The tasks facing Venezuela’s left

August 28, 2017

With the crisis in Venezuela intensifying--and Donald Trump threatening that U.S. military action against the Venezuelan government is under consideration--some on Venezuela's left are attempting to put forward an alternative to both the U.S.-backed right-wing opposition and a government that has betrayed the people. Here, we publish an open letter by the socialists of Marea Socialista, preceded by an introduction by the editors of the New Socialist in Canada, where this open letter appeared in an English translation by Jeffery R. Webber.

Introduction by New Socialist Editors

The social crisis in Venezuela has captured international attention. Chavismo--named for the widely supported progressive policies of the Hugo Chávez administration (1998-2013)--is in a crisis under the leadership of Chávez's successor Nicolás Maduro. The international collapse in oil prices has precipitated a drop in Venezuela's export revenue--a heavy burden for an economy whose dependency on much needed foreign earnings from oil deepened under Chávez rather than diminished. Under the weight of a growing external debt burden, social spending has been cut by the Maduro regime. Support for Maduro among the working class and poor has weakened, while economic instability has been seized upon and aggravated by the Venezuelan right in its effort to overthrow the government and roll back the gains of the Bolivarian project that remain. A victory for the right, whose leaders have sought repeatedly since 1998 to destabilize the democratically elected governments of Venezuela, would undoubtedly be a disaster for the majority of the Venezuelan people. At the same time, the fate of the Bolivarian project raises questions for those of us on the left who believe another world is both necessary and possible. Despite its claims to be building a "socialism for the 21st century," Chavismo--under both Chávez and Maduro--in fact left private wealth and the power of capital intact, while bureaucratic influence and corruption has been a fact of its existence. Its important social achievements, as noted above, were based on a raw material export dependency, the dangers and contradictions of which have plagued Global South countries for decades. And now the Maduro regime is resorting to economic policies and political tactics that risk compromising the Bolivarian project still further and alienating it from its social base.

Socialists mobilize for a protest in Caracas
Socialists mobilize for a protest in Caracas (Marea Socialista | Facebook)

With these contradictions in mind, New Socialist publishes here an open letter by Marea Socialista: a revolutionary socialist organization in Venezuela that rejects the counter-revolutionary politics of the rightist opposition while articulating a left political project independent of Chavismo under Maduro.

It is important to note here, however, that while as socialists, we don't believe it helpful to ignore the profound problems of the Maduro regime and contradictions inherent in the Bolivarian project, we also absolutely reject imperialist interference in Venezuela. These two positions, despite the claims of some on the left, are not mutually exclusive. Thus in Canada, where New Socialist is published, it is crucial to point out how utterly hypocritical and insincere the Trudeau government is in its criticisms of the Venezuelan government. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland referred to the Maduro government as having "dictatorial intentions." This is from a government that is proceeding with $15 billion in arms sales to an actual, bona fide dictatorship in Saudi Arabia that chops peoples' heads off. Canada essentially supported a military coup in Honduras in 2009 and says little about the widespread human rights violations there, or in places like Colombia, where the assassination of trade unionists and Indigenous peoples is not uncommon. Conservative and Liberal governments and the Canadian media were for years calling the Chávez government "dictatorial" despite repeated electoral victories, while providing funding to opposition groups and feting opposition leaders in Ottawa (people active in the current destabilization campaign) who backed the failed 2002 coup attempt against Chavez. Whatever we think of Maduro, the Canadian government doesn't care about the wellbeing of the Venezuelan people, any more than it does of Saudi Arabians, or for that matter of Canadians.

Open Letter to the Autonomous Left and Critical Chavismo: It's Time to Forge a New Emancipatory Movement, by the Marea Socialista National Coordinating Committee

We write this open letter at a moment when a colossal fraud is being carried out against the Venezuelan people. The election of the Madurist Constituent Assembly represents the collapse of the country as we have known it for the last century, the bankruptcy of an exhausted rentier state and the dismantling of the republic. It poses a serious risk to the integrity of the nation and threatens its dissolution.

In this way it opens the door to a period of cruel imperial plunder and of mafia finance capital, operating under all kinds of "national slogans." Where the law will signify growing violence and repression, and where the penalties against, and suffering of, the most humble, oppressed, and excluded will reach a height unknown in the modern history of Venezuela.

Two irresponsible and criminal leaderships have dug themselves into trenches, from which they are launching a struggle over the control of looting--in alliance with big capital--of our natural resources, and the living conditions of our people. They are doing so despite the fact that it will provoke a bloody carnival.

The false polarization which these political leaderships have sought, and to a certain degree have achieved, is attempting to drag large sectors of the population into the defense of the spurious interests each one of them defends and pursues. And they are willing to do so, as today has shown once again, at the expense of thousands of lives, the integrity of hundreds of thousands and the misery of millions.

It is important to understand, in the first place, that the faint light of expectations for a return to relative normality, which could have existed until the day before the false constituent election, has completely vanished. Madurismo and the leadership of the PSUV [Partido Socialist Unido de Venezuela, or United Socialist Party of Venezuela] have crossed the threshold that departs from its authoritarian tendencies with a "democratic" and "peaceful" mask, in a turn toward an open counterrevolutionary initiative, with selective civil war methods that are already being applied. Secondly, the incapacity, the arrogance and elitism manifested by the leadership of the MUD [Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, or Democratic Unity Roundtable], their brazen wager on minoritarian violence and U.S. interference, has left no possibilities of achieving democratic triumph for those who sincerely, but mistakenly, followed them, risked their lives, and even lost them, believing that this would achieve progressive change.

