Eduardo Piñate is an unsparing leader. Strong and calm, he feels comfortable in the heat of mass struggle (such as the success at the border with Colombia in the “battle of the points” on February 23), in the political leadership of the party (he is the executive secretary of the PSUV presidency and a territorial vice president), and as the head of a crucial ministry, the People’s Power Minister for the Social Process of Labor (MPPPST). We meet with him in Caracas, at the headquarters of the MPPPST, amidst the electric sabotage that sought to bring the country to its knees, leaving Venezuela in darkness, without water, without transportation and without communications.
What does it mean to carry out the work of such an important Ministry during an attack like this, which affects basic human needs along with national production?
We have been experimented on by a long-term aggression, a war against the Bolivarian Revolution, an unconventional war. It began in 2012, during the electoral campaign of the Comandante [Chávez] for president, and intensified after his physical departure. Since then, we have faced a series of attacks, different types of economic warfare like the smuggling of contraband; price warfare and induced inflation; an economic, financial and commercial blockade against our country; up to genuine operations of international piracy. All this with the objective of collapsing the economy within the context of the drastic drop in oil prices, which now is in a situation of unstable balance. What’s more, a war – political, ideological, media, cultural and psychological – was unleashed that included military attacks, selective assassinations… in summary, a very complex situation.
In the latest phase, from 2017 to 2018 we achieved a series of political, electoral and moral victories that allowed us to re-legitimize the entire institution by the popular vote: the elections for the Constituent National Assembly, the governors, the mayors, the regional legislative councils, the president and the municipal councils. We have consolidated Bolivarian democracy. Beginning with political control of the territory, from a new political offensive of the mass movement, we move towards the economic plan, through the Program of Economic Recovery, Growth and Prosperity. Do you see those photos hanging on the wall? They are the ten political lines that it comprises of, I always have them in front of my eyes. It is a strategic program with six micro-missions, approved by the Congress of the Working Class and taken up by President Maduro in October last year…
Imperialism has taken the mask off and has directly taken the field. What are the counter-measures?
In November last year, the enemy launched an offensive to intensify military and terrorist action. We dismantled the coup d’etat planned for January 23, which sought to undermine territorial integrity. A month later, on February 23, there was a repeated attempt in Tachira, which we called “the battle of the points,” the border struggles with what we condemned as armed aggression disguised as “humanitarian aid.” We won, and imperialism also suffered a diplomatic defeat with the vote of the UN Security Council.
This type of electric sabotage is perhaps the terrorist operation with the largest negative impact on Venezuelan society since 2002, when they actually removed us from power in a coup d’etat. This also includes the oil sabotage of 2002-2003. We are suffering millions of losses. They have experimented against us with many variant of unconventional warfare, starting with the “color revolutions” and the famous manual of Gene Sharp. With electric sabotage, they are now applying the theory of “constructive chaos,” to destroy the state and build another based on imperialist interests.
But there is always a variable that imperialism and the oligarchies that represent it underestimate: the conscious people. Those who have also reacted with strength and determination against the electric sabotage that has deeply affect the life of the population: potable water, distribution of food, the health care system, schools… To build a diversified, productive economy, we need a large supply of energy. To overcome the oil dependent model, we must produce a million more barrels, the goal of our first micro-mission. The electric sabotage aims to strike at the heart of the country’s economy, that is why I refer to millions of losses. A strategy that, however, has crashed against the resistance of the people that have not allowed chaos in society: Because you can survive three days without light, but without water it is much more difficult.
However, it has imposed the consciousness, discipline and trust that our people have in themselves and in the political leadership of the Bolivarian Revolution, which constantly accompanies them. If there is anything that characterizes our revolution – first with Chávez and now with Maduro – it is the certainty that the party and the government will always walk together with the people, especially in difficult times. We have witnessed the heroic reaction of the entire working class: of the electrical sector, the oil sector, the hydrological sector, in healthcare, in transportation. We have added this victory to those won in the past twenty years, and we are proud of them.
We still know that imperialism will not rest, and we must be ready to fight and win again. We cannot surrender.
After the self-declaration of Guaidó, the right-wing sought to divide chavismo and the Armed Forces. Are there cracks within the party? What is the state of the PSUV today?
I always say that, besides being Italian, you are caraqueña [from Caracas], because you followed the Bolivarian process from the beginning and know it well: chavismo is something serious.
