Responding to a call from a listener of the programme, Ramon Gonzalez, Chávez explained that he had recently read the pamphlet which had been given to him by the Minister of Popular Power for Labour and Social Security, José Ramón Rivero. The minister is a former trade unionist from Bolivar who had told Chávez he was a Trotskyist when hearing of his intention to nominate him as minister of Labour.
"I cannot be classified as a Trotskyist, no, but I tend towards that, because I respect very much the thoughts of Leon Trotsky, and the more I respect him the more I understand him better. The permanent revolution for instance, is an extremely important thesis. We must read, we must study, all of us, nobody here can think he already knows", he stressed.
Chávez underlined Trotsky's idea about the conditions for socialism being ripe and said that this is certainly the case in Venezuela. "Leon Trotsky, in a pamphlet which I did not bring, I wanted to bring it but I forgot it. Well, I was reading it early in the morning, is the theory of transition, it is a short booklet, no more than 30, 40 pages, but it is worth its weight in gold, an extremely enlightening writer, Leon Trotsky. Then he says, when you talk Ramón, Rafael Ramón González Ramírez, from Valera, he is telling us in his call that in Venezuela the conditions are given for us to be a country, but a socialist country, a prosperous socialist country, socialistically developed, because when we talk about development we must be careful. Venezuela is going to be a developed country! Well, we must be careful, because it is not a question of copying the model from the North, that model is destroying the world, my friend, that is why I use this term that has just occurred to me: socialistically developed, environmentally developed", he said.
President Chávez said he had been struck by Trotsky's statement that in Europe and other countries, the conditions for proletarian revolution were not only ripe but have started to rot.
"Trotsky in this pamphlet, written at that time, between the two wars, after the First World War and with the Second World War about to break out, in the 1930s, ... What year was Trotsky assassinated? Nobody remembers? Well, that's homework for all of you present. Then he says, Rafael, that the conditions, according to his criteria at that time, that in Europe and other developed countries in the North, the conditions for proletarian revolution were not only ripe, but had started to rot, because what matures can also rot, this happens, it can happen. This expression struck me in a powerful way, Maria Cristina [Minister of Popular Power for Light Industry and Commerce], because I had never read it before, what this means is that the conditions can be there, but if we do not see them, if we do not understand them, if we are not able to seize the moment they start to rot, like any other product of the Earth, a mango, etc."
And then Chávez referred also to the central thesis of Trotsky's Transitional Programme, when he explained that "the historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership."
"Then", Chávez continued, "Trotsky points out something which is extremely important, and he says that [the conditions for proletarian revolution] are starting to rot, not because of the workers, but because of the leadership which did not see, which did not know, which was cowardly, which subordinated itself to the mandates of capitalism, of the great bourgeois democracies, the trade unions. Well, they became adapted to the system, the big Communist parties, the Communist International became adapted to the system, and then no one was able to take advantage, because of the lack of a leadership, of an intelligent, audacious and timely leadership to orient the popular offensive in those conditions. And then the Second World War came and we know what happened, and after the Second World War, and then the century ended with the fall of the Soviet Union and the fall of the so-called ‘real-existing' socialism".
This is a world apart from those who argue that there cannot be socialism in Venezuela because the level of consciousness of the workers "is not high enough". And, surprising though this might be, there are people even in Venezuela who argue precisely this. Chávez's words are also an attack against the leaders of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) who have refused to join the new United Socialist Party. The leaders of the PCV, a party that contains many honest and courageous working class militants, has played a lamentable role during the Bolivarian revolution. Instead of being a vanguard party, arguing from the beginning that socialism was the only way forward, they did precisely the opposite. They spent the first years of the revolution arguing strenuously that the Venezuelan revolution was just in its "anti-imperialist democratic phase" and that socialism was not on the agenda. Only when Chávez spoke about socialism did the PCV dare mention the S word. And even now, they are still insisting that the current "stage" is that of "national liberation", one which demands a "many sided alliance of classes and social layers, including the non-monopolistic bourgeoisie"!!! (from the Theses of the XIII Congress, 2007).
