The September elections have posed
some serious questions before the Bolivarian Revolution. The opposition
has organized a noisy campaign in the media to present themselves as
"winners", despite the fact that they lost. What is the purpose of this
campaign? A minority cannot turn itself into a majority, no matter how
loud it shouts. But such a campaign can be advantageous to the
counterrevolutionaries both inside and outside Venezuela.
the outside world, the aim is to step up the campaign of disinformation
about the situation in Venezuela that is being systematically organized
by the imperialists and their hired media. Inside Venezuela, the
opposition wants to use the election result to influence public opinion,
pressing for "pluralism", "more tolerant legislation". They have even
insolently demanded the "liberation” of two prisoners, Biagio Pilieri
and José "Mazuco" Sánchez, who were elected to the National Assembly
while in prison for corruption and murder.
As we predicted, the election has served to embolden the
counterrevolutionaries. Added to this we have the events in Ecuador with
the attempted coup d’etat against Rafael Correa, which is a
direct warning to the Chavez government. The author of these lines has
consistently supported the Bolivarian Revolution and defended it against
its enemies. My personal loyalty to the Revolution cannot be doubted.
But I have always spoken my mind honestly and made criticisms that I
considered to be just. If these criticisms have annoyed some people, I
am very sorry. But I will not cease to defend my point of view in order
to avoid treading on a few toes. The fate of the Revolution is too
important for it to be decided by diplomatic considerations.
The Bolivarian Revolution has many friends as well as enemies. The
vast majority of its friends are ordinary workers, peasants,
revolutionary youths and progressive intellectuals. They are honest and
loyal friends. But there are also some false friends: people who
originally showed no interest in the Bolivarian Revolution, and later
jumped on the bandwagon. They applaud politely when Chavez makes a
speech, but in reality they show not the slightest interest in fighting
Flatterers are not real friends but hypocritical mercenaries who will
desert you in the hour of need. How many flatterers have passed through
Miraflores in the last eleven years, only to end up in the camp of the
counterrevolution? A true friend is not somebody who constantly praises
you and agrees with everything you say. A true friend is somebody who is
not afraid to look you straight in the eye and say: “My friend, I think
you are making a mistake.”
The recent election results revealed both the strong and the weak
points of the Bolivarian Revolution. It showed the loyalty and
determination of the workers and peasants to defend the Revolution and
defeat the counterrevolution. This determination of the masses has been
the motor force of the Revolution from the beginning. It has saved the
Revolution at every critical juncture. It saved it again in the 26
September elections. But how long can this loyalty be maintained unless
the Revolution is carried through in a determined manner?
What conclusions should we draw?
On October 2nd, following the recent elections to the
Venezuelan National Assembly, President Chavez made a speech in the
Teatro Teresa Carreño at a meeting with the newly elected PSUV members
of the National Assembly. The whole speech can be found online in
sixteen parts: Chávez: "la extrema derecha nunca abandonará la carta del golpismo"
The speech makes many correct points. The President emphasised the
success of the PSUV in preventing the victory of the
counterrevolutionary opposition. “We defeated the counterrevolution,
without any doubt,” he said. There is no doubt that the election result
represented a victory in the sense that the Revolution successfully
blocked the counterrevolution, which was attempting to win a majority of
the National Assembly. After eleven years, this shows that the
Revolution still has important reserves of support in the masses.
But it is equally undeniable that the opposition has advanced and is
in a stronger position than it was before. In the course of his speech,
Chavez said that the causes for the loss of one million votes (since
2009) must be investigated and admitted that it might be a reflection of
local or regional problems. Unless we recognise these problems and take
steps to correct them, the consequences for the Revolution will be very
serious indeed. It is therefore necessary to arrive at a balanced
appreciation of the elections that really takes into account the mood of
the different classes in society.
What conclusions should we draw from the election results? The answer
to this question depends on one’s point of view. Ultimately, it will
depend on the interests of which class you defend. The
counterrevolutionaries who defend the interests of the oligarchy, which
they attempt to disguise with a false “democratic” rhetoric, will argue
that it shows that the Revolution is in retreat and that the opposition
is now in a position to win a majority in the Presidential elections of
The reformists, who represent the influence of bourgeois ideas within
the Bolivarian Movement, will argue in the following way: the elections
prove that we do not have sufficient support to press ahead with
revolutionary policies and expropriations that will alienate the middle
classes. We must therefore slow down the pace of change, take a step
back and arrive at a compromise with the bourgeoisie and the opposition
in the “national interest”.
