion. Rumsfeld is fighting for his political life. Probably the neo Conservatives will be made a scapegoat for George Bush's disastrous miscalculation in Iraq.

Does this mean that new adventures by US imperialism in Latin America are ruled out? Not at all. The politics of US imperialism in fundamentals are not decided by who is in the White House but by the interests of the imperialists and the big US corporations that they defend. Latin America is the backyard of US imperialism. Washington cannot afford to allow Cuba and Venezuela to live peacefully because they represent points of reference for millions of poor people, unemployed workers and landless peasants throughout Latin America.

Nor will a Democratic victory in the Presidential elections necessarily signify a fundamental change of course, as some people foolishly imagine. The declarations of Kerry about Venezuela are even more rabidly reactionary than those of Bush. His attempt to enlist the Republican John McCain as candidate for Vice President has exposed his real political agenda. There is no fundamental difference between him and the Republicans. Nothing whatsoever can be expected from this quarter.

The only way to expose and defeat the reactionary and aggressive plans of US imperialism is by mobilising the might of the world labour movement. The movement against imperialism and capitalism must be strengthened. Protests must be organised. Pressure must be applied. The lessons must be learned. Let us raise a universal cry that will be heard everywhere:

Hands off Cuba!
Hands off Venezuela!
Down with imperialism!

May 21, 2004

You can also see photo galleries of the demonstrations:
Gallery 1
Gallery 2

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Coup cheerleader Aleksander Boyd faces hate-Venezuela setback in Austria

VENPRES reports: After incidents that occurred in Vienna (Austria), May 11, the Venezuelan opposition has suffered a new defeat in its intent to create negative opinions of Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution in foreign countries.

According to information released by the Venezuelan Embassy in Vienna, the Socialist Youth Party of Austria and the Movement "Hands Off Venezuela" had demonstrated on May 11 in front of the Latin American Institute headquarters in Vienna, where a meeting entitled "Communications Media & Information Processes: The Venezuelan Case" was being held by the self-proclaimed "Vienna Pro-Venezuela Group" lead by Aleksander Boyd ... a member of the same group in London.

A large group of youth drew pictures of dead bodies at the entrance to the Institute to represent the many deaths that the opposition's destabilizing acts have caused in Venezuela.

Under the slogan "We won't allow fascist organizations to appear in Austria and try to justify to our society the abuses that the opposition coup leaders commit in Venezuela," the youths distributed informational material explaining Venezuela's private communications media's manipulations.

According to the press release, Boyd tried to justify the private communications media's conduct ... but he was harshly criticized by the majority of the participants, who refuted his statements with strong, logical arguments.

During his presentation, Boyd tried to justify the "right" of the media to promote military pronouncements and the coup d'etat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ... and to lie or manipulate the information, all in the name of "freedom of expression."

These statements served to unmask to the public the true fascist, antidemocratic, and unconstitutional concepts supported by opposition coup-promoters. "Rather than freedom of expression and information, what they wish to promote is freedom of media owners to lie and act as power brokers to defeat the legitimate government elected by the people of Venezuela," notes the press release.

Aleksander Boyd, a hotel bell-hop who has admitted fantasies of being a "Ghengis Khan," lost his job near Oxford Street in London last November (2003) and has since devoted his energies as the "brains" behind a virulent hate-Venezuela website based in from London UK ... the website shows he is sponsored by various US NED-funded groups in the Venezuelan opposition.

See the photo gallery here.

Translated by Philip Stinard

En Espanol:

Fracaso de la oposición venezolana en Austria

Venpres (Vienna, Austria): La oposición venezolana sufrió una nueva derrota en su intento por generar una matriz de opinión negativa de la Revolución Bolivariana en el exterior, tras hechos ocurridos en esta ciudad el pasado 11 de mayo y que destaca una información de la Embajada de Venezuela en Austria.

De acuerdo con la información, la Juventud del Partido Socialista de Austria y el Movimiento "Manos Fuera de Venezuela"manifestaron el 11 de mayo frente a la sede del Instituto Latinoamericano, en esta ciudad, donde se realizaba un evento organizado por el grupo autodenominado Viena-ProVenezuela, titulada "Medios de Comunicación y Procesos de Información: caso Venezuela", a cargo de Aleksander Boyd, integrante del mismo grupo en Londres.

