“To Stop the Advance of the Right, We Must Strengthen People’s Power”

What do the results of Venezuelan elections mean for the future of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the rural and urban sectors of the country, the community councils, the right-wing and radical wing within the pro-Chávez camp, and democracy in Venezuela? Venezuelanalysis.com asked Gonzalo Gómez, a leader of the PSUV.
Gonzalo Gómez

What do the results of Venezuelan elections mean for the future of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the rural and urban sectors of the country, the community councils, the right-wing and radical wing within the pro-Chávez camp, and democracy in Venezuela? Venezuelanalysis.com asked Gonzalo Gómez, a leader of the PSUV and union current Marea Socialista, and co-founder of the revolutionary forum website Aporrea.org.  

Gonzalo Gómez, in general, do the results of this election show a loss or a victory?

Well, I think we must view it with a dialectical focus, because there are contradictions.

To start, the PSUV reaffirmed its presence in the overwhelming majority of the states in the country, with high vote tallies that were superior to those it obtained on December 2nd [2007], when the constitutional reform referendum was carried out. So, there is a recuperation of votes for Chavismo, a significant increase, while the opposition maintains a ceiling that it cannot pass through, with regard to the total volume of votes.

Moreover, the PSUV won many more mayor’s offices, proportionally. For example, in Carabobo state, even though the governorship was lost, practically all the mayoralties remain in the hands of the PSUV.

However, what the Right was able to win is important and meaningful. It was able to recuperate and return to some politically strategic spaces that are very, very important. Such is the case in Caracas, the Mayor of Greater Caracas.

Caracas is the center of the government, where the institutions and the Presidency of the Republic are. It is the site where power disputes are carried out, and where the decisive confrontation took place when the coup d’état occurred on April 11th [2002]. It is where the great mobilization of the popular masses of Venezuela was produced on April 13th [2002].

So, it is not just any old thing. We had been able to get rid of [former opposition Mayor of Greater Caracas] Alfredo Peña, and recuperate the mayor’s office. There was a whole process of cleaning out and restructuring the Metropolitan Police over the past years.

Although now, the [municipalities] will not have police forces, nor will they have some hospitals and schools that were transferred [to the national government], they will indeed have public facilities, budgets, and all of this will be directed toward strengthening conspiratorial and coup-plotting activity.

Although the Right is utilizing these democratic elections in this moment, all of this in the end is at the service of the counter-revolution within and outside of the electoral terrain.

And the states of Zulia and Táchira are also very important because they form an axis along the border of the country.

Also, Zulia is important from an economic point of view, because it is one of the states with the highest oil production.

And Táchira, on the border with Colombia as well, is a place that is utilized as an entrance and transit point for paramilitaries, drug traffickers, contraband, and all of this economy that despite being underground is still one of the most important sources of nourishment for the oligarchy, for the powerful sectors.

Although they appear to live off of banks, industries, businesses, and legal transactions, the large owners of capital always have, under the table, illicit business dealings, mafias, and networks of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Carabobo state is also important. Carabobo is an industrial state, a state where the proletariat and manufacturing industries are concentrated.

So, there are reasons to be happy in an overall sense, to be satisfied with these results, with regard to the quantity of states, governorships, and mayoralties conquered. But, the achievements of the opposition have been very important qualitatively.

A dagger has been plunged into the heart of the Venezuelan revolution. This is related to the causes and meanings of the results.

What does this election indicate about the historical process of formation of the PSUV earlier this year, and what does it imply about the necessary next steps of this party?

Well, when the constitutional reform referendum was carried out, the PSUV was still taking its first steps. It had hardly been formed yet. It was not finished, it was not structured.

So, the voter mobilization for the constitutional reform referendum took place in a moment in which the government could not count on the old party machinery and structure of the MVR [Fifth Republic Movement, the now dissolved pro-Chávez party], nor could it really count on a new party yet.

In that period of time, despite the defeat of the constitutional reform, the PSUV proceeded to finish building and consolidating its structure, and oiling its machinery and inner workings. And this was put to the test with these elections. The party was capable of mobilizing an important mass of votes that was greater than before, even in spite of the late showing and apparent apathy of voters in the early hours of the elections.

I think the PSUV, as such, as a party, has been strengthened by this electoral process. But, it will have to face up to a discussion of the causes of the defeats it suffered. I think these defeats reflect not only a triumph of the opposition in these places, but they also reflect the disenchantment, disappointment, and rage of some sectors of the people toward local Chavista governments that did not fulfill their expectations.

