An overexcited Socialist Worker/NZ has publicly disagreed with its sister organisations in declaring the Venezuelan revolution the "most important leap forward for the workers' cause since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution". It likens Chavez new party of socialist unity to Lenin's Bolshevik Party. CWG replies to this view of the Bolivarian revolution and argues for a different and revolutionary politics based on the conception of Chavez as a 'Bonapartist' figure balanced between the working masses and international capitalism whose regime has to be overthrown by a workers revolution to form a workers and peasants state.
The revolution is in the balance
While the political developments in
Yet, despite these differences over how far the revolution has gone, they all agree that the formation of the PSUV offers an opening for workers to move towards political independence and create genuine organs of workers power - soviets or workers councils and militias. In this they join forces with most of the ex-Trotskyist left like the Australian Green Left and the international Grant/Woods Tendency. They all characterisie the PSUV as a broad 'workers' party in which revolutionaries can enter and fight for a program of workers to power. To this end they say the UNT should join and lend its weight to a mass rank and file membership that can take advantage of Chavez' promise to hold democratic elections for delegates to found the party, and force a break from the Bolivarian state bureaucracy that wants to limit the revolution to a form of Venezuelan state capitalism.
But this assessment makes the fatal mistake of failing to see that the PSUV is a 'popular front party' where the state bureaucracy acts as the 'shadow' of the national bourgeoisie which is in an alliance with imperialist capitalism. More important, the PSUV is the ruling party of the state Bolivarian regime which includes Chavez Presidency. This regime we characterise as 'Bonapartist' following Trotsky's analysis of populist leaders in
Here we argue that the popular front cannot work unless a treacherous fake left leadership seduces the workers into joining it on the bosses' terms. In doing so they tie the workers hands behind their backs and prepare to lead them to historic defeats. Whereas in the 1930s the Stalinists performed this role, today after the restoration of capitalism in all of the former degenerate workers states except
The Popular Front in
The crucial problem in
If the unions and workers parties are inside these popular fronts, this has the effect of limiting their independent action. More than that it prevents them from organising as armed independent class forces to prepare for counter-revolution. Peron in
Lula did the same in
PSUV is a Popular Front Party
The situation is slightly different in
PSUV is not politically independent of the state. It will be the governing party after all. Moreover it is what Trotsky called a 'popular front party' comprising left bourgeois, petty bourgeois and working class elements. If the UNT joins the PSUV then it will not be independent of the state. It has since joined.
Fight for independent unions, independent armed workers councils (soviets) everywhere, and and an independent Marxist Party with a program to form a workers and peasants government and expropriate imperialist and capitalist property.
We need to understand the signficance of the PSUV as a popular front party. Its significance is that the popular organisations, AK47s and all, remain part of a political bloc dominated by the bourgeoisie, and so are hampered in forming politically independence class organs such as workers councils and workers militias. Many on the left don't understand that the bourgeoisie can be represented in a popular front by a very small section, even by a petty bourgeois party. They object that the national bourgeoisie in
The Bourgeoisie or its "shadow"
However, a popular front (or popular front party) does not need to have a strong representation of the bourgeoisie, and certainly not the traditional bourgeoisie in
The important thing is that the workers party (or working class elements) in a popular front are constrained by deals done by their leaderships to appease the interests of the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie, or its 'shadow' - in the case of Venezuela the state bureaucracy that uses the regime to defend the bourgeois constitution and the defence of private property.
What is happening in Venezuela is not unique, it follows a very similar course to Mexico in the 1930s under Cardenas who formed a 'popular' united party, the PRM, nationalised the oil industry (far more than Chavez has done)and controlled the unions via his state machine which he then used to repress the workers. The PRM (and we think the PSUV) are forms of popular fronts common in Latin America created by elected strong presidents as 'populist parties' sometimes referred to a 'patriotic fronts', to bury the independence of the labour movement in a 'bloc of four classes'. e.g. workers, peasants, petty bourgeois and 'patriotic' capitalists.' The PRM was called a 'peoples front' by the Mexican CP and analysed as such by Trotsky who coined the term 'popular front party'.
Are popular front parties the same as bourgeois labour parties?
It could be argued that a popular front party is no different from the more common bourgeois workers parties such as the British or New Zealand Labour Parties. In both cases the bourgeoisie is not directly represented. For example the New Zealand Labour Party grew out of the right wing (reformist and bureaucratic) of the Labor movement with the support of small farmers. Its policies benefited the national manufacturing bourgeoisie without their direct representation (apart from the co-optation of people like businessman James Fletcher during WW11).
