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Archive of Communist Workers Group of Aoteaora/New Zealand up to 2006

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Venezuela: Congress of the Nation Workers’ Union (UNT)

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We reproduce here an edited version of the FLT statement on the recent UNT(1) 2nd Congress held in May.(2) What could have been a major step towards working class independence from Chavez ended in a split between several factions, all competing to be the best Chavistas. Most significant, it is clear that the so-called Trotskyist groups in the UNT are not fighting for political independence from Chavez. This confirms our analysis that the ex-Trotskyists in Venezuela are acting as they are in other countries as the left wing of the popular front in Latin America.

Workers struggle sacrificed to the petrodollar bourgeoisie

Between last May 25-27 at the Army Officer’s Club in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, the second congress of the National Union of Workers (UNT)(3), was held. The UNT is the most important workers union in Venezuela with more than 2000 delegates representing a million or more Venezuelan workers.[i]

The resolutions of the 2nd Congress were of crucial importance for the working class not only of Venezuela, but of all Latin America. It offered the possibility of raising an independent working class program against the bourgeois government of Chavez.(4) Such a program would have been a hard blow against the politics of class collaboration which ‘expropriates’ the anti-imperialist struggle of the Venezuelan masses, strangles the Bolivian and Ecuadorian revolutions, and subordinates workers before the bourgeoisie of the whole continent.

But its resolutions, once more, put the masses at the feet of the exploiters and tied the hands of the Venezuelan and Latin American working class. It was also one more confirmation – if such were needed – of the complete bankruptcy of the fake Trotskyists who are “running a race” to see who can be a better Chavez than Chavez himself. Let’s see what happened in the Congress of the UNT and make some conclusions about the role of the fake Trotskyists organisations in Argentina.

“Ten million votes to re-elect Chavez!”

In the Congress, a minority led by Marcela Maspero, broke from the Congress and left the UNT. This sector, dominated by cadres and leaders of the old Bolivariana Force of the Workers (a failed attempt to build a Chavista central Workers Union), and adherents of Chavismo, refused to allow the election of UNT officers in September, arguing that the main priority was the campaign for “ten million votes for Chavez” to win the presidential election in December.

The leaders of the majority (headed by Orlando Chirinos of the UIT(5) to which both factions of the MST in Argentina belong (6) proposed elections in September, but they put as a condition the first resolution had to be… that the UNT and the workers must guarantee first of any other thing 10 million votes for Chavez. Moreover, these leaders denounce in their press a “provocation” by the minority, who set up the ridiculous argument that most of us, the majority delegates don’t support Chavez”. This they say is “a lie”. (Alternativa Socialista N° 431).(7)

Shamelessly, after urging the workers to vote that their main task is to guarantee the re-election of a bourgeois government, they then urged them to vote that “the UNT is a autonomous union, independent of the government”. What do these fake Trotskyists understand by “an independent” union federation? That “the re-election of president Chavez and the independence of the UNT must be simultaneously supported so as to criticize (Chavez) whenever it is necessary…” (ídem).

Imagine that the left groups were leading the Argentinean CGT (8) in 1973 and had launched a campaign for supporting the Peron-Peron slate. What would every class-conscious worker have said? A betrayal of the proletarian cause!. Exactly! The heroic working class militants of the Cordobazo (9), the Vivorazo (10), Sitrac-Sitram (11), the Villazo (12), would have said exactly what we say about the fake Trotskyists: Servants of the bourgeoisie! Enemies of the proletarian revolution!
There is no doubt. Today the fake Trotskyists in Venezuela are the UNT bureaucracy, playing at the same time the role of Stalinism and that of the treacherous union bureaucracies in the other countries of Latin America. Politically they support Chavez, that ally of Kirchner and Repsol.

MAS and PO: working to get ten million “critical” votes… for Chavez

It is impossible to deny that so far, the leaders of the UIT are winning the race to see who is the most “Chavista”. But stepping on their heels are all the other fake Trotskyists, for example the MAS in Argentina and its sister group inside the Venezuelan PRS (the Petare current).

The MAS says it wants to stand “independent worker candidates” but, as the PRS is not legal this “is not possible”. Besides, “most of the workers are politically Chavistas”, and that this cannot be ignored, in so far as “the vote is (something) tactical”. (Socialismo o Barbarie N° 80) (13). For that reason, it ends up calling for a “critical vote”… for Chavez, so that this bourgeois government is re-elected… “critically”.

On the other hand, the PO in Argentina tries to hide it is for “the critical” vote for Chavez. Thus, while it says that voting in the congress of the UNT for “the re-election of Chavez as an strategic policy shows that, despite the differences, the Workers Central Union is under the influence of bourgeois nationalism”, it ends up agreeing with the MAS, in that the vote “is tactical”. Moreover it declares: “it is not a question of our preference for one or another candidate, this is (merely) a tactical issue. It cannot become the main subject matter of a strategic campaign” (Prensa Obrera N° 950, June 15, 2006).(14)

At the end of the day, MAS and PO’s positions could be summarised in a single slogan: “For ten million critical votes… for Chavez”.

PTS: “Spoil your ballot”… sit on the fence, do not face Chavez even in the election

The PTS and its sister group in Venezuela –also a member of the PRS –criticizes those who call for a vote for Chavez as giving in to “bourgeois nationalism”. They prefer to “raise a workers and socialist perspective” by asking people to be very bold, and… spoil their votes.

