The Elections in Venezuela

Pablo Miranda

The parliamentary elections in Venezuela held on December 6, 2015, constituted a resounding defeat of the Bolivarian government of Nicolas Maduro by the reactionary forces and U.S. imperialism.

This electoral defeat extends beyond the borders of Venezuela; it affects all of Latin America and much of the world. For many, democracy and freedom have won; for many others, the revolution and socialism suffered a major defeat.

The representatives of the Unity Roundtable jubilantly celebrated their victory and pledged to work to end the crisis.

For his part Maduro said: “Seeing these results, we have come with our morals, our ethics, these adverse results, to tell Venezuela that democracy has triumphed.” It has won the economic war; we “will govern from the streets.”

Actually the election results of December 6 do not mean the triumph of democracy and freedom; they unmistakably express the economic and media power of the bourgeoisie and the international monopolies that allowed them, among other things: to take advantage of the discontent of the great majority of the population in order to claim the idea of a change of course.

However, no one can or should ignore the responsibility of the leadership of the Venezuelan government, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV, in deepening and broadening of the economic crisis, in the shortages of most of the essential items, in the high rates inflation, in the corruption scandals that are denounced daily involving various representatives and at various levels of the government and party, in the uncontrolled crime and rampant insecurity, in the shortages leading to long lines for food. These are the material and ideological elements used by reaction and imperialism to fight “Chavismo” and win the electoral support of the majority of Venezuelans.

Analyzing the Venezuelan electoral process, Atilio Boron, a distinguished defender of the “Bolivarian revolution,” of Chavez and Maduro, wrote:

“Under these conditions, to which certainly must be added the gross errors in macroeconomic management of the ruling party and the ravages of corruption, which the government never fought seriously, it was obvious that last Sunday’s election had to end the way it did.”

And Gonzalo Abella, an ardent supporter of the “Bolivarian revolution,” stated:

“‘War,’ it is easy to say that word when it is not part of one’s everyday life: mothers wanting to feed their children enduring long lines, filling their bags not with food but with continuous frustration at the lack of milk, flour for bread, toilet paper, soap, and many other items that criminally vanish. They are smuggled into Colombia, taking away what is scarce in every city. One has to have lived this in order to know that the anger that these situations produce, almost always is aimed at those on top, not only to denounce those who really brought about these deadly strategies, the millionaire and unscrupulous business owners linked to the most obstinate opposition, but also, almost logically, that the discouragement tends to put the government in the spotlight.”

We will try to answer this with a concrete analysis from Marxist- Leninist positions.

It is an undeniable fact that for two years Venezuela has been affected by a profound economic crisis that has fallen onto the shoulders of the workers and people. Maduro’s government explains this crisis as a result of the low price of oil. (One should remember that the country depends almost exclusively on the exploitation and sale of hydrocarbons; this situation has existed for decades but has been aggravated over the period in which Chavismo has been in the government.) But he says that it is a matter of an international character, leaving aside the responsibilities of the government.

The fall in oil prices is certainly one component of the economic crisis in Venezuela, but it is also a result of the capitalist nature of this social economic formation, of supply and demand, of competition, the superexploitation of the working class, the enormous increase in the bureaucracy, the squandering and waste of the substantial revenues from the high prices of hydrocarbons totalling thousands of millions of dollars, which multiplied during Chavismo, of the dependence of the economy of the country in all spheres on foreign purchases, of the corruption and shady deals of the Chavista leadership at all levels, of the shortages of food and essential items.

Certainly, U.S. imperialism, the bourgeois opposition, the business owners and bankers, and in particular the big importers, despite being the main beneficiaries of the economic boom, who receive thousands of millions of dollars at the official exchange rate, carried out an economic boycott and most recently an “economic waf’ that contributed to exacerbating the crisis.

This reactionary offensive took place and continues to do so on the basis of a real economic situation that the government did not know how to control and which, despite its rhetoric, in fact conciliated with the business owners and bankers, granting them privileges and benefits.

The elections of December 6 were held under these circumstances; the results were, as already noted, the defeat of Chavismo, that is, the circumstances discussed foretold the failure. However, it must be said, the elections were lost by Chavismo in the same process. The leaders of the PSUV and the government continued to talk about victory, they were overconfident, they claimed that a survey and polls said that they would be the winners. These claims and the way they faced the situation, the favouritism in choosing candidates, the placing of relatives and friends on the lists, the way the electoral campaign itself unfolded points out their responsibilities that one cannot and should not ignore.

The “Bolivarian Revolution,” an Expression of Reformism

Since Chavez’s victory back in 1998, we welcomed that event, which brought the long struggle of the Venezuelan workers and youth into the electoral political arena, in opposition to neo-liberalism, corruption and the rotten two-party rule of the Committee for Independent Political Electoral Organization, COPEI, the initials of the Social-Christian Party and Democratic Action, AD, the party of social-democracy. We have seen and pointed out the achievements and prospects of Chavismo as well-intentioned, on the side of the workers and peoples, of the defence of natural resources and breaking with the absolute dependence that characterized the country (the so-called internal development). We also pointed out the limitations of that process.

We did not hesitate to characterize the great social movements, the enthusiasm of the workers and youth for change as the emergence of a revolutionary process that incorporated millions of people into the fight for the ideals of the revolution and socialism. We supported again and again the interests and struggles of the working class, we pointed out the difference between the Chavez government and the other progressive governments in Latin America in advancing the interests of the workers and trade unionists, in permitting the activity of the left and the proletarian revolutionaries.

