The sickness and death of Hugo Chávez, doubtlessly one of the most important leaders of the Latin American and international politics of the 21st century, have brought back to the surface the discussion about the true meaning of him, his movement and his governments in Venezuela.

By Alejandro Iturbe. Written in 2013.*

This discussion has been updated by the result of the recent presidential elections (the first without Chávez), in which the government’s candidate, Nicolás Maduro, won by a small margin over the right-wing opposition of Henrique Capriles.

Chávez and Chavism arose in a special moment in the world reality. The collapse of the USSR, in 1991, and capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe and China provoked a strong turn to the right in the programs, notions and political proposals of the vast majority of the Left worldwide. In the framework of what we call the ‘opportunist gale’, not only most communist parties and organizations, but also many which called themselves “revolutionary” and “Trotskyist” dropped the idea of social change through socialist revolution and started defending reformist politics and actions in the capitalist system.

A relevant part of these organizations went for a new “possibilism” (the possibility of changing the world without defeating capitalism), that of the World Social Forums, condensed in the slogan “Another world is possible”. Others adopted the ideology of “changing the world without taking over power” of Britain’s John Holloway, like the Mexican Zapatist Army, which works with resistance struggles and the construction of a “popular counter-power” without destroying the existing central power.

Thus there was a void; thousands of activists – who instinctively felt that, without violent class struggle and the conquest of power, it would be impossible to change the roots of capitalism’s injustices – were left without any clear international reference.

It was then that Chávez and Chavism appear. Having reached government in Venezuela, they spoke of a “Bolivarian revolution” and dressed it in red, they talked of a Socialism of the 21st Century, and, in their speeches, violently attacked imperialism. Chávez even vindicated Trotsky and his idea of “permanent revolution”. And like that he begun to occupy this void, and many activists and organizations saw in him someone to look up to. Although Chavism never had an organized centralized form, in practice there came into being an international Chavism tendency, with a lot of weight in Latin America and in semi-colonial countries, possibly one of the most important of the recent years.

Chavism reproduced the model of “top-down revolution” defended by many national bourgeois movements and by Stalinism: the “unquestionable leader” (the “commander”) guides the revolution through instructions or orders. The mass follow and play, in the end, a secondary role. From this point of view, Chávez was the very incarnation of the revolution.

The return of the masses to the stage

We believe that the international influence of Chavism has declined as of late. This does not mean it has disappeared, on the contrary, it is still very strong, but it has weakened due to objective reasons, as well as because of the international positions and actions undertaken by Chávez himself.

In the objective reality, two processes begun to take center stage. First, the massive revolutions in Northern Africa and the Middle East against a series of dictators (Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya, Al-Assad in Syria). Second, the resistance and the struggle of workers and youth in Europe against the crisis and the adjustment plans of the government, particularly in Greece, Spain and Portugal.

Both are processes which work “´bottom-up”. The center stage is now of huge mass demonstrations which fight against, or, at least, are out of control of the old political and labour organizations. After the processes in Northern Africa and the Middle East “revolution” has recovered its classic meaning: the permanent, self-determined movement of the masses, capable of turning the reigning order upside down and change it. It is a new, objective reference, far more attractive than the bureaucratic notion of “following the commander’s orders”, and, added the positions of Chávez in the Arab countries, it erodes Chavism’s influence.

Chávez approaches Obama

Another element which has contributed to this erosion was the reduction of the anti-imperialist slogans to its lowest volume ever. A large part of Chávez’s prestige and influence came from these positions.

In reality, when peaking, these slogans were pointed basically against Bush and the USA, but not against the European imperialism, with whom Chávez was always quite more affable. It is true that, in the 18th Ibero-American Conference in Santiago de Chile in 2007, there was the famous “Why do you not shut up?” of King Juan Carlos, annoyed at Chávez’s pointing out that the Spanish government had supported the 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela. But that was only a mediatic, circumstantial argument. We must not forget that, in 2005, in the same conference at Salamanca, Chávez, with other presidents, presented the King with a silver platter and let himself by photographed with amidst smiles. Now, Maduro has just thanked Rajoy and the King for the speed with which the Spanish government and State have recognized his electoral triumph.

