January, 2019

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Venezuela: For mass mobilization of workers to build real socialism and put an end to corrupt bureaucracy!

by Executive Committee of Izquierda Revolucionaria (CWI in Venezuela)

The new leader of the Venezuelan right and far right, Juan Guaidó, (recently elected president of the counterrevolutionary national Assembly) has proclaimed himself President. He called on his supporters to take to the streets to force through the down fall of Nicolás Maduro’s government. Immediately, the most reactionary governments in Latin America and the world, with far-right Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil) and Donald Trump (USA) at the head, have recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s “only legitimate president”.

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A coup d’état planned by imperialism and the Venezuelan and international right

Wielding all kinds of threats, the US Secretary of State (and former director of the CIA), Mike Pompeo, has demanded that the Maduro government resign immediately. “We have all the options on the table” said Trump. The Venezuelan ultra-right leader, also announced on television that “we are very close to the moment for which we fought for years” and told Maduro to resign “if he wants to save his life”. Latin American governments that stand out for their reactionary and antisocial policies and their servility to Washington enthusiastically support the coup while cynically claiming to stand “for democracy.” You only have to see who leads this ‘Holy Alliance’ to understand what is at stake: the Colombian president Duque (linked to Urribe narcoparamilitarismo), the Ecuadorian President Moreno (The Judas of the Ecuadorian left) President Macri (responsible for the brutal cuts that have provoked the Argentine people to rise up on their feet and fight) or the Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández (organizer of an electoral fraud with the support of the White House last year and responsible for the repression and murder of dozens of protesters). As is to be expected applauding enthusiastically from the other side of the Atlantic are the European right and far right in Spain with Pablo Casado from the PP, Albert Rivera (Cuidadanos) and the fascistic elements of Vox in the front line.

Guaidó and the Venezuelan right are trying to take advantage of the desperation and indignation felt by the Venezuelan people in the face of the economic and social collapse that the country suffers. GDP and living standards have fallen by 50% in the last four years and the situation has only worsened with price increases of up to 1000% since the beginning of this year.

As we write these lines, tens of thousands of people in different parts of Venezuela have responded to the call of Guaidó not to leave the streets until Maduro resigns or the military takes him down, copying the script of the failed right-wing coup against Chavez in April 2002. On the other hand, Government supporters who had gathered in the Plaza O’Leary of Caracas and other central points of the big cities have been called upon by Diosdado Cabello, leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), to go to the Miraflores Palace, as happened in 2002, and keep a vigil to defend it and Maduro from a possible opposition assault.

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The pacts of the government with the capitalists open the way to the reaction

The main difference of this coup with that perpetrated against Chávez in 2002 is that the parasitic, corrupt and reactionary Venezuelan right is managing to mobilize not only young university students, professionals and small owners belonging to the middle classes, as happened during the violent guarimba that caused more than 100 deaths between March and July 2017. On this occasion, significant sectors of the youth, unemployed, and even workers, desperate because of the economic situation and the brutal price increases, are marching from poor neighborhoods called onto the street by the right and the extreme right.

Since August 2018, when the government of Maduro applied the so-called Economic Reactivation Plan and devalued the bolivar by establishing a new currency, the Sovereign Bolivar (60 BS equal to 1 dollar), hyperinflation – which was already out of control – has reach devastating levels. Before the start of this latest crisis, the dollar was exchanged for 3,000 sovereign bolivars! Some analysts forecast six or seven-digit inflation for this year.

A simple consultation in a private clinic, something to which not only the middle layers but also many workers are forced to have because of the collapse of the public health service, has soared in price in a few days from 2,000 to 15,000 BS. The state company mobile phone company Movilnet has raised its lowest rates from 169 to 1,300 Bs! While accepting these increases, or even applying them in services and products that depend on public companies, the governments’ only response was a “triumphalist”, a new salary increase of 400% ( from 4,500 BS to 18,000 Bs per month). That is worth barely $ 6, completely insufficient to deal with the rise in basic commodity prices.

The promised wage increases, that hyperinflation eats before being they are applied, together with the triumphalist and even contemptuous tone of the leadership and the PSUV bureaucracy against those who protest, the recourse to repression against many workers who have staged defensive strikes in recent months, together with the fact that most of the bureaucrats who wear the red flannel live with all kinds of privileges and material conditions similar to that of the capitalist class, has only intensified the rage of people. On this objective basis, the right has regained the initiative and launched this new assault for power.