But the spoiled vote has nothing to do with class politics in the context of bourgeois elections. Moreover, most of the pro-imperialist and pro-coup bourgeois opposition parties and groups will be campaigning for abstention or a blank vote in December elections. The PTS itself already called for a vote for Chavez in the August 2004 referendum; now in order not to appear as openly “Chavista”, it has decided to go for a blank vote. This formula has overall the “virtue” of letting them avoid a confrontation with Chavez. They also reneg on the obligation of telling workers “do not vote for him because he is a bourgeois”.

The politics of class independence in the Venezuelan elections

First we have to expose the deception of “tactical voting” used by the fake Trotskyists. They use this to justify setting up popular fronts or to support “progressive” bourgeois candidates. For revolutionaries, tactics in bourgeois elections are like all tactics, revolutionary tactics. They have to advance the proletarian principles and strategy: in the first place, the elementary principle of class independence. That is to say, it is possible to vote tactically for a workers party or workers candidate, but never for a bourgeois party or candidate.

Second, it is pure deception to call for a ‘tactical vote’ because “there are no conditions” that allow for independent worker candidates in Venezuela, when the UNT exists, a union federation with great authority among the workers! Here was a congress with 2000 worker delegates, one of them could have been chosen as candidate for president. Here is a workers organization which has all the authority to make a campaign for 10 million votes for a UNT worker president and a vice-president from the poor peasants. Such a campaign would have opened the road to a workers and peasants’ government able to break completely with imperialism, solve the land problem and meet the needs of the workers and the exploited people! No doubt that if this resolution had been passed by a show of hands in the congress of workers delegates of the UNT, no legal obstacle could have prevented that campaign for a workers candidacy from going ahead!

An independent working class program

Such a class campaign that raised with clarity a program and an independent workers strategy would had aroused the enormous enthusiasm of the Venezuelan, the Latin America and the United States working class:

· Not even a drop of Venezuelan oil to the US exploiters, slave-traffickers of Latin American immigrants!

· No oil to massacre our Iraqi brothers and sisters, and the workers and exploited from New Orleans!

· For the complete re-nationalization, without compensation and under workers control of oil, and the rest of privatized companies!

· Expropriation without compensation of all the large estates and land for distribution among the poor farmers!

· For decent jobs and living wages for all, with the sliding scale of wages and working hours!

· Minimum wage set at the level of the family shopping basket and indexed according to inflation!

· Down with all the antistrike laws!

· Free quality public Health and Education, on the basis of the expropriation of the private schools and hospitals, the repudiation of the external debt and the application of progressive taxes on the “31 families” (15) and the monopolies!

· A class campaign for a program that calls on the workers and the exploited to vote for a presidential candidate of the UNT, that is, not to vote for Chavez!
Who can doubt that this would galvanize the embattled Bolivian working class that has begun to resist Morales repressive government! It would also inspire the Argentinean working class that refuses to accept the miserable wages and work conditions imposed on them by the union bureaucracy. It would motivate the US working class which today begins to wake up only to be told by the WSF to kneel at the feet of the Democratic Party of Clinton and the Kennedys, so praised by Chavez!

None of the currents of the UNT or of the left in Venezuela want a class program

The ex-Trotskyists that lead the UNT know well that this is possible. But they want to avoid it at all costs. They have demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate, that they are the faithful subjects of Chavez; self-confessed reformists whose role is to prevent any move towards class independence by the workers, and to make the latter subservient to the “progressive” bourgeois and the “patriotic” military.

We are not then dealing with “a tactical” problem, but one of principles: because what these currents say to the working class is that the liberation of the workers will not be the work of the workers themselves, but of bourgeois leaders like Chávez.

The ex-Trotskyists supporting Chavez are the same tendencies that in Brazil called for a vote for the popular front of Lula-Alencar, and who are now supporting the class collaborationist government in Bolivia. They are the “theoreticians” who preach the need to create “worker parties based on the unions”. But then where they lead a union federation as the UNT in Venezuela, they refuse to put up a workers candidate for the presidential elections!

As Trotsky said, whoever gives even the slightest political support to a bourgeois government, renounces its revolutionary overthrow by the masses. That is, they renounce the workers’, socialist revolution. These servants of Chavez have deserted the proletarian revolution.

International Coordination Secretariat of the Leninist Trotskyist Fraction


(1) Workers National Union

(2) This statement first appeared in the paper of the Argentine group Workers Democracy.

(3) The UNT was born of the rank and file revolt against the pro-coup, pro-imperialist CTV, the old Workers Central of Venezuela, with a notoriously corrupt and bureaucratic leadership affiliated to Accion Democratica, once the most important bourgeois party, and totally subservient to the establishment.

(4) We say that Chavez is a ‘Bonapartist’ leader of a bourgeois state with a bourgeois constitution, balancing between imperialism, the national bourgeoisie and the working masses. Despite Chavez ‘left’ persona, the Venezuela state defends bourgeois property and ‘nationalised’ property remains that of the bourgeois state. Nevertheless we support Chavez in a united front against imperialism, arguing that only a revolutionary workers movement is capable of defeating imperialism and the Venezuelan national bourgeoisie.

(5) The UIT is one of the international fractions that came out of the Morenoist LIT-CI after the Argentinean MST split the MAS. The UIT was until recently the international organization of the MST and its “sister” groups.

(6) The MST now has split in two irreconcilable fractions, the fraction”2” (led by Pedro Soranz) has just taken control of the UIT, expelling the fraction “1”.

(7) Socialist Alternative.