With Obama’s inauguration as President of the United States, even this anti-US imperialism rhetoric has vanished, and the Chavist discourse has become far more “friendly”, almost as if they were all “comrades”. Let us remember Chávez’s statements during the recent presidential elections in the USA: “Were I American, I would vote for Obama. And I think that if Obama was from Barlovento or from a neighbourhood in Caracas, he would vote for Chávez. I’m sure of it.” In other words, he went from Bush’s enemy to Obama’s friend.

Chávez stands with Gaddafi and Assad

As important and serious as his friendliness with Obama was Chávez’s positions about the revolutionary processes of Northern Africa and the Middle East. From its beginning, his government declared its unconditional support to bloody dictators like Gaddafi and Al-Assad, at times when the Libyan and Syrian rose in arms against these regimes. And he gave them support presenting them as “anti-imperialist fighters”, when for the longest time they did nothing but bow before imperialism. He even called Al-Assad “my friend”.

This baffled many Latin American activists and, even more, the revolutionary fighters of Northern Africa and the Middle East, among whom he had great prestige for his stance on Israel (let us not forget he expelled the country’s ambassador after an invasion of Gaza). Today, these fighters are very confused and, thanks to Chávez and the Castro brothers, believe the “left” is allied to the murderous dictatorships which oppress their peoples. It is not casual that Al-Assad is so grateful to these governors.

For many organizations of the world Left, such as the Brazilian MES or the Argentinian MST, this fact was a very serious contradiction. On one hand, they support the revolutions against the dictators; on the other they stand with Chávez, which defends and shows solidarity to them. Faced with this terrible contradiction, they keep silent, or at most say it was a “small mistake” on Chávez’s part.

This is clearly an insufficient answer, which dodges the main question. The revolutionary process in Northern Africa and the Middle East is, possibly, the most important of the world in these past years. In it have occurred and still occur violent civil wars, and there are military camps in combat. All revolutionaries have the obligation of defining a clear position towards them. If they support the revolutions and the “rebel” military camp, Chávez was, and Chavism still is, party of the “enemy field”. This is not a “small mistake”, but a counterrevolutionary position towards the foremost ongoing process of class struggles in the world. These organizations are enmeshed in a deadlocked contradiction. The truth is that, because of this, thousands of activists in Middle East and the entire world are ceasing to be sympathizers of Chávez.

Chávez approaches Santos

The outlook on his international positions is incomplete if we do not refer to another abject fact in his policies: the scandalous collaboration with Juan Manuel Santos, the reactionary Colombian president and US lackey. Chávez had ugly clashes with former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, who he called, very reasonably, “Bush’s man” in the region.

But this stance shifted after Santos took office, in 2010, and the Venezuelan leader developed excellent relations with him. As an example of this, after an express request by Santos, Chávez handed over activists which allied with the FARC(such as journalist Joaquín Pérez Becerra and other social fighters) to the Colombian government, violating not merely basic principles of solidarity, but even the current Venezuelan legal rules for cases of this type.

This led to a split of many FARC sympathizers in Latin America, which until then considered themselves part of the Chavist movement, as well as many others, horrified with Chávez’s actions. It was logical: the Venezuelan president had ceased being a “leader of the revolution” and became someone who turned in activists to a reactionary, repressive bourgeois government.

The discussion continues

But the debate over Chávez and Chavism goes on, and becomes more intense after the many statements of immense majority of the Left in the world, who defends his figure and the process he headed.

The heart of the debate is more or less the same we pointed out in thee series of articles grouped in the dossier called “Is Chávez’s Venezuela walking towards socialism?” (originally published in the magazine Marxism Alive n.16, July 2007, and included in this book):

“In their considerations about Chávez, this large swath of the right works, to sum it up, with three different characterizations. The Stalinist parties and the Castro-Guevarists organizations think Venezuela, as Chávez says, it already marching into socialism. On the hand, some sectors which come from Trotskyism believe this path has not begun yet, but is present as a real possibility. Finally, other Trotskyist organizations are of the opinion that, due to Chavism being a bourgeois movement, it is unable to head an actual socialist revolution, but that, under his administrations, Venezuela went from a North American semi-colony to a country which is independent of imperialism.”