But the victory of the right wing reactionary forces will not solve the problems of the working people. On the contrary! The objective of the imperialists who are pulling the strings behind Guaidó is to force an intervention by senior military officers or at least of a significant layer of them to overthrow Maduro and give power to the right. For years, Maduro has tried to stay in government by giving more and more concessions, economic power and weight in the government to the military high command. This has contributed to an increase in corruption and provoked unrest amongst workers and the people. However, it will not guarantee the loyalty of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) to Maduro.

During its previous offensive to take power in 2017, the Venezuelan right had already managed to open a breach in the state apparatus with the support of Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz and the resignation of some senior military officials. Then, a key factor for the military leadership, was that the right wing opposition strategy was not enabling them to secure the mass mobilizations they hoped for and they did not spread from the urban middle class to the working class and poor neighborhood’s. In addition, the terrorist actions of the fascist gangs convinced hundreds of thousands of workers, who were very dissatisfied with the government’s policies, to give the PSUV and its National Constituent Assembly (ANC) a last chance. But now the situation has undergone a qualitative transformation.

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The PSUV bureaucracy does not defend socialism

The media of the ruling class and international world reaction present the events in Venezuela as the failure of socialism. In Venezuela itself, with the inestimable help of the bureaucratic leaders of the PSUV – who classify this disaster and its policy of pacts with businessmen of a “transition to socialism” -, the right uses the economic collapse to sow confusion amongst the masses, undermine its morale and discredit the idea of socialism, workers control and in general everything that smells left or revolution.

In fact, the program applied by Maduro and the PSUV leaders are light years away from socialism and what millions of people expected in 2013, when they voted to keep the social plans and reforms carried out by Chávez in trying to respond to the aspirations of the working class and the most oppressed sectors of the people.

Since then, Maduro and his collaborators, also inspired by the Chinese government and a whole legion of Stalinist “fellow travelers”, have tried to convince the Venezuelan and international ruling class that they could manage the worst crisis in the history of Venezuelan capitalism with less social upheavals than the right wing would mean. During recent months they have approved very hard social cuts and wage reductions, the dismissals of thousands of workers from public companies by trying to cover them up with a fraudulent and impotent “revolutionary mysticism”. Through these policies they have only managed to erode in record time the massive social support that the PSUV had. Now the same bourgeoisie and businessmen who benefited from the government aid and signed agreements with the regime are manoeuvring with imperialism to regain direct control of government and state power. This crisis is the result of the bureaucratic “socialist” model of a caste of demoralized and corrupt officials, military and politicians, who have risen totally above the living conditions of the people who have been fighting to maintain their privileges. Their actions have undermined the conquests of the Bolivarian revolution and allowed the reaction to advance.

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Organize action committees in each neighborhood and each factory. Build a united front of the left to defeat the coup and end capitalism and the bureaucracy

Guaidó is like a wolf in a lambs clothing and speaks of a government for all and reconciliation. Yet if this right-wing reactionary and the forces that support him come to power, the result will be a nightmare for millions of workers and peasants, who are suffering from the social and economic crisis. Their political and economic agenda can only be applied with even more massive layoffs, brutally cutting social spending and repressing unions, social movements, and activists on the left, on an even more brutal and bloody scale than they do in the countries of their sponsors – Duque, Bolsonaro and Macri .

The first task of the working class and the politically conscious and combative people of Venezuela is to organize resistance against the coup. We must begin by denouncing the true objectives of Guaidó, the right wing and imperialism. We have to organize assemblies in each company and place of work to discuss what our needs and demands are and how the economic plans and policies of the right mean a mortal danger. It is urgent to create action committees in defense of the rights of workers and the people in each work center and each neighborhood, defending a genuinely socialist class program, which proposes the expropriation of the big private monopolies and banking to end the hyperinflation and corruption, the abolition of the privileges of the bureaucracy and that strives to transfer real power to the hands of the working class and the oppressed. We must organize massive mobilizations and the legitimate self-defense of the people against the violence of the right.

