Venezuela: Critical Reflections on Events in the Month of May

Laboratorio Crítico Comunachos

At the close of the month of May, those of us who make up the Laboratorio Crítico Comunachos would like to offer an outline of the most outstanding topics that we have discussed internally during this last month and that we believe can serve for reflection and debate within popular organizations. We intend to make this a continuous exercise, so that at the end of each month we will offer our reflections as a contribution and supply for necessary debate.

May 1st by decree

The arrival of May in Venezuela promises to bring announcements of interest to Venezuelan workers, accustomed to the wage increases decreed year after year on the first day of this month. But this was not the case this year, since the increase was made the last days of April through an official bulletin that was first published in social networks before the increase was confirmed by the Minister of Labour himself, without any mention of the issue in an official act or in the voice of the President of the Republic, as had been the custom in the past.

This increase, without economic measures to accompany it and seeking to keep the country afloat in the midst of the savage inflation that oppresses the Venezuelan people, is merely nominal, as days before the prices of all consumer goods were adjusted based on the rumour that the increase would be around 200,000 BsS. per month when it only reached 65,000 Bs after adding the food bonus. The trend is thus maintained that ignores and even undermines the gains of Venezuelan workers, by flattening collective bargaining contracts, omitting workers’ seniority, pulverizing liquidations with constant devaluations, justifying layoffs by the Ministry of Labour, all in violation of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which they appear to have forgotten and which clearly states that:

CRBV Article 91 Every worker has the right to a sufficient salary that allows him or her to live with dignity and to provide for himself or herself and his or her family their basic material, social and intellectual needs. Equal pay for equal work will be guaranteed and the corresponding participation of workers in the benefit of the company will be established. The salary is unseizable and shall be paid periodically and opportunely in legal tender, with the exception of the maintenance obligation, in accordance with the law.

The revolutionary bourgeoisie of Castro Soteldo

The current Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Wilmar Castro Soteldo, has accustomed us in recent months to theoretical dissertations on the bourgeoisie and its determining role in the country’s current economic recovery process. Unfortunately, they have not been mere theoretical dissertations, but have been accompanied by anti-popular practices of handing over the means of production to the bourgeoisie, the ones that hold in their hands the “magic formula” -the flame – of the country’s economic resurgence.

The abandonment of the socialist project of the Bolivarian revolution has had the audacity to sustain itself on spurious readings of revolutionaries like Orlando Araujo and Karl Marx. On the background of both we remember in 2018 that he said in his program “Cultivating Homeland” that:

“We must go to the construction of a revolutionary and transforming bourgeoisie that will reach the stages of economic liberation of our country”.

This manifests itself as a perverse and tasteless joke the Minister of Agriculture and Lands calls socialist, that this same process is to be the creator of a new bourgeoisie, a revolutionary bourgeoisie. Metaphorically, this would be nothing less than asking the headless to give life to their executioner. The historical formation of the bourgeoisie, in the original process of capital accumulation, was sustained precisely on the basis of having deprived the workers of their means of production, fundamentally, their lands:

“The so-called <<original accumulation>>, is, therefore, no more than the historical process of division between producers and means of production […] the process of division, because, in reality, it encompasses the whole history of the development of modern bourgeois society […] The expropriation that strips the worker of land constitutes the foundation of the whole process” (K. Marx. Capital.).

So it seems to Mr. Castro Soteldo that the Bolivarian revolution, which is supposed to have as its main subject the working class, must ensure that it creates that new bourgeoisie, which rises precisely above the constant dispossession of the living goods of the subject that constitutes the revolution of which he is himself the Minister; and not just any minister, but precisely of Agriculture and Lands, a fundamental means of which the people was and continues to be dispossessed in the process of forming the bourgeoisie.