In other words, the heart of the debate is in the answers to two questions. What is Venezuela today? And what its the political and class character of Chavism?

Although some sectors still say that in Venezuela there is a “socialism of the 21st century” or that country is transitioning to it, the socioeconomic reality of the country makes this hypothesis impossible to sustain. For this part of the debate, where we consider this both theoretically and practically impossible, we point the reader towards the articles formerly mentioned.

A false analysis of the relation between the Caracazo and Chavism

We want to focus on the third hypothesis, defended by many organizations that come from Trotskyism and even from Morenoism: that, under Chávez, Venezuela is no longer a US semi-colony, but an independent country.

This is based on two faulty analyses. The first is about the relation between the rise of Chavism and the Caracazo (1989), an insurrectional rebellion in Venezuelan capital Caracas against the economic laws applied by then President Carlos Andrés Pérez (ADECO). The military and police repression left thousands dead (the actual amount was never divulged).

The Caracazo happened on the end of the golden times of oil of the 70’s, when the oil prices were multiplied fourfold, a time in which there was talk of a “Saudi Venezuela” due to the high income of the country and the State, and also a time with a great rise in the amount of imported goods and State spending. On the 80’s the oil barrel prices begun to fall and a serious crisis arose, culminating of Pérez’s laws and the furious popular reaction.

The Caracazo left in shambles to so called Fixed Point political regime, a deal between the two traditional bourgeois parties of the country (ADECO and COPEI) to alternate in power and thus share the part of the oil incomes which was kept by the State. The Fixed Point existed since 1958 and, for more than three decades, it gave a lot of political stability to the country. Nothing in Venezuela was the same after the Caracazo. Not only was the old regime dying (the traditional bourgeoisie had no way to rebuild it, nor a plan to replace it), but a very dangerous ripple was opened in the very bourgeois State, with a split in the Armed Forces (AF) after the repression to the Caracazo.

Many soldiers and petty officers, ordered to repress the very neighbourhoods they lived in, refused their orders. According to unofficial reports, around 3000 were arrested for “insubordination”. This situation (the fracture and crisis of the AF) was recognized by the military authorities themselves. General Alliegro said about the actions of the AF in the Caracazo: “After a serious, strict evaluation of the facts and of the actions of our military and police forces, we must revise our inner structures: I speak of composition, qualification and discipline; we even need a study of the territorial situation of our troops because, as you saw yourselves, there were obstacles in the fulfillment of duties.”

To this crisis ignited by the Caracazo must be added the economic situation of the troops and of their families, which reflected the general impoverishment of the masses. This crisis was a central problem that the Venezuelan bourgeoisie needed to solve.

There is a general consensus on the Left about the importance of the Caracazo and the fact that the Fixed Pointed was fatally wounded, as well as the fact that the rise of Hugo Chávez and Chavism can only be understood with the Caracazo.

Our enormous, even antagonizing, difference with most Left organizations which stand with Chavism is that, for them, Chavism – its electoral triumph and subsequent administration – is the direct result of the Caracazo and the struggles afterward, that is, it is it’s true, progressive political expression.

For us, on the other hand, being a by-product of the Caracazo and the following struggles, Chavism is a movement headed by the second echelon of military officers, which rode the upheaval to brake it or, at least, control it so that it did not go towards the socialist revolution, and, essentially, to seal the fracture of the AF and thus fully rebuild the bourgeois State.

It is true that Chavism created a new regime (which we shall analyze further on), but, in regards to workers’s socialist revolution, this regime does not play a progressive role of stimulating it, but a reactionary role of defending the essence of the bourgeois State, rebuild the AF and defending capitalist property, in the context of the class struggle which was opened by the Caracazo.

This was said quite clearly bu Chávez, who on one hand attacked the regime and its governments, and on other hand spoke of “Nation” and “its Armed Forces”. In February 1992 Chávez was jailed in the San Carlos prison, after his coup attempt, and in an interview with journalist Judith Martorelli published by the O Globo newspaper, he stated: “Our struggle is not against the USA, it is against corruption and this government… We are not fierce nationalists or chauvinists. We are progressive military men who rescue the right of the Nation to be itself… We simply ask for a limit for defending our sovereignty, the right to organize our Armed Forces as Venezuela needs…”.