In those governments, corruption and bureaucratism have been an obstacle to solving the problems of the communities, of the people. There have been, in addition, anti-labor, anti-union policies toward the workers. An orientation of socialist character has not been applied.

Whenever there was an initiative, as in the case of [incumbent Mayor of Greater Caracas Juan] Barreto, who began to expropriate buildings to assist renters and suggested the possibility of expropriating country club landholdings, there was a sector of the party, or I think the PSUV still did not exist in that moment, but a sector opposed the initiative.

This sector has the conception that the revolution should have a different rhythm. This sector does not want to move toward the rapid, abrupt, and clear rupture with Capitalism. It is a sector that seeks other mediations and transactions. This sector shut down the initiative of Mayor Barreto, and after this came a decline. I do not know if he became depressed, I don’t know what happened there psychologically, but the leadership collapsed and fell apart. And this mayoralty could not resolve very important problems.

What is it that is occurring? If we do not break with the capitalist system, if we do not abandon this idea that things will be resolved by contracting private companies to pick up the trash, and then these companies do not follow through, or by contracting construction companies in which everybody is seeking their personal benefit, to get commissions or other advantages, etc., etc., then we end up wearing out the revolution, we end up tiring out the people, and so the people come and apply a punishment vote.

And by doing this, the people punish themselves too, because diverting votes toward [Governor-Elect of Miranda State Henrique] Capriles Rodonski or toward [Mayor-Elect of Greater Caracas] Antonio Ledezma is to do nothing other than to place us in the hands of the murderers of April 11th [2002], in the hands of those who violated human rights, those who were at the head of the coup d’état.

We have in our favor the fact that in this period of time an important and meaningful development of the organisms of popular power has begun, and now there is a higher level of articulation of the social organizations, the community councils, and all the different types of committees that are linked to them.

So, we have to orient ourselves and go toward the construction of a communal government for a socialist Caracas, based on the mayor’s office of Libertador Municipality, with [PSUV Mayor-Elect Jorge Rodríguez] at the forefront. Because we are going to have a direct, abrupt, hard class confrontation with the sectors allied with Ledezma and Capriles Rodonski.

Now, we need to have an ideological congress of the PSUV. This was approved in the founding congress in [the city of] Maracaibo, and that congress did not finish. We did not finalize a few statutes, for example. The current directors of the PSUV are provisional.

So, we need to resume all of this because the elections and the electoral campaign cut us off in what we were doing. This will allow us to take advantage of the victories, recuperate, and know how to interpret our defeats.

It appears that in the agricultural zones, the PSUV won decisively, while in the urban areas, the results were less decisive. What does this imply about national policy?

I think this indicates that the revolutionary struggle has advanced more in the terrain of the recuperation of lands and the agrarian revolution. That is, where capital and the market have more strength, precisely in the urban areas, the revolutionary struggle did not advance at the speed that it should have advanced.

The rural sector is very important for food sovereignty, the capacity to sustain the country, and for endogenous development. However, if we do not advance with regard to urban spaces, in recuperating urban lands to resolve housing problems, if we do not advance in how to structure production and property relations here…

Because here, we have not really touched private property. What we have done, overall, is recuperate some industries that were previously national and were privatized, and now were re-nationalized.

But, it remains to be seen whether we will continue with a model of state capitalism, or if we are going to establish worker control over production and community participation in the discussion of how to produce and how production is planned.

Things are being left in the hands of the management and the state functionaries, and are not being articulated and linked to the people like they should be. So then, ok, the socialist model still remains on the plane of concepts, words, symbols and slogans, and we still have not finished making the step toward the transition to true socialism.

Look, here we have not nationalized the [Central] Bank, and so they are managing the finances. Moreover, this great deposit of profits does not permit the country to use some very important resources.

In addition, we continue to pay foreign debt. I think it is not good to pay the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank so that Venezuela ceases to have foreign debt, even though Venezuela has a greater ability than other countries to pay.

This is because it is a corrupt debt, a corrupt and illegitimate and illegal debt inherited from the Fourth Republic [prior to the election of Hugo Chávez to the presidency in 1998]. It is a debt that the old state made up of Acción Democrática and COPEI [the two dominant parties prior to Chávez] took on from the private sector. We are paying the debt that many coup-mongering businesspeople contracted. This is another one of the areas in which this revolution must advance.

