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Venezuela: October presidential elections, crucial for the revolution

Bolivarian revolution

Venezuela: October presidential elections, crucial for the revolution

Written by Jorge Martin and Patrick Larsen
Thursday, 29 March 2012

*On Sunday February the 12, the long-awaited opposition primary elections
took place in order to select the candidate who will face Hugo Chavez in
the presidential elections due for October this year. Cápriles Radonski,
the present governor of Miranda state won a clear victory with 62% of the
vote, compared to only 28.9% for his contender Pablo Perez, present
governor of Zulia state.*

Capriles RadonskiIt is difficult to estimate the real voter turnout in
these primaries, but some figures indicate that around 16% of the
electorate took part, compared to the 20% of the electorate that signed the
opposition petition in the 2004 recall-referendum. Since then the
Venezuelan opposition emerged strengthened in 2010 when they won a third of
the MPs and garnered around 4 million votes, practically resulting in a
"technical draw" with the PSUV.
Who is Capriles Radonski?

Although Capriles Radonski is now promoting himself as a social-democratic
candidate, who, according to *The Economist*, takes a "a gradualist
approach to restoring confiscated property, undoing currency controls and
abolishing unconstitutional laws", this is certainly more pretence than
real content. During the April 2002 coup d'état, in fact, not only was
Radonski part of the illegal overthrow of Chavez, he was also involved in
the violent assault against the Cuban embassy.

At that time he was the mayor of the Baruta, the Caracas district where the
Cuban embassy was located. He joined the fascist gangs attacking the
embassy and entered and violated diplomatic territory. They told the Cuban
ambassador to hand over alleged "political exiles" who were supposed to be
hiding there. At the same time he defended the violence - which included
destroying the cars of embassy functionaries and cutting off electricity
and water supplies - and backed this up by saying (and this is recorded by
cameras) that "the people can protest as they wish". [LINK VIDEO:

Radonski was never prosecuted for any of these crimes, although the
revolutionary lawyer Danilo Anderson tried to get his legal immunity as a
mayor suspended in order to get him prosecuted. This was unfortunately cut
across in 2004, when Anderson was assassinated by a car-bomb in Caracas and
the assassins were never found.

The reason why Radonski has now adopted a "soft" line and pretends to be a
moderate is to be found in the fact that he knows that the
counter-revolution is still not strong enough to stage an all-out
offensive. He needs to appear as a moderate in order to attract a layer of
voters who might be vacillating between the Bolivarian revolution and the
opposition, but who are repelled by the undemocratic antics of the coup
plotters of 2002.

The state of the economy

The general situation in Venezuela is very critical. It is true that the
economy has seen a recovery during the last twelve months. While 2010 saw a
1.5 per cent contraction, 2011 ended with a 4% growth in GDP. However, this
has been almost exclusively based on the high oil revenues and not on a
real development and expansion of industry. The conflict in Libya was
decisive in fuelling the price of oil which reached a record US$101 per

Even Nelson Merentes, the president of Venezuela's Central Bank, has
admitted that more than 1.8 percentage points of the growth was simply a
product of the huge amounts of money from oil revenues which have been
pumped into the economy in social spending. Significantly, the boom is
largely based on growth in commerce, due to bigger consumption.

Much of the state investment in infrastructure and housing has created
temporary jobs in construction. All this is the result of the big state
expenditures in an electoral year. Chavez is aiming to build houses and
finish many metro works before the elections in October. But these measures
have also triggered inflation which reached 27.6% in 2011.

However, the strike in investments and the sabotage of the economy on the
part of the capitalists continues. The Venezuelan Central Bank has not yet
released the figures for private investment for 2011, but in the period
2008-2010 private investment in machinery, equipment and buildings
collapsed by 43%. The combined figure for public and private investment in
2011 was 4.4%, but this masks the fact that private investment continued to
fall, while public investment was the main driving force of the economy.
The reason is clear: the capitalists are not investing in Venezuela because
they do not think their investments are safe. On the contrary, combined
with the strike of investment there was also a massive flight of capital,
to the tune of 12 billion US dollars in 2011.

