Venezuelan regional elections – why did the PSUV win? Statement of Lucha de Clases

Last month the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (“PSUV”) won a decisive electoral victory in the face of an extremely difficult economic and political situation. However, despite temporarily stabilising the political situation in Venezuela, this victory has done nothing on its own to alleviate the growing tensions in Venezuela. Meanwhile, the pressures of inflation and the shortage of goods which have been weighing heavily on the masses for several years require an urgent solution.

Now, with Venezuela’s future looking increasingly uncertain following the recent downgrading of its credit status amidst fears of a default, we republish a statement (originally published in Spanish) of the Venezuelan section of the International Marxist Tendency, Lucha de Clases, which analyses the PSUV’s election victory, the threats facing the Venezuelan working class, and the way forward for the Bolivarian revolution.

- In Defence of Marxism

Last Sunday, contrary to many predictions, the PSUV achieved an overwhelming victory over the MUD (“Roundtable of Democratic Unity”) in regional elections. Of the 23 states which comprise the nation, the PSUV gained victory in 18, including states with an important urban population such as Carabobo and Aragua, and recaptured states such as Miranda and Lara, which had been in the hands of the opposition for almost a decade, while the MUD only achieved victory in 5, including 3 border states, namely Zulia, Táchira and Mérida.

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As has become customary, as soon as the final count was announced, the MUD declared that it did not recognise the results. Hours later, various MUD candidates, including Carlos Ocariz and Henry Falcón, recognised the results in their respective states, and once again the matrix of “fraud” collapsed.

Why did the PSUV win? A first balance sheet of the regional elections

If in our analysis we start by recognising that today there is an atmosphere of profound discontent and rage throughout the country as a result of the brutal deterioration of the living conditions of the working masses, it may be difficult to correctly understand how the Right was defeated and also how results of such magnitude were obtained.

As we have explained in other articles and statements, in recent years the working masses in Venezuela have been affected by an acute process of demoralisation and demobilisation, as a consequence of the rapid deterioration of their material conditions of existence. This was clearly reflected in the outcome of the parliamentary elections of 2015, but has continued to worsen to the present day, as inflation increases faster month by month, and the increase in prices of ‘basic basket’ goods strikes savagely at the working masses. This year, for example, it is estimated that inflation will reach over 1000%.

On this basis, and in view of the increasing level of discomfort at the base of Chavismo, given the critical economic situation in the country, it was perfectly logical to think that the MUD could have easily defeated the PSUV in regional elections, or in any case, that the gap between the number of governors won by the PSUV and by the MUD would have been considerably smaller.

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However, with the convocation of the Constituent Assembly the political scenario has changed completely. The working masses came out massively to vote in spite of their acute discontent, exhaustion and demoralisation (which has not gone away), because in the first place they considered the National Constituent Assembly as a means of blocking the Right and imperialism, which at that moment represented a very serious threat – that is to say, they showed a fine class instinct – as well as being tired of the guarimbas (riots).

In the second place, they saw in the Constituent Assembly an opportunity to renew Chavismo from below, with the direct participation of the people and ultimately, due to the hopes placed in the Constituent Assembly, as the instrument for the definitive defeat of the economic war, and the resolution of the pressing material problems of the masses.

As a result, more than 8 million people mobilised on the 30th of July to elect their deputies to the Constituent Assembly, which allowed for the defeat of the fascist vanguard of the counter-revolution, demoralising and demobilising the bases of the opposition, and isolating the bands of rioters in small groups, which provoked new fractures and tensions in the leadership of the MUD, ultimately debilitating in an important manner the forces of counter-revolution.

Here you have, in the first place, the main cause for the opening up of a much more favourable political scenario for the PSUV to hold regional elections. Indeed, these had been postponed for roughly 10 months, and not due to empty reasons of a legal or technical nature, but to the fact that the Bolivarian leadership was aware that had such elections taken place in the midst of the political conditions which existed before the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the counter-revolution would have obtained an overwhelming victory, which would have strengthened in a notable manner the fascist offensive of the counter-revolution and the possibility of an effective coup d’état.

It is precisely for this reason that, once the Constituent Assembly had been set up, the Bolivarian leadership decided to rapidly bring forward the regional elections, taking advantage of the temporary demobilisation of the opposition’s base and the disorientation of its leadership, in order to try and get the best result possible, which it has in effect done.

Secondly, there is the exceptional combativity and strength of the Venezuelan working masses, who once again came out into the street in order to defeat the counter-revolution and defend the social conquests which they have won through the Bolivarian Revolution, even though many of these have in fact disappeared in practice, as a direct consequence of the unrestrained inflation and the scarcity of food and medicine.

This constitutes without any doubt, from an historical point of view, an extraordinarily remarkable quality. Never before in the history of the workers’ movement has the working class of any nation maintained itself on a war footing against the attacks of the counter-revolution for so long, still less with the savage economic assault from which it has been suffering progressively over the last 5 years.

Thirdly, there is the role played by the PSUV party machinery, which applied a great deal of pressure on its Chavista base in order to mobilise it into the voting stations. It could even be said that, in a much more accentuated way than in previous elections, the cadres of the party apparatus used social benefits such as the “CLAP” (government provided food parcels), old-age pensions, special pensions such as “mothers of the barrio” and the “chamba juvenil” plan, in order to pressurise recipients of these benefits to mobilise for the vote, practically a clear act of blackmail. The same thing occurred amongst sections of public administration workers who were pressurised by their bosses to go and vote.

The attitude of the party tops and those charged with the direction of the state on Sunday was very reminiscent of the old “adeco” style of doing politics, in that the will of the working masses and poor was bought with a mix of offering food bags and social benefits along with threats of the suspension of those benefits previously granted.

