Venezuelan Elections: A Victory for the PSUV, A Warning for the Revolution

It is not only that many of the daily problems of Venezuelan
working people have not been solved. Added to that we have the fact that in
many occasions, when workers and the poor take the initiative, through direct
action, to solve them in an organised way, they are faced with the demoralising
wall of the bureaucracy, inefficiency and corruption.

By Jorge Martín, Yonnie Moreno and William Sanabria - In Defense of Marxism
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The final results of the Venezuelan elections are now out.
The Socialist United Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has won about 80% of all local
councils and 17 out of the 22 governors that were up for election (there were
no elections in the state of Amazonas, ruled by a pro-Chavez governor). The
PSUV won in three states, Sucre, Aragua and Guarico, where the governors had
been elected on a Bolivarian ticket but had then joined the opposition.
Meanwhile, oil-rich Zulia in the border with Colombia and tourist island state
of Nueva Esparta remain in opposition hands. To this we have to add the loss of
two important positions, the Caracas Alcaldía Metropolitana (Greater
Caracas Council) to opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, and Miranda state (surrounding
and including parts of the capital city) to Capriles Radonsky. Finally, the
industrial state Carabobo and the border region of Táchira, where the results
were close and were not announced immediately, also fell into the hands of the
opposition.

Chávez shows a map showing council election results
Chávez shows a map showing council election results

The Libertador Council in Caracas (the most populated one in
the capital) remains in the hands of the revolution, while the Sucre Council
also in Caracas (second largest) fell to the opposition.

In those states where the PSUV won, it did so by a large
margin. More than 10% points over the opposition in 8 states, between 20 and 30
points in 4 states, more than 30 in two others, and more than 50 points advantage
in Monagas and Lara. The opposition only won one state with a sizeable majority
(more than 10 points in Nueva Esparta) with the rest of the victories being
extremely narrow.

If you take number of votes, PSUV and other Bolivarian
candidates for governor received a total of 5.5 million (around 58%), while
opposition candidates received just 4 million votes (41%). This means that if
you compare these results to those of the constitutional reform referendum one
year ago, the revolutionary forces have won an additional 1.1 million votes,
while the opposition has lost nearly half a million.

In the local elections, the PSUV won 263 councils, and an
additional 14 were won by PSUV allies, while the opposition only won 56. In
relation to 2004, the forces of the revolution have increased control over 52
councils, while the opposition has lost 14. Even in sates where the opposition
won the governor, the PSUV has made important advances at the local level. This
is particularly the case in Zulia where the Bolivarians win 13 out of 19
councils (previously they only had 5), or Carabobo where the PSUV won in 11 out
of 13 councils (including the capital Valencia for the first time).

However the loss of Miranda, Carabobo and the Metropolitan
District of Caracas, all of them extremely important from the point of view of
politics, economy and population, and the fact that the PSUV did not win Zulia
(something which had been hoped for) is a serious warning for the revolution,
which has to be added to the defeat of the constitutional reform referendum.

There are specific reasons for some of these setbacks. The
defeat in Táchira was very narrow (6,400 votes or 1.2%) and was helped by the
fact that there was a dissident Bolivarian candidate who received 6,200 votes.

In Carabobo, the sitting "Bolivarian" governor Acosta Carles
had been marred by corruption scandals, and accused of financial
irregularities. He is a typical representative of the corrupt and bureaucratic
breed of politicians that occupies many of the elected positions of the chavista
movement. He was expelled from the PSUV, the right thing to do, but then stood
as an independent and managed to receive 56,000 votes (6.5%) just enough to
prevent the election of PSUV candidate Mario Silva (who lost by 25,000 votes,
or 3%).

In Miranda, the only place where a sitting Bolivarian
governor stood for election and lost, the candidate, Diosdado Cabello, is
widely discredited amongst the revolutionary rank and file and is seen as the
most outspoken representative of what is known as the derecha endógena,
the bourgeois right wing of the Bolivarian movement. He was not elected in the
internal elections to the PSUV leadership, but was smuggled back in by Chavez
as a regional vice-president. Miranda state includes part of the capital,
particularly the Sucre council in the East, a mixture of working class and poor
revolutionary barrios and petty bourgeois and upper class urbanizaciones.
Sucre council had been ruled by another right wing "Bolivarian" bureaucrat,
Rangel, who had also become widely discredited.

Map of states: Red - PSUV win; Blue - Oppositon win
Map of states: Red - PSUV win; Blue - Oppositon win

These elections had a very high level of participation (more
than 65%, 15 percentage points higher than the previous regional elections in
2004). The fact that the revolutionary forces managed to increase their vote by
more than 1 million in relation to the constitutional reform referendum is due
mainly to the active participation of Chavez himself in the campaign. At the
beginning of the election campaign the mood amongst the Bolivarian masses was
flat, and there was even talk of losing 10 states. Only when Chavez threw
himself into the campaign, visiting all of the states in dispute and some of
them on several occasions, did the Bolivarian masses rally behind the
candidates (some of them known right wing bureaucrats and anti-working class
politicians like Rangel in Bolivar, who ordered the National Guard against
SIDOR workers earlier this year).