(8) CGT: Central General de Trabajadores, or Workers Central Union federation. In 1973 it was led by the Peronist bureaucracy (and most of the second half of the 20th century). In 1973 the Peronist Party made the then president (also a Peronist, but of a somewhat left-leaning wing) resign, so that there could be new elections, and to allow General Peron to run for his third presidency. His wife Isabelita Peron ran as vice-president.

(9) Cordobazo: On May 29, 1969, and as a part of the worldwide revolutionary wave that was sweeping almost every country in Latin America and most of the world, there was a semi-insurrection in Cordoba, Argentina’s second city, and a main industrial center at the time. Having been preceded by very combative and persistent student revolts in several Universites all over the country, the Cordobazo began as a protest against the elimination of the so-called ‘English Saturday’ (any time over the half day was paid as time-and-a-half – 50% more) and ended with the defeat of the police that had been called to repress the demonstrations and marches that the workers the owners of Cordoba had made for two or three days. The police had to quit the city and the army was called to replace it. It is important to remember that in 1969, there was a military dictatorship in charge of the government. The Cordobazo opened way to a revolutionary period in Argentina and Latin America that came to an end with the bloody dictatorships of Videla and Co. in Argentina, Pinochet in Chile, etc.

(10) The Vivorazo was another semi-insurrection some time after the Cordobazo, that put Rosario (the third largest Argentinean city, also a main industrial center and the second port of the country) in the hands of the workers for a time.

(11) Sitrac and Sitram were two factory unions (initially set-up as “yellow” unions by the bosses and the bourgeois government to divide and defeat the auto-workers who were affiliated to the SMATA, or Autoworkers United Union). But they shot themselves in the foot. The young workers of the two most important factories in Cordoba –FIAT Materfer, that manufactured electric motors and electric train wagons, and FIAT Concord, that manufactured big electric motors for power stations, dams, etc.- in 1970 defeated the “yellow” bureaucracy in each factory, united the two unions, creating the SITRAC-SITRAM Union, and immediately called for a “working-class nationwide congress of the rank and file, with mandated delegates of every workplace in the country” to vote a working-class program to find a breakthrough for the crisis-ridden Argentina. The two congresses that were held under the name of “Classism”, convened hundreds of militant delegates. “Classism” as a phenomenon was very important, because up to that time, and from the late forties, the previous generations of workers had been mainly Peronist. Unfortunately most the ‘classist’ vanguard that it created were recruited to the various guerrilla currents inspired in Cuban ‘guerrillasim’ (including fake-Trotskyist ones). There were other centrist currents too, as well as left-Peronists, Stalinists, etc. All of them did their utmost to frustrate the opportunity for the workers to take the country in their hands.

(12) Villazo, a semi-insurrection in Villa Constitucion, one of the industrial towns that form the industrial belt running from Buenos Aires City (with its Great Buenos Aires Area) up to Rosario City, some 400km of factories, steelworks, oil refineries, ports, etc., along the coast of the rivers Parana and Plate. The Villazo was the last and most important semi-insurrection of the industrial workers taking a city and a series of big factories in their hands, before the military coup that put Videla and Co. in power. It was brutally repressed, in spite of the support and sympathy from the Argentine workers and students, thanks to the union bureaucracy leaving it isolated, and the left vacillating and capitulating to the pressure of the Stalinists, the Peronist bureaucracy, etc. The centrists in those years did not want to be labeled “guerrillas”, so they never raised slogans about self-defense, workers’ armed militia, etc., tending to raise mostly economic (unionist) slogans plus abstract socialist propaganda.

(13) Socialism or Barbarism

(14) Workers Press.

(15) “31 families”. Name for the richest group of Venezuelan families. They were closely intertwined with imperialist interests for centuries. Most of their members do not even live in Venezuela.


Unite! Organiser enthusiastic about Chavez and Morales

Auckland Unite organiser Mike Treen recently returned from a visit to Venezuela and Boliva. He spoke in Auckland to a meeting organised by GPJA. Treen was ethusiastic about Chavez. “He is ahead of the workers and is leading the revolution”. The same with Morales in Bolivia. “The revolution will not happen without Morales”. This is the Australian Green Left position.

In reponse to a question from a CWG comrade who stressed the need for the working class to be armed and politically independent of Chavez and Morales, Treen rejected the need for the independence of workers from Chavez and Morales. Despite the splits in the UNT recent congress, Treen said it was good that they all supported the re-election of Chavez.

A Socialist Workers speaker at the meeting spoke of a ‘sort of dual power’ in Venezuela. If this term is being used in the Leninist sense, this can only mean that the SWO thinks that Chavez represents the workers in the state, rather than representing the bourgeois in containing and suppressing the workers revolution.

Whatever their apparent differences, both Treen and the SWO speaker substitute Chavez and his political machine for the working class. This confirms our view that Unite and SWO, who have combined to form the Worker’s Charter in NZ, are following the Australian Green Left closely as a cheerleader for the Boliviarian Revolution and left wing of the popular front in Latin America. (see article above).

From Class Struggle 67 June/July 2006


Written by raved

January 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Bolivia: Morales represses landless occupations

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Statement of ORI (Workers Red International)

We reprint a statement of the International Red October (ORI) of Bolivia against the repression of landless peasants’ occupations by Evo Morales Government. Those who say that Morales’ government is a progressive, popular, even revolutionary, government, must answer to these betrayals. The fact is that the ex-Trotskyists who are the left wing of the popular front in Latin America are covering for Morales anti-worker, anti-peasant and pro-imperialist regime. 
The government of Evo Morales savagely represses workers and farmers who occupy land

Spurred on by the numerous declarations of the government of Evo to make an “agrarian reform”, thousands of landless farmers, homeless unemployed and even “cooperative” miners (1) , have seized land in different departments of the country. Some land has even been seized from big landowners in Santa Cruz. In Oruro too, hundreds of poor farmers, – many led by the Movement Without a Roof (2), “cooperativistas” and members of the Movement Without Land (MST), have camped in tents, facing cold and hunger in the hope that the government will make grants of land to those who have occupied it.

