Venezuela is being battered by a social and economic catastrophe. With inflation at more than 500% (the world’s highest) and estimated to soar to 750% by the end of the year, living standards have plummeted.
Amid vast food shortages of the most basic staples like rice and beans; power and water cuts; public sector workers on a two-day week, there is the real threat of a total social collapse. Some commentators are even warning of Venezuela becoming a “failed state”.
The scale of the social collapse is reflected in an epidemic of murders and violent crime. Venezuela has the second highest murder rate of any country.
The reforms in health, education and housing of the late President Hugo Chavez’s era have all but disappeared under the weight of economic collapse, falling oil prices, bureaucracy and corruption and sabotage by the capitalist class.
Reactionary right-wing forces have capitalised on the situation as support for president Maduro’s government has crashed. They have led a campaign to force a recall referendum on his presidency.
They are mobilising to defeat Maduro and pave the way for a right-wing comeback. However, Maduro, with the allegiance of the armed forces, is indicating he will fight such attempts.
The capitalist class is already attempting to present this disaster as another “failure for socialism”. Yet this is far from the case. The initial reforms and inroads made against the ruling class initially won massive support as the process of the revolution was taking steps forward.
It was the failure to take this process to a conclusion and break with capitalism which has resulted in the current crisis. Capitalism was wounded but not snuffed out. The absence of genuine workers’ control and management and the emergence of bureaucratic, corrupt, top-down methods by the state have also contributed to the current crisis, as the Socialist Party and CWI repeatedly warned.
It remains to be seen how the current crisis will develop but such are the social conditions that a massive social outburst of anger – rioting and looting – similar to that which took place in the infamous Caracasco in 1989 is possible.
Workers, the youth and middle class have nothing to gain by supporting right-wing leaders such as Capriles, who only serves the interests of the ruling class.
Workers and the masses need to take urgent steps to form democratically elected emergency committees to organise the distribution of food and other supplies – building on these to develop a mass movement to break with capitalism.
Then it would be possible to introduce a socialist, democratic emergency plan to rebuild the economy based on nationalising the banking system and key sectors of the economy – under a system of democratic workers’ control and management.
Failure to take such bold measures is opening the road to social collapse and the threat of a counter-revolution.
By Tony Saunois