We are publishing here part of our intervention on Alasbarricadas, a Spanish language anarchist internet forum (www.alasbarricadas.org).The thread, entitled “Anarchism, anti-imperialism, Cuba and Venezuela”, raised the question of what position to take faced with Chávez and his ‘Bolivarian revolution’ in Venezuela.
Chávez has been turned into a new myth which tries to make us believe that within capitalism, within the oppressive state, within the defence of the nation, it is possible to make some ‘advances’ towards the ‘liberation of the people’.
In order to keep us tied hand and foot to the logic of capital, the bourgeois Left is dedicated to selling us false models of ‘social liberation’. In the 1930s it was the myth of the ‘socialist fatherland’ in Russia – based on the ashes of the proletarian revolution which had been defeated from the inside through the degeneration of the Bolshevik party. Faced with the exhaustion of that myth, in the 1960s and 70s the extreme left of capital (‘critical’ Stalinists, Trotskyists, Maoists, official anarchists) set up new idols with Che Guevara, the Cuban ‘revolution’, Vietnam, the China of Mao... These frauds had a short life, so they have tried to mould new idols with feet … of capitalist clay. New hopes have emerged: the Sandinistas, Zapatistas, the Brazilian PT ... all of which have the same capitalist plumage!
We want to say that we share and support the arguments of the anarchist and non-anarchist comrades who have rebutted those anarchist arguments which ask for ‘critical’ support (as would any Trotskyist) for Colonel Chávez. Is it not paradoxical that elements who claim to be anarchists propose to ‘critically’ support what is happening in Venezuela even though it is based on the strengthening of the absolutist state, on the domination of the army and the most brutal militarism, a fierce state capitalism and the cult of the personality of the ‘great Bolivarian leader’ Chávez? We are going to take up three arguments from the forum to expose the Chávez swindle:
1. His supposed anti-imperialism
2. The so-called socialist conquests of the people
3. The ‘organisation of the people’.
The disguised imperialism of ‘anti-imperialism’
Rosa Luxemburg denounced the slaughter of the First World War showing that “Imperialist policy is not the creation of one country or a group of countries. It is the product of a particular stage of ripeness in the world development of capitalism. Above all it is not possible to understand it except in its reciprocal relations and from which no state can escape”.
All nations are necessarily imperialist. Capitalism is a world system and all national capitals are integrated into it. Each nation state carries out an imperialist policy appropriate to its economic position, its strategic role, its military capacities etc. The US aspires to be world policeman. On the other hand, the ambitions of Venezuela are more limited - the Caribbean and Latin America - but they are not any the less voracious. The Venezuelan bourgeoisie is divided over what option to follow: the traditional alliance with the great neighbour to the North defended by the classic parties, the Christian Democrats and the ‘Socialists’ of Mr Pérez? Or the ‘Bolivarian defiance’ that Colonel Chávez proposes? Every thing indicates that the latter option is supported by an important sector of Venezuelan capital that sees the necessity to expand into and conquer areas of influence. For example, there’s the advantage of an alliance with the Castroist regime given a breath of oxygen by replacing Russian oil with that of Maracaibo.
P. Moras, one of the participants on the Forum who defends anarchism, says that “it is indispensable that the anarchist movement participates in the anti-imperialist struggles”. ‘Anti-imperialist ideology’ is based on the reduction of imperialism to a small group of states and with the rest of the world as ‘victims’. This can only lead to the logical conclusion that the United States is the only imperialism or ‘imperialism number 1’. Using this ‘dialectical’ trick you support states that oppose Uncle Sam whilst hiding the fact that they are part of the same system as the United States and that their hands are equally stained with blood. In addition, this rattling on about the United States as ‘imperialism number 1’ throws a dense smokescreen over the cynical ambitions of its France and German rivals (or their followers, such as the Zapatero government in Spain).
The ‘anti-imperialist’ ideology of Chávez is as imperialist as Mr Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’. Both of them carry out the same function: to act as recruiting sergeant for the workers and exploited to give their lives to the capitalist cause. Faced with this we insist that the struggle against all of the capitalist gangs should be seen as preparing the conditions for the world social revolution which will put an end to them all.