Both popular fronts (including parties) and bourgeois-workers (Labour or Social Democrat) parties suppress the basic class contradiction of workers representation against the bourgeois program. In Labor parties the workers can challenge the leadership when it betrays its own program. In a popular front however, the workers leaders make agreements with the bourgeois party or parties and use this agreement to discipline any attempt by the ranks to break out of the popular front. The strategy of the bourgeoisie, using the labor bureaucracy then, is the same in both forms of government. The question is what tactics to apply to break with the bourgeoisie and the labor bureaucracy?
Lenin's tactic of critical support for BW parties is well known (if not well understood). It means using the BW parties constitution to fight inside for a workers program, and getting them elected to expose their bourgeois program. Thus entry into a Labour Party activates the contradiction when the revolutionaries fight to expose the reformist program of the BW Party when it becomes the government. The the case of the popular front the tactics to break with the bourgeoisie have to be applied in such a way as not to sow illusions in the popular front. It is necessary to critically support the Workers Parties in a popular front, but only in order to break them away from the bourgeoisie.
The debate among Trotskyists about tactics towards the popular front
Some say it is impossible for workers to mobilise inside the PF to activate the suppressed contradiction because the leaderships have already made their agreements with the bourgeois, petty bourgeois, or labor bureaucratic partners. The contradiction can only be activated from outside, and so to join a popular front as the POUM did in
Others argue that it may by possible to activate the contradiction by short term specific entry or critical support before the PF becomes elected. They point to the fact that the Trotskyist party in
In the case of popular front parties such as the PSUV where there is no direct representation of the bourgeoisie but rather its 'shadow', the state bureaucracy, the tactical question of activating the contradiction depends first on having an independent force outside the PSUV that could build support for such tactics and act as a fulcrum to exert leverage to break workers from the popular front in government.
Is the formation of a left party outside the PSUV by the LIT,
No, like the PSOL in
What is the role of revolutionaries?
Therefore the role of revolutionaries is NOT to tell the UNT to join the PSUV and fight for a revolutionary program inside to push the popular front to the left. This is a fatal mistake that led to historic defeats of the Socialist Unity in
Against this capitulation to the popular front, the correct strategy is to build united fronts around occcupations, workers defence etc to create armed workers councils or soviets that are politically independent of both the UNT and PSUV. Tactical interventions inside the UNT and the PSUV should be made to form class fractions for a revolutionary workers party and to break up the popular front. But these tactics can only work as part of a strategy to build an independent working class politics led by a revolutionary party and program.
Trotsky's position in relation to the popular front was to build united fronts of the workers organisations that were being trapped inside the popular front in order to break the base from the treacherous left leaders as a first step to breaking with the bourgeois partners and program. Clearly voting for the candidates of workers parties that propose to join a popular front government and that stand for election separately might have this effect. It might therefore be argued that in the formation of the PSUV there is an opportunity for class struggle candidates to be put up by the class struggle tendency of UNT for election that would take a revolutionary fraction program into the party to break up the popular front party. This could be one way of trying to activate the class contradiction in the PSUV.
But its success would depend on the strength of the independent workers mandate (i.e. independent workers candidates standing on the same program outside the PSUV) and how strictly the delegates were held to it in the face of the 'unity at all costs' discipline that is behind the formation of the PSUV. If this fraction was suppressed then that would be a clear indication that the contradiction was suppressed in the PSUV.
Revolutionaries must fight inside the organs of the working class to form communist fractions and cells. That means actively building revolutionary platforms in the UNT and inside any political formations arising out of the working class such as the Trotskyist centrist bloc being formed in Venezuela They should call for the formation of workers councils and workers militias of all the class struggle tendencies in the working class.
Inside these formations revolutionaries would fight to expose the PSUV as a popular front party, and the Chavez regime as a bourgeois Bonapartist regime. At the same time they would form a military bloc with all those defending the regime from imperialist destabilisation, invasion and overthrow, while stating clearly that only the armed and centralised militias of the workers and poor peasants are capable of defeating imperialism and its agents in Venezuelan society and state, and that only a workers and peasants government that creates a planned socialist economy can fulfill the demands and needs of the massesNotes
2. SW/NZ claims: “There is, at present, a dual power scenario in
3. SW/NZ say: “It would be utopian to think that the PSUV could be an instantly homogenous party of revolutionaries. It will, however, be a mass socialist party with organic connections to grassroots people who support the unfolding revolution. The process of building the PSUV will challenge the reformist wing of the Bolivarian movement and precipitate a "battle of ideas" in which the masses will participate. While the initiative for the PSUV came from Chavez, it will be built "from below". Socialist militants, who played a key role in mobilising the Chavista vote during the 2006 presidential election, have become the "promoters" of the new mass socialist party. They are going out to the people to register members, who will be organised into "socialist battalions" of 200 people each. The aim is to organise 20,000 of these "battalions" across