In the transition that began after Chávez’ death, the political weakness of Maduro’s government had been displayed from the very moment he assumed the presidency, which, added to the economic exhaustion of the government’s political project, is the basis of one more crisis of all the forms of government and of the political regime that had been maintained until now, that is, a crisis of the regime of control that occurred in the Venezuelan semi-colonial capitalist state in the last decade and a half. The combination of a political crisis and an economic crisis underway opens an entire scenario of political instability, and, if a broader process of struggles of the working men and women emerges, it could accelerate the political situation even more, which could open up room for new phenomena of the class struggle that sets out new challenges for the working class.
The economic exhaustion of a project that did not change the petroleum financial model
1. In five months, cumulative inflation of almost 20% has been reached, when the projection for the end of the year was 16%, that is, it is at the gates of an inflationary process, over which all control is being lost, when over-indebtedness, foreign and domestic, that has grown steeply in recent years, is being maintained. Thus, for example, the public-sector foreign debt took a jump from 26.598 billion dollars in 2006, to 102.357 billion dollars at the end of 2012, while the public-sector domestic debt took a more than dramatic leap, going from 30.528 billion bolívares in 2008 to 246.780 billion bolívares at present. In this context, the scarcity rate, that reflects the state of deficiency in relation to basic products, was located at 20.5% at the end of May, while the government maintains that “the scarcity of products the country is experiencing is a temporary problem that can be solved in one or two months, when inflation is under control.” The reality is different: while the escalation in prices continues to rise, speculation continues and the shortage of basic products makes itself felt among the population.
2. The widespread increase in imports in recent years, the government’s dizzying over-indebtedness and high rates of inflation continue eating up an economy whose pattern of financial accumulation did not change at all in the nearly decade and a half of chavismo in the government. The dependency on single-product exportation of oil continues reigning supreme, given that the entry of foreign currency in dollars continues to come exclusively from the sale of oil. If we take into account the total entry of dollars for exports, we observe that, by the end of 2012, of every hundred dollars that entered the country, only four did not come from oil. That is, a dependency that has not only been maintained, but that has been accentuated, and that puts the country far from any “sovereignty.” This dependency has immediate consequences, as was observed between 2009 and 2010, when the country entered a period of recession, with the fall of oil prices. The average of imports during the first term was 19.7 billion dollars annually, over and above the ups and downs, like those of 2002; but, between 2005 and 2012, the average was 51.6 billion dollars; that is, in the second presidential term, on average, imports practically tripled, compared with the first term. In an obvious situation of depression and of the inability of local production to provide the mentioned necessities, imports were resorted to, in order to account for national consumption. With a dizzying over-indebtedness that will have to be faced, if the high oil income falls, as happened between the years 2009 and 2010, it will be assembling nothing less than an explosive bomb of an inability to pay, and, therefore, approaching a major crisis.
3. The complicated economic situation is a key element that problematically marks the transition of post-chavismo, that adds tensions and problems of magnitude to this new stage that has begun. This situation is the explanation of the structural problem that is undermining the bases of that aspect of the crisis of the regime of control, in the middle of an historically recurring crisis of the semi-colonial state in its economic base, of a crisis of a model of capitalist financial accumulation. In these fifteen years, chavismo has not substantially changed the country’s conditions of backwardness and dependency, and now in the political decline, what it is doing is intensifying this situation. As we know, the imperialist transnational corporations continue acting rampantly in Venezuela, and they even hand over loans to the government, as Chevron, that is participating in the oil and gas deals, just like the French-US transnational Schlumberger, has done. In such a way that the President of Chevron stated that, “The US oil company Chevron is proud of the good relationships that it maintains, both with Petróleos de Venezuela and with the national Executive.”
Post-chavista transition, an economic crisis under agreements with business groups, in which an attempt is made to demand money from working people
4. In order to adjust the accounts that are threatening it with a severe crisis, with hardly a drop in the price of oil, Maduro’s government decided to lean back on the business groups and demand money from working people, as was seen with all the agreements and profits for the capitalists, including the symbol of the monopolistic groups, a participant in the coup d’état and the economic boycott of 2002-2003, Lorenzo Mendoza, to whom “all support” was offered so that he would “produce.” The government demands money from the people by authorizing the increase in prices and freeing businessmen from the prices set every three months, while wage stagnation continues, even as wages constantly shrink with high inflation. Maduro’s government has decided to have wages under control and give greater freedom to capitalist profits.