On the contrary, Evo Morales, the “government of the people”, the defender of the indigenous peoples ordered that the occupations be savagely repressed and the poor farmers evicted from the land which was then occupied by the military. This action of the government has already caused one death and a number of children are now missing. With tear gas, rubber bullets and dogs, the police savagely attacked the demonstration the landless peasants (MST) with their supporters and relatives staged days after in Oruro.

But not only this, in Caracollo, – a town near Oruro – there was another forced eviction and brutal repression. The government returned to attack and injure the poor farmers with rubber bullets and ferocious dogs, arresting the leaders of the MST.

Is this the government “of the indigenous people” that is going to give land to the poor farmers? Or, on the contrary, while it beats, jails or kills those poor farmers who fight for their right to have shelter, house and land to produce and to be able to live, it defends by force the private property and large farms of the big landowners. The fact is: this is the ‘agrarian reform’ of Evo Morales, representative of the big estate owners; a ‘reform’ in the service of the interests of landowners and the church.

  • No confidence in this repressive government that defends the interests of large estate owners and big farmers, the coca bourgeoisie! 
  • Immediate expropriation of the properties of the landowners and big estate owners! 
  • Distribute all the land among the poor farmers!

The agrarian reform that returns the land to the poor farmers will not come from the hand of Evo Morales – nor his concocted Constituent Assembly. HHe has demonstrated that he is representing and defending the private property of the landowners. Only a workers and poor farmers’ government based on organs of self-determination and workers and poor farmers militias, that expropriates the large estate owners and landowners, will be able to take the land for the poor farmers.

The bourgeois government of Evo Morales is already killing the people!

The government of Evo Morales is another government of the Rosca (3), a servant of the transnational companies and the Santa Cruz bourgeoisie. And as such it defends the property and the interests of the classes it represents.

We saw the so-called “nationalization” made by Evo on May 1st. It was same policy of the Chinese ex-bureaucrats who became the new bourgeoisie of the “mixed economy” when they restored capitalism in China. In Bolivia it only made the state company – YPFB – into a 51% shareholder and partner of the transnational companies that produce most of the hydrocarbons in Bolivia. Thus, this nationalization of Evo Morales, – devised and defended by Chávez, Castro and the WSF along with the fake Trotskyists – was an attempt to expropriate the heroic anti-imperialist struggle of the masses to throw out the transnational companies, to truly expropriate without compensation their assets. Instead Morales protects the right of these companies to make super profits, and in exchange for strangling the revolution, negotiates for a larger share of the profits.

Morales’ policy toward the so much promised “nationalization of the mines” of COMIBOL applies the same principle as his ‘land reform’. So not to frighten the landlords Morales will only make available the state owned barren land of the desert of the high plateau! Nevertheless, the poor farmers have already paid the price of his ‘land reform’ with their dead and wounded and imprisoned. That is the price they have paid for believing in his promises and trying to act accordingly solving the problem of land reform themselves.

On the other hand, while he promises the nationalization of the COMIBOL and all the mines, it has isolated and threatened the wage-earning miners by forming an alliance with the leaders of the cooperatives who employ thousands of rank and file cooperative workers as virtual slaves without any rights (4).

But this nationalisation promise is worthless when Morales has just granted the right to exploit the El Mutún Mountain, the greatest iron (5) reserve of the world, to the greedy imperialistic monopolies, like Jeindal Steel, in a joint venture with the fascist bourgeoisie of Santa Cruz!

It is obvious that the bourgeois semi-nationalization of Evo Morales, along with his promised nationalization of the mines and ‘land reform’, are a fraud perpetrated against the masses! They are part of a plan devised by a popular demagogic bourgeois nationalist leader to deceive the masses, so that the imperialistic monopolies, as well as the mining bourgeoisie and the great landowners, make small concessions to the masses to prevent a real expropriation of their property, and by this means are guaranteed both their property rights and their super profits.

Break with the treacherous labor leaders, agents of the bourgeoisie!

Before these serious attacks on the more radicalized sectors of the peasantry, as with the attacks on the LAB airline workers, and the health female workers in Santa Cruz, the leaders of the main workers and peasants organizations have maintained a shameful silence. Neither the COB, CODs, CORs, nor even the CSTUB have done anything to free the militants imprisoned by the ruling class. A few leaders have made lukewarm declarations of support of the members of the MST and poor farmers brutally repressed by the government. But this is not enough! We need to break the silence now and turn those weak declarations of support into actions to release our prisoners from the claws of the ruling class!

The rank and file teachers of La Paz have shown they are part of the revolutionary vanguard that confronts the repressive government of Evo Morales. Nevertheless, their leaders who claim to be revolutionary Trotskyist members of the POR, did nothing to coordinate the workers struggles, not even with the militant rank and file students that the POR leads in Cochabamba and La Paz (where they are fighting against the university authorities). But this is nothing new, since the bureaucracy of Solares guarantees that the left will maintain the social peace so that the government can try to strangle the revolution and not alarm business interests.

