Socialist Appeal - British section of the International Marxist Tendency: the Marxist voice of labour and youth.
thumb_oil_workersChavez has announced sweeping measures of nationalisation. This represents a big step forward for the Venezuelan revolution and would be a serious blow against capitalism and imperialism. Big enemies are lining up to stop this process, the most dangerous being inside the Bolivarian movement itself. It is now time to go all the way and put an end to capitalism in Venezuela and spread the revolution to the rest of Latin America.
The announcement of sweeping measures of nationalization will be greeted with enthusiasm by workers in all countries. It represents a big step forward for the Venezuelan revolution and a serious blow against capitalism and imperialism.

On Tuesday, 15 May James Ingham, the BBC News correspondent in Caracas, published an article entitled Nationalisation sweeps Venezuela, which begins:

"Private investors and the political opposition hate it, President Hugo Chávez's supporters love it. A whirlwind of nationalisations and threats to private companies is changing Venezuela's economic climate and threatens to widen a tense social divide.

"Mr Chávez is stepping up his campaign to turn Venezuela into a socialist state.

"He is taking more control of the country's assets and warning companies that do not agree with his vision that he will take them over."

Immediately after taking office, the President announced a far-reaching nationalisation programme: "Everything that was privatised will be nationalised,'' he stated. So far he's keeping to his word.

Nationalization of oil

On 1 May, Labour Day, the last remaining private oil companies in the country were taken over. President Chávez told cheering workers during a ceremony at the José Oil processing plant: "This is the true nationalisation of our natural resources... Today we are closing a perverse cycle."

The Orinoco Belt Project, intended to develop one of the world's largest reserves, was previously controlled by six foreign companies: US-based ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Exxon Mobil, along with the UK's BP, Norway's Statoil and France's Total. These giant foreign monopolies were preparing to reap huge profits from the venture. Now the state oil company PDVSA will control at least 60% of the projects, the profits from which will return to Venezuela. Negotiations are continuing about continuing shareholdings and the possibility of compensation for the refineries.

Is it permissible from a socialist point of view to enter into agreements with foreign capitalists or to pay compensation for nationalized companies? That depends on a number of factors. In the early 1920s, Lenin was prepared to offer concessions to foreign capitalists to develop Siberia, which the young Soviet Republic was not in a position to do. There were even negotiations with American capitalists, mainly organized by the wealthy US businessman Arnold Hammer. But they came to nothing because the imperialists wanted to destroy the Soviet state, not trade with it.

The question of compensation also is not a question of principle. Marx raised the possibility of buying out the capitalists in England. Trotsky also said that in the USA it would be possible to pay compensation to the capitalists in return for peacefully handing over the factories and minimise the possibility of violence. But what is not permissible is the reformist idea of buying the industries at market value, which would render the whole idea of nationalization impossible. A possible slogan would be: nationalization with minimum compensation on the basis of proven need. This would pay a certain amount to small shareholders but nothing at all to the "fat cats".

Venezuela has only considered agreements based on the book value of the projects rather than their much larger current net worth. In principle, this would be acceptable, since Venezuela has considerable resources and is able to pay - on condition that the industries are handed over without delay and with no sabotage. But it is extremely doubtful that these terms would be acceptable to the imperialists and the big foreign companies. In any case, government sources have said that there may not be compensation at all in some cases.

The BBC correspondent comments acidly: "While Mr Chávez proclaimed at the handover ceremony that he had brought oil back to the people, and freed Venezuela of North American imperialism, sceptics were watching with concern. Analysts predict PDVSA will struggle to manage these difficult oil fields. They say that without the experience and expertise of the private firms, production will fall."

It is the same old song we have heard so often! The bourgeois can never accept that it is possible to run an economy without the kind assistance of private bankers and capitalists. But history shows otherwise. The experience of the first Five Year Plans in the USSR proves not only that it is possible to run a vast country without private capitalists but that a nationalized planned economy, even one run on bureaucratic lines, can give excellent results.