Poverty dressed up as the ‘people’s social conquests’
The bourgeoisie is the most hypocritical class that has ever existed. It always puts forward ‘arguments’ to justify its exploitation, its wars and barbarity. In Venezuela, Chávez justifies the worsening of poverty and hunger in the name of helping the most impoverished through the ‘Missions’, through which “working conditions are made more ‘informal’ and ‘flexible’ (that is, even more precarious) of the work force via the cooperatives, where workers receive starvation wages, lower than the minimum wage and without any kind of social cover; at the same time, each area of production or services that has been effected by the missions has seen a worsening of the working and living condition of the workers in these areas, since their collective contracts have been broken and they are being blackmailed with unemployment” (Internacionalismo, publication in Venezuela of the ICC)
In relation to the so-called ‘social conquests’ that have been carried out by Chávez, the post by El Libertario, a Venezuelan anarchist group that has clear positions on Chávez, denounces the myth about health and education which is the same fairy tale that is used to call for support for the Cuban regime. The ‘progress’ in education and health is used to hide the dizzying increase in poverty and exploitation over the last 8 years. The comrades of the Argentinian group Nuevo Proyecto Histórico in its interesting text ‘Social war by all means’ give very clear figures “according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas (INE), the Venezuelan INDEC, in 1999 extreme poverty reached 19.9 per 100 and has now got even worse, since it effects 28.1% of the population. In 1999 poverty was of the order of 43% and in 2005 it had increased to reach 54%. 22 in every 100 Venezuelans are undernourished and 47% live on only $2 a day.”
The lie of ‘democratic participation’
The poor neighbourhoods of the cities, the most remote peasant settlements, all have ‘Bolivarian circles’, ‘militias’, ‘joint-management bodies’ etc. This labyrinth of ‘participatory organs’, the majority led by members of the army, is presented as ‘participatory democracy’, as opposed to the old liberal ‘representative democracy’.
Some interventions on the Forum get emotional about the ‘experiences of self-management’ that are underway in Venezuela. We are not going to go into the question of self-management here, we simply want to give our support to the forceful reply by El Libertario to these speculations: “for example, they talk about workers and farmers in struggle, apparently alluding to the imaginative stories that Chavist propaganda spreads abroad about the taking over of factories and housing, something that has happened in a very limited way under the control of the governmental apparatus, that has brought bankrupt agricultural and industrial companies or those with serious judicial problems under state control, operating them under the regime of state capitalism and without any intention to leave them in the hands of its workers”.
The Venezuelan state has given the ‘participatory’ instruments the mission to control the workers and the population, to subject them to an iron vigilance, to blackmail them (‘if you do not participate in the revolution you have no right to social support’), to repress workers’ strikes and demonstrations. What is the real difference between these organisms of state imprisonment and the ‘popular militias’ of the Stalinist regimes or the Nazi SA? The only difference is the ideological justification.
Chávez’s ‘anti-imperialism’, his ‘representative democracy’, his ‘social conquests’, are some of the things that are supposed to make us see him – even if ‘critically’- as the new ‘Liberator’. And if we reject these fairy tales we are told that all those who take a principled position of class independence don’t want “to get their hands dirty”. However, as P Mattick, another participant on the Forum who defends councilist positions, rightly said: “What are you saying? That it is correct ‘to dirty one’s hands’ or ‘to muddy our feet?’”
To these blackmailers there is a very simple answer. The practice of the bourgeoisie is not that of the proletariat. For the bourgeoisie there is a very practical result when the workers choose between the camps of different gangsters: that we accept exploitation, war and poverty in the name of the ‘anti-imperialist struggle’.
This is not the practice of the working class or the immense majority of humanity! The practice for the proletariat is the defence of its class autonomy, maintaining its independence in its demands, organisation and method of struggle. The most pernicious weapon of the bourgeoisie is its attempt to make us choose a dish from the putrid menu of capitalism: between Chávez and Bush, between Zapatero and Aznar, between anti-globalists and globalisers, between democrats and fascists, between the military and civilians... The proletariat must recognise that these are unconditional servants of the capitalist state and struggle to build autonomy from them. We recall the words of the ‘Internationale’: “No saviour from on high delivers/ No faith have we in prince or peer/ Our own right hand the chains must shiver/ Chains of hatred, greed and fear.”
Accion Proletaria, Section of the ICC in Spain, May 2006.