November 26, 2006 saw the closing rally of what has been, to all accounts, an unremarkable electoral campaign. According to well-informed sources in Caracas, the entire campaign had been taken over by the MVR bureaucracy, and, as any worker knows, anything that is taken over by the bureaucracy - whether it is a strike or an election campaign - will end badly.

This has been the whole story of the Bolivarian Revolution from the very beginning. The real motor-force has been the masses - the millions of workers and peasants who, unlike the bureaucrats and careerists, are devoted to the revolution with every fibre of their being. At every critical juncture when the revolution was threatened by the counterrevolutionary forces - the Venezuelan oligarchy and its backers in Washington - it was the masses who rallied to save it from certain defeat.

That was the case in the coup of April 2002, the bosses' lockout that followed, and the recall referendum. The strength of Hugo Chávez, and the secret of his success, is that he embodies the revolutionary aspirations of the masses and gives voice to their deep desire for a fundamental change in society. He has awakened millions of people to political life and for the first time has given them hope of a change, a sense of dignity and purpose.

There are left sectarians, who for some strange reason imagine that they are Marxists, who do not understand this phenomenon. They impotently curse as the masses express their unshakable loyalty to the President. They shake their heads in disbelief, like the first European who saw a giraffe and exclaimed: "I don't believe it!"

But for the ordinary Venezuelan worker or peasant, it is really a very simple matter. The choice before them this coming Sunday is the choice between revolution and counterrevolution. There are no "ifs" or "buts" about it. If Rosales and his gang succeed in defeating Chávez and taking the reins of government back into their hands, the perspective for the masses would be black indeed.

In order that the revolution should advance it is necessary first to clear a number of obstacles out of its path. It is necessary to inflict a massive defeat on the counterrevolutionary opposition this Sunday. This would demoralize and weaken the forces of reaction, raise the self-confidence and fighting spirit of the masses and strengthen the revolutionary wing. One really has to be blind not to understand this elementary fact. But there are none so blind as those who will not see.

The Venezuelan workers and peasants, unlike the sectarian ignoramuses, have consistently demonstrated a very high level of revolutionary consciousness. That is why, yet again, they poured into the streets by the millions last Sunday, completely filling Avenida Bolivar (the widest and most important thoroughfare), as well as dozens of neighbouring streets and avenues.

As significant as the huge numbers involved was the mood of the demonstrators. An eyewitness from the HOV delegation in Caracas points out: "The place was totally jam packed. The mood was electric, joyous, confident, and determined". It is this mood of revolutionary determination that will ensure the victory of Chávez on December 3rd, and nothing else.
Stages in the revolution

Every revolution in history passes through well-defined stages. Although the Bolivarian Revolution has certain peculiarities and unique features (which revolution does not?) it shares with past revolutions the essential features that repeat themselves in every instance with extraordinary regularity. The names of individual leaders and parties change, as does the speed with which events unfold (somebody once told me that the Bolivarian Revolution was "a revolution in slow motion"). But the underlying processes are very similar.

In every revolution there is an initial phase of euphoria, where the masses imagine that victory has been achieved and all their problems solved. There is a kind of carnival atmosphere in which almost everybody seems to participate. The idea of national unity predominates. This was the mood that we saw in Russia in February 1917, in Spain after the fall of the Monarchy in April 1931, and even in the French Revolution (which has certain similarities with Venezuela) after the fall of the Bastille in July 1789.

But after some time, the masses learn some unpalatable truths from their experience. The idea begins to take shape, starting with the vanguard, that all is not well, that the real objectives of the revolution have not been achieved, and that the aspirations of the masses have not been realised. The mood of euphoria dissipates, like the effects of alcohol the morning after a party. The experience of a hangover is never very pleasant. But it prepares for a more sober and realistic appraisal of the facts of life.

In Venezuela, the first stage of the revolution has already passed into history and will not return. There is a growing awareness that the most decisive battles still lie ahead, that the most fundamental problems remain to be solved. That was shown recently by the demonstration of peasants organized by the Ezequiel Zamora Peasants' National Front. After eight years of the Bolivarian Revolution, about 75 percent of the land remains in the hands of the big landowners, 166 peasant activists have been murdered by the hired assassins of the landlords and not one of the murderers has been sent to prison. But then, not one of those responsible for the April 2002 coup is behind bars either. People are asking: is this any way to conduct a revolution?

