Venezuelan elections: Why the IMT supports Chavez
continue the Bolivarian revolution
- *Defeat the counterrevolution!*
- *Expropriate the oligarchy!*
- *Power to the workers and peasants!*
- *Carry out the Revolution to the end!*
Venezuelan elections: Why the IMT supports
Written by Alan Woods Monday, 24 September 2012
*The presidential election due on October 7 represents a decisive moment in
the history of Venezuela. The outcome of this election will have a major
impact throughout the continent and internationally. It goes without saying
that the Hands Off Venezuela campaign is actively supporting the Bolivarian
candidate Hugo Chavez and fighting against any attempt of the oligarchy and
imperialism to sabotage the elections. The IMT stands firmly for the
re-election of Hugo Chávez. Why have we taken this position?*
The victory of Hugo Chávez in 1998 represented a historic advance of the
workers and peasants of Venezuela. According to the UN Economic Commission
on Latin America there was a 21 per cent reduction of poverty rates between
1999 and 2010. Illiteracy has been abolished. For the first time free
healthcare has been provided for the poor.
All these gains would be threatened by a victory of the opposition. It is
the elementary duty of every genuine revolutionary to defend these gains.
Whoever is not able to defend the gains of the past will never be able to
advance to the final victory.
The opposition's claim that it will not reverse Chávez's reforms is not to
be trusted. Let us take just one example: housing. The Housing Mission has
built thousands of homes for the poor. In May, information minister Andrés
Izarra announced that the programme was on target with 200,000 units built
since it began in 2011. The polling firm Hinterlaces indicates that, with a
76 per cent approval rating, the Housing Mission is the most popular
government social programme. Yet the opposition coalition MUD calls the
Housing Mission "a fraud and a failure" and criticizes the government for
expropriating land to build housing.
When Capriles won the governorship of Miranda State in 2008, he unleashed
his supporters against the Cuban doctors participating in the healthcare
programs of the revolution, and generally attempted to close down the
different social programs by expelling them from premises belonging to the
governorship, etc. It was only the active mobilisation of the people in the
streets that managed to defend the gains of the revolution.
The new Labour law recently reduced the working week from 44 to 40 hours,
and pre- and post-natal paid time off has been increased from 18 to 26
weeks. On leaving a company, for whatever reason, workers will receive a
payment based on their last monthly salary multiplied by the number of
years of employment - a major trade union demand. This is at a time when in
Europe, all governments are worsening workers' conditions of employment.
Capriles has attacked the law on the grounds that it "does nothing to deal
with unemployment or to benefit those with unprotected casual jobs". That
means that these reforms would be abolished by the opposition.
But it is not just a question of defending the conquests of the last 13
years, of preserving the reforms, the gains in healthcare and education,
the Missions and other programmes in the interest of the workers and the
poor. It is above all, the need to defeat the bourgeois counterrevolution
and thus prepare the way for a decisive advance for the Revolution, which
has not yet accomplished its fundamental goals.
The opposition says it is defending "democracy" against "dictatorship". But
the same opposition was behind the failed coup in 2002. If they had
succeeded then, it would have been the end of democracy in Venezuela. The
example of Chile shows the fate that would have been in store. Capriles
himself, as the Mayor of the Caracas district of Baruta, participated in
the attempt to storm the Cuban embassy during the April 2002 coup, in
flagrant violation of its diplomatic status.
The bourgeois opposition showed its contempt for democracy and elections by
its decision to boycott national elections in 2005. Now, however,
opposition leaders are falling over themselves to "defend" the 1999
constitution - which they have always opposed tooth and nail, although it
was approved by an overwhelming majority in a popular referendum.
Nobody can place the slightest trust in the democratic credentials of the
What the opposition stands for
The opposition claims to represent the middle classes. But that is a lie.
The opposition represents the interests of the oligarchy - the big
landowners, bankers and capitalists. They are completely subservient to the
imperialists and the big oil companies that dominated and plundered
Venezuela for generations.
The wealthy people hate Chávez, because they fear that he means to
eliminate private property. They are motivated by class resentment toward
the poor, who, after generations of neglect, have benefitted from
progressive government programmes. The opposition is not the representative
of the middle class but its political exploiter.
