“Bolivarian Revolution” of Hugo Chavez: Pompous but Accurate Name for Pro-Capitalist Bourgeois Reformism

Venezuela is still reeling from the death of Hugo Chavez, the beloved self-styled “socialist” leader of the “Bolivarian Revolution”.  Having raised up the long-held hopes of the impoverished and hideously exploited Venezuelan workers, peasants and indigenous peoples that, finally, their deliverance from capitalist wage-slavery was at hand, Chavez and his fellow “leaders” of the “Bolivarian Revolution” squandered 14 YEARS of opportunities to overthrow the capitalist system in Venezuela and replace it with a socialist workers republic, instead opting for timid reforms of capitalism and leaving the capitalist class deprived of only a fraction of their wealth and the workers and peasants mired in somewhat less desperate poverty.

At a meeting held at the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) office in Chicago, Illinois this weekend, two representatives of the “Bolivarian Revolution” from the Venezuelan consulate pleaded for “more time” to gradually expropriate more capitalist private property when our reporter pointedly asked them “when are you going to overthrow capitalism?”

“We have nationalized perhaps 30 per cent [of the capitalists’ property] so far.  I personally hope that we will be able to move more in that direction in the future” said the Venezuelan government representative at the meeting in response to our question.  “It will take time”.

Well, time is exactly what the leaders of the bourgeois reformist “Bolivarian [non-] Revolution ain’t got.  With the United States disengaging its imperialist military forces from Afghanistan and Iraq, over 300,000 US troops are being paid to do nothing right now – and that’s something the capitalists hate more than anything.   There are more than a few “investors” on Wall St. and lobbyists for multinational corporations in Washington D.C. who think that the US has been neglecting affairs in “its own backyard” for far too long.  In the past 15 years or so, left-liberal and pseudo-socialist governments have won national elections in Ecuador, Argentina and Venezuela – something that the US would never have allowed to happen 30 or 40 years ago.  These governments have pretended to be “socialist” in order to win the support of the masses, and have instituted mild reforms of capitalism after years of being “in power”.  Of course, under capitalism, a class society, all “power” resides in the hands of the bankers and big capitalists, who possess the actual “power” no matter who sits in the ceremonial “Presidential palace”.  So long as those “socialists” do not tamper with the capitalists’ “inalienable” property rights, the capitalist class may decide to tolerate them – for a time.  But as soon as the economy starts to sputter or the “socialists” get it into their reformist heads to “nationalize” major industries or to prevent the capitalists from extracting profits from the toil of the workers, then the capitalists’ toleration for the trappings of bourgeois democracy begins to wear thin.  And this is precisely what is happening in Venezuela today.  “Time” is precisely what the fake-socialist leaders of the “Bolivarian Revolution” do not have, having already squandered 14 YEARS worth of it.

Like the monumental blowhard and military incompetent coward for whom their “Bolivarian Revolution” is aptly named, the Chavistas do not deserve to be called “revolutionaries” in anything other than words.  In a revolution, it is deeds that matter, and here, as with the legend surrounding the cowardly dictatorial Simon Bolivar, the followers of Hugo Chavez come up far short of their bombastic rhetoric.  In 14 years, the Chavistas have enacted nothing more than mere minor ameliorations of the grinding poverty suffered by the workers and peasants of Venezuela for centuries.   Far from having enacted permanent changes to the economic system in Venezuela, the Chavistas have aimed only to reform the capitalist system, and have left the Venezuelan capitalist class and their vast holdings of wealth squeezed from the blood of the Venezuelan workers entirely intact.   This ruling class, having been humiliated by their inability to overthrow the opera bouffe “revolutionary” Hugo Chavez in a coup, have been licking their wounds and preparing for a comeback.  Their candidate in the elections that will be held next month has already declared that, if he wins, he will immediately rescind all support to Cuba, whose economy is hugely dependent on heavily-subsidized oil exports from Venezuela, very commendably offered to Cuba by Chavez while his party was “in power”.    Of course, Capriles knows that it would be folly to announce BEFORE the elections that he intends to overturn ALL of the Chavez-era reforms if he wins.  But that will undoubtedly happen.  Thus have the Chavistas pissed away the most promising opportunity for the overthrow of capitalism in a major country since Chile’s Salvador Allende traveled the same reformist road to his own – and his country’s – doom in 1973.

