From the new March-April 2014 issue of News & Letters:
World in View
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.
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.