For years the propagandists of Capital have been assiduously spreading the myth that capitalism works better than a planned economy and the fairy story that the wonders of the market in the long run will solve all problems, to which Keynes famously replied: in the long run we are all dead.

A simple historical example will immediately disprove the central thesis of the pro-marketeers. In the Second World War, when Hitler's armies were sweeping through Europe, and Britain found itself alone and with its back against the wall, what did the British bourgeois do? Did they say: we must leave everything to private enterprise and the "invisible hand of the market"? No! They centralized the economy, introduced elements of planning, rationing, the direction of labour, and even nationalized sections of industry necessary to war production. Why did they do this? Because it gave better results.

The application of market economics in Latin America has been an unmitigated disaster for the masses, who did not benefit from the economic growth of the past decade, which has only served to increase the huge profits of the bankers, capitalists and, above all, giant foreign monopolies like Exxon. The concern of these gentlemen is not that the Venezuelans lack expertise to exploit difficult oil fields, but that the owners of Exxon will be deprived of their fat profits.

Even the BBC correspondent is forced to admit that these measures will help the poorest sections of the population, the people who voted for Chávez and desire a fundamental change in society:

"The poor could benefit as profits will be spent on social projects." But then he immediately adds a poisonous note: "but there is concern that this will be at the expense of long-term investment in the business. The multinationals can of course stay as minority partners, but if they don't get a good deal from compensation negotiations, they will leave."

This is really scandalous! These foreign monopolies have been plundering the oil wealth of Venezuela for generations. They have extracted a vast amount of loot at the expense of the people of Venezuela. For most of the time they did not even pay taxes. Yet now, when the people of Venezuela are taking back what is their own property, these fat, pampered vultures are demanding compensation. It is the Venezuelan people who should be demanding compensation from the transnationals for all the wealth they have robbed for decades.

The big foreign companies are using the compensation issue to blackmail Venezuela. They basically say: "you must not stop us from robbing you. It is our right and we insist on continuing. If you refuse, we will use our considerable muscle to sabotage you. We will pull out of Venezuela, cancel all contracts and cut off all external investments. We will organize an international boycott of Venezuela. We will ruin you. We will starve you into submission!"

Next on the nationalisation list is Venezuela's main telecoms company, CANTV, which was privatised in 1991. Since then it has made handsome profits for its owners, but its coverage has never spread to the very poorest in the country. Most poor Venezuelans rely on the network of shops run by phone companies that are filled with calling booths, or they make calls from stalls run on the streets, where mobile phones are tied to a table and users pay to borrow phones.

From June, the state will take control of the firm, turning it, in the words of Chávez, from a "capitalist private company to a state run socialist enterprise". The long lines of people waiting to phone home will be a thing of the past. He plans to install more than a million new lines and cut the cost of calls. "By 2011, every area with more than 500 residents will have access to landlines," he said.

Other companies to be nationalized include the country's main electricity provider, Electricidad de Caracas. Cement and steel manufacturers that export the majority of their goods have been told they will be expropriated if they do not start selling more to Venezuelans. Most important of all, the banks, which thought themselves immune until now, are also faced with nationalization:

"Private banking must give priority to financing the industrial sectors of Venezuela at low cost," Mr Chávez said recently. "If banks don't agree with this, it's better that they go, that they turn over the banks to me, that we nationalise them and get all the banks to work for the development of the country, and not to speculate and produce huge profits."

The banks in Venezuela have made huge profits in the last period. The Economist (8 May) commented: "It may be difficult for banks to protest or resist, especially since they have registered strong profit growth - up 33% in 2006 - thanks to booming domestic credit demand amid fast-paced economic expansion (averaging more than 12% in the last three years). Even short of nationalisation, the government is said to be contemplating other reforms to the sector, which might include a cap on bank profits (with the excess going to social development projects), and further direct control over the setting of interest rates and the allocation of credit."

