How can the Battle of Miranda be won and how not?
The expropriation of the Caracas Country Club and Valle Arriba golf courses on the part of the Alcaldia Metropolitana (the local government of Caracas) was met with the enthusiasm of wide layers of the revolutionary Bolivarian movement. At the same time it provoked a hysterical campaign on the part of the bourgeois media and, of course, on the part of the leaders of the counter-revolutionary opposition against the measure and even against the Mayor, Juan Barreto. The declaration signed by vice-president Rangel, in which he speaks in the name of the government and of President Chavez, affirms that the government "does not share the decision adopted by the mayor." This statement has caused concern and confusion in the ranks of the Bolivarian movement.
The Marxists of the CMR (Revolutionary Marxist Current) support this expropriation and call on Barreto and the Bolivarian government to maintain firmly the expropriations and extend them, despite the brutal media campaign that the bourgeoisie has unleashed. As Mayor Barreto correctly explained, the expropriations do not resolve the problem of housing, but are an important step towards a solution.
According to the project some 50,000-70,000 homes along with recreational projects (such as parks, etc.) will be built on the expropriated land – at the moment this land is being used for the entertainment of a few oligarchs. Furthermore, the expropriations obey the wishes of thousands of signatories (50,000 according to Barreto) from different areas of Caracas, the majority of which are inhabited by the middle class, that demand decent housing and support the process of expropriations. Furthermore, according to the mayor, there are a number of irregularities in the business activities of the Caracas Country Club (buying the land in 1955 and 1983 in the name of a person who died in 1949, etc.), which justify the intervention.
Why has the bourgeoisie launched such a hysterical campaign?
These reasons in themselves are motive enough for revolutionaries to defend these expropriations. But more than that the measure is highly symbolic. This is one of the aspects that has infuriated and horrified the capitalists most. The bourgeoisie had believed (with the help of reformist and bureaucratic elements inside the movement) that the process of expropriations, which was started by Chavez more than one year ago, had stopped (or at least slowed down).
But in a revolutionary context, like the one our country finds itself in, the expropriation of an icon of the bourgeoisie in Caracas with the intention of satisfying social needs can become a point of reference and encourage mobilizations of the revolutionary ranks and propel the expropriations forward. In this way the revolution can be taken towards socialism.
The first round of the confrontation between Barreto and the oligarchy began a few days before, when the Mayor attacked the opposition Mayors of Chacao and Baruta, Capriles Radonsky and Leopoldo López, at a mass meeting. He accused them of sabotaging the work of the Alcadia Mayor by not paying the massive debts they owe and other counter-revolutionary activities. Barreto explained that the expropriation of the golf courses would compensate for the trillions of Bolivars owed by these municipalities.
The accusations against López and Radonsky as well as the expropriations, supported by wide layers of the revolutionary ranks, have been severely criticized by the more right-wing sectors of the Bolivarian movement because these steps, according to them, break with the strategy of "inclusion" and "institutional dialogue" with sectors of the opposition.
The opposition of the reformists against the expropriations
These reformist leaders are convinced that the socialist speeches of Chavez, the expropriations and the revolutionary cogestión implemented after these expropriations are mistakes that drive away the middle class, "provoke imperialism", and minimize support for the revolution.
In reality, the contrary is the case. What provokes imperialism is each measure that does not serve them in subjugating the masses and does not allow them to continue exploiting the wealth of the country, as they have always done. Support for Chavez will decline if speeches are made about socialism but not translated quickly into action. Without wresting the economic power out of the hands of the capitalists (so that they cannot continue their sabotage), without guaranteeing the social base of the revolution, i.e. the workers and the people, a decent living and decent jobs and a real participation and leadership of the state, victory is impossible.
The masses of the workers and the middle class need to see that socialism is not a distant dream but an immediate solution to their problems.
