Recent bloody demonstrations in Venezuela are part of a concerted attempt by the neoliberal right-wing section of the ruling class to destabilise and ultimately replace the chavista government of Nicolás Maduro.
The Venezuelanalysis website says at least ten people were killed during the protests and the army are now on the streets. These mobilisations, it must be stressed, are led by reactionaries.
In the run up to first anniversary of Chávez’s death, right-wing, free-market capitalist oppositionists have seized on popular discontent against economic shortages, inflation at 50% and crime to call for the exit (“la salida”) of the Maduro government.
Last April, Maduro narrowly defeated Henrique Capriles, leader of the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) opposition in the presidential elections. But the narrow margin and Maduro’s mismanagement since have galvanised some right-wingers.
These demonstrations represent the convergence of two elements of the right-wing: the hard-right elements around Leopoldo López and the student opposition Juventud Activa Venezuela Unida (JAVU).
Lopez is aligned with those elements within the right-wing opposition who supported the April 2002 coup and the 2002-03 lockout against Chávez, such as Maria Corina Machado, who leads the civil society organisation Sumate. López played an active part in the coup attempts.
In December 2013 the PSUV defeated MUD candidates in municipal elections by 54% to 42%. Capriles is playing a long game and is more reconciliatory with the Chavista regime, while the hard right want to oust Maduro more swiftly.
JAVU has staged previous protests in support of private media outlets and against the imprisonment of opposition supporters. According to British-based academic Julia Buxton, in recent years JAVU has focused on underfunding in the higher education sector and Cuba, where Chávez went for chemotherapy.
They also challenged the result of the April presidential election. They represent a small proportion of higher education students, in a sector that expanded massively under Chávez.
The right-wingers have been emboldened by Obama’s criticisms of Maduro’s government. The US government and some US NGOs and think tanks have provided substantial funding to the Venezuelan right-wing over many years.
Just as in 2002-03, the Venezuelan working class should have no illusions about the right-wingers. For all their rhetoric about democracy and freedom, if they succeed in overthrowing Maduro, the neoliberals will make it much harder for the working class to organise.
Chavista rule has stifled the emergence of the Venezuelan working class as an independent actor, but union organisations like the UNT would almost certainly be shattered by an incoming right-wing government. Chavista rule may be Bonapartist, but it has a democratic mandate. The old elites do not have that.
Socialists and anarchists in Venezuela have rightly not joined these demonstrations, which suggests they understand the reactionary nature of the protests and the forces leading them.
An independent labour movement, implacably opposed to the old ruling elites but also critical of the Chavistas is a burning necessity to break out of the current impasse.