This weekend’s fete at PSL headquarters was intended to polish the credentials of Chavez who the PSL described in their email invitation to the event thusly:

“Latin American revolutionary and president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías, led a life of dedication to the struggle of the people of Latin America for independence and self-determination.

“He also led Venezuela in an effort to build a better society, redistributing resources in Venezuela to the benefit of the masses of working and poor people. Since his untimely death, millions of Venezuelans, Cubans and people around the world have paid homage to his legacy. Some 33 heads of state and representatives of 50 governments attended Chávez’s funeral.

“The massive outpouring in Venezuela is not just an expression of deep sentiment for a fallen leader. The cries of “We are Chávez!” and “Chávez Vive!” are a resounding commitment by the people: they are more determined than ever to defend the Bolivarian Revolution.

“Join us at this public forum to commemorate Chavez’s legacy and discuss how to build solidarity with the struggle for Latin American self- determination within the United States.”

You can fault the PSL leadership for a lot of things, but, so far as we can see, you can’t fault them for being dishonest.  Although they do hallucinate when they call Chavez a “revolutionary”, they quite accurately describe the poverty of the results of his faux “revolution”: he has not overthrown capitalism, the PSL admits (by omission) – he has merely “led Venezuela in an effort to build a better society”.  That is the textbook definition of – not revolution – but reformism.  Chavez, the PSL says “led a life of dedication to the struggle of the people of Latin America for independence and self-determination.”  Independence from what?  The US?  The Venezuelan ambassador’s representative at the PSL’s meeting admitted that “around 50%” of Venezuela’s foreign trade is with the US.  In fact, he decried that fact that their economy was, after 14 years, still too dependent on trade with the US.  But that wouldn’t change even if Venezuela DID overthrow capitalism.  Who else would buy their oil?  An isolated workers state like Venezuela would be in that case would be forced to trade with capitalist countries until capitalism was overthrown in all those countries – and only then could you talk about the “political” independence of Venezuela – but not “economic” independence!  No country in the world is both “politically” and “economically” independent of the rest of the world.  And under world socialism, not only would nations not be “independent” of each other, they would be thoroughly integrated in a global socialist economy and, hopefully, in a political way as well, as equals, brothers and sisters, for the first time since the human race left Africa 100,000 years ago!  North Korea has “achieved” the most thorough political and economic “independence” from the rest of the world, with Iran not far behind!  Are their precarious situations desirable?  No!

And what the hell does “self-determination” mean?  What country, in a capitalist world run by the big banks in the US and Europe can claim to be a “self-determining” (is that a word?) economic or political entity?  Until capitalism is overthrown worldwide, every capitalist and “socialist”! – country is not master of its own fate!  Every socialist worthy of the name should understand this!  Every country under capitalism is bound together in a web of competing nation-states endlessly squabbling over everything from the demarcation of their borders with neighboring states to the life and death struggle for access to resources necessary for those countries’ economies to prosper!   “Self-determination” is a term that means only one thing in a case like Venezuela’s: it means that the Venezuelan leadership of the “Bolivarian [non-] Revolution” can make political error after error and can pursue a thoroughly reformist bourgeois – as opposed to revolutionary socialist – program as long as they want, because NO ONE IN THE REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALIST WORKERS MOVEMENT HAS THE ‘RIGHT’ TO CRITICIZE their leadership’s stalwart defense of capitalist private property!  The only “role” revolutionary Marxists are allowed to play vis-a-vis Venezuela, according to the PSL, is merely to “build solidarity with the struggle for Latin American self- determination within the United States”!

In fact, the representative from the Venezuelan consulate told our reporter as much in his remarks.

We should back up here and set the scene for our readers so they can see how this was done in a very subtle way.  There were two representatives present from the Venezuelan consulate, if we are not mistaken.  One spoke fluent English and had probably spent a great part of his life in the United States.  The other had a very good command of English but was not fluent – and it was THIS man who gave the presentation on Venezuela’s behalf!

