The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Hugo Chávez – Socialist, or Populist Strong Man?

Mar 1, 2013

The following article is a translation from the November 2012 issue of Lutte de Classe (Workers Struggle), published by the comrades of Lutte Ouvriere (Workers Fight). It was updated after the death of Chavez in March 2013.

The death of Hugo Chávez Frias on March 5th provoked huge demonstrations of the population mourning the Venezuelan president. Certainly, Chávez had attracted the sympathy of a big part of the population, the laboring population and the poor. Not only did he dare say No to the big imperialist countries, especially the U.S., and to the big corporations, but he used part of the revenue of Venezuela’s oil for the benefit of the population. He was probably the only head of state who, in this period of economic crisis, increased the share of the country’s wealth spent on the needs of the population, when all the others are squeezing the population to give ever more to the corporations and the banks.

Five months before Chávez died, he had been re-elected for the fourth time, beating the right-wing candidate, Henrique Capriles, by 11 points. Capriles, the son of a food-processing industry magnate, was the obvious candidate of the oligarchy and of the United States – which for the past fourteen years has displayed the same hatred toward Chávez as it has toward Castro in Cuba.

In the new elections to choose Chávez’s successor, to be held on April 14th, Capriles faces Nicolás Maduro Moros, who campaigned as the heir to Chávez, promising to carry out the same policy.

The major global media outlets continued to denigrate Chávez with the hostility that they have customarily shown for Cuba or North Korea. In their eyes, the President of Venezuela was a worn-out dictator whose “social missions” revealed nothing but a base kind of patronage. The same journalists are notably less vicious toward other Latin American heads of state – of Mexico, for example – who nevertheless display a more conspicuous patronage – simply not toward the poor. At the other end of the spectrum were the admirers of Chávez, from anti-globalization activists to parts of the left, who view his formula of “socialism for the 21st century” as a model to replace Castroism, and who cast an uncritical eye toward his actions.

The Weight of the Colonial Past

Chávez was at the head of the Venezuelan state for fourteen years. His first electoral success in 1998 stemmed from the collapse of the political system put in place in 1958. His choices and his evolution placed him within the continuity of past Venezuelan leaders, and not always those on the left.

Like the majority of Latin American countries, Venezuela was a colony of Spain. Christopher Columbus landed there in August 1498. The absence of gold and silver deposits protected the region from the greed of the Spanish crown for a time. It was not until the 17th century and the rise of cocoa cultivation that prosperity reached the capital of Caracas. The country played a pioneer role in 1810, when the creole bourgeoisie of the Spanish colonies broke with Madrid. For twenty years, Simón Bolivar of Venezuela left his mark on the whole region. But his death in 1830 opened a period of instability. Up until 1903, there were 170 uprisings of various natures and 34 different governments in Venezuela, often of short duration.

The iron rule of the dictator Juan Vincente Gómez, who remained in power for twenty-seven years from 1908 to 1935, brought stability. Under Gómez, oil dethroned cocoa. He established a professional army that would continue to weigh on the country and introduced the cult of Bolivar, ordering statues in his image to be built in every city. Referring to “Bolivarianism” has been an affirmation of nationalism ever since.

Venezuela experienced a short interregnum between dictatorships from 1945 to 1948. The oil revenue grew so much that it allowed the social-democratic party Acción Democrática (AD), allied with the armed forces who were presented as the “instrument of the people,” to carry out an economic policy which took into account the needs of the working class. The government eliminated taxes on gas and wheat flour and lowered the rates on electricity, rent, and transportation. However, in 1948, a coup d’état brought back another dictatorship, which lasted for 10 more years.

In 1958, AD and the Political Electoral Independent Organization Committee (COPEI, the right-wing linked to the Church) concluded a pact in which they agreed to respect the verdict of the electoral vote. Their pact excluded the Communist Party, so for 40 years, the two parties continued to dominate the country’s political life.

Chávez Reaps the Harvest of the System’s Crisis

Under this arrangement, Venezuela escaped the wave of dictatorships that swept over Latin America from 1964 to 1985. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, there was a revival of the social traditions of 1945-1948. The Constitution of 1960 demanded an education as a right for everyone, causing illiteracy to decline, increasing the number of students. In 1966, a law enlarged the number of Social Security beneficiaries by a considerable amount. Some of the slums disappeared. However, in 1983, this progress was endangered by the fall in the price of oil, which led to a major devaluation of Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, and a 100% rate of inflation.

