Very sober perspective on Venezuela. The real question is: whither the Bolivarian revolution? Right now the Chavista regime is caught between reform and revolution, capitalism and socialism. Will the right-wing and ruling classes be able to exploit the current economic problems and political uncertainty in order to turn back the progressive gains of Chavismo; or will the working classes respond by rising up and independently forcing the ‘revolutionary process’ to proceed well beyond that which the present government is either willing or able to engage in?
Either the large capitalists must be finally and decisively taken over and placed under the control of worker-consumer cooperatives — thus solving the problem of shortages and industrial stand-still, or the capitalists will continue to exercise their vast power in collaboration with Western interests until a situation of utter crisis prevails and they (or their right-wing political representatives) can step into the breach.
Shortages, inflation and corruption are fueling frustrations with the government in Venezuela—and the hopes of the right.
Many on the left are convinced that the strategy they [the right-wing] are pursuing is the Media Luna option. The wealthy eastern states of Eastern Bolivia, the so-called Media Luna or Half Moon, attempted a strategy of secession a few years ago to undermine the government of Evo Morales.
They, too, mobilized around racism and pursued strategies of civil disorder, advised in that case by the U.S. ambassador at the time. The strategy failed, but at a cost. Had it succeeded, Bolivia would have been plunged into a civil war between a largely white Media Luna and an indigenous Highland Bolivia. A similar logic may be at work in Venezuela; all the leaders of the right-wing parties are white.
… [Yet] the Chavista process is run from above by a bureaucracy that is building a state capitalist project in the name of revolution. The anti-imperialist rhetoric is reserved for Washington. The Chinese and the Russians, whose purposes in investing in Venezuela have nothing to do with socialism and a great deal to do with profit, are the new partners in the Venezuelan economy.
Chinese money is funding the house-building program, for example. Quite clearly neither of these allies is acting out of proletarian solidarity, and there is no reason why a private sector sharing government with the bureaucracy should have any difficulties with them. Business, after all, is business.
… There is an overwhelming feeling in Venezuela, shared by many, of aimlessness, of decisions made on the spur of the moment. Thus, for example, the creation of new agencies to deal with the allocation of foreign currency has produced more confusion and a continuing outflow of dollars.
The reason for that becomes clear on a stroll around the city. The Venezuelan production system is at a standstill, and the gap has been filled by a rising tide of imports, paid for in dollars. The exchange rate reflects the fact that the Bolívar has nothing to sustain it—no production and shrinking reserves.
Venezuela is even importing oil in order to fulfill its international obligations. Yet it was oil revenues that were to fund and sustain the often very exciting social programs that did, undoubtedly, transform the lives of Venezuela’s poor in the early part of Chávez’s government. Those programs are now failing because oil finances are shrinking, or at least being diverted to sustain other areas of the national economy.
The result is the very real day-to-day difficulties. The fact that the opposition complains about shortages and price inflation that affect it less than the majority of the population does not detract from the realities.
… the underlying frustrations and discontents that affect every sector of the society, and not just the middle class, are the consequences of shortages, inflation and centrally about corruption. There is a widely accepted figure that $2 billion has “disappeared” over the last year or so. And it is well known that speculation and black marketeering is common within both the private and the public sector.
… Whatever the immediate future, these are the only forces that will carry the revolution forward. That is what people are proclaiming when they wear the fashionable caps bearing Chávez’s eyes, looking out into the future.
The alternative is one they already know, because the people leading the opposition have demonstrated where they want to take Venezuela—back to the poverty, the inequality, the corruption and the violence of the past. This was what they offered when they last attempted to seize power, and that is still the vision that drives them.
The issue is: What are the leaders of the Chavista process offering? There have been campaigns against corruption, speculation and violence in the past, which have produced very few results; the few government members who took their role seriously and took on the speculators were soon removed. It is a moment to address, without rhetoric, the real problems that the majority of Venezuelans are facing, their causes and radical solutions.