We wish we could speak Spanish as well as this man spoke English; but the fact was that he often struggled during his presentation to find the precisely right words to express various political nuances.  We ask you to have this in mind when we relate this response to our question to him.  We did not record the speech and the Q and A session electronically, although someone videotaped the presentations and at least part of the discussion afterwards.  But we did take some notes, and present them here.

During the question and answer session at the end of the Venezuelan Ambassador’s representative’s presentation, our reporter rose and made approximately the following statement “You consider yourselves to be revolutionaries and socialists, correct?  You have been in power for 14 years: when are you going to overthrow capitalism in Venezuela?  You seem to believe that you have plenty of time to do this.  But while you are waiting, the capitalist class of Venezuela is regrouping and preparing to return to power.  Already Capriles has announced that, if he wins the elections, he will cut off all aid to Cuba.  After all the Cubans have done for the world, do they deserve that?  What kind of socialist revolutionaries allow all their work to be overturned as a result of a bourgeois democratic election?  The Venezuelan capitalist class is not going to sit around and wait while you play games with their private property rights.  And there are more than a few people in Washington who think that the United States Government has been neglecting ‘its own backyard’ for far too long now.  If you don’t overthrow capitalism now, you will end up like Allende’s forces in Chile in the 1970s.  Time is not on your side.  So when do you plan to overthrow capitalism in Venezuela?”  Or words to that effect.  As we say, the exchange was videotaped, so hopefully it will soon be on YouTube or the PSL’s excellent website.

The Venezuelan Ambassador’s rep made a long rambling response to the effect that they needed “more time”; that it is easy for people outside Venezuela to make criticisms and to demand that the Venezuelans “overthrow capitalism NOW”.  And the he said, directly addressing our reporter (who is “white”): (in this case, we have an exact quote:) “When you evaluate from dogma or theory, you have a checklist [and you just go down your checklist ticking the ‘revolutionary’ boxes – ed].  The truth is, we have been, with our mistakes, we have been giving power to people.  It takes to reality and to our times.  We are not in the times of Marx or in the times of [Allende?].  Sometimes I feel that criticism comes from supremacist perspective. [emphasis added – ed]”. 

Our reporter definitely got the message that maybe the reason that our reporter and our party were so “quick” to criticise the “Bolivarian Revolution” was because we were racists who thought the Venezuelans were stupid!

Of course, this man who did not possess the fluency in English of his compatriot sitting right next to him throughout this meeting can now say that he was misquoted or misunderstood by us.  And that may be true.  But this “misunderstanding” would not have occurred if the OTHER representative of the Venezuelan government – the one who spoke seemingly flawless English – had given the presentation instead.  “The right to self-determination” is here taken completely out of its Leninist context – where it refers to the right of independent nation-states to secede from countries that are, essentially, holing national minorities in political and economic bondage – and turns it into a demand for a “criticism-free-zone” where fake-socialist “revolutionaries” can spout all kinds of political nonsense in defense of their stalwart determination NOT to overthrow the capitalist system.

“Theory is important, but we cannot be kidnapped by theory” the Venezuelan ambassador’s representative stated.  But the “Bolivarian Revolution” HAS been “kidnapped by theory” – the erroneous theory that it is “impossible to overthrow capitalism in Venezuela at this time”!

[The Venezuelan Ambassador’s representative was a very nice and thoughtful, eloquent man, as you would expect an ambassador’s rep to be.  He patiently listened to our comment and responded very honestly and without rancor.  We would be happy to discuss these matters with him at any time; there was no anger or vituperation in the course of our conversation with him.  We don’t want people to get the wrong impression from our criticism here that our interaction at the meeting was harsh in any way; it was not.  We shook hands and conversed with him after the meeting as well.]

