Writing from Caracas, Patrick Larsen sums up the basic challenges and the mood as millions of Venezuelans today will vote in the parliamentary elections. This is yet another battle between revolution and the counter-revolution which is preparing new actions to overthrow Chavez and crush the revolution once and for all.
Today's elections in Venezuela are of crucial importance for the future of the country and the Bolivarian revolution which started in 1998 with the election of Hugo Chavez.
Back in 2005 the opposition committed a huge blunder, when they decided to boycott the National Assembly elections at the last minute, clearly motivated by the fact that their electoral prospects looked very bleak.
This caused a further setback for the escualidos as they found themselves effectively without any national parliamentary representatives. Their only fortune was that PODEMOS, a small social-democratic party that had clung for a period to the chavista-coalition, choose to jump ship in 2007 and joined the opposition.
Currently their parliamentary representation is therefore reduced to only 6 seats in a parliament of 167 members, which allows the government to implement laws and reforms as it wishes.
Venezuelan opposition financed by U.S. Imperialism
After many defeats, splits and crises, the Venezuelan counter-revolution has been regrouping in the last year or so. Their new tactic is to use every legal opening to campaign around a programme of criticism of the existing problems, mobilize their supporters amongst the petit-bourgeoisie and demoralize the chavista rank and file.
In the electoral campaign, their man spokesperson, Maria Corina Machado, has been focusing on some of the real problems that exist in Venezuelan society, such as the high crime-rate, the electricity blackouts the, the sky-high inflation and so on.
But Corina Machado has her own intentions. Despite her smile and apparently innocent face on the electoral posters, she is not as harmless as one might think. In fact she gave full support to the failed 2002 coup d'etat against Chavez.
She has also acted as the main-leader of Sumate, an opposition “civil” organization which organised the campaign for the 2004 recall referendum. Between 2003 and 2006 Sumate received donations of around three million U.S. Dollars from the American government, channelled through organizations like NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and USAID.
Despite the fact that Sumate lost the 2004 referendum which gave a resounding victory for Chavez and the revolution, President George W. Bush rewarded Maria Corina Machado with a personal interview in the White House on May 31 2005, something that no other Venezuelan has achieved yet. Corina Machado said that Bush had showed “great interest in the Civil Society's perspective on democracy, particularly in Venezuela”.
The MUD (Democratic Unity Alliance) is the new opposition coalition that Maria Corina Machado is leading. They have also received huge sums from the U.S. Government. According to a recent investigation of FRIDE, a Spanish organization that uncovers international relations, the Venezuelan opposition has received between 40 and 50 million dollars this year alone.
Despite all the accusations of MUD against the Chavez government, their real campaign issue can be found in the paragraph of their electoral programme which speaks of the “defence of the right to private property and economic liberty”.
The burning issue for these lackeys of imperialism is not this or that problem in present-day Venezuela, such as inflation, housing or the crime-rate. These are just the issues that they demagogically use to address the middle class, which they know is volatile because it regards the government as paralysed and incapable of resolving the problems.
No, the real issue is the fact that the Bolivarian revolution has reached a point where it is threatening the very existence of capitalism in Venezuela. The oligarchy is still in control of two thirds of the economy, but it knows that the pressure of the masses could push Chavez towards new expropriations. That is their real concern and that's why they need to stop the revolution, by any means possible.
The campaign of the revolutionary forces
Workers, students and urban poors organized in the PSUV and the PCV (Venezuelan Communist Party) have tried to organize a political campaign to mobilize the chavista rank and file. While the campaign of the bureaucrats and professional politicians has been pretty boring, the campaign of working class organizations like the UNT (National Workers' Union), the workers' councils in VTV, CANTV and others has been very militant.
On Thursday September 16 there was a march of workers from different workplaces. It was organized by the workers' councils at Mercal, Pdval, Cantv, Red TV, VTV and Venetur. Among the demands of the workers was a law in favour of workes' control in the factories.
The UNT also organized an important meeting of shop stewards on September 18 in Caracas where a number of resolutions were passed in favour of working class demands.
The interesting thing about these and others initiatives has been the fact that the organized working class is supporting the PSUV campaign, but raising independent demands as a class.
Finally the PSUV mass demo on Thursday September 24 also showed that the revolution still has big reserves of support, as hundreds of thousands marched through the streets of Caracas.
The plan of the counter-revolution and how to stop it
It is obviously difficult to make a precise forecast about the results of these elections. The general feeling is that the majority still supports the revolution but there are also important signs of tiredness and even demoralization setting in among large sections of Chavez’s traditional base.
People do not think that the process is going too fast. On the contrary! The generalized mood is that words and talk of socialism have not yet been translated into fundamental change in Venezuela. The capitalists, bankers and landlords are still pretty much in the same positions of economic power. Last year, 70% of the country's GDP was created by the private sector, a fact which clearly illustrates that capitalism is still alive in Venezuela.
This is frustrating for many voters in traditional chavista strongholds and might cause high levels of abstention. It is unlikely that the opposition will get massive support. They are largely discredited and most people know what they really stand for. But they might succeed in demoralising quite a few chavistas.
The government has used millions of dollars in extra food programmes, in order to avoid a situation of food scarcity as in 2007 when the first constitutional referendum was lost. This has served to balance the situation temporarily.
However, the situation is still very fragile. In the eleven years of the revolution, this will be the first election that Venezuelans will go through in a situation of economic crisis. The Venezuelan economy has recorded negative figures since the end of 2008 and recovery still seems rather distant.
The plan of the counter-revolution does not end tomorrow. Of course they are aiming at winning the maximum number of constituencies, and at the same time they will also try to create unrest and sow doubts and confusion about the electoral process.
Several articles in Saturday's editions of El Universal and El Nacional, both opposition papers, went in this direction. MUD has invited several ultra-reactionary politicians as “international observers”, such as Gustavo de Aristegui of the Spanish conservative PP party. They asserted that they “wouldn't bend down because of any pressure or threats [from the government]”.
On the other hand they will be quite satisfied with a representation of say 40% of the new parliament. Their main target is to break the PSUV-PCV two-thirds majority, thus making the government unable to pass organic laws.
Thus they would be in a position where they can hinder new revolutionary laws and put every obstacle in the way for the Chavez government. It is likely that they will use such a position to expose the government as either paralysed in mid-air or as dictatorial.
The events in Honduras last year were a warning to the workers and poor of Venezuela and the rest of Latin America. If the revolution is not carried out to the end, that is with the expropriation of the capitalists, the bankers and the landlords, we run the risk of allowing the right-wing to deliver a new blow against the revolution.
In the context of Venezuela a right-wing victory in the parliamentary elections would be a big step in the same direction as Honduras. That is why all eyes across the world are on today's elections.
Caracas, September 25th, 2010