While this situation remains, the COB does not have any weight nor the strength to attack the government because Solares –while he remains in charge – is in fact the guarantor of the destruction of the COB. Yet, the workers still see the COB as their organization. For that reason the congress of the COB planned for the 19th June, must be transformed into a congress of real rank and file delegates with revocable mandate to prepare it for the struggle against the government and the treacherous leaders. This is the only possible way to arm the the COB. Enough of bureaucratic congresses that do not serve the workers fight. For a national congress of delegates of the broad base of workers, farmers, students, etc. Unite the workers ranks and all the sectors in fight to declare war on this repressive government which represents the ruling class.

Following Evo Morales, Chávez, and all whole World Social Forum that defend the interests of the national bourgeoisie, the landowners and the imperialistic monopolies, there will be no gas for the Bolivians, land for the peasants, or liberation of the nation from imperialistic oppression.

Only by defeating the “Bolivarian revolution” – the caricature of socialism of Evo Morales, Chávez, Castro and all the WSF –can the workers and poor farmers of Bolivia return to the revolutionary road of October 2003 and May-June 2005 to take up again their demands raised almost 3 years ago, and go on to the victory of the workers and peasants revolution!

For that reason, against the conspiracy that confuses the masses, there is no time to lose in reviving the semi-soviet of the El Alto workers, miners and peasants as the “headquarters of the revolution”, and to raise once more the demand: ‘Neither 30 nor 50%, nationalization!”

Kick out the transnational companies!

Neither 30% nor 50%! Nationalization without compensation and under worker control of hydrocarbons, all the refineries, pipelines, oilfields, plants, facilities, and all the properties and funds of the bloodsucking transnational companies!

The only way to win minimum demands, for land, the mines, and the gas for all the Bolivian masses, health, decent jobs and wages, etc., is to return to the road of October and May-June. We have to centralize and coordinate our struggles.

It is necessary to create a National Congress of rank and file workers and peasants’ delegates to unite the worker ranks, to defeat the collaborationist leaderships, to organize a great fight to revive the road of May-June, 2005, the road to the workers and peasants revolution. A congress that unifies immediately the CODs, CORs and returns to the tradition of the revolutionary COB of the Theses of Pulacayo so that the workers can prepare for a general strike to defeat the counterrevolutionary government of the popular front and to win all our revolutionary demands:

· Immediate nationalization under workers control of the iron deposit of El Mutún!

· Renationalisation without compensation and under workers’ control of all the mines, LAB, Illimani Water, and all other privatised companies!

· Down with the trap of the concocted Constituent Assembly and the autonomy referendum!Immediate freedom to the poor farmers, the cooperativista workers, and of those in the Movement Without Roof and the Movement Without Land, the comuneros of Ayo-Ayo and other political prisoners in the jails of Evo Morales and La Rosca!

· Punish the assassins of over one hundred worker martyrs of October!

· Sack the murderous officer caste of the Armed Forces!

· For committees of soldiers who democratically choose their officials and who send their delegates to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Congress!

· For immediate wage increases, with a minimum wage sufficient for the family shopping basket and indexed to inflation! Reducing working hours until all who want to work have jobs!

· Expropriation without payment of all the large estates, in the first place of rich territories of the landowners of the East, and distribute the land among the poor farmers! This is the only and true ‘land reform’!

· Only a workers’ and peasants’ government, supported by the independently organised, armed masses, can achieve a true nationalization, fulfil the demands of October 2003 and May-June 2005, and guarantee a truly democratic and sovereign Constituent Assembly!

Unite now all those who are in struggle!

Form a National Committee of struggle!

ORI (International Red October) Bolivia, member of the Fraction Leninist-Trotskyist, June 2006


(1) Self-employed miners organised in cooperatives. When the Bolivian tin mines ceased to be profitable, the government “privatised” the least operative by leasing them to groups of the previously sacked miners –organised into cooperatives- to exploit the remaining few, poor, and laborious to mine, deposits of the mineral.

(2) i.e homeless movement. Many unemployed or poor employed workers do not have theur own houses – that they cannot afford an apartment or small house- and have to live many packed into each room of an old or derelict apartment-house. Or they set up cardboard, tin or adobe huts on an abandoned piece of land, risking eviction by the owner with the help of the police or the gendarmes. Or they go to shantytowns, where they are harassed by the police and the petty criminals. Like in Brazil, in Bolivia these Dwellers Without a Roof are organized in a movement.

(3) Rosca used to mean the group of very rich tin mine-owners that “owned” Bolivia and controlled governments up to the 1950s. But now the word refers to the Bolivian national ruling class, mostly landowners who are also oil barons or small partners of the oil and gas companies, and more recently, also big coca growers.

(4) While it is supposed that the cooperatives have a democratically elected and recallable board of cooperative directors as leaders, the reality is that they are led by an entrenched and treacherous bureaucracy – the equal of that of the COB that seeks agreements with the government and the ruling class. These bureaucrats act as agents of the bosses, deciding about everything (investment, purchase of tools, etc.) , not paying the rest of their fellow miners their share of profits, subcontracting other miners, etc. The rank and file cooperative miners earn even less than a common miner, because the bureaucrats use the excuse of ‘low’ profits and ‘high’ costs to rob the cooparative and fill their own pockets. They have lost the basic conditions of ordinary workers such as health services, pensions, etc. because they are legally considered as “owners”, not as workers under a boss. The same has happened – thanks to the fake Trotskyists that covered for the bureaucrats or became bureaucrats themselves – with the workers of the “recuperated” factories in Argentina, all of which have been turned into “coooperatives”.

