In the last few weeks, there has been an escalation in the verbal attacks from the Venezuelan government against the revolutionary left. These attacks, by president Maduro and National Assembly speaker Jorge Rodríguez, have been directed particularly at the APR: the Popular Revolutionary Alternative, a political platform that gathers several parties and organisations to the left of Maduro’s government. Very serious allegations have been made, including the charge that the left opposition to the government is acting in cahoots with US imperialism.
Up until now, the attacks against the APR had consisted of intimidation, censorship in the public and private media, and several acts of repression against APR candidates during the National Assembly election campaign. The most important and serious thing here is that these latest attacks could set the stage for a higher level of repression against the left wing and the workers’ movement.
One of the motives for the government intensifying its political campaign against the APR could be that, in order to bypass the economic sanctions from the US imperialism, as well as overcome the deep economic crisis that currently exists, the Maduro government will go much further to the right, deepening its monetarist policies and increasing privatisations. These types of measures will always mean a heavier load for the working masses to bear, and within that context the APR could play an important role, organising and leading mass protests against the package of economic measures that is to come in the next months.
In fact, the APR results in the National Assembly elections were very modest: 2.73 percent of the vote and one elected assembly member. Amongst the reasons for this were media censorship, the lack of finances and the negative propaganda from the PSUV leadership. This is a small force, but it still has a lot of political potential. That potential arises from its political ideas and the main demands that it has been raising since its launch in August last year. Therefore, it is logical to think there is some fear within the Bolivarian leadership in regards to that potential, and how it could lead the APR to become a bigger political force in the country.
On 23 January, during the commemoration of the overthrow of Perez Jiménez dictatorship by a mass uprising in 1958 – which has been historically a symbol among the left – president Maduro made a speech from the so-called people’s balcony, in Miraflores palace. There, he said: “There are some splitters out there trying to damage Chavismo from within, I warn you… For the first time, I warn about this. Beware of divisionists who try to call themselves Marxist-Leninist and who are ‘more Chavistas than Chávez’. Be careful because behind them is the hand of US imperialism. Be alert in the neighbourhoods, in the universities, in the streets."
Two days later, during a PSUV leadership meeting, Maduro repeated his allegations but adding a call to expose the “splitters” and the implication of criminality: “We have decided in the National Directorate of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela to unitarily summon all the forces of the Great Patriotic Pole, to consolidate a great national alliance and to denounce the divisionists head-on with their first and last names wherever they are, in front of the country and before the whole world, because it is a crime against the Homeland, peace and the Revolution, to try to divide the Venezuelan revolutionary movement.”
Up until this point and during the election campaign, the role of Maduro and the bureaucratic leadership of the PSUV was to underestimate, ignore and make the APR invisible. However, these recent statements actually constitute a change in the government policy towards the APR. It seems that now the aim is to launch an offensive to discredit the APR and all the organisations within that platform, but mostly its largest component, the Communist Party of Venezuela. The very aggressive language used and the call to uncover the “divisionists” wherever they are and to denounce them publicly is extremely serious and could be setting the stage for violent repression against the APR in the near future.
In his speeches, President Maduro has even used the adjective trasnochado – literally in Spanish, someone who hasn’t slept all night. The right English translation for the term would be “outdated”, in reference to the APR and the Communist Party. Rómulo Betancourt, the famous historical leader of the old Venezuelan social-democratic party, Acción Democrática (which degenerated to the right many decades ago) started to use that adjective in a scornful way against the CP and the rest of the Marxist left in the 60s, as a way to ridicule them. It is important also to underline the fact that Betancourt was responsible for the killing and disappearing of thousands of revolutionary activists during his government.
In recent days, the situation has become worse. Last Thursday, during the National Assembly weekly plenary session, Jorge Rodríguez, now president of the National Assembly, and former vice president and mayor of Caracas, took the floor after Oscar Figuera – current deputy of the APR and the CP. The main discussion in the session was about a statement to commemorate 29 years of the military left-wing insurrection of 4 February 1992, led by comrade Chávez. Figuera expressed being in favour of approving the first part of the motion – commemorating the insurrection and its political aims – but not the second, which was about the current role of the government in the fulfilment of those aims today.
In his speech, Rodríguez responded to Figuera in a totally disproportionate way. He practically wanted to crush the struggle the APR has been carrying forward, selling the idea to the rank and file of the Bolivarian movement that the CP and the APR were supported by US special envoy for Venezuela Elliot Abrams, and the political work by that platform was related with the systematic attempts of Abrams to overthrow Maduro’s government.
Abrams was one of the main officers of Reagan’s administration, who supported counterrevolutionary plans in Nicaragua (which of course involved the shameful Iran-Contra case), Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, to wipe out left-wing organisations by the use of extreme violence.
Under the Reagan administration, $1 million was sent daily to the Salvadoran army to combat the FMLN. At the same time, US imperialism trained hundreds of military forces from El Salvador, which later became the horrific death squads, responsible for killing thousands of innocent men, women and children. The El Mozote massacre, which took place in 1981 in the eastern region of the country, was in fact the worst massacre in the modern history of Latin America.
Thus, Rodriguez’s campaign against the CP and the APR, trying to put us at the same level as a monster like Abrams is a huge scandal, and a genuine embarrassment. The APR and its component organisations have a track record of fighting against imperialist and imperialist aggression, opposing US sanctions on Venezuela. Furthermore, they have consistently demanded that Juan Guaidó should be arrested for his participation in a failed coup in 2019, the attempt to overthrow the elected president, his call for a US military invasion, his collaboration with a mercenary incursion, etc. The Maduro government has chosen to let him free, while it attacks those who want the pro-imperialist traitors jailed as being “in cahoots with Elliot Abrams”!
Moreover, Rodríguez said a couple of things that shouldn’t be considered insignificant. For example, that now was time to respond to supposed provocations from the APR, having ignored them in the past. This type of political speech could be intended to provoke armed groups that support the government, like some of the colectivos or the so-called Cupaz, with the purpose, as we pointed out before, of setting the stage for violent attacks by these groups against the APR in the next weeks or months.
Attacks on the left
It is significant to note that while the Maduro government is attacking the left, it is holding meetings with Fedecamaras, the main business organisation, which has been involved in every single attempt to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution by means of a coup, all the way back to April 2002. The former president of Fedecamaras, Jorge Roig, publicly applauded the attack against the APR and the Communist Party: “A good friend of mine, who has a sound political outlook, said to me: ‘that the regime is fighting against the Venezuelan Communist Party in the same week in which it meets with Fedecamaras is marvellous’. I share his feelings.”
In that same vein, it is important to explain once more that none of the organizations that belong to the APR are enemies of the Bolivarian Revolution – and never will be – nor of the Bolivarian masses. Organisations like the CP, the Venezuelan section of the IMT, Lucha de Clases, the former Patria Para Todos party, now Rafael Uzcátegui Current, Izquierda Unida and others, have been always solid supporters of the socialist revolution in Venezuela, as well as consistent anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists.
We are neither enemies, nor adversaries of the Bolivarian masses. We struggle for the same ideas comrade Chávez defended in one of his final speeches, ‘Golpe de Timón’ [Turn the rudder], about the urgent need to transform our society along socialist lines, and combating all forms of national and social oppression of our people. But, in that context, it is key to make clear that the current policy of Maduro’s government is totally opposed to working-class interests, and also to the legacy of President Chávez.