As Chavismo is coming to an End, a Brief Balance Sheet |Derya Koca
Venezuela is facing the biggest economic crisis, more precisely a disaster, in its history. The economic life is paralyzed. Anti-Maduro movement is growing stronger. They are trying to topple down Maduro by sabotages. State of emergency announcements, drought, food shortage, hyperinflation and corruption is eating away Venezuela. And this country where the left is stronger than anywhere else in the world and had seen the longest rule of reformist leaders, is now on the edge of the cliff. The failure of Chavismo have heightened the right in its most powerful position in the last decades. Venezuela is in the middle of double crisis: economic crisis and the crisis of Chavismo.
Venezuela is facing a rough economic crisis for a while. Venezuela have 20% of all oil reserves in the world that is the biggest share among the petrol owned countries. 95% of its export revenues and 55% of its GDP is comprised of oil revenues. In short, the backbone of the country is oil revenues. The main reason of the crisis is the decrease in oil prices. There are 3 reasons for the decrease in oil prices: Firstly, USA started producing oil from shale gas and thus became the biggest oil producer in the whole world. Now USA imports only 29% of its oil needed. This affects Venezuela directly because Venezuela’s biggest customer for oil is USA.
Secondly, a great deal of OPEC countries (Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Venezuela) do not decrease the oil production since it’s the first degree source of income for them. Production is more than 30 million barrels per day and oil is depreciated against decreasing demand. Imperialist rivalry, particularly Saudi Arabia, is the biggest obstacle for decreasing oil production. By decreasing the prices, every one of them try to rule each other. However, because of the imperialist competition, all of them are deepening the crisis.
Third reason is the economic recession in China. China is one of the biggest markets in the world . Because of the economic recession, there is a a downward movement in China’s demand. This contributed to the decrease of oil revenues. Venezuela is the third export country after USA and India and the recession in China affects Venezuela as well.
For the last two months, the crisis in Venezuela has turned in to an economic collapse. Economy has been recessing for 4% since 2014. Inflation has reached to a 720%. People can’t access the most basic foods (especially rice and sugar) and medicine. Number of patients lose her life in the hospitals is raising due to the medicine shortage. A serious sugar scarcity appeared. In fact, Coca Cola has stopped its production in Venezuela because of sugar scarcity. Poor people are waiting in rows for hours in front of the state owned food stores to buy some food.
Its impossible for the people to shop in private stores. Food scarcity have paved the way for black marketing and hoarding. In private stores products are sold up to 100 times more than the state owned stores. Although Venezuelan government still assume 1 dollar is 10 Bolivar, in businesses (most of which only accepts cash) and black market this rate rises up to 1000 Bolivar. 1 of every 4 people is unemployed. Due to the hyper-inflation wages are melted into nothing. Although, Venezuelan public have benefited the reformist policies of Chavismo by the social aids in fact nothing has changed in terms of capital and thus people are living in poverty.
Now all of these are topped with the drought. The biggest dams of the country dried out, there is no electricity production. Due to the power cuts, public institutions are open only for 2 days per week since the beginning of May. Since the electricity production has stopped, economic life is getting more and more paralyzed. There are frequent water cuts as well.
Is it Dead End for Chavismo?
Since 2000’s uprisings the left became gain enormous power and popularity in Latin America. As a result, the first round of the reformist leaders in Latina America, Chaves some to the presidency in 1999. In the years with Chavez, many reforms were successed thanks to the general growth of world economy and the oil revenues of the country. However, Chavez’s nationalization was limited with the bankrupt companies and those companies was also paid. In other words, there was no radical process of nationalization. However, Chavez’s reformist rule which imprisoned workers’ opposition and was based on oil revenues, was shown as a socialist rule by vast majority of the left. Chavez was told as a great socialist leader. Yet, none of these claims were true.
Maduro was elected as president in 2013 after Chavez. As a charismatic leader, Chavez was able to persuade the masses to vote for PSUV. Venezuela had not yet hit by the economic crisis. However, the elections held in the second presidential year of Maduro (December 2015) showed that things will never be the same again for Chavismo.
Maduro’s party PSUV was heavily defeated in the elections. The number of PSUV’s MP’s dropped from 99 to 66 whereas the right-wing opposition MUD increased its number from 66 to 99 in the parliament. Higher bureaucracy and state is still in the hands Maduro but right is gaining power in Venezuela. Because, despite the huge public support and long years of rule PSUV couldn’t cross the limits of classical reformism and solve the public problems. Yet, the public movement was so powerful that it repelled the coup against Chavez. Having all these public movement behind his back, Chavez only promised small social reforms which were feeding on the oil revenues. But today Maduro only has a corrupt party and a budget without oil revenues. He has no power to implement any of his promises.
Will Maduro share the same destiny with Rouseff?