In 1988, voters who remembered the period when the AD had adopted social measures put the leader of that party, Carlos Andrés Pérez, in the presidency. Instead of social measures, he used his credit in order to impose sacrifices, notably by ending price controls. This provoked an uprising in popular neighborhoods on February 27th, 1989. The uprising in Caracas, the caracazo, lasted five days. Pérez responded with an armed repression that left two or three thousand dead.

This repression marked a clear break. An unprecedented wave of privatizations followed, as did a major increase in unemployment, which caused the poverty level to explode between 1990 and 1996. The population’s protests multiplied against the enormous decline of public services, the poor distribution of drinking water, and the neglect of the schools. When AD and COPEI agreed to govern together in 1993, they were both discredited.

Hugo Chávez, then a lieutenant colonel in the paratroopers, appeared on the political scene in 1992, in an attempted military putsch, which failed. Leaving prison two years later, he opted to pursue the electoral vote after some hesitations. In 1997, he started the Movement for the Fifth Republic, with the aim of getting rid of the bipartisan rule of the AD-COPEI. He brought together many of those who opposed the regime, from the army to left-wing dissident groups inside the AD to the Communist Party. His victory in the presidential election in 1998 propelled him to head the nation.

An Old Militarist and Nationalist Tradition

In presenting himself as a partisan of the “Bolivarian Revolution,” Chávez placed himself within the nationalist tradition. Although he used a left-wing rhetoric that led him to be perceived as a new Castro, he also revived the tradition of the caudillos, these “strong men” leaning on popular support. He was an exceptional student at the military academy and he served in enough commands to assimilate the army’s role as the backbone of the property-owners’ state.

In the beginning, the army was the only force at his disposal. He therefore rehashed the AD’s old formula of “the army in the service of the people.” The Chávez regime included numerous members of the military at different levels of the state, as well as at the head of public enterprises. His “Bolivarian movement” was also organized into “Electoral Battle Units,” “battalions,” “fronts,” and “civilian-military reserves.” Those enrolled in the structures set up to link the population to the actions of the state receive a military training. The members of the grassroots organizations tied to the Bolivarian party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), are incorporated into the National Bolivarian Militia, which forms a part of the army. The latter plays a controlling role in the social missions like the Mission Mercal food stores or in the political events organized by the regime.

Domingo Rangel, a Venezuelan journalist who was a critic of the regime, commented thus on the nationalism and militarism of Chávez’s regime: “Between ‘Bolivarian’ and ‘socialist,’ there lies a contradiction just as glaring as that between ‘socialist’ and ‘patriot’ – it exists because the regime is at once military and militarist.… Those who hold the monopoly on decision-making in this regime are all military men. Socialism, however, is internationalist; it fights to go beyond borders and the historic stage of the nation-state into which humanity entered more than four centuries ago. A socialist patriot is like a boiling ice cube or a solid liquid – it’s a contradiction in terms.”

The Right-Wing Opposition Condemns Itself to Isolation

From the start, Chávez tried to placate the local capitalists by naming a representative of the bosses, the ex-minister of the previous president, as Minister of the Economy and Finances. But this did not prevent a coalition of the bosses, the Catholic Church hierarchy, the media, and the United States government from rising up to oppose him and publicly denounce the new government.

Chávez devoted his first year to putting a National Assembly in place, aiming to give the country a new constitution. This constitution recognized, for example, the rights of indigenous minorities, but it also reinforced the political weight of the army. Fearing that Parliament would overturn this constitutional reform, as it had done seven years before with a similar attempt by President Caldera, Chávez required the new constitution to be ratified in a popular referendum. He won the referendum. The new constitution required a new presidential election in 2000; Chávez was reelected with 60% of the votes cast.

Chávez increased state spending on social programs, which the army went on to implement. In November 2001, Chávez once again bypassed parliamentary debates by imposing 49 statutory orders, with one of these making the state the majority shareholder of all companies extracting and exploring for oil. In order to counteract the tax evasion previously practiced by the national oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDV SA), which had deprived the country of a considerable part of its income, the law modified the method of taxation.

This decision set off a conflict with the heads of PDV SA, who were linked to the opposition. This conflict led to the attempted April 2002 coup d’état, organized by the opposition and the oligarchy, supported by the United States. It failed miserably. The PDV SA also organized the general strike of December 2002, which lasted into 2003. Facing both these attempts to overthrow his regime, Chávez emerged victorious, with genuine support from the population in the neighborhoods, from a section of the army, and from many oil workers. The state then succeeded in taking control of the national oil company. Its revenues have been involved in the direct financing of social programs ever since.