Even if Chávez delays nationalization of the banks and introduced such controls, this will make the running of the banks on a capitalist basis impossible and therefore it will end in nationalization. The nationalization of the banks is absolutely essential if Venezuela is to finally break with capitalism. The banks are an essential instrument of economic policy and a powerful lever. The control of credit is an essential element in a socialist planned economy and must be in the hands of the state. This will enable the state to allocate resources and investment according to the general needs of society, not the profits of a few wealthy parasites.

A class question

Mr. Ingham sums up the reaction to the nationalization announcements: "It's a nervous time for investors and private companies. But for the millions of people who rely on the president and his financial help, they will be content that money appears to be moving from the rich to the poor." These words of an enemy of the Bolivarian revolution and socialism adequately express the reality of the class conflict that has been developing in Venezuela over more than a decade and has now reached a critical turning point. The question of nationalization lies at the heart of this critical stage, and upon the resolution of this issue the future of the revolution depends.

The news was received with jubilation by the workers, peasants and poor people of Venezuela, who are looking to Hugo Chávez to carry out his promise to make the Venezuelan revolution irreversible. This can only be done by directly challenging the so-called sacred right of private property. Unless economic power is taken out of the hands of the counterrevolutionary oligarchy, the Bolivarian revolution could never be victorious and the gains of the revolution would never be safe.

Equally predictable was the response of the imperialists of every country. There has been a howl of protest from all sides. The media is full of hair-raising scare stories about the threat of the "communist dictatorship" in Venezuela. They overlook the small detail that President Hugo Chávez in the last decade has won more elections, referenda and other popular consultations than any other political leader in the world. In the presidential elections of last December he won the biggest electoral landside in Venezuelan history.

"Democrats" like George W Bush and Tony Blair are only in favour of democracy when it does not threaten the interests of the bankers, landlords and capitalists. But the moment the people elect a government that tries to change society and challenges wealth and privilege, their attitude changes immediately. In April 2002, the CIA engineered a coup in Venezuela that would have installed a bloody dictatorship like that of Pinochet in Chile. The very next day Washington recognized the new government, led by the businessman Carmona, who had never been elected by anybody. So much for the "democratic" credentials of US imperialism.

What really worries them is the fact that, in order to carry the Bolivarian Revolution forward, Hugo Chávez is beginning to take bold measures against private property, nationalizing companies and land belonging to the Venezuelan oligarchy and big foreign transnationals. They are terrified that this example will be followed in other countries (this is already happening) and that the workers of Europe and the United States will begin to demand similar measures against big companies that exploit their workers to extract huge profits, damage the environment with oil spills and other forms of contamination and close factories as if they were matchboxes in order to earn bigger profits by plundering poor countries.

The hue and cry over "press freedom"

Particularly disgusting has been the reaction in the western media. As I write here in Mexico City, the television on all channels has been broadcasting every half hour noisy protests against the cancellation of the license of RCTV, which is being presented as an attack on "the freedom of expression." The television company in question has for years been spewing out the most appalling and mendacious propaganda against the elected government, including personal attacks against the President, who is repeatedly slandered as a lunatic and worse. It has repeatedly issued calls for the violent overthrow of the government and the assassination of Hugo Chávez.

This is not just some innocent group of television journalists standing up for the defence of liberty. On the contrary, this company has long been at the centre of the counterrevolutionary plot to destabilize and overthrow a government that has been freely elected by the people. In April 2002, it was the real organizing centre of the coup, appealing to Venezuelans to support the putsch, issuing false reports of a government massacre. It refused point-blank to allow elected ministers to put their case on television.

In other words, this was one of the neuralgic points for the preparation of a coup that aimed to install a dictatorship in Venezuela that would have cost countless lives. It was one of the main instruments of the oligarchy and the CIA. In any other country, the station would have been closed down long ago and its directors put on trial. In Venezuela nobody has been arrested - which they certainly should have been - and the station has been permitted to operate right up to the point when its license expired. The authorities have quite rightly refused to renew its license, which they are legally entitled to do. That is all. Therefore all the sound and fury whipped up by the gutter press about the so-called attack on press freedom in Venezuela should be rejected with contempt for the lying hypocrisy it is.