Beyond the war of numbers and images with which, today and in the coming days, they will try to legitimize the election of ostensible constituent representatives, the fact is that July 30, 2017, will be remembered as the day in which we entered fully into a dark period, of tumultuous times, ever more violent and difficult. These times require strong individual and collective responses.

The next months or weeks will determine the political, social, cultural and economic terrain, including the territorial integrity of the country, for the coming years, or decades. In light of this, no one can remain indifferent, or believe that they will be exempt from the consequences these times will bring to the nation and its people.

But these are also times of ruptures, of the coming apart of old hegemonies, of the collapse of illusory beliefs, and the end of false loyalties. These are, above all, times of gestation and the birth of new hopes.

Today, on one side, are those who, in the face of the threats of American imperialism and the leadership of the MUD, blackmail the leadership of the government/PSUV and the country, and display an automatic and uncritical solidarity with Madurismo. On another side, are those who, in rejecting the authoritarianism, the shameless repression, the surrender, and the misery which the PSUV/government is bringing on us, mistakenly believe, in the absence of alternatives, that the leadership of the MUD can be useful for rescuing the Constitution of 1999 and democracy, and stopping violence.

But there is a third sector that has been gaining strength and growing over the last months, and which has formed its character and has begun to appear as a new political point of reference outside of these two camps--has, in fact, become a political phenomenon. This is what the local and international press has first called "critical Chavismo," and now tries to label "non-Madurist Chavismo." This sector also includes militants, and leftist or democratic groups who, perhaps because they do not originate from within Chavismo, have been made invisible in the media.

It is to a substantial part of this sector that we address this open letter, including its left, critical, and autonomous part, which maintains the emancipatory dreams that cut through the first decade of the 21st century in our country, and in the rest of Latin America; that part which is capable of confronting, without fear, the necessary critical balance sheet of the Bolivarian process and of Chávez.

Those who began to organize against the brutal bureaucratization that led the leadership of the PSUV and its "allies" in the Gran Polo Patriótico (GPP) to equate the party with the state. To those who took steps to confront the decree of the Orinoco Mining Arc, and decided to struggle against the rapid incursion of Special Economic Zones, and the expansion of the extractivist frontier, the deepening of the primary-export sector of the country, and the submission to financial capital. To those who rejected the authoritarian advance, the subjugation of human, economic and social rights, and who sought to re-establish the Constitution of 1999, that is today, in the country, the only form of defending a democracy that is dying.

To those who repudiate the continuous payment of illegitimate foreign debt at the cost of the hunger and health of the people. To those who are tired of the impunity of the leadership and the corrupt embezzlement of the nation. To those who reject foreign interference because they maintain the Bolivarian dreams of fighting for a new independence. To those who position themselves in the terrain of a new left, critical of its own legacy, which points out and searches for proposals to overcome the gravity of the civilizational crisis which the system of capital has brought us. To those who struggle against gender oppression, racial segregation, and the cultural and material oppression of indigenous peoples. To those who oppose the destruction of nature and of life, and who propose and search for sustainable alternatives to the extractivist and predatory model of development. To those who struggle against the exploitation of labor, to those honest unions and workers' councils who fight the boss, whether the boss is a private capitalist or state official. To those youth and students who with courage are defending their future in the streets, in the public and private universities, including in government universities, despite the retaliation and intimidation they face.

We are many, but we have been separated for a long time. Have tried, many times without success, to inoculate ourselves with distrust in order to remain divided. Each of us has been retaliated against, persecuted and accused of being traitors and agents of the CIA, or of playing into the hands of the right. But everyone has a limit and each one of us has been reaching our own. Today we have to defeat distrust, process the nuances of our diverse ideological provenances, and build--recognizing and respecting the vital diversity that we express--a common space of reflection, elaboration, and action.

In recent months we have shared spaces and platforms to struggle for common goals. Spaces that have been useful also to recognize ourselves, and to learn and process, not without stumbling, some of our differences in perspective as we look for syntheses that will help our fight. Spaces that have to be maintained and enlarged because the struggles that they grew out of, and their meaning, have become more necessary than ever before.

But today we are calling for another initiative to be set up, one of more comprehensive and strategic scope. One that helps to overcome the vacuum of global orientation and leadership in which our people have been left as a result of the defeat of a project that dreamed of liberation, and the treason or defection of those who believed their leaders.

It is from a critical and self-critical appraisal of the errors of the Bolivarian process that we can build from foundations a project of our nation, and of our America. It is about building a democratic, plural, inclusive movement of currents of thought and emancipatory action. With respect for the particular identities and in search of advancing the articulation of a struggle for the construction of a new synthesis of elaboration and political action.

What we are proposing is an arduous and complex task. But the times are arduous and complex. It is an hour of definitions and taking on challenges, of winning the majority of political age and becoming independent from all types of guardianships. It is the hour of furnaces, of putting our hands to work, in order to forge a new emancipatory movement.

First published at in Spanish. Translated by Jeffery R. Webber for New

Further Reading

From the archives