(5) In fact, the El Mutun Mountain contains huge reserves of iron and manganese.

From Class Struggle 67 June/July 2006

Terror in Apure: Workers must lead the Defence of Venezuela!

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Coming just weeks after Chavez’ victory in the recall referendum with 58% of the vote a new massacre of soldiers and oil workers by anti-Chavez forces has occurred in Apure. Despite the apparent stability of Venezuela after the referendum it is clear that the anti-Chavez forces will use whatever means to destablise the country. We argue that Chavez cannot defend the workers and peasants of Venezuela, only the formation of workers, peasants and soldiers militias that are independent of Chavez can do that.

On September 17th five Venezuelan soldiers and one oil worker were killed near the town of Guasdualito, in a remote corner of Venezuela’s Apure province. The soldiers and workers had been searching for oil under the jungles and swamps of Apure. Two days later, the bodies of three oil workers were discovered near the scene of the first attack. The workers’ hands had been tied behind their backs. Three more bodies have since been discovered, strewn on a road near Guasdualito. They are thought to belong to the force that carried out the September 17th attack

The same Western media which lavishes attention on the execution of hostages in Iraq has almost completely ignored the Guasdualito killings. The politicians who shed crocodile tears over the fate of Western oil workers in Iraq have studiously ignored the murder of Venezuelan oil workers. Yet the Guasdualito killings are only the latest in a series of terror attacks against the people of Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez flew to Guasdualito and told locals that the killings were part of ‘Washington’s war agenda’ to divide his country and Colombia and ‘sell lots of arms’.

The Colombian government has denied any involvement in the killings, claiming that they could have been carried out by a ‘pro-Chavez armed group’ called the ‘Bolivarian Liberation Front’. But the ‘Bolivarian Liberation Front’ exists only in the propaganda of the Colombian government, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition, and the Bush administration. The spectre of the Front has been invoked again and again to justify the creation of opposition paramilitaries inside Venezuela, and to excuse aggressive Colombian ‘border policing’.

It is no surprise that Colombia has been a launching pad for renewed attacks on Venezuela. Alvaro Uribe, the most pro-US leader in South America, is fighting his own war against two left-wing Colombian guerrilla groups. US ‘military advisers’ fight alongside Uribe’s army and US aircraft criss-cross Colombian skies. Uribe has accused Chavez of aiding Colombia’s leftists; Bush’s government has gone one step further and claimed that Al Qaeda terrorists are using Venezuela’s Margarita Island as well as its border with Colombia as training grounds.

In reality, of course, it has been Colombian terrorists who have been crossing the border into Venezuela, where they try to destabilise the Chavez government with actions like the Guasdualito massacre. Most of the terrorists seem to belong to right-wing paramilitary groups aligned with the Uribe government and Venezuela’s opposition, but the possibility of the direct involvement of Colombian and US soldiers cannot be discounted. Colombian paramilitaries have not only appeared in isolated rural regions: in May of this year one hundred and thirty of them were discovered on the outskirts of Caracas, where they had apparently gathered to prepare an attack on Chavez.

Background to the current situation

One or two commentators have suggested that the Guasdualito attacks represent the beginning of a Contra-style terror campaign against the Chavez government and its supporters. In reality, terrorist attacks by the Venezuelan opposition and Colombian paramilitaries have been occurring for years in the Venezuelan countryside. Dozens members of pro-Chavez peasants’ associations have already been assassinated.

But the ongoing terror campaign Venezuela’s countryside has been overshadowed by the coup attempts of 2002 and the employers’ lockout of 2002-2003 which posed much greater threats to Chavez regime.

Chavez was rescued from the coup attempt and the lockout by the mobilisation of workers who took to the streets and the oil fields on their own initiative. After each attempt to remove Chavez failed, the opposition were quick to arrive at a deal with him to prevent the workers from taking power while they regrouped their forces. Chavez ‘pardoned’ the opposition, guaranteed the US oil supply and told the workers to go home. After the lockout failed, the US backed the agreement between Chavez and its representative, Jimmy Carter, the Venezuela opposition, and members of the Organisation of American States.

In the aftermath of its heavy defeat in the recent Presidential recall referendum, Venezuela’s opposition and its Colombian allies may choose to intensify the campaign of terror. A faction of the opposition denounced the referendum result as fraudulent, and used Venezuela’s private media to appeal unsuccessfully for a military coup and a popular uprising. They shot nine anti-Chavez protesters on the outskirts of Caracas, in an apparent attempt to repeat the faked ‘Chavez massacre’ used to justify the April 2002 coup.

The US ruling class quickly recognised the reality of the opposition’s latest election defeat. Re-assured by Chavez’ call for ‘national unity’ and the uninterrupted supply of Venezuela oil, at a time when the US is bogged down in Iraq, Jimmy Carter and the New York Times urged respect for the referendum result, criticised opposition calls for violence, and demanded a US dialogue with Chavez’s government, while Wall St responded with a healthy movement in stock values.

Nonetheless, the Bush administration has continued to keep the pressure on Chavez. At the beginning of September it used trumped-up human trafficking charges to slap 250 million dollars’ worth of sanctions on Venezuela. Fifteen US black hawk helicopters recently flew from Colombia deep into Venezuela, in a show of naked aggression. Chavez was forced to abandon plans to address the UN’s recent annual leaders’ meeting, after the US government refused to provide him with security or guarantee his safety.

