Venezuela and the class struggle. A critical position

Venezuela and the class struggle. A critical position

Nicolás Campos & Maximiliano Rodríguez

This is a rough translation of an article originally published in Castilian: Venezuela y la lucha de clases. Una posición crítica.

Next, we reproduce a communiqué about Venezuela, written by comrades of the Chilean left.

«[...] at the center of political analysis we must place the problem of classes [...]» V. Lenin

Venezuela is today the center of world attention. The situation is particularly complex, with its outcome so far uncertain. Under the banners of anti-imperialism, of the "defense of the fatherland", and even of socialism, the left has closed ranks around the government of Nicolás Maduro and the defense of the "Bolivarian Revolution". In Chile this is a transversal position in most of its expressions coming from the most diverse traditions.

In this article we hold a critical position with this "consensus". This starts from the class struggle, a vision very different from that of opposition imperialism versus "people" of the popular nationalism of the left.

It is not intended to deny the geopolitical elements present in the Venezuelan situation, but to understand them in a context that makes them take on a very different meaning from what is commonly attributed to them in the analyzes and positions on the issue. The determinant, in our opinion, is given by the characteristics and dynamics that the class struggle takes in Venezuela, elements that precisely appear lost, as if the "nation", the "people" or another rested in the air.

What is (not) in game?

What is at stake today in Venezuela is no case the confrontation between capitalism and socialism. It is not even possible to consider that a table is going to be configured to open a perspective in the direction or advance towards this last social system.

There is no possibility that Chavismo could experience a radicalization or "turn" towards socialism, as the Latin American left likes to hope. To understand why it is necessary to refer to the political project of Chavism and the class alliance that prevails in Venezuela today under his leadership.

The phenomenon of Chavism

The late implementation of neoliberalism caused this new configuration of capitalism never to be affirmed on solid foundations in Venezuela. This caused the ruin and pauperization of large sections of the population, which eventually led to the collapse of the IV Republic. The class alliances that sustained the entire political system of bourgeois parties (Acción Democrática and COPEI) of that period collapsed precipitously in the late 1990s.

In its place Chavism emerged as a renewing force of the entire Venezuelan political scene. As a politico-social phenomenon, it is a movement of militarists of a petty-bourgeois nationalist (Bolivarian) style that brings together impoverished popular sectors of the population, especially of urban origin.

Faced with the scenario of social decomposition and widespread political corruption that Venezuelan capitalism was going through, the army appeared as the only moderately constituted agent on which to rely to undertake the social regeneration of the country. Regeneration that was nothing but the recomposition of a class alliance that could once again give stability to the system of bourgeois domination.

Mounted on a state capitalism (PDVSA) and the international bonanza of the price of oil, Chavismo undertook an ambitious plan of social assistance programs aimed at the impoverished popular classes that ended to some extent by changing the very nature of Venezuelan capitalism. From a capitalism of oligarchic rentism, typical of the period of the Fourth Republic, it passed to one of popular rentism. This change is the essence, the material content, of the "revolution" driven by Chavism.

This transformation was carried out not without major convulsions. The traditional bourgeois parties, bosses' chambers and union leaders displaced from the leadership of the country took advantage of the hysteria of the middle classes -who did not resign themselves to seeing a zambo in front of Miraflores or to share the perks that rentism granted them during decades- to unleash a virulent opposition in order to overthrow the Chavism. I try, however, to end in failure, relegating these bourgeois expressions to political marginality.

The unsuccessful insurrectional attempts undressed, in addition, all the impotence, proper of its lumpen character, of the main politico-social actors of the IV Republic agglutinated around the perks of the Venezuelan rentier bourgeoisie. It is precisely this lumpen character that explains to this day the incapacity of the so-called opposition to seriously dispute the conduction to Chavism, and how unsuccessful have been the foreign efforts to mount an internal social force that overthrows it.

The chavista regime

Chavism emerged thus, in an overwhelming and unquestionable way, as the only leading political force in the country.