The differing positions about Chávez’s role after the crisis opened by the Caracazo are the starting point to the deep differences between the evaluations of Chávez and Chavism in the current Venezuelan reality.

Another false analysis: the social character of the Chavism

Another deep difference we have with most of the Left is in the analysis about the social character of Chavism.

For most of these organizations, Chavism is a petty bourgeois movement which is the expression of the radicalizing of this social class, similar to Castro’s in 59’s Cuba, or to Mao’s in China.

As we pointed out in other parts of this book, this analysis is doubly wrong. First because it uses a non-Marxist method to define a political movement or a government, through the class origin of its members and not the program which they stand for or the class character of the State they lead. If we applied this criteria to other countries of the continent, we would have to say, for example, that Brazil had a “worker’s government” with Lula and that Argentina or Uruguay have “petty bourgeois governments”.

The second is that, although the Chavist leaders had petty bourgeois roots, they are part of the highest echelons of the bourgeois Armed Forces, as well as becoming another bourgeois sector: the “Bolivarian bourgeoisie”. They repeated, in that sense, processes which have already happened in other times in the Venezuelan history, when the second echelon displaced the first to administer the State and thus become rich. As the previous one, this concrete difference is very important to analyze the role of Chavism.

But even if Chavism was a petty bourgeois tendency, there are profound differences with the situations of Yugoslavia in 48, China in 49 and Cuba in 59, before Tito, Mao e Fidel decided to advance towards the expropriation of the national bourgeoisie and imperialism and build new worker States. As we analyzed in another part of this book, the forces headed by Tito, Mao and Fidel had already destroyed the AF of the bourgeoisie and, with them, the foundations of the bourgeois state. They could advance towards their goal with the bourgeoisie helpless to do anything. Chávez, on the contrary, not only did not destroy the Venezuelan AF, but devoted himself to their rebuilding and strengthening. For some examples: he forgave the officers involved in the 2002 coup, gave enormous wage increases, provided new weapons and technical resources to the Armed Forces, etc.

What kind of country is Venezuela today?

After we have defined the theoretical and analytical differences, let us now see what is correct or wrong in each position by comparing it to reality. With Chávez, did Venezuela cease being a semi-colony and advance towards being an independent country? This assertion can be refuted in a series of aspects.

The first is that of the economic relations between Venezuela and the capitals and financial organisms of imperialism. The Venezuelan debt recently reached US$ 105 billions (30% of the country’s GDP), and Chavéz’s administrations were punctual payers of the interests and participations of capital, even anticipating its expiration, in the context of country’s participation in the IMF.

In the case of oil, the backbone of the country’s economy, big imperialist companies like Chevron and Exxon-Mobil control, through concessions, associations and mixed companies, about 40% of its production and exportation. In other branches, such as auto industry, the domination of foreign automakers and auto part companies goes over 90% of the total.

Even the nationalizations of foreign companies (such as Sidor or Caracas Electricity) happened, in all cases, through negotiations, with the purchase of its shares at market prices and big quittance payments to the former owners, according to usual capitalist rules.

A parasitic and rent-seeking economic model

The second aspect is that, with Chávez, the country kept (and even deepened) its status as a capitalist semi-colony based on the exporting of oil, with a parasitic, rent-seeking economy (it is sustained by oil income and imports an important part of the food and industrial products it needs).

Let us review some data. Oil went from 64% of the exports in 1998 to 92% em 2012. At the same time, the country was deindustrialized: industry was 18% of the GDP in 1998 and fell to 14% in 2012. The Chávez administration actually didn’t take advantage of the nationalizations to encourage industrial development. The production of Sidor (steel) dropped 30% since it was nationalized and ALCASA (aluminum) only produces 70.000 tons with an installed capacity for 210.000, three times more.

As we said, it is a rent-seeking, speculative economy. A large part of the bourgeoisie (be it for or against the government) does business around the difference between the difference in the official quotation of the dollar (6,25 bolivares) and the parallel (thrice as much) or with government titles. This economic model, with an extremely high amount of importation of consumer goods, produces an annual inflation of 21%, one of the highest worldwide, and product shortages estimated as 16,3% (products which can only be found on the black market, for a much higher cost). Both of these facts hit the acquisitive power and the standards of living of the populace.

