From Socialist Voice, October 2010


Venezuela: Another election won

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and its one remaining ally, the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), won a clear majority of seats in the National Assembly but fell short of the two-thirds majority it needs for complete control. The opposition, though it has not really changed its nature since the coup d’état of 2002, decided to put on a democratic face and contest the election that it boycotted in 2005.
     Though it is enormously pleased to have gained a blocking third, and is carrying on as though it won the election, the opposition won fewer seats than in the election of 2000, the last occasion on which it contested.
     The outgoing National Assembly was composed entirely of parties supporting the Bolivarian Revolution, though two of them—the Democratic Socialist Party (Podemos) and the Nation for All (PPT)—couldn’t stand the heat and went over to the opposition, leaving only the PCV and the PSUV.
     As Mark Weisbrot remarked in the Guardian (London) on 28 September, “much has been made of the opposition getting more than a third of the national assembly, thus being able to block legislation that would ‘deepen the revolution.’ Again, the importance of this is greatly exaggerated. In reality it is unlikely to make much difference. The pace at which it adopts reforms has been limited more by administrative capacity than by politics.
     “The Financial Times recently added up the value of industries nationalised by the Chávez government. Outside oil, it came to less than 8 per cent of GDP over the last five years. Venezuela still has a long way to go before the state has as much a role in the economy as it does in, for instance, France.”

     As usual, the opposition had most of the press and television on its side, and vastly superior financial resources, with screaming headlines blaming Chávez for all the crime in the country, and eight-month-old pictures from the morgue. In reality the new National Police Force is beginning to make an impact, with crime down in many areas. It took a long time to take this measure. The state and local police forces were just not doing their job, and many of them were hopelessly corrupt. Also, Venezuela has come through a difficult year, largely because of the drought—you would think that was Chávez's fault, as well as the rains and floods now battering the country.
     The Church is more vocal than ever, with Cardinal Urarte leading the attack. According to him, Chávez is imposing “Cuban communism” on the country. It has no difficulty choosing between the needs of the faithful and its own class interest. Funnily enough, the cardinal had to reassure the faithful that “only God can see how you vote,” after all its calumnies against the National Electoral Council, the independent body charged with running the elections. The electoral council—the only really efficient state body in the country—takes no nonsense from anybody, not even the President.
     All in all, the Bolivarians can be reasonably pleased at winning yet another election but must look to their relative failure to get the vote out, compared with last year’s referendum. The fact is that the people who will come out and vote for Chávez have very little confidence in the politicians. When Chávez dissolved the old Movement for a Fifth Republic (MVR) and founded the PSUV he hoped to unite all his supporters under one roof, and also to clean out the opportunists and old-style politicians. Of course it was not so easy, and the new party is plagued with opportunism and corruption, just like the old MVR; indeed it includes some very right-wing individuals.
     There have been some massive industrial battles, such as the strike in the steel industry in Bolívar state, which culminated in its nationalisation, in which the workers were opposed by the governor—a member of the PSUV—who used the state police against them; likewise in Anzoátegui state, where the workers in Mitsubishi remain in dispute with the company, which refuses to obey an order from the Supreme Court, and the state has not enforced it. In this dispute the police ran amok and killed two workers in January 2009. Anzoátegui state returned a majority of opposition deputies; obviously many workers there stayed home on Sunday.
     The Bolivarian Revolution cannot afford to stagnate, or continue to tolerate the many obstacles, largely internal, to its progress. The development of the community councils, which give local communities the right to organise their affairs, to participate in decision-making, and even to initiate policy, is a positive new development, which needs to be consolidated. A new labour law is promised—but seems to be taking for ever—which would establish workers’ councils in industry. This is urgent. Chávez announced that state industries would be run on socialist principles; but this happens only where the workers are well organised and make it happen. A new law is essential.
     The way forward is not to make concessions to the right but instead “to deepen the revolution,” in Chávez’s own phrase: to increase people’s sense of ownership of the process.

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