The political crisis in Venezuela, which began with Hugo Chavez’s illness and his subsequent death, has become deeper with the outcome of the first elections after the death of the one who had been governing the country for the past 14 years. And there was surprise there.
When most of the opinion polls prophesied that Nicolas Maduro (candidate for PSUV and anointed successor) would have an advantage of somewhat between 10 and 15 points, his electoral victory proved to be very tight. Merely 1.83 points separated Maduro from his rival, the right-winger Henrique Capriles. This stands for a difference of 272,865 votes over a total of nearly 15 million voters.
This is the narrowest difference in the history of Chavism, even when compared to the 1.5 million votes that Chavez himself defeated the same opposing candidate October last year.
Capriles does not admit the officially announced results and demands a recount of the votes and he wields over 3000 exposed irregularities. At first, the opposition leader called for a demonstration in front of the National Electoral Council and as from that there were a number of protests – some of them radicalized – that went as far as raiding the PSUV, “Mercales” (cheap markets), CDI (Integral diagnostic Centres) and some living quarters, all of these being achievements of Venezuelan workers and were defended against those attacks by popular sectors of the communities. Maduro reacted forbidding the demonstration summoned by Capriles, exposing that a “coup” was being orchestrated and promised to be “tough with fascism” and repressing some protests that challenged the legitimacy of the electoral scrutiny. So far, this crisis has cost 8 fatal casualties, more than 61 injured and 250 arrested people.
There is no doubt that the electoral result represents a tough political defeat for Chavism. So as to understand this, it is necessary to see the events in their context. In October 2012, with the participation of 80% of the voters, Chavez had 10% more votes than his opponent, reaching 55.07% and harvesting a total of 8,191,132 votes. Capriles kept 44.31% of the votes, some 6,541,304 votes. It may be worthwhile to remember that in December last year, regional elections were also held and Chavism swept away right-wing opposition conquering 20 out of 23 provincial governments.
In the recent elections, however, summoned after the death of Chavez, PSUV obtained7,575,506 votes (50.79%) and Capriles got 7,302,641 (48.95%) with an electoral participation almost identical to that of October (79%). The drainage is obvious: Chavism has lost almost 700,000 votes that went directly to Capriles. The result evidenced a fast erosion of Chavism and important strengthening of the right opposition.
This event, however, is not a thunderbolt in clear sky. In the previous elections, with Chavez himself as a candidate, opposition accrued about 2 million votes. What was insinuated at that moment and was ratified on the 14th April is a real process among an ample sector of the working class and popular sectors that are beginning to feel disappointed with the Venezuelan government and are politically drifting away from it.
The causes are well-known: over 20% inflation is devouring the miserable wages of millions of workers; unemployment and informality at work accruing: alarming scarcity of basic products; extremely high levels of insecurity affecting women, young people and popular sectors; systematic repression of proletarian struggles and unrelenting control of the trade unions by the government, etc. There is the worsening of the economic situation as an outcome of the world crisis and the Chavistanti-workers and anti-popular policiesthat add to other social dramas which have been accumulating for a long time.
This has been eroding Chavez and his presumed “Bolivarian revolution” at varying degrees of speed, and yet even if with increasingly narrow margin, “Comandante Chavez” kept on acting as a kind or “arbiter” and attenuated (more or less effective) social contradictions.
In this way, it was the entire Chavist economic and Bonapartist policy what cleared the path for and facilitated the headway of the squalid right opposition. The political defeat of “Chavez’s candidate” is not a right turn in the awareness of the toiling masses; it is the rejection of the corrupt state bureaucracy driving their 4×4 vans, collecting huge salaries and sunken up to their necks in perks and corruption. It is the rejection of the “boliburgueses” , with their «socialist» speeches, while profiting on the state apparatus.
It is this tiredness set in after years of this government and this regime what spawns the conditions for a huge sector of the masses to give their electoral support to the right-opposition.
Coup from the right?
The calls to mobilisation uttered by Capriles and the attacks of the demonstrators drove many honest activists and several left sectors to accept Maduro’s denunciation of an attempt at a “coup” and “fascist attacks”.
We must be categorical at this point: there is no such thing as a coup in Venezuela; not even a dynamics aiming in that direction. If there were an attempt at a right coup, the way it was in 2002, we would be among the first to confront it in the streets, no matter if it were in united action with Chavism. But this is not on the agenda today.
What existed in Venezuela were demonstrations of a sector of the population, most of them Capriles´ sympathisers, in response to his summons, demanding a recount of the votes, because there are reports on irregularities that might stand for an electoral fraud, especially considering the very narrow margin that separates both candidates. These protests got radicalised in some places and offices were attacked, resulting in confrontations of the demonstrators with Chavist militants and repressive forces of the government,with the above mentioned result.
Once the facts are posed, is it possible to assert that the political guideline of Capriles and imperialism is to carry out a coup d’état in Venezuela? No, there is nothing from which we can infer that much. The traditional Right wishes to stretch the crisis as far as possible in order to delegitimize and wear out Maduro’s administration and so, later on, to reach some kind of negotiation with him. That is altogether different from a coup d’état, which would have meant in the first place, removing Maduro from power by force.
It is not only that the Armed Forces are clearly with Maduro and the Chavist leadership; actually this is not Capriles’ orientation for, as soon as things started getting out of control, he uttered new statements calling on his people to stop the demonstrations and to calm the situation down. “This is time for intelligence, of reason. We cannot get off our course. Our course is that of peace. It is not with threats that we can solve Venezuela’s problems; it is with dialogue.”