Un numeroso grupo de jóvenes dibujaron figuras de cuerpos sin vida a la entrada del Instituto, en representación de los numerosos muertos que han generado las acciones desestabilizadoras de la oposición en nuestro país.

Bajo la consigna "no permitiremos que organizaciones fascistas se presenten en Austria y traten de justificar ante nuestra sociedad los abusos que la oposición golpista comete en Venezuela", los jovenes distribuyeron material informativo, explicando la manipulación que ejercen los medios de comunicación privados en el país.

De acuerdocon la información, el expositor trató por su parte de justificar la conducta de los medios de comunicación privados, pero fue duramente criticado por la mayoría de los participantes, quienes desmintieron sus declaraciones con argumentos contundentes.

Boyd pretendió justificar durante su ponencia el "derecho" de los medios de promover el pronunciamiento militar y el golpe de estado contra el presidente de la República, Hugo Chávez Frías, y de mentir o manipular la información, todo ello en nombre de la "libertad de expresión".

Esas afirmaciones terminaron de desenmascarar ante el público presente la verdadera concepción, fascista, antidemocrática e inconstitucional que sustenta la oposición golpista. "Más que libertad de expresión e información, lo que pretenden mantener es la libertad de los dueños de medios de mentir y actuar como factores de poder para derrocar el gobierno legítimo que se dio el pueblo venezolano", destaca la nota de prensa.

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In fact the recall referendum is an instrument introduced by the new Bolivarian constitution. In order to trigger it a certain number of signatures must be collected. In this particular case (the recall of the President of the Republic) 2.4 million signatures are necessary. In December 2003 the opposition said it had collected 3.6 million signatures. In February the National Electoral Council declared that 800,000 of these signatures were invalid. Moreover, 700,000 were declared as unclear and needed to go through a verification process. This demonstrates how massive the fraud was. This decision was ratified by the Carter Center and observers of the Organization of American States (which certainly can not be considered as two revolutionary organizations). If the opposition manages to reconfirm 50 percent of the doubtful signatures, it would have enough to be able to call for the referendum. The Government declared it was prepared to follow the decision of the National Electoral Council.



In Venezuela there have been hundreds of peaceful opposition demonstrations and never has there been political repression of any kind (the opposite of what used to happen during the 40 years of rule of the parties now in opposition). In February 2004 the opposition refused to recognize the decision of the National Electoral Council, called for civil and military disobedience and for the building of barricades in the streets of Caracas. It confronted the National Guard with Molotov cocktails and rifles. The National Guard responded in a moderate way and cleared out the barricades from the streets. After these disturbances organized by the "democratic opposition" there have been other peaceful demonstrations of the opposition, although poorly attended.



In the last five years the private media (which is 90 percent dominated by the opposition) has launched a systematic campaign of insults towards the democratically-elected President, as well as deliberate lies and open calls for a military coup and for the overthrow of the democratic government by violent means. However there has been no censorship of the press whatsoever (unlike what used to happen during the 40 years of rule of the parties which now form the opposition). Only two TV channels have been closed during these five years: Channel 8 (which is the state-owned broadcaster), closed by the opposition during the military coup of April 2002; and CatiaTV, a local community TV station from a neighborhood in Caracas, which was closed by a local government controlled by the "democratic" opposition.



In Venezuela all democratic rights are respected. The only people who tried to install a dictatorship in Venezuela were those from the "democratic" opposition who organized the military coup of April 2002, suspended the Constitution, the National Assembly (the Parliament) and all democratic rights. None of those responsible for the coup are today in jail. The majority of them walk free in the streets of Caracas while preparing new conspiracies to overthrow the government. The others are in a very comfortable exile in Miami from where they move the threads of the conspiracy.



The opposition has never presented any proof for its ridiculous accusations (as for example the supposed existence of an Al-Qaeda training camp in Isla Margarita). Last Saturday 56 Colombian paramilitaries were arrested. They were training in order to organize terrorist actions against the democratically-elected government on a plot of land of a well-known opposition leader in El Hatillo.

In Venezuela there is a revolutionary process which has been overwhelmingly supported by the population in seven successive elections during the last 5 years. The "democratic" opposition represents the interests of an oligarchy which for decades has controlled the natural resources of the country and does not want to renounce its privileges. This is why we support the Venezuelan revolution.

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