The so-called free press of the western world is in reality the private property of a handful of super-rich media moguls like Rupert Murdoch. Far from being champions of free speech, these hardened reactionaries are the spokespeople of imperialism, the banks and the big monopolies. They zealously defend the status quo, that is, the enslavement of the peoples of the entire world by a handful of wealthy parasites. They are the most implacable enemies of freedom and progress everywhere.

The workers of the world will not be fooled by this shrill campaign in the media. They will understand that what is at stake is a life-and-death struggle between antagonistic classes, which is unfolding on a world scale. They will immediately grasp the fact that the same yellow press that systematically lies and slanders the workers every time they go on strike to defend their interests against the bosses, has reasons of its own for attacking Chávez and Venezuela, and that these reasons have nothing to do with what the papers write.

Latin American revolution

All over Latin America the masses are stirring. In Ecuador we have the election of Rafael Correa, who is said to model himself on Chávez. He is locked in a battle with Congress, and has the backing of over 80 percent of the people. In Bolivia, Evo Morales, encouraged by the nationalizations in Venezuela, is raising the question of nationalization of the country's natural resources:

"The neo-liberal governments gave away hills, rivers and mining concessions. We have to start recovering those concessions," Morales said before starting the process of nationalising the gas industry. Just as in Venezuela, the Bolivian government is faced with the fierce resistance of the oligarchy, with Washington and the big transnational companies behind. The BBC correspondent in Caracas expresses the fears of the imperialists:

"The changes in Venezuela are being reflected elsewhere in Latin America. Mr Chávez's allies in Bolivia and Ecuador are making similar moves."

In Bolivia, the state energy company YPFB said that it would take control of producing and marketing oil and natural gas in the country. In this year's May Day address, Morales promised to take greater control of the economy from foreign companies:

"If we really want to live in a dignified Bolivia then we must take the path of anti-imperialism, anti-liberalism and anti-colonialism my friends," he said.

The government had hoped to finish nationalising the telecoms industry by May Day, but talks with Telecom Italia - which owns half of the biggest telecoms company - are currently stalled. Telecom Italia said last week that it was considering seeking international arbitration over the sale of Entel after Bolivia issued two decrees aimed at renationalising the company. Thus the imperialists are resorting to every trick and manoeuvre to thwart the will of the people and sabotage their attempts to regain control over their natural resources. But the movement for nationalization is continuing to grow, drawing encouragement from the Venezuelan example. This is seen in Washington as an attempt by Chávez to export revolution.

The launching of Telesur, the all-Latin American television channel that broadcasts from Caracas to millions of people throughout the continent and beyond was a direct response to the control of the airwaves that US imperialism exercises through CNN. Chávez has also said he wants to pull Venezuela out of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The President said he had ordered Finance Minister Rodrigo Cabezas to begin formal proceedings to withdraw from the two international bodies. President Chávez has spoken of his ambition to set up what he calls a Bank of the South, backed by Venezuelan oil revenues, which would finance projects in South America. This step will also be seen as a threat to the stranglehold that imperialism holds over the continent through these financial institutions. The example is contagious. In Nicaragua, Ortega has said he is negotiating with the IMF "to leave the Fund" and that he hoped to "get out of the prison" of IMF debt.

The strategists of imperialism have come to the same conclusions as the Marxists: the conditions are ripe for a general revolutionary movement in Latin America that will have enormous consequences in the United States and on a world scale. The eye of the storm remains Venezuela, where, after a decade of struggle, the revolution is reaching the point of no return.

Here in Mexico, the measures announced by Chávez have unnerved the ruling class, which is already faced with a mass revolt that has not ceased since the electoral fraud last year. A Mexican friend said to me: "This is astonishing. They are making attacks on the government of Chávez every half hour on all channels and defending the rights of Venezuelan journalists, as if they were talking about events in Mexico." These remarks go right to the heart of the matter. There is very good reason for the ferocity of these attacks against Venezuela on the part of the imperialists and their stooges in Latin America. They rightly fear that the Venezuelan revolution will not stop at the borders but will spread to other countries. The latest nationalizations set an example that others will want to follow. This sets the alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power from Washington to Mexico City and beyond.