The experience of recent years shows that we cannot have the slightest confidence in the Maduro government, the bureaucracy or the senior army officers if we want to prevent the victory of the reaction. It has been Maduro’s policies, his bureaucracy and his corruption that have opened the way to the right wing and the coup. The only way to avoid a tragic result for the working class and the people of Venezuela is to raise a united front of the left, completely independent of those who have caused this disaster, to openly fight for the conquest of power to establish a democratic administration of the workers’ and exploited people, based on direct democracy in all aspects of social and economic life, that advance an economic plan, through the expropriation of capitalists and the management and democratic control of workers, to create employment and increase production and the social conquests won previously.

There is no time to lose. Massive resistance must be waged against the blow of reaction and imperialism with mass mobilization from below, raising a revolutionary socialist and internationalist program. The peoples and the working class of the whole world, beginning with those of Latin America, have the duty to reject the bloodbath that the rightwing coup and its international mentors are preparing. Only the working people can save the people!

Eyewitness in Zimbabwe

This morning WASP member Goodenough Chimurenga was able to send us an eyewitness report of the mass movement that rocked Zimbabwe last week.

Good morning comrades. I’m sorry that I have not been a reliable correspondent on the events obtaining here. My useless phone and the internet blockade have not helped matters at all. I shall try to give you a picture of what’s taking place.

It has been quite difficult to judge the accuracy of certain social media reports all across the country mostly because of the complete media blackout imposed by the regime and it’s complete control of the internal press.

But I think it is safe to characterize last week’s events as overwhelmingly historical, particularly the first three days where we saw what can be easily be described as a total, all-be-it momentary, seizure of power by the masses through the shutdown/general strike organised by ZCTU [Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions]. The state was rendered functionless and redundant by the total withdrawal of labour by workers both in the public and private sectors, informal workers, which I think was mostly made possible by the taxi drivers who were angered by the fuel hike.

Even riot police could not report for duty under the circumstances. Remember the ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police] often the chief instrument of state repression has basically been demoted after Mugabe’s ouster. They seem to be holding some sort of a grudge against the Mnangagwa regime.

The wave of protests ignited by the fuel hike took place in the townships as opposed to the city centres where they usually take place. The angry masses in Harare and Bulawayo went after every symbol of the state they could get hold of – from the Choppies Supermarket chain where Mnangagwa holds a stake, to the police stations, and every car that seemed to be disobeying the shutdown.

Some rank-and-file military personnel in uniform in Harare were seen participating in the looting of Choppies as well as enforcing the shutdown by blocking and beating people who disobeyed it, at least for the first 3 days of last week.

Of course the regime reacted violently and brutally by unleashing the military on innocent civilians and activists in the townships but with much less confidence in it’s own capacity this time and a little too late than usual.

Opposition parties remain oblivious to the revolutionary moment before them and completely incapable of providing the leadership the angry masses so desperately need.

For more detail on the current crisis please click here. For historical background and analysis of the struggle of the Zimbabwean working class and poor, please click here.

Zimbabwe: general strike in response to price hikes

by CWI reporters

A three day general strike in Zimbabwe was set in motion on 14 January in response to the deteriorating economic situation in the country. Called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and local activists the strike was in protest against the 150 per cent fuel price hike announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 12 January.

The national shut-down was overwhelmingly implemented by the workers, unemployed and self-employed – the vast majority of Zimbabweans. In the capital, Harare, and second largest city Bulawayo, people, including large numbers of youth, took to the streets demonstrating. Elsewhere people stayed home as a way of expressing their grievances.

The police met the demonstrations with live bullets and tear gas. Two days into the general strike, five people have reportedly been shot dead by the police, and several others wounded. A police station in Harare was torched as demonstrators reacted against the heavy-handed repression. Some demonstrators set up barricades blocking the roads into the cities. Media also reports some looting. The opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reports that its head office was looted and set alight. Also cars of the ruling ZANU-PF were targeted.

Now priced at US$3.31 per litre (diesel to US$3.11), fuel in Zimbabwe is now the most expensive in the world in a country where only 11% of the 5.4m economically active population are employed in the formal sector, and 72% live below the World Bank poverty line of US$1.90 per day. The working class and poor in Zimbabwe had already been hard hit by accelerating price hikes, shortage of hard cash, fuel and basic goods including medicine under the new finance minister’s mockingly titled “Austerity for Prosperity” budget under which soldiers’ pensionable age was raised to 70 from 65 years of age.

