May 29, 2016

The Struggle in Venezuela

THE Bolivarian revolutionary process, initiated by Hugo Chavez seventeen years ago, is under siege. The attack on the Left-oriented government headed by Nicolas Maduro is part of the rightwing offensive which is unfolding in Latin America. In the first half of 2016, there has been a reversal of the Left tide. The election of a rightwing president in Argentina; the failure of President Evo Morales in Bolivia to win a referendum for term extension; suspension of Dilma Rousseff as president of Brazil while facing an impeachment trial by her rightwing opponents in the Senate – have all been part of a rightward shift. The epicenter of this struggle between the left and the right is Venezuela. Ever since the United Socialist Party and its Left allies lost elections to the national assembly in December 2015, the rightwing forces and the capitalist oligarchy backed by the United States have gone on the offensive. The Venezuelan economy is in a deep crisis. The collapse in the international oil prices had affected the oil revenues which were the main source of finance for the government. The Bolivarian government had initiated pro-people measures through the national missions for education, healthcare, housing, food and pensions. In the past one and a half decades, Venezuela made major strides in reducing poverty and providing the people basic facilities like food, education and healthcare. The economic crisis has undermined the State provisioning of these welfare measures. Coupled with this has been the economic warfare waged by the capitalist monopolies and imperialism. The electricity crisis has led to prolonged power cuts. The Venezuelan people are today suffering from acute shortage of food and essential commodities because of the economic sabotage by these forces. Hoarding, black marketeering and the artificial hiking of prices has been deliberately resorted to perpetrate hardships for the people and to undermine their support and confidence in the government and its political project of adopting an alternative path. The United States has jumped at the opportunity to aggravate the crisis. In March, the Obama administration by an executive order declared Venezuela to be a national security threat to the United States and imposed sanctions on various public functionaries and entities in Venezuela. The US has been actively financing the rightwing opposition and trying to rally the rightwing governments in Latin America to isolate the Nicolas Maduro government. Emboldened by their control of parliament, the rightwing parties have passed laws to privatise the State housing programme and to undo many progressive measures of the government. The Supreme Court has struck down the privatisation of housing. The Court still consists of judges who are faithful to the Bolivarian ideals. The rightwing forces are trying to establish a dual power in Venezuela by utilising their parliamentary majority. They are seeking a referendum to recall President Maduro. At the street level, the opposition is increasingly resorting to violent protests all around the country. Clashes with the police and security forces are rising. President Maduro has declared that the government would not capitulate to these rightwing assaults. On May 16, a decree for renewing and expanding the state of emergency was issued for a period of two months. The armed forces will contribute during this period to combat organised crime and to help in distribution of food and medicines. The government has taken some measures to tackle the runaway inflation and to increase the minimum wages. But these measures have not had much impact given the enormity of the crisis. Economic recovery is the key to the fight back and for rallying the people. For this, the government has to take bold measures, including doing away with the dual exchange rate, expropriation of the food processing and distribution system in private hands and give a signal that the government will not hesitate to takeover banks and other key sectors if the big capitalists do not stop the economic war and sabotage. The events in Venezuela and in other Latin American countries clarify the nature of the revolutionary struggles and social processes underway there. For the Left, electoral victories and formation of governments with a progressive agenda are part of the political struggle and the revolutionary movement. But these have taken place in the background of imperialism and neo-liberal capitalism holding sway globally and in the region. The advance of the revolutionary movement depends ultimately on the development of the class struggle and the popular movements against imperialism and capitalism. All those who want an alternative to the destructive imperialist neo-liberal order, will wholeheartedly stand in solidarity with the Maduro government and the struggling people of Venezuela. (May 24, 2016)