Here in Mexico Calderón was put in office by an electoral fraud only last year, after massive popular protests involving millions of workers and peasants. On July 31, alone, three million people were on the streets demanding the recognition of the PRD candidate López Obrador. In Oaxaca there was an insurrection that lasted for months, including the setting up of a soviet (the APPO), people's militia and the taking over of the television.

The Oaxaca insurrection was crushed by brute force with hundreds of people arrested and an unknown number murdered by the security forces. There was, of course, not a word about this in our "free press", which only starts shouting about "dictatorship" when the interests of the rich are threatened. Everybody in Mexico knows that López Obrador won the election and that Calderón has not been democratically elected. But Washington and London recognise Calderón and are trying by all means to keep him in power, although they will not succeed.

The movement in Mexico has not ended. It has only just begun. On May 2 there was a general strike that acquired huge dimensions. A national strike committee has been set up to organize another general strike. There is a ferment in the unions, where the right wing "charro" leaders are being consistently defeated by the rank and file. The whole situation here is explosive. Is there any wonder that the Mexican ruling class, and its masters in Washington, are terrified of what is happening in Venezuela?

However, the options of imperialism in Venezuela are now very limited. US imperialism, for all its wealth and military power, finds itself paralysed. In the past they would have intervened directly, sending in the Marines. But this is not possible at the present time. They are embroiled in an unwinnable and unpopular war in Iraq. Bush is now the most unpopular President in US history. Opposition to the war is growing at all levels. It is unthinkable that even such a blockhead as Bush could launch another military adventure in Latin America at this time.

There remains the option of assassination, which the CIA has undoubtedly been preparing for some time. But even this holds serious risks for US imperialism. It would cause a wave of fury in Latin America and throughout the world, starting in Venezuela, where the first result would be the cutting off of oil supplies to the USA. It would cause a wave of anger and revulsion throughout the continent. There would probably not be a US embassy left standing in the region. The bitterness against the USA would last for generations and lead to further uprisings and explosions.

"Appetite comes with eating"

There is an old proverb: "appetite comes with eating." An increasing number of workers in Venezuela are pressing for workers' control and nationalization. This is the case with Inveval, where the workers have already taken over the plant and are running it successfully under workers' control. The same is true of Sanitarios Maracay, as we have reported in previous articles. These and other factories have organized Freteco, the front of occupied factories, which is expanding its influence and stepping up the campaign for nationalization. The President's declarations will give a new impulse to this movement.

SIDOR is the largest steel plant in the Andean region with a capacity of 4.2 million tons annually. SIDOR produces wire and pipes, including the kind of pipe that the Venezuelan national industry needs, and according to company reports, 63 percent of the production is directed to the Venezuelan market and 37 percent to exports.

The company was state property since its formation in 1962 until 1998 when it was privatized. 60 percent of the shares were acquired by a consortium named Amazonia, made up by the Argentinean firm Techint as a majority partner, as well as the Mexican Hylsamex, the Brazilian Uniminas, and the Venezuelan company Sivensa as minority partners. The Venezuelan government retained 20 percent of the shares and the remaining 20 percent were given to the workers of the plant.

Chris Carlson reported in Venezuelanalysis.com that on May 9 workers in Mérida held protests outside the SIDOR steel plant in Puerto Ordaz, demanding that the government nationalize the company. Workers of the SIDOR union gathered outside the plant yesterday, blocking the traffic, preventing entry to the plant starting in the early morning hours.

Chávez has warned that he would nationalize the company if they didn't meet the needs of domestic industry instead of exporting to foreign customers, although it seems that for the present the company will remain in private hands.

"As workers we are demanding a definitive answer to the situation," said Ulmaro Ramos, secretary of the union, on a local radio station. A spokesperson for the union stated that the workers are in favor of the president's intention to nationalize the company.