In August 2004, Chávez complied with a demand of the right wing to organize a referendum that asked for his removal from power. His victory marked the definitive defeat of the opposition. The opposition went on to mire itself in a boycott of the 2005 legislative elections, thereby leaving Chávez with a free hand in parliament.

The opposition’s policy, which led it into a dead end all by itself, also pushed Chávez and his team to radicalize their own positions. For example, the economic blockade imposed by the general strike of 2002-2003 brought about the creation of Mercal, a network supervised by the army that offers food at subsidized prices.

“Socialism of the 21st Century”

In 2005, the land laws, which until 2001 had concerned only state property, thus sparing the big property owners, were extended to all owners of private property that left more than 20% of their land uncultivated. The same year, Chávez announced that the state would expropriate companies that closed, no matter the reason. Four companies that had stopped functioning after the 2002-2003 general strike fell into the hands of the state in this way, with the former owners compensated. A “joint management” was put in place. The employees of the expropriated factories received ownership shares and responsibilities in the management of the company.

This joint management was extended to the “social missions,” which touch on all of life’s activities. The most well-known of these focus on education, health, food, land redistribution, the creation of cooperatives, and housing construction, but they also concern a whole range of other activities, including responsibility for keeping the country’s population records. The state guaranteed the operating budgets of these “social missions” and sought to link them to the population. This has led to a decline in poverty and unemployment. The unemployment rate was cut in half, and the rate of poverty fell from 48.6% of the population in 2002 to 29.5% in 2011. The rate of extreme poverty was cut by two thirds – which is quite an achievement when we see poverty increasing in the rich countries. All over the world, we see states – including the richest and most developed – are abandoning social programs and reducing social protection, all while unemployment skyrockets. The Chávez regime went against the current by reviving measures similar to those of the past, when oil revenues were abundant. It has thus responded, at least partially, to the needs of the most destitute, those who required immediate aid.

Chávez explained in a speech on November 12, 2004: “An international investigator came [to tell us]: ‘Mr. President, if the referendum [demanding his resignation] were held today, you would lose it.’” Chávez continued, “This had on me the effect of a bomb.... It is at this moment that we began to work with the missions, that we conceived of the first one [health], and that we asked for help from Fidel [Castro].… And [the Cubans] began to send doctors by the hundred.… The avalanche of people who came to us is not magic; it is politics.”

And, indeed, this policy resulted in a big improvement in the health of the population. Infant mortality, for example, which was 20 per 1,000 births in 1999, dropped to 13 per 1,000 in 2011.

The best results were obtained in the education sector. UNESCO added Venezuela to its list of countries “free of illiteracy.”

The housing mission, however, was a bitter failure. According to the government itself, about three million housing units are lacking. The first million are needed to replace the shantytowns, a second million to replace housing on slopes or in areas vulnerable to flooding, and a final million to house new families. The regime has been able to construct only 350,000 of these. In August 2009, the official Controller of the Republic declared that the state had been unable to avoid “useless actions, waste of resources, and corruption,” denouncing the “lack of respect for calls for bids and competitive offers, sometimes under the pretext of an emergency decreed by the authorities [the governors].... These practices are illegal and can be punished.” Authorities also don’t ensure “that housing will not be granted to those who do not need it or to those who will have illegally benefitted from the decisions to award it.”

When the crisis of 2008 struck the country, the state carried out austerity measures against the laboring classes, as in every capitalist country, notably by raising indirect taxes and by increasing the lack of job security for workers. That illustrates the fragility of these gains, which are very much dependent on the price of oil on the world market.

In 2008, the increase in consumption of food was measured at 16.5%, but the functioning of food markets subsidized through Mercal is somewhat hectic. People often need to wait in line for hours. In addition, the government has created a competing network linked to PDV SA called PDVAL, which has disrupted Mercal’s operations. In 2009, union militants at Mercal protested: “The nutritional mission has not fulfilled the objectives that were assigned to it.... At the national level, the number of inhabitants who frequent Mercal has fallen from 13 million to 9 million. [Some of these] are in the process of being closed, and others are following the same path, with …supply interruptions of basic products.”

