Venezuela After the Presidential Elections
Izquierda Revolucionaria (CWI in Venezuela)
Neither the capitalists nor bureaucracy can solve the crisis!
Build a revolutionary Left which defends the interests of the workers and poor!
On 20 May there were Presidential elections in Venezuela. According to final results, Maduro won with 6.2 million votes, ahead of Henri Falcon (a general and ex state governor of Lara who went from “chavismo” to the opposition in 2010) with 1.9 million and the evangelical leader, Javier Bertucci with 989,761. Turnout was 46%.
The cynicism of imperialism
US and European imperialism and right-wing governments in Latin America have launched an hysterical campaign, denouncing the results as “not valid” and presenting themselves as champions of democracy. People like Donald Trump, who has treated democratic rights with disdain and who was elected with almost 3 million votes less than his opponent, show the real character of US capitalist “democracy”. Temer, the Brazilian President put in place by a parliamentary coup and the European ruling classes who rule through unelected bodies like the Troika and through national governments which are more and more corrupt and discredited and impose harsh cuts and attacks on democratic rights. The Spanish PP government, whose leader, Rajoy, complains about the “lack of democratic standards in Venezuela” rules in a country where the head of state cannot be elected (only named by his father who was named by a dictator) and who sent 10,000 police to enact violence injuring 1,000 people to try and stop people from voting, and locks up rappers, activists etc for their ideas.
This pathetic campaign reflects the problems that imperialism has in getting their puppets in the MUD (right and extreme right-wing coalition) into power in Venezuela. If they did, it is clear that their policies would be equal to, or worse than those being applied in Brazil, Argentina, Honduras etc.
The MUD emerged very weakened and divided from its attempt to boycott elections to the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) and its attempts to take power through violence in 2017. Imperialist governments and their media try to present the high rate of abstention in these elections (53.9%) as support for the MUD. They are trying to raise the morale of their followers who, since the MUD elections have gone from one disaster to another, including their attempt at organising a big mobilisation against the elections on 17 May.
They hope that this campaign of attacks, together with the economic collapse and increasing discontent with the policies of the Maduro government, will help bring their followers back onto the streets.
Despite this manipulation by the imperialists and MUD, the record abstention in these elections confirms that, compared with the massive support which the Chavez government had (due to the progressive measures and reforms which it applied in response to the masses), Maduro’s bureaucratic government, with its policy of managing capitalism, seeking an alliance with sections of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, and Chinese and Russian imperialism, and attacking the revolutionary Left, has alienated wide sections of the population.
This scepticism among the masses, together with the deep crisis Venezuela is living through, with inflation out of control, shortages and the paralysis of production, is being used by the capitalists inside and outside Venezuela to present the country as another “failure of socialism” as a blow against any mass movement which questions austerity and capitalist privatisation.
The reality is that in Venezuela socialism has not failed because socialism has never been in place. The reforms and social policies applied by Chavez won him mass support, but he stopped halfway, without taking the necessary steps to move towards socialism: expropriating the banks and big companies and putting them under the direct control of the working class and people.
The result was that all the measures which improved the living conditions of the people, inevitably clashed with the maintenance of capitalist property of the big businesses and the bureaucratic control of the state. This already led to a loss of electoral support in the last years of Chavez’s Presidency. After his death, and the turn to the right of Maduro, we have seen a total collapse of the economy and of the morale of the masses.
An electoral campaign with no alternative for the workers and poor
With a government campaign which was empty of content, with clientelist promises and slogans, in which no candidate put forward an alternative to respond to the needs of the working class in this deep economic and social crisis, the campaign of Henri Falcon – who put forward a programme of “dollarization” – and Javier Bertucci based on a religious campaign, won votes from a discontented and desperate section of the population, but were received with distrust and scepticism by the vast majority.
Reflecting his aforementioned turn to the right, the Maduro government organised a a closing campaign rally on Bolivar avenue which showed the collapse of his authority among the masses. A low turnout, disco music, and an apolitical atmosphere, with a crowd that did not even stop to listen to the speech of Maduro. It was also significant that the Maduro PSUV leadership has not only eliminated any concrete reference to socialism but also to Chavez’s legacy. The rally did not even end in the usual way, with Chavez’s voice. Maduro ended his speech with an umpteenth call for a “government of reconciliation and national unity”. For the PSUV leaders this means maintaining and deepening the alliance which they have built with sections of business.
The results of the elections speak for themselves in a very concrete way. The streets and neighbourhoods of the country expressed themselves with a deafening silence, in an unusual way of expressing protest against the inconsistent policies of the government.