In moments of relative calm we can relax, we can dedicate ourselves to the secondary contradictions that emerge at the base and middle levels of the party and that find space in the process of permanent discussions as defined at the Third and Fourth Congresses [of the PSUV]. However, when the revolution is threatened, chavismo becomes cohesive, it becomes “indestructible” like the song says… It is not a rhetorical phrase, we witness it every time that it was necessary to go to a direct confrontation, such as the border battle on February 23. There, on the first line of the front, together with the organized people, with the FANB, were the leaders of the party and the ministers of government. There, once again, the civic-military union triumphed, as it was at Santa Elena de Uairen, on the border with Brazil, where we saw the people displayed and organized by our party.
During the 2002 coup, the party did not exist. The hegemonic force of chavismo was the Fifth Republic Movement, of which I was not a member. Then I belonged to the national directorate of the Socialist League, a Marxist-Leninist formation that produced Nicolás Maduro, Fernando Soto Rojas and Julio Escalona, and later merged into the PSUV. At the end of 2005, Chávez noted that our people were ready for socialism, and in the 2006 elections he said: “Whoever votes for me, votes for socialism.”
After the electoral victory in mid-December, he held a meeting for the founding of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, which continues to be a novel and strong element. Afterwards, all Marxist varieties came together – from Marxist-Leninists to Trotskyists, Maoists, Gramscians, along with social democratic factions, Christian democrats and, in the early days, supporters of Pérez-Jiménez. However, the majority of the membership was made up of people that did not have any experience as militants, but would follow the leadership of Chávez.
In 2012, I published a book titled “The PSUV and Its Relation with the Mass Movement.” It was a critical book, however I recognized that the party was a preferred space for leading the necessary battle of ideas. A space that was consolidated in our Congresses. As Vice President Diosdado Cabello often reminds us, between the First and Fourth Congresses is the difference between heaven and earth. I was not a delegate in the First Congress, but the base elected me as one for the Second, in the Third the party delegated me because I was a deputy, as well as in the Fourth because I was a member of the party national directorate.
One of our strengths is the youth organization. In recent years, the party has a generalized organizational structure that is in all streets, in all communities: not only with electoral goals, but also to build the defense and control of the territory, spaces for formation and social, cultural and political action. Today, over 40,000 communities are registered in the party, over 240,000 streets and in every one of these there exists a network of articulation and socio-political action around which converge all of the popular organizations. Today we are consolidating the organization of the militias – there are leadership bodies of integral defense for non-armed struggle and popular units of integral defense for armed struggle. In these spaces, the PSUV plays a fundamental role, especially in these moments. We have 6.5 million card carrying members, over 59% of whom are women, the majority of whom are active in all organized structures in society.
The Fourth Congress has brought about a change in political cohesion and youth formation, whom are led by the veteran leaders that participated in the armed struggle against the democracies born out of the Punto Fijo Pact. How important is it for the party to transmit the memory of those years into the construction of the present?
Chávez redeemed and restored the value of analyzing history as a history of class struggle, and redeemed the project of Bolívar and adapted it to the conditions of Venezuela. Our socialist project is strongly innervated in this history, it is the direct continuation of Bolívar’s revolution. The Liberator synthesized the most advanced thought of his time – that of the Jacobin Revolution and the Black Jacobins in Haiti, the struggle for independence from colonialism and from monarchies… Chávez synthesized this synthesis, fusing all of these elements and including others: the socialist revolutions, real socialism, the armed struggle of the sixties and seventies, the struggles of the Latin American peoples against imperialism. Bolívar was born to an aristocratic family, but Chávez was born to a poor family and incorporated Marxism with the doctrine of Bolívar, he brought in elements of liberation theology, the lessons of liberation pedagogy of Simón Rodríguez, Paolo Freire, Prieto Figueroa.
History is very important to us and there must be a constant opportunity for the growth of education, especially for the youth and never knew the forty years of the Fourth Republic and repression, and take for granted the rights they now enjoy. During the governments of the Fourth Republic, Venezuela was a type of “showcase of democracy” with respect to the military dictatorships that bloodied the continent. It was considered a stable democracy, but no one would acknowledge that in the same country, during the Raul Leoni government from 1964 to 1969, there were the first disappeared: before that would take place in the Pinochet dictatorship. This showcase was destroyed by the revolt of the Caracazo in 1989, during which it was made clear that the class contradictions in Venezuela were coming to the surface. This is the memory that we must constantly teach both within and outside of the party. Comandante Chávez was a great teacher. Maduro, Cabello and the other chavista leaders continue in his steps on radio and television programs, but it is an effort that we must multiply in the national education system.
Chavismo won by organizing a social bloc in which the excluded made up the majority. What is the principal subject of the revolution today?
