A Crucial Test for Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

While on the surface it may appear to be a simple electoral battle, something much different is at stake on November 23. Once again, the intricate process of the Bolivarian revolution will put its strengths and weaknesses in play in the form of an electoral contest.

While on the surface it may appear to be a simple electoral battle, something much different is at stake on November 23.

that day, Venezuelans will go to the polls to elect 22 governors, 328
mayors, 233 legislators to the state legislative councils, and 13
councilors to district committees — including indigenous
representation — making a total of 603 positions.

again, the intricate process of the Bolivarian revolution will put its
strengths and weaknesses in play in the form of an electoral contest.

Deepening the Revolution

is at stake is the dynamic of an economic, social, and political
revolution that, since 2006, has unequivocally declared its will to
leave capitalism behind and build 21st-century socialism.

continue down this path implies a very rapid and energetic deepening of
measures to adapt the state apparatus to the necessities of radical

Will the Venezuelan people express,
with sufficient participation and a majority weight, their will to
accelerate the revolution?

There is no historic
precedent of a struggle of this type ever being resolved through
elections — much less in the era of corporate monopoly over
information and the shameless manipulation of opinion by the media.

as has been the case since the beginning, this process demonstrates
features dictated less by Venezuelan particularities than by the
never-before-seen historic context within which it is occurring.

the fact is that, in the middle of October, opinion polls done by
opposition companies, as well as those sympathetic to the government,
augur a new and clear electoral victory for the revolution.

If this happens, it will be a real feat of perseverance in defense of a strategic program.

December 12, 1998 — when President Hugo Chavez was first elected — up
until the referendum on reforming the constitution last December,
Chavez won countless elections of all types, each time with more voter
participation and by a greater margin.

On December 2,
the constitutional reform proposal that would have allowed Chavez to
take indispensable steps towards deepening the program of changes in
the direction of socialism, was put to the vote.

massive abstention by the revolution's support base produced something
more grave than simply the first electoral defeat (by the tiniest of
margins) for Chavez.

It called into question the
sustained viability of a genuine revolution via the ballot box and with
universal participation with full democracy for all — including those
staunch enemies that, backed by the US government, did not hold back
from using Colombian paramilitaries to sow anxiety and spent millions
of dollars to confuse the citizens.

Balance Sheet

By mid-2008, the opposition had lost their post-December 2 triumphalism.

Immediately after their narrow victory, an avalanche of propaganda attempted to transform this event in order to destroy Chavez.

propagandists of the right explained that it was the beginning of the
end of Chavez and announced the certainty of an overwhelming victory
for their candidates in at least 12 of the 24 states in the November

This self-interested prophecy even penetrated
into the ranks of "chavismo-lite" — provoking something close to a
state of panic in certain sectors.

But the
counter-offensive immediately launched by Chavez began to bear fruit by
April.  Halfway through the year, the more sensible spokespeople of the
opposition reduced their expectations for victories to half a dozen

By October, that figure dropped by half.

shift was due to three principal factors: the surprisingly organic and
massive rise of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in the
electoral campaign; the solutions to — or frontal and efficient
attacks on — pressing problems that had contributed to the December 2
defeat (food shortages, crime); the decision by Chavez to take the
campaign into his own hands and, with the PSUV in full stride, stage
events across the country to personally and emphatically back his

This reversed the climate that, for a
moment, had become predominant in the ranks of the revolution — at the
same time reviving differences within the opposition and disarming
their campaign, reducing them to little more than a media spectacle.

Such was the demoralization by the middle of October that one polling company at their service, Hinterlaces,
with a tone of desperation, advised: "The implementation of the social
missions, housing construction in the poorest zones in the country, and
the fomenting of cooperatives to promote endogenous development are
initiatives that generate a perception that the government is really
doing something in favor of the most needy.

"It seems
advisable to not attack these government policies, but instead
formulate superior initiatives within the framework created by the
missions and social programs, without displacing them completely."

to formulate superior initiatives?  This the polling company did not
clarify, instead warning that "it can be perceived that the President
has fomented a greater consciousness within the population around
social and political issues.  Determined action has to be followed and
talked up by the candidates of the opposition."

Such an
indication is backed by the most eloquent data in the Hinterlace
report: Chavez enjoys "levels of support that oscillates between 45%
and 55% of the Venezuelan electorate."

Other, more reliable, polls point out that since the middle of the year this level has oscillated between 60-70%.


two parties that did not go over to the opposition but also did not
integrate themselves into the PSUV — the Homeland for All party (PPT)
and the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) — ended up breaking the
alliance with the PSUV in six states, putting forward their own
candidates against the PSUV.

The rupture that this signifies will bring with it consequences.

is clear that both formations, though often armed with valid arguments,
do not understand the significance of this electoral confrontation,
which is not over candidates but rather something qualitatively
different: the possibility — or not — of taking a decisive step
towards a rupture with the capitalist system through democratic

The PPT and PCV also do not seem to
understand the magnitude of the world crisis, which puts them on a
divergent path from the socialist character of the transformation

The original article, "La Revolución Bolivariana ante una instancia crucial: Mucho más que elegir gobernadores y alcaldes," was published in the November issue of AméricaXXI.  Abridged translation by Federico Fuentes.  Reprinted with permission.