As Juan Barreto correctly said: "No political event, no matter of what nature, can be separated from its ethical dimension: either we are in favour of the majority of the people and we act accordingly; or on the contrary we keep silent and take the side of inaction and political abstention (which is also a policy), to avoid every noise or confrontation, as happened to us in the campaign of deputies and councillors. This demoralised our people. We will not bow our heads faced with the injustices that are taking place in the east of Caracas and accept the need for a peace without principles that does not in any way benefit the revolutionary process, allegedly not to damage opinion polls or scare off a part of the middle class."
How to win the support of the middle class – and how to lose it
This is a key and decisive point for all revolutionaries. The working class must gain the support of the other exploited layers of society and of the petit-bourgeoisie, the so-called middle layers. The reformists think that their strong point is this. They think that only by moderating the speeches and revolutionary measures will it be possible to win the "middle class", but the contrary is the case.
All revolutions that have been moderated at the decisive moment – when they have awoken the expectations of the masses and urgently had to find a solution to the problems facing masses, have only succeeded in demoralising the workers and popular sectors and succeeded in pushing the petit-bourgeoisie into the arms of reaction. Thus they dug their own graves.
The so-called "middle class" does not have an independent policy and in revolutionary epochs will vacillate between the working class and the bourgeoisie, between revolution and counter-revolution. As one of the main defenders of the Venezuelan revolution, Alan Woods (Marxist theoretician and leader of the International Marxist Tendency), always says, "Whatever its Bible is, for the middle class, power is always its God."
In epochs of crisis and revolution, the middle class, instead of searching for moderation, tends to vacillate between the political extremes. The middle class searches for "a champion" to support, an alternative that shows strength, and above all a force that is determined to go all the way and shows, not only in words, but in action that it can solve its problems. Many sectors of the middle class voted for Chávez in 1998 but after many years of capitalist sabotage, counter-revolutionary agitation, and also because the revolution had not yet resolved their problems, drew towards the right wing in April 2002. The defeat of the counter-revolution at the hands of the popular masses and the working class broke this swing to the right for a whole period and created the political conditions for some sectors of the middle class to turn once again towards the left. The majority maintain these expectations having observed what is happening with the socialist project that Chavez speaks of.
Despite the fact that between 1998 and 2002 there were not any expropriations and the president and the government time and time again guaranteed the protection of private property, the middle class started to lose patience and see that their situation was worsening. In this situation it was not moderation that won the support of the middle class, but the radicalised speeches of the right wing. The absence of expropriations did not mean that speeches on "Castro-communism" and other such absurd ideas (as if the revolution would take away a car or a house from someone who has them) did not begin to penetrate the middle class.
Abstract calls to defend private property will not prevent such an idea from gaining an echo. This can only be done by concretely showing these layers (and not only them, but all exploited people) that socialism and the expropriations do not have anything to do with chaos nor dictatorship, of which the bourgeoisie speak.
The expropriations also benefit the middle class
The first to gain from the expropriations of buildings or of the banks, together with the popular sectors, would be the middle class, who would see their mortgages disappear, would have access to much cheaper credits, decent houses and other such improvements.
In this sense, those of us who have attended the assemblies of renters (composed of people bourgeois sociology names lower middle class) in struggle for the expropriation of buildings have seen that the decision of the Alcaldía Metropolitana to expropriate some of these buildings (the property of speculators) in order to provide accessible prices to renters, has awoken widespread enthusiasm in these sectors.
Some people that were against Chavez or participated in the demonstrations of the opposition declare themselves "re-settled" with him because they saw a concrete measure that guaranteed them a change in their living conditions. This is a concrete way of winning the support of the middle layers – which will not be done by calling for dialogue with the employers, which in no way benefit these sectors. However, we must state clearly that if these expropriations are not accomplished, if a retreat is made or if the expropriations are stopped, if evacuations of the renters are made, then this expectation will be transformed into frustration and these sectors can pass from being allies to the ranks of the counter-revolution.
And this does not only apply to the middle class. Even the social base that is most loyal to the revolution, the workers and all the exploited, need – after years of struggle and sacrifices- to see that the revolution is accelerating and is able to satisfy the hopes that have been awoken.