The Marxists, who represent the most consistent revolutionary trend,
say that what the elections showed is a growing discontent and
impatience among the masses with the slow pace of the Revolution. The
bourgeoisie, which still controls key points in the Venezuelan economy,
is sabotaging production, refusing to invest and closing factories. The
counterrevolutionaries are taking advantage of the economic sabotage to
attack and undermine the Revolution. In order to defend the Revolution,
it is necessary to take serious measures against the landlords and
capitalists, to end their power once and for all.
It is easy to see that the first two trends are in fundamental
agreement. The only difference between them is that the open
counterrevolutionaries do not hide their hatred of the Revolution and
their determination to overthrow it by every means at their disposal,
whether parliamentary or extra-parliamentary, legal or illegal, peaceful
or violent. The reformists defend the existing bourgeois order, but
they conceal this fact under a hypocritical guise of “moderation”, the
need “not to go too fast”, “not to alienate the middle class”, not to be
“too extreme” and so on and so forth.
Some, like Vice-president Elías Jaua, advocate “a Great Patriotic
Bloc”. What does this mean? The forces that support the Revolution are
very clear: the workers, the peasants, the urban poor, the revolutionary
youth and the progressive intellectuals, that is to say, all the living
forces of Venezuelan society. They already represent a “popular bloc”.
What other forces do you want to include? This ambiguous language is
intended as a screen to include the so-called progressive national
bourgeoisie. But such a thing does not exist and has never existed.
This is a trap for the Revolution. The next step will be to say: We
cannot go too fast. We must take into consideration the views of our
bourgeois “allies”! We must not alienate the middle class etc., etc. As
we shall see, this is extremely dangerous because it will weaken the
revolution and divert it from its real aim, which is a thorough
transformation to the benefit of the workers and peasants.
No conciliation with the bourgeoisie!
In his speech, the President showed he was aware of this danger. He
stressed that there will be no reconciliation with the
counterrevolutionary opposition and that there is no prospect of
compromise with the bourgeoisie. Answering the reformists who
advocate a “third way” between capitalism and socialism, Chavez said:
“There is no room in this Revolution for a third way.” And he warned: “There is no conciliation with the bourgeoisie and the counterrevolution.”
This will be welcomed by every genuine revolutionary. But elsewhere
in his speech, the President criticises what he refers to as “extremist”
views expressed by some (unnamed) people:
“There are other opinions, like those who say: ‘We did not reach our
goal’ or ‘they beat us because the revolution has not advanced, because
we have to expropriate all the banks and all the companies and I do not
know how many other things. Let us see. I think that nobody here,
honestly, should get carried away by their particular opinion or
personal views. This morning in ‘The Lines of Chavez’ I have tried to
get as close as possible to the truth, and not to get carried away
either by one extreme or the other.”
It is self-evident that the Revolution must strive to avoid extremes.
It must strive to adopt a correct line that will enable it to defeat
its enemies and advance to the attainment of its fundamental goals.
Impatience is a mistake and to proceed too fast, too soon can be as
dangerous as to do the opposite. But what does this extremism consist
of? According to the President, it is a trend that advocates
expropriation of everything, including small businesses, an ultra-left
policy that would alienate the middle class, and the President added:
“There are not four or five million oligarchs”.
This is obviously true. Many middle class people and small
proprietors have indeed been poisoned and deceived by the opposition. It
is necessary to win them away from the counterrevolution. The question
is: how is this to be achieved? The question of the middle class and how
to win it is obviously a key issue. It has never been the intention of
the Marxists to expropriate the property of the middle classes. This was
already explained in The Communist Manifesto where Marx and Engels speak on private property:
“We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the
right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own
labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal
freedom, activity and independence.
“Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the
property of the petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of
property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish
that; the development of industry has to a great extent already
destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.
“Or do you mean the modern bourgeois private property?
“But does wage labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e.,
that kind of property which exploits wage labour, and which cannot
increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage labour
for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the
antagonism of capital and wage labour. Let us examine both sides of this
“To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a social status
in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united
action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united
action of all members of society, can it be set in motion.
“Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power.
“When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the
property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby
transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the
property that is changed. It loses its class character.”
These words of Marx and Engels adequately convey the position of the Marxists with regard to private property.
How to win the middle class
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.
In his speech the President says: "Within this bipolar Venezuelan
reality [i.e. the division Between Opposition and Revolution], it is
important to note that although we accept and act within this reality,
we will not become a sectarian extreme. Someone told me long ago that we
do not have a policy toward the middle class. It seems that we are
handing the middle class over to the enemy. And there is something that
we have to understand: the middle class is not an enemy of the
“No. Neither are the small proprietors. Just look at Cuba. It is
important to analyze what is happening in Cuba. Especially when we
consider the positions taken by some comrades and some revolutionary
analysts who would be very happy if tomorrow I would sign a decree
expropriating all small businesses and small industry. It would be
To propose the expropriation of all small businesses and small
industry would most certainly be madness, and anyone who advocated such a
thing would deserve to be referred to the nearest psychiatric clinic.