The historic subject is the people. In the current phase, the phase of the construction of socialism, the fundamental subject is the working class. Our current task is to develop the productive forces, to build the productive base of socialism. This implies strengthening and expanding the social ownership of the means of production, both of the state (which the Constitution designates as indirect social ownership), as well as direct ownership, under the control of the workers, where the local economy plays a very important role. In the local economy, the communes are the producers. The commune brings together the traditional, industrial working class and new productive subjects, resulting from current conditions that are different from those described by Marx and Lenin and from the early years of the Cuban Revolution.
In the Bolivarian Revolution, the territorial element is very important. The great contribution of Chávez to socialism was precisely the emphasis put on the composition of the present class in our territory, in the fabric that makes up the territory: to build territorial socialism on the economic, political, cultural and ethical level. In the process of the formation of the commune, bodies such as municipal councils, barrio organizations, those of integral community health play an important role… Last year, there was an intense and important democratic discussion during the Constituent Congress of the Working Class. From this Congress, important lines of action have advanced relating to the model of industrial and business management and the economy in six areas of principal production.
In this phase, the working class is the historic subject of the revolution. Without its role as the vanguard, we cannot build socialism.
Cuba has resisted these sixty years because it made the bourgeoisie illegal through its revolution. How can you build socialism while having these powerful forces within that are dedicated to sabotaging every project? Isn’t there a risk of the people being worn out?
Until now, our people have not tired, and are capable of recovering themselves with the same spirit that Che evoked in his book “Socialism and Man,” speaking on the heroic attitude that must be taken up in daily life. I thought about this while observing Caracas immersed in darkness. I thought about this while participating in the extraordinary anti-imperialist march that took place in the capitol on March 9, one day after the electric sabotage. A sabotage that was repeated when we had finished restoring most of the electric service. We are recovering.
There are similarities between our revolution and the Cuban one, because socialist revolutions respond in the final analysis to general laws, but they are two distinct processes. We continue to advance on the democratic path that we decided on with Chávez. An undoubtedly risky path, but our democracy is strong because it is not based on a vote exercised every four years. It is a participative process that is developed in a permanent debate and with a collective construction, that is constantly being invented. Our comrade Soto Rojas calls it “the creative disorder of revolution.” It implies a constant questioning of one’s actions and an analysis of one’s errors.
In 2015, we lost the parliamentary elections, the second power of the state. We lost because of the economic war, but also because of our errors. As President Maduro said, the economic war was manifesting through the cracks, which we did not see. But we have taken the revolutionary political initiative. Because of this they could not impose on us their war agenda. We are a peaceful people, happy and hospitable, but we know how to fight when necessary. And we are fighting for peace.
We are trying to convert to socialism in an economy of war, facing a constant challenge from imperialism. Ours is a monopolistic economy, that we inherit from capitalism. Neither the first nor the second can be abolished by decree, but rather by the constant process of deconstruction and construction. Our project contemplates the coexistence of private property and mixed property. When they can coexist will depend on objective conditions. Our model is not an enemy of private property, but rather of the large estates and monopolies, which are prohibited by the Constitution. In this period, in which we need a massive influx of money, private property is not only permitted, it is stimulated. In the ANC [Constituent National Assembly] there was an animated debate on the Law of Foreign Productive Investments, notwithstanding the defense of our national sovereignty. A law that is not made to attract communist companies, but capitalist ones. To attract capital is to daily take into account the tension between the interests of the company and the interests of labor.
According to some of those that say they are more chavista than Chávez, there are trade unionists in prison. Is this true?
Many of us were trade union leaders at one point. There are not people in prison for political reasons or by struggle of category, but there are criminal acts, the sabotage of the production of strategic companies: to be at the service of imperialism. The Bolivarian Central of Socialist Workers has nineteen national federations, around 1,500 unions, and now there are more than a thousand workers councils, committees of prevention. A true army that represents that great strength of labor in Venezuela. When the self-proclaimed [Guaidó] called for strikes up to a general strike, I presented during a press conference all of the union leaders one by one.
Recently, President Maduro stated that corruption is one of our principal obstacles. An obstacle that the right-wing utilizes to buy desertion and treachery, including within the FANB. How do you approach this problem?
In the 1990s, some leaders of the Socialist League, such as Soto Rojas and Nora Castañeda, considered the spread of corruption as one of the forms of the original accumulation of capital. A legacy of the colonial past, imported by Spanish domination. In the Bolivarian process, corruption has not reached these levels, but must be combatted without rest.
The President has laid out three fundamental lines: economic recovery, the integral defense of the nation and the struggle against corruption, bureaucratization, negligence and minimal effort. How is this? Combining a series of factors that are related with political clarity, values, the battle of ideas. A battle that the party must take up remembering Marx’s criticism of the commodification of life. We must develop alternative values of responsibility, social wellbeing, a collective sense as a form of prevention. The other element, however, is the coercive one, the weight of the law should fall on the corrupt, as is already happening, already there are former ministers, governors, mayors and functionaries in prison. And we must advance with decisiveness, unfortunately, against the corruption that has also permeated within sectors of the proletariat.