Since Chávez started talking about socialism in January 2005, this has become a major subject of debate in all corners of Venezuela. Chavez's statement that under capitalism there was no solution for the problems of the masses and that the road forward was socialism represented a major step forward in his political development. He had started trying to reform the system and to give the masses of the Venezuelan poor decent health and education services and land, and he had realised through his own experience and reading that this was not possible under capitalism.
But as soon as he mentioned socialism the reformists, bureaucrats and counter-revolutionary infiltrators within the Bolivarian movement panicked. They could not openly and publicly contradict the president because his words connected with the feelings and aspirations of the masses. Rather, they tried to water down the content of what he had said. Chief amongst these is Heinz Dieterich who has tried to develop a "theoretical" justification against socialism, but dressing it in the robes of "Socialism of the 21st century". Basically, he argues, socialism does not mean the expropriation of the means of production, but rather a mixed economy. That is to say, socialism, for Dieterich, really means .... capitalism. Like a magician, Dieterich thinks he can take Chávez's declaration in favour of socialism, put it in a hat, and pull out a capitalist rabbit.
However Chávez is very clear on what he thinks. In the last few months he has become increasingly impatient at the delaying tactics of the bureaucracy and the counter-revolution within the movement. He has made clear that when he talks of building socialism, he is talking about doing it now, not in the long distant future. In his comments about Trotsky he stressed the point:
"Well, here the conditions are given, I think that this thought or reflection of Trotsky is useful for the moment we are living through, here the conditions are given, in Venezuela and Latin America, I am not going to comment on Europe now, nor on Asia, there the reality is another, another rhythm, another dynamic, but in Latin America conditions are given, and in Venezuela this is a matter of course, to carry out a genuine revolution".
What a difference from the reformists and the Stalinists, who, even in present day Venezuela, still argue that the conditions are not ripe for revolution!
The December 2006 presidential elections marked yet another turn to the left in the Bolivarian revolution. The right wing of the Bolivarian movement is getting increasingly worried about the course events are taking, with Chávez talking of Trotskyism in the swearing in ceremony for the new Cabinet, and adopting an increasingly leftward course. The battle lines are drawn and the splits within the Bolivarian movement have become public and they have expressed themselves in the polemic about the founding of the new party.
Chávez is acutely aware of this and in the first meeting of promoters of the new United Socialist Party, on March 24th, he explained how "as the revolution deepens, as it expands, these contradictions will come out openly, even some that up until now had been covered up, they will intensify, because we are dealing here with economic issues, and there is nothing that hurts a capitalist more than his wallet".
Leading figures in some of the Bolivarian parties (particularly PODEMOS and the PPT, but also the PCV) have refused to join in the new United Socialist Party. The reason for this is clear, they fear this new party, they fear the breath of the revolutionary masses behind their neck, they fear all this talk of socialism. At a recent meeting on April 19th, where 16,000 promoters of the PSUV were sworn in, Chávez attacked a number of PODEMOS governors openly. "As far as I am concerned he has taken the mask off and joined the opposition" he said of Ramon Martinez, PODEMOS governor of Sucre. To Martinez's statement that he was in favour of a "democratic socialism", Chávez replied that the problem was that "I am a socialist and he is a social-democrat", and he added, "I am in favour of revolutionary socialism".
In talking about the need for a revolutionary leadership Chávez also quoted from Lenin:
"Now, the leadership, this is why I insist so much in the need for a party, because we have not had a revolutionary leadership up to the tasks of the moment we are living in, united, orientated as a result of a strategy, united, as Vladimir Illich Lenin said, a machinery able to articulate millions of wills into one single will, this is indispensable to carry out a revolution, otherwise it is lost, like the rivers that overflow, like the Yaracuy that when it reaches the Caribbean loses its riverbed and becomes a swamp".
The political thinking of Chavez is in tune and reflects the conclusions drawn by tens of thousands of revolutionary activists in Venezuela, in the factories, in the neighbourhoods, in the countryside. They are growing increasingly impatient and want to the revolution to be victorious once and for all.