"We are supporting the president's announcement about the possibility to liberate the company which has been subjected to slavery of neo-liberal capitalism for the last 8 years," said José Meléndez, member of the union organization Alianza Sindical de Sidor. Meléndez said that when the plant was privatized there were 11,600 employees and that now there are only 5,700 workers who are "exploited and without any kind of benefits."

"We are not divided and we completely agree that the president should acquire the control of this company so that it can eventually be passed on to the control of the workers," said Meléndez.

What now?

Chávez has shown that it is possible for revolutionaries to make use of the institutions of bourgeois formal democracy to mobilize the masses for the transformation. He has conducted an intelligent policy that has enabled him to win one election after another, basing himself on a programme of revolutionary democratic demands and reforms that did not go beyond capitalism but served to rally and organize millions of workers and peasants to change society.

These victories have demoralized and demobilized the counterrevolutionary forces. The opposition, which made a serious effort to mobilize its forces to oust Chávez in December, is now hopelessly split and disoriented. The mood of the right wing is depressed and defeatist. The opposition now has no representation in the National Assembly as a result of their decision to boycott the elections in 2005. Chávez's sweeping victory (which even the bourgeois international observers did not dare to question) gives him a very strong hand to press forward with a socialist programme. He is doing just that, and he should be given credit for it.

However, the Revolution has still not passed the critical point where quantity becomes quality. Powerful forces are at work trying to halt the Revolution and weaken and sabotage it from within. The bourgeois counterrevolutionary forces are too weak to accomplish this task. It is being carried out by the Bolivarian bureaucracy - the right wing that represents a Fifth Column of the counterrevolution inside the Movement, and consistently works to isolate the President and sabotage his decrees.

Venezuela has not yet broken with capitalism but stands in an uneasy halfway position. There are great dangers in this. It is impossible to make half a revolution. The danger is that, by introducing some measures of nationalization and other progressive reforms, Chávez will make the operation of capitalism impossible, without having put in place the necessary mechanisms of planning and control that are the prior conditions for a socialist planned economy.

There are worrying signs that all is not well with the economy. Inflation is rising, which will hit the poorest sections hardest, and shortages are appearing at different levels. The capitalists are responding with a strike of capital and there is widespread sabotage, corruption and bureaucratic obstruction. The Economist comments:

"With a windfall in oil export income in recent years - oil brought in nearly US$59bn in 2006 - and bulging foreign reserves, the Chávez administration has funds to spare. However, when combined with its other spending obligations, especially costly social programmes and subsidies, this will put further pressure on an already widening budget deficit. The deficit was equivalent to 1.8% of GDP in 2006, and the Economist Intelligence Unit projects it will grow to 4.9% of GDP this year. (The true fiscal picture is worse, because some spending is channelled off-budget via the state-owned oil company and the national development fund.) GDP growth itself is slowing - to 5.8% this year and 3.2% in 2008, according to our forecasts.

"The radicalisation of policy under Mr Chávez, combined with signs of growing strains on the economy - evidenced not only in the deterioration of public finances and slowing growth but also persistent double-digit inflation, the highest rate in Latin America - are generating more fears among investors. The Caracas stock exchange index has been declining in recent days. Private direct investment has also been declining for several years, and this trend is apt to be exacerbated since January. Foreign direct investment was negative last year. The reduction in investment will further lower GDP growth over the medium term.

"In addition, the premium paid for the dollar on the black market has been climbing, with the bolívar weakening to around Bs3,950:US$1 (compared with a fixed official rate of Bs2,150:US$1), near to the low point in January of around Bs4,000:US$1. This will increase pressure on the government to devalue the official rate, although it will be reluctant to do so, given an annual inflation rate nearing 20%."

We welcome wholeheartedly the measures of nationalization. At the same however, we must insist that nationalisation must go hand in hand with genuine democratic workers' control and management. The economy must be run by the workers for the workers and measures must be taken to stop the bureaucrats taking control.

We must also point out that at this stage the process remains unfinished. It is entirely false to argue, as the bureaucrats and reformists do, that we must proceed slowly and gradually in order not to upset the bourgeois and provoke imperialism. The bourgeois are already sufficiently upset and the imperialists are more than sufficiently provoked.