As we have said before, we also cannot consider this abstention as a rise in support for the extreme-right opposition which did not stand in the elections. Big sections of its social base, made up of the middle class and sections of demoralised poor, following the ‘guarimbas’ (violent mobilisations built by fascist bands which even lynched and burned some chavista activists alive for being Left wing or simply not agreeing with their actions) became very critical of their leaders. They see them as traitors who used the struggle for their own economic gain. Many people who voted for the opposition in the 2015 general elections to express their discontent with the PUV have also been repelled by these methods and have developed fears over what these elements would be like in power. Added to these factors, the weakness of the ruling class due to the world economic crisis, and the impact of neo-liberal policies which the IMF and US imperialism would impose in the case of a right-wing victory, add to the mass rejection of the far-right opposition.
Growing social discontent
Only 3 out of 10 potential voters voted for Maduro. Comparing this with the results of previous Presidential elections like in 2013 when the government won 7.6 million votes, shows a loss of at least 2 million votes in 5 years. Compared to 2012, when Chavez won 8.2 million votes, these elections represent a loss of over 2.3 million. Moreover, the immense majority of those who voted for Maduro this time did not do so (as was the case in the 2013 elections and in Chavez’s victories) with trust or enthusiasm. Their decision was to vote for the lesser evil.
In the ANC elections in June 2017, over 8 million people voted, from chavista ranks alone! If we compare this with the 2 latest elections, Presidential and regional, we see how the hopes of the people have again fallen drastically and express an increase in the rejection of the government policies as was also clearly seen in the National assembly elections of 2015.
Until now Maduro and his government have manoeuvred, resting on the incapacity of the leadership of the MUD to mobilise the social discontent and rejection of the political clientelism. The only objective they have is to maintain control of the state through a wing of the bureaucracy and to isolate the critical left and negotiate with sections of the ruling class and imperialism to continue in power.
It was pathetic to witness the leaders of the PSUV claiming to be the victors with 68% electoral support – based on the difference in votes between themselves and the opposition candidates, attempting to mask the fact that only 46.02% of voters participated in the elections. They could not achieve their objective of winning 10 million votes which they argued would be a successful victory demonstrating to imperialism the popular support they still enjoyed. Neither could they secure at least 50% of the party membership to support the new party launched by the bureaucracy to present a clean face, Somos Venezuela“(we are Venezuela”). All of this was hidden by the leadership of the government which celebrated its victory.
This serious situation in Venezuela has become more and more threatening to the working class and the people. Foreign economic powers and the national ruling class are conscious that economic sanctions have resulted in such a disastrous situation that it could cause social chaos and a complete breakdown.
The PSUV Programme: False promises and socialist rhetoric to stabilise capitalism.
Hours before the results were announced; Falcon and Bertucci refused to recognise the results and called, together with the MUD, for increased international sanctions and pressure in the streets as part of a new offensive. Neither the far right nor the “conciliatory” right seem to be willing to accept the results, for now at least.
Maduro, in his speech on election night reaffirmed his political approach during the campaign, leaving behind the ideas and image of Chavez, making constant calls for reconciliation to all sectors, especially to the bosses and right wing. He promised to end the “economic war” and after making all sorts of promises during the campaign, basically just told the people they needed to suffer in silence, as “results” would not be seen immediately.
Maduro is making it increasingly clear that the government is seeking to stabilise capitalism based on maintaining a strong state sector controlled by the bureaucracy (and especially by the army high command whose weight in the government is constantly increasing). Together with this he is attempting to consolidate a political regime which in the face of declining support increasingly turns to Bonapartist measures, including the persecution of critical sectors of chavismo and the revolutionary Left.
The government maintains its position at the moment due to clientelist measures (subsistence payments, ‘CLAP’ bags of food sold cheaply to supporters) and the importation of products. However, these measures are more and more limited and have no impact in solving the crisis of uncontrolled prices and paralysis of production.
Another factor which has helped the government is the lack of a mass Left alternative which is clearly distinguished from the bureaucracy, and with a clear socialist, anti-bureaucratic and anti-capitalist programme and message. The discontent with Maduro and the bureaucracy has been expressed in a surge in critical voices and forces within the chavista movement. In the ANC elections last year and in local elections, many critical candidates stood.
Some of these critical sectors (such as the former Food Minister and alternative PSUV candidate for mayor of Caracas, Eduardo Saman and others) are attempting to come together in forces like ‘Patria Rebelde’ and others. The experience of the last year shows that it is necessary to denounce the policies of the bureaucracy at the same time as explaining clearly the need to build a revolutionary alternative based on the most conscious and combative sectors of the working class and poor, under the control and leadership of the workers themselves and armed with a plan of action to reach the whole of the working class, youth and people.
The far-right and imperialism will not abandon the offensive
The right wing wants to re-mobilise its base through the organisation of a so-called “Broad Front”. They are on the offensive in certain areas and calling on “civil society” to lead the protests, diminishing the visibility and role of the right-wing politicians. It will not be easy for the right to rebuild its capacity to mobilise on the streets, but it is not impossible either. The bankrupt policies of the government will create the conditions for it.
