The indignation of Venezuelan youth derailed by democratism

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The evolution of the situation in Venezuela after a month of sporadic confrontations and demonstrations in the streets has unfortunately not lived up to the potential originally contained in this uprising of young people rebelling against poverty, rising living costs (the official rate of inflation is 56%), precarious employment, insecurity, permanent terror and a future in total contradiction with the propaganda of the post-Chavez regime. While the level of repression has got a lot heavier (18 deaths and 260 wounded by 5 March) since the texts below were written, the bourgeoisie has managed to get control of this movement, mainly through the use of oppositional factions, both of the left and the right. The ruling class has got down to pushing this movement onto the ground of democratism and nationalism, as we can see from the immense national flags displayed in the demonstrations. The manipulations and manoeuvres of rival imperialist interests have overtaken the anger on the street and the Venezuelan student movement has shown that it has not overcome the weaknesses of 2007[1]. Once again it has fallen for the traps and lies of the democratic opposition, which has the function of smothering its explosive character, cutting it from its proletarian roots and handing it over to the politicians and other exploiters.

We are publishing a translation of the two statements already published on our Spanish website: a contribution by a close sympathiser of the ICC who wrote and distributed a leaflet in the days after the repression of young people on 12 February by the Maduro government and its agents. The other is a text presenting this leaflet written by our section in Venezuela. Both point to the real stakes in the situation: the necessary link between this revolt of the young and the more general resistance of the proletariat on its class terrain, even though this link has been sabotaged by all the forces of the bourgeoisie acting to derail and recuperate the movement.

These statements also have the merit of breaking the relative black-out in Europe over these events. The bourgeoisie has once again tried to hide the real point of departure of this massive youth rebellion against increasingly intolerable living conditions, placing all the emphasis on the fight between ‘Chavists’ and ‘anti-Chavists’, between the ruling power and the ‘democratic opposition’.


Presentation of the leaflet by Internacialismo, ICC publication in Venezuela

The leaflet below, written and distributed by a sympathiser of the ICC, takes a position on the brutal repression unleashed by the Chavist regime (currently led by Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro) against a massive mobilisation called by the students for 12 February in the centre of Caracas, calling for the release of four of their imprisoned comrades and protesting against scarcity, the rising cost of living and insecurity in the cities. The repressive actions of the ‘Bolivarian Socialist’ regime has left three dead and dozens of wounded and arrested.

The student mobilisation has detonated an immense wave of indignation which has been building up within the working masses and the population in general, who have been hit very hard by a grave economic crisis. Large sectors of the population at national level supported the determined actions of the young people, coming together in a movement of generalised protest against the regime and to show their rage and indignation against the high rate of inflation, which has not been countered by any wage increases; against the growing scarcity of basic goods (in particular food, medicine, hygiene); against the high level of public insecurity which has taken the sinister form of 200,000 murders in the lifetime of the Chavist regime; against the deterioration of health services, the casualisation of jobs and the grotesque propaganda of the Chavist regime which at both national and international level has been trying to sell the ‘benefits’ of ‘Bolivarian socialism’. In reality, this regime epitomises the barbarism and poverty which decomposing capitalism offers humanity.  

As we have seen with other social movements around the world, the Chavist bourgeoisie has resorted to its preferred methods of action: open and ruthless repression against the demonstrators, using not only the official state forces but also the civilian militias armed and paid by the state, the Bolivarian committees whose function is to intimidate, to create a climate of terror, which includes firing on unarmed demonstrators.  It is they who are directly responsible for the deaths and the injuries. But by allowing these para-police forces to act freely, the state has tried to hide its own responsibility in the repression. These actions by the ‘Bolivarian revolutionaries’ should not surprise us. Throughout its history the bourgeoisie has used declassed and lumpenised elements as its shock troops against the proletariat. We saw this with the fascist networks (Mussolini’s Blackshirts and the Nazi Brownshirts) as well as with the Stalinist regimes, like in Cuba with the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, or under the dictatorial regimes in the Arab countries (Libya, Syria, Egypt), or again more recently with countries allied to  ‘21st Century Socialism’ such as Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia...

The bourgeoisie is aware of the gravity of the country’s economic crisis, which in turn is an expression of the crisis of world capitalism. The economic methods of the regime have merely precipitated an imminent crisis. Despite the considerable income from oil, the Chavist regime can no longer cope with the vast levels of public expenditure needed to keep up the populist policies of almost 30 years, or continue providing cheap oil to buttress a geo-political strategy which is getting weaker and weaker. Thus the conditions for the emergence of the protests have been steadily ripening. To prevent any convergence between those who were previously supporters and opponents of the regime, the government has imposed a media and internet black-out to prevent the dissemination of information about the protests, while the state media tried to mobilise the pro-Chavez part of the population against the students and the demonstrations, criminalising the protesters and presenting itself as the only guarantor of social peace.    

Despite the obstacles set up by the state, given the economic, social and political situation, the new student movement has a potential which could enable it to go beyond its initial composition and to spread onto the national level.