Regarding the revolutionary character of that bourgeoisie, Soteldo tries to legitimize an atrocity with Marx when he says that “the bourgeoisie has played a highly revolutionary role in history” (K. Marx. Manifesto of the Communist Party), he forgets that according to Marx himself the revolutionary role of the bourgeoisie ended when it emerged as the ruling class. Since then, its role in society is none other than the most strenuous and fierce preservation of its historical conquest. It is thus the conservative class par excellence. Mr. Castro Soteldo could not be more mistaken regarding Marx and his conception of the bourgeoisie as a revolutionary class, because it is precisely the opposite: the criterion that today defines a class as revolutionary is precisely the struggle against the bourgeoisie. And in this sense the only class that can be revolutionary is the working class. This is why Marx said that:

“Of all the classes that today face the bourgeoisie, only the proletariat is a truly revolutionary class.” (K. Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party)

We would be naïve if we believed that this distortion of Marx responds to a distorted academic reading by Castro Soteldo. It is rather an attempt to build a narrative of legitimization of the current practices of the growing dispossession of peasants’ lands and the forced surrender to their former owners of the landowning bourgeoisie, which Chávez endeavored to defeat. Theoretically, it is a question of justifying the privatization of socially owned companies which have been taken over by communal farmers who rescued them from bankruptcy, and were imprisoned in order to avoid their handover. This is not an act of betrayal by the Minister, as it continues within the framework of the revolution, only that in which the bourgeoisie participates as the fundamental protagonist and not the working and peasant class. It is about laying the theoretical foundations that will allow Castro Soteldo to say that “we are building our socialism, a different socialism” in which we can make an open pact with the bourgeoisie.

La Vieja Hill

For months now, popular Chavismo has been engaged in a critical debate on the privatizing process promoted, at a vertiginous pace, by sectors of the Bolivarian Government. Under the guise of strategic alliances or managing transfers through the “comodato” formula, these sectors have handed over rice, corn and coffee processing plants, airport management, type A land in the Venezuelan plains to large agribusinesses, UPSAS for fish processing, extralivian oil wells, crude processing plants, among others. All of this worries us, deprives us of our sleep, and even more so when the despotic voracity of capital today also threatens the continuity of the real and concrete production of Simón Planas, municipality of El Maizal, a moral reserve of Chavismo that struggles for emancipation.

There, at the door of the Venezuelan plains, what happens in Cerro La Vieja reminds us that the voracity of the beast that directs its gaze towards the mining resources is blind to the consequences on our humanity and consequently decided that Chávez’s 5th Historical Objective is a thing of the past. Cerro la Vieja – with its fertile land and the community members and producers of the area – is one of the keys to understanding the constellation of a territory in which four thousand tons of corn are produced per hectare. There, however, and behind the backs of the peasants who have put their soul into the production that this town needs, a process of unregulated mining has begun, managed by a Jorge Rodríguez of very questionable reputation. In the process they have evicted and displaced peasants, they have built a large road and a dry port at the foot of the hill, they have deforested more than twenty hectares, and explosions have already been heard, all part of the ongoing extractive process. All of this is taking place in a context between the privatization of the common and the sponsorship of the small producers of the area (with the participation of militiamen and those deprived of liberty), with the approval of the Government of the State of Lara, the I.N.T.I. and the Ministry of People’s Power for Ecosocialism and Waters that refuse to explain what is happening to the inhabitants of the area, thus supporting a devastating, murky and opaque process that is of concern to all of us.

Critical Reflections

On May 1, during the workers’ day commemorative march, President Nicolás Maduro called for a process of gathering critical proposals to amend the path of the Bolivarian Revolution. This is not the first time that a call of this nature has been opened, during the last six years several events of the same type have taken place without any results that go beyond rhetorical wear and tear. Before making a call for critical review, the government must demonstrate a real willingness to change, carrying out a prompt review in order to address the numerous daily demands made by the Chavista people, with each organization expressing its views on the fate of the project. Fifteen days after this call there was a process of rapprochement to begin negotiations with the opposition. The most coherent approach would be to open spaces for direct participation in the solution of the conflict so that no negotiation takes place behind the back of the Venezuelan people, the parties and organizations that have supported this process for more than twenty years.