But the Marxists have never advocated such a thing. What we advocate is the expropriation of the property of the oligarchy: the big banks, monopolies and latifundia.
Neither do we consider the middle class as one reactionary mass, to be
dismissed as enemies of the revolution. On the contrary, we consider it
essential to develop policies that are capable of winning over important
sections of the middle class and breaking the hold of the oligarchy
over them. But in order to do this, we must have a correct understanding
of the position of the middle class (the petty bourgeoisie) in
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 mobilized the mass of middle class Venezuelans to
oppose the revolution. Under the false flag of “democracy” they have
organized 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.
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 are 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.
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.
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.
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 nationalization, which is
in their interests.
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.
The nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy is not an act of aggression or revenge but, on the contrary, a necessary means of defence of the revolution.
The measures taken by a revolutionary government are not aimed at the
property of the workers and peasants or the small proprietors who make
up nine-tenths of the population, but only against the one-tenth of the
population who have the lion’s share of property in this society.
In his speech, the President made a number of references to Cuba. At
one point he says: “Over there in Cuba they are making a profound
self-criticism and taking bold decisions. And of course the rumours that
imperialism has been circulating around, that Fidel is unhappy, that
there are differences between Raul and Fidel, are absolutely false. No! I
know them and know how they complement each other".
Referring to the recent reforms announced by Raúl Castro he says:
"The Cuban government has authorized …. and that’s not a step back!
It’s like Raul said: ‘The updating of socialism’. They have just
adopted, I think, a measure that would allow 150 ‘self-employed’. In
Cuba for all these years, the ice cream shops, the barbershops, the
hairdressers, the carpenters, all this was owned by the state. Now they
are opening up, they are updating their model. There is no such thing as
a static model. And yet we ourselves are guilty. We make speeches that
do not relate to reality. Can anyone think that the Bolivarian
Revolution will nationalize the butcher shops, the grocer’s shops, all
shops in Caracas where people buy shoes and clothes?
"Sometimes we ourselves are making people to naively think this is
true. And that is what the enemy bases their campaign on: ‘We are going
towards communism. They’re going to take everything away from us’."
It would be worth dealing with what is happening in Cuba,
particularly as it is a very widely discussed theme in Venezuela.
However, this is not the place to deal with this in detail. But in the
first place, many people in Cuba are very concerned about the impact of
these measures and the danger of capitalist counterrevolution. In the
second place, Venezuela has not yet carried out the expropriation of the
big banks and monopolies that was achieved in Cuba decades ago, and was
the basis on which the Revolution could break with capitalism and make
It is quite true that a planned economy does not need to nationalize
everything, down to the last barber shop. This was always a Stalinist
caricature. In Cuba the nationalization of all small and medium
enterprises took place as part of the “Revolutionary Offensive” in 1968,
when 58,000 small businesses, mainly in the cities, were expropriated.
Ice cream vendors, barber shops, shoe repair shops, etc, all were
This was a completely unnecessary step, which only resulted in the
creation of a further layer of bureaucracy to oversee and manage these
really small productive units. In the transition towards socialism, it
is inevitable that elements of capitalism will continue to exist
alongside the elements of a socialist planned economy. That includes a
certain number of small businesses, shops and small peasant plots, etc.
In itself, that should pose no threat to socialism, as long as
the key points of the economy remain in the hands of the state, and the
state and industry is in the hands of the working class. On that
condition, and only on that condition, a small private sector could and
should be allowed, as long as the state maintains firm control over the
commanding heights of the economy.
However, there is a big difference between the Cuban economy and the Venezuelan economy. In
Cuba the Revolution nationalized the banks and other key sectors of the
economy almost from the start. But in Venezuela, after eleven years in
power, the Bolivarian government has not yet taken the decisive step. Many negative consequences flow from this.
There is no argument in favour of expropriating small businesses in
Venezuela, Cuba or anywhere else. But equally, there is no argument
against expropriating the banks and big monopolies. This policy – the policy of socialism –
is neither extremist nor utopian but the only realistic way of
defending the Revolution against the systematic sabotage of the bankers
and capitalists, who are determined to overthrow it by any means at
The nature of the Venezuelan economy
In the past eleven years the Bolivarian Revolution has advanced in
many ways. But are we entitled to say that it has reached its
fundamental goals? No, we cannot, and this fact was confirmed by the
President in his speech at the Extraordinary Congress of the PSUV.