It is in this framework that the so-called “Bolibourgeoisie” or “Bolivarian bourgeoisie” arises, military and political cadres of Chavism which became rich in this meanwhile. Some analysts point out three groups among them: one is alike to Diosdado Cabello (president of the legislative chamber), owner of three banks and other companies; the second orbits the group that controls the mighty PDVSA and profits with the contracts made by the company (like transport ships and insurances), and the third benefits from the purchasing and importing of the Misiones.

The situation of the worker’s movement

If the poorer sectors received some benefits during the Chavist administrations: the same did not happen to the worker’s movement: the wages and working conditions are still very bad and, because of this, Chávez, unlike Argentinian Peronism, was never really strong among the industrial workers (although most voted for him.

The minimum wage in Venezuela (received by a large part of the workers) is around 3.200 bolívares, a little more than US$ 500 in the official exchange rates, but it does not cover the basic food basket, which is around 3.816 bolívares. Not to mention a complete basket which includes housing, transportation, etc. Not even the oil workers are spared from this reality. We must also consider the high inflation and the shortages which permanently wear down the acquisitive power.

Even though he did not improve the situation of workers, Chávez always tried to control and direct the worker’s movement. In order to do that, he stimulated and strengthened a political and union bureaucracy with gangster features.

The creation of the PSUB (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), in 2006, with the goal of “jailing” the entire worker’s movement and the Venezuelan Left inside a “single party”, was a leap towards that.

All the sectors (many of them composed of industrial workers) which took to the streets were hit with brutal repression, selective murders and political or union persecution. Some examples are the repression to Petrocasa, in Carabobo, to the workers of Maracay Toilets, to the Mitsubishi workers in Barcelona, and to various original peoples and peasant movements which occupied big landowner lands. This repression left many dead. Everyone who fought against the government’s measures or the abuses of the employers were called “provocateurs” or “counterrevolutionaries”. Either you were “with Chávez” or you were “against him”.

The Misiones and the support to Chávez

If all we pointed all is true, how can it be that Chávez obtained and kept such a high popular approval level until his death? The answer to this question can be divided in two parts. The first is that Chávez represented, to the eyes of the Venezuelan masses, the continuation of the Caracazo and the hatred against old parties, the squalid (that is, coup-supporting) bourgeoisie and imperialism. To keep things under his control, Chávez exploited and utilized this sentiment, painting it “red”.

At the same time, he destined the State’s part in the oil income to give some concessions to the impoverished masses, especially through the Misiones, a sort of “parallel ministry” meant to bring health and education services, subsidized food, credits for small enterprises, etc, to the poorest parts of the population. For instance, there are a few thousand Cuban physicians and teachers in the Misiones.

With the Misiones, for the first time, many Venezuelans had access to a doctor and a dentist, or a teacher in their neighbourhood. We say those are compensatory measures, like the World Banks proposes, and they are applied in many countries, such as Argentina and Brazil (Bolsa Família) muffle the more desperate situations and try to stop social explosions. That is, they are far from advancing towards a deep transformation of society. Quite the contrary. They perpetuate the existing reality.

But they represent a big difference for the impoverished masses, with extremely low living standards. In the case of Venezuela, for example, poverty dropped from 50,4% of the population in 1998 to 31,9% in 2012, and in the same time span, extreme poverty fell from 23% to 8% (estimates by the National Statistics Institute and the Cepal). This is, in the end, the foundation of the electoral strength of Chavism and the reason for the very real popular grief caused by Chávez’s death.

Once again: what is Chavism?

That put, we can now return to our definition of Chavism. Since it began, the IWL-FI defends that Hugo Chávez’s administrations were never “socialist”. They were bourgeois, that is, they were in service of the conservation and defense of the capitalist State of the system of the country. In this sense, his political movement can be defined as “bourgeois nationalist”, similar to those built by general Perón in Argentina from 1945 on and by general Nasser in Egypt after 1952.

