National Sections of the L5I:

Hugo Chávez , the call for the Fifth International and his Trotskyist supporters

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Hugo Chavez is very popular with some socialists, including the International Marxist Tendency (marxist.com), but what do revolutionary socialists think?

Hugo Chávez has made reference to the need for a Fifth International before, during the World Social Forums in Porto Alegre and Caracas and after the founding of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in 2007. However this latest call is clearly the most definite proposal that he has ever made.

In his speech, he referred approvingly to the names and founders of the previous four Internationals (Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky) pointing out that all these Internationals were founded in Europe, due to the levels of the class struggle in Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But now, he said, “the epicentre of world revolution is in Latin America, and especially in Venezuela.”

The proposal was also put to an extraordinary conference of the PSUV, which will continue over the coming weeks.

Chávez announced that he would be forming a steering committee and holding an international cadre school preparatory to a founding conference of a new International in April 2010. He claimed the Fifth International must not be a matter of resurrecting the “real existing Socialism” of Stalinism, Social Democracy or the Blairite Third Way, since these had all failed. However, the lack of enthusiasm on the part of some of the Communist Parties present in Caracas may indicate a less than smooth path for the Venezuelan President’s plans.

At the same time, he also claimed inspiration from the key ideological figures of “third world” Stalinism Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. In addition, Chávez' simultaneous support for the brutally repressive regimes of Presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran indicate his confusion of socialism with “anti-imperialist” military bonapartism. This shows that his purpose in creating a new International is to establish a support mechanism for his own, and what he evidently regards as analogous, regimes.

Of course, revolutionaries do defend regimes such as Chávez’ against any and every military attack or economic blockade by imperialism. This is especially so where such regimes are, in part, a product of the mass mobilisations of the workers and peasants even though (thanks to Chávez) these stopped short of overthrowing capitalism and smashing the bourgeois states. Indeed, even counterrevolutionary regimes like Ahmedinejad’s or Mugabe’s, if imperialist forces attacked them, would merit our defence. But in all these cases it is only the revolutionary insurrection of the workers against these foul regimes that can definitively crush the internal forces of counterrevolution and repulse the attacks from imperialism.

According to Alan Woods of the International Marxist Tendency, the Trotskyist current that has been most unbridled in identifying itself with Chavismo, Chávez made “a very radical left-wing speech” and explained “that it was necessary to destroy the bourgeois state and replace it with a revolutionary state.” He brandished a copy of Lenin’s State and Revolution, urging all those present to read it. He admitted that the state in Venezuela remained a bourgeois state. However, he did not call on the workers themselves to smash that state and replace it with the rule of workers’ and poor peasants’ councils. Without the independent revolutionary intervention of the working class, all this playing with the names of Lenin and Trotsky is simply demagogy, designed to confuse the masses. This is clear when at the same time Chávez condemns workers for striking and “destabilising” his regime.

Woods and the IMT who, in the past year or two, became rather more critical of Chávez, albeit in the sycophantic manner of attacking “those around him” rather than a head on conflict, seem to have been assuaged by a bit of left wing rhetoric. In fact, Woods shows all the hallmarks of the degenerate “Trotskyist” method that argued that the objective process, mass pressure etc, could make a Tito, a Mao, a Castro and now a Chávez, into a (not so) blunt tool of the revolution, a (not so) unconscious Trotskyist. He enthuses:

“It is clear that Chávez is attempting to use the congress to breathe new life into the revolution. Let us hope that this will be the starting point for a new advance of the Bolivarian Revolution, which can only succeed by going onto the offensive, braking (sic) radically with capitalism, striking blows against the reactionary oligarchy and establishing a genuine workers' state as the necessary condition for advancing to socialism and launching a revolutionary wave throughout the Americas and on a world scale.”

Given Chávez’ own lack of enthusiasm for workers’ struggles, such as recent strikes and factory occupations in Venezuela, when these have not been given the green light by himself and the PSUV, it is completely crazy to see him as the instrument, conscious or otherwise, of the world revolution. Anyone, like Woods, who depends on this “mass pressure” to change Chávez is advocating a false, indeed a disastrous, course for the workers’ revolution in Venezuela. This can only come by building a Leninist revolutionary party of the working class on the basis of a Trotskyist transitional programme.