Back on the Campaign Trail in the Bolivarian Republic

On September 26th legislative elections will take in place in Venezuela. The last elections for National Assembly deputies took place in December 2005 and the Venezuelan opposition, facing total humiliation at the ballot box, withdrew from the elections. This time round the opposition should make gains.

On September 26th legislative elections will take in place in Venezuela. The last elections for National Assembly deputies took place in December 2005 and the Venezuelan opposition, facing total humiliation at the ballot box, withdrew from the elections and compounded their humiliation by handing all 167 legislative seats to the parties backing the Bolivarian Revolution.

This time round the opposition should make gains taking into account that they managed to marshal some 5.2 million votes in the last referendum on term limits held on February 15th 2009. However, President Chávez has stated in no uncertain fashion that the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) needs to win two thirds of the seats so as to maintain control of the legislative process.

Red herring politics

If you live in the US, for example, the impression spawned by the corporate media is that Chávez’s Venezuela is falling apart. No water; no electricity; brutal police repression of “peaceful” student marches; media being closed; no food in the supermarkets; wholesale expropriations; Chávez’s support hits 30%; mass homicides every week; collapsing economy – in fact everything is going wrong except for a war with Colombia, which according to the crazy opposition press here, Chávez wants to start by invading Colombia!

As former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone said back in 2006, the only way Chávez can be opposed is by lying. In contrast to this assertion, the truth is that if things are so bad in Venezuela then why has the opposition, apparently with their tails up, not approached the National Elections Council (CNE) to collect signatures to trigger another presidential recall referendum? The Venezuelan constitution entitles them to do this.

The bind between truth and lies

Recent surveys carried out by opposition pollsters indicate that Chávez’s popularity is less than 50% and vote intention in his favor is as low as 30%. Logically one could conclude that 70% would vote against Chávez in a recall referendum which, based on 16.8 million registered voters. More specifically, the opposition should be able to collect around 11.7 million votes to oust Chávez, much more than the 7.3 million actually needed.

So why is the opposition not moving in this direction? To answer that question I refer you back to what Ken Livingstone said. This is not to say that there are not problems on many levels in Venezuela but the complete scenario is overstated by the opposition and the corporate media outside the country beyond the point of absurdity. Members of the opposition here, in the media and individual conversations actually come to believe their own lies. Then their paranoia sets in. They are simply incapable of truly engaging in any constructive political process. As a result, protests by opposition students feel impotent and become destructive and even violent while Chavez supporters confidently conduct large marches like they did again on the National Day of Dignity on February 5, 2010.

For readers’ amusement and enlightenment here, one quotation by “Slave Revolt” from a blog on Venezuela really sums up the opposition’s dilemma:

Please, keep pimping the notion that Venezuela is a ‘dictatorship’, and that there is no possibility for free elections. Keep saying that–and you will tamp down the opposition vote in the fall elections.”

The opposition’s discourse is rife with contradictions, and they can’t even develop a coherent policy agenda to compete with Bolivarian socialism. Part the whining and gnashing of teeth on the part of the rightwing opposition is the fantasy that Chavismo is on the verge of collapse. They see rich white men winning the presidency of Panama and Chile and imagine resurgence, and a rejection of left-egalitarianism on the part of the long-exploited masses in the Americas.

As I have often said: Never underestimate the degree to which wealth and privilege distorts a person or group’s grip on reality.

We can expect many, many years of delusional whining on the part of the vendepatrias (traitors to the homeland) who would have no problem with the empire carpet bombing pro-Chavez barrios in an Iraq-style occupation.

This is the level of mendacity and villainy in the hearts of so many in the opposition- and the Venezuelan popular classes are fully aware of this reality. The Caracazo is still very much in their memories and in the consciousness of their children.

The more sane and patriotic opposition keep their mouths shut in the face of this type of fanaticism.

– Slave Revolt

With a better understanding about the deceptions of the corporate press about the situation in Venezuela, let’s look ahead to the National Assembly elections in September, which are very important for the future of the country.

Unity vs. splintered egotism

The PSUV will have unitary candidates for the September 26th National Assembly elections which will avoid a vote split preventing the opposition candidates running to victory through the middle. In addition, the PSUV has well oiled electoral machinery circumscribed throughout the country. The PSUV is united under Chavez’s leadership but not the same can be said of the opposition.

There are some 40 opposition political parties registered at the CNE, all with their own slightly differing agendas, and candidates who desperately want to become national deputies (congress persons), more for personal ambition than for any ideological reason. Certainly, their uniting factor is their visceral hatred for the President but that has not been sufficient to either:

  • Agree to grass roots elections to choose their candidates, nor to
  • Nominate candidates arbitrarily to suit certain political and commercial interests.

The result is a splintered opposition strategy, based on overriding egotism with no national interests at heart. What chance will opposition candidates have if there is more than one competing for votes in any circumscription? To be honest, very little.

The best case scenario for the opposition is that it could muster 45% of the national vote but if we look back at the regional elections in December 2008, the Chávez alliance won 81% of the municipalities up for grabs with some 55% of the national vote which equate to approximately double the number of circumscriptions for National Assembly deputies.

Even allowing for the fact that the opposition could make some gains, since this time around they will not withdraw from the National Assembly elections, it is highly unlikely that Chavismo will lose more than 50 seats out of the 167 seats being contested. This is a worst case scenario for Chavismo.

In the unlikely case with the opposition gaining 50 seats in the National Assembly, they would have a 29.94% MINORITY leaving 70.04% for the Chavista candidates. With more than 66.67% of the deputies in the National Assembly required to pass any law, the revolutionary legislative agenda would steam ahead framing socialist policies into workable laws.

Outside factors which could help the opposition

Unforeseen factors are always difficult to predict but there are at least three which could swing some votes to the opposition:

  • A continuation of the current drought which will affect hydroelectric power generation and water supplies leading to strict rationing.
  • A collapse of the oil price due to outside factors in the world economy.
  • Foreign interference in the domestic affairs of Venezuela.

However, even these drastic scenarios would not be enough to ensure the rebirth of the Venezuelan opposition. The popular classes know that with any quota of power the one and only aim of the opposition will be to oust Chávez. In the event of any such risk one can expect an extremely high turnout on Election Day which will always benefit the revolution and not a return to shameful bourgeois democracy which destroyed Venezuela for most of last century.

In the meantime one can expect more of the same lies and manipulations until September both at home and abroad.

As Slave Revolt says, “Never underestimate the degree to which wealth and privilege distorts a person or group’s grip on reality.”

Until the opposition can shake off this albatross which they have been bearing since mid 2001, they can expect to be exactly what they are, opposition, until at least 2019 if not even longer. After all, the Bolivarian Revolution looks increasingly like the “permanent revolution”, that Leon Trotsky wrote about 80 years ago.