This underlines once again the enormous reservoir of support
for the revolution, and for Chavez himself, whom the masses identify more
clearly with the idea of socialism. At the some time it reveals the poverty and
greyness of many of the other components of the leadership of the movement,
grey career politicians who do not inspire any revolutionary fervour.

The high turn out also means that the opposition mobilised
their social base of support to turn out to vote. These elections became a
referendum about Chávez and socialism and this is the way most people saw them.
But the opposition had already mobilised massively during the presidential
elections in December 2006 when they received 4.3 million votes, and the
constitutional referendum of December 2007, when they received 4.5 million.

Abstention in revolutionary strongholds

The difference this time, as with the referendum, was not so
much the amount of votes for the opposition, but rather, abstention amongst
those who traditionally have supported the revolution. The highest point of
support for the revolution from an electoral point of view was the presidential
election in 2006, when Chavez received 7.3 million votes. That was also an
extremely polarised election, in which Chavez put the issue of socialism in the
centre of the campaign, and the Venezuelan workers and poor responded massively
and in an enthusiastic way. They voted to defend the gains of the revolution and
to move forward to socialism in a decisive way.

However, after that election, no decisive action was taken
in the direction of socialism. The ruling class organised a campaign of
sabotage of the economy, particularly the distribution of food. That opened a
golden opportunity to expropriate the oligarchy. A law was even passed to allow
for it. But no serious measures were taken and the referendum was lost.

Map of councils: Red - PSUV win; Green - Oppositon win
Map of councils: Red - PSUV win; Green - Oppositon win

The impact of the impressive social gains of the revolution,
mainly in the fields of education and health care through the misiones,
was felt mainly between 2003 and 2006. Now that people have had access to
education and health care, their expectations have been raised. They want the
revolution to solve their most pressing needs in relation to food scarcity and
price increases, housing, jobs, crime ...

But none of these problems can really be solved within the
limits of the capitalist system. At the beginning of his mandate, Caracas
Metropolitan Mayor Barreto became extremely popular by starting to implement a
policy of expropriation of urban land and housing, trying to solve the problems
of housing facing hundreds of thousands of caraqueños. He came under
strong pressure of bourgeois public opinion and the right wing of the
Bolivarian leadership. He abandoned his radical policies and concentrated on
organising cultural events and other high profile stunts which did not solve
any concrete problems. We wonder whether he was advised by London Mayor Ken
Livingstone, but he has ended up the same way.

It is not only that many of the daily problems of Venezuelan
working people have not been solved. Added to that we have the fact that in
many occasions, when workers and the poor take the initiative, through direct
action, to solve them in an organised way, they are faced with the demoralising
wall of the bureaucracy, inefficiency and corruption. 
This comes both from the
old structures of the capitalist state which remain largely intact and from the
new "Bolivarian" bureaucracy which is scared to death of the direct
participation of working people. To add insult to injury, those who organised
the reactionary coups and plots of the opposition are free to walk the streets
and have never been put on trial. This includes the newly elected governor of
Miranda, Radonsky, who participated in the assault of the Cuban embassy during
the coup in April 2002, Antonio Ledezma, the new Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas
who participated in the coup in 2002, and Enrique Salas Feo, winner in
Carabobo, who played an active role both in the coup in April 2002 and in the
oil lock-out in December 2002, amongst many others.

In this context, to many, speeches about socialism do not
mean anything anymore.

The fact that abstention amongst the Bolivarian masses is
what lost key states in these elections can be very easily verified by looking
at the actual figures.

Evolution of local councils over last three elections
Evolution of local councils over last three elections

Take the Sucre council in the East of Caracas, which is part
of the Miranda state and at the same time of the Caracas Metropolitan Council
and was key in losing both. Within these council there are middle class areas,
like the Leoncio Martinez parish, where the opposition traditionally wins,
which voted 81% for the opposition, 19% for the PSUV. Here abstention was 35%,
the national average. However in working class and poor areas of the same
council, where the PSUV won, abstention was significantly higher. In Caicaguita
(64% for the PSUV) abstention was 43%, in Filas de Mariches (PSUV got 75%)
abstention was 44%, in La Dolorita (70% for the PSUV) abstention was 40%. In
the Petare parish, the largest in the council, Chavez received 112,000 votes in
December 2006, for 96,000 for the opposition, abstention was 27%. This time,
the PSUV candidate, Aristóbulo Isturiz, received 77,000 votes, for 97,000 for
opposition candidate Ledezma, with abstention at 40%. The opposition barely
increased, the revolutionary vote went down by 35,000.