The candidate of the opposition, Henrique Capriles Radonski, calls himself
a reformer. He claims not to stand for any sort of ideology. We have heard
this story many times before: "I am non-political: that is, I am right
wing." But it is sufficient to cast a glance at the party to which this
"non-ideological" politician belongs, to immediately grasp the real
Capriles claims to be "progressive". He says he will not repeat the
"mistaken policies" of pre-1998 Venezuela. But the very parties that
endorse his candidacy were responsible for these policies, which were not
at all "mistakes" but were the direct expression of the interests of the
super-rich clique that ran the country.
But the masses are not naive. They are not deceived by Capriles' demagogy.
They see that behind the smiling mask there lies concealed the ugly
physiognomy of the oligarchy, which, if it returns to power, will trample
Capriles belongs to the Justice First Party (MPJ), a right-wing bourgeois
party that stands for "private enterprise" and opposes the intervention of
the state in economic life. This is ironical at a time when so-called "free
enterprise" has been exposed as a gigantic fraud on a global scale.
Does Mr. Capriles not know that the capitalist system is in a deep crisis
everywhere? When the private banks in the US collapsed in 2008, what did
they do? Did they confine themselves to singing the praises of "private
enterprise"? No, they ran to the state and demanded that the government
hand over billions of dollars of public money to save them.
The failure of "private enterprise" is the reason why every government in
Europe is deep in debt. They say there is no money for schools, hospitals
and pensions, but there is plenty of money for the bankers.
In the last weeks an opposition leader revealed a document, written by the
economic advisors of the Capriles campaign, with details about their real
plans if he were to be elected. The document puts forward a classic
austerity package, proposing cuts in pensions, social spending, the social
programs, the "opening up" of PDVSA and other state-owned companies to
private investment, etc. The plan is so scandalous that it led to four
smaller parties in the joint opposition platform (MUD) withdrawing their
support for Capriles and a whole host of other opposition figures also
distancing themselves from him.
The workers and peasants understand what is at stake. At every decisive
turn they have rallied to defend the Revolution against its enemies: the
landowners, bankers and capitalists and the imperialists who stand behind
them. They understand that a vote for Chávez in these elections is a vote
against returning to the bad old days when a tiny handful of wealthy
oligarchs decided everything and the poor majority counted for nothing.
Despite the opposition's claims that it is winning, Chávez is presently
leading in the polls. The Datanálisis survey gave Chávez a lead of anything
between 43.6 per cent and 27.7 per cent over Capriles. It also showed that
62.4 per cent of voters rate the president's performance as above average;
while only 29.4 per cent consider it poor. These findings may be believed,
since the owner of Datanálisis, Luis Vicente León is well known to be a
supporter of the opposition.
Capriles and US imperialism
Chávez is regarded as Public Enemy Number One by Washington, who sees him
as the main instigator of opposition to US imperialism in Latin America.
Chávez energetically condemned the coup against President Fernando Lugo of
Paraguay. Prompted by his friends in the U.S. State Department, Capriles
criticized Chávez for recalling his ambassador from Asunción and cutting
off the supply of oil to Paraguay.
Capriles pledges to re-establish friendly relations with the U.S., that is,
to make Venezuela subservient to Washington, as it was in the past. He
promises a thorough revision of Venezuela's aid programmes and alliances
with the rest of Latin America. That means a break with Cuba, Bolivia,
Ecuador and Nicaragua, to please his "allies" north of the Rio Grande.
Shortly before stepping down as president of the World Bank in June, Robert
Zoellick declared that "Chávez's days are numbered" and, with the
elimination of his government's foreign subsidies, other nations such as
Cuba and Nicaragua will "be in trouble." Zoellick sees a Capriles victory
as "an opportunity to make the western hemisphere the first democratic
hemisphere" as opposed to a "place of coups, caudillos, and cocaine."
These words accurately express the attitude of US imperialism to the
elections of October 7. They see this as a decisive event. If the
opposition wins, it will mean putting the clock back to the situation
before 1998, when Venezuela was ruled by the big US monopolies. But if
Chávez wins it will be a devastating blow to the counterrevolution, as
Michael Penfold warns in in *Foreign Affairs*: "If Chávez wins in October,
a vast majority of the opposition's political capital will be dashed; in
many ways, it will be back to square one."