5. Everything seems to indicate that, to the anti-popular measures already applied, like the currency devaluations, if the accounts do not stop closing, new measures are approaching, like increasing the VAT, while businessmen are exempted from the tax mentioned, in order to import capital assets, and the agriculture and livestock sector is exempted from income taxes. As we see, Maduro’s government refuses to attack the interests of the capitalists and refuses to grant the workers the just wage demands and collective contracts. It is a matter of an economic crisis that Chávez himself would exploit in his hands, since it was not produced in these months, but had already been accumulating in previous years, only Chávez perhaps, because of his prestige in front of the mass movement, could do more ducking and weaving, while Maduro is showing his weaknesses on all sides, and he is beginning to be questioned by groups of the working class and union groups that were related to him, as was observed in the march of different workers’ groups, during the May 26 march in Caracas.
A pro-imperialist opposition that is betting on political exhaustion in the post-chavista transition
6. The opposition of the pro-imperialist right wing, with the refusal to recognize the past presidential elections, and, therefore, Maduro’s legitimacy as President, supported in this by US imperialism, has taken advantage of the crisis of chavismo, that for now it has capitalized on with the adjusted election result. Capriles Radonski has mobilized regionally to get political support: although, at the level of governments, he was only welcomed by Colombia’s Santos, he did indeed arouse interest among the political right wings of the continent. In the end, the United States ended up recognizing Maduro’s government, as was expressed in the meeting in Guatemala between the US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chancellor Elías Jaua, who declared that the intention of Maduro’s government is “to have normal, friendly and cordial relations” with the US, which shows that Washington also has a post-chavista position, that, to us, is explicitly not to recognize Maduro, but to weaken him by other means.
7. Although the right wing continues to be lively after the election result, and Capriles has become the leading figure of the opposition, not everything is “unity” on this front, and he is getting on some bases and a political alliance that he does not control at his whim, and with whose different components he has to contend, some more right-wing, partisans of more direct actions against the government, and others more accommodating, that, although they are willing to put pressure on the government to the maximum degree, by making the situation tense, their limit is unleashing a lot of political instability with an uncertain outcome. It is indeed obvious that the opposition, which had suffered two consecutive political defeats in the presidential elections and the gubernatorial elections, has gotten back on its feet, even reaching the level of shoving the national government, by questioning Maduro’s legitimacy, and, in this context, the opposition has a clear position on the government’s running out of steam.
The post-chavista transition on a traumatic course, under conflicts and tensions
8. As we are already observing, the transition to a post-chavista stage is becoming traumatic. As we have maintained, with Chávez’ physical disappearance, that equilibrium of the forces on which he settled, has come to an end, and, since it was based on personal Bonapartism, it had a basis of permanent instability, and it would turn into a source of chaos, if he disappeared physically, and this is the case. As we have seen with the April 14 elections, the situation has been marked by political tensions. Now Maduro will have to contend, not only with an emboldened opposition, that is seeking to render him powerless, permanently, but also with the quarrels within chavismo itself, and a developing dynamic of struggles by the working class. It seems like a weak government. Maduro does not have Chávez’ leadership and authority, neither within the government and its factions, nor with the masses of workers and the poor. The advantage that the regime has, is established on the bourgeois legacy of Chávez, who restored the authority of the state in front of the toiling and impoverished masses, by repairing the institutions of the bourgeois order, discredited and crisis-ridden after the Caracazo, especially the components of the armed forces, the parliament and the main institution of bourgeois democracy, the vote. As we know, chavismo came to power in order to repair the power of a capitalist state that had lost all legitimacy after the crisis of the Punto Fijo regime, but also for a definite bourgeois national project, that would make concessions to the movement of the masses, by maintaining disagreements with imperialism, factors that would legitimize it for the repairing of the institutions mentioned in total crisis. But also, because of the high politicization of the armed forces, although, on one hand, given their re-legitimization, they could act as a “guarantor” of the process of post-chavismo transition; on the other hand, they could be a destabilizing element, if, in the face of a sudden political crisis among the biggest forces in struggle, they want to enter as mediating forces, and want to represent a more open solution of any crisis that will be unleashed.
9. The situation that is being experienced, is strained by political traumas, difficult to ward off, amid the framework of internal forces with their own struggles and interests, inside the political factions of the governing party, known for its clear political differentiations, but also of the rest of the bourgeois factions and even of imperialism itself. It is being confirmed that the role of arbiter, played by Chávez, cannot be carried out by Maduro, nor by the alleged political clique that would be behind him; the instability that began after Chávez’ physical disappearance is also being confirmed. As we have seen up to now, the traumatic direction of the political situation of the country has been taking a winding course with undefined contours. This now means a state of crisis in the way of governing the country, in which, no matter how much normality the authorities of Maduro’s government want to show, it is clear that everything is creaking in the real state of things. The anti-corruption movement that is being organized by the government is an attempt of Maduro to try to supply his government with oxygen, in the face of the crisis it is going through, but it would also be part of a first attempt by him, his faction and allies, to develop themselves, their own force, within chavismo, and make their own achievements in front of the masses, since some prominent people, closely connected to factions of power, have fallen, as is the case with the former President of the Ferrominera del Orinoco firm, linked to the Governor of Bolívar State, Rangel Gómez, or in Seniat itself, where there is speculation that it is an an area of influence of Diosdado Cabello. So we have the fact that, overall, a traumatic, transitory period is being gone through, where the clear expression of the conflicts and tensions that is making new forms of political control emerge, will not be exempt from dangers that could open up political situations difficult for the current factions that are fighting for political control of the country, to rid themselves of, and through which the inrush of the workers’ movement could occur.