There is an increasingly critical mood among the masses, and especially among the activists who have most to fear from a victory of the counterrevolution. But this mood of criticism is not directed against the President, who most people recognise as a sincere and courageous man who is prepared to confront the oligarchy and imperialism. But there is an implacable hatred towards the landlords and capitalists and towards the corrupt bureaucrats who constitute the Fifth Column of the counterrevolution. And there is a deep and growing mistrust of those who surround the President and cut him off from the people and are striving to water down the socialist message and hold the revolution back.

The "left" critics of Chávez point to his hesitations and inconsistency. But the contradictory messages that come out of Miraflores reflect the contradictions in the Bolivarian Movement itself. The rank and file Bolivarians are overwhelmingly rooted in the working class, the peasantry and the urban poor. They instinctively support the ideas of revolutionary socialism and are loudly demanding serious measures against the oligarchy.

However, the higher up you go, the more diffuse the revolutionary message becomes. While a section of the ministers and deputies are in favour of socialism, the right wing is entrenched in the bureaucracy, which Chavez himself has described as a counterrevolutionary bureaucracy and the biggest danger that confronts the revolution. This counterrevolutionary bureaucracy reflects the pressure of the oligarchy and imperialism.

It would be foolish to imagine that the CIA is not directly involved in hatching plots and conspiracies in this wing, making use of its considerable resources to corrupt a layer of functionaries (many of whom need little persuasion) to involve them in counterrevolutionary intrigues against the revolution and the President. The slogan of these people is "Chavism without Chávez" - to which the masses respond with slogans like those we saw in the recent demonstration of 12,000 activists in Mérida: "With Chávez to socialism!" and even more significant: "With Chávez against the bureaucracy!"
Bankruptcy of reformism

Lenin once said that for the masses an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory (and he was a great theoretician). The masses in general do not learn from books but from their own experience. Since in a revolution the experience of the masses is enormously accelerated, they learn very quickly. In such circumstances, the workers and peasants learn more in 24 hours than in ten years of normal life.

In the last few years a veritable army of reformist "intellectuals" has descended on Caracas like a Biblical plague of locusts. They are ex-Communists (some of them, though not many, still have the audacity to call themselves Communists), ex-Maoists, ex-Trotskyists, ex-guerrillas, and ex-anything-else-you-care-to-name. They are also Social Democrats, either of the usual brand or disguised Social Democrats from organizations like Attac or Le Monde Diplomatique. All have one thing in common: their violent hostility to Marxism and revolutionary socialism.

These ladies and gentlemen have a profound contempt for the masses, who they consider insufficiently educated to carry out the social revolution. They constantly refer to the alleged "low level of consciousness of the masses" as an argument against the viability of socialist revolution in Venezuela. Others assure us that we are "still in the stage of the bourgeois-democratic revolution" (despite President Chávez's repeated declarations in favour of socialism). Still others try to frighten the masses with the spectre of imperialist intervention ("if we try to go too far too fast"), etc., etc.

The reformists never lack arguments against the viability of socialism. But we have heard all this before. The Russian Mensheviks (and the right wing Bolsheviks including Stalin) never tired of warning Lenin in 1917 that there were "no objective conditions for a socialist revolution", that they were "still in the stage of the bourgeois-democratic revolution" and so on and so forth. And on the surface, these arguments carried some weight. Tsarist Russia was an extremely backward country where the industrial working class was only four million out of a total population of 150 million. Yet Lenin and Trotsky brushed aside the dire warnings of the reformists and led the working class to the conquest of power.

The conditions in Venezuela are infinitely more favourable for socialist revolution than they were in Russia in 1917. The working class is far more numerous and the masses have been schooled in eight years of revolution. The vast majority are ready for the revolutionary transformation of society. What is lacking is precisely the presence of a revolutionary party and leadership like the Bolshevik Party under Lenin and Trotsky.

As a matter of fact, despite the whining of the reformists, the objective conditions for carrying out the socialist revolution in Venezuela are extremely favourable. Inside Venezuela the resurgence of the opposition is more apparent than real. With the considerable financial resources at their disposal (generously supplemented by an infusion of dollars from Washington), the opposition has succeeded in creating the illusion in sections of the middle class that they can defeat Chávez. Encouraged by this illusion, the well-off sections of Caracas society rallied to applaud Manuel Rosales last Saturday.

