The Guardian August 13, 2003


Venezuela "Bolivarian Revolution" stands stronger

by Greg Godwin

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an advocate for the poor and working 
people, enjoying the votes of over half of his countrymen and women in 
every election. This infuriates the wealthy and powerful in Caracas and 
Washington, DC, as does his friendship with Cuban President Fidel 
Castro.

In one of the most remarkable events of the new millennium, Chavez 
supporters among the poor, the working classes and the military overturned 
a carefully planned and internationally-supported counter-revolution. 
Within 48 hours, Chavez was returned to power in April 2002.

But the counter-revolutionaries were not through. The Venezuelan upper 
classes, along with some corrupt elements of the labour movement, closed 
businesses in a lockout/strike, including in the decisively important oil 
industry.

They were convinced that the masses, largely darker skinned people of 
African and Indigenous origin, were incapable of organising and sustaining 
economic life. (Chavez himself is dark skinned.)

This lockout/strike, they announced, would force Chavez's resignation.

While nominally state-owned, PDVSA  the state oil monopoly  was a nest 
of corruption and privilege. Earnings in 2001 were US$52.1 billion, but 
transfers to the government were only US$11 billion.

Despite a crippling two-month period of belligerence and sabotage, 
cheerfully and generously encouraged by the wealthiest capitalist 
countries, Chavez and the Venezuelan people held firm against this rising.

Today the "Bolivarian Revolution" stands stronger than ever, serving as a 
beacon to the leftist trends in Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador and as a 
bulwark against the manoeuvres of US imperialism and reaction in Colombia.

Still, the full truth and meaning of this victory have not been widely 
exposed. Most writers accept the dire prediction that the strike has 
permanently wrecked the Venezuelan economy. The reality is vastly 
different.

Since the lockout/strike ended, oil production has been restored to the 
same or nearly-the-same levels as before the work stoppage.

In a heroic effort requiring dedication and political understanding, the 
Venezuelan oil workers, with just over half of the pre-lockout/strike 
workforce, fought to restore full production.

By late April, Standard and Poor's had raised Venezuela's rating from poor 
to stable. Other capitalist institutions, Credit Suisse First Boston and 
Merrill Lynch followed suit, raising Venezuela's debt status, though you 
would not know this from hysterical press accounts of economic disaster.

As the economy stabilises and begins to grow again, the Chavez Government 
has imposed foreign currency controls to impede the withdrawal of dollars 
from the economy, a tactic widely used to destabilise leftist governments.

As a result of this restriction and the reorganisation of the state-run oil 
company, Venezuela has over US$15 billion in foreign currency reserves. 
Based on these impressive results, the UN's World Economic and Social 
Report projects a healthy growth in the Venezuelan economy of 8.5 percent 
in 2004.

Rather than relying upon the business classes, which attempted to strangle 
the revolution, the Chavistas are using the currency reserves to import 
goods, like meats from Paraguay, and offer them at subsidised prices to the 
poor and working class. In March alone, public spending rose 74 percent 
against the same month in 2002.

Through an exchange program, Cuban professionals are addressing the medical 
and educational needs of the people. Much land has been redistributed and 
the Government has encouraged co-operatives.

Chavez has masterfully included the military in these revolutionary 
initiatives. Newspaper accounts have reported officers liberating hoards of 
goods purposely held back from the market to disrupt the economy.

Early in July, the revolutionary government imposed a mandatory 10 percent 
wage increase for nearly three million Venezuelan workers. Another 20 
percent increase will go into effect in October. This has brought a violent 
outcry from Venezuela's elites.

In response to employers who have threatened to lay off workers in the face 
of the wage increases, President Chavez has extended a freeze on layoffs 
through the end of the year.

While the people of Venezuela are continuing their march towards social 
justice, the enemies of this revolution will fight desperately and 
ruthlessly, no doubt welcoming any provocation that will draw the attention 
of their powerful northern neighbour, the US.

The opposition is currently seeking a referendum to overturn the electoral 
process that strengthened Chavez's mandate. The establishment press 
professes a fear of economic collapse, but their real fear is the successes 
of the Bolivarian program.

Many correctly see the struggle in Venezuela as a fight for self-
determination and democracy. But it is also a victory against counter-
revolution and economic blackmail, unleashing a profound social revolution 
in this impoverished country.

Some will see parallels with the early stages of the Cuban revolution, 
where upper class intransigence and foreign intervention spurred the 
strengthening and deepening of people's power. And like that struggle, the 
Venezuelan revolution's success will require the support and solidarity of 
honest people everywhere.

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The author can be reached at ggodels@earthlink.net People's Weekly World, newspaper of Communist Party, USA

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