That is, movements which expressed sectors of the national bourgeoisie which had conflicts with imperialism and wanted to augment their share of the national income. To have more weight when facing imperialism, they used the masses – to which they gave some economic concessions – at the same time in which they built ironclad political and union mechanisms to control their movements, to stop them from “overtaking” them and advancing towards an actual deep change of society. Thus they were regimes which harshly repression every independent struggle or working class leader.

Chávez’s administrations were not the same as those of the Fixed Pointed regime (the AD and COPEI parties today are hated by the Venezuelan masses) or other capitalist governments, which are completely and openly submissive to imperialism. His administrations are a double consequence of the Caracazo, the 1989 popular insurrection in the capital which left the Fixed Point in shambles. On one hand Chávez gained prestige: first by attempting a coup against them, and so creating an image of a radical opposition of the old parties. Then he became president. On the other hand the expressed a sector of young officers of the Armed Forces which rebelled against high command and, more than everything, wanted to preserve to unity of the institution, the cornerstone of the bourgeois State, deeply divided after the Caracazo.

What Chávez had in common with Perón and Nasser was the fact that, due to his class character, it was impossible to go to the bitter end in his conflict with imperialism, or in the transformation of Venezuela. Both Peronism and Nasserism eventually capitulated to imperialism. We need only to remember that the last government which descended from Nasserism was that of dictator Mubarak, hated by the masses. Chávez, as we see, was beginning this same path of capitulation, as can be seen in his relations with Colombia’s Santos or Obama.

The differences with Argentinian Peronism

But it must be pointed out that the economic and political international conditions in which his administrations happened gave much less space for “autonomous” capitalist experiences. The context of Peronism and Nasserism is that of the second post-war of the 20th century in which, on one hand the Keynesian economical politics of imperialist countries gave room for the development of these experiences. On the other hand, the Cold War and the existence of the USSR, even if it was bureaucratized, left “open spaces” which allowed for the existence of this “third-worldist path”.

Today we live in times of globalization and this margin is very thin, both economically and politically. And thus, aside from his rhetoric and some very partial “progressive” measures, like the nationalization of some companies or industries, there was no real advance towards real change for Venezuela. Actually there were steps back. For example, as weird as it might sound, the first government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, in the 70’s, was more “nationalistic” than those of Chávez, because it nationalized oil and created PDVSA as well as the great state industries in the Guyana region.

As we have pointed out before in this text, the material foundations of the Peronist phenomenon of the 40’s and 50’s (or the PRI in Mexico) were far more solid than those of Chavism. Argentina had a much wider productive base and developed an economic model called “import substitution industrialization”. Large branches of the economy such as transportation, communications, oil and energy were nationalized. At the same time, unlike Chávez, he was able to give big concessions to the worker’s movement: wage improvements, a retirement system, paid annual leave, etc. And because of this, the worker’s movement considered Peronism as “their” party and supported him consistently. We see the effects of this to this today.

Chavism, on the other hand, retains the rent-seeking model of oil and, we have seen, has much less room to give concessions to workers. His social base are the poorest popular sectors. At the same time, this economic model is reaching its limits in the framework of the international economic crisis, and is expressed in the deterioration of the socioeconomic situation of the country and the living standards of the masses.

The perspectives

Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s political heir, just won the recent Venezuelan presidential elections with a very small difference: less than 240.000 votes in almost 15 million voters. That is, a little over 1,5%. It is the smallest difference of Chavism over the opposition in an electoral process (except for the defeat in the 2007 constitutional referendum).

This result, on the first election without Chávez, means in fact a huge political defeat for Chavism. In October 2012 Chávez received 8.191.132 votes against Capriles’s 6.591.304. The difference was of over 10%. Now Maduro lost more than 600.000 which went directly to Capriles. Let us remember that between 2006 (when Chavism had overcome the Right opposition with over 20% difference) and 2012 the opposition had already won two million votes over. In other words, Chavism is losing votes, and there are important strengthening dynamics for the Right opposition.

What does that mean? Maduro having less political prestige than Chávez? A “right-wing turn” from a sector of the masses? Evidently Maduro is not Chávez and does not have the same prestige or influence over the masses, and that can already be felt.