We have made very good progress in the areas of education, health, expansion of democratic liberties, national sovereignty, and popular organization. This is very meaningful, but if we do not continue taking leaps in the transition toward the socialist model, we are not going to be able to maintain a permanent balance, and we will end up backtracking.

What does the election of opposition governors and mayors mean for the community councils, communal organizing in general, and the communal cities proposed in Chávez’s recent law-decrees?

Well, surely they are going to be an obstacle and they are going to be enemies of this. They are going to try to destroy it. At best, they will manipulate it initially, and they will go and converse, dialogue, and begin to build bridges from the government.

But this is a dialogue of traitors aimed at taking advantage and buying time to prepare for what they are going to do afterward. We are talking about the counter-revolution. We are talking about a rancid ultra-right wing. They are mortal enemies of people’s organizations, of popular power.

And here, there are going to be clashes because they are going to try to seize spaces conquered and achieved by the revolution, like the community councils and social organizations.

What will the government and the community councils have to do in order to overcome these obstacles?

I think we need to strengthen the community councils and the different forms of social organization much more with the resources that we have. We must try to advance toward the formation of communal governments.

The diagnosis and the program that began to be elaborated by the PSUV militants and the community organizations must be discussed, moved forward. This must be demanded and imposed by the majority.

This is not a matter of Ledezma winning the vote and so he will now become the boss and everyone will defer to him. He must respect the people and this whole other conception of what power should be. This goes for the Right as well as for those who call themselves Chavistas but end up being an obstacle and betraying the popular movement.

So, we have to go toward, I would say, establishing a grand assembly of community councils, social movements and organizations, workers of public institutions, and the private sector too in Caracas and in other cities. We must make a reality of what will be a double-power. It is going to be a double power and we will have to define which power is going to predominate.

Do these elections strengthen or weaken the right-wing within the Chavista camp?

Look, firstly, any triumph of the Right ends up weakening those who are most committed to the revolution.

This is a very difficult answer to give. It is very contradictory and many things can happen.

For example, the right-wing within the Chavistas can strengthen itself with its own defeat. If those who replace it are part of the oligarchy, they are capable of making alliances, agreements, and transactions.

That is, when we are talking about those who dress up in red but are doing business with the Right, and who do not really want revolution but rather are living and thriving on appearances.

Therefore, everything depends on how we administer the rage, the protest, the discontent of the people, which for me is not discontent with the revolution as such, with the original idea of the Bolivarian Revolution, but rather with a failed management.

If we who support the deepening of the [Bolivarian] process continue to develop the power of the people, if we unify, strengthen, and articulate ourselves, and if we continue mobilizing the struggle, then we can take advantage of this critical situation with a frank, profound, open, and constructive debate.

I said in an interview on television recently that I cannot begin to point out individually what errors were committed in Sucre Municipality, in X mayor’s office, or in the state of Miranda with the administration of Diosdado [Cabello]. This has to be discussed by the people, the people’s organizations, and the PSUV.

They must discuss it, but discuss it openly, without the danger of finger pointing and casting out of those who make criticisms, point out problems, and make the accusations that need to be made. We cannot have restrictions in this debate. If we do, then what happened with the results of December 2nd [2007] might happen again.

At that time, everyone talked about the three R’s: Revision, Rectification, and Re-advance. But some things were not revised in the way that they needed to be revised. Instead, the interpretation was made that we could not move so fast, that the changes could not be so deep, and that the people were not mature.

I ask if it is the people who are not mature, or if many of those who are at the head of the state have not lived up to their responsibilities and commitments.

Gonzalo Gómez, do you have any other comments to share with the international community?

Well, my commentary is that the Bolivarian Revolution has once again demonstrated the popular support it enjoys, and the government of President [Hugo] Chávez has once again demonstrated that it is respectful of the rules of democracy. It has once again buried the disgraceful labels they place on it, like that it is authoritarian, militarist, that it violated human rights, and other accusations that come precisely from the principal violators of these rights. They come from those who brought about the coup d’etat on April 11th [2002], and now these people want to give lessons about democracy.

It has been demonstrated that never before in this country have we had so many possibilities for political participation, just as never before had there been so many national elections. Democracy has advanced in Venezuela. The revolution must nourish itself from this democracy, and not allow democracy to be a space where the Right recuperates itself and does away with the democracy we have achieved.

Thank you for your time, and for your comments.