At the head of the state, Chavismo began to build a new ruling class consisting of an extensive layer of officials, whose political expression today is the PSUV, responsible for administering and distributing among the population the perks of oil income - not before reserve an important part for their own benefit-, and that in turn fulfills the function of establishing the connection with the popular base of Chavismo.

They are, therefore, the official bureaucracy and the army the actors that constitute the effective ruling classes of Venezuelan capitalism today. This is the core of the block in power that crystallized under Chavism.

To the extent that the correlation of forces was widely favorable, Chavismo installed a kind of plebiscitary democracy in which he defeated again and again, overwhelmingly, his political opponents. This mechanism allowed him to establish a state of permanent mobilization among the masses and to dialogue Cesaristamente with them. It is precisely now, when his drag among the popular sectors has diminished, that he has been forced to abandon the original model, calling into question the very institutions he raised.

In short, the social-political regime that he chose under Chavismo is summarized as follows:

By the base, the Venezuelan social formation moved from a capitalism of oligarchic rentism to a capitalism of popular rentism.

Politically, meanwhile, it went from the puntofijista parliamentary democracy of the IV Republic to a popular Bonapartism of plebiscitary democracy.

The social base of support, which guarantees political stability "from below", moved from the well-off middle classes to the poorer popular sectors of the city.

Finally, the binomial army-bureaucracy replaced the system of parties, bosses and union leaders as mediating actors of the political-institutional game.

Political economy of Chavism

A "paradox" that emerges from the entire Chavez period, which does not match the "revolutionary" or "socialist" attributed to it, is related to the maintenance of the character of Venezuelan capitalism.

In effect, the constant throughout the history of this is the anchoring of its productive structure in the oil exploitation, which finally leads to the entire class structure and the physiognomy that they adopt is in direct relation with the circuit of distribution of hydrocarbon income. The Venezuelan bourgeoisie, in particular, has traditionally taken on a lumpen character derived from its refuge in activities related to commercial traffic and financial speculation, which constitute the mechanisms par excellence through which it appropriates the oil rent, delegating its generation proper to state capitalism.

The lumpen character of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie has a rebound on the working class, which in this context can not but show extreme weakness in the material, organizational and politico-ideological. This is because, having delegated the bourgeoisie the productive engine and the main source of income generation of the country to state capitalism, the concentrations of organized workers occur precisely in public employment, which ends up exposing the working class to patronage and manipulation ideological on the part of the bourgeois state, generating a pathological lack of political autonomy and the possibility of constituting itself as an independent actor.

The dependence and backwardness of Venezuelan capitalism, whose international insertion and ability to generate income lie exclusively in the oil industry, leave it in a very fragile condition in the international market. A significant drop in the price of oil conspires not only against the conditions necessary to carry out the process of accumulation on an enlarged scale (importation of intermediate and capital goods), but also directly against the living conditions of the population (importation of consumer goods).

The fact is that, oligarchic or popular, after all, Venezuelan capitalism remained a rentier. Chavismo did not change this fundamental characteristic of the economy of the country, but, on the contrary, accentuated it to the absurd. In effect, not only the economic activity and the sources of income of the State were concentrated more and more in the oil industry, but in parallel the rest of the productive apparatus of the country weakened sensibly, reaching even to the same oil production.

In this context, the "iron laws" of rentier capitalism inevitably fell on Chavism, just as these had fallen on the IV Republic.

On the one hand, the Venezuelan bourgeoisie itself ended up adding to the new scheme imposed by Chavismo. With the subsidized dollars that the State provides for import, it drains the oil rent constantly for its own benefit. Buy cheap abroad and sell expensive in the country by diverting the purchased goods to the black market. With this, the Venezuelan capital becomes even more lumpenized when it retires definitively from the productive sphere to circulation. It is about its own nature (search for profits) and the incentives that the Chavista state itself puts into it. Why produce if you can make stratospheric profits safely by engaging in trafficking in goods at the expense of population hunger?

However, none of the above would be possible if it did not act in connivance and alliance - more or less open - with the state bureaucracy. This is because she also appropriates a part of the lion's oil income. It is simply impossible that a mechanism of embezzlement of state resources, so systematic and of such magnitude, and that today bleeds the country, could be carried out without a more or less solid political-social alliance. Naturally, the concrete form and the mechanisms in which this alliance takes shape between the different levels of the bureaucracy vary in their modus operandi, which, however, does not call into question its very existence.

