Venezuela/Cuba Set Example for World Anti-imperialist Struggle
By Roger Annis and John Riddell
On December 14, Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frias signed an agreement strengthening cooperation between the peoples of their two countries with the goal of “integration and economic union.”
Venezuela agreed to transfer technology and to finance development projects in Cuba, and it guarantees that Cuba will continue to receive 53,000 barrels of oil per day, the majority of its import requirement. Cuba will continue to provide more than 15,000 medical professionals to take part in Barrio Adentro. This program brings medical care to the poor of Venezuela and trains Venezuelan doctors and specialists. Cuba will also grant 2,000 annual scholarships to Venezuelan students. The two countries will work together with other Latin American countries in large-scale efforts to fight illiteracy.
Cuba also subscribed to the Bolivarian Agreement for the Americas (ALBA), the Venezuelan government’s proposal to unite the peoples of Latin America around “the egalitarian principles of justice and equality that are innate in human beings, the well-being of the most dispossessed sectors of society, and a reinvigorated sense of solidarity toward the underdeveloped countries of the western hemisphere,” advanced as an alternative to the U.S.-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas.
“The Cuban revolution and the Bolivarian revolution have demonstrated that a better world is not only possible but also is perfectly attainable,” Chávez said during a celebration of the agreement in Havana December 14. “Bolivarian” is the name taken by the popular movement in Venezuela headed by Chávez. “A different world is essential in order to save life and the planet,” Chávez said.
Visibly moved by the occasion, Castro paid homage to the vision of the Venezuelan leader, who has visited Cuba 11 times in the past 10 years. “When a crisis comes, leaders arise.... So arose Chávez when the dreadful social and human situation in Venezuela and Latin America determined that the time to fight for a second, real independence had come.”
The world crisis “affects everyone,” Castro added. The “imperial system and the economic order it has imposed on the world cannot be sustained. Peoples who have decided to fight ... for their very survival can never be defeated.”
The impact of Cuban-Venezuelan political collaboration was evident at the December 1-5, 2004 World Forum of Intellectuals and Artists, held in Caracas. Sizable delegations from the two countries acted as an informal leadership in this conference, securing the adoption of a declaration that called for “a wall of resistance to confront the attempt to impose worldwide domination.” The conference, attended by 350 delegates from 52 countries, called for the creation of a “network of networks” of social organizations and institutions around the world to help build “an international movement in defense of humanity.” (For an English translation of the text, see www.socialistvoice.com/caracas.html.)
President Chávez promised that resources would be provided to establish an office in Venezuela for such a movement.
This Venezuelan initiative is reminiscent of efforts by the Cuban revolution over the past 45 years, and by the Soviet Union in Lenin’s time, to lend support to and join forces with revolutionary processes in other countries. For Cuba, Venezuela represents the strongest anti-imperialist ally it has ever had, and the first such ally since the defeat of the Nicaraguan revolution in the 1980s. The Cuba-Venezuela alignment offers working people worldwide a pole of leadership for anti-imperialist struggle.
Character of the Venezuelan process
The Venezuela-Cuba agreement noted the “political, social, economic and legal asymmetries” between the two countries. Venezuela has not experienced a social revolution of the Cuban type, where the capitalist rulers are dispossessed and driven from their seats of power and working people take command of the state and economy. In Venezuela, a pro-imperialist bourgeoisie still controls the economy and media and most of the state apparatus, and retains influence in the army.
The Bolivarian movement, which Chávez led into government in 1998, aims for far-reaching social reforms. Following the movement’s victory in the 1998 presidential elections, to the horror of Venezuelan capitalists, it began to implement the radical-democratic program approved by the electorate. This act broke the rules of capitalist “democracy,” according to which electoral promises are discarded the day after the vote.
Moreover, confronted by the resistance of governmental ministries, the Chávistas set up new agencies, the “Misiones,” to implement literacy, public health, and other programs. They invited the Venezuelan working people to organize to carry out and defend these measures—with the help of thousands of revolutionary volunteers from Cuba. And when the Venezuelan capitalists and their imperialist backers rose in fury to put an end to this defiance, the Chávistas organized the masses in militant resistance.
The Bolivarian program does not challenge capitalist property relations. Yet all experience proves that so long as the capitalist ruling class retains control of decisive sectors of the state and economy, they will use this power to frustrate, undermine, destabilize, and ultimately overthrow any government committed to serious reform. Where necessary, the local capitalists, in alliance with their imperialist backers, resort to murderous force and war.
And indeed, there have been three offensives mounted by the Venezuelan capitalists—a bosses’ strike, aimed at devastating the economy; a military coup, organized with the connivance of the CIA; and a recall referendum. All three met decisive defeat. Never before, excepting Cuba, has imperialism been so humiliated in Latin America. The people’s successful overturn of the 2002 military coup in two days is unprecedented.
Rightists in disarray
These events fully deserve the description given them by the Bolivarians: a revolutionary process, in which the masses of working people forcibly intervene in political life to challenge the power of the ruling class. These victories have disorganized and demobilized the rightist opposition and forced Washington to postpone plans to overthrow the Venezuelan government.
Following the referendum in the summer of 2004, the pro-Bolivarian parties won majorities in 20 of 22 states in regional elections October 31, 2004. The economy is expanding, with a balanced government budget. Yet the counter-revolution is sure to attack again, more fiercely and more murderously. In an ominous portent of things to come, Danilo Anderson, the government prosecutor investigating the 2002 military coup, was assassinated on November 18.
Venezuela’s working people can defend their gains and carry through the Bolivarian program only by driving the capitalists out of their seats of power in the state and the economy, following the example of the Cuban revolution after 1959 and the Russian revolution after October 1917. Such an overturn cannot be carried out by governmental decree. Only working people themselves can make such a revolution, when they are convinced through struggle there is no other road that can preserve their gains and save them from devastating defeat.
Leaders of the Venezuelan process are not unaware of this challenge. Chávez has spoken since the referendum of the need for a “revolution within the revolution.” In his address to the December Caracas conference, for example, he “noted the need to study the original principles of socialism as well as its errors. The President ... referred to the importance of early twentieth century Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky’s ideas, embodied in ‘The Permanent Revolution’ and how it explains that there are no national solutions to global problems.” (Robin Nieto, venezuelanalysis.com, December 6.)
New sources of strength
Many socialist groups that look to the Russian revolution as a model have found the Venezuelan process puzzling. Few of these groups supported the popular forces in the August referendum struggle. Many have hesitated, or reacted negatively. Indeed, the Venezuelan process does not correspond to the received blueprint. There is no revolutionary party, no Stalinist party, and nothing that much resembles Social Democracy. The main trade unions lined up with the bosses. Chávez came from the officer corps, and his program is not socialist.
But the Venezuelan process has found new and powerful sources of strength. And the weakness of pro-capitalist workers’ leaderships, who have betrayed so many revolutionary uprisings, is an immense plus. As Fidel Castro noted on December 14, referring to the Bolivarians’ struggle for power, “It was a good lesson for revolutionaries. There are no dogmas, nor [is there] only one way of doing things. The Cuban Revolution itself was also proof of that.”
In responding to a revolutionary advance, the first rule is to get engaged. Today, that means telling the worlds’ peoples the truth about Venezuela, including the international initiatives of Venezuelan and Cuban revolutionists. It means defending Venezuela and Cuba against the inevitable imperialist assaults.
—Socialist Voice, December 31, 2004