That is why the imperialists and their local agents single out Chávez for
special treatment. The expropriations, the reversal of "neoliberal"
economic measures, the creation of a popular militia, the refusal to bend
the knee to pressure from Washington, the attacks on capitalism and appeals
for socialism - all this is a dangerous and explosive mixture that acts as
a powerful catalyst to revolutionary tendencies in Latin America.
Yet another goal outlined in Chávez's electoral platform is the expansion
of the power of community councils. Several hundred "communes in
construction" are to be involved in such areas as gas and water
distribution. Chávez proposes to promote the creation of new communes to
represent 68 per cent of the population. The communes are to be granted the
same prerogatives as state and municipal governments, including budgeting,
participation in state planning and, eventually, tax collection. All these
measures represent a gradual encroachment of the state in economic life.
The imperialists fear that a Chávez victory in October will mean further
deepening of change in Venezuela. Chávez has said that the period 2013-2019
must see new state incursions into commerce and transport, to the detriment
of middlemen, through the creation of "centres of local distribution for
the sale and direct distribution of products." This tendency towards new
expropriations may eventually threaten the very existence of capitalism in
The real difference
*The division between the two camps is the division between two
antagonistic classes: on the one hand, the millions of poor people, workers
and peasants, urban poor and lower layers of the middle class, on the
other, the big landowners, bankers and capitalists and their well-to-do
middle class hangers-on.*
The real difference centres on the question of private property: the
question of economic policy and in particular, expropriations. The
overwhelming majority of Chávez supporters are from the former strata and
they stand firmly for socialism, for the expropriation of the landowners
The Bolivarian bureaucracy has attempted to water down the socialist
programme. Instead, they speak of a "mixed economy", in which monopolies
and oligopolies will face competition from public companies. This is the
old idea of a "third way" between capitalism and socialism, which President
Chávez has correctly described as a farce.
It is not possible to make half a Revolution. In the last analysis, one
class must win and the other class must lose. Partial nationalization can
never work because it is impossible to plan what you do not control, and it
is impossible to control what you do not own. An economy which is only
partly owned by the state cannot be properly planned.
At the same time, all the attempt to "regulate" capitalism in an attempt to
improve the situation of the masses (through price controls, foreign
exchange controls, etc) will prevent the normal functioning of a market
economy, creating a chaotic situation of inflation, a flight of capital,
falling investment, factory closures, artificially created shortages,
hoarding and speculation with basic food products, bureaucratic bungling
and mismanagement. In other words, you will get the worst of all worlds.
The private sector, which still controls a significant part of the economy,
is in the hands of the enemies of the Revolution. The capitalists are doing
everything in their power to sabotage the economy through a strike of
capital. It is necessary to expropriate the land, banks and big business in
order to put an end to this sabotage.
But Capriles has pledged to halt all expropriations. "I'm not going to
squabble with businessmen or anyone else," he says. Naturally! How can he
squabble with the people whose interests he represents, and to which he
belongs? Capriles himself comes from a wealthy business family with
multiple interests (real estate, industry, media). He is also the former
mayor of the municipality of Baruta, an affluent area of Caracas.
He promises to create three million jobs during his presidency. How is this
miracle to be accomplished? By lifting restrictions or conditions on
foreign investments, that is to say, by handing Venezuela on a plate to the
same big foreign oil companies that plundered it in the past. Not
accidentally, the alliance of parties that support Capriles, the Democratic
Unity Table (MUD), advocates "making flexible" the legislation that asserts
state control over the oil industry "to promote competition and private
participation in the industry."
The Revolution is not finished
A Chávez victory will encourage the swing to the left in Latin America at a
moment when capitalism is in a deep crisis on a world scale. It will
further undermine U.S. influence at a time when its plans for Iraq and
Afghanistan are in ruins. On the other hand, a defeat for Chávez would put
the clock back to pre-1999 Venezuela. It would deal a heavy blow to the
Left everywhere. It would leave Cuba completely isolated, providing a
powerful impetus to the pro-capitalist elements on the island.
