The result of the elections to Venezuela’s National Assembly elections on Sunday was greeted by jubilation in the bourgeois media internationally. It is too early to make a definitive judgment about the results, and it has not been confirmed the right wing has overtaken the PSUV in votes. However, the deafening chorus of triumph in the international media is premature.
The ferocious international campaign saying that Chavez has lost is a reflection, not of the real state of affairs, but of the desire of the bourgeois both in Venezuela and internationally to finish off the Venezuelan Revolution once and for all. But between desires and their fulfilment there is always a wide gap, as everyone knows. Whether the opposition’s counterrevolutionary aspirations are fulfilled or not does not depend on the results of an election but on the conduct of the Revolution and its leadership.
Elections are only a snapshot of the state of public opinion at a given time. These results can tell us a lot about the psychological state of different classes in Venezuela, and they undoubtedly reveal certain tendencies in society. They constitute a warning that must be taken very seriously by all those who have the interests of the Revolution at heart. But in and of themselves they decide nothing.
The right wing jubilant
The right wing immediately started to crow like a drunken cockerel. Maria Corina Machado, who was elected deputy of Miranda state said: “Here it is very clear, Venezuela said no to Cuban-style communism, Venezuela said yes to the path of democratic construction and now we have the legitimacy of the vote of the citizenry, we are the representatives of the people”.
On Monday, MUD officials claimed victory in the elections, based mainly on their claim to have won the majority of the total votes cast on Sunday. But this was a bluff. The real situation is more complicated, although there is no doubt that the Revolution now faces new dangers.
According to the official results of Sunday’s election released by the National Electoral Council, Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) so far had won 95 seats, while the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) won 62 seats. The 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.
Of course, it is possible to read these results in different ways. Deputy-Elect Roy Chaderton pointed out on Monday that the opponents of President Hugo Chavez won approximately 20 fewer seats than they held during the 2000-2005 legislative term, while the pro-Chavez camp grew by several seats.
Socialist candidates won in Aragua, Barinas, Bolivar, Carabobo, Cojedes, Delta Amacuro, Distrito Capital, Falcon, Guarico, Merida, Monagas, Lara, Portuguesa, Trujillo, Vargas Yaracuy and there was a draw in Miranda and Sucre. But the right wing won in important states such as Zulia and Tachira.
Chaderton pointed out that the Opposition has lost ground compared to the 2000 elections. He said the opposition was setting up a “media farce” by comparing Sunday’s results only to those of the 2005 elections, which the opposition boycotted, and thus reporting that that opposition drastically increased its presence in the National Assembly Elections.
That is correct, and it is also true that the data for the total number of votes is not a straightforward issue, as people can vote for a candidate in their constituency as well as voting for a party list and some MPs are elected through the first system, some through the second. Nevertheless, it is clear that the vote for the opposition is growing, while that of the PSUV is declining even more sharply.
To underestimate the strength of the enemy and overestimate one’s own strength is a very dangerous mistake in politics as in war. The Revolution needs not sugary illusions but the truth. From the latest results it seems that the PSUV got 5,399,300 votes, while the right wing parties won 5,312,283votes.
Officially, the PSUV won the majority of the seats in 16 of Venezuela’s 23 states. This included sweeping victories in the rural states of Apure, Barinas, Guarico, Cojedes, Lara, Portuguesa, Vargas, and Yaracuy; and strong victories in the major industrial states of Bolivar and Carabobo. The PSUV also won seven seats in the Capital District, compared to three for the MUD.
In Miranda state, where the capital city is located, the PSUV and the MUD each won three seats, with the MUD defeating the PSUV by just 741 votes out of a total of 968,947. The two were also tied with three seats each in Sucre state. In the sparsely populated Amazonas state, the PSUV won one seat, while the PPT won 2 seats and the MUD none. However, the MUD swept the border states of Tachira and Zulia, as well as Anzoátegui and Nueva Esparta.
The PSUV leaders try to present the result as a victory. Vice President Elías Jaua said: “The revolution can count on a comfortable majority in the National Assembly... Few governments on our continent can count on such a comfortable majority of just one party. […] The opposition does not have any possibility, with this number of deputies, of reversing the legislative processes that have been completed or activating destabilizing mechanisms such as revoking public powers or impeaching the president”.
PSUV Campaign Chief Aristóbulo Istúriz expressed disappointment that the goal of 110 seats was not reached. However, he said this should not distract from the “truly decisive victory” won by the PSUV, which “reaffirms us as the primary political force in our country.”
“We achieved our objective in the sense of being able to guarantee the defence of President Hugo Chavez and the policies of the revolutionary government, and having won sufficient forces to propel structural changes in this era of the construction of socialism,” said Istúriz.
But the facts do not support this optimistic interpretation. If we compare the results with the votes in the 2009 regional elections, the difference is immediately evident. The PSUV then got 6,310,482 votes, compared to 5,190,839 for the right-wing parties. The warning light is flashing red and it would be the height of irresponsibility to deny it.
During the 2000-2005 legislative term pro-Chavez parties held between 83 and 92 seats at any given time, while opposition parties held between 73 and 82 seats, out of a total of 165. But this was a period when the masses were aroused. The defeat of the counterrevolutionary coup in 2002, and the subsequent defeat of the oil sabotage and the recall referendum were accomplished by the revolutionary people – that is to say, the workers and peasants.
Since that time, it is clear that the revolutionary enthusiasm has ebbed. There is discontent and disillusionment among the masses. The figures speak for themselves. While the right wing vote went up by a mere 2.28%, the left vote fell sharply by 14.44%. This means that the opposition did not win this election; the chavistas lost it.