These three factors permit an understanding of the contradictory and paradoxical fact that the PSUV, in spite of the country living through one of the worst situations of social crisis in its history, certainly as a consequence on the one hand of the economic sabotage of the bourgeoisie, but also due to the narrow reformist policies of class conciliation and concessions to the capitalists, was able to “reverse” the political situation and crushingly defeat the right in the regional elections.


Perspectives for the coming months

Although the victory won on Sunday was very important, in that it signified a new defeat for the forces of counter-revolution, the only real advantage of such a victory is that it allows the working class to gain time to organise and prepare itself for the necessary class combat which must take place against both reformism and the bourgeoisie.

Although the possibility of a new counter-revolutionary offensive was defeated on Sunday, by itself this does not change the desolate picture which exists in economic matters for the working masses. During this week, the dollar has reached 34,000 Bs and prices of basic products continue to rise without stopping, pitilessly asphyxiating working families. The price of meat, for example, rose by approximately 100% to over 40,000 Bs, but there are shops in which an even higher price can be found, even over 70,000 Bs.

Despite the atmosphere of drunken triumphalism which reigns today amongst the Bolivarian leadership and within party structures, as well as the understandable and sincere happiness amongst sections of the workers because of the new defeat which has been dealt to the counter-revolution, if there are not forceful and decisive changes in the country’s economic situation over the next weeks or months, such a state of mind will end up turning into its opposite.

The role of reformism and its bankruptcy

While the bourgeoisie and imperialism are the principal enemies of the working class, reformism does not allow the workers to fight effectively against them and defeat them definitively. From the government itself, the reformist social democracy is carrying out a policy of class conciliation, of dialogue with the class enemy, which can only benefit the bourgeoisie to the detriment of the workers because the interests of both classes are historically irreconcilable, and when both interests are conciliated, it is because the interests of the proletariat have been subordinated to those of the bourgeoisie.

This policy has been deepened in the last months, as far as the capitalists and imperialism have applied greater and greater pressure, through the economic sabotage, speculation, and the financial sanctions against the country.

In practice, such a policy has meant shifting the weight of the crisis onto the shoulders of the workers, while the bourgeoisie amasses enormous and grotesque riches at the cost of the greater and greater exploitation and suffering of the workers. While dollars and new credits are given to parasitic enterprises, while concessions are granted to transnational corporations to exploit the mineral belt of Orinoco, while the ‘DICOM’ dollar is devalued and special economic zones are created which privilege the right of the transnationals to parasitically reproduce their capital over and above the rights of the Venezuelan working class, while the wages of the working masses continue to decline at an impressive rate, day by day.

Although minutes after the results of the elections were announced, President Maduro pointed out that Chavismo had “obliterated” the opposition in the regional elections, and declared that he would not accept guarimba rioters and coup plotters as governors, not much time passed before he invited the Right to dialogue, so much so that yesterday, during his speech in the Miraflores palace, he declared that he was prepared to sign the “dialogue agreement” that was discussed in the Dominican Republic weeks ago, between interlocutors of the government and the bourgeoisie.

Declarations and actions of this nature reveal the patent insufficiency of the government, before the historical necessity of carrying out the revolution to its conclusion, in order to defeat the counter-revolution once and for all. The whole history of the class struggle of the last century has demonstrated that this policy, clearly reformist and social democratic, does nothing but prepare the ground for the definitive victory of the counter-revolution.

The only revolutionary way out of the crisis is by the expropriation of the capitalists

The crisis the country is living through is the consequence of not having taken the existing means of control over the economy and the nationalisation of certain sectors to their conclusion. The control of prices and exchange rates, as well as the nationalisation of the latifundia (the large landed estates), banks and industries during the Chavez government, were applied with the intention of protecting the people, which along with the retaking of control of PDVSA, and the enormous rise in oil prices, provided an impulse to the conquest of the great social demands which the workers achieved between 2004 and 2012.

But, such measures only constituted partial reforms of the capitalist system and, keeping intact the great majority of the same capitalist economy, such methods of control did nothing but distort the functioning of the same, and besides, combined with the abrupt collapse in oil prices and the conscious and deliberate economic sabotage on the part of the bourgeoisie, have provoked the situation we are living through today.

This situation of crisis can only be resolved in two ways, and only one of them favours the workers. The policy of class conciliation that the government is applying consists in the granting of greater and greater concessions to the capitalists. This means shifting the weight of the crisis onto the shoulders of the workers. Only a genuinely socialist policy, based on the expropriation of the commanding heights of the economy under workers’ control, the destruction of the bourgeois state, the building of a workers’ state based on socialist workers’ councils, revolutionary communes and militias, and the democratic planning of the whole economy, can offer a revolutionary way out of the crisis which the country is living through, in which it is not the workers who bear the weight of the crisis.

However, the current leadership of Chavismo, which as we have highlighted before shows a clearly reformist and conciliating policy, will not carry out a programme of this nature. Thus, it is necessary and urgent that the working class take a step forward to break down the policy of class conciliation and carry out the socialist revolution to its conclusion. For this, it is essential to build a revolutionary organisation that will fight the reformist social democracy, and that can push forward a programme of struggle based on the ideas and methods of scientific socialism. It is time for the battle against the reformist Fifth Column. Time is short. Let’s build the Marxist tendency in the PSUV.

Down with class conciliation!

Neither dialogue nor pact!

Complete the socialist revolution!

For the expropriation of the bourgeoisie under workers’ control!

Join the Marxist current of the PSUV!

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