Without a real expansion of the industrial sector, it is impossible to get
sustainable growth and reduce inequality. Venezuela is extremely dependent
on the world economy and the most basic consumer goods are still not
produced in the country but are imported *en masse*, a situation which has
worsened, not improved since the beginning of the Bolivarian revolution.
This puts Venezuela at the mercy of the world economy, which could seems to
be heading for a double dip recession.

For a revolutionary way out

Although most opinion polls suggest that Chavez maintains widespread
support, it is also true that the bureaucracy at the top of the movement
has a tendency to undermine the movement when the battle has just started.

For the Bolivarian masses, Chavez represents the conquests of the
revolution, in terms of the concrete advances in the fields of healthcare,
education and others, but also in terms of the political awakening of the
people, the feeling of defiance against imperialism and the oligarchy and
the moral uplifting of the masses that any genuine revolution brings.

However, his illness has also raised the very question of the survival of
the revolution in the minds of everyone in Venezuela. The different cliques
within the state bureaucracy are manoeuvring to see who will be the likely
successor. *Most workers, peasants and youth in the rank and file cannot
see any of the present government officials as their representatives and
there is a deep mistrust in them.*

*Decisions like the removal of Elio Sayago as the worker-director of state
owned aluminium smelter ALCAS represent a frontal assault against the
elements of workers' control which had been introduced in the basic
industries in Guyana, a key conquest of the workers in the Bolivarian
revolution. That decision was taken just as Chavez had left the country to
undergo further treatment in Cuba.*

*The Bolivarian bureaucracy is playing a clear counter-revolutionary
role.At each juncture they roll back, undermine and block the
revolutionary initiative and gains of the rank and file revolutionary activists. The risk
in this is that it introduces the very dangerous poison of scepticism,
ultra-leftism and demoralisation amongst the Bolivarian ranks and this is
precisely the layer which can go out and mobilise the masses in the
electoral battle.*

The surprising thing is that this scenario, in which neither the working
class nor the capitalists have been able to win a decisive victory, has
been extended for so long. This is an indication of the high level of
consciousness and fine revolutionary instinct of the Venezuelan masses
which have defeated reaction in more than one battle.

However, even this has its limits. A situation of growing inflation,
increased criminality, the continuation of the sabotage of the economy on
the part of the capitalist class which will increase as the elections
approach, the constant barrage of the mass media, etc., all of this has its
impact on the Bolivarian masses that support the revolution but do not see
it being completed and dealing a serious blow to the political and economic
power of the oligarchy.

It is impossible to predict the exact outcome of these elections. Should
Chavez win, it is likely that the enraged oppositionists - and their shock
troops among many petit-bourgeois and lumpen proletarian elements - will
launch a furious campaign against alleged electoral fraud. On the other
hand, should Radonski manage to beat a weakened Chavez, he will face a very
difficult task in dismantling all the revolutionary conquests of the last
12 years. *As we saw when the opposition won the governorship in Miranda,
any attempt on the part of the ruling class to destroy the gains of the
revolution would provoke a counter offensive on the part of the masses.*

*Thus the scene is set for new decisive clashes between the revolution and
the counter-revolution, and the struggle will be decided in the factories,
army barracks and poor neighbourhoods. The workers' movement - which is
presently discussing the proposal for a new Labour Law - must go on the
offensive and put its stamp on the campaign with revolutionary slogans and
a plan of action to strengthen and defend the elements of workers' control.*

*As Marxists we wholeheartedly support the campaign to achieve the
re-election of President Chavez, but at the same time it is our duty to
warn that unless the revolution is completed, with the overthrow of
capitalism, then, at certain point, the whole process can be reversed.*

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