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VENEZUELAN President Nicolas Maduro’s comment, after meeting his Communist Party allies, that he had “received criticism” and appreciated it marks him out as a special kind of revolutionary leader.
Too many rulers in different forms of society, especially those used over a period of time to winning mass popular support, have a tendency to imagine that they are the font of all wisdom.
Maduro, a revolutionary since his youth and a man who came to understand the value of collective discussion and action during his time as a bus driver, retains a willingness to listen and learn.
The current president, who faces an electoral challenge in April, was a loyal supporter of Bolivarian revolutionary leader Hugo Chavez, continuing and extending the Chavista commissions financed by the country’s oil wealth and directing pensions and other special allowances, housing, farmland and health benefits to the poorest Venezuelans.
In the decade from 2004 to 2014, the revolution reduced poverty by 49 per cent and extreme poverty by a stunning 63 per cent.
These priorities were in stark contrast to the indifference shown by previous liberal and conservative governments, which were content to allow the benefits of the country’s mineral riches to be monopolised by energy transnational corporations and Venezuela’s comprador bourgeoisie.
But, as the Communist Party (PCV) points out, it is not possible to build a socialist society by simply sidelining the bourgeoisie. The economic and political power of this class has to be broken.
Using oil wealth profits to take people out of poverty benefits individuals and creates loyalty to the revolution and its leader, but it doesn’t weaken the grip that the corporate elite has on the economy and mass media.
The collapse in the oil price to less than half of its previous value, compounded by an economic blockade imposed by the US, created real hardship for working people.
It was exacerbated by shortages of essential goods deliberately engineered by big companies hoarding imports and refusing to release them.
PCV insistence on moving beyond the current well-meaning government model to tackling ruling-class wealth and power by nationalising the finance sector would indicate that the gloves are now off.
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