But this illusion was immediately shattered by the enormous show of force of the masses the following day. Even numerically, the demonstration of the escuálidos was dwarfed by the Chavistas. However, the question of the real class balance of forces cannot be reduced to a question of parliamentary arithmetic. The multi-coloured, heterogeneous petty bourgeoisie cannot compare as a fighting force with the compact masses of workers and peasants. It is like comparing a butterfly with a bull. If it came to a serious test of forces, the middle class heroes of the counterrevolution would be scattered like straw in the wind. Moreover, they know this very well.

Behind the loud cheers of the opposition rally lies desperation, fear, and a profound sense of impotence. The leaders of the opposition are firmly convinced that they will be soundly defeated at the polls on 3 December. Long ago they abandoned all hope of defeating Chavez through the medium of voting and parliamentary elections. They have concluded that the question of power will be settled outside parliament - on the streets, in the factories, on the land and in the army barracks.

It must be admitted that, in their calculations, the political representatives of the ruling class are far more realistic and perspicacious than the theoreticians of reformism. The latter are hypnotised by the game of parliamentary politics. They believe that the class struggle between mutually irreconcilable interests can be decided by laws and constitutions, in the same way that a game of chess is regulated by ancient rules, or a game of baseball by the referee. But revolution is not a game, and it has no rules other than those determined by the class balance of forces at a given moment.

The Bolivarian Constitution is in many ways a fine document (although with a fatal weakness on the question of private property). But it is the reflection of the class balance of forces at the time it was approved, and can be consigned to the dustbin when the balance of forces changes. How long would the Constitution remain in being once the counterrevolutionaries returned to Miraflores? The question answers itself. Therefore, those who put all their faith in laws and constitutions and do not understand the mechanics of the class struggle that determine such things are leaning on a broken straw. Cicero stated long ago that the safety of the People is the Supreme Law. We will bring Cicero up to date by stating bluntly: the safety of the Revolution is the Supreme Law, to which everything else must be subordinated. To adopt any other standpoint is to take a frivolous attitude to revolution that can only end in the greatest calamities.
Imperialist interference

The events in Caracas are being followed with growing alarm and chagrin by the imperialists. The tone of the statements coming out of Washington has become increasingly belligerent. In January 2005 Condoleezza Rice stated: "Chavez is a negative force in the region". The same song was repeated in different keys by the US media and other officials in the US government. By January 2006, US Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and then defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Hitler, and accused him of being one of the most dangerous and destabilising forces in the region.

This is the kind of language that is normally associated in diplomacy with preparations for war. In the past, US imperialism would have intervened militarily against the Bolivarian Revolution. But times have changed. Despite all their power and wealth, the US imperialists are not in any position to stage a direct military intervention. They are trapped in a quagmire in Iraq that has already cost the lives of 3,000 US soldiers and is costing them more than a billion dollars a week.

The recent elections in the USA dealt a shattering blow to Bush and the Republican Party, which lost control of both Houses of Congress. There is plainly a mood in the US public in favour of ending this disastrous occupation, although to withdraw now would be a humiliating defeat that would have serious consequences for the USA in the Middle East and on a world scale. Whatever they do now in Iraq will be wrong. And the same is true of Afghanistan. Therefore, it is unthinkable that they begin another military adventure in Venezuela, particularly bearing in mind that 70 percent of the Latino population of the USA (now the biggest ethnic minority) voted against Bush in these elections.

Does this mean that the imperialists have given up their attempts to overthrow Chavez? Of course not! The USA has already launched an invasion of Venezuela, one left wing government official told me: a dollar invasion. The CIA is actively engaged in corrupting certain elements in the state - including some "Bolivarians".

This is confirmed by Eva Golinger in her new book, Bush vs Chavez: Washington's War on Venezuela, detailing the current US threats to Venezuela. In a recent interview Eva Golinger stated that US imperialism was financing the opposition: "This has increased over the past year, doubled in some instances. In fact, funding by USAID [the US Agency for International Development], through its Office of Transition Initiatives (set up here after the coup), is now up to US$7.5 million a year. But, more interestingly, the recipients of the funding have increased dramatically.