The “Broad Front” is in a process of internal reflection and is organising national congresses of its different sectors – youth, women and workers. This is combined with social activism to bring the organisation “closer to society”. They are compelled to build a response which hides their real objectives, wins back the trust of their social base and even allows them to reach sectors which currently reject them.
It is clear that the activity of the Broad Front will be combined with foreign intervention which will continue by other means following the refusal to recognise the elections. Economic aggression and media attacks will increase. There will be no “social peace” as long as the current crisis continues. We see this in the recent actions of multinationals who have launched attacks on the energy and mining resources of the country. US oil company, ConocoPhillips, is taking over assets of PDVSA in the Caribbean. PDVSA is also under threat from New York over the non-payment of more than $25 million in debt to the Canadian company, SNC-Lavalin and mining company Rusoro has made claims for $1.3 billion owed to it in exchange for the expropriation of its Venezuelan gold mines. Other debtors have also increased the pressure. The government has remained officially silent but seems to be negotiating behind the scenes.
The goal is the economic asphyxiation of the Venezuelan state, which will have a big impact of the population and exacerbate the difficulties of the government to obtain currency, making the imports crisis even worse in relation to medicine, the financing of public companies and public services.
For the building of a revolutionary Left! Fight against the capitalists and bureaucrats! All political and economic power must pass over to the workers and poor!
The working class and poor are suffering the highest level of aggression from capitalists and bureaucrats in living memory. The government has been shown incapable of controlling prices, scarcity, or guaranteeing the basic needs of the population through the CLAP and other schemes, and even of paying workers’ wages as was seen in the case of the Bank of Venezuela. Electronic banking has also become largely ineffective due to constant breakdowns in internet, supposedly due to “theft of cables”. This comes on top of constant electricity faults. This economic collapse has extended to PDVSA which despite oil prices rising has more and more problems in increasing production, due to the deterioration of machinery and other installations because of disinvestment and the looting of bureaucrats.
This grave situation and the increase in protests which it can provoke could explode into a revolt at any time. If a conscious revolutionary leadership is not built, such a revolt could lead to power falling into the hands of the far right or of sectors of the army officialdom which while using “Bolivarian” rhetoric at least at first, would accelerate the pro-capitalist and bureaucratic degeneration underway.
The most important immediate task for revolutionaries, working class activists and activists from popular social movements is to build an alternative which unites the most conscious, left-wing sectors of the workers and youth, the critical Left sectors within chavismo to debate and decide on an emergency programme and plan of action. Such a plan must incorporate the demands of the working class against both the right-wing and the bureaucrats who seek to consolidate bonapartist measures hand in hand with Chinese and Russian capitalism. IR believes that we should fight for all political and economic power to pass over to the workers and poor to end the crisis based on a programme like the following:
1. Direct workers control in all public and private companies to struggle for a freeze in prices, local food production, and the satisfaction of all the needs of the people against capitalist and bureaucratic sabotage.
2. Wage increases above inflation. Discussion and application of collective wage agreements. Incorporate all sub-contracted workers on permanent contracts. Re-employ all revolutionary class fighters sacked by bosses and bureaucrats. Unemployment pay for all the unemployed.
3. Confiscation and nationalisation of all closed and under-utilised companies and barren lands, with the immediate hiring of workers, farmers and students to work on them, developing democratic workers’ control. Nationalise all businesses which sabotage the economy under democratic control.
4. Create a state company with a monopoly on foreign trade. Workers’ and democratic control to fight against speculation, inflation and corruption and guarantee full food self-sufficiency.
5. Nationalisation of the banks, land and industry under workers control, to democratically plan the whole economy in the interests of the people to satisfy social need
6. Create a public health system which is free and universal and guarantees quality care. Expropriate private clinics and put them under democratic control to guarantee healthcare to all with no discrimination.
7. Create a public construction company to build infrastructure, homes, universities etc, run under democratic control to commit to a plan of building 500,000 homes per year, and end the housing deficit in 3 years.
8. Non-payment of the foreign debt! The imperialists are submitting us to misery via sanctions to pay through our misery for their massive wealth accumulation.
9. Create a socialist state based on workers, farmers, and students’ councils, on a local, regional and national level. All representatives must be elected and re-callable at any time by assemblies of their sector. Representatives should dace the accountability of their base at least every 6 months and earn no more than the average wage of a skilled worker, to put an end to corrupt bureaucracy.
To build an alternative for workers and youth and fight for such a programme, join Izquierda Revolucionaria (CWI in Venezuela)!
Neither bourgeoisie nor bureaucracy!
All power to the working class!