The elections being held today, October 7, 2012, in Venezuela are of immense historical significance. The results of this election will have a crucial impact not just in Venezuela and Latin America but far beyond its frontiers, on the consciousness of the masses and the dynamics of the class struggle. It is neither an accident nor a coincidence that there has been an enormous interest and attention in the outcome of these polls by the experts and strategists of the western imperialist world ruling elites and its media.
Chavez has been called a dictator, tyrant, authoritarian, narco, anti-American terrorist. They have portrayed the image of Venezuela as one of violence, insecurity, crime, corruption and chaos, failing to mention the incredible achievements and social advances during the last decade, or the causes of the social inequalities left behind from previous governments. These scathing attacks on Hugo Chavez are not without a reason. They are terrified of a Bolivarian victory. The rhetorical attacks on Iran, North Korea, Islamic fundamentalism and so on are a different ball game.
In fact the imperialist and the Venezuelan oligarchies are fervently campaigning for the joint opposition (forged by the imperialists and their agents) candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski to win this presidential election. The imperialist support for this right wing candidate is for the very clear interests of the resumption of unhindered imperialist plunder and the intensification of capitalist exploitation. The imperialist support was plainly spelt out by Robert Zoellick, the outgoing President of the World Bank, when he said in June this year, “Chavez’s days are numbered. A Capriles victory was an opportunity to make the Western Hemisphere the first democratic hemisphere.” This is in spite of the fact that Chavez has won eight elections and referendums during his almost fourteen year term which were endorsed even by so called ‘neutral’ American observers including the Jimmy Carter foundation.
But imperialism and their strategists have a simple definition of democracy: does a government do what they want it to do?- in other words the freedom of free market enterprises and unfettered access for corporate capital to unrestricted exploitation in order to amass colossal rates of profit. Capriles stands exactly for these policies. He describes himself as a political centrist who looks to the left, but this is mere rhetoric coming from a man who belongs to one of the wealthiest families in Venezuela and whose programme of privatisation, austerity and neoliberalism will return the country to the poverty and stagnation of the "lost decades" of the 1980s and 1990s.
Capriles and the right wing opposition’s subservience to big oil companies and imperialism will mean a return to the plunder of Venezuela’s huge oil reserves as in the past. This is evident from the massive financing of Caprile’s campaign by these vested interests as well as plans to sabotage the elections. His political record includes support for the 2002 anti-Chávez coup and an attack on the Cuban Embassy during the 2002 coup that toppled Chavez for a few days. This military coup was covertly supported by US imperialism and the present opposition which is now masquerading as democrats. Capriles has announced a foreign policy of appeasement to imperialism and to cold shoulder the relations with the left governments in Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and other governments elected in the wake of a rising tide of class struggle in Latin America. But the masses are not so naive. They can see the ugly physiognomy of the oligarchy that lies concealed behind the smiling mask.
Chavez was a colonel in the military commandos in the 1980’s. In fact he took part in a military operation against a guerrilla campaign in the mountains launched by the communist party at the time. One of leaders of the communist fighters was comrade Maria Leon who later became a senior minister in the Chavez government after the 2002 coup. That was a unique rendezvous. When Chavez was elected in 1998, he was not a socialist. But when he tried to carry out the capitalist revolution, he was astonished to find that the biggest hostility to the fulfilment of those tasks came from the capitalist oligarchy and imperialism. Capitalists, politicians and heads of state from Washington to London to Madrid pressurised him to submit to their agendas. “Come with us”, urged the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, trying to seduce him with offers of wealth and luxury in turn for obeying orders. Every dirty tactic under the sun has been used to destabilize his government or make it difficult for him to govern, as stated by the former US State Department chief Lawrence Eagleburger.
Within a short period of time, Venezuela was overrun by economic sabotage, oil industry lock-outs, chaos in the streets and a brutal media war that distorted the reality of the country on a national and international level. The more popular Chavez became, the more millions of dollars flowed from US agencies to anti-Chavez groups to destabilize, discredit, delegitimize, overthrow, assassinate or remove him from power by any means possible. For years now, a group of US congress members - democrats and republicans - have tried to place Venezuela on their list of “state sponsors of terrorism”. They claim the relationships between Venezuela and Iran, Venezuela and Cuba, and even Venezuela and China is a “grave threat” to the US.
Having to navigate through this experience Chavez came to the conclusion that the tasks of the bourgeoisie democratic revolution cannot be accomplished within the confine s of capitalism itself. That is what led him to raise the slogan of 21st century socialism. It ultimately led to the coup of 2002. Chavez’s support amongst the vast majority of the lower ranks of the army and the mobilisation of a million people in Caracas defeated the coup in 36 hours. From then onwards he embarked upon radical reforms including nationalising the oil industry and chunks of the economy, 80% of the income of which previously went abroad, so that now the income has been used for investment in infrastructure and social programmes resulting in the reduction of poverty by 21 per cent from 1999 to 2010. Illiteracy has been abolished; railways, roads and port facilities are being expanded at an unprecedented rate. There is full and free healthcare for the poor. More than 250,000 housing units have been built for the homeless. Weekly working hours have been reduced from 44 to 40 hours. Pre and post natal leave has been extended to 26 weeks. Gender equality has been the hall mark of the revolutionary process.
But capitalism has not been abolished and the oligarchy is trying to sabotage the economy. Electricity outages and an increasing crime rate show that an appropriate infrastructure cannot be built even under state capitalism. Chavez was not a trained cadre of a Marxist- Leninist party. But the necessity of a party led him to launch the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). However this was an amalgamation of diverse left and progressive groupings with little ideological and organisational cohesion, crystallising in the formation of a strong self-serving right wing within the PSUV, mainly comprising of reformists and opportunist elements that act as a sort of fifth columnists. They don’t believe in revolutionary socialism. Sections of this bureaucracy even sabotage the implementation of radical reforms that Chavez often announces. This is an inevitable outcome for a party which is created while being in power. This is the most detrimental threat to the revolution that has continued for almost a decade.
The masses in Venezuela have steadfastly stood by the revolution and defied the attacks of imperialism and counter revolutionary forces. They fight to defend the gains of the revolution. But the revolution is far from complete and that is really the cause of the crisis we see in Venezuela.
Today the masses will be tested against the avalanche of media propaganda and finance capital. According to the polls by the right-wing pollster firm Datanalsis, support for Chavez stands at 43.6 percent as compared to Capriles’s 27.7 percent. If Chavez wins, he plans to further advance the revolution. He wants to set up a system of communes or socialist local entities across the country as a way of devolving power to the people. According to a quote in the Economist, “It is the Leninist idea of the soviets.” The article continues, “And what if Chavez loses? He said earlier this month that a Capriles victory would lead to a ‘profound destabilisation of Venezuela, which might even cause ‘civil war’. The opposition worries that the army might back the president if he decided not to recognise defeat.” One of Chavez’s strengths is his strong support within the armed forces that are “wedded to Mr. Chavez’s socialist project.” With attacks from the imperialists and oligarchy he may go the whole hog and complete the socialist revolution. The rapidly rising forces of Marxism in the PSUV will play a decisive role in such a consequential change of gargantuan proportions.