"Two years ago, there were about 63 organisations receiving funding and, today, according to the latest documents I've gotten under the US Freedom of Information Act, there are 132 groups. When we talk about financial power, it's not just the money; it's about the penetration of Venezuelan society by using money to get into the various sectors. They find groups that are allegedly human rights groups, groups that work in the education system and so on, but are really working for the opposition.

"Basically, the US is funding these organisations in civil society ... to obtain control in all different parts of the country. There are large concentrations of programs in Merida, for example, also in Tachira, Zulia, and then in the interior of the country - places like Barquisimeto, and the states of Lara, Monagas, and Anzoategui." (Green Left Weekly, issue #691, 22 November 2006.)

Bush's new Plan for Transition in Cuba is being financed to the tune of about $80 million. In Venezuela, the total amount of money from Washington that can be traced is about $9 million a year. But it is not only the money (which the oligarchy does not really need) but also the political contacts, as Eva Golinger points out:

"It's the political contacts as well. For instance, on October 28, a right-wing think-tank, closely tied to the Republican Party, is hosting an event in Washington, DC, called ‘Can Venezuela be saved?' And the only speaker is Julio Borges, who is the opposition vice-presidential candidate with [presidential candidate] Manuel Rosales. All sorts of things are involved with what I call the ‘financial front'."

Although a direct invasion appears to be ruled out, there are other options. One is assassination. We know that the CIA is training terrorists in Miami for the purpose of murdering Chavez. Colombian paramilitaries are active on Venezuelan soil and they are not there to play games. Eva Golinger says:

"I actually interviewed a paramilitary here in Caracas. What he told me is that all the paramilitaries work jointly with the US and the Special Forces in Colombia. They're trained by them, in command-and-control operations. [...] they're the ones sent over to try to assassinate Chavez. But the command-and-control is directed and controlled by the US Special Forces. The US forces come in, and are on the ground in Colombia, but they send the paramilitaries to do the dirty work, together with the Colombian army." (ibid.)

A paramilitary leader told Eva Golinger that there are more than 3,000 in the region of Caracas alone. The USA has turned Colombia into an armed camp, donating 4.5 billion dollars in arms to the reactionary regime of Uribe. This is supposed to be for the war on drugs, but in practice it is for counter-insurgency. It is possible that the CIA might provoke a war between Colombia and Venezuela.
Counterrevolutionary preparations

The immediate plans of the imperialists, however, are connected with the Presidential elections. Opposition candidate Manuel Rosales has been consistently 20-30 percent behind Chávez in the polls. Some sectors of the opposition - Acción Democrática (AD) and Antonio Ledezma's Alianza Bravo Pueblo have refused to participate in the elections and are calling for abstention. Rosales' democratic credentials are no better than theirs. He participated in the coup of 2002. He was obviously toying with the idea of withdrawing from the elections, but left it too late. To withdraw now would discredit him utterly and demoralize his followers.

The escuálidos and their imperialist backers are preparing for a big electoral defeat on Sunday. They have decided in advance to cry "fraud" and use the situation to attempt to cause the maximum destabilization inside the country and the maximum confusion outside. Already 30,000-40,000 black shirts with the word "Fraud!" on them have been discovered. This is a small indication of what is being prepared.

Organizations like the so-called Hannah Arendt Center (which is directly linked to the head of the Rosales campaign team) are being used to cast doubt upon the poll even before the first polling station has opened. This is an essential ingredient in the plan to destabilize Venezuela after 3 December.

The opposition is rallying around the slogan of "defend the vote." In an article in CounterPunch, US academic George Ciccariello-Maher writes:

"This vague slogan has some clear consequences, as became clear when opposition ideologue Rafael Poleo appeared recently on Globovisión. Poleo, who has links to the Bush clan and the CIA, who was thoroughly implicated in the April 2002 coup, and whose daughter has been directly implicated in the assassination of Danilo Anderson, the judge whose job it was to collect evidence against the coup-plotters, laid out the strategy of the radical opposition in the clearest of terms on November 6th: ‘On the 3rd, it is up to the citizens to align themselves with the opposition, they need to go and vote. On the 4th, it's up to Manuel Rosales to lead the protests against the fraud that has been set up. And on the 5th, it's up to the Armed Forces to decide if it will continue forcing those in the Venezuelan opposition to put up with a shameful regime.'