The recent events in which Sanitarios Maracay workers' were arrested and beaten up when they were on their way to a march in Caracas in defence of workers' control and expropriation exemplify in a nut-shell the contradictions and dangers facing the Venezuelan revolution. The workers have occupied the factory and have been producing under workers' control for nearly 5 months, and demand the expropriation under workers' control. They have organised a factory committee to run the company and organise the struggle. This is exactly the practical application of what Trotsky talks about in the Transitional Programme.
"Sit-down [occupation] strikes, ..., go beyond the limits of "normal" capitalist procedure. Independently of the demands of the strikers, the temporary seizure of factories deals a blow to the idol, capitalist property. Every sit-down strike poses in a practical manner the question of who is boss of the factory: the capitalist or the workers? If the sit-down strike raises this question episodically, the factory committee gives it organized expression. Elected by all the factory employees, the factory committee immediately creates a counterweight to the will of the administration."
This is precisely what happened at Sanitarios Maracay and it was the intervention of the comrades of the Revolutionary Marxist Current, through the Revolutionary Front of Occupied Factories (FRETECO) that help the workers draw the last conclusions of their own experience. Contrary to what some left wing trade union leaders are arguing in Venezuela, the role of trade unions in revolutionary times is not simply to conduct the day to day struggle for immediate demands on wages and conditions, but rather to elevate the workers to the idea of taking power. As Trotsky explains in the Transitional Programme: "Trade unions are not ends in themselves; they are but means along the road to proletarian revolution.", and he adds "during a period of exceptional upsurges in the labor movement ... it is necessary to create organizations ad hoc, embracing the whole fighting mass: strike committees, factory committees, and finally, soviets."
If the trade union leaders in Venezuela were to wage a serious campaign of factory occupations in which the workers demanded that the bosses "open up their books" (one of the demands raised by the Transitional Programme) and subsequently argue for expropriation under workers' control, the question of power would be posed automatically. This is precisely what the CMR has been arguing in Venezuela as opposed to those who put at the centre of their programme the question of elections within the UNT.
On the other hand, the arrest and repression against Sanitarios Maracay workers raises another very important issue, which Trotsky also raised in the Transitional Programme in the conditions of Europe in the 1930s: the question of arming the workers and peasants. In Venezuela we have a situation where the old state apparatus, though weakened, is still in place. The governor of Aragua (a counter-revolutionary disguised as a Bolivarian) is able to use the police to attack the workers, and the National Guard acted on the side of the police.
This serves to underline the point that the Marxists have always stressed: the workers cannot take the ready-made state machinery and use it for their own purposes. In Venezuela the question of the arming of the workers and peasants and setting up of peoples' militias (that the Transitional Programme talks about) is a crucial one, and one that could be carried out quite simply. If the workers were to join the reserve force and territorial guard, in an organised way factory by factory, this would go a long way in creating a peoples' militia under the control of the workers.
The tasks ahead
Above all, the Sanitarios Maracay incident shows how dangerous the situation is. The counter-revolution is becoming increasingly alarmed at the leftward course of the revolution. They are sabotaging any experience of workers' control (including using delaying tactics in order to bankrupt Inveval, which is also under workers' control, see Venezuela: Inveval Workers protest in front of the Miraflores Palace ). In the recent months they have also tried again to sabotage the economy by creating scarcity of basic foodstuffs, and now they are preparing to mobilise on the streets around May27th when the broadcasting licence for RCTV (the opposition TV channel which participated in the organisation of the coup) will not be renewed.
The way forward is to expropriate the oligarchy and build a new revolutionary state based on factory and neighbourhood committees. In order to carry this out a revolutionary party and a revolutionary leadership are needed. This is why all revolutionaries should be part of the new United Socialist Party, accompanying the masses in their experience and raising in it the ideas of Trotsky, the ideas of Marxism, which provide the most accurate guide for the victorious completion of the revolution. This is exactly what the comrades of the Revolutionary Marxist Current
are doing and we appeal to all genuine revolutionary socialists in
Venezuela to join them