The text below is largely based on an article of Internacionalismo, the ICC’s paper in Venezuela and published on our website in Spanish https://es.internationalism.org/ this summer. The facts that our comrades relate here once again shows that every country is being hit by the same economic crisis and the same measures of austerity. The factions in power can easily pretend to be “liberal”, “progressive” or “revolutionary” but they are part of the same “wild” capitalist attack faced by workers all across the globe.
The world economic crisis is also hitting the “socialism of the XXI century”
The state led by Chavez totally denies the existence of the economic crisis in Venezuela, but that doesn’t prevent the hard reality pitilessly hitting the population. The “Socialist” policy conducted in this country causes no less havoc than that of American “liberalism”. And there’s nothing surprising about this since it’s really a question, in both cases, of the same state capitalism; only the mask changes. In Venezuela, state capitalism is only more of a caricature than elsewhere and performs less well, since it has succeeded in weakening both private and state capital.
Today, the country has to import practically all current consumer goods, which is a bit paradoxical for a country that says that it’s developed a continental “revolution” by exporting its label: “Socialism of the 21st century”. But things are even more ironic: playing up to the gallery, Chavez conducts permanent confrontations with the United States which is designated as the Great Capitalist Satan. Meanwhile, in the corridors, very tight links are maintained between the two countries. The USA is thus the main commercial client of Venezuela.
The official figures themselves and those of ECOLA (Economic Commission of Latin America) and of the IMF, are all obliged to recognise the gravity of the economic crisis in the country: Venezuela and Haiti (one of the poorest countries in the world!) have been the only Latin American and Caribbean countries not to have had any growth in 2010. For Venezuela it’s the third year of a decrease in its Gross Domestic Product. The country has the highest inflation of the region and one of the highest in the world; for each of the last three years, it has been 27% on average and it is estimated that for 2011 it will go beyond 28%. That’s a rate of inflation that really hits the wages and pensions of the workers, as well as the social assistance granted by the state.
Evidently, Venezuela is suffering from the world economic crisis. But the measures taken by Chavez are basically no different from those taken by the “right wing” and “reactionary” regimes all over the planet:
* Oil revenues, which have increased considerably in 2011 following the Libyan crisis, are not enough to satisfy the voracity of the state; they are vanishing into “alternative” budgets to the national budget, directly and arbitrarily manipulated by the Executive (with the excuse of making more active “social investment”). This form of management by the regime has facilitated the creation of a vast network of corruption involving several levels of the public and military bureaucracy.
* Whereas a good number of workers just about survive on a little more than the minimum wage (equivalent to about $150 per month), the highest levels of the state bureaucracy, civil and military, receive the highest of salaries and “profits” in order to guarantee their loyalty to the regime.
* Military expenses continue to increase, with the excuse of countering the threat of invasion by “Yankee imperialism”; and this results in a firmer grip on the monopoly of energy resources.
And, as with the other economies of the world, Venezuela’s state debt is exploding. This debt of 150 billion dollars, a little above 40% of GDP, is still manageable today but economic experts note that if it continues to rise at the present rhythm, there will be a risk of default of payment (the impossibility of paying back the interest on the debt) in three years time! Thus, Venezuela could find itself in a situation identical to that of Greece, a situation which demands the assistance of the EU and has given rise to a policy of unprecedented austerity.
Chavism has recourse to the same “remedy” as all the other bourgeoisies of the world: austerity!
Here’s the reality of the “socialist” policy of Chavez:
- devaluation of the Venezuelan Bolivar by 65% in January 2011, after another of 100% at the beginning of 2010;
- a permanent attack on wages and social assistance;
- drastic reductions in food and health programmes;
- increases in electrical charges with the excuse that it’s aimed at ending “the waste of electricity”, which will dramatically affect the cost of living;
- increases in the price of fuel, VAT and various other taxes.
Because of inflation wages have suffered a strong deterioration. According to the ECOLA and the International Labour Organisation, wages of Venezuelan workers have fallen, in real terms, more than 8% in the first 3 months of this year compared to the same period in 2010. As in many other countries precarious, temporary employment has increased in the public and the private sector; according to one recent study made by the Catholic university “Andres-Bello”, 82.6% of the Venezuelan workforce has a precarious job. In short, despite the determination of the Chavez regime to fake the figures, the reality is that poverty continues to get worse.
At the social level, even the “Missions”, the social organisations invented by Chavism to give the illusion of a “conquest of socialism” through distributing crumbs to the most poverty-stricken sectors, have been reduced. Today, programmes for health, education, the distribution of food, etc., are about to be abandoned or severely reduced. It is a fact that the totality of the public services is deteriorating at a growing rate. To all this we can add the almost permanent shortages of several basic food products and the constant increases in the price of food and of other basic products.
The most revolting thing without doubt is that fact that, as always under capitalism, this terrible daily reality is suffered by the proletariat and the poor whereas the big bosses of the regime and those close to them live in the greatest opulence. Any resemblance to certain Arab and African countries is not by chance!
An important growth of struggles and social protest
But there are some rays of sunshine coming through the clouds and which give hope for the future. The proletariat of Venezuela itself is taking part in the slow but noticeable rise of class struggle at the international level. The Venezuelan bourgeoisie is well aware of it since it has suspended a great part of its attacks after having seen the workers stand up in Bolivia. In fact, last December, in this other country of Latin America, the government of Evo Morales, after having decreed an increase in the price of fuel, had to do a U-turn faced with the breadth of protest which badly affected his popularity.
In Venezuela, the proletariat in the oil industry, which had suffered the blow of almost 20,000 lost jobs in 2003, led demonstrations against the non-respect of the collective convention. There were also mobilisations of the public sector workers, health and central administration in order to demand pay increases and better conditions of work.
More important still are the huge struggles undertaken for more than two years by workers in the Iron Zone in Venezuelan Guyana in the south of the country, where some twenty enterprises of heavy industry and more than a hundred thousand workers are concentrated. In order to try to mystify the workers of this zone and derail their militancy, the government has tried to put in place several schemas of “socialist” production; after trying “self-management” in ALCAS (aluminium production firm) and having nationalised the Sidor metal works, they are now trying to introduce “workers’ control” of production.
All this shows the significant increase of social protest in 2011, which without any doubt will surpass the 3000 incidents of protest accounted for in 2010 – and which themselves had overtaken records from previous years. This is leading to an important erosion in the support for Chavez given that these protests are taking place among the most impoverished layers which were the main basis of support for this regime. A recent and dramatic example of these protests has been that of families of prisoners of several prisons of the country who have been ruthlessly repressed by the forces of the state when they demonstrated against overcrowding and the repression of prisoners. The barbarity seen in prisons is only an extension of that seen on a daily basis throughout the entire country, above all in the poor quarters. There were more than 140,000 killings during the 12 months of the “Bolivarian revolution”. And Chavez, with indecent aplomb, dared to call it the “pretty revolution”!
The struggles and mobilisations taken up by the proletariat are the best contradiction to the so-called “revolution”, a revolution which has led to new bourgeoisie elites who govern Venezuela. Only the resistance of the workers against the attacks of the state, in the defence of their conditions, in basing themselves on assemblies which tend to unify the workers of different sectors, can develop a reference point for the pauperised masses which are already beginning to lose their illusions in the proposals both of Chavez and the opposition.
These struggles are fully part of the movement opened up by the exploited masses of North Africa, Greece and Spain.
see also: Workers against the 'Socialist Guayana Plan' https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201111/4576/workers-against-socialist-guayana-plan
 Exports to the United States even increased by 27.7% during the first three months of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. Today, they represent 49% of Venezuela’s total exports.