An article in the bourgeois financial journal Reporte Diario de la Economía
(February 5, 2010) revealed that the private banks had obtained
US$2,615 billions in profits in 2009. 83% of this amount came from fees
El Universal, 19th July, 2010 stated: “A report by the
Associated Press noted that a group of economists surveyed stated that
the balance between public and private sectors is almost identical to
when Chavez took office, partly because the private sector grew faster
than the public between 2003 and 2006, when the economy was booming.
“They also note that state enterprises are still a relatively modest proportion of the economy.
“Last year, the private sector accounted for 70% of gross domestic
product (GDP), including 11% in taxes on products, according to
estimates by the Central Bank of Venezuela. The public sector was 30%, a
percentage slightly lower than when Chavez was elected in 2008.” (Sector privado aún controla dos tercios de la economía en Venezuela)
This is not a question of barbers’ shops or small businesses in general, but of key parts of the Venezuelan economy.
It means that eleven years later, the Venezuelan oligarchy still
exercises a stranglehold on key points of the Venezuelan economy. As
long as this situation is allowed to continue, there can be no question
of a planned economy, and therefore of socialism in Venezuela.
Certain things flow from this. According to a UN report, Venezuela is
the fourth most unequal country in Latin America, because the richest
10% has 36.8% of the money and the richest 30% controls 65.1% of its
resources, while the poorest are forced to survive on 0.9%. (Fuerte concentración de la riqueza en Colombia y América Latina, advierte la ONU)
If we wish to understand the reasons why people who support the
Revolution abstain in elections (and this is a vital question for the
future of the Revolution), we must begin here. When a Bolivarian worker
sees that his wage is not enough to last to the end of the month, and
that prices are rising, whereas the rich are getting richer, he begins
to lose confidence in the Revolution. This is the fundamental question
that needs to be addressed.
The superiority of a nationalised planned economy was demonstrated by
the colossal successes of the USSR in the past. These successes were
undermined by the bureaucratic distortions that flowed from Stalinism
and the corruption, swindling and mismanagement that are the inevitable
consequence of a bureaucratic regime. Over a long period these things
cancelled out the gains of the planned economy and undermined it. That
is what led to the collapse of the USSR, not any inherent defect of
It was the parasitic existence of the bureaucracy, itself a
consequence of the isolation of the revolution in a backward country,
which finally led to the restoration of capitalism with the catastrophic
social collapse which accompanied it. The bureaucratic planning of the
economy led to wastage, mismanagement and corruption. Finally the
bureaucracy decided to become themselves the owners of the means of
The lack of genuine workers’ democracy, in which ordinary working
people participate directly in managing the state and the economy, is
one of the main threats to the revolution. It breeds demoralisation,
scepticism, cynicism and generally undermines the revolutionary morale
of the people. If it is combined with a situation in which the basic
needs are not met, the purchasing power of wages decreases and everybody
is aware of corruption and theft going on at the top of the state, then
it becomes a real counter-revolutionary danger of the first order.
The most serious failing is in the agricultural sector, which is
directly connected with the supply of basic necessities: food and
clothing. Although Venezuela has a huge agricultural potential, its
development was distorted by a parasitic oligarchy that derived its
wealth from the oil sector, while the agricultural sector shrank,
leaving the country reliant on oil exports and food imports.
The same reactionary oligarchy that was behind the 2002 lockout is
now using the food scarcity/sabotage to undermine the Revolution. The
30% inflation in recent years has been driven partially by rising food
prices on world markets. The government has taken some important steps
in expropriating some banks and idle lands, financing producer
cooperatives and state farms, and setting up a network of distributors
and state-owned food markets. These are steps in the right direction,
but they are not sufficient to guarantee control over Venezuela’s food
Lorenzo Mendoza, the chief executive of Empresas Polar, the largest
food and beverage company in Venezuela, still presides over an empire
composed of 40 companies with about 17,000 employees who produce a long
list of food products such as pasta, rice, oil corn, ice cream, wine,
mineral water, soda, candy and snacks of all kinds. This huge monopoly
produces 4 percent of Venezuela’s gross domestic product (excluding oil)
and its beer division is the fourteenth biggest brewery worldwide.
Mendoza’s personal fortune is estimated at US$4.56 billion.
How is it possible to solve the problems of the food sector, while
distribution of food remains in the hands of people like Mendoza and
other big capitalists who are closely linked to big foreign food and
drink monopolies? The expropriation of these big companies is not at all
directed against the middle class, who are exploited and robbed by
these big monopolies just as much as the workers.