What is completely false is that there is the masses are “turning to the right”. In our opinion, there is an object process of exhaustion of a sector of the working class and the popular masses which are splitting with Chavism due to all we have already described: inflation, growing unemployment, shortages of basic products, extremely high levels of insecurity, systematic repression against the working class movements and ironclad control of unions by the government, on one hand, and Chavist cadres and leaders who have grown rich and go around driving luxurious 4×4 pickup trucks, on the other.

This is not a right-wing turn. The economic and Bonapartist politics were what opened this space and made it easy for the Right to advance. It is the weariness of a huge sector of the masses towards the government that creates the conditions for an electoral support to the Right opposition, the only important electoral alternative which appears to fight Chavism. A Right which tries to avoid the image of “coup supporters” and speaks in defense of popular needs. And just like this, Capriles – and the bourgeois sector he represents – gets stronger and prepares to defeat Chavism in future elections. The death of Chávez speeds up this, but it is not what creates the objective conditions for electoral downfall of Chavism.

We affirm that in the last elections there was no alternative for workers aside from the vote in Maduro or Capriles. It was necessary to present a third political camp, with class independence and in opposition to Chavism and Maduro as well as Capriles and the traditional liberal Right. If we had few votes, due to the electoral polarization, it was necessary to raise the banner of a socialist, worker alternative. This alternative did not exist because a sector of the Left, the Socialism and Freedom Party (part of the IWU international tendency), the only one that had legal conditions to launch a candidate, renounced to take part in this struggle. It was a grave mistake. Independently of the number of votes which it could obtain, workers had not positive option to the two big bourgeois camps.

There is no coup underway

In this matter we must be emphatic: there is no coup d’etat, not even anything pointing towards that, in Venezuela. If there was an attempt of coup by the Right, like in 2002, we would be the first to fight them in the streets, in unity of action with Chavism. But there is no such thing in reality, neither by the Right bourgeoisie nor by imperialism, its allied governments or the Organization of American States.

Thus, Maduro and all of Castro-Chavism use the agitation of a supposed coup as a sort o blackmail, in the sense of forcibly acquiring political support faced with “fascist attacks”. This is serious, because the economic situation in Venezuela makes it highly probable that demonstrations will go on and grow. Maduro’s government is fragile from the start, due to the electoral results and the evident elements of crises in the Chavist apparatus between his sector and Cabello’s. Moreover, he absolutely needs to apply adjustment plans in the economy, such as heavily devaluing the bolívar, increasing the price of gas, etc.

Some of these demonstrations can be inspired or headed by the Right. But many others will be genuine worker, student and popular movements, which Maduro’s government, like Chávez’s before, will repress and accuse of being “coupist” or “helpful to the Right and imperialism”. This is the danger which the working class and the masses face and not a nonexistent Right coup. The Left tendencies which support Chavism and Maduro’s new administration, and accept the analysis that there is a coup underway, have a new, very important contradiction: if they support these struggles they will need to fight Maduro; if, on the contrary, they remain supporting Maduro, they will be forced to support the repression against the worker and popular demonstrations.

We must build a worker, socialist way out

Respecting the pain and grief for the pain of Chávez, we believe that, in these moments, all social activists and especially the socialist revolutionary Left needs to ponder the meaning of the fourteen years in which he governed. Particularly those that define themselves as “revolutionary” and still mirror themselves on Chávez, in one way or another.

This is a strategic debate for all those that aim for a true worker, socialist path. We believe it is urgent to build a third political camp, with class independence, opposing both Chavism and the traditional neoliberal Right. For us, the only way of solving definitely the problems of the Venezuelan working class and population is still its independent organization and struggle.

We need a political alternative which raises the banner of a peasant, worker and popular government, that completely nationalizes the oil, the industry, the banking system and foreign trade, and, through it, begins the construction of a classless society. That is, we need to build a genuine socialist political leadership, one that is revolutionary and internationalist.

In order to do that, the Venezuelan working class must trust solely in its own forces and take the reins over its destiny. This is the only path to real socialism.

*Introduction of the book Venezuela depois de Chávez: um balanço necessário” (Venezuela after Chávez: a necessary evaluation), published by Edições Marxismo Vivo, São Paulo, 2013.

[1] Data extracted from HTTP://

Translated by Miki Sayoko