Civil War Looms in Venezuela


The renewal of the bourgeois offensive to overthrow the populist government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has become so obvious that The New York Times has had to take note. In the Aug. 17 issue, reporter Juan Forero wrote from Caracas that the country was deeply polarized.

Forero quoted an opposition spokesman who anticipated “civil war” and a Bush administration official who predicted that if the present course of events continued “there is a very good chance that Venezuela will blow again.”

The New York Times noted that Chavez had made important concessions to the pro-imperialist bourgeois opposition: “Mr. Chavez soon took some steps that were welcomed by the business class. He appointed a new economic team, replaced the president of the state-owned oil company who was seen as his crony, and pledged that the National Assembly would reconsider several economic laws opposed by entrepreneurs.” But this did not satisfy the bourgeois opposition.

About the same time, it became clear that Chavez’s attempt to use the judicial machinery of the bourgeois state to defend his government had failed. The Venezuelan Supreme Court dropped the prosecution of the military chiefs involved in the April coup d’etat.

Chavez responded angrily, telling a crowd of his supporters in the city of Cumana, in the state of Sucre, that the court had destroyed its authority. But in Caracas he told supporters that the court’s decision was “absurd but we have to swallow the way you swallow fish bones.” He did not seem to think that you can choke to death on fish bones.

Le Monde’s correspondent noted that, ironically, most of the Supreme Court judges had been nominated by Chavez’s former minister of the interior, Luis Miquelena, an ex-Communist reputed to be Chavez’s left-wing “evil genius.”

A dispatch in the Mexico City daily La Jornada (Aug. 22) reported complaints by Chavez government officials that the opposition was armed and training its supporters under the auspices of local governments that it controls. At a press conference, they presented a video showing 20 armed men being trained on a ranch belonging to the mayor of a town in the state of Carabobo.

It should be completely clear to the Chavez government that the ruling rich in Venezuela are preparing for war, and that when they launch their assault they will be backed by their big brother, U.S. imperialism.

Neither the local bourgeoisie nor the imperialists are prepared to allow any margins for populist experiments. The region is too unstable, and too important, because of its oil resources among other things, for the U.S. rulers.

There is a major guerrilla insurgency in Colombia, and there have been several mass upsurges in recent years in Ecuador, the third country of the region. In this context of class polarization, giving concessions to the ruling class can only be seen as a sign of weakness, both to Chavez’s friends and his enemies.

Unless Chavez also prepares for war, his government will be either gutted or overthrown. And the only way that he can prepare for war effectively is to attack the institutions of the bourgeois state itself-the courts, police, military, and media. He needs to organize and arm the masses who look to him for leadership. But so far, he has only talked about revolution, not organized one. Now he may not have much time left.

It is unlikely in fact that a populist politician like Chavez can take such revolutionary measures, even for the sake of survival. But the masses that look to him seem to be ready to fight. There have been massive mobilizations defending the government against its right-wing assailants. Hopefully, they will find a new leadership capable leading them to victory in the open class war that now seems inevitable.

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