Many important things have been won over the past seven years: the misiones, the different improvements, the general upswing in the participation and mobilization of the people and above all the renewed sense of dignity and the desire to participate in the direction of the state, the economy, the districts etc, on the part of all those that have always been excluded from these activities. The role that president Chavez has played in this reawakening of consciousness in millions of people is important. However, as the president himself has explained, the revolution cannot stop and has only partially completed its work.
If the revolution does not expropriate the capitalists, it will be defeated
To complete its tasks the revolution needs to put forward, the sooner the better, two urgent tasks:
1) To put the resources that today are used by a tiny handful of oligarchs in the hands of the state, through a general expropriation of the capitalists as the only way to implement a national plan of development towards socialism. All the workers and the popular sectors, in the assemblies of communal councils and in workers’ committees should discuss this democratically, elect representatives that are subject to the right of recall, in order to determine all the necessities and priorities that exist and satisfy them.
2) Destroy the existent state structure and substitute it with a workers’ state based on these assemblies of elected representatives in each factory, community etc, including the peasants. This must be accompanied by the substitution of the existent judicial framework and laws of the Fourth Republic, by a legislation that favours the workers and other exploited layers, which would permit the revolution to advance towards socialism.
If these two decisive aspects are not dealt with by the revolution in a short space of time, the present correlation of forces, which are tremendously favourable to the revolution, can change and the counter-revolution can begin to strengthen its forces. This is what the reformist policies of moderation have achieved throughout history.
At bottom, what is behind the allegation of the reformists, that Barreto is creating a "climate of tension" and taking "unconstitutional" measures is that these leaders distrust the capability of the masses, the working class, and the exploited to change society. They have always been convinced that the socialist and anti-imperialist speeches of Chavez and many of the measures that he has adopted (expropriations, cogestión, etc) "provoke" imperialism, drive away the "middle class" and are the reason why the capitalists do not align themselves to a national Bolivarian project that maintains itself within the framework of capitalism.
However, the reason the revolutionary project has been radicalised and the reason the capitalists and forces of imperialism have tried time and time again to overthrow Chavez, despite the calls of the president for dialogue with the enterprises, is that capitalism is in its senile decay all over the world. As Chavez himself has explained, capitalism cannot tolerate any of the targets that the Bolivarian revolution has come up with (endogenous development, social justice, etc). Furthermore, what capitalism definitely cannot tolerate is the mobilization of the people and the working class, conscious and determined to maintain the struggle and advance the revolution.
The Battle of Miranda and the expropriations
The main fear of the capitalists today is that the mobilization and the organization of the masses of the Bolivarian movement will push the revolution forward as happened in the battle of Santa Inés in 2004. Unfortunately, as the Marxists of the CMR have explained in other material, there are sectors within the process, which, though they claim to support the socialist aims pronounced by Chavez, tend to reproduce the political and ideological pressure of the bourgeoisie within the movement. These people do not really believe in socialism. Furthermore, these sectors link up and combine their interests each time more clearly with a sector of the state apparatus which is in opposition to the mobilization and reproduce, under a thin Bolivarian varnish, many of the old practices, and a good deal of the ideology, of the old bureaucracy.
The reformists want to see a classic election campaign, such as those in capitalist countries where there is no revolutionary situation. They are pressurising Chavez to stop the socialist measures of the revolution, arguing that they are counter-productive to the election. The reformists have also proposed a campaign, The Battle of Miranda, which will be controlled from above with an appointed commando. This is more like the Commando Ayacucho than the Battle of Sana Inés, where participation from below was so characteristic with the creation of the UBEs (Electoral Battle Units) and in many places the rank and file imposed their own Comando Maisanta leadership, elected from below.