This is, therefore, another of the concrete ways in which the iron laws of Venezuelan capitalism are expressed under chavism, namely: the sustained corruption of the state bureaucracy, which increasingly becomes a simple privileged layer of society . The so-called "boliburguesía".

So, we have to ask ourselves, what does Chavez Venezuela have as a socialist today? Well, nothing. What are the chances that Chavismo will "radicalize" towards socialism? Absolutely none. It is not about desires, lack of will or "errors", but about the alliance of classes on which it rests and expresses, which sets the limits of its potentialities and determines its internal dialectic.

The conjuncture

The situation opened by the self-proclamation of Guaidó as president in charge exposes a series of structural contradictions and tendencies of the Venezuelan social formation. The immediate element that triggers the current political crisis is the disastrous economic situation that the country is going through.

According to ECLAC data, since 2014 the per capita GDP of the country has been falling year after year, to the point that for 2017 (there are no figures yet for 2018, although preliminarily it is estimated a fall of 18%) this had accumulated a setback total of 38% compared to 2013, the year before the start of the crisis. Moreover, if we take as reference 1998, the year prior to Chávez's arrival to the government, the same indicator had accumulated a fall of 28%. In other words, after 20 years the country practically not only did not advance, but even retreated.

These figures illustrate the really catastrophic situation, the enormous destruction of productive forces and the degree of social decomposition that Venezuela currently experiences. The intensity and extent of poverty induces the population that is not in privileged positions to take refuge in criminal economic forms (robbery, contraband, etc.) as a means of survival, which is further deepened in the hyperinflationary context that afflicts the country.

There is no point in ignoring the political crisis that the country is going through, and its fundamentally internal origin. This is real. It is not a situation that has been artificially imported by the intervention of US imperialism. This component turns out to be secondary or derived from the base condition facing Venezuela. American interventionism is the gross, grotesque and even superficial way in which the real problem arises.

Although the Venezuelan opposition takes advantage of the situation in a cynical and opportunistic way, it runs to take refuge behind the skirts of the United States rather because of its own weakness. In effect, expression of the lumpennage of the sectors of good of the Venezuelan society, the clown Guaidó is nothing. Until now it does not control any portion of the State, an indispensable condition if it wishes to convert its word into law. It is natural, therefore, that representatives of sister classes in situations of extreme weakness run for help to the strongest member of their family, and with whom they have the greatest affinity. For the rest, does not Maduro do the same when he throws himself into Putin's arms, sealing all kinds of alliances and cooperation agreements with Russian imperialism?

In this way, what takes place in Venezuela is not a national liberation struggle, like those that are justly fought by peoples-nations such as the Mapuches, Palestinians and Kurds. This is a struggle of the ruling bloc prevailing in the country for its permanence in power in the face of the challenge of an alternative bourgeois force. The "defense of the fatherland", the anti-imperialism (North American), among others, is the phraseology that it raises to achieve the unification of the different Venezuelan social sectors around itself. It is the relentless struggle of a class-or rather an alliance of classes-that understands that their conditions of material reproduction depend decisively on their permanence in front of the power of the State.

As the situation is currently posed, there is no possibility that the solution, whatever it may be, does not fall on the shoulders of the Venezuelan working classes, as indeed it is already happening.

The program that raises the opposition are the typical measures of economic adjustment that seek to recompose capitalist accumulation through a combination of fiscal adjustment, monetary restrictions and privatizations.

However, the key to restarting the economy on capitalist bases is the prior disciplining of the labor force, which is extremely difficult in the current context of Venezuela. However miserable the conditions of life that the popular sectors in the country face, they have adopted as modus vivendi the system of gifts and royalties that the State distributes profusely, and which assures them a minimum existence without major efforts.

