Chicago, IL – On January 10, Nicolás Maduro was inaugurated to his second term as president of a nation under siege. The United States and its puppets in the region (the 13 governments of the so-called Lima Group, led by Colombia and Brazil) have declared that they will not recognize Maduro as the head of the Venezuelan state. This is in contempt of the 67% of Venezuelans that voted for him in the May presidential election, widely recognized as free and fair by the international community.
When Maduro took the reins of the national government, many analysts did not believe he had what it took to hold the Bolivarian project together. He proved them wrong. After five years with Maduro at the helm, the Bolivarian Revolution has – in the face of economic suffocation, fascist street violence, political terrorism, threats of invasion, and the attempted assassination of their president – emerged stronger than ever before.
Maduro’s first term: A fight for the life of the revolution
As his cancer worsened and it became clear that his end was nearing, Hugo Chávez gave his blessing to Nicolás Maduro to succeed him as leader the Bolivarian Revolution. This terrified the Venezuelan ruling class, as he was the favorite choice of succession among the Bolivarian ‘hard-liners.’
Having spent the first two decades of his political life as a cadre of the Socialist League, Maduro joined Chávez’s movement in the 1990s while serving as president of the Caracas bus drivers’ union. From that moment on, Maduro was at the center of the revolutionary movement sweeping the country. Among his many roles in Chávez’s government, he served for seven years as the Foreign Minister, and was integral in the construction of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA).
The five years of Maduro’s first term were defined by a vicious struggle between a national liberation movement on the move, and a bourgeoisie on the retreat. When the right-wing opposition refused to recognize the results of Maduro’s first election in April 2013, they organized street violence that led to the firebombing of Cuban-staffed health care clinics, United Socialist Party (PSUV) offices, and the murder of 11 Maduro supporters.
Maduro’s ascension to the presidency took place at the beginning of the economic war – the bourgeoisie’s campaign to punish the Venezuelan people by acts of price gouging, hoarding of goods, gas smuggling and economic sabotage. The new government did not skip a beat, arresting hundreds of capitalists in its first year for these crimes. He passed the Law of Just Prices, which banned the collection of profit above 30% of the cost of production. To combat the war against the Venezuelan people that was happening on grocery store shelves, Maduro and the PSUV organized the now-famous Local Provision and Production Committees (CLAPs), which every three weeks distribute parcels of essential food items to millions of poor families. The economic war did not end, though, but intensified and continues to this day.
When the right-wing opposition won a two-thirds majority in the 2015 National Assembly elections, the threat of counter-revolution came center stage. For the first time since 1998, the comprador bourgeoisie had complete control over a branch of government. Jubilant, they announced their intention to throw Maduro out of office within six months.
That did not happen. Maduro’s administration battled the National Assembly for direction of the country, while the Bolivarian movement struggled to prevent the Revolution’s achievements from dying of attrition. The tension finally broke in March 2017, when the Supreme Court stripped the National Assembly of its authority for being in contempt of the Constitution. In the subsequent months, the right-wing opposition unleashed such fascist violence in the streets that many feared that Venezuela was on the verge of civil war.
In an act of political brilliance, Maduro called for the formation of a National Constituent Assembly (ANC) to draft a new Constitution in order to bring social peace, consolidate the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution and prepare the next phase of struggle. The ANC, according to the Venezuelan Constitution, takes on all legislative responsibilities for the duration of its existence.
The ANC election in July 2017 brought the single-largest vote share for the Bolivarian movement in its history. This happened despite an opposition boycott, the shuttering of dozens of voting stations by fascist gangs, and the detonation of car bombs in Caracas.
Stunned by the people’s resilience, and more isolated than ever from society, the opposition forces fell apart. They turned on each other and lost all political legitimacy. This was confirmed in elections in October and December 2017 – where the PSUV and its allied parties won an overwhelming majority of governor and mayoral offices – and ultimately on May 20, 2018, when Maduro won re-election as president with a resounding 67% of the vote.
Alongside the advance of the national liberation movement, Maduro’s first term can also be defined by a qualitative change in the relationship of the working class to this movement. No social class has done more to combat the economic war than the working class, and in doing so have laid the groundwork for a totally new economy and society.
At every opportunity possible, the national government proved which class it stood with. Early in his administration, Maduro voiced support for workers taking control of any workplaces shuttered by runaway companies, and many did so. Groups like the Productive Workers Army now travel the country to restore the productive capacities of abandoned or underutilized factories, doing more than anyone to build a new, sovereign economy.
A year ago, the ANC passed a law – long demanded by revolutionary workers and supported by Maduro – enabling workers to form Workers Productive Councils (CPTs) in order to take control of their workplaces. As of today, over 1000 companies are now run in this way. Maduro appointed the lifelong revolutionary, Socialist League cadre and trade unionist Eduardo Piñate to head the Labor Ministry and support these efforts. Most recently he joined the workers of the Goodyear tire plant in their occupation of their factory, and ensured that the national government supported their occupation in the interests of restarting production.
Maduro’s second term: What will the future hold?
From all sectors of the Bolivarian movement, there is resounding support for Maduro and the continuation of his government. There is a desire to deepen the revolutionary process, and to have by the end of his second term as country that is sovereign and an economy that meets the needs of the people (Maduro’s so-called “Plan de la Patria”). From the many revolutionary corners of the country, the demands going forward are very similar – the strict enforcement of the Law of Just Prices and penalties for all violators; a further crackdown on politicians and capitalists engaged in corruption (Maduro in his first term led the largest anti-corruption campaign in Venezuelan history); the passage of a new, more radical Constitution; and supporting the economy being placed under worker control as the way out of the current crisis.
It is obvious that the Venezuelan masses plan to create a society that exists completely independent and in opposition to U.S. imperialism. The U.S. monopoly capitalist class is aware of this. They know that the democratic process will only further deepen the resolve of the people. This is why the only option on the table for imperialism is the violent overthrow of the Maduro government and the destruction of the Venezuelan nation.
The next five years will be decisive for the future of Venezuela, Latin America and all peoples in the world struggling against the empire. With leaders like Maduro at the helm, and the imperialists on the run, there is a great future in store for us all.