By delaying the inevitable showdown between the classes, we can only give time for the counterrevolutionary forces to regroup and organize new plots against the revolution. More seriously, by allowing the capitalists to continue their sabotage, creating artificial scarcities and disorganizing production, there is a danger that the masses will become tired of so many privations and fall into apathy and indifference. That is precisely what the reactionaries want. Once the balance of forces begins to move against the revolution, the counterrevolutionaries will strike again. And they have plenty of hidden allies in the leadership of the Bolivarian Movement who wish to halt the revolution and are waiting for the opportunity to turn against the President. The danger is still present. We therefore must act with urgency to tackle the problem at its roots.

The struggle against bureaucracy

The final destiny of the Bolivarian Revolution will be decided by an internal struggle to purge the movement of alien class elements and transform it into an instrument fit to change society. The launching of the Unified Socialist Party (PSUV) provides the revolutionary workers, peasants and youth with a possibility to do this. They must strengthen the party and win over new layers of revolutionaries drawn from the masses and completely dedicated to the cause of socialism. They must expose and drive out the corrupt elements, careerists and bureaucrats who have joined the movement only to further their own interests and will betray it as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

The new party can become a genuine revolutionary workers' party only if it is scrupulously democratic. The rank and file must decide all questions and the leadership must be elected, revocable and composed of elements of proven honesty and dedication to the cause of socialism and the working class.

The trade unions are the other key element in the equation. The Marxists fight for trade union unity, while at the same time fighting for a democratic and militant trade union movement. The unions must give support to the progressive measures of the government, especially nationalizations, and fight to extend all measures to improve the living standards of the masses and strike blows against the oligarchy. But the unions must retain total independence from the state. Only free and independent unions can defend the interests of the workers, while simultaneously defending the revolutionary government against its enemies.

The twin enemies are opportunism and sectarianism. The fight against opportunism consists on the one hand in the fight against corruption, careerism and bureaucratism, on the other hand, the fight against alien ideas that have penetrated the movement, and especially sections of the leadership, who have succumbed to the influence of reformism and abandoned the revolutionary line.

What does this mean?

From the standpoint of the world working class the importance of these developments is self-evident. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the bourgeois have been organizing a furious campaign against the ideas of socialism and Marxism. They solemnly pronounced the end of communism and socialism. They were so self-assured that they even pronounced the end of history. But history has not ended. It has scarcely begun

After a decade and a half, the workers of the world can see the crude reality of capitalist domination. They promised a world of peace, prosperity and democracy. Now all the illusions of the bourgeoisie are in ruins. More and more people are becoming aware that capitalism offers no future for humanity.

There are the beginnings of an awakening everywhere: workers, peasants, young people, are on the march. The idea that revolution and socialism are off the agenda has been disproved in practice. The revolution has begun in Venezuela, and is spreading throughout Latin America, as when a heavy rock is thrown into a pond. The waves from the revolution are beginning to be felt in the USA and Europe. In Pakistan and India, in Russia and the Ukraine, people are asking: what is happening in Venezuela and what does it mean?

It is not necessary to be one hundred percent in agreement with Hugo Chávez, or to idealize the Bolivarian Revolution to understand the colossal significance of these events. Here for the first time in decades, an important world leader has proclaimed the need for world socialism and condemned capitalism as slavery. He has spoken publicly before millions of people about the need to read Marx, Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Trotsky.

Above all, Chávez has mobilized millions of workers, peasants and youth under the banner of socialist revolution. And he is attempting to carry out a programme of nationalization which, if it is carried to its conclusion, will signify the victory of the socialist revolution in a key country in Latin America and the spread of the revolution to the entire continent and beyond.

The significance of all this is not lost on the imperialists, who are doing all in their power to destroy the revolution in its cradle. They are mobilizing powerful forces to crush the Venezuelan Revolution. The workers of the world must mobilize the might of the international labour movement to stop them.

Defend the Venezuelan Revolution!

Long live socialism!

Hands off Venezuela!

Mexico City, Friday, May 18, 2007
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