On top of already existing concerns that the opposition has a plan to contest the results of this Sunday’s elections and to cry fraud; a concern which is compounded by the fact that the MUD is currently circulating leaflets telling their supporters to “stay out in the streets after voting” to minimize the possibility of a fraud being committed by a “deceitful and criminal” government, and with their spokespeople refusing to confirm that they will accept the CNE’s results; this week numerous stories have emerged in the national press which link Capriles to a possible plan in Washington to destabilise the electoral process in Venezuela, as well as to transnational businessmen from Mexico to Europe.
Whilst Chavistas have been on the street, singing, chanting, staging theatre acts in public spaces, rapping, driving vans decked out in revolutionary memorabilia and blasting out everything from campaign songs to Calle 13 and Silvio Rodriguez; the opposition’s street presence has been zero. They have no songs, no shared traditions or stories, no consciousness; they do not form part of a continuous historic struggle, even if they do turn-out en mass on a given day to attend a rally for Capriles.
Embarking on a campaign when you have little unifying ideology, and have to hide the ideology which you actually do have, can lead to some questionable tactics to gain votes, including a few weeks back when the opposition decided to put up signs on little businesses in Caracas warning them that they could be expropriated by the revolution. Or earlier this week, for instance, when it emerged that phone company Telmex, belonging to Mexican millionaire, Carlos Slim, who was once tipped to buy the now nationalised Venezuelan communications company CANTV, had been phoning tens of thousands of Venezuelan homes in the early hours of the morning to tell them to vote for Capriles as Chavez’ death was imminent, or imitating Chavez’ voice in an alleged piece of political propaganda for the president.
Of course, support for the “youthful” contender goes much further north than Mexico, and it is no secret that the Obama administration has set aside US$20 million to donate to the MUD’s campaign, or that Angela Merkel specifically asked other European governments to begin actively supporting the Venezuelan opposition earlier this year. Nor is it a secret that the Bush administration supported the 2002 coup makers.
So it should come as no great shock that, earlier this week, journalist Jean Cleaux Duvergel reported a series of unusual happenings at the US embassy in Caracas; including the arrival of Richard Nazario, a former US Colonel implicated in the 2002 coup, and the embassy’s apparent purchase of armoured vehicles for its functionaries and other suspicious items such as canned food, bottled water and mattresses.
Duvergel’s article also details a series of meetings between representatives from the North American embassy and spokespeople from political parties such as Capriles’ Justice First, a New Time and Democratic Action, as well as with officials from right-wing news station Globovision and food production company, POLAR; both of which are involved in consistent efforts to destabilize the Chavez government.
Capriles also has his followers in Europe. In an interesting interview with the UK’s The Telegraph this week, Capriles revealed that he would review the expropriation of the UK’s Vestey Group in Venezuela; ranches dedicated to the commercial production of beef which belonged to Lord Vestey, the wealthiest man in England, and which were expropriated by the Chavez government last year in an attempt to ensure Venezuela’s food sovereignty.
Despite his attempts to totally avoid the issue of class in his speeches and pronouncements, and his claims that Chavez has “polarized” Venezuela; just a few days before the elections and the contrast between both candidates is stark.
It is quite clear that Capriles cannot be on Vestey’s side and simultaneously stand by the poor farmers who have worked his land, reared his cattle and who before the arrival of the revolution, had no access to sanitation, healthcare, education, or even electricity. The Venezuelan exploited classes know that it is either Vestey who wins on Sunday, or they do.
However, if the international business community and its representatives in Washington are taking such an interest in this week’s elections, it is precisely because the ramifications of their outcome span much wider than Venezuela.
Aside from the material improvements which have benefited so many Venezuelans over the past 14 years, free health and education, subsidised food, access to cultural events and recreational and sporting services; the Venezuelan revolution has rejuvenated and invigorated the international left and placed the issue of socialism back on the table, and particularly the relationship between socialism and democracy.
In Latin America, once dominated by ruthless military regimes and consistently brow-beaten by neoliberalism, Bolivian and Nicaraguan farmers now enjoy small scale loans from the Bank of the ALBA, free of the economic dependency which is produced and reproduced through the free market, and countries like Haiti can receive petrol at low solidarity prices through initiatives such as PETROCARIBE.
For those on the left in Europe and the US who take notice of the revolution’s achievements, the Bolivarian revolution has expanded our conception of how to analyse capitalism in the 21st century; when individualist capitalist culture and market logic has gone truly global, moving into every imaginable sphere, including education, healthcare, the media, and even the food we eat.
This revolution has demonstrated that, if capitalism has taken a hold of all of these spheres, then the struggle against capitalism must be the struggle for socialism, and that it must be equally multi-dimensional. We have to wrest these spaces back from capitalism and fill them out with our own values through participatory democracy, community media, and the promotion of a culture which celebrates diversity and refuses to commodify human beings.
Far from the struggle in Europe, where ordinary people are currently trying to resist one of the greatest onslaughts against the working class in decades; in Venezuela we are constructing an alternative through this creative process, which entails consciously practising socialism in all spheres of life every day, so hopefully it can become the unconscious practice of tomorrow.
Equally, the Venezuelan process has also changed how we conceive of revolution; Venezuelans may have already taken political power, but the real revolution is to now change the economic system which permeates every aspect of our lives; to revolutionise the fabric of society by making these mini-revolutions every day; from a communal council meeting in La Vega, a community media program produced in el Barrio 23 de Enero, kids learning to make conscious rap or a cooperative in rural Venezuela where food is produced for the community by the community.
“You don’t fight fire with fire,” said Black Panther leader, Fred Hampton, “You fight fire with water. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We’re gonna fight capitalism with socialism. Socialism is the people”.
In Venezuela, the people are fighting capitalism with socialism, with new cultures and praxis and mental decolonization; that is why international capital and its Venezuelan lapdog Capriles are so scared of these elections. It is also the reason why masses of international observers, activists and leftists will be on the edge of their seats on Sunday, anxious to hear the words that mean we can continue with this process; “Venezuela’s Chavez takes elections in landslide victory”.
This is a longer version of the article first published in Correo del Orinoco International