The reformists understand perfectly well that a second Battle of Santa Inés, in the context of the revolution, with the debate on socialism out in the open, with the expropriated and workers’ managed factories, with the idea of expropriation alive in the consciousness of the masses and a workers’ movement in ascendancy, could play a major role in radicalising the revolution. The new resurgence of organs developed from below like the UBEs and the communal councils, could generate embryos of workers’ and popular power that could emerge in the eyes of the masses, and even in the eyes of Chavez, as a possible alternative to the leading structure that today is composed of many reformist sectors. Each measure that stimulates the self-organization and popular mobilization and revitalizes the idea of expropriation of the capitalists, must in their opinion be resisted. This is the reason there is a direct campaign against the expropriations announced by Barreto, and why they are also intensifying the pressure on Chavez and the whole leading circle to stop these kinds of measures.
Today the argument is that they will decrease the middle-class vote and the "more moderate" sectors. Tomorrow – if they succeed in imposing a campaign from above which will have a much smaller chance of winning a massive electoral victory than one from below – they will use a possibly smaller margin of victory between the candidates as a pretext to argue that there is widespread opposition to socialism in Venezuelan society and that we are still not mature enough for socialism or expropriations. It is the well-known reformist tune which always and inevitably leads revolutions to disaster.
On the contrary, in the cases where the revolutionary leadership nationalized the main levers of the economy (the banks, the monopolies, the land…) and created an economic plan for the whole economy, the revolution triumphed (the USSR, Cuba, China, etc). The problems that today confront Cuba, and likewise for the counter-revolutions that were carried through in Russia and China were, as we have explained in other articles, products of the fact that the revolutions were isolated in one country.
No matter what opinion one might have about any of those revolutionary processes, and of the kind of state that emerged from them, one thing is clear: in those cases where the revolution was limited to the taking over of the old state apparatus and intended to carry through an economic transformation while allowing the capitalists to maintain control over the fundamental sectors of the economy (the Spanish revolution in the 1930s to the Chilean revolution of 1970-73 or the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua), the revolution was destroyed by capitalist sabotage, bureaucracy, corruption and the Fifth Column.
This is the main danger that the Bolivarian revolution faces today. Our revolution is not irreversible. It will only be so if it resolves the social problems of the masses and makes them feel that they are really in power. All Bolivarians and socialists must raise our voices and defend the process of expropriations of the factories as well as the expropriation of buildings and land. The expropriations must continue and must be generalized. One thing is private property of a particular house, a car or a small business and another very different thing is the private property of the means of production. It is impossible to have social justice and endogenous development if the means of production continue in the hands of the capitalists and multinationals.
As revolutionaries we must support this step taken by Barreto. Furthermore, we must put forward the demand that the expropriations be extended to the whole of the economy, with compensation only in the case of verified necessity, and that a democratic national plan of production based on the participation and the organization of the masses and elected councils. This is the only way to satisfy the concrete demands of each sector in struggle (the renters in struggle, the occupied factories, the workers in public and private enterprises, the peasants, the unemployed, the travelling salesmen, middle class, etc) and to ensure that these struggles become part of the general struggle for socialism.
Caracas, 1 Sep. 2006
- Venezuela: Expropriations, reformism, and elections — the contradictions are accumulating by Patrick Larsen (13 Sep. 2006)
- Venezuelan Presidential Elections: Vote for Chavez, carry out the revolution to the end by International Marxist Tendency (6 Sep. 2006)
- The Venezuelan Revolution and the struggle for socialism by Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria (21 Jun. 2006)
- The legacy of Venezuela’s April 13 by Patrick Larsen (18 Apr. 2006)
- Statement of the Revolutionary Marxist Current on the debate on factory occupations and workers’ control by Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria (7 Apr. 2006)
- Marxism, Parliament, and the Venezuelan Revolution — Venezuela after the elections… what now? by Alan Woods (19 Dec. 2005)
- Venezuelan trade unionists discuss workers’ management and factory occupations by Jorge Martin (24 Oct. 2005)
- Theses on Revolution and Counter-revolution in Venezuela — Part One & Part Two by Alan Woods (20 May 2004)