According to the announcement by the government, big businesses will be compensated for the increase through tax rebates. This on its own is an attack on the workers, the poor, the unemployed and self-employed – the bosses’ government is trying to force the workers and poor to pay for the economic crisis. Mnangagwa has also announced wholesale privatisation of publicly own corporations since he took power.

The national shut-down comes on the heels of the doctors` strike, which was just called-off after over a month of struggle for, amongst others, outstanding wages and a massive increase in health care spending. A teachers strike is also planned for later this month. A group of teachers recently marched from Bulawayo to Harare (430 kilometres!) to present their grievances, including among other things poor salaries amid increased prices in basic goods, to the government. Public sector workers also served a strike notice on the Public Service Commission on 8 January after negotiations between the government and workers failed.

In other words, the general strike takes place as part of a ferment across workplaces and communities. Not even six months after he was elected, president Mnangagwa (who in November 2018 was involved in the coup that unseated his old party comrade Robert Mugabe after 37 years in power) may be facing a brewing rebellion. The elections were in reality called to legitimise the regime Mnangagwa’s military installed following the thinly disguised coup that ousted Mugabe.

As the Saturday Big Read (SBR) (16/01/2019) points out: “On August 1 2018, the same military was deployed into the streets of Harare. The operation left six dead and 35 others wounded. Shot down in cold blood. A commission of inquiry was set up. It performed a shoddy white-washing job. No-one has been held accountable. Not even a single word of apology.”

Just six months later, the SBR reports that “The State has now resorted to extraordinary measures, without even declaring a State of Emergency. They include the following:

  • military deployment
  • detention of civilians
  • shootings, beatings, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture. People have been killed in cold blood
  • door-to-door search & seizure of individuals and abductions
  • shutdown of the Internet and social media to prevent free flow of information. There is an information blackout
  • Propaganda, blaming the opposition and civil society groups for what are plain opposition protests”

Despite pointing to serious evidence of rigging before the elections – including the refusal by the Independent Elections Commissions to release the voters roll for inspection by the opposition critical for their credibility – the MDC participated in what were in effect fraudulent elections, overwhelmed by its ambition for office.

Although the MDC has expressed solidarity with the strike, its pre-occupation has been to deny responsibility for them. Clearly taken by surprise by these developments, instead of placing itself at the head of these massive protests, it is using them instead to make a call for regional intervention and for Mnangagwa to return from his overseas trip for a ‘national dialogue’.

The CWI gives full support to the strike and calls on workers, youth and community activists to use the strike to build organising committees in workplaces, schools, townships and villages to discuss the programme of action and the alternative to the increasingly nightmarish situation. The ZCTU rank-and-file must campaign for the unions to break any lingering ties with the MDC and campaign for the creation of a workers party.

The only way out of the Zimbabwe crisis, is to struggle for a socialist Zimbabwe, a socialist Africa and a socialist world, where the resources of society are taken into genuine public ownership, managed and controlled democratically by workers and communities, and production is planned for the needs of all, not the profits of big business, the multinationals and the politically connected elite.

[whohit]POST – Zimbabwe: general strike in response to price hikes[/whohit]

Nigeria elections – Main parties offer no alternative

Socialists raise banner of struggle

General elections are scheduled for Nigeria in February and March. February 16 is due to see the election of the president and National Assembly, while on March 2 governors and state assemblies in most of Nigeria’s 36 states, alongside local elections in the federal capital Abuja, are scheduled.

 

These elections will see the recently registered Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) stand for the first time in general elections.

The SPN argues that a large section of Nigerians went into 2015 elections with huge illusions in Buhari and APC’s ability to resolve the woe of the previous 16 years of the PDP government. But the last 3 years have seen a mass disillusionment in the Buhari government as the conditions of the masses have become worse. The question the masses have not been able to answer is why the country is in this mess at all levels despite being blessed with huge human and material resources? The crisis of Nigeria is the crisis of capitalism in a neo-colonial country. Capitalism has to be defeated before Nigeria can realize its full potentials and the human and material resources are used for the benefit all, and not for the insatiable greed of a few. This explanation has to be popularized amongst the masses.

