Venezuela and the international struggle for socialism

The dramatic advances of the Venezuelan revolution, and the alliances it has forged with other insurgent peoples and governments resisting imperialism, are creating an historic opportunity to strengthen international anti-imperialist collaboration and rebuild the revolutionary socialist movement worldwide.

Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution is still in its early stages. Yet as it moves forward, it will — like the Russian Revolution of 1917 and other great revolutions of the 20th century — become a test for all tendencies in the workers movement, dividing those who identify with and defend real-world revolutions from those who remain in sectarian isolation.

Venezuela's presidential elections in December 2006 delivered a solid mandate for the country's advance towards socialism, in the form of a 63% majority for President Hugo Chavez. A mass movement of workers and farmers has set the goal of socialism and is using governmental power to take decisive steps in that direction. This is creating the most favourable conditions in several decades for socialist advance on a world scale.

During the past year, the Venezuelan people and government have moved on many fronts to secure democratic rights and national sovereignty. They have nationalised basic utilities and energy resources that were privatised under preceding regimes. They have implemented measures that enable small farmers to gain secure access to the land. They have created new popular institutions, including "communal councils", projected as the first step towards a new state structure based on popular and working-class movements. On the directly political level, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is being formed with the goal of enabling rank-and-file activists to take part in controlling and directing the struggle for socialism on a national level. Millions have responded to the call of this new party to join it, and they are pressing to make this party their own.

Venezuela's revolution has been internationalist to its very core, devoting great energy and resources to reinforcing movements for sovereignty in the entire global South, while winning the acclaim of tens of millions across Latin America. It has allied with socialist Cuba. It has moved energetically to aid and defend the indigenous-based government in Bolivia. It has brought urgently needed aid to the Haitian and Nicaraguan peoples. And it has extended its solidarity with countries in the Middle East that are victims of imperialist war and occupation.

The Bolivarian movement in Venezuela explicitly counterposes its concept of socialism, based on grassroots initiatives and leadership, to the bureaucratic system that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Anti-imperialist leadership

It is important not to exaggerate the gains of the Venezuelan process or to project onto it our own hopes and goals. The revolution is now unfolding within the framework of a struggle against imperialism and for national sovereignty and democratic rights. Capitalism still dominates the Venezuelan economy, shaping the daily existence of working people. Capitalism is now balanced against the growing power of working people, and this uneasy coexistence could continue for some time.

The decisive battleground in the world democratic and anti-imperialist struggle remains the Middle East. The imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan intertwine with the confrontation with Iran, the escalating war against the Palestinian people, and the increasingly explosive conflicts in Lebanon. The imperialists feel growing pressure either to carry out retreats they can ill afford or to undertake new military adventures that could be ruinous for them as well as humanity. Opposition to the war against Middle Eastern peoples is the most urgent task of world solidarity. The course of this great battle will largely determine how far Venezuela's working people can advance before they must confront decisive conflicts with imperialism.

In many regions of the world, including in parts of the Middle East, we see encouraging progress toward new or stronger anti-imperialist organisations and leadership. By far the most important gains in this respect have been registered in Venezuela. It is therefore no surprise that Venezuela's bold stand against the Empire and neoliberalism won acclaim from anti-imperialist activists in the Middle East who were gathered at the March 2007 anti-war and anti-imperialist conference in Cairo, Egypt.

Venezuela, in alliance with Cuba, is providing leadership to the world struggle against imperialism and reawakening hopes for socialism among the world's oppressed.

Reshaping the socialist movement

The initial steps toward formation of the PSUV have provoked a heated debate among socialists in Venezuela. Divisions have appeared in every major political current in the Bolivarian movement, separating those who favour support for the new party and those who wish to abstain from it. The founding of the new party offers revolutionary forces the possibility to unite against bureaucratic and patronage-ridden political machines and against left sectarianism. It is a creative process that deserves support. The advance in Venezuela will put socialist currents internationally to the test in similar fashion.

Venezuela is an economically dependent and relatively poor country. It has not yet achieved a political and economic transformation in favour of workers and farmers as fundamental as what was achieved by the Russian and Cuban revolutions of the last century. Yet the Venezuelan process is marked by high vision and solid achievement. And its impact is magnified by the fact that it reverses a long downturn of struggles and follows the shattering of Stalinism on a world scale.

For many years, working-class and progressive movements internationally have been on the defensive. The movement in Venezuela provides an opportunity to link up with the power of a living revolution and to win a new generation of fighters inspired by its example. It confirms the need for movements of working people and the oppressed to struggle for political power.

The example of Venezuela, combined with the rise of struggles in other regions dominated by imperialism and the emergence of new anti-imperialist leadership forces across Latin America, the Middle East, and elsewhere, provides an impetus for anti-imperialist unity everywhere. New forces inspired by Venezuela will move into action, both in defence of the Bolivarian revolution and in heightening anti-capitalist resistance in their countries. Currents that are able to learn from Venezuela will find that they share a broadening area of agreement as well as an effective banner for recruitment.

Socialist forces internationally, now divided into many weak and isolated currents, will have a chance to gain new energy and find new areas of agreement with each other and with forces from broader resistance movements. Those that identify with the advancing revolution will find a basis for growing collaboration and fraternal ties.

[Abridged from Socialist Voice Roger Annis and John Riddell are the editors of SV. A version of this article was posted to, the blog of Socialist Worker, a New Zealand socialist organisation, which is hosting an international discussion about Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution.]