The nationalization of Agroisleña, an agricultural supplies company
that serves 70% of Venezuela’s producers, was another step forward. This
enabled President Chavez to announce an immediate reduction in the
prices of the products of the nationalized company (now called
Agropatria) by 49.3% for 12 different fertilizers, 43% for 260
agrochemicals, and an average of 41.7% in the price of seeds for black
beans, corn, and rice.
These price reductions for producers “should be translated into good
prices for the final consumer. We are rooting out the speculation
problem and the capitalist robbery,” said Chavez. He pointed out that
these prices do not add up to a state subsidy, but are slightly more
than the cost of production.
The president assured supplies to all producers who contract with
Agropatria, and said all previously existing credits would be
guaranteed, now at a rate of 8% interest. He approved 565 million strong
bolivars [US$132,000] for this purpose, to be administered by the
state-owned Banco Agricola, Fondo de Desarrollo Agrario Socialista
(FONDAS), and Fondo Bicentenario. Food production has gone up as a
result of the Chavez government’s increase in financing to the
agricultural sector from less than half a billion bolivars in 1998 to 20
billion bolivars in 2009. However, demand for food has increased even
Chavez has stressed the need for Venezuela to reduce its dependence
on multinational food companies and reduce its susceptibility to global
food crises. This goal can only be achieved by carrying out an agrarian
revolution, expropriating the big landowners and gradually replacing
capitalist agriculture by state-owned food producers and private food
monopolies by a state-owned network of food distributors and local food
markets that can sell the food at regulated prices that are sometimes as
much as 40% below market prices.
“We cannot hand [the food] over to the usury of the capitalist model;
now we have to continue constructing the socialist system of
distribution and marketing,” Chavez said recently. “We must pick up the
pace, because the future of Venezuela depends on it. We must turn
Venezuela into an agro-industrial power.”
In order to accelerate the land reform, Chavez announced the
nationalization of 200,000 hectares (495,000 acres) of land that were
owned by Compañía Inglesa, a Venezuelan subsidiary of the Vestey Group,
and the nationalization of the agricultural services company Agroisleña.
Agricultural and Lands Minister Juan Carlos Loyo confirmed plans to
nationalize 250,000 hectares (618,000 acres) of farmland in October and
twice that amount in November. “Let the large estate owners know that
the oligopoly from which they benefited so much is over. Now is the time
the agrarian revolution is going to accelerate,” Chavez said.
The leaders of the counterrevolutionary opposition have naturally
reacted hysterically to the recent nationalizations. They say that these
measures threaten to slow economic growth, which has already been in
recession for six quarters. “The government appears to have assumed the
strategy of corralling the productive sector,” said Noel Álvarez, the
president of the nation’s largest private business chamber, Fedecámaras.
“This is a tremendous blow against agriculture… production will
But it is difficult to see how either private agriculture or
industry can be any worse in the hands of the state than they were in
the hands of the landlords and capitalists. Everyone knows that the
Venezuelan bosses are not responding to the repeated appeals to invest
in Venezuela. They have organized a strike of capital that is starving
the economy of investment and this is the main reason why Venezuela is
finding it hard to get out of recession. The fact is that, without the
state sector, the economy would be facing complete collapse.
The “right to private property”
Everybody knows what role was played by Fedecámaras in the coup of
April 2002, when Carmona, the head of Fedecámaras proclaimed himself
President. The men of money have always been opposed to the Bolivarian
Revolution, and have always hankered after dictatorship. And in reality,
they have always exercised a dictatorship over Venezuela, irrespective
of who was in Miraflores: the dictatorship of Capital.
Álvarez said Fedecámaras will file a case with the Supreme Court
accusing the government of violating the right to private property. But
can the “the right to private property” of a handful of super-rich
oligarchs be more important than the right of millions of ordinary
Venezuelans to have a job, and to be able to feed their families?
What is necessary is to put an end to this dictatorship of Capital
before it puts an end to the Revolution. The rich will protest that this
is an attack against “the right to private property”. But this is a
lie. For us, the right to private property of 98 percent of
Venezuelans is untouchable. But the property of the oligarchy – that
handful of parasites who have plundered the wealth of Venezuela for
generations and bled the country white – that is another matter
Let us take another example of the sacred “right to private
property”: Gustavo A. Cisneros Rendiles, the Venezuelan media mogul. He
is among the world’s richest men according to Forbes magazine, which
estimated his fortune at US$10.7 billion in 2010. And together with this
obscene wealth comes tremendous power. The New York Times calls
Cisneros, "one of Latin America’s most powerful figures" and says he and
his wife, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, have a reputation for being "a
Latin American power couple in business and the global social scene."
