Héctor Alejo Rodríguez
The government propaganda machine and its paid mercenaries in charge of flooding the social networks with all kinds of slander and lies constantly repeat that the split between the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) and the government of Nicolás Maduro is due to «opportunist aspirations» of the PCV, going so far as to make the vile accusation of an alleged «alignment» of the PCV with the plans of the right wing and imperialism.
It is not in the interest of this article to demonstrate how the government and the leadership of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) use a false anti-imperialist rhetoric to repress and criminalize workers’ struggles as well as all forms of criticism of their disastrous and corrupt management, while shamelessly making pacts with the parties of the traditional right, the business unions and US imperialism. We will focus on looking at the course and development of the relations between PCV and Maduro’s government in order to identify the real reasons that led to the definitive split and rupture.
The first Maduro government
The PCV decided to support the presidential candidacy of Nicolás Maduro for the April 2013 elections within the framework of a broad national alliance of revolutionary and patriotic forces that sought to contain the aspirations of the right-wing parties subordinated to the interventionist policy of the United States, following the death of Hugo Chávez.
From day one, President Maduro’s administration showed signs of wavering and proclivity towards capital. The default of the country’s international financial commitments, coupled with the fall in international oil prices, resulted in a significant reduction in oil revenues, which represent 99 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange inflows.
The exhaustion of the rentier capitalist model was once again evident, and the PCV alerted the government to this reality with a document explaining the nature of the developing crisis and demanding a «new and revolutionary economic policy». In it, the PCV proposed the adoption of urgent measures to stop capital flight and to exercise centralized control of the dwindling oil revenues for their efficient use for the needs of the people and the promotion of the national productive apparatus.
The government not only dismissed these proposals but took the opposite path. Supported by the narrative of the «economic war», which denied the capitalist essence of the crisis, it continued with the mistaken policy of favoring the flight of the dwindling oil income by allocating it to the financial, commercial and importing bourgeoisie, and favoring the payment of debt service to external creditors. Between 2014 and 2017 the country continued to suffer a drain of wealth through import fraud, smuggling, rampant administrative corruption and the senseless payment of the foreign debt.
The PCV sharply criticized the continuity of this policy and its consequences in the deteriorating living conditions of the working class and popular sectors. The results were the drastic reduction of basic consumer goods and raw materials imports, generating acute shortages, the progressive loss of social gains, the deterioration of public services and the systematic destruction of the incomes and rights of the workers.
In domestic politics, the differences with the Maduro government only deepened, although there was still agreement on the struggle against the plans of imperialist aggression that had been escalating since the declaration of Venezuela as an «unusual threat to the security of the USA». Thus the PCV maintained a policy of broad unity to contain and defeat the three most important onslaughts of imperialism and its domestic allies in the past decade: the guarimbas (extremely violent protests with barricades all over the cities) of 2014, the Obama decree of 2015 and the reactionary violence of 2017.
The second term
For the presidential elections of May 2018, the PCV backed Maduro’s candidacy on the condition that he sign the «Unitary Framework Agreement to confront the crisis with revolutionary measures». This agreement essentially proposed reversing the disastrous consequences of the economic policy of the previous administration, recovering the workers’ wages and labor rights, and strengthening the leading role of the working class and the peasantry in the growing confrontation with imperialism.
Only three months after re-election, the Maduro government committed the first serious breach of the content of the agreement: the «Programme of economic recovery, growth and prosperity» was made official, with which the government radicalized its anti-labor policy. With one stroke of the pen they flattened the wages for all sectors and unilaterally cancelled all the collective bargaining agreements of the workers.
The PCV confronted these criminal attacks against the rights and gains of the working class with an intense campaign for the repeal of these measures. However, the class confrontation against the anti-working class policies of Maduro’s government was conditioned by the new scenario that emerged with the supposed government of Juan Guaidó in 2019 as the spearhead of a harsh imperialist offensive against national sovereignty.
As was to be expected, the inconsistent and fearful Maduro government did not assume a revolutionary policy with greater worker-popular protagonism. By the end of 2019 and fundamentally during 2020, it strengthened its alliance with sectors of big capital, particularly the new bourgeoisie and the landowning class forged under the shadow of state business.
This is how the government took a definitive turn to the right and made official a new programme of economic opening and liberalization to “bypass the blockade» and overcome the crisis, very similar to the neoliberal package of the late eighties and early nineties of the last century. The difference is that this adjustment comes paradoxically disguised with anti-imperialist and left-wing rhetoric.
As the government ideologues themselves describe it, it is about «rolling out a red carpet for capitalists» to invest in the country. This carpet involves price liberalization, the de facto dollarization of the economy, import tax elimination, the privatization of public enterprises under the pretext of strategic partnerships, the freezing of wages and salaries, the disregard of collective contracts, the de facto elimination of social benefits and workers’ savings, and the systematic deregulation of labor relations.
This neo-liberal policy opened the door to an understanding with the traditional right wing and US and European imperialism. On this new basis, negotiations began to take place, first with the most important business association, the Federation of Chambers of Production and Commerce (Fedecámaras), and later with the right-wing parties and the US government.
It is on this reality of total rupture with the Unitary Framework Agreement and with the programmatic bases of the Bolivarian process initiated by Hugo Chávez that the PCV distanced itself from the Maduro government. Subsequent developments have proved the PCV and the popular revolutionary movement correct. It is not possible for a working class party to support a government that applies an adjustment against the people to the detriment of national sovereignty.