The sociologist Reinaldo Iturriza belongs to a rare species: revolutionary analysts who don’t just criticise the opposition, but also vindicate the necessity of self-criticism. Needing an analysis of the 7 October [presidential election] results, we can cover the complete national political spectrum.
Ciudad CCS: Let’s start then, as we should, with self-criticism. You say that there is a political class, a Chavista bureaucracy that fools itself by assimilating President Chavez’s triumph as their own, without taking into account that while the leader was ratified, there’s a rejection of the rest of the movement. How does that work out?
Iturriza: The important thing is that there is a process of real change in Venezuela. This process took all of us by surprise, including party militants, those of us who came from the left, intellectuals, columnists, and academics. I have said that Chavismo, as a current, produced a political class that for years now has been showing signs of being exhausted. The idea isn’t to cry and think that everything is lost, because well, this happens during processes of change: there are people who get comfortable, others who betray, others who get scared and say “I go no further”.
I was involved in campaigning and I could see that the rejection created by the party [the PSUV] we have now, not by the party which Chavez spoke of in 2007. I could see the condemnation that the Chavista base feels towards what the party ended up being, not towards the idea that there is a party. It’s not even a rejection of people so much as of practices, which are very similar, if not the same or worse than the practices that we have always known as ‘politics’, of the professional political players, those who count votes and want to exchange them for quotas of power.
What should we do regarding this?
Accept that this political class is exhausted and go back to the issue of representation, which was the element that unleashed it all. The point is that the people are still involved in politics, interested in participating, and that is one of the most phenomenal achievements of this process. But it’s important to take off the glasses we’ve traditionally seen politics with.
A stage of “administration of the victory” is coming. In 2006, Chavez began with the idea of the constitutional reform. This time, deepening of socialism is proposed, but could it be proposed in a new way?
The experience of the constitutional reform shows us that no proposal will be successful unless it is broadly debated by the collective. You can have the most magnificent idea of socialism but if the bases haven’t debated it, it’s condemned to failure. That’s a big lesson that the people have received. In the current case, the president has submitted his proposal for government for 2013-2019 to general debate, and has insisted over and over that it be discussed.
Let’s look now at the opposition. You have said that this sector doesn’t understand what has happened to it since it they lost power [in 1998]. Why is that?
It has to be said that its justice that anti-Chavismo isn’t just one thing. Obviously there is a deeply fascist, classist, racist wing, but one can’t generalise. There are people in the opposition who can’t be recognised [as similar to] Marta Colomina [a very right wing Venezuelan Journalist]. These people have every right to live here, to not care for Chavez, and to demand what they think they should demand. But things become thorny when it’s not about being against a man, but rather the majority of the people who not only vote for him but also participate more and more and have stopped being invisible. Anti-Chavismo rejects this participation, reacts angrily because it believes that these large grassroots shouldn’t have come out from where they were. The average opposition person hopes to return to formal democracy, where these people didn’t cross their path and where the very liberal idea that [formal] democracy makes mistakes but is perfectible, prevails. Anti-chavismo’s place was in privilege.
In light of 7-O [the presidential elections], has the opposition leadership started to understand this situation, or is it still stuck in a struggle to retake its privileges?
There’s a fight, a process of rearranging the leadership. The battle is between the traditional forces; AD and Copei, and the emerging ones, mainly First Justice (PJ) and Popular Will (VP). One of the most interesting facts coming from Capriles Radonski’s campaign is that, though he is from the most elitist and anti-grassroots tendency of the opposition, he’s had enough audacity to try to align himself with Chavismo, to dress himself in centre-left clothing. Despite this, a politician who has to be taken seriously like Henry Ramos Allup, has said to this sector, “you don’t understand the Venezuelan people”, and these are big words coming from the mouth of the general secretary of AD, because that is a party which lost its legitimacy, but in the 50 years before Chavismo, was the one that was closest to understanding the soul of the Venezuelan people.
We see then that the leadership of the opposition has two blocs: The defenestrated [expelled] political class which understands what is going on, which understands the phenomenon of Chavismo, but that doesn’t have a way to confront it; and an emerging leadership with a lot of resources, a lot of audacity, with the ability to dissociate itself from a political class which is inherent across the board, but which doesn’t understand the people.
Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com