Cisneros’ wealth comes from his holdings in media, entertainment,
telecommunications and consumer products companies. The Cisneros Group
of Companies is one of the largest Spanish-language privately-held media
and entertainment companies. Gustavo Cisneros is one of the wealthiest
men in Latin America. He is also the most powerful media baron of the
continent. He is also a rabid opponent of Chavez and the Bolivarian
Revolution. He played an active role in the 2002 coup, and has described
the chavistas as ‘mobs’ and ‘monkeys’.
The “patriotic” Cisneros is not only a citizen of Venezuela: he is
equally a citizen of Spain (at the personal request of King Juan
Carlos), an American in New York, a Cuban in Miami, and a Dominican in
the Dominican Republic, which is his principal base. We see here that
Capital has no fatherland except Profit. As Venezuelanalysis points out:
“As one of the shadowy figures providing American capitalism with
local muscle outside the United States, he is a striking illustration of
why there is no national bourgeoisie in Venezuela. Cisneros is bound
hand and foot to the empire, and has been handsomely repaid.” (Venezuela’s Murdoch)
This multi billionaire has extended his empire across Latin America
to include Chile’s Chilevisión and Colombia’s Caracol TV, with a major
stake in DirecTV Latin America, whose satellite broadcasts rubbish to
twenty Latin American countries. Until the buyout of Univision, the
United States’ leading Spanish-language television network, Cisneros was
one of the biggest shareholders on the company.
He also owns Venevision International, which produces and distributes
media and entertainment products throughout the world, and Venevisión,
the main commercial TV channel in Venezuela. Since 1980 the Group has
owned the Miss Venezuela contest and since 2001 also the Leonés del
Caracas baseball team. Furthermore the group owns AOL Latin America,
Galavisión and Play Boy Latin America.
This monopolistic control of the media is known in the West as
“freedom of the press” – that is, the freedom of a handful of wealthy
oligarchs to tell the people what to think and who to vote for. It is a
direct threat to the Revolution and to democracy itself. The
expropriation of the property of the Cisneros family is therefore an
essential measure to defend the Revolution and to safeguard the
democratic rights of the overwhelming majority of the people. We saw how
all this power in the hands of a privileged minority could be used to
overrule the democratic decision of the majority in April 2002.
Cisneros and his gang played a crucial role in the coup d’état of
that year. Everybody knows how the media was cynically used as a
rallying point for the coup. On the night of April 11th, after Chavez
had been removed from the Miraflores Palace at gunpoint, the leading
golpistas met together in Cisneros’s suite at Venevisión. Carmona had
already announced the closure of the Congress and Supreme Court, as well
as the suppression of the Constitution when Cisneros went to Miraflores
to propose that the new government’s communications strategy should be
left to him and his media friends, an offer that Carmona gratefully
Cisneros gave orders that his channels should carry no news of the
overthrow of the coup, or show pictures of the mass demonstrations
demanding the return of the President. Instead, the screens of
Cisneros’s television were filled with old movies and cartoons. After
Chavez returned to power, Cisneros and other opposition supporters
organized the oil sabotage and, when that failed, the recall referendum
in August 2004. These were all attempts to overthrow the democratically
elected government by extra-parliamentary means. And what they did
before, they will try to do again as soon as the conditions are given.
If the 2002 coup d’état had succeeded, it would have led to the swift
destruction of Venezuelan democracy, and Cisneros was one of the
principal architects of the assault on democracy. “The day will come,”
Chavez declared in May 2004, at the start of the referendum campaign,
“when we shall have a fearless team of judges who will act in line with
the Constitution and imprison these mafia dons like Gustavo Cisneros.”
But after all this time, the golpistas remain at liberty, and this
represents a serious threat to the future of the Revolution and
democracy. Surely, the time has now come to act?
The big banks still have a stranglehold over the Venezuelan economy,
from which they are extracting huge profits. In the ninth month of this
year, no less than 91.2% of the earnings of the banks were concentrated
in the top 10 banks in Venezuela. We quote from cosumid.org:
“From 1999 to date, the banking business generated a profit that
surpassed the expectations of many of the owners of banks and also the
earnings growth has exceeded the rate of inflation. Accumulated profits
of commercial and universal banks from 1999 to September of this year,
were more than 28.3 billion strong Bolivars (more than 28.3 trillion old
bolivars). However, we must point out that 20 medium and small banks
(all except the 10 top Venezuelan banks) have not been doing very well
this year. Their earnings as of September have fell 54.2% compared with
the same period last year. Even three of the top 10 banks have also seen
their profits fall. Banks also felt this year, the impact of falling
GDP.” (Quién es quien en la banca venezolana ).