Political errors may seem small and even trivial to those who haven’t studied the history of the workers movement, where seemingly “trivial” errors, once committed, oftentimes lead to enormous difficulties or even the failure of an entire revolution, resulting in the mass executions of not just the erring political leaders but the very best self-sacrificing revolutionary elements of the working class and peasantry as well.  A good analogy might be this: if you are trying to send a spacecraft to Mars from Earth, an error in the trajectory of that launch by as little as 0.00000001% might seem “trivial”; but unless that original trajectory error is corrected during passage to Mars, that spacecraft is going to miss the planet by maybe a half-million miles and will be lost in interstellar space forever – or crash into the planet. (Something very much along these lines happened to NASA’s  “Mars Climate Orbiter” back in 1998 when a simple failure to properly covert the stupid United States’ archaic English units to Metric units of measurement caused the loss of a $600-million-dollar space mission!)  These small errors of trajectory add up quickly, and this is as true in politics as it is in astrophysics.  Only difference is: in politics, the price is paid with workers’ LIVES.  This is something that far too many self-styled “revolutionary leaders” “forget” to include in THEIR political “calculations”.

In the case of the “Bolivarian Revolution” their “trajectory error” is this: they never “aimed” their revolution to overthrow capitalism in the first place!  That’s why, after 14 years, they STILL haven’t overthrown capitalism!  It’s not a mere “trajectory error”: their program never included “the overthrow of capitalism in a socialist workers revolution” at all, and all the apostles of Hugo Chavez among the “socialist” parties all over the world have “failed to notice” this simple fact.  In the place of this glaring “trajectory error” of the Chavistas, these fake-“socialist leaders” of the left – the PSL not least among them – have substituted, not the “trajectory correction” of criticism, but the abandonment of their responsibility to point out this fatal “error” to their Venezuelan comrades, on the grounds that, due to the Venezuelans’ “right to self-determination” no corrections to the false trajectory of the “Bolivarian [non-]Revolution” are permissible – especially if those corrections come from outside the Chavista party in Venezuela!  So, all we are permitted to do is to stand by and cheer as we watch the “Bolivarian [non-]Revolution” sail off into interstellar space, missing its “target” by half a million miles or more!  Bye!  Don’t forget to write!  What bullshit!

Thank god that this is not how the scientists at  NASACERN or researchers in any other branch of the “hard” sciences operate!  They allow their “comrades” to freely criticise their work and to notify them if, at any time, they find errors of ANY magnitude in their calculations!  Only in the political sphere are we supposed to keep our mouths shut when we see our comrades headed off in the wrong direction, perhaps to their executions!  And they call themselves scientific Marxists, do these leaders of the PSL and others who declare this idiotic moratorium on criticism in the name of “the right to self-determination”!  It is the purest nonsense, thoroughly unscientific, and therefore utterly sub-Marxist!

We’ll have more to say about our discussion with the representatives of the Venezuelan Ambassador in another article.

For the Overthrow of the Capitalist System in Venezuela and Around the World!  Workers of the World, Unite!



2 responses to ““Bolivarian Revolution” of Hugo Chavez: Pompous but Accurate Name for Pro-Capitalist Bourgeois Reformism

  1. So, what you’re saying is that the Bolivarian Revolutionaries missed their chance to overthrow capitalism (now that the US is re-focusing after Iraq and Afghanistan), so now they should overthrow capitalism when it is even more dangerous to do so?

    You think for a moment that there was a chance for this before, when the 1992 coup attempt (at a IMF-cooperative president — this is the “self determination” that you shit on) failed, and the revolutionaries were only successful at the ballot, with a little over half the population in support? You think, from 1998-2003 that the US would have stood by and done nothing? 2003-present, and the current elections would suggest they’d be even more willing to strangle any attempt to do so than previously!

    Then you shit on “the cowardly dictatorial Simon Bolivar” (because Karl Marx said a thing over a hundred years ago) ignoring entirely why perhaps anyone would choose such a symbol, or what the importance of such a symbol is. You do exactly as you are accused, taking a supremacist position, calling the Venezuelans weak vacillating cowards, their stupidity implied both in tactics and in history, while you sit in the heart of imperialism writing polemics about how they’ve failed to live up to their supposed standards “in theory.”