Furthermore, most of Latin American governments, beginning with the Dilma administration in Brazil acknowledged Maduro’s victory. Even from the Spanish State and their reactionary Mariano Rajoy administration and his rightist party PP acknowledged Maduro as the new President. It is, therefore, clear that nobody wishes to overturn the apple cart, as a coup would open a dynamics of greater confrontations, which would have unforeseeable consequences for the Venezuelan bourgeoisie as a whole as well as for imperialism, let alone the case of a government that has already been abandoning even the old “anti-imperialist” rhetoric.
It is against this background that Maduro and the entire Castro-Chavism use the resort of agitating an alleged coup as part of a political blackmail intended to force political support against “fascist attacks”.
This is serious for – considering the situation in Venezuela – it is very likely that demonstrations will keep on happening due to the economic situation and the very fragility with which the Maduro administration is born. It is quite likely that some of them will be inspired or boosted by the right. But there will be other: proletarian demonstrations, popular and students’, that Maduro’s administration will – as Chavez did before him – accuse of being coup-makers or “functional to the right and imperialism”.
What about the right demonstrations?
The IWL-FI and the UST (IWL’s Venezuelan section) must beat off the use that the Right is making of the political crisis in Venezuela. Nobody can be fooled about the fact that behind this demand of “transparency” and of the recount of votes, the squalid right, servile to imperialism, is trying to legitimise themselves in order to recover their power and to apply their reactionary plans against the working class. That is why we disapprove of these demonstrations and much more so of the method consisting of attacks on PSUV, the Mercales and CDIs and we call on the working class to maintain their independence and not to join any eventual summons made by Capriles.
That is why, in order to block the path for the squalids, it is necessary to demand from the government to accept the recount of votes as initially Maduro did. It is clear that there is a sector of the population that do not believe the announced results and this is the tool that the rightists use in order to become stronger and act the victim and “defender of popular will”. That is why, in order to get them to shut up and to expose Caprile, Maduro should accept the recount and show that his opponent is manipulating his followers. If he won, as Chavism asserts, there should be no problems. If he lost, people have the right to demonstrate.
More than ever an independent, proletarian and socialist alternative is necessary.
Even though the nationalist-bourgeois Chavist programme has always been limited, it has now run out of further possibilities. In order to get out of the grievous economic and social crisis, in order to solve the deep essential problems, it is necessary to do what Chavez never did or had any intentions of doing (let aloneMaduro): attack the interests of imperialism confiscating their properties, firms, banks and lands, nationalising them under the control of their workers; put an end to their “joint-ventures” that legalize not only the exploitation but also the property of imperialist enterprises of oil and natural resources of Venezuela; stop paying the immense foreign and home debt and to dedicate all these resources for the economic development in the service of Venezuelan people.
Neither is the traditional, overtly reactionary Venezuelan right, with a conspicuous coup-making vocation an alternative. Capriles and the old Venezuelan bourgeoisie are only dreaming of recovering their power in order to benefit from acting the direct agents of imperialism. They are not and never will be a solution for the toiling masses. Capriles belongs to a political variant, overtly pro-American that will keep on exploiting the toiling masses the way they do in the provinces under their control (Miranda, Lara and Amazonas). Their aim is to do their best to deliver the Venezuelan oil to the international corporations and to defend the national entrepreneurs.
That is why building a third political space, with class independence and in opposition to both: Maduro and Chavism on one hand and Capriles and the traditional neo-liberal right on the other. And that is so because the only way of solving the structural problems of Venezuelan toiling masses is still the independent organization and mobilization of their own forces.
From this point of view and as part of this battle for the construction of the third space with political independence, it was necessary to pose a proletarian and socialist alternative. This alternative did not exist because a sector of the left, the Party of Socialism and Freedom (linked to the UIT) the only one who was in the legal conditions of doing so refused to fight the battle. This was a serious mistake because, regardless the number of votes that could have been obtained, a political alternative for workers, independent from the big bourgeois blocks, failed to appear.
What is about to happen?
It is still too early to gauge. However, one thing seems to be sure: political instability will go on. The strengthened right will be in better conditions to face up to the Maduro administration, who appears to be challenged and weakened.
This government will have to cope with internal disputes in a PSUV where Diosdado Cabello, President of the Parliament and direct representative of the “boli-bourgeoisie”, faced with the electoral results, has already been raising his voice to demand “deep self-criticism” and that faults have to be sought for “even under every stone” so as not to jeopardise “the Commandant’s heritage”. This is aimed directly against Maduro. With this in the background, Chavez’s successor will have to take heavy measures against the workers and it is more likely than not that the repressive components of his administration will accrue if the forthcoming attacks are responded with resistance from the toiling masses.
From the IWL-FI and the UST we shall keep on boosting not only the struggles of the toiling masses but also the need for workers to begin building their own political tool, independent from bureaucrats, “boli-bourgeoisies”, employers and military men. This will be the only way to build the socialism of the workers, the real socialism.
 Squalid – a name given to the Anti-Chavez rightist opposition.
 Boliburgués – Boliburguesía – a short name to “Bolivarian Bourgeoisie”, it’s a reference to a new type of bourgeoisie stemming out of shady business on state-owned enterprises.