By the narrowist of margins, Nicolas Maduro scraped in to win Venezuela’s Presidential elections defeating the right-wing candidate Capriles by a mere 200,000 votes. Maduro, Chavez’s named succesor, had been expected to win by a larger majority.
This narrow success clearly poses the threat of a victory of the right-wing counter revolutionary forces.
Since the election the right wing, while demanding a recount (as has John Kerry, representing US imperialism) seem to have held back from launching a direct confrontation. They now seem set on undermining the weak new government, aiming to force it out, possibly with new elections as soon as they can.
Following the announcement of Chavez’s death on 5 March this year, millions of people flooded the streets demonstrating their grief and support for the Bolivarian Revolution. This moment, combined with the results of the governors’ elections in December where Chavism won 20 of 23 of the posts, indicated that they were well-placed to win any popular Presidential election.
When the Presidential elections were called for 14 April, everything indicated a clear victory for Maduro, despite increasing discontent amongst the masses flowing from the economic situation, and the inefficiency and bureaucratisation of the state structures.
Socialismo Revolucionario (SR) produced a document leading up to these elections based on our previous position on the October 2012 Presidential elections where we said: ‘A vote for Maduro will not be enough!’ SR defended a program of revolutionary democratic and socialist demands to deepen the revolution, defeat capitalism and correct the current programme which is not a path towards completing the socialist revolution.
SRs’ position was in marked contrast to some other left organisations. Many put forward a sectarian position of a ‘no’ vote, without considering the consequences of a right-wing victory, the extreme polarisation in the country or the current consciousness of the masses. The other extreme was an opportunistic call for a vote for Maduro without any criticism of the process or programme he was defending.
Unlike many of these groups, we handed these leaflets out at metro stations in Caracas in the days before the election and during the final demonstration of Maduro’s election campaign. While doing so we received some strong criticisms but also much interest from grass roots members of Chavez’s PSUV party.
These party members said they believed that Chavez’s death would open a space to discuss the direction of the revolution. But in reality the PSUV’s direction made it clear that for the party’s leaders now wasn’t the moment to raise criticisms, only to support the candidature of Maduro.
Many leaders of Chavism were, and still are, threatened with expulsion for making criticisms which were much weaker than those advocated by members of SR. Such methods of closing the door to internal criticism and debate, a well-known method of Stalinism, had an extremely negative effect especially within a party that claims to operate under the banner of revolutionary socialism.
Maduro won the election by a minimal amount. This was a wake-up call for even the most uncritical PSUV members, raising questions within its ranks, which will bring these criticisms to the fore. In just seven months since the last Presidential elections, Maduro lost almost 700,000 votes of the over eight million obtained by Chavez.
Even Diosdado Cabello, the current President of the National Assembly and a leader of the PSUV, publicly questioned how it was possible that a worker would vote for their oppressor (Capriles) and said that now was a time for “self-reflection”.
The answer to Cabello’s question is that there isn’t a real revolutionary alternative being presented to the working class, the poor and exploited as well as sections of the middle class. So many, unfortunately, see the hypocritical, populist and opportunistic right wing as the solution to resolving these problems. These basic day-to-day problems and the absence of discussion about them have made it difficult for some to defend the government.
The so-called revolutionary leaders’ reluctance to discuss them pushed many away from the government. The worker who hears that frequent cuts in electricity are partly their fault for over use of electricity and the worker who effectively pays for the current economic crisis through currency devaluation and has to deal with food scarcities have unfortunately been drawn towards a dangerous right-wing populist that now paints itself as a fair and democratic force that wants ’unity’.
The food scarcities incidentally are the result of the parasitic bourgeois layer that still exists in Venezuela today. This is also the responsibility of a government that continues to support them with money to import products but won’t put the same industry in the hands of the workers.
Today we have a right wing that has recovered its confidence and also achieved an important social base. Electorally, it is almost equal to that of Chavismo. This has been partly due to the right wing’s ability to demagogically capitalise on the government’s errors and weaknesses and to partially fill the vacuum of a critical left socialist opposition that has not been able to develop within the revolutionary process.
Maduro’s government now has the ball in its court. It can move towards reconciliation with the right or radicalise and deepen the process and move towards socialism. If they take the last option, which we would hope and fight for, they would need to recognise the large social base that today sees the right wing as their alternative for change and explain a new course to win their support once again.
After 14 years of struggle, a general wearing down of the movement and a huge quantity of accumulated discontent and mistakes it will take a massive struggle to overcome these obstacles and develop a movement to develop the socialist revolution on a democratic basis.
This, is one of many challenges the Maduro government faces. We cannot fall into the trap of thinking that all the seven million people who voted for Capriles are capitalists or oligarchs. As Fidel Castro said to Chavez during a meeting years ago ".....don’t believe that the five million that today are the opposition in Venezuela are bourgeois".
Socialismo Revolucionario warns of the growing threat of a victory of the right-wing counter-revolutionary forces. The working class, the poor and all those who want to take the revolution forward must urgently draw lessons from the growth of the right-wing in this election. It is necessary to take the revolution forward and break with capitalism.
The working masses and youth must rally urgently to defeat the threat of counter-revolution. The masses must build their own organisations and strength. Occupy the workplaces, establish committees of democratic control and of defence against right wing attacks.
Fight for the nationalisation of means of production that mostly remain in the hands of the parasitic capitalist class under the unconditional control of the workers and communities and not under the current bureaucratic control.
For the democratic organisation of workers and communities in committees to organise a planned economy which will satisfy our needs and not those of the ruling class. This economy will not be the same as a capitalist economy that currently exists under a smokescreen of what today is referred to in Venezuela as ’socialism’.
Such measures will not only stop the advance of the right wing and win over our brothers and sisters who have been seduced by the right wing. It will also win over international solidarity with those who struggle for genuine change and we will be the stimulus so that these changes become a reality. Such steps are now urgent to prevent the triumph of the right.