Right-wing coalition MUD has two thirds of the parliament. Backed by the imperialist-capitalist powers, MUD seeks every opportunity to enlarge the reactionary movement against Maduro. A possibility of coup is not a secret, it has been talked about openly. Leader of the right Henrique Capriles called for the army “to make its choice”. In February 2014, he organized big protests against Maduro and 43 died in those protests. The same coup made against Dilma Rousseff by “impeachment” is now being staged in Venezuela. MUD rolled up its sleeves to end the presidency of Maduro and hold a referendum.
Right-wing powers wants to end the presidency of Maduro and to crown the election victory with presidency. However, according to Venezuelan laws, in order to hold a referendum Maduro had to complete half of his term of office. Shortly after this in May, opposition obtained authorization to start a petition for holding a referendum. According to law it is enough to start the referendum process with 200 thousand signatures. As to MUD, they gathered 9 times the required amount and handed over. If they pass the first stage then in the second MUD will gather 4 million signatures (one fifth of the voters) and will have the chance to hold the referendum for Maduro.
Supreme Court prevented the MUD coalition to have the qualified majority in the parliament by dropping the MP status of three candidates who won the right to enter the parliament. Now it tries to buy some time by extending the enquiry process of the petition. By using bureaucracy PSUV tries to block the right. They try to cling to the state power since they don’t have the public support anymore. In short, Maduro may not be able to hold presidency for a long time.
Maduro does not have many choices. He tries to stay in power by state of emergency announcements, calling public to unite against the “coup and the civil war”, using the power of higher bureaucracy and police. In May, 3 right-wing anti-madura protests were held and thousands have joined these protests. The main demand is to hold referendum against Maduro’s presidency. Against sabotages, Maduro threatens with “nationalization and imprisonment”. Different from Rouseff, Maduro holds the state bureaucracy in his hands. This may prevent his fall for now but it won’t last long.
Any Way Out?
One cannot consider Maduro’s faith apart from reformism’s faith. We have already stated that without the oil revenues reformism is not possible. After all, Bolibourgeosie have never considered abolishing the capitalist relationships. Mauro follows the same way. Social democratic plan have been interrupted by the economic crisis. This reverse tendency shouldn’t pinned on only Maduro. Signals of the crisis have showed itself economically and politically in Chavez’s period. For this reason Maduro have barely won the elections. Reformism and its capitalist adherer, patriotic populism is responsible for all the groaning of the Venezuelan people. The main responsible for all of these crisis is the reformist understanding that chose to link arms with capitalists and soak up all the popular energy instead of appropriating the property of the bourgeoisie .
The limits of Maduro and Chavismo is clear. However, acting against the PSUV (which is backed by a strong class movement), right only aims for introducing worker hostile policies. Its motivation is to defeat the left altogether with the help of capitalist powers and USA. At this point, one should develop an attitude toward the right which is becoming stronger and towards the imperialist moves against Maduro. This attitude, however, should exceed the limits of Chavismo which couldn’t produce any solutions for the workers’ problems. Chavismo is the epitome of crisis. This attacks cannot be defeated otherwise.
Let’s not forget: During Chavez’s period the leftist opposition were suppressed brutally. He controlled unions and imprisoned the radical worker leaders. He never wanted the revolutionary left to grow because Chavismo’s program was a social democracy based on class alliance and it was closely tied to oil revenues. Unless an anti-capitalist, revolutionary and strong left opposition shows up, exceeds the limits of Maduro and creates a big movement against coups and sabotages, right will be winning party in Venezuela. Therefore we should say it straight: No coups in Latin America! However, supporting Maduro and Chavismo in vain against the possibility of a coup, is neither a revolutionary attitude nor a solution. The threat of coup can only be overcame by shifting to the left. There is no other way!
Nationalization at the helm of workers to Saboteurs!
Class movement is needed to be able to overcome Maduro and Chavizmo without being sectarian. It is vital to nationalize the property of capitalists on the control of workers as a concrete demand against saboteurs. Provided that a class movement from left push Maduro to this line, right’s power would come to the end. Both the support of the working class would be gained and the capitalists who feeds right would be knocked down. If this congestion can’t be overcome with a revolutionary attempt, Maduro’s story will end with the strength of right like other Latin American countries.
The main social problems are not the problems which can be solved by capitalist societies. In the age of imperialism, even the most basic daily problems needs radical changes. Social state assistances are only make up for the evil face of capitalism. Therefore, Chavizmo never solved a problem and not successful.
One last word is to the left… The words said by memory without making the differences between the revolutionary energy of Venezuelan people and the bourgeois program of Chavizmo. If you call every reformist power as socialist or revolutionary, you can’t say anything about today’s politics. While you pour Chavez on like we mentioned above, you pour reformism on. That’s not being revolutionary. When you didn’t mention about the capital who becomes richer step by step, the realities still exist. To call Chaves socialist doesn’t mean Chavez is socialist but it shows the lack of the capacity of left. Unfortunately, when such hard times comes “dream” ends. So, to settle with Latin American reformism is not only needed for the Latin American people but also for Turkish Left.
No to rightist coups!
Nationalize the property of saboteur capitalists on the control of workers!