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FOR many on the left in Britain and within the heart of the global capitalist system, Venezuela has been an example of staunch opposition to US and Nato imperialism, with a broad collection of revolutionaries fending off multiple coups, mercenary attacks and resisting an imperialist blockade of late.
This vision of defiance and tenacity has painted a very particular idea of what the experience is in Venezuela, which ultimately makes the formation of the Popular Revolutionary Alternative (APR), a new bloc of left wing groups without the ruling PSUV, quite a remarkable surprise.
The APR, which was formally constituted in July, looks to provide an alternative voice to the disenfranchised leftists in the country and all those who are unsatisfied with the rightward drift of the current government, and ideological confusion; shamefully symbolised of late by the call for the creation of a “revolutionary bourgeoisie” by the Land Minister Wilmar Castro Soteldo.
It marks a significant tactical shift by one of its creating factors, the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), which has stood alongside the PSUV for many years.
Apart from the PCV, the APR includes the majority currents of the Homeland for All Party (PPT) and Tupamaro Party, both of whom have suffered internal Supreme Court-led coup d’etats in their party leadership of late, as well as United Left party, Class Struggle from the Marxist International and a host of grassroots activists, trade unionists, and individuals who share the task of creating a left wing counterweight to the government.
As a combined force, the APR will be launching an independent set of revolutionary candidates for the December 6 parliamentary election for the first time in Venezuela’s recent history, and plans on representing and strengthening day-to-day struggles thereafter.
For those fighting the daily struggles within Venezuela, the formation of the APR comes after a long period of stagnation, contradiction and internal failures which have seen the upper echelons of the PSUV speaking with revolutionary vigour, but failing to deliver with concrete policies.
The need and timing of this alternative is particularly pertinent because the local right-wing and highly divided opposition forces are unlikely to make any electoral gains in December.
The core of the APR’s critiques include the government’s failure to invest in and develop productive infrastructure in the oil-rich nation, especially in local petrol, gas and electrical generation, which would have helped alleviate the impact of the international imperialist economic blockade.
Other issues include a failure to combat corruption; impunity in fatal landlord-led attacks against progressive small farmers, and a dwindling down of the communal empowerment initiated by Hugo Chavez.
Politically, APR forces point to the fact that the Maduro government regularly meets and negotiates policies with the right and business sector, but has turned his back on his leftist allies’ proposals and meeting-spaces.
On top of this, petit-bourgeois elements within the PSUV have managed to implement an economic policy which is promoting privatisations, de facto dollarisation, widespread concessions to large capital, the destruction of collective labour rights,the persecution of workers and unionists, and a real wage reduction to £3 a month, which, alongside unchecked inflation, collapsed public services and austerity-hit social programmes, have hit the living standard of the poorest the hardest.
These internal issues underline the key problems of the PSUV leadership, but also demonstrate the flags of struggle which the APR will be flying in the coming months.
The anti-imperialist APR highlights that despite strong divergence on domestic policy, there is much common ground with the PSUV in international policy, and the PCV firmly continues to stand with the government and other patriotic forces within the Simon Bolivar Great Patriotic Pole against foreign interference.
Nonetheless, the new bloc is looking to offer voters a set of candidates which promote a revolutionary way out of the current crisis of Venezuela’s rentist and structural capitalist system as the best way to confront imperialism.
Granting concessions to large capital is not, according to the APR, the way to defeat the blockade.
Sadly, since the formation of the APR, the state has not responded kindly.
Since July, the APR has seen numerous working-class leaders sacked from public-sector jobs, starting with the case of Sergio Requena, an aluminium factory leader in a state-run industry and founder of the Workers’ Productive Army (EPO), which enlists volunteer technicians to perform maintenance on state entities for free.
He was later reinstated following a widespread popular pressure campaign, with bosses claiming his sacking was “a technical mistake.”
Other candidates have also reported having their homes ransacked by police without search warrants, and a number of candidates have been detained by security forces, albeit for short periods of time in what can only be interpreted as scare tactics.
One of the most prominent detentions was that of former PPT leader and joint founding member of the APR, Rafael Uzcategui, who was falsely implicated in a prostitution ring in Caracas before being released.
Likewise, the double detention of candidate Isabel Granado in Merida State has caused international shockwaves.
Granado, 23, is a mother of three and a peasant leader in a fierce land struggle in the El Trompillo ranch, where over 1,000 peasant families were granted land rights under the Chavez government, only to now have them revoked under the current administration.
The peasants, who mostly produce bananas, yuka, and papaya, have been attacked in the past by security forces responding to the local landowning elites with the backing of PSUV leaders, judges, and military leaders who themselves want to take over the prosperous ranch.
Granado, who was arrested twice within four days by the heavily armed FAES special forces with their faces covered. During the first arrest, one of her children was hit, and during both her life was threatened by the officers. She has been forced to continue her candidacy in hiding with peasant anger at government policy rising.
The recent hostilities towards candidates of the APR combined with other troubling domestic developments, such as the restructuring of the FAES, demonstrates the vision of circumstances in Venezuela are not utopian but they are certainly complicated; which, without critical analysis of the developments as they are happening, lead us to run the risk of either justifying international interference or allowing the petit-bourgeois elements of the PSUV to run the party and the Bolivarian Revolution into a reformist corner from which it cannot escape.
For the people of Venezuela, this sets up a dangerous precedent for the groundbreaking developments which have been able to flourish thanks to the Chavez leadership.
For those in the heart of imperialism, the lead-up to the coming election in December highlights the need for continuing support of the Venezuelan people, its electoral system, and its right to a diverse and progressive National Assembly.
The results of the election need to be respected, campaign-time attacks condemned, and we must make every effort to confront the lies and slander that will undoubtedly be peddled by the US, EU, and Nato.
Venezuelans need our support to defend themselves against imperialism’s continuing attacks and the criminal blockade, to which Boris Johnson’s government is an active member.
But this does not mean that the PSUV should be given a free pass to attack workers and ineptly deteriorate living conditions, and it needs to be held to account by an organised expression of the revolutionary, class-conscious forces.
The next few months are going to be definitive to the fate of South America for years to come, with elections in Bolivia, Ecuador, the US and Venezuela, where we see a new opportunity for a revolutionary jump forward beginning to be organised.The international solidarity movement needs to be ready for the struggles ahead.
Ben Lunn (CPB) and Paul Dobson (PCV)
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