By ERNIE GOTTA
As rebellions spread across the globe in response to the harsh realities of neo-liberal austerity, it is important to examine each uprising closely. We need to understand the reasons people mobilize in the streets. We can’t lend support to every protest movement because they are not all progressive, democratic, or fighting for workers’ rights. All too often the issues are quite complex, and news stories in the mainstream media will simplify or distort them in order to advance the agenda of the economic rulers.
Today, Venezuela is ensnared in a social upheaval spurred on in the wake of an economy devastated by massive inflation, food shortages, and corruption on many levels. Eager spectators are having difficulty understanding the forces in play. The situation is made even more confusing by social media saturated with messages such as #PrayForVenezuela, #LaSalida, or “8 Things You Should Know about the Venezuelan Protests” that call for the ouster of the president. Yet others point out that the class base of the protesters embodies wealthier Venezuelans and the interests of big business.
Which side is right? Whom should honest working people support?
On one hand, those claiming leadership of the protest movement are clearly looking to restore the full power of Venezuela’s capitalist class. This movement is most vigorously represented by Leopoldo López, trained and educated in the U.S. and a leading figure of the violent 2002 coup attempt against then President Hugo Chavez.
On the other hand, there exists a militant working-class and trade-union movement that has taken over factories, thwarted a coup, and organized resistance from the poor barrios through decades of struggle against the brutal capitalist classes of Venezuela and the United States.
In between the workers and the capitalists sits President Nicolas Maduro of Chavez’s Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV). The PSUV is only socialist in name and presides over a capitalist economy. Leaders in the party have walked a thin line vacillating between the interests of the workers and the demands of the capitalists. Such a contradictory set-up cannot function in favor of Venezuela’s working poor for long, and indeed, the reforms are falling apart. For example, the national health system is crumbling, including a large section of the country’s 600,000 primary school teachers who don’t have any health coverage (see Marea Socialista, “The Bolivarian Process without Chavez”).
The capitalist class, however unhinged by the struggles of the masses, still control the majority of the country and have been anxious to intervene. Disdaining all of the reforms made under Chavez, reactionaries are exploiting the current economic situation to undermine his successor and begin a campaign to regain control. The unwillingness of Chavez before his death, and now President Maduro, to lead the working class in completely smashing all institutions of capital has left a wide gap for the potential defeat of any gains won by workers in Venezuela.
There are countless examples of how worker’s movements are defeated when revolutions are only made halfway. “Lessons of Working Class Defeats,” a pamphlet published by Socialist Action, goes into greater depth regarding historic defeats in Spain, Chile, and Peru. Workers and students should study closely these lessons from the past as they watch events around the world unfold. While life may look different today, the same social forces that gave rise to those defeats are still very much in existence.
Venezuelan workers are perfectly capable of organizing and waging their own struggle for power. Yet there is no doubt that U.S. imperialism would welcome and actively support a coup, as it has in the past. A powerful puppet could more effectively extract profits and resources for the benefit of big business abroad. Revolutionary-minded workers and students in the United States can best show their solidarity by organizing against U.S. intervention. We need to make it politically impossible for the U.S. to aid the enemies of the working class.
Photo: President Nicolas Maduro