It is true that the government has taken some steps. The Bank of
Venezuela, which used to belong to the Spanish group Santander, was
recently acquired by the Venezuelan government. It accounts for 14.5% of
the profits. With this acquisition, the state has strengthened its
position in the Venezuelan banking system. It was an important step
forward, but a big part still remains in private hands. This is not a question of small proprietors but of a key lever of the economy. Let us see who these banks are.
Let us take Provincial. Its majority shareholder is the Spanish group
BBVA. They have indicated their intention to continue operating in
Venezuela, where they accounted for 22.8% of total earnings of the banks
Then there is Mercantil, one of the most important banks in the
country. Its shareholders are an important part of the oligarchy, with
families like the Marturets and the Vollmers. Likewise, the Capriles
group also has an important stake in the institution. They accounted for
10.7% of the profits of the banks as of September.
Then there is Banesco, an institution that was created as a result of
several mergers and today is one of the major banks. Juan Carlos
Escotet, its president, is its largest shareholder. Its market share in
bank profits is 9.8%. Banesco is one of the first banks with Venezuelan
national capital. It emerged in 1977 with the name of Banco
Agroindustrial Venezolano, a name that it held until 1987 when it
changed to Banco Financiero. In 1992, after having changed its name
again to Bancentro, the bank was acquired by the Banesco brokerage house
owned by the current Chairman of the Board Juan Carlos Escotet. The
bank was renamed Banesco Financial Organization. In 1997 it was
transformed into a universal bank.
Then there is Occidental de Descuento (BOD). Its main shareholder is
Víctor Vargas. It had accumulated profits as of September amounting to
9.6% of total bank profits.
Exterior is one of the strongest banks in the country. Its main
shareholder is the Spanish financial group IF. It has 6.1% of the
profits of Venezuelan banking.
Venezolano de Crédito has profits amounting to 4.9% of the system,
while Bancoex State Bank, represents 4.7%. Corp Banca, an institution
acquired by Victor Vargas and merged with the BOD, accounts for 4.1% of
the profits and with the merger will become the third largest bank in
terms of earnings, based on September figures. Finally there is
Citibank, which is part of Citibank, USA. Its earnings are equivalent to
3.9% of the total.
As long as private capital controls the lion’s share of the banks,
all the main decisions concerning productive investment, credits to
small farmers and other businesses will be in the hands of the enemies
of the Revolution. Moreover, it will be impossible to introduce a
genuine socialist plan of production to solve the problem of
unemployment and achieve a rational distribution of goods and services
and mobilize the full productive potential of Venezuela.
The first measure that would be required to create a socialist
planned economy would be the nationalization of the banks, to merge all
the banks into a single state bank. This is not a measure directed
against the middle classes but exclusively against the oligarchy. In
fact, it would benefit the middle class and the small producers who
would be guaranteed easy access to cheap credits. If this is explained
properly, far from alienating the middle class, it would attract them to
the side of the Revolution.
“Realism” of the reformists
The President has said that the revolutionary process would be
“deeper every day”. That is precisely what is required. But we fear that
this proposal will meet resistance from the bureaucrats and reformists
at every step.
Victor Álvarez, an economist and former Minister of Mines of the Chavez administration, was reported by El Universal
to have said that the goal is really not “that the state should have
the greatest weight in the economy.” What is the goal, then? Is it to
continue to allow the oligarchy to dominate the economy? And if that is
really the case, what is left of the slogan Patria, socialismo o muerte?
In a recent interview on Contragolpe,
Elias Jaua (the vice-president), stated that the recognition of private
property was a basic principle of the Bolivarian Movement and that
expropriations were “only for the monopolies and oligarchy”. Very good,
we agree. But he immediately confuses the issue by dragging in the
question of small and medium family businesses etc. This has been
dragged in by the hair to justify not carrying out the expropriation of
the big banks and monopolies.
It is an ABC proposition that small and medium companies have no
independent role in the economy. All the main decisions are taken by the
boards of directors of the big banks and monopolies. For that reason it
is not at all necessary to nationalize small businesses, but it is very
necessary to nationalize the big banks and monopolies. But in the same programme comrade Jaua denied any intention to nationalize Polar! Does anyone think that Polar is a “small or medium business”? If this is not a monopoly I do not know what a monopoly is!
It would seem from this interview that comrade Jaua has no intention
of nationalizing anything. Instead, he talks in vague terms about the
“democratization” of the productive apparatus, whatever that might mean.
“We are in a state of constant dialogue with the private sector”, the
comrade informs us. Yes, this “dialogue” has been going on for a long
time and we have seen the results of it. The President calls the bosses
to a meeting and appeals to them to invest. Result? Private investment declines. The bourgeois do not invest but send their money abroad. This is a strike of capital.