10. Maduro will basically be subjected, without a doubt, to the resistance of groups from the working class, that will go out out more forcefully to fight for their demands and for better living conditions. Furthermore, if, as everything indicates, his government sees itself forced to employ austerity measures, because of the serious economic situation that the country is going through, without having even close to the legitimacy and authority of Chávez, who, at the same time that he was bringing together the expectations of a resolution of the demands of the exploited through the government’s action, was capable of defeating and “disciplining” the groups in struggle that wanted to go further. It is very likely that we will go to a freeing of energies and initiatives for the class struggle from the exploited and the poor. It is for that reason that the process of workers’ struggles throughout the country for the improvement of wages, that crosses all the branches and groups of labor, from the most concentrated in government-owned industry and the intermediate industries, up to the workers in the private sector, that is concentrated in different big centers of the country, has been gathering strength to the rhythm of this situation; all this passing through university workers and professors, and the dissatisfaction among particular groups of public-sector employees, as was expressed in the most recent march of the Unete through the streets of Caracas.
The working class and the new political challenges in the new stage that has begun
11. The new predisposition for struggle that is beginning to occur in the movement of the masses of the country, especially in the working class, that is currently going through a process of struggles for improved wages, as is seen in key companies, like the state-owned industries, especially those of Guayana, whose demands are leading them to confront the government directly, and that are beginning to set forth a dynamic of struggles in the middle of the political tensions that are beginning in the upper echelons. Chávez’ Bonapartism had had its great influence among the urban poor of the big cities and of the interior, as well as among the workers, whose unions he sought to co-opt. What, at another time we were saying, that the vest of forces on the workers’ movement came loose with the entry into a stage of strategic weakness of chavismo, now, after Chávez’ death, we see that the forces mentioned are not only working themselves loose, but that they are unleashed, which, in a certain way, allows a resurgence of struggles without the big bonds of the past. Strikes like that of Ferrominera, the conflicts at Sidor and in other companies like Venalum, are showing new energies, coinciding this time with groups from private industry in places like Aragua and Carabobo, to mention only some states. If this is imposed, it will be precisely the class struggle that can put a stop to, or intensify, the crisis at the attempts at discussions between the spheres of the government and of the opposition, in their policy of transition towards a post-chavismo.
12. Facing the decline of chavismo, the challenge that the working class, the only social force with a potential for leading the rest of the national majority and taking the country out of backwardness and dependency, and putting the resources created at the service of alleviating the needs of the people and raising their standard of living, has ahead of it, is to achieve its political independence. It is for that reason that in the new stage begun, new challenges are opening up for the working class, in which it is essential for the workers to orient themselves with total political and class independence. The re-emergence of the workers’ struggles is a big light, in order to set milestones in this sense and reject both the failed projects of bourgeois nationalism and its highly-placed bureaucracy, that continues in the government, while the government recovers, and those of the MUD and its bosses’ politicians. It is necessary for us to get ready for the situation that is beginning and not to end up being cannon fodder in the disputes of the upper echelons. For that reason, while the government is settling in and preparing to “adjust” its model of administering national capitalism, based on reducing the few elements of so-called “social justice” in favor of greater levels of exploitation and maintaining the employers’ profits, we workers must prepare ourselves from now on, in order to fight in an organized and forceful manner for what belongs to us, to extract from the bosses, whether in the public or private sector, from the national government and the regional governments, better salaries, fulfillment of the collective contracts, better working conditions, by getting coordinated from the rank and file in struggle, without placing trust in either of the two factions that, for now, are fighting for management of the bourgeois society.
13. In order to wage this struggle to the end, it is necessary that, in the heat of past experience, the working class should rise with a higher perspective, in which it is the one that shapes its own destiny and decides its own ways and methods of struggle, by promoting the formation of organizations of self-determination and self-organization of the workers themselves, fighting for militant unions, independent of the state and the employers, that will fight resolutely for class independence and workers’ democracy, in order to sweep away that union bureaucracy, that is nothing but a transmission belt for the interests of management or the government. Political independence is key, and, in order to guide this struggle more decisively, the construction of a revolutionary and internationalist workers party that will take the struggle to the end, is necessary, since there will be no solution to the fundamental demands, unless it is in the decisive fight with the perspective of the struggle for a government of the workers and poor people.
Translated by Yosef M.