The challenge for the "orthodox" bourgeois option is to try to reduce the costs of the materialization of the adjustment, which could take shape through the "disinterested humanitarian" aid of the related imperialist powers and / or a process of gradual dismantling and part of the "welfare state" chavista. The other is simply to unleash an open repression on the popular sectors of the "doctrine of shock", although in the immediate term it is difficult because the military leaders are part and are one of the main beneficiaries of the "welfare state", which finally explains his alignment with Chavism.

For its part, the option of chavism is not much more encouraging. This raises the typical petty-bourgeois program that promises to get rid of the evils of capitalist exploitation by maintaining the social system that gives rise to it. With the aggravating circumstance that the ruinous consequences of such a program are amplified due to the fragility of the economic base of Venezuelan capitalism.

For example, two measures of "public health" indispensable, not even socialist, to be able to remove the country from the disastrous situation would be the nationalization of banking and the establishment of the state monopoly of foreign trade.

These are simple to carry out. In fact, the second one is practically de facto implemented on the export side (more than 90% of Venezuela's exports correspond to oil, whose production is controlled by PDVSA!), Subtracting only the imports side. Although without the nationalization of banking would remain a lame and easy to deceive by the lumpen bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy related to it.

The necessary condition, however, to carry them out is the previous establishment of a revolutionary political power that is an expression of an (alliance of) revolutionary class (s) that breaks with the interests of the current dominant bloc; very different thing, and diametrically opposed, to a government with revolutionary phraseology of the bureaucracy, the army and the lumpen bourgeoisie.

In contrast, the Chavez government, true to its social nature, is filled with administrative measures (price control) and bureaucratic-coercive measures (sanctions) to combat the disaster, which, however, only attack the surface of the problems faced by the government. economy. Many of them are simply delirious, typical of petty bourgeois inventiveness and imagination, without any possibility of practical application (such as the Organic Law of Fair Prices, which limits the profits of companies), and therefore are hardly dictated remain in dead letter.

Pretending to circumvent the laws of capitalism without ending it has always been an aspiration of petty-bourgeois projects, and Chavismo is no exception. However, today the entire economic policy of the Chavez government is impotent. Its measures of inflation control, exchange rate restrictions, wage increases, subsidies on imports, etc., fall on deaf ears, or, what is worse, contribute to aggravate the situation.

In this dire situation, where the viability of Chavismo in power is in question, the Bonapartist elements of this are exacerbated. More and more the army - and especially its dome - appears as the great arbiter of Venezuelan society. This actor is the one who has the last word in Venezuela today, and that is why both Maduro and Guaidó openly appeal to him. However, here is the chavismo who has the upper hand for now.

In the political-ideological are also emphasized in the chavismo demagogic elements (anti-imperialism (North American), "defense of the fatherland", conspiracy theories and economic warfare) and mystics (appeal to the figures of and Chávez) typical of petty-bourgeois nationalism , to which the left ends up giving credit without a critical spirit.

The left before the Venezuelan situation

Socialism is a progressive departure from capitalism driven by its own contradictions, and carried out by the struggle of the working class against capital. For it to be able to undertake the struggle in this direction, it is essential that it has political-ideological independence.

This is why the situation in Venezuela has to lead to a deep criticism within the left. The lack of an alternative outlet for the working classes is their responsibility. He has acted condescendingly and uncritically, presenting state capitalism as socialism and popular rentism as a revolution. He has let himself be influenced more by the symbolism than by the material elements of the Chavista phenomenon, cherishing hopes in him that have no correlation whatsoever with reality. He has never tried to explain Chavismo seriously. The constant zigzags of the government are, for example, referred to euphemistically as "errors" of the "process", without even questioning the origin and nature of these.

The consequence is that luck on the left has been tied to that of Chavez. While the working classes and the Venezuelan people are without any possibility of offering a revolutionary solution to the crisis and the imperialist threat.

Here there will be neither victory nor defeat. Even keeping Chavismo in power, the position of the Venezuelan working classes is far from being strengthened. On the contrary, their material conditions of life are seriously questioned, and that in a context of political-ideological subordination leaves them fatally exposed to bourgeois manipulation. To insist on the positions that the left has adopted so far is a mistake that does not allow us to elaborate a socialist project with the working class as the main actor of the same.