To get to this, it will have to avoid falling into the same traps as the movement of 2007, which was weakened and derailed by all the false friends represented by the parties in opposition to the regime, who are just the other side of the same coin, part of the same political apparatus of capital. They offer no way out of the crisis. This is why we fully agree with our comrade when he writes in the leaflet that the only way forward for this movement is to unite with the working class sectors which, despite the repression and harassment of the trade unions, have remained standing and struggling over the last few years: the workers of the steel, oil and health sectors, the state employees, etc.

As we said in 2007, we salute the spontaneous upsurge of this new movement of student youth, whose confrontation with the state contains elements which make it part of the proletarian struggle against the capitalist system. These are the same elements which were present in the social movements which have shaken the world from the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011 to the Indignados in Spain, Occupy in the US and the recent movements in Brazil and Turkey.

Leaflet: the bloody repression of 12 February 2014

The ‘highest achievement of 21st Century Socialism’ (according to those with a nostalgia for Stalinism) has been shaken recently by a wave of riots which has spread across the whole republic and whose main actor has been the mass of young people, who have come from different social strata, and who have concentrated in themselves the oppression of a population attacked by the decomposition of a social model based on the cruellest form of capitalism (a caricatured form  of state capitalism) and which has affected national life these past 15 years. The rage provoked by an infernal spiral marked by insecurity, by the scarcity of virtually everything you need to live more or less decently, by the absence of any basis of hope for an improvement, by a feeling of frustration produced by living in a social reality which has jettisoned the values which once motivated humanity to storm the heavens.

On 12 February, rather than joining in the patriotic hoopla of the Day of Youth, the young people, outside of the rotten framework of the politicians, called for a demonstration to demand the liberation of a group of students arrested in the province of Tachira, and held in a high security prison on charges of terrorism – an expression of the repressive escalade which ‘21st Century Socialism’ has unleashed against the protests which began to grow throughout 2013 and which have included  various sectors of the working class, in particular those of essential industries (Sidor, Venalum, Alcasa, Ferrominera, Bauxilium) and more recently workers of the oil industry in the Jose refineries, who were jailed on the pretext of being traitors to the country. The accusation of being traitors, terrorists, unpatriotic, Yankee’s lick-spittles, and agents of imperialism has been used by Chavism and its hired killers in the Committees against any expression of discontent or against any struggle by the workers for immediate demands, not only against the students.

On 12 February 2014, the young people involved in the protest found themselves on a ground mined in advance by Chavism and its capitalist opposition (the MUD[2] , Leopoldo Lopez and the de-frocked left Stalinists who worked hand in hand with right). This division of labour sterilised the rebellion, derailed it from paths that could have led to a convergence with the proletarian sectors who are on the same side of the barricade as the students and who could bring the political organisation and direction capable of standing up to the repression and exploitation of the Bolivarian capitalist state.   The regime fears the explosive nature of struggles animated by young proletarians and the student movements, who through recent experiences, especially those of 2007, have gained the capacity to draw strength from the general discontent of a population bombarded by a deluge of the mystifications of official propaganda.  

In 2007, the protest movement was pushed onto the sterile terrain of defending a television network (RCTV), a scenario dominated by rival visions of capitalism; in the end the movement was reduced to a caricature in which the leading role was given to mediatised ‘stars’ of protest. And then on 12 February 2014, the official speechmakers, having criminalised the youth protesters with their usual jargon,  set upthe following scenario: a division of labour with the opposition, aimed at leading the movement into an impasse. The Minister of Justice issued a warrant for the arrest of Leonardo Lopez while also threatening to abolish the parliamentary immunity of the oppositionist Corina Machado on charges of associating with the delinquents of the organised gangs. This was followed by the creation of a commission of criminal inquiry for having called on the young people to demonstrate.

Neither Lopez nor Machado had called for the slightest mobilisation and their fleeting presence at the demonstration was reduced to making rousing speeches and surfing on the militancy of the young people. But the moment the Chavist rabble began its bloody charge against the demonstrators, in concert with the Committees of death, the Bolivarian National Guard and the Bolivarian National Police, they disappeared: they and the other MUD cronies were nowhere to be seen. The difficult job of facing up to the Bolivarian state on the barricades and of collecting the dead was left to the young people. The MUD defenders of capitalism as well the Chavist leaders gave themselves the role of pontificating to the media.    

The protest movement must not repeat the errors of 2007 and develop the struggle on a terrain which is not its own – this will lead it to the precipice of frustration and resounding defeat. The only natural environment from which the current youth protests can draw any strength is the proletarian sectors of society which, throughout 2013, have stood up against the attacks of the capitalist state, and whose resistance can only advance by drawing on the potential for extension contained in the youth protests. These sectors contain the possibility of imbuing the current protests with a revolutionary content, of constructing a solid political and organisational platform, a class fortress that can overthrow this rotten capitalist system that Chavism and its acolytes are trying to keep upright. These are the workers are the essential industries n the region of Guayana, the oil workers spread across the whole national territory, the workers of the public sector who have broken their bridges with the trade unionism that has tried to tie them to Chavism. This is the ground on which we have to prepare the battle.

HS, 18.2.14



[1] http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2007/student-protests-venezuela; http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2008/apr/students-may-2007

[2] Mesa de la Unidad Democratica: a more or less radical coalition of parties opposed to Chavez created in January 2008 but dominated by a centre left and social democratic tendency, making common cause with the right parties who traditionally oppose Chavist populism.