Chavez army ‘reforms’

Chavez has responded to the Guasdualito massacre by announcing a major reform of his armed forces. The new ‘National Defence Plan’ will be ‘humanitarian-based’, and will aim to increase the morale of soldiers by educating them politically and giving them greater contact with the civilian population. Quoting Mao Zedong, Chavez told the people of Guasdualito that ‘In the end it will not be the side with the most arms that wins the war, but the side with the most morale’.

It is likely that Chavez is intending to purge the army of pro-opposition elements by sacking or demoting them and replacing them with loyal members of left-wing and workers’ organisations. Chavez may attempt to set up some sort of popular militia, under the control of the army, as part of the effort to dilute the power of hostile officers. After the discovery of the paramilitary force in May he announced that he wanted to find ways for the civilian population to ‘massively participate in the defence of the nation’. The army will probably also be forced to work more closely with the ‘Missions’ already set up to bypass the old opposition-controlled state bureaucracy and implement Chavez’s social policies.

Chavez has faced major opposition within the armed forces since 2000, when two hundred military men resigned en masse from his Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement. Soldiers who had fought beside Chavez during his 1992 coup were unable to tolerate the leftward trajectory of his administration. Since the April 2002 coup that briefly overthrew him Chavez has sought to purge the armed forces of these opponents, and to promote younger, loyal officers.

Chavez’s ‘National Defence Plan’ symbolises the general political programme of his government. Chavez talks of anti-imperialist war and a people’s army, but proposes no fundamental reform of the armed forces. His radical rhetoric hides a determination to work within the limits of capitalism and the capitalist state.

Chavez ‘Bonapartist’ role

Chavez was thrust into power by the mass mobilisations of workers and peasants against the neo-liberal economic attacks of the 1980s and 1990s. He came to power determined to be a ‘Bonapartist’ strongman balancing the interests of workers and capitalists against US imperialism and its local lackeys. Chavez wanted to develop a ‘national capitalism’ in opposition to US imperialism and globalisation. But the hostility of the vast majority of the Venezuelan capitalist class, who are little more than the lackeys of US business, forced Chavez to rely more and more heavily on his loyal army officers, and his mass support, among the poor workers of the barrios and the peasantry.

Chavez has enacted a number of progressive reforms, and replaced enemies in the state apparatus with representatives of workers’, peasants’ and indigenous organisations. But he has resisted calls to change Venezuelan society fundamentally by nationalising the economy under workers’ and peasants’ control.

As the self-styled successor to Simon Bolivar who fought for Venezuela’s independence from Spain, Chavez has illusions in finishing the revolution started by Boliva and creating an independent capitalist Venezuela in which workers, peasants, capitalists and state officials can all participate and share equitably in the national wealth.

But what Chavez doesn’t see is that national independence cannot succeed in a semi-colony dominated by imperialism unless it is won by the revolutionary workers leading the peasants in the overthrow of the state itself. As the defender of ‘state capitalism’ Chavez finds himself inevitably the defender of the private property of US imperialism against the threat of a socialist revolution.

Breaking the Sidor strike

The class character of Chavez’s ‘Bolivarian revolution’ was shown up very clearly during the bitter strike that took place at the Sidor steelworks in Bolivar state in April and May of this year. The biggest steel mill in South America, Sidor was privatised in 1997, and since then the steady casualisation of the workforce has caused a stream of industrial accidents.

When Sidor’s 11,000 workers went on strike demanding renationalisation Chavez’s response was to side with their bosses and send in the National Guard, which opened fire on picketers on April the 29th. After 19 days the strike was broken, though none of the Sidor workers crossed the picket line.
The conflict at Sidor offers lessons for the Venezuelans menaced by cross-border raids and opposition assassination squads. An army which fires even rubber bullets and gas pellets on workers on behalf of a multinational company is not capable of protecting workers and peasants from imperialism.

Chavez cannot free the peasantry

Chavez’s own response to the Guasdualito massacre shows the gap between his Bolivarian politics and the interests of the Latin American people threatened by terrorism.

In his speech to the people of Guasdualito, Chavez claimed that Colombia’s right-wing paramilitaries were not normally ‘enemies of our country, but if they are in our territory, from that moment on they become our enemies, because they violate the sovereignty of Venezuela’.

Yet right-wing paramilitaries and the government that backs them together kill thousands of Colombians every year. Colombia has the worst safety record for trade unionists in the world, with scores dying every year from bullets and bombs. How can Colombia’s paramilitaries cease to be the deadly enemies of workers and peasants, just because they cross an invisible border?

If Chavez were a real revolutionary, he would denounce the Colombian paramilitaries wherever they operate, and give assistance to the Colombians who fight the paramilitaries and the Uribe government. But Chavez’s fear of offending the Colombian and US governments trumps any commitment he might feel to the Colombian opponents of imperialism and terrorism.

Most of the victims of violence in the countryside have been peasants struggling for the redistribution of land held by Venezuela’s capitalist class and by foreign landlords. In November 2001 the Chavez government responded to peasant pressure by passing the Land Reform Law, which provided for the nationalisation of seventy-five million acres of idle land. Opposition governors and National Assembly members reacted furiously, and managed to tie the land reform process up in red tape. Militant peasants responded by seizing land promised to them by Chavez. In some places they divided the land into individual titles; in other places they have established huge collective farms. Between the end of 2001 and the end of last year over five million acres of land was redistributed.

Not surprisingly, leaders of peasant co-operative associations continue to be prime targets for Venezuela’s terrorists. Chavez has repeatedly urged peasants not to defend themselves with arms. He wants them to rely on the protection of the army that opened fire on the workers of Sidor.

