|As we go to press, the results of the parliamentary elections in Venezuela have been announced, and Chávez’s Unified Socialist party (PSUV) and its supporters have won a clear majority.
This majority is an expression of the Venezuelan people’s support for the revolutionary process, led by Chávez, through which Venezuela is breaking itself free of imperialist domination and introducing a whole host of measures designed to improve the lives of ordinary people. And part of this process of necessity means redistributing wealth for the benefit of rural and urban workers at the expense of imperialism and the Venezuelan elite, whose wealth depends on facilitating the imperialist looting of their country.
Chávez has been scrupulous about conducting an election that was free of any possibility of fraud or rigging. So patent has the whole electoral process been that any accusations of ballot rigging on the part of the government are too absurd to gain any credence, which means that opponents of the government have had to resort to mumbling about gerrymandering – redrawing electoral boundaries to give greater weight to rural voters who favour the government. However, even if there were the slightest truth in these allegations, it could only be of marginal effect.
The success of the PSUV and its allies, who stood under the banner of the ‘Red Cockerel’ is all the more noteworthy in that it has been obtained despite massive intervention on the part of US imperialism to support anti-government candidates.
Eva Golinger, in Postcards from the Revolution of 10 September 2010, wrote:
“A report commissioned by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and published in May 2010 by the Spanish Foundation for International Relations and Foreign Dialogue (FRIDE) revealed that this year alone, international agencies are investing between $40-50m in anti-Chávez groups in Venezuela. A large part of those funds have been channelled to the opposition coalition, Democratic Unity (MUD), and its campaign for the upcoming legislative elections on 26 September.
“A majority of funding comes from US agencies, particularly USAID, which has maintained a presence in Venezuela since 2002 with the sole intention of aiding in President Chávez’s removal from power. For the past eight years, USAID has channelled millions into political parties, organisations and private media entities linked to the opposition, helping them to grow and unify, and providing strategic advice, support and resources for their political campaigns.”
Particular emphasis has been given to winning over more privileged workers to the side of reaction
“A declassified cable sent in April 2005 from then US Ambassador in Caracas, William Brownfield, to the Secretary of State and the National Security Council outlined the work the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) were pursuing ‘to facilitate the renovation/transformation of Venezuela’s political parties’. ‘They are working with opposition parties to help them focus on their survival as relevant political institutions’, revealed the cable.
“In January 2005, NDI began implementation of a year-long $500,000 project focusing on party transformation ... Of primary importance will be the mobilisation and engagement of reformist forces (eg, young leaders, women, civil society) ...
“Brownfield indicated how ‘experienced trainers/political consultants’ were brought from the US to aid opposition parties in the ‘development of strategies and messages that address the aspirations of low-income voters’, which the US Ambassador considered a ‘high priority’, considering it’s the base of hard-core Chávez supporters.”
Eva Golinger rightly concluded that “There remains no doubt the Venezuelan opposition – in all its manifestations – is product of the US government. US agencies fund and design their campaigns, train and build their parties, organise their NGOs, develop their messages, select their candidates and feed them with dollars to ensure survival.”
Furthermore, the vast majority of the Venezuelan media are in the hands of the Venezuelan elite and therefore blast the people day and night with anti-Chávez propaganda.
As the secretary of the British Venezuela Solidarity Campaign has written, it is not true, “as it is repeated ad nauseam by much of the corporate media, that the Venezuelan government has majority control over the Venezuelan media. The opposition has overwhelming quantitative superiority over the government on TV, even greater control and ownership in the realm of radio stations and even greater still in newspapers. Furthermore, according to a study conducted by the CNE, the opposition has had 75.4 percent of the TV electoral propaganda broadcasts so far in this campaign.” (‘Venezuela: Elections to the National Assembly – another step on the road to democracy’ by Francisco Dominguez, venezuelasolidarity.org.uk)
Victory: reward for the left’s service to the masses
In the face of such a massive propaganda advantage in favour of the opposition, the only explanation for the government’s overwhelming victory is that it is able to oppose solid achievements to the opposition’s manipulative propaganda.