Provea, a human rights organization that brings healthcare to the neighborhoods, has supported public health programs from the start. It noted that this mission has retreated and that dispensaries have closed. Others lack adequate medical supplies. In 2009, Chávez was forced to publicly admit that this mission “is no longer as effective as it once was.”

On the Art of “Sowing Petroleum”

The opposition, supported by the world press, denounced the “improper use” of oil revenues. The wealthy miss the times when they were able to decide how these revenues were handed out.

But criticism has also come from Chavista cadres. Victor Alvarez, former Minister of Basic Industries and Mines, who remained in solidarity with Chávez, noted that, “the oil revenue produces vicious circles to which it is difficult to put a stop. One of the most serious of these is that we import because we do not produce and that we do not produce because we import.”

The debate about the use of the oil revenue is as old as the oil industry itself, which forced itself on Venezuela around 1925. The consequence of this has been that local firms, which had previously made their profits from the cultivation of agricultural products, oriented themselves toward importing products that the oil revenue allowed them to buy. This is also what the current regime continues to do, importing 80% of basic necessities.

Up until its nationalization in 1975, the oil industry had been the subject of a debate within the ruling class. Some were opposed to the concessions made toward foreign companies, considering the demands of multinational firms to be “arbitrary, leonine, and voracious.” These individuals pleaded for Venezuela to be present in the global market with no intermediary and for the state to use the revenue to put its own network of refineries and independent stations in place. They supported nationalization.

Their adversaries thought to the contrary that the country should open itself to the multinationals in order to benefit from their technologies and competencies. The advocates of this approach, such as Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso, one of the founders of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries) in 1960, intended, according to their formula, “to sow our petroleum.” The revenue generated in this way should have allowed for “the construction of schools, stores, factories, roads, and health clinics.” In practice, however, if the revenue did permit this at times, it has mostly assured the profits of multinationals and of the national bourgeoisie.

In 1975, Pérez, the leader of Acción Democrática, nationalized the oil industry while compensating the multinational owners of the facilities very generously. This action gave birth to PDV SA, which possessed a monopoly on the sale, commercialization, and transport of all petroleum products and their derivatives. However, it also stipulated that the multinationals would return. Indeed, the multinationals concluded agreements of technical or commercial assistance for certain products, and revenue-sharing partnerships with Halliburton, DuPont, Amoco, BP, etc., increased rapidly.

Chávez also intended to “sow the petroleum” as his predecessors had done. He increased the number of revenue-sharing partnerships – joint ventures between the state and Repsol-YPF, BP, Chevron, and Total. Oil and gas allowed him to tighten alliances with neighboring countries like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia. He took abuse in the bourgeois media because he traded with Russia, China, and Iran, but that same media didn’t reproach him for having continued to supply the United States with oil, as Venezuela has always done.

In September 1999, Chávez decreed a law permitting any person, Venezuelan or foreign, to engage in all activities concerning natural gas. The new constitution stated that the state must retain an ownership stake of at least 51% and that “foreign investment is subject to the same conditions as domestic investment.”

In 2006, the state signed 32 partnerships with multinationals, eliciting criticism from an oil engineer who had supported Chávez. For him, “the policy in Venezuela is energy policy, and hidden relationships with energy capital are at the base of our energy policy, whether these be relations of submission or of sovereignty.” He noted ironically about the partnerships: “The servant [the multinationals] who brought us her services, and whom we have accused of cheating us for years, has become our partner. Now, we are going to share the ownership of our subterranean resources with international oil capital, and in this way, the profits.”

An executive of the U.S. oil giant Chevron, on the other hand, expressed his satisfaction: “After nationalization [in 1975], the exploitation of natural gas did not stop. The country continues to extract oil. President Chávez’s government was the first to drill for gas; the government is taking the right path,” adding that, “Chávez has his program. Certain people imagine that we are there to help him. We are there to do business … within the framework of the law.”

Opposing the Working Class…

Upon taking power, the Chavistas clashed with the Confederation of Workers of Venezuela (CTV), whose bureaucracy was linked to the opposition. Its leaders were in the first ranks of the 2002-2003 strike against Chávez. In 2004, the regime embarked upon setting up a competing union confederation, the National Workers’ Union (UNT). This mobilized Chávez’s supporters, as well as militant workers who had opposed the bureaucrats of the CTV in the past. Two years after the union’s creation, certain of its militants noted that, “its submission to the leaders of the government exceeds that of the CTV toward the previous governments. Its demonstrations are merely support rallies for Chávez and his policies…. In the collective contract negotiations and in other conflicts, it has proved itself to be the most zealous advocate of conciliation,” (El Libertario, May-June 2006).