    Do you understand where we are? We’re 23 years into the collapse of the Soviet Union, and even Nepalese Maoist revolutionaries that do overthrow the government turn reformist. Making revolution is not a Y/N formulation of “overthrow the capitalist class NOW! Workers revolution NOW” or else our vastly stunted sectarian micro-parties could have done it in the US and Europe ages ago.

    You also say nothing about any advances that the Bolivarian Revolution made, instead hand-waving it away with “paltry reforms,” showing a complete and thorough lack of understanding as to what exactly has been sown in Latin America over the past two centuries.

    And then you have the gall to say “We don’t want people to get the wrong impression from our criticism here that our interaction at the meeting was harsh in any way; it was not.” I supposed you missed the Venezuelan ambassador politely calling you racists to your face, and then having the courage to shake your hand afterward! So then you only speak ill of them, full of vitriol and spite of people who are ostensibly our comrades, when not face to face with the actual individuals! Perhaps then it’s you, part and parcel of the pitiful US socialist movement that has lost every major opportunity over the past century and a half, who take every chance to criticize and distance themselves from any global movement on the left, who are the true weak, vacillating, cowards.


    • Your comment is quite a classic example of the tailist philosophy of so many fake-socialist groups – like the Party for Socialism and Liberation – who imagine that all kinds of non-revolutionary political parties – like the “Bolivarian Revolutionaries” of Hugo Chavez – are, in fact revolutionary (when they clearly are not) and who then try to suck up to these strutting fake-revolutionary leaders. You try to protect these misleaders of the working class from any type of criticism on the grounds that we “Westerners” have no right to voice our honest criticism of our brothers and sisters from the rest of the world. That attitude is so profoundly sub-Marxist that it is laughable. You either stand for full equality of all the workers of the world or you do not; that includes “white workers” as well, does it not? Or are you saying that workers who “happen to be white” can only sit down and shut up in the presence of our own working class brothers and sisters who are not of the “caucasian persuasion”? Your attitude amounts to nothing less than racist condescension towards these brothers and sisters under a phony pretext of being anti-racist. Your position is pure bullshit – as was the position of the Venezuelan Embassy representative who did in fact essentially say that our very accurate condemnation of the Chavistas refusal to take power in the name of the working class was a case of our being “supremacist”! That is pure nonsense – but not at all surprising coming from a representative of the Chavista government, which is nothing more than a lousy, stinking pro-capitalist bourgeois-reformist government!

      The Chavistas haven’t overthrown capitalism because it isn’t part of their party program! It’s not an accident! They have no intention of overthrowing capitalism because they are mere bourgeois reformists – and only the completely blind like the PSL leadership can’t see it, in spite of the fact that the Chavistas openly proclaim their love for the self-aggrandizing, militarily incompetent, monstrously anti-democratic bourgeois revolutionary Simon Bolivar! It’s the same as if we here in the United States formed a workers party and named it the “Jeffersonian Party” or sought to lead a “Washingtonian Revolution”. But you in the leadership of the badly misnamed “Party for Socialism and Liberation” are not Marxist revolutionaries either – you are fawning sycophants crawling after the most politically bankrupt non-Marxist non-revolutionary forces you can find in an exercise in futility to polish your own non-existent “revolutionary street cred”.

      For fake socialists like the Chavistas and the PSL, it’s never a “good time” to overthrow capitalism! There’s always an excuse to be found as to why the working class “must” settle for a power-sharing deal with the bourgeoisie. The workers must never attempt to overthrow capitalism in Venezuela for fear of angering the United States! Cuba must not try to assist the South American working class in overthrowing their despotic capitalist rulers because it might upset the killers in Washington! But what is the alternative to workers revolution? Class collaboration and the gradual collapse of the revolutionary workers movement – but only after the workers movement has been forced by fake-socialists like the PSL leadership and the Chavista leadership to clear the road to World War Three for the benefit of the capitalist class! Essentially, you are saying that it is more dangerous for the working class to overthrow capitalism than it is for them to bow their heads under the yoke of the capitalist system while that system prepares the world for yet another world war that will make WWII look like a common street fight!