The opposition has callously attempted to take advantage of Chavez's
illness prior to the election campaign. They stressed Chávez's "frailty,"
in contrast to the alleged youthful good health and energy of his opponent.
In addition, they add, the chavistas do not have anyone who could take his
place. On this they have a point. It is an undoubted weakness of the
Bolivarian Movement and the PSUV that it depends so much on one man.
Chávez has gone further than any other leader in Latin America in
challenging imperialism and capitalism and placing socialism back on the
agenda. This deserves recognition. But there are deep contradictions within
the Bolivarian Movement, where not everyone is in favour of socialism or
opposed to capitalism.
When Chávez was first elected president in December 1998, he stood on a
rather vague platform that did not mention socialism. But life teaches. On
the basis of experience, he has come out in favour of socialism. That is a
great step forward. But it still needs to be implemented. True, there have
been some steps forward: he has partially nationalized some key sectors
such as telecommunications, cement and steel. He has repeatedly attacked
the bourgeoisie and the oligarchy (which is the same thing) and he has
stood up against U.S. imperialism.
But the lack of workers' control in state-run heavy industries such as
steel, has given rise to many difficulties and labour unrest. The workers
resent the bureaucracy that is trying to elbow them to one side and usurp
control of the Bolivarian Movement. All the attempts of the workers to take
the initiative and introduce elements of workers' control and management,
for instance in the basic heavy industries in Guayana, with the support of
the President, have been met with fierce resistance and open sabotage on
the part of the bureaucracy. Taking advantage of the President's illness,
these elements are openly talking about "chavismo without Chávez." This
represents the biggest danger for the Revolution.
Today, thirteen years after the election of Chávez that final victory has
still not been achieved. As long as the land, the banks and big enterprises
remain in the hands of the oligarchy, the Bolivarian Revolution will never
be safe. The deep bond that exists between Chávez and the Venezuelan masses
is a reflection of the fact that Chávez aroused them to political life and
The truth is that a big section of the Bolivarian bureaucracy was never in
favour of socialism. They have been constantly conspiring to put the brakes
on the Revolution, halt expropriations and above all prevent the workers
from taking control.
*Le Monde Diplomatique* recently revealed the attitude of the right wing of
the Bolivarian Movement, which has long been dreaming of "chavismo without
"On a visit to Brazil in April 2010, he was asked about letting another
leader emerge. 'I do not have a successor in sight,' he answered. But there
may be a change in thinking. Last year Chávez told a former adviser, the
Spanish academic Juan Carlos Monedero, who had warned of the danger of
'hyperleadership' in Venezuela: 'I have to learn to delegate power more.'
During his extended medical treatment, several top leaders filled the gap
and emerged as possible successors: foreign minister Nicolás Maduro (a
former trade union leader), who headed the commission that drafted the new
labour law; executive vice president Elías Jaua (popular among the Chávez
rank-and-file); National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello (a former army
lieutenant with a pragmatic approach and strong backing among the armed
forces). In May, the critical Monedero remarked that formerly 'some of us
saw the difficulties of continuing this process' without Chávez, but 'now
we have lost this fear because I see dozens of people who could continue
the process without any problem'."
That there are "dozens of people" waiting to seize control of the
Bolivarian Movement the moment Chávez leaves the scene we do not doubt. But
the advocates of "chavismo without Chávez" have no wish to "continue the
process" of the Revolution. Rather, they wish to "continue the process" of
derailing the Bolivarian Revolution, of watering down its programme so as
to be acceptable to the oligarchy, halting the expropriations and putting
the whole programme into reverse. In other words, they wish to implement
the programme of the Fifth Column of the bourgeoisie within chavismo.
*The key to the success of the Revolution is that control of the movement
must be in the hands of the rank and file, not the bureaucrats and
careerists who have done so much harm to the Bolivarian cause. It is the
workers and peasants who have been the real motor force of the Revolution.
They and they alone, must be in control. The only people who can lead the
Revolution to victory are the workers and peasants themselves.*
- *Defeat the counterrevolution!*
- *Expropriate the oligarchy!*
- *Power to the workers and peasants!*
- *Carry out the Revolution to the end!*
London, 24th September
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