This is the first instalment of an analysis of the political situation in our country ahead of the 7 October presidential elections, and the development of the right-wing and PSUV [the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, of President Hugo Chavez] electoral campaign facing the real expectations of the workers and grassroots militants. This is a Marxist analysis.
The bourgeoisie, as they have got us used to after twelve years of spreading lies and more lies through their media, once again have launched an electoral campaign by spreading false statistics to voters and the country. As in all previous electoral contests, the oligarchy’s media tell us of a sure victory for their candidate, of a considerable decrease in popular support for the president, of enormous support for their candidate among the popular masses of the country, etc., and they try to argue all of this through not very believable statistics from surveys and polling firms that dance to the tune played by the dominant classes. Let’s see.
The Bourgeoisie, Their Polls and the Real Popular Support for the Revolution
The polling company Varienzas announced that “President Chavez enjoys 50.7% of voting intention, while the preference expressed for the aspirant for the Democratic Unity Roundtable, Henrique Capriles, reaches 45.5%,” and all this with a supposed “confidence level of 95% and error margin of +/- 2.3%”. That is, a week before the electoral campaign begins, the polling company Varianzas predicts a technical tie between President Chavez and Henrique Capriles Radonski. All this because, without a doubt, Capriles’ level of popular support will overcome that of Chavez during the coming months and the latter will be defeated at the ballot box. Bourgeoisie fantasies, nothing more. It’s not the first time, and maybe it won’t be the last.
In a most shameless way, according to the polling firm JDP, Henrique Capriles enjoys 46.13% popularity and Hugo Chavez only reaches 44.87%. This is argued, among other things, on the basis that “the Unity candidate [Capriles] is winning in nine states, plus the Capital District, and the current president of the Republic [Chavez], in fourteen,” “the states in which Capriles leads have a greater population,” and obviously, according to JDP, “these results are favourable when we carry out a global analysis of the country”. On the contrary, the states “where President Chavez is favoured are the smaller ones”. All of this was explained by Miguel Gonzalez, spokesperson of firm FDP Consultores, in an interview with private media. Nothing is more removed from reality.
On the contrary, the country’s main polling companies, removing themselves from any bourgeoisie utopia, give a clear advantage to the comrade president [Chavez] against the candidate of the right [Capriles]. Let’s see some examples.
Firstly, the consulting firm IVAD (Venezuelan Institute of Data Analysis) announced last 4 June that the “voting intention in favour of Hugo Chavez was 54.8% last May, while the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles reached 26.3%”. Likewise, according to the firm, “57.9% of those asked agreed with the phrase “I want Venezuela to go in the direction that President Chavez is taking it”.
On the other hand, according to the firm Consultores 30.11, “President Chavez enjoys a voting intention of 56.8% facing 27.1% for the MUD candidate, Henrique Capriles. This gives the head of state an advantage of 29.7% over his main rival”.
This same company undertook another series of questions, for example “Which of the two candidates do you believe cares about the poor most?” 67.3% responded Hugo Chavez, while 22.4% said Henrique Capriles. Similarly, with the question “Which of the two candidates, Chavez and Capriles, says what they really think?” 67.3% said Chavez, against Capriles with 24.7%. All of this shows that at completing 12 years in power, there still exists a strong and close bond between the working masses and President Chavez, a bond that at the same time confirms a correlation of forces that is still widely favourable to the socialist revolution in Venezuelan society.
Finally, following the latest poll undertaken by pollster International Consulting Services (ICS), “the president of the republic, Hugo Chavez, has 62.9% support among Venezuelans, ahead of the 7 October presidential elections, while the representative of the right, Henrique Capriles Radonski, registers 25.6% support, which gives a difference of 37.3% in favour of the president”.
However, there are also reasons to be worried
Despite all of these statistics, it would be a terrible crime to fall into triumphalism and spread the idea among the working masses that quite simply we’ve already won the elections beforehand. This could placate and weaken the mobilisation of the masses ahead of the elections on 7 October.
Furthermore, as Marxists we should firmly state that not everything is joy and celebration, there are also reasons to be worried.
The fact that there exists strong discontent among ever wider layers of the revolutionary masses toward the bureaucratic leadership of the [the PSUV] party isn’t a secret for any honest grassroots militant. This bureaucracy also manages the institutions of the bourgeoisie state almost in their totality, and furthermore has been completely absorbed by the dynamics of the relations of power characteristic of the state itself, where said leaders have ended up becoming bureaucrats that have forgotten that real material problems of the working class and the people, and now only concern themselves with their own wellbeing, privileges and comfort.
The number of revolutionary militants who say in the streets “I’ll vote for my president [Chavez], but I won’t vote for the [pro-Chavez] state governor or mayor” is ever greater. This reflects a growing discontent toward the bureaucratic and reformist sectors of the PSUV leadership, discontent that has had its clear repercussions of the defeats in the 2008 regional [state governor] elections in states like Miranda and Tachira, and also significantly influenced the not-so-positive results of the 2010 parliamentary elections, where we lost the two-thirds majority.
However, this isn’t the only reason for the existing discontent among ever wider layers of revolutionary militants. The key reason that has generated demobilisation and apathy among sectors of the Bolivarian masses is based on that fact that the social ills that are a consequence of the capitalist system still haven’t been eradicated; and this is because in the Bolivarian revolution we still haven’t given the definitive blow to finish off the capitalist system.
Despite the revolution closing on thirteen years of existence, a few families in Venezuela are still the absolute owners of the main sources of wealth in the country. The main banks, the main industries and the best and greatest tracts of land are still held by a few, which allows them to enrich themselves through exploiting the country’s working masses. Whilst the key levers of the economy aren’t completely in the hands of the people, we won’t be able to resolve the most fundamental and pressing problems of our society. There lies the heart of the problem.