The importance of leadership
What is the main feature of the present situation? The main thing to note is that, at least in the electoral terms, the distance between the forces of the revolution and the counterrevolution has been reduced. There is a sharp increase in the polarisation between the classes.
The first, and possibly the most important, effect is the psychological effect on the two contending camps. Napoleon pointed out that in war morale is a vital factor. The counterrevolutionaries will be encouraged and emboldened to go onto the offensive. By contrast, many Bolivarian activists will feel discouraged and unhappy. This is a not unimportant fact!
An army that has suffered a defeat needs to have confidence in its leaders, the soldiers must feel that the generals know what they are doing and are able to recover from the defeat and go forward.
In times of retreat in a war the importance of good generals is a hundred times greater than in an advance. With good generals the army can stage an organised withdrawal, keeping the army together and in good order, with a minimum of losses. But bad generals will turn a defeat into a rout.
The role of the reformist bureaucracy in this situation is particularly negative. They will draw all the wrong conclusions. They will be saying: “Look, this proves that we do not have the support of the people. We must make concessions to the opposition, strike deals, retreat.” This is the worst possible advice. For every step back the Revolution takes, the opposition will demand ten more.
The reformists will argue that the elections mean that we have to adopt a policy of class reconciliation. But that is the very policy that has undermined the Revolution and alienated is proletarian base. This was shown graphically by the result in the State of Anzoátegui, where the big margin of victory achieved by the counterrevolution reflected discontent with the scandalous behaviour of the governor, Tarek William Saab and the right-wing chavista bureaucracy who backed the bosses against the factory occupations in Mitsubishi, Vivex and Macusa and thus alienated the proletarians who had preciously voted for the chavistas.
The only way forward for the PSUV is to rely on its real base: the revolutionary workers and peasants. They are looking to the PSUV to carry out its promises. The PSUV must break decisively with the bourgeoisie and its agents, the reformist bureaucracy that represent a bourgeois Fifth Column within the Revolution.
The threat of counterrevolution
Despite the electoral setback, the Revolution still has important reserves of support. Over the past year polls have consistently showed that the PSUV still has the support of around 35 percent of the population, while support for the opposition parties is much weaker. However, a large population is undecided, reflecting a growing disenchantment with the progress of the Revolution. In order to secure its future the Revolution must find a way to motivate and enthuse these layers. This can only be done through decisive action.
The approval rating for Chavez’s presidency remains high at around 55% or 60%. This reflects the fact that the Revolution still possesses huge reserves of support in the population. The problem is that Chavez is surrounded on all sides with a thick layer of bureaucrats and careerists who do not see the Revolution as a means of changing society but only as a vehicle for personal advancement and enrichment.
The PSUV still has a majority of the National Assembly, and will be able to control the passage of ordinary laws and most other functions of the legislative body. However, the PSUV failed to win a two-thirds majority, which means the opposition will have the power to block organic laws, enabling laws that give decree power to the president, and some appointments. The right wing, even though it is a minority in Parliament, has increased its ability to interfere with the Venezuelan revolutionary process and place obstacles to the action of the government of President Chavez.
The Opposition will use its position in the Assembly to attempt to paralyse the government and sabotage progressive laws. But their real goal is to overthrow the Revolution and seize power. To do this they will use the National Assembly to mobilise the masses of enraged petty bourgeois on the streets to create an atmosphere of chaos and disorder. It is necessary to meet this threat head-on.
Aporrea was correct when, on 27/09/10, it wrote: “The PSUV wins a simple majority in the NA, but the bourgeoisie is gaining ground and the threat is growing”. The article correctly says that what the election result shows is that “the bulk of the population prefers the anti-capitalist and socialist path. But, most strikingly, it revealed an element of vulnerability, since the PSUV and its allies did not reach the two thirds needed to have a qualified majority.” And it concludes: “More than ever we need a clean-out and more Revolution!”
The election results show an advance of the counterrevolutionary forces, but they are still very far from achieving their real objective. In order to succeed, the opposition will have to confront the President and the revolution. The main clash will take place when the presidential term of office comes to an end in 2012. It is possible that a showdown can come even earlier if the opposition resorts to a recall referendum. The only way to prevent this is to speed up the revolutionary process, carrying out the expropriation of the land, the banks and the major industries.
“But we do not have a sufficient majority in the National Assembly to do this!” This argument of the reformists is false from start to finish. Everyone knows that the fundamental problems of society are not resolved by parliaments, laws and constitutions but by the class struggle.
In electoral terms, the petty bourgeois masses may seem a formidable force. But when they are confronted on the streets by the power of the workers, peasants and revolutionary youth, their apparent strength will evaporate like a drop of water on a hot stove. If the Revolution is worthy of its name, it will refuse to dance the parliamentary minuet with the counterrevolution but instead will mobilise its forces where it really matters: not in debating chambers but on the streets, in the factories and the army barracks.
In a press conference on Monday night, Chavez said the next phase of his government will include “the acceleration of programs of the new historical, political, social, and technological project.” That goes in the right direction but it must be translated into action. The President concluded: “We must continue strengthening the revolution!” That, and not the cowardly recipes of reformism, is the only way forward.
Before us lie only two possibilities: either the greatest of victories or the most terrible of defeats. In order to secure victory we must base ourselves on the famous slogan of the great French revolutionary Danton: “De l’audace! De l’audace! Et encore de l’audace!” - “Boldness! Boldness and still more boldness!”