For Workers and peasants councils and militias!

In the cities of Venezuela, the workers of the barrios are also threatened by terrorism. Urban paramilitary groups set up barricades to ‘defend’ wealthy neighbourhoods, and snipe at left-wing demonstrators from rooftops. During the National Lockout of 2002-2003, right-wing forces firebombed buses carrying workers to oil installations, and assassinated pro-government union leaders. Chavez allied himself with workers during the lockout when it was his own survival that was at stake, but at Sidor he showed that he will use Venezuela’s ‘official’ army on behalf of the class that funds Venezuela’s terrorists.

The workplace-based National Organisation of Workers (UNT) and the barrio-based Bolivarian Circles have been amongst the biggest supporters of Chavez. The UNT formed only in August 2003 is organisationally independent of Chavez’s state and his party, the Fifth Republic Movement. Chavez refused to attend the founding conference of the UNT, in protest at its call for the nationalisation of the economy under workers’ control and the establishment of a workers’ government.

In the aftermath of the Sidor strike, sections of the UNT are reconsidering their political support for Chavez. Ramon Machuca, a leader of the Sidor strike, is running for the governorship of Bolivar state independently of the Fifth Republic Movement. Machuca is positioning himself as the champion of workers dissatisfied with the limitations of Chavez’s political programme, but political independence counts for little if it does not become armed independence. A Machuca governorship will not protect the workers of Sidor. Workers’ militia need to be established to defend the factories and barrios of Venezuela’s cities. The UNT and the Bolivarian Circles must arm their members. They must go to the barracks and win over the rank and file of Chavez army and split them from the officer corps.

Workers’ and peasants’ militia will give teeth to a movement to turn the ‘Bolivarian revolution’ from being a trap to contain and defeat the workers, into a program for socialist revolution.

· Only the nationalisation without compensation under workers control of the media under workers’ and peasants’ control can stop the stream of lies and provocations which the Venezuelan opposition uses to foment a coup or a US invasion.

· Only the nationalisation without compensation under workers control of private businesses, banks and of cultivated as well as idle land can kill the power of the Venezuelan capitalists who send death squads after peasants.

· Only the nationalisation without compensation under workers control of the property of multinational companies can break US power in Venezuela and make a proletarian internationalist foreign policy possible.

· Only the splitting of the army of the bourgeois state replacement of the old army with workers’ and peasants’ militia can prevent a repeat of the tragedy of Sidor.

For a Revolutionary Party

The international socialist and workers’ movement must oppose all attempts by US imperialism and its auxiliaries to terrorise and destabilise Venezuela, without sowing any illusions in the Chavez government. Many leftists have opposed US interference in Venezuela, protesting the coup of 2002 and the lockout of 2002-2003, but very few have even noticed Chavez’s repression of the workers of Sidor.

Many of the socialist currents influenced by the Stalinist or Castroist views that the national bourgeoisie are ‘progressive’ support Chavez politically, and sow illusions in the masses that the Bolivarian ‘Revolution’ can defeat imperialism. For example, the ‘Hands Off Venezuela’ campaign initiated by the International Marxist Committee has attracted support from political parties and trade unions around the world, and helped to raise awareness of US aggression in Venezuela, but it has been marred by the very uncritical attitude its leading figures show to Chavez’s government.

The current campaign of its tendency in Venezuela, the Revolutionary Marxist Current, to occupy the giant paper mill VENEPAL in Moron, Carabodo state, under threat of closure by its US owner Smurfit, makes the basic mistake of calling on Chavez as a bourgeois President to arm the workers and occupy the plant, instead of calling on them to arm themselves, occupy the plant and break from Chavez.

To the left of reformist groups like the RMC, a number of self-proclaimed Trotskyist groups understand that Chavez cannot help but turn his guns on the workers. They are prepared to defend Chavez against the US, but say they will never support him politically.

Yet when it came to the test, they gave a critical vote of confidence to Chavez against the opposition in the recall referendum. CWG too called for a critical vote for Chavez as a military bloc against the opposition. A minority in CWG still holds this position. But a majority of CWG now accepts that the effect of critical support was a vote of confidence in Chavez helping him to contain the masses from organising and arming independently.

This thrust all of the currents that voted confidence in Chavez into the role of left-wing cheerleaders of the World Social Forum (WSF). The WSF supports the governments of Chavez, Lula, Kirchner and Castro as being capable of making a two-stage transition from capitalism to ‘market socialism’ without the masses playing an independent and leading role.

In Aotearoa, the Alliance Party is in the same camp. It advertised a recent reception for the Venezuelan ambassador to Australia under the headline ‘The Bolivarian Revolution Comes to Wellington’. The equation of the revolutionary potential of Venezuela’s workers and peasants with Chavez and his state is both wrong and dangerous.

In Aotearoa and across the world, socialists and the workers’ movement should turn opposition to US aggression in Venezuelan into support for the armed independence of the workers and peasants who can alone defeat imperialism.

In practice this requires the urgent creation of a revolutionary party able to lead the worker and peasant masses to socialism. The CWG is for the creation of a revolutionary Trotskyist party in the ranks of the UNT, the Bolivarian circles and the peasant organisations.

That party must have as its program the central demand that these organisations call for a national congress that raises the call to break with Chavez’ ‘national unity’, with the Bolivarian state machine, and to form organs of workers’ power as the basis for a workers’ revolution and a socialist republic of Venezuela as part of a United Socialist States of Latin America!

For a Socialist Republic of Venezuela! 

From Class Struggle 58 October-November 2004