      In Venezuela, the blatant refusal of the Chavistas to overthrow capitalism in the face of an economic crisis created by the international banks and the US – abetted by the Chavistas’ own incompetence – has led the Venezuelan workers to lose faith in the Chavistas and themselves – and this is what led to the extremely narrow electoral victory of the Chavistas in these last elections. As we pointed out to our Venezuelan friend at your forum – time is not on the side of the working class when it comes to overthrowing capitalism. The Chavistas have squandered opportunity after opportunity to overthrow capitalism, while the right-wing opposition has tightened the economic noose around the Chavistas by creating inflation and squeezing the economy – “making the economy scream” in Henry Kissinger’s famous statement of how the US would crush the Allende movement in Chile in the ’70s. We made all these points face to face with the Venezuelan Ambassador’s rep at your forum – and it was after we pointed out these things that he disgustingly smeared us with the slander that we were being “supremacist” for criticising his party of fake-revolutionaries!

      We did in fact speak face to face with him after his presentation. We reiterated the dangers that faced the Chavistas unless they overthrew capitalism, pointing out that while the Chavistas fucked around making pompous and bombastic speeches to delude the workers into believing that they were more revolutionary than they actually are, the Venezuelan ruling class is preparing firing squads for them all! We said “most of those generals in the Venezuelan military who are supposedly defending the “Bolivarian Revolution” were probably in the pay of the CIA before Chavez came to power… and the Venezuelan ambassador’s representative nodded “yes”! We told him that those men need to be carefully watched because they are the ones who the US will use to launch the coup against the Chavistas once they are ready. He agreed with us that the danger is real. We had pointed out in our statement during the discussion that most revolutionaries are lucky to get even one chance to overthrow capitalism, but the Venezuelans have had several and had done nothing! And the counterrevolution never sleeps, and it knows what it wants and it knows how to get it, and it doesn’t care how many workers have to die in order to restore the dictatorship of capital over the nation.

      But for fake-revolutionaries, the fruit is never ripe enough to harvest, no matter how the crop develops. We would call it cowardice, except for the simple fact that the Chavistas are NOT Marxist revolutionaries, they are bourgeois reformists. In the PSL’s case, though, the name of “coward” seems to fit quite well. You seem to prefer the rule of capital to the rule of the working class; you seem content to tail after bourgeois reformists rather than to boldly call them by their right names – which is the first order of business for a Marxist-Leninist, is it not? Instead of “always telling the workers the truth, no matter how brutal” as the great Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky did, the PSL leadership prefers to sell the Chavistas’ bourgeois-reformist bullshit, telling the workers that they are Marxist revolutionaries when they are obviously nothing of the sort. And you’re even willing to deride the very accurate portrait Karl Marx paints of the incompetent, arrogant satrap Bolivar in order to further your own sucking up to the Chavistas. We ask you of PSL leadership: will you be as willing to accept the blame for the bloodbath that will un doubtedly take place when the Venezuelan capitalist class once again gains the whip hand over the Venezuelan workers? We seriously doubt it.

      As we told the Venezuelan ambassador’s rep at your forum: we really don’t care what happens to the fake-revolutionary Chavista leadership – whether that cabal of phony revolutionaries survives the counterrevolution in Venezuela when it comes, we could care less. But the real loss will be the loss of thousands of worker-militants who will be slaughtered by the capitalist class in the event of the violent overthrow of the half-baked revolution in Caracas. That will be a very real tragedy, and one that may take generations to overcome. The PSL leadership, through its fawning, sycophantic and condescending tailing after the Chavistas – and through its cowardly pretense that the danger of the fallout from a successful workers revolution is far greater than the danger of not having a workers revolution at all – is helping pave the road to the counterrevolution and a mass slaughter of revolutionary Venezuelan workers in the manner of the defeat of the fake-revolutionary Allende movement in Chile in the 1970s.

      Workers of Venezuela: the Chavistas are bourgeois reformists! Organize a revolutionary Marxist party to overthrow capitalism before it is too late! Time is running out!

      Workers of the World, Unite!

      Independent Workers Party of Chicago


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