"According to Poleo, Rosales could be the most important Venezuelan of the 21st century ‘if he does what he needs to do.' The Electoral Committee (CNE) ‘will announce the victory of Hugo Chávez, regardless of what the numbers say,' and ‘at 6am on the 4th, the streets will fill with people decrying fraud, and then we will see the true size of Rosales.' Revealingly, Poleo declares that "that day after, the 4th, will be even more important than December 3rd. On the 4th, it's up to the people to do what the Ukranians did, to carry out an 'Orange Revolution,' to hurl themselves onto the streets, because the fraud has already been arranged, they already have the numbers ready.' The Chavistas will not abandon power for the simple reason that ‘they are Nazis.'"

These words are neither more nor less than an open call for a coup in Venezuela. Rosales has refused to give clear and unambiguous answers to questions about his recognising the election results. He merely reiterates that the results must be fair. Since for Rosales and his bosses in Washington the only fair result is a victory for the counterrevolutionary opposition, the conclusion is quite clear. If the democratic system cannot deliver a "fair result", it must be overthrown by force.

However, Rosales is well aware that he lacks a mass base strong enough to overthrow the democratically elected government. His only hope is to provoke a military coup with the support of reactionary army officers. It is therefore no surprise that he called on November 5th for a meeting with the military high command, a request that was turned down by Minster of Defence General Raúl Baduel on the basis that such a meeting would constitute an unconstitutional intervention of the military into the electoral process. However, matters will not be allowed to rest there. Néstor González González, the military leader of the April 2002 coup, has released an audiotape calling for the intervention of the military.

These brazen plans of the counterrevolution have met with a firm response from Chavez. He has warned that imperialist attempts to destabilize Venezuela can be met by cutting off oil supplies. He warned the opposition in a speech on November 17th: "don't force me to take drastic measures to safeguard the sovereignty and the stability of the country." Attempts at destabilization would be met with firmness, since "that permissive Chávez was left behind that night in 2002." Chávez concludes: "We won't allow Venezuela to be filled with bloodshed again."

If the words of the President are harsh, the reaction of the rank and file is much harsher. According to the article by George Ciccariello-Maher, the threat of counterrevolution is rousing the Bolivarian activists. Formerly defunct Bolivarian circles are springing to life and the question of armed self-defence is coming to the fore. He refers to "the autonomous organization of Chavistas to defend their revolution. So we shouldn't be surprised to find that the most radical sectors of Chavismo are also making plans. Specifically, several armed self-defense organizations rooted in the Tupamaro movement and largely-defunct Bolivarian Circles, which claim a particularly powerful following in the barrios of western Caracas, are preparing plans for the defense of Chavista neighborhoods.

"Such plans are centered in the historically revolutionary neighborhood of 23 de Enero (January 23rd), in the climbing foothills in western Caracas. 23 de Enero has long represented the organizational ‘brain' of radical Caracas, as opposed to the ‘heart' of revolt represented by the slums of Petare, that powderkeg standing far to the east of the city which gave rise to the epic 1989 Caracazo riots. The spirit of revolt has often been sparked in the utter destitution of Petare, the largest and most dangerous of Caracas' slums, but the organizational structure which fans the flames can generally be found in 23."

Here we have the answer of the masses to the plots of the counterrevolutionaries! Any attempt to repeat the experience of April 11, 2002 will be met by an uprising of the masses that will put that of the 13 April in the shade. This may well give the counterrevolutionaries pause for thought! The author continues:

"It should be pointed out that, while the Metropolitan Mayor's office has 'fulfilled a necessary support role' by providing logistical support to radical neighborhoods (cellphones, motorcycles), this role is precisely that: support. That is to say, these neighborhood organizations are best considered as ‘base movements' engaged in a revolutionary process of local administration. In the words of one participant, the resistance to threats from the opposition has led these groups to ‘create new forms for organizing the local self-defense of sovereignty.'"