Similar figures can be produced for working class and poor
areas around the capital and throughout the country. In the Antímano and Sucre
parishes in the West of the capital, strongholds of the revolution, abstention
was 44 and 41%. In the escualido areas of El Hatillo (East of Caracas)
where 81% voted for the opposition and San Antonio de los Altos (Miranda) where
the opposition received 78%, abstention was only 31% and 28%, below the
national level.

What conclusions from these results?

The results this time were better than at the time of the
constitutional reform referendum. It is correct to counter the lies and
propaganda of the capitalist media who now argue that Venezuela has voted
against Chavez. However it cannot be argued that this is a victory and all is
rosy in the garden. As an activist in the Caracas PSUV said: "If this is a
victory, why do I feel so bad about it?" It cannot be argued, as some do in the
Bolivarian leadership, that the problem was one of logistics. That the
revolutionary activists failed to put the technical means to bring
people to the polling stations. Some are even suggesting that a new electoral
law is needed to bring more polling stations to poor areas where ten years ago
people just did not participate in elections. All this might be needed, but it
certainly did not prevent the revolutionary masses of workers and the poor from
turning out en masse in December 2006!

The reasons for this setback are not technical but political.
This is what we have been arguing for some time. These results need to be
analysed in a sober minded way as another warning to the revolution. Unless the
concrete problems of the masses are solved, disillusionment, demoralisation and
scepticism can set in and create the conditions for the oligarchy to come back.

The defeat of the referendum last year was interpreted by
many in the right wing of the Bolivarian movement to mean that "the masses were
not ready for socialism", "we went too far too fast", etc. They pushed for a
line of collaboration with the oligarchy, opening up negotiations with the
capitalists, offering them all sorts of incentives and lifting price controls.
As was to be expected, none of this worked. Private investment is still at an
extremely low level and the oligarchy continues to sabotage the distribution of
basic products.

Assault against gains of the revolution

It is less than a week since the opposition won in some
councils and regions and they have already launched an assault against the
revolutionary movement and the gains of the revolution. In Carabobo, Miranda
and the Caracas Metropolitan area there are many reports of such attacks.
Reactionary thugs from Primero Justicia threatened to close down Radio Voz de
Guaicaipuro, a revolutionary radio station in Los Teques, Miranda. Also in Los
Teques there were clashes between police officers loyal to the new right
governor and the revolutionary people, when the police tried to take over the
Town Hall, controlled by a PSUV mayor. The newly elected mayor of Caracas is
threatening to remove the whole team of Avila TV, run by young revolutionary
activists in the capital. There were also reports of groups of thugs evicting
communal councils from the buildings they were using in Baruta, in the East of
Caracas. Many of the sites for the educational programmes have been locked by
opposition governors, and there have been threats against Cuban doctors and the
Barrio Adentro programme in Miranda and Carabobo. Also in Mariches, Sucre
council, Primero Justicia thugs attempted to evict the misiones from the
buildings they were using, arguing that "now we rule Miranda", but were
repelled by the organised people who organised their defence.

The counter-revolution now feels stronger, emboldened by
their electoral advances. But the revolutionary people have not been defeated
and as the experience of past revolutions shows, sometimes the whip of
counter-revolution can spur a radicalisation of the revolutionary movement.

Forward to socialism!

The balance of forces is still favourable, as reflected in
the overall result: 5.4 million against 4 million. There are hundreds of
thousands more (more than a million in fact) who voted for socialism in
December 2006 who could be enthused with a bold policy.

The only way to break through this deadlock is if the
working class enters the scene in a clear way. So far, the revolutionary
potential of the UNT trade union has been paralysed by its leadership, divided
amongst those who are scared to death of the revolutionary initiative of the
workers and those who take a hopeless sectarian position towards the
revolutionary movement of the masses. The recent gathering of UNT trade unions
in Zulia showed the way forward: to unite the UNT on the basis of the struggle
for socialism and workers' control.

The world capitalist system is in crisis and this crisis is
unfolding in front of the eyes of millions of people. This crisis is already
affecting Venezuela, with lower oil prices, shrinking demand for other raw
materials and manufactured goods. This will mean a much-reduced possibility to
use the oil resources to fund social programmes and massive investment in
public works, which is the only thing that has kept the economy going, despite
the strike of capital on the part of the oligarchy.

The attempt to regulate the capitalist economy cannot work
and has not worked. A policy of social spending and public works and limits on
the free activity of private businesses, while the economy remains capitalist,
will only produce inflation, a strike of capital and economic sabotage. What
you don't control you cannot plan and what you don't own you can't control.

The choice will now be posed in a much clearer way: the
expropriation of the capitalist class to allow for a democratic plan of
production under the control of working people, so that the vast resources of
Venezuela can be put to productive use in the benefit of the majority. Chavez,
in his analysis of the election results said that this was a new mandate for
socialism. Socialism can only be implemented through the nationalisation of the
land, banks and main industries under democratic workers' control.


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