The United States reiterated that it aims for the collapse of the Venezuelan economy and announced new sanctions. What are the possible scenarios?
We discussed this in the party leadership. There will be an intensification of the economic war, of sabotage, the attempt to create a mercenary army to be used against political and military leaders. We have raised vigilance and the activity of intelligence services. The internal right-wing has little room to maneuver in the political terrain, a very low capacity to mobilize that continues to shrink. [Guaidó] is like foam, it rises up and then deflates. For this reason they must have Trump and his Bolton, Pompeo and Rubio take the field: because they do not have a national project, their projects coincides with that of imperialism, the multinational corporations, the transnational financial oligarchy and the far-right Yankee government. Their plan is to not only destroy Maduro, but the entire nation. They want to fragment national unity, to balkanize the country like what they did to Yugoslavia.
However, they crash against a people that is not divided into factions and is deeply fused in the civic-military union and with the Bolivarian socialism that Chávez left us. They cannot do what they did to the Libya of Gaddafi or the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, or to the leaders of the Balkans in the 1990s. Imperialism seeps into your internal differences, as they succeeded in doing in Grenada when they took advantage of the coup against Bishop in order to invade the country. Also in Panama, they took advantage of the contradiction between the elite that governed under Noriega’s leadership and a large part of the people, in order to intervene. This situation does not exist in Venezuela, and so their plans fall apart.
Venezuela finds itself at the center of a clash of interests that affect politics on an international level. What is your analysis?
The geopolitical conflict that we see on the global level is the concrete expression of the class struggle as it appears today. The new emerging economies that prefigure a multipolar world undermine U.S. hegemony in the context of a capitalism in structural crisis that puts at risk the very existence of the planet. The international system imposed after the Second World War test a process of decadence that is evident in the large international institutions. The European Union, as we see it during the attack on Venezuela, is subordinated to the United States.
The struggle returns to that of socialism versus capitalism. On the global level, two projects are compared: the unipolarity of those that see themselves as the police of the world and can wipe out humanity, and another multi-centric and multipolar world, in which Russia and China face off against Yankee arrogance. Chávez had the merit to build strategic South-South alliances, not only with Russia, China, India, Iran, but also with our Caribbean for a new Latin American integration. Fundamental alliances for this period of resistance that stopped the application of the Interamerican Letter to the OAS, constituting a first ring of fundamental defense. The last debate in the UN Security Council showed the importance of relations with Russia and China. Yankee imperialism has been forced to withdraw, but it is still extremely dangerous because it intends to recover the initiative on the Latin American continent, or “the Upper Case America” as Che called it. And the Bolivarian Revolution is a major obstacle to the recolonization of the continent. Certainly, the United States has recovered positions with respect to the socialist and progressive wave at the beginning of this century. However, the return of a repressive neoliberalism towards the popular classes and even more subordinated to imperialism than it was in the 1970s is weakening UNASUR and CELAC. The apologists of the capitalist system talk of the end of the progressive cycle. Instead, I share the analysis of Nicolás Maduro: there will be a second wave, more profound and more radical, and if they dare to strike against the Bolivarian Revolution, the entire continent will be set ablaze.
What do you think of what is happening in Europe? Why can we not build a successful opposition to capitalism and massive support for Venezuela?
The main reasons can be found in the defeat of the workers movement, in the loss of the conquests obtained in the previous century, in the absence of a political leadership of the subsequent processes to the crisis of the 1980s and the fall of the Soviet Union. Italy has suffered from the drift of social democracy, much less from “euro-communism,” the disappearance of the PCI [Communist Party of Italy] and the progressive alienation of the left with the idea that there is no alternative to capitalism. The two most significant mass movements have been, I think, the indignados in Spain and now the yellow vest in France. The latter has a more pronounced class character than the indignados and this is a good development. I think that the mass movements will be able to advance to socialism when it encounters [the history of] the Paris Commune, or at least with the aspirations of May 1968: a radical anti-authoritarian movement that was not Marxist-Leninist and for this reason the enemy easily removed it, but it would have succeeded in overthrowing the government in France if not for the backwardness of the PCF [Communist Party of France]. In Italy, the great cycle of struggle in 1968-69 was born, that lasted a long time and still contains many lessons. The mass movements of Europe must take up this radical tradition of thought and adapt them to new conditions. In Europe the same neoliberal packages are being applied that brought above the revolt of the Caracazo in Venezuela