These plans for resistance are not limited to urban areas. The Ezequiel Zamora National Peasants' Front, several thousand of whom marched through the city in military formation on November 20th, has taken the initiative of organizing a united front of revolutionary organizations, in which the Freteco and the CMR have agreed to participate. The front has appealed for support from Hands off Venezuela, which is organizing solidarity actions in many countries this weekend.
Revolutionary potential of masses

What does all this suggest? Certainly not the nice, peaceful scenario so beloved of all reformists, but of a ferocious struggle between the classes, which must be resolved after the elections. George Ciccariello-Maher concludes correctly: "grassroots resistance to any efforts to put the brakes on the revolutionary process is ubiquitous". The strength of the Venezuelan Revolution remains the masses, who once again showed their determination and revolutionary fighting spirit last Sunday.

The most popular slogan was "No volverán!" ("They shall not Return!"). What does this slogan show? One might say that the masses still do not know exactly what they want. But they know very well what they do not want. They do not want a return to government of their bitterest enemies. They are determined to fight with all their power to defend the gains of the revolution. But in warfare defensive struggles can often turn into offensive ones. In the words of Winston Churchill, the best form of defence is attack.

This is the land of Simon Bolivar ‑ the front line of the Latin American Revolution. Simon Bolivar, despite the extreme weakness of the forces he originally had at his disposal, did not hesitate to take on the forces of the mighty Spanish empire. He did not moan about "unfavourable conditions" but went over to the attack, and won. If, instead of Bolivar, the movement had been led by reformists of the Heinz Dietrich type, the peoples of Latin America would still be languishing under the yoke of Spanish imperialism.

Everywhere we look we see a continent in a state of revolutionary ferment. There is a mass movement involving millions of workers and peasants in Mexico, which has not yet run its course. The workers of Bolivia staged two general strikes and two insurrections in as many years. On the electoral plane, the masses of Ecuador have shown their desire to change society. The result in Nicaragua showed the same thing, despite the hopeless inadequacy of the policies of Ortega.

Everywhere it is the same problem. It is not a problem of the masses, who have shown their desire to change society many times. No! It is the absence of the subjective factor - the revolutionary party and leadership. If such a leadership existed the task of carrying out the revolution would be much easier. It would be carried out more swiftly and painlessly, with a minimum of violence and sacrifices. The protracted nature of the revolution is precisely a reflection of the fact that, on the one hand, the forces of reaction are too weak to effect a counterrevolutionary overthrow (at least for the moment), whereas the masses lack a revolutionary party with the necessary vision and audacity to lead them to the conquest of power. This means that a decisive outcome is postponed. However, the present situation of unstable equilibrium cannot last indefinitely. Sooner or later, the central contradiction must be resolved - one way or the other.

What is needed now is a clear and bold lead from the working class. There is every reason to believe that after these elections there will be a further explosive advance of the class struggle. The workers are no longer prepared to accept the impositions of the bosses, in particular factory closures. The occupation of Sanitarios de Maracay shows the way forward. The formation of Freteco, the revolutionary front, provides the necessary vehicle to give an organized expression to the movement for factory occupations and workers' control.

Can the working class of Venezuela resolve the question of power without the firm guiding hand of a Marxist party? Theoretically, this cannot be excluded. The workers of Paris (who at that time were also much weaker than the workers of Venezuela today) seized power in the Paris Commune without the benefit of a Marxist party (though the followers of Marx were present in the Commune). But we must not forget that they lost power mainly because of mistakes that an experienced leadership would have helped them to avoid. In any case, the masses cannot wait until we have overcome our organizational weaknesses. In Venezuela the revolutionary tendency must be created in the course of the struggle itself. It is an urgent need and must be pursued urgently and single-mindedly by the Venezuelan Marxists.

In the heat of events the creation of a revolutionary leadership can be achieved far more quickly than one might imagine possible. The threat of counterrevolution in Venezuela is galvanizing the revolutionary vanguard. The activists are coming together, discussing, collaborating in the struggle, arming. That is the way! For a revolutionary united front to combat the counterrevolution and push the revolutionary forces! The masses have time after time demonstrated their willingness to fight. Once they are armed with the ideas and programme of revolutionary Marxism, no force on earth can stop them.

Down with the counterrevolutionary oligarchy!
Down with imperialism!
Hands off Venezuela!
Forward to the Socialist Bolivarian Republic!
Forward to the Socialist Federation of Latin America!