Everybody knows it. But the reformists bury their heads in the sand and
talk about the need for “dialogue” and a “patriotic bloc” and the
bourgeois laugh all the way to the bank.
What is really extraordinary is that the reformists regard themselves as realists!
I have pointed out more than once that this is the “realism” of a man
who tries to persuade a tiger to eat lettuce instead of meat. The result
of this “dialogue” is that the tiger’s carnivore tendencies remain
unchanged, and the “realistic” vegetarian comes to a very bad end.
The great challenge
At what pace should the Revolution advance? There is no revolutionary
cookbook that can provide an answer to this question. Chavez says that
he will act “with the maximum of audacity that is possible to accelerate
the expansion of socialism and continue eliminating capitalism.” But it
is clear that time is not on our side. As long as key points of the
economy remain in the hands of the bankers, landlords and capitalists,
they will use their economic power to sabotage the Revolution.
Therefore, there must be a sense of urgency.
The great challenge will be in 2012 when the Presidential elections
coincide with the elections for governors and mayors. “We have a
gigantic challenge”, stated the President. “We must see where we have
made mistakes and where we must make corrections.” He spoke of the
“third cycle of the Revolution, from 2009 to 2020 and launched the
slogan: “Revisar, reactivar y relanzar” (Revise, reactivate and relaunch”).
Chavez warned the counterrevolution that their advance in these
elections would “cost them dearly.” These words were a fitting answer to
the reformists who argue that the Revolution has gone too far and it is
necessary to slow down and make concessions to the opposition. This
line of argument is disastrous for the Revolution. For every step back
it takes the opposition will demand ten more. In the end, one side must
win and the other side lose. There is no “third way”.
In his speech, the President said that they had until January 4 to
push new laws through the National Assembly. And he added that these
laws would be “far more revolutionary than what have been approved up
till now.” Immediately afterwards Chavez announced the expropriation of
Agroisleña, the huge landowning company, part of the multinational
VESTEY group. This decree was signed by Chavez just a couple of days
after the speech, which shows how he is resisting the pressures of the
bourgeoisie and the reformists.
In addition there has been the nationalizations of chemical company
Venoco and the fertilizer company Fertinitro, both having been involved
in price speculation. Asdrúbal Chávez, the vice president of PDVSA, said
Venoco regularly purchased basic production inputs at state-regulated
prices from PDVSA, and marked up the prices of their manufactured
products by as much as 50%.
The measures of nationalization are aimed at guaranteeing food
access, decreasing dependence on food imports, and lowering prices:
“Now, the people will be able to receive supplies made by Venoco at just
and reasonable prices that, at the same time, help to promote
industry,” the vice president of PDVSA said. That is correct, but the
very same argument can be made for taking over the other banks and big
monopolies that are still in private hands.
These new expropriations are moves in the right direction. They were
greeted with huge enthusiasm on the part of the workers and peasants.
This fact shows that this is the way to breathe new life into the
Revolution and weaken its enemies. More importantly, it is the only way
to put an end to sabotage and anarchy, and begin to plan the Venezuelan
economy and mobilize its full productive potential in the interests of
the majority of producers, not a minority of wealthy parasites. The
expropriation of the monopolies is a part of the PSUV programme. But
words must be translated into deeds.
I have no doubt that some people in Miraflores will be telling the
President that all this is “extremism” and “madness” caused by disloyal
people who only want to cause problems. Such arguments raise in my mind
the following image. Imagine that a small boy on board the Titanic
sees a gigantic iceberg looming out of the darkness and begins to shout
a warning. He is immediately rebuked by a disapproving chorus: what are
you shouting about? Be quiet, you are disturbing the passengers! Ask
yourselves the question: who is being disloyal: the boy who is trying to
warn the captain of imminent danger and get him to change course and so
save the ship and all on board, or those who prefer to shut their eyes,
ignore the danger, and allow the ship to sink?
The International Marxist Tendency will continue to defend the
Venezuelan Revolution against imperialism and the counterrevolutionary
oligarchy. It will enthusiastically support every step in the direction
of the expropriation of the oligarchy, every blow struck against the
counterrevolution. But it will criticize every step back. It will
continue to fight against the corrupt bureaucracy and the reformist
Fifth Column and to call for ever more energetic action to carry out the
Revolution to the end.
To the bourgeoisie and its reformist defenders who try to frighten
people with the idea that socialism threatens the “right to private
property”, we answer with the words of the Communist Manifesto:
“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property.
But in your existing society, private property is already done away
with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is
solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You
reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of
property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the
non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.
“In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend. (…)
“Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products
of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate
the labour of others by means of such appropriations.”
London, October 29, 2010