Venezuela protests

From the new March-April 2014 issue of News & Letters:

World in View

Venezuela protests

What began in early February as a small student protest against a sexual assault at a university campus in the state of Tachira, which the government repressed, spread to a number of other campuses and cities, where demonstrations were also repressed and students arrested. Seizing the moment, a faction of the right-wing opposition party called for more protests. They demand that President Maduro, who took office after the death of Hugo Chavez and subsequently won a presidential election, be removed from office.

This is seen as an attempt to take over the opposition by its most aggressive, right-wing faction. There have been a number of protests, deaths and arrests, with charges and counter-charges as to who is responsible.

SOCIAL-ECONOMIC CONTRADICTIONS

A number of factors have allowed the right-wing opposition to mobilize in its attempt to destroy the social transformation occurring in Venezuela since the 1999 election of Chavez. Most prominent has been the recent social-economic situation: a shortage of basic goods such as milk, oil, sugar, margarine, cornmeal; a lack of decent basic public services in many areas; the imposition of new austerity measures; a rapid increase in inflation that threatens to become runaway; and insecurity in the streets.

According to official figures, more than 9 million people, a third of the population, live in poverty. Nearly three-quarters of public sector workers earn wages below the cost of basic goods, and families need more than two minimum-wage jobs. Only in the military are wage increases higher than inflation.

A NEEDED REVOLUTIONARY LEFT

All this has put into doubt Chavez’s project of building 21st-century socialism within capitalism. The reactionary Right, along with the U.S., would like to maneuver and manipulate within this contradictory project to bring back full-fledged neoliberal capitalism.

The question, however, isn’t so much what the Right will do to try to destroy some progressive advances. The crucial question is whether a revolutionary Left of workers, youth, and urban popular movements can rescue the banner of socialism from a reformist project with state-capitalist tendencies, and move it toward revolution in permanence. To do this, the movement will need to move beyond the sterile division created by both the government and its opposition.

—Eugene Walker

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