Revolutionary periods are historical exceptions. In so-called "normal" times history seems to have come to a standstill. The ruling elite and their social, political, cultural and intellectual toadies and soothsayers try to indoctrinate the masses with the myth of the "infinity of the existing system." The traditional and incumbent mass leaders are the first to join this fray and thus the masses are denied an ideology, method and perspectives for social transformation. Yet the will and the desire of the masses for change remains and can never be obliterated. So long as class society stands and with it class antagonisms, the class struggle can never be abolished. This is the universal law of society. There can be long periods of calm and a slow tempo in the class struggle, but sooner or later revolutionary explosions appear once more on the arena of history. This is inevitable.
After the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, a stale and a relatively reactionary period had set in. The bourgeoisie on a world scale started to rejoice at something that none of their experts had either predicted or anticipated. It is a historical reality that even the most astute of the bourgeois theoreticians and intellectuals ‑ in spite of their extreme hostility and even contempt ‑ had never developed a scientific perspective for the former Soviet Union and its satellite states.
It was only the Marxists, beginning with Lenin, who had predicted the demise of the USSR if the revolution did not spread to the advanced capitalist countries. If the revolution were to remain isolated to one backward country bureaucratic degeneration would set in, control of the state would slip from the hands of the workers and into those of the bureaucrats. Trotsky, in his epic work "Revolution Betrayed" in 1936 meticulously developed the perspective of the demise of Stalinism.
However, in spite of their lack of foresight, after the collapse of the Soviet Union the bourgeois intellectuals came forward with the most absurd of theories. One shining example is that of "the end of history" theory put forward by Francis Fukuyama. This reflected the thinking of the bourgeoisie that their system "had won" and that capitalism was the peak of human development and no other system was possible.
In spite of all this, the truth was that the crisis of capitalism had not disappeared and it brought with it more social and political turbulence internationally. This was accompanied by an even more reactionary "theory", put forward by another representative of the US ruling class, Samuel P. Huntington. It was called, "The Clash of Civilizations". This idea was taken up simultaneously by both the Islamic fundamentalists and US imperialists to their own advantage. Those who suffered from this "clash" were the oppressed of all religions and all nations.
This period was characterized by one of the greatest ideological betrayals on the part of the leaders and intellectuals of the mainstream left. The Social Democracy everywhere turned to the right and shamelessly adopted the neo-liberal doctrine of the "trickle down" effect, i.e. that accumulating wealth at one end of society would eventually have the effect of trickling down to the poor.
The Stalinist parties of all shades even abandoned their erroneous theory of two stages. In the past, especially in the underdeveloped world, they had called for a block or collaboration with the so-called "national" or "progressive" bourgeoisie to carry out the "national democratic revolution". Some Stalinist tendencies even called this the "people's democratic revolution". They argued that only after the completion of such a bourgeois revolution would the conditions be created for the proletariat to develop in such numerical strength that a struggle for a Socialists Revolution would be ensured. That meant that they relegated the task of the socialist revolution to a later stage, to another generation to come and to a far off epoch of history. This was in total contradiction to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 lead by Lenin and Trotsky.
In reality it was the failure of the Stalinists to understand the permanent character of the revolution in an imperialist epoch. Theirs was a pedantic schematisation of the course of the revolution, a chopping up of the living and combined processes into dead stages imagined to be necessarily separated in time.
These errors had already brought them to adopt a vulgar abstract idealisation of "democracy" or a "democratic dictatorship". They failed to understand that in the present epoch this can only lead to an imperialist dictatorship. It is not surprising therefore that when the Soviet Union collapsed a number of Stalinists accused Lenin of having carried out a "premature revolution". Some even used the phrase of "bulldozing the socialist revolution".
This state of mind and such reactions to the collapse of the Soviet Union only served to expose their further degeneration and total capitulation to capitalism. It was in this context that they abandoned their "second stage" of the revolution. Now they merely fell back to the "first stage", i.e. the "democratic stage of revolution", without even the perspective of a "second" socialist stage at some distant point in the future. This created an enormous political vacuum on the left in all countries.
The vacuum was filled with all kinds of peculiar and reactionary phenomena, from fundamentalism to casteism and from regionalism to liberalism. For more than a decade the workers and the oppressed masses underwent psychological distress due to the lack of any clear alternative to the existing order anywhere on the political horizon.
In spite of all this, even in this dark period of history there were many mass upheavals and huge movements on all the continents. There was wave after wave of protests against the crushing domination of imperialism and the brutal class exploitation of human labour. It was a tragedy that the traditional left leadership had beaten such a rapid retreat after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In their minds socialism has failed, when in actual fact what had failed was that horrible bureaucratic deformation of socialism that was Stalinism.
It is in this context that the Venezuelan revolution shatters this scenario. The most important aspect of the Venezuelan Revolution is that it has answered the dogma that the market is everything. And it has done so even before the completion of the socialist revolution in Venezuela. It has sent a resounding message around the world that socialism is viable, even today as a revolutionary alternative, and that emancipation from this capitalist savagery is possible. This message was not and could not be blocked by the distances that separate us. Not even the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans can stop the message getting through. Apart from the immediate effects across the whole of the Latin American subcontinent, it has touched the shores and heartlands of Asia, Europe and Africa.
Even the most rabid enemies of the Venezuelan revolution - and of Marxism ‑ have had to acknowledge its worldwide impact and spread across Latin America. The Economist, for instance writes in its editorial of May 20-26 issue:
"A spectre has arisen... Mr Chavez and Mr Morales direct a volley of abuse at Mr Bush. For these reasons, the populists have captured the sympathy of ignorant paternalists abroad, such as London's Mayor, Ken Livingston who, this week welcomed Mr Chavez as ‘as the best news out of Latin America in many years'."
