March 2014. The Crisis in Venezuela: Points of Orientation

Updated April 4, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Since early February, anti-government protests have rocked parts of Caracas and other cities in Venezuela. The U.S. media has portrayed the protests as a "popular" outpouring—of the middle classes, students, and others rejecting the economic policies and "iron-fisted" rule of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro. In reality, reactionary forces are mobilizing students and professionals around a pro-U.S. platform and under the banner of putting an end to what they claim is "socialist tyranny."

Nicolás Maduro was elected president after the former president, Hugo Chavez, died in 2013. Chavez in the early 2000s became a thorn in the side of U.S. imperialism when he imposed restrictions on U.S. and other imperialist oil companies (that had long profited from Venezuela's oil resources) and adopted a foreign policy that included close relations with Cuba. He demanded a larger share of oil earnings for Venezuela. The Chavez government also greatly expanded certain social welfare programs. These policies angered the U.S. imperialists who have never relented in trying to destabilize and overturn the regime.

Chavez and what he called the "Bolivarian revolution" attracted considerable support from progressive people around the world. But this was NOT a genuine revolution.

Today, Venezuela is in deep economic crisis. And the government is carrying out harsh repression.

Considerable confusion exists among progressive people over how to sum up these events. Some people are drawn to supporting the Venezuelan government. Many others think like actor Jared Leto, who said when he accepted his Oscar recently: "To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight, in places like the Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say we are here, and as you struggle to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible, we're thinking of you". But these are not dreams to embrace. Nor is the current regime socialist or a model for liberation.

The following are some Points of Orientation, to help set a basic framework for understanding and bringing a proletarian internationalist outlook to bear on the situation in Venezuela.

1. The recent street protests in Venezuela are not a progressive outpouring. Reactionary forces are operating in and through key institutions of Venezuelan society—business councils, the media, U.S.-financed foundations, educational facilities—to shape the direction, demands, and social content of the protests. Their goal is to bring Venezuela more tightly under the thumb of U.S. imperialism and to allow the traditional elites to have a freer hand in administering society. These forces have been built up in various ways by U.S. imperialism. There are different currents in opposition to the government and not everyone involved in these protests is reactionary. But it is these pro-U.S. forces who are principally driving the agenda.

2. The sharpening situation in Venezuela is shaped by a dynamic between the contradictions of the Chavez program and the moves of U.S. imperialism. There is a real economic and political crisis in Venezuela. Consumer prices, including for basic necessities, have skyrocketed and there are food shortages. Some sections of the middle classes have seen a sudden decline in their traditional living standards. Unemployment is high. Crime is rampant. With protests mounting, the Maduro government is now straining to maintain itself in power and resorting to extreme repression.

On the one hand, there are these growing difficulties for the Chavez-Maduro model of development—which is based on the expectation of ever-growing oil revenues to support social programs for the poor and to buy "social peace" from the middle classes by allowing high levels of consumer imports, cheap gasoline, etc. On the other hand, pro-U.S. forces are taking advantage of discontent and making bolder moves against the regime. And U.S. imperialism is maneuvering in all this to advance its strategic interests.

3. The government of Nicolás Maduro, who followed Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela, is not revolutionary. Venezuela is a society that remains subordinate to imperialism, profit, and exploitation. As Revolution pointed out last year in an article about Hugo Chavez:

"A real revolution in an oppressed Third World country like Venezuela requires a two-fold break. There must be a radical break with the political economy of imperialism. And there must be a radical social revolution, a radical break with traditional relations and ideas. This was neither the program nor outlook of Hugo Chavez. Venezuela remained dependent for revenues on the world oil economy, which is dominated by imperialism. It remained dependent on the world market, which is dominated by imperialist agri-business, for its food. Under Chavez, there was improvement in literacy and health care, but there was no fundamental change in the class and social structure of society. Agriculture is still dominated by an oligarchy of rich landowners. In the cities, the poor remain locked into slums. Women remain subordinated and degraded. Abortion is banned in Venezuela." [see: "On Hugo Chavez: Four Points of Orientation", March 6, 2013]

Today, Nicolás Maduro is continuing the program and outlook of Hugo Chavez and the bourgeois nationalist class forces this represents. This is NOT a society on a path leading to any kind of liberation for the people.

4. What is needed in Venezuela is a real revolution. The Maduro regime has the support of sections of the poor. But it cannot speak to their highest interests for emancipation. Nor can it offer a way for the broad middle strata to achieve a life of purpose and make a contribution towards the all-around transformation of society, for the betterment of humanity. There has been no radical and thoroughgoing change in the economics, the power relations, and the values and culture of society.

A revolution is not about creating a welfare state that "takes care of people"—while the basic system of production and the old social relations remain intact. Revolution is about uprooting all exploitation and oppression...empowering the masses of people to change the world and to change themselves...and doing all this as part of advancing the world communist revolution to emancipate all of humanity.

5. No to U.S. imperialism. For over 100 years, the U.S. has been the main imperialist dominator of Venezuela. The U.S has regarded Venezuela under Chavez and now Maduro as disruptive to its designs for global supremacy. In 2002, the U.S. supported an attempted coup of Chavez's government, and the U.S. is maneuvering within the current situation to weaken Maduro's presidency. People throughout the world, and especially people in the U.S., need to be absolutely clear and resolute: the U.S. has no right whatsoever to interfere in any way in the affairs of Venezuela.


We encourage readers to study Bob Avakian's essay "Three Alternative Worlds" to get a concise, scientific grounding in the difference between genuine socialism and what exists in countries like Venezuela, Cuba, or North Korea ["Three Alternative Worlds," December 3, 2006.] Bob Avakian has brought forward a new synthesis that sums up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, he has brought forward a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world. For a brief, and also a fuller, explanation of this new synthesis, go to


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