(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 03, 2010
Venezuela Elections: A Significant Victory
R Arun Kumar
THE United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) led by
Hugo Chavez once again triumphed in the recently concluded
elections held in Venezuela. On September 26, Venezuelans voted for the
time in elections held since 1998, the year Hugo Chavez was first
the president of the country. In these 16 elections, Chavez had won in
including the latest elections. 66.45 per cent of the people voted in
elections and the voter participation is much higher than that
witnessed in the
recent elections in the US, including the one in which Barack Obama got
elected. This, in itself, showcases the vibrant democracy present in
According to the official results released by the National Electoral Council (CNE), PSUV won 95 seats, while the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Round-table (MUD) won 62 seats. The centre-left Fatherland for All (PPT) party, a former Chavez ally that split with the PSUV, won two seats. Three seats went to indigenous people’s representatives unaligned with either the PSUV or the MUD. The CNE has not yet announced the results in the contests for three other seats.
PSUV won the majority of the seats in 16 of
Fidel Castro in his message of congratulations stated that these results “represent a victory for the Bolivarian Revolution and its leader Hugo Chavez Frias...The Empire, with its vast resources, was unable to hold back the PSUV”. Along with these words of congratulations, he made a cautious observation, “The enemy did achieve part of its objective: to stop the Bolivarian government from obtaining a two-thirds majority in parliament”. The lack of two-thirds majority for the PSUV would mean that many future revolutionary initiatives would be facing stiff legislative resistance from the opposition and further delay in their implementation.
These elections, right from day one were touted as elections not just for electing representatives to the parliament but as elections that decide the 'fate of the march towards Socialism that the Chávez government has as its declared objective'. All the opposition parties with the active connivance of the US led imperialist forces worked in concert to ensure the defeat of PSUV candidates. The significance of these elections also stems from the fact that they are held during the global economic crisis, which had its impact on Venezuela too.
The victory of the PSUV in this background is of enormous significance. This victory is all the more important in the present conjuncture where the right-wing forces are emerging victorious in many countries in Europe and in Chile, Colombia in South America. This, of course, should not distract us from analysing some of the warning signs emanating from this electoral victory.
Though the PSUV emerged victorious in these elections and Chavez still enjoys popularity ratings between 55 and 60 per cent, his party could not achieve the objectives it had set before itself – winning two-thirds seats in the parliament. If the votes polled by the PSUV in the last three elections are analysed, we see a gradual decline. In the 2008 elections to the provincial governors and mayors, PSUV secured 58 per cent of the votes, in the 2009 constitutional referendum they had secured 54.4 per cent and now the votes polled are stated as a 'technical draw' between the two camps. What are the reasons that are responsible for this decline?
The opposition political parties, representing the capitalist classes, did their utmost to defeat PSUV. They used the media to spread canards against Chavez and his economic policies. Using the crisis as an opportunity, they tried to destabilise the country's economy. They used their control over banks and many food processing units to create artificial scarcity and inflated the prices of many essential commodities. Apart from these measures, wherever they were heading the provincial level governments, they had hampered the functioning of many social welfare missions initiated by the national government.
A section of the state bureaucracy, that was not comfortable with the revolutionary processes initiated by the government, stood by its class interests and sabotaged their implementation. Along with this attitude of the bureaucracy, the deep-rooted corruption and red-tapism also resulted in many of the government initiatives not reaching the doorsteps of the needed people.
Besides these, another important reason is the internal struggle taking place in the PSUV. There is a serious debate taking place in the PSUV on what 'Bolivarian socialism' is, what the 'revolutionary process' really means and how it needs to be carried forward. There are sections who are not satisfied with the pace of government initiatives and demand that more needs to be done and at a faster pace. They argue that the government should play a more pro-active role in nationalising industries, encouraging worker take-overs and distribution of land. There is another section that argues that the government should confine itself to implementing some 'welfare schemes' but not proceed with the nationalisations. There is yet another section that wants to preserve 'unity' and thus is working out compromises between these two sections. These various shades of opinion in the party reflect on the administration. Chavez is the chief unifying factor for all these sections in the party.
Today even Chavez is feeling the need for a proper mechanism to unify the entire rank and file of the party. An ideological Congress of the PSUV was held for this explicit purpose. It was felt that this would help in building organisational machinery to ensure that all the policies of the government are translated into practice and reach the people at the ground level. This would also play a role in explaining to the people the efforts/limitations of the government and also countering the lies spread by the opposition parties. This, is a work still in progress.
The opposition is certainly buoyed by these results. The right-wing media already declared euphemistically, “Venezuela is no longer a red territory”. Fidel Castro vouching from his 'fifty years of experience' wrote in his Reflections that he believed in the exact opposite. He stated that the election of a large number of youth, proven militants and women to the parliament is an important positive feature of this election. He also said that the Bolivarian revolution today has the “Executive Power, a large majority in the parliament and a party capable of mobilising millions of combatants in favour of socialism” in which “armed forces too are a part”. He concludes “Such a union of forces is invincible”. Needless to add, of all the factors that Castro mentions, the third – a party capable of mobilising millions – plays a decisive role. The future of Bolivarian Socialism depends on the role played by this party in the ongoing class struggle.