However, this does not mean that the masses can only throw hands up helplessly just hoping for a better time or messiah or falling into despair. The working class people and the masses have to struggle to force the inherently anti-poor pro-capitalist ruling elite/politicians grant some concessions that may improve their conditions even it is temporarily. This has been demonstrated by the working people and youth in various struggles for improvement such as electricity campaign, anti-fuel price hike, anti-school fee hike, minimum wage, etc. But concessions can be taken away or undermined, a fundamental solution is necessary. So, what is missing is a mass party that will actively identify with these struggles and help the working people to link them with overall need to take over political power with a view to ultimately defeat capitalism.

It is against this background that the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) is intervening in the 2019 general elections. The party was formed in 2012 by socialist, trade union and youth activists including members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM). But the party only became officially recognized and able to stand in elections, following a court order in January 2018, after over three years of both legal and political struggles. The electoral commission (INEC) had originally refused to register the party despite it having fulfilled all constitutional, legal and financial requirements.

Electoral period predisposes the masses to a reflection over how they are being governed and how the economy is run. We want to use the election to open dialogue with wider layers of the oppressed people on how government and economy should be run. In other words, we are reaching out to the masses with socialist alternative programme including immediate demands for improvement in both working and living conditions.

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Below is a report, taken from the DSM’s website of the enthusiastic launch of the SPN’s campaign in Ifo, Ogun State, an area which borders on Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital.

There was an excited response as the flag-off rally of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) campaign to elect Comrade Hassan Taiwo Soweto as member, Ogun State House of Assembly, Ifo 2 constituency, took place on Saturday 15 December 2018. It started with a symposium at the Olambe Town hall, with about 120 persons in attendance. The symposium started with solidarity songs where the members of the party sang enthusiastically, before the candidate came out to give his manifestoes to an inspiring applause by the audience.

Soweto is running on a manifesto to go into the House of Assembly to build a popular movement to fight for development for neglected communities in the constituency in the areas of road infrastructure, electricity, public education, healthcare and jobs. He will stand against all anti-poor policies and serve as a bold voice for workers, youth and the masses. He will continue to live in the constituency and he will not collect more than the salary and allowances of a skilled civil servant.

Speaking after him was a Chief of the Olaogun town, Chief Bamigbose, who informed the audience of the fact that the constituency is larger than 6 local governments in the state, yet it is the most underfunded. There are hardly any motorable roads while public schools and health facilities are either non-existent or inadequate. He stressed the need for a vibrant representation for the constituency, and the need for the members of the constituency to elect Soweto with a protest vote.

The National Secretary of the party, Comrade Chinedu Bosah, also came out to speak and expressed how inspiring the Ifo contest was for the National Secretariat and the whole party. The Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of the Party, Comrade Rufus Olusesan, lamented that Nigerians can no longer beg around to feed themselves, and concluded that ‘enough is enough of capitalist politicians’. A member of the Campaign for a Workers’ and Youths’ Alternative (CWA), Falilat Jimoh, came with solidarity greetings from the CWA, drawing the similarities between the CWA and SPN, and stressed the fact that a victory for Soweto would be an exemplary radical alternative.

Comrade Ayo Arogundade echoed that the alternatives of a politician on minimum wage, and living in the community are examples that the SPN is set to lay with the contest. The Chairlady of the Tailors’ Association in the area, Mrs. Olaoyenikan, encouraged the people to vote for a grassroots activist. A local elder in the area, Elder Jegede, narrated how he was inspired by the speech of the candidate at an earlier date at a meeting of the Community Development Council, and lamented how youths were being used by bourgeois politicians but is happy that the youths are now ready to take their future into their hands. A representative of the Baale (Monarch) of Olambe town in his speech described the candidate as a David that will definitely overcome the Goliath he is confronting. Mamakofoshi, the women’s leader of the party, expressed her happiness that an activist is contesting, and asked the people to vote out corrupt politicians.

An election fundraising was launched at the symposium which raised in pledges and cash a total sum of N45,000 with about N11,500 raised on the spot. The rally started immediately after the symposium with a convoy of three cars, a bus, about five motorcycles (okada) and a van, which were all filled up with many walking almost the entire length of the distance covered. Inspiring responses of the people about the need for good roads and exemplary endorsements by those we engaged and agitated with were all the major highlights of the rally, asides the poster pasting and the leafleting.