So then, without resolution this situation can’t sustain itself eternally. If we don’t definitively resolve the people’s most pressing problems, in the long term this will generate apathy and demobilisation among the most oppressed and pauperised sectors of the working masses, with the grave consequences this means for the revolution in the electoral field.
The Sandinista revolution shows us one of the most tragic examples in the history of Latin American revolutions in this respect. Remember the 25 February 1990 presidential election, where the revolution was defeated at the ballot box (the candidate of the bourgeoisie, Violeta Chamorro, obtained 54% of the vote against 40% of the vote obtained by Daniel Ortega, candidate of the FSLN), after ten years of a revolutionary process that wasn’t completed either. This caused the masses to continue suffering the hardships and miseries of the capitalist system, united with the terrible suffering created by the bloody Contra war promoted by US imperialism and the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie.
Venezuelan revolutionaries should therefore draw the necessary lessons from this tragic defeat, in order that the Venezuelan revolution doesn’t repeat what happened in Nicaragua.
The Electoral Campaign and the Role of Popular Struggle
From a scientific point of view, that is, from a Marxist point of view, the best possible political campaign that the PSUV could undertake in favour of the revolutionary process consists in the active participation of the party in the struggles of the grassroots and worker’s movement, with the aim of driving each of these struggles to victory.
The understanding of the existent relation between the struggle for the material rights of the people and the political struggle to abolish capitalism and construct socialism is of vital importance so that a revolutionary political party can develop a correct and successful intervention in the class struggle.
As we’ve explained above, for the people the Bolivarian Revolution signifies giving material dignity to their lives, emancipation from the yoke that through the 20th century has constituted the poverty and misery caused by capitalism. If the revolution doesn’t contribute to elevating the material living standards of the people, in a significant, and above all, definitive manner, it won’t have any future in the short and medium term. However, the central problem of this question is precisely that below capitalism it’s not possible to definitively solve the most pressing problems of the working masses, such as the lack of housing, access to health, crime and employment, among others.
Only the abolition of private property in the means of production and the establishment of a planned economy below the control of the working class that allows, one, the equal satisfaction of all the necessities of our society, and two, the abolition of the bourgeoisie state and the construction of a socialist state over a base of the communes and workers councils, will allows us to end the social misery generated by the capitalist system. Likewise, this will allow us to definitively give the people the greatest possible sum of happiness, guaranteeing the irreversibility of the Bolivarian Revolution.
In that sense, the best campaign that the PSUV can undertake is, on one hand, participate in the most important concrete struggles of the grassroots and worker’s movement that are currently being carried forward. As we’ve said, the PSUV should accompany these struggles, support them, and in turn work tenaciously to drive them to victory. On the other hand, the PSUV should undertake a real and serious diagnostic of the social problems that still afflict our people, in turn elaborating though a great debate, where grassroots activists actively participate, a program of concrete revolutionary action that allow the solving of these problems; although partial, advancing in the struggle to abolish capitalism and construct socialism.
Let’s think for example on the case of employment. Despite the fact that unemployment has certainly been progressively declining over the last 12 years to arrive currently at its lowest point since the revolution began, this decrease is due in large part to state investment in production and infrastructural works undertaken by the Bolivarian government, and also the large increase in the workforce in public institutions and ministries during the revolution.
However, the majority of these jobs in the public sector aren’t of a productive nature, but on the contrary thicken the ranks of the commonly named “ministerial bureaucracies,” that is, a large part of them are office workers. On the other hand, it’s important to highlight that informal employment in Venezuela is still at an elevated 41% (of total employment), and hasn’t descended more than 6 percentage points compared with the statistic when Chavez arrived to power in 1999, which was 47%; however understanding that the population has continued growing over the last decade.
Now then, in the private sector of the economy there exists a big problem, now that, as a consequence of the various regulations that the government has applied to the private sector, such as price regulations of manufactured products and input materials (which signifies that a limit has been put on profit obtained by the bourgeoisie), the capitalist class has responded with a ferocious sabotage of the Venezuelan economy. [This includes] closing companies and factories, throwing workers onto the street, or firing workers to maintain profit margins, considerably reducing the levels of productive investment in companies, and applying a capital strike, taking a large part of their investments and capital out of the country. All of this has generated in turn the closure of around 6,000 companies in the last 12 years. This is recognised by the bourgeoisie themselves, who permanently accuse and blame it on the revolution and above all the Bolivarian government.
Many of these abandoned and closed factories can be seen in different industrial zones the length and breadth of the country. In the interior a good part of these still have their industrial machinery with which products were manufactured before they were closed. If these factories were occupied and the due technical maintenance on said machines done, they could quickly be put into working order again, creating thousands of new jobs throughout the country and significantly helping raise the national productive apparatus, considerably striking against the economic sabotage spearheaded by the Venezuelan bourgeoisie to attack the revolution.
The political and economic impact of an action like this is lost from view. Firstly, economically it would strike a hard blow against the bourgeoisie, as it would increase the percentage of state property in the country in comparison with the percentage of private industrial property, and likewise, as we’ve said it would create thousands of jobs. Secondly, it would have an enormous political impact, as large contingents of unemployed sectors and informal workers would be attracted toward such a measure, which at the same time would stimulate many compañeros to join this struggle, thus reinforcing the popular support towards the revolution among discontented or de-politicised sectors, or those which have fallen into apathy.
End of Part I
Translated by Ewan Robertson for Venezuelanalysis.com