On the same note, Orlando Chirino, a Trotskyist worker linked to Morenist currents who participated in the creation of the UNT made this statement in 2008: “The UNT was created as a result of agreements at the top, with window dressing for its organizational base. Very few members of the leadership came from workers’ organizations.... It was only decided to convoke a congress one year later.... Three years after, the congress was held in a poisonous atmosphere so conflict-ridden that it was impossible to adopt statues.... The pro-government practices of the CTV that we criticize are now reproduced by the leaders of the UNT, which submits unconditionally to the government.”

In March 2007, Chávez declared: “The unions don’t have to be autonomous.” The government directly intervenes in decisions in a way that does not favor workers. It delays actions on the renewal of workplace agreements. Hundreds of these agreements expire before they are renewed, which leads to a degradation of working conditions that depend on these contracts.

The workers of the Caracas Metro succeeded in renegotiating their collective contract, but the government intervened in order to denounce this, threatening requisition and layoffs for these workers if they went out on strike to defend their gains. In the end, the Chavista union leaders signed an agreement that eliminated two thirds of the gains made by Metro workers.

In March 2009, Chirino made this assessment: “For some 2.5 million public sector workers, it has been almost five years since their agreement has been revised. The result: 70% of public sector workers are at the minimum wage.... For teachers, it has been three years since the agreement has expired; the [contract] of the electric workers ended last year. In ten years, the oil workers have lost a great deal of benefits.”

In recent years, strikes and protests by workers have escaped control of the Chavista union leaders. So the state has not hesitated to carry out repression against workers in struggle, sometimes denouncing them as “counter-revolutionaries.” In 2008, for example, thugs acting with the complicity of the bosses and of the state authorities assassinated three militants who supported strikers at the Alpina creamery. A recent labor law provides a legal framework for the repression denounced by Chirino and others: “Since 1974, I have never seen such a level of criminalization of protest action.... When one hands out leaflets in front of a factory gate, speaks into a megaphone, or participates in a meeting, they use the forces of state repression to arrest those responsible, to put them in prison, and then to indict them on criminal charges. We are absolutely forbidden to approach the factories when we do our political work.”

This anti-worker policy is not accidental. It serves to impose labor market flexibility in the public sector. The government has dramatically increased the number of temporary contracts without social protections. It uses the cooperatives, whose development it has encouraged, as subcontractors for certain public programs. And the cooperatives hire temporary workers who do not have the same benefits as the other workers. On a pro-Chavez website, there was this criticism: “The current bourgeoisie in Venezuela has put in place a tropical New Deal with substantial flexibility of the workforce, insecure jobs, and company unions. All of this is accompanied by a nationalist language that claims to oppose the bankers, landed property, multinationals, and imperialism. But they are all guaranteed their piece of the pie of surplus value squeezed from the exploitation of paid labor.”

Defending a “Socialism with Bosses”

Since 2004, the Chavista state and the corporate world have searched for common ground. The evolution of the relations between the regime and the media mogul Gustavo Cisneros is an enlightening illustration of this. Cisneros, who is on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people, heads a media group that includes the television channel Venevision. During the early years, he was a fierce adversary of Chávez. Some say he was the master architect of the 2002 coup d’état. In January 2003, Chávez said about him: “There is a fascist; there is a conspirator who owns a television channel,... one of the main people responsible for what is happening in Venezuela.”

A year and a half later, on June 18th, 2004, the two men met. As Chávez explained it: “I welcomed Mr. Cisneros and I shook his hand.... I was very glad that we were able to sit down together around a table, because he is Venezuelan, and we were going ... to discuss serious matters.” There goes the fascist conspirator! Chávez clarified: “He knows that he himself, his media, his business, and his family can live with this [Bolivarian] project when he respects the Constitution and its laws and when he recognizes the authorities as he has done.”

From his end, Cisneros declared: “President Chávez and I are of the same opinion – the question of poverty must unite the country.... Venezuelans should combine their efforts to improve education and to stimulate the capacity to start a business in this country in order to be competitive in the global market.” The reasons for this new enthusiasm would soon become clear.

