It seems many Socialists are getting very wet at the recent news of Venezuela being renamed and the apparent shift left by Chavez. Indeed, Socialist Worker in their last issue of Unity devoted their entire issue to the “Bolivarian Revolution”, waxing lyrical over the messianic figure of Chavez.

Since Chavez was re-elected once again for another 6 year term this last week, he has announced that he intends to nationalise the telecommunications industry, the electrical companies, abolish the commercial code which regulates economic transactions and end the independence of Venezuela’s central bank. This last change apparently requires Chavez to apply for increased executive powers to the National Assembly which he controls anyway.

But this “revolution” is nothing more than an alternative capitalist arrangement. The strengthening of state power, the nationalisation of industries and the boosting of welfare infrastructure (schools, health, unemployment support, etc.) represents little more than welfare capitalism. Or as the Venezualan anarchist organisation the Comisión de Relaciones Anarquistas (CRA) put it:

…no doubt the Chavez regime tries to impose state control mechanisms everywhere, but being such a corrupt and inept government, blinded by thinking that is building solid popular support turning part of the poorest people into clients dependent on the state’s dole, it’s going to cost them plenty to make any advances in that contradictory chimera that it calls “XXI Century Socialism”, which is nothing but an underdeveloped capitalism of the XIX Century. *

Poverty will likely be reduced, and a basic quality of life will increase, but the day to day reality for most people will be completely unchanged: they will still be subject to wage slavery, subject to the dictates of bosses or government bureaucracies, still faced with the eternal threat of poverty, harassed by the forces of the State, and rendered just as impotent as ever as to the creation of their own lives and the direction of their communities.

The classic anarchist opposition to a “workers’ state” was summed up well by the CNT just prior to the Spanish Revolution: “dictatorship of the proletariat is dictatorship without the proletariat and against them” (from the Confederal Conception of Libertarian Communism). The anarchist revolutionary aims of decentralisation, self-management, free association and the genuine socialisation of property are not only quite different to any notion of a workers state, but are actively opposed.

Of course, as with any class society the separation between rich and poor remains intact and the property of the national bourgeoisie in Venezuela is not threatened:

…property rights and the structure of the economy remain intact, largely because the government does not want to impede its revenue, prompting relief from the elite and grumbles from the radical left who want greater redistribution of resources. *

And with Venezuela’s nationalisation the national bourgeoisie have in fact become richer, quite content with Chavez’s changes. From an on-the-ground report:

The fruits were on display at a Caracas expo of luxury vehicles and speedboats. Staff at six stands interviewed by the Guardian all said business had never been so good.
“It’s ironic, this revolution. The rich are even richer now,” said Rene Diaz, who was selling Humvee-type 4x4s which cost up to $150,000. *

The main anarchist group in Venezuela, the CRA, continue to oppose both the faux-socialism of Chavez as well as the right through projects such as their national paper, El Libetario.

They see themselves as participants in a tri-polar struggle of their own, and have long positioned themselves in opposition to both the Chavez regime and to the US-backed opposition, borrowing the phrase popularized in Argentina in recent years: Que se vayan todos!, which translates roughly as Get rid of all of them! *

However, despite feeling that the anarchist movement there is undergoing a resurgence not felt in decades they still only occupy a marginal position and are absent from many key sectors of social struggle.