Mark Weisbrot wrote recently on guardian.co.uk that from 2003 to 2008, “The economy grew as never before, poverty was cut by more than half, and there were large gains in employment. Real social spending per person more than tripled, and free healthcare was expanded to millions of people.” (11 September 2010)
Yet it is virtually impossible to find this information when reading the bourgeois press, which all over the world is certain of one thing – its opposition to the anti-imperialist Venezuelan regime. As Mark Weisbrot noted:
“You will have to search very hard to find these basic facts presented in a mainstream media article, although the numbers are hardly in dispute among economists in international organisations that deal with statistics.”
Since 2008, the world economy has been in recession, and there is not a single country maintaining the capitalist system that has not at least to some extent and in some aspects of its economy been affected. This includes Venezuela, which has, however, because of its anti-imperialist and socially just policies, nevertheless been able to continue to deliver improved living conditions for the masses of Venezuelans, albeit at a slower pace than had been the case before the recession set in.
Gregory Wilpert, the editor of Venezuela Analysis explains:
“Measured by the GINI coefficient, which measures inequality, unemployment is lower than ever, poverty is lower than average, even though Venezuela’s going through a recession. And the reason that it’s managed to maintain poverty at a very low level and unemployment at a relatively low level despite a recession is that social programmes are still in effect, and social programmes have made a big difference in people’s lives, whether they’re educational programmes, community health care, subsidies for single mothers, things like that. They’ve really made a big difference in people’s lives.” (‘Venezuela national assembly elections too close to call’, venezuelanalysis.com, 8 September 2010)
Nevertheless, reactionary elements were to some extent able to capitalise on discontent arising from: a. a severe drought last year that led to widespread electricity shortages, and b. a corruption scandal arising as a result of the arrest of the Science and Technology minister’s brother at the end of last year, who was accused of involvement in improper financial transactions.
Most people, however, appreciate that the government took every step to mitigate the climatic disaster, on the one hand, and to bring to justice those who were seeking to profit from government connections, on the other. If no revolutionary process can altogether prevent things of this nature, what is certain is that only an anti-imperialist popular government like Chávez’s would have acted as robustly as it did to protect the interests of the masses of the people, and the majority of Venezuelan voters realise this.
Does the Chávistas’ reduced majority matter?
In one respect, the election result is disappointing in that the parties supporting the Bolivarian revolutionary process will no longer have the two-thirds majority in parliament that is needed under Venezuela’s constitution to pass the more radical reforms that are needed in advancing towards socialism.
The Chávistas secured that majority in the previous parliamentary election because the opposition boycotted it in the expectation that with help from their friends in Washington they would be able to have the whole election set aside as fraudulent. Here they totally miscalculated, because Chávez had then, as he does now, the active support of the majority of the people, as well as having most of the army at his disposal if the reactionaries were minded to act unconstitutionally.
As a result, Chávez’s supporters easily secured the necessary two-thirds majority in the last election. Now that the opposition is putting up candidates, that two-thirds majority has been lost.
In this way, the reactionaries will not be able to prevent themselves from providing an object lesson in how bourgeois constitutions and bourgeois democracy are fit only to defend the bourgeois order, and not to promote any real democracy for the toiling masses. It is a lesson in how bourgeois constitutions and bourgeois democracy can only ever be a massive obstacle to any drive towards socialism.
In the case of Venezuela, therefore, there is every possibility, that this relative defeat can be turned into an opportunity to rally the masses for more radical action in defence of their interests. The fact is that the progressive parties in parliament – who will still have the majority of seats – will put forward popular progressive measures that everyone will be able to see are being defeated by the minority votes of the opposition.
Long ago, Engels pointed out that voting in a capitalist country can only ever be a “gauge of the maturity of the working class”. By their electoral participation and their support for the revolutionary Chávez administration, the Venezuelan masses have shown great maturity. But electoral choices and progressive parliamentary legislation alone will not win socialism. The people’s electoral voice needs (as, indeed, it has been so far in Venezuela) to be defended by workers’ mass action in the streets.
Indeed, this object lesson in the class nature of bourgeois democracy needs to be learned not only by the Venezuelan working class and peasantry but also by those from other countries who wish to free themselves from capitalist slavery. Anti-capitalists and anti-imperialists everywhere need to learn that, in the end, the only way to liberation is through overthrowing the bourgeois order altogether and establishing in its place the class rule of the proletariat in alliance with the peasantry.
Only through such a complete transformation of society will we be able to advance towards the fair, just, sustainable and equitable world which we all crave for ourselves and for our children.