In 2007, Chávez did not renew the license of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), the oldest private channel in the country and Cisneros’ competition. The media in Venezuela denounced Chávez’s authoritarianism. But Chávez recalled that RCTV had participated in the 2002 coup d’Ètat to justify this non-renewal (although he could have said the same thing of Cisneros’ channel!). This elimination of RCTV permitted Venevision to become the biggest channel. In the past, RCTV had enjoyed a slight advantage, with 37% of the audience as opposed to 34% for Cisneros’ channel. Without competition, Venevision has since claimed 67% of the audience.

For Victor Alvarez, the ex-minister who remained a Chavista, “the official data show that ... the weight of the commercial sector in the gross national product has actually increased. The private sector’s portion has passed from 64.7% to 70.9% at the end of 2008. At the same time, the portion belonging to the social sector passed from 0.5% to 1.5%. If, in purely monetary terms, it seems that workers’ situation has improved, that of the owners of capital has improved far more.”

The Oil Revenue Enriches the Bourgeoisie Above All

For most of the past 14 years, the regime benefitted from the highest oil revenues ever taken in by the country. However, since the regime has not touched the capitalist system, the bankers have taken the lion’s share. Last year, their profits increased by 91%. This stems from a huge increase in government debt. The interest from this debt floods into the coffers of the banks. At the same time, the government debt fuels an inflation rate estimated at 30%, which also leads to a deterioration in the conditions of life of the laboring classes.

Through his bank, the Banco Orientale de Descuento, Victor Vargas has been the main beneficiary of the debt redemption. He extracted so much profit that he was called “Chávez’s favorite banker.”

For fourteen years, so many Chavista leaders profited from their role at the head of the state to personally enrich themselves that Venezuelans regularly speak of the “nouveaux riches” and of a “bolibourgeoisie.”

Among the most prominent of these is Diosdado Cabello, who was a military man, engineer, minister, governor, and President of the National Assembly. He is the richest of these newly rich. Chávez called him “Beautiful Eyes” on television, but he is so powerful and feared that he was also nicknamed “the godfather.” There is also Rafael Ramirez, the engineer who presides over PDV SA and its “social” activities. He rules over an empire with a value estimated at 150 billion dollars and is known for having helped out his family, who thus share in his success.

The Chavistas claim to be partisans of a “socialism with bosses.” This is obviously a pipe dream. One cannot serve two masters, and as soon as the bosses are in the game, it is they who claim the choicest morsels.

During the period of the worst conflict, between 1999 and 2003, the United States ambassador to Venezuela, John Maisto, declared several times: “Watch what Chávez does, not what he says.” This is valuable advice for understanding what has been behind Chávez’s sometimes thunderous declarations.

For fourteen years, Chávez fulfilled a mission for the bourgeoisie. He channeled popular discontent. The “social missions” have certainly improved the living conditions of the poorest 20% of Venezuelans, which is no small thing in a Latin America with such inequality. But Chávez has increased the wealth accruing to the richest Venezuelans and to the multinationals still more. In 2011, the richest 20% made off with 44% of the national wealth, while 6% went to the poorest 20%.

The entire evolution of the regime in Venezuela confirms that it has nothing to do with any socialism, either of the 20th or of the 21st century. That the regime has restored the social support that had existed at various periods in the country’s history when the oil revenues were high – and these have never been so high – has not made it socialist.

As we already wrote in April 2006, in Lutte de Classe #96, “Chávez is not a revolutionary without a compass but a bourgeois nationalist, and moreover one trained by the army. His horizon is not the emancipation of humanity. His allies are not the proletariat and the impoverished masses of neighboring countries, but other heads of state. He in no way has the intention either of attacking the state apparatus or of expropriating the major means of production.”

In any case, there can be no question of socialism without the intervention – and therefore without the mobilization – of the workers themselves. Socialism does not consist of state intervention in the economy, which the bourgeoisie in crisis can do very well, as it did after the crisis of 1929 and during World War II. Neither does it consist of a policy of social support. It is Bismarck who invented the social welfare system, exactly in order to counteract the development of the socialist workers’ movement. Socialism, or communism, is a reorganization of the entire society on a new basis so that all of the products of human labor can benefit not just a tiny minority, as is the case under capitalism, but all of humanity.

This cannot begin to be put into place without the independent activity of the working class. If the workers of Venezuela or any other Latin American country were to move in this direction, they would need allies. They would find them first of all by mobilizing the oppressed of their own nation, but also by addressing the workers and oppressed of neighboring countries, including of the United States. This is the only way the peoples of the American continent can emancipate themselves from their own national bourgeoisies and from imperialism.