The real spectre haunting the bourgeois intelligentsia and policymakers is not the impact of these developments on people like Ken Livingston. Yes, they are very significant symbolic jesters, but the main fear of the imperialists is that the Venezuelan revolution is having an impact upon the teeming millions around the worlds who are yearning for change and an end to this misery of capitalism.
It was not for accidental reasons that a massive crowd of thousands of people in Vienna recently waited for hours to hear and see Chavez whose language they could not understand. The impact of the Venezuelan revolution is such that even here in Asia, even in this South Asian Subcontinent "culturally aloof from Latin America", a liberal bourgeois columnist, Irshad Ahmed Haqani writing in the largest circulation Urdu language bourgeois paper, the Daily Jang, wrote on May 25, 2006, expressing his "desperate desire" for a Chavez to rise up in Pakistan and save the masses.
Very few people know that when comrade Manzoor Ahmed, the Marxist MP from Pakistan, was invited by Chavez to attend the anniversary celebrations of the failed coup attempt of April 2002, a campaign had been raised beforehand to support the Venezuelan revolution, Hands Off Venezuela (Pakistan). When comrade Manzoor reached Caracus he had with him a statement signed by 55 members of the National Assembly of Pakistan. This statement condemned the coup attempt and supported the Bolivarian Revolution.
Munnoo Bhai, the most widely read left-wing columnist in Pakistan, who also writes for the Daily Jang, has written several columns on Chavez and the Venezuelan revolution. Actually he has played a vital role in bringing the revolutionary events in Venezuela and elsewhere to the millions of his readers in Pakistan. For more than twelve years he has been closely following the writings of Alan Woods and Ted Grant and has introduced them to vast layers of workers and youth in Pakistan.
However, the most important aspect of the situation in Venezuela is that the theoretical and ideological questions are posed concretely and are being answered by the living experience of the revolutionary process. Hugo Chavez started off the process as a revolutionary democrat. This means he wanted to carry out the bourgeois or the national democratic revolution to the end. But when he started the process in his genuine and honest quest he was confronted by the Venezuelan bourgeoisie (the Oligarchy) and US imperialism.
The revolutionary process has reached this far only thanks to the radical steps Chavez has had to take to quell the resistance of the bourgeoisie against the bourgeois revolution itself! Hence the experience of the Venezuelan revolution above all teaches us that the bourgeoisie in these countries is not only incapable of fulfilling the tasks of the bourgeois revolution, but it has become so rotten and degenerate that it cannot even tolerate a revolution which was historically destined for the bourgeoisie to accomplish. This is once again a clear vindication of Trotsky's theory of the Permanent Revolution.
This book, the Venezuelan Revolution - A Marxist Perspective written by my friend and comrade of many years Alan Woods is not just an insight or a mere analysis of the revolutionary process in Venezuela. This brilliant work is based on Marxism, which in the last analysis is the science of perspectives.
Alan Woods has been personally involved in the revolutionary movements not just in Venezuela but also in several Latin American countries. The most significant aspect of this work is that Alan Woods has combined the analysis of the events that have been unfolding in Venezuela with the perspectives he had already developed even before 1998, to forge a profound revolutionary strategy for a socialist victory in Venezuela and throughout the Latin American subcontinent.
He has articulated with passionate and dialectical argumentation, he has answered the reformist tendencies, and developed a method of how to combat the imperialist threat and counter-revolution within Venezuela itself. Alan has elaborated the attitude of the Marxists towards the mass movements and how in such revolutionary upheavals sectarian fanaticism can be counterproductive. He has gone into the dynamics of the revolutionary process and has explained what the slogan "Revolution, within the revolution" means for the destiny of this movement.
Alan has also ventured into the delicate issue of how the individuals and factions within the present state apparatus and the reformist and Stalinist tendencies within the Bolivarian movement can actually derail the revolutionary process and undo the gains of the revolution so far. He explains that the revolution has not been completed and therefore faces the danger of reversal. Alan has emphasized the importance of workers' democratic control and management of industry and economy.
Last but not the least, Alan stresses the necessity of carrying through socialist measures to safeguard the revolution and fulfil the hopes and desires of the oppressed masses. He explains that Simon Bolivar's dream of a united Latin America can only be realised in the form of a Socialist Federation of Latin America.
The book is rich in lessons for the Latin American revolution. But apart from Latin America this book is a treasure trove for those who are struggling for the radical transformation of society in different parts of the world including South Asia. It discusses the questions of theory, perspectives, tactics and strategy in the development and success of the revolutionary struggle. There are some very important lessons to be drawn from this marvellous work. A new revolutionary wave is beginning to sweep the planet. It has started in Venezuela and Latin America, but will sooner or later engulf the whole world
This book has already been produced in Urdu in Pakistan. Its publication in India by Aakar Books must be congratulated. It will provide a clear guideline and profound understanding of contemporary Marxist politics, strategy and tactics for the millions of youth and workers in India who are in search of a genuine Marxist path towards a socialist revolution. Hopefully it will also be translated into many Indian languages so that much wider layers of youth and workers may benefit from it, but this is a good start.
Finally, I want to say that I am extremely honoured and feel privileged to write the introduction to such an important book written by Alan Woods, from whom, in more than twenty five years of our comradeship I have learned so much in Marxist theory, practice, philosophy and culture, music and art, and life itself.
Lal Khan, Lahore, May 28, 2006
NOTE: Anyone who wishes to get a copy of this book in India can contact the publishers, Aakar Books, 28 E Pkt. IV, Mayur Vihar Phase I, Delhi-110091. Phone: 011-2279 5505. Telefax: 011-2279 5641. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com