We always said, however, that the “Bolivarian revolution” and “21st century socialism” were just caricatures of the revolution and

socialism, which certainly pushed through important changes to the benefit of the working masses and the people but maintained the structures of capitalism, the power of the oligarchy, the privileges of big business owners and bankers. We pointed out that the anti-imperialist positions were mainly verbal, since, in the main, the economic interests of the U.S. monopolies were left untouched. We further pointed out that the opening and development of economic and trade relations with China and Russia meant falling into a new dependency. Neither in Venezuela nor in any other country where “progressive governments” succeeded through elections have the overthrow of capitalism, the revolution and socialism taken place. Those responsibilities and tasks remain to be carried out.

In line with this analysis we stated: “We are with the advanced positions, against the establishment; we are with those who struggle, in opposition to political quiescence; we stand on the side of the people against imperialism; we are in the trenches of the workers against capitalist exploitation; we are with what is new and progressive against what is old, outdated and obscurantist; we are with the revolutionary traditions in opposition to the improvisation of the new paradigms; we are leftists and we fight against the right; we are revolutionaries and for people’s power, against capitalism and reaction.”1

The administrations of the various progressive governments in Latin America are mainly for economic development: in opposition to the neoliberal policies they have returned to the role of the state in the responsibilities for health care and education; in the context of an economic boom they advanced public works, highways, ports, airports, hydroelectric plants, hospitals and schools. They based the development of the economy on extraction of minerals and on raw materials. They certainly modernized their countries, the infrastructure and the rules for foreign investment. But clearly they did not carry out any structural reforms; the economic and legislative frameworks continue to have a capitalist character; they are marked by dependence on imperialism.

We point out that these governments were and are subjected, on the one side to the pressure of imperialism and reaction, and on the other side to the demands of the working masses and peoples, that the responsibility of the revolutionaries and communists was to strengthen popular pressure. For these reasons we supported these governments and their actions, we demanded the fulfillment of their campaign promises, and when they succumbed to the blackmail of the ruling classes and changed course, and showed that they were a new form of the capitalist class we reaffirmed our positions in the working class and the people and organized the popular opposition; that is how we have been fighting in Ecuador.

In the case of Venezuela there is a reformist process that seeks, timidly of course, to change the economic relations such as: the expropriation of some capitalist enterprises and the handing over of the management to the workers - in reality, in most cases to Chavista officials who bureaucratized them to the benefit of their personal or group interests; the land law that distributed property among the peasants; the proposal for “/ internal development” that tried to make use of natural resources, the riches of the soil and the fresh water for the industrialization of the country and for the production of food that was shelved soon after it started; the Organic Law of Public Planning and People’s Power which proclaims the right of the masses to organize in order to exercise their rights at all levels of the country, which has remained a goal and was bureaucratically revived in the so- called People’s Parliament.

These circumstances led to the qualitative difference of Venezuela compared to the other progressive governments. This is also the reason why we have always defended the Venezuelan process and condemned the “economic waf’ of the oligarchy and Yankee imperialism.

This is a reformist government that is based on the workers and the people which affects, to some extent, the interests of the ruling class and U.S. imperialism. It is a government that proclaims the “Bolivarian revolution” and “21st century socialism”; which counts on large economic resources, the largest oil reserves in the world, the high prices of hydrocarbons, iron and aluminum; which until December 6, 2015 counted on the electoral political support ofthe majority of Venezuelans, and between 2005 and 2010 with 167 of the 167 assembly members, that is, on material and political conditions that could have allowed it to defend itself from the onslaught of imperialism and reaction.

This reformism expresses, fundamentally, benefits for the working classes and people; but in no way does it mean liberation from the chains of wage slavery; it changes the habits and forms of government, but in no case does it lead to a government of the workers and the people, to people’s power. It cuts the benefits to the employers but basically leaves intact the perks and privileges of the capitalists. While this reformism materially favours the life of the working masses it does not fully resolve their problems and needs. Consequently it does not transform the poor into defenders of these positions, into political subjects and actors for their own interests. In the case of Venezuela, a good part of the Chavista voters were disappointed and turned their back on the process; they went over to the bourgeois opposition.

It is a government corroded by corruption, bureaucracy and the inability to use its human and material resources to deepen the process, a government that reaped what it sowed, the electoral rejection by a majority of the Venezuelan.

The Eighth Congress of PCMLE, held in November of 2014, stated: “In Venezuela a harsh battle is being waged between left and right, between patriots and sellouts, between reaction and revolutionary positions. Clearly, in Venezuela, the revolution has not taken place, despite the proclamations of Chavismo, it has not built socialism, but a patriotic, democratic and revolutionary process is taking place that is facing the fierce onslaught of reaction. The outcome of this confrontation cannot be predicted in the short term. In any case the workers, people and youth of Venezuela are learning to fight in the midst of struggles at a high level; they are understanding their role in the process of social transformation. The revolutionary party of the proletariat, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Venezuela has before it great challenges and responsibilities.”

The results of the elections of December 6, 2015 are the electoral political outcome of the confrontation between reformist and reactionary positions. In that contest numerous organizations and groups of the revolutionary left actively took part, and they did so consistently; they called for the defence of the social and materials gains of the workers, for a vote for the candidates of the PSUV They also pointed out the limitations and problems of the government and proposed breaking the institutional, ideological and political ties in order to begin a revolutionary solution to the economic and political crisis in Venezuela.

Clearly, the struggle continues. December 6 marked a turning point. Chavismo and Maduro were resoundingly defeated, but they have not been destroyed. It is necessary to analyze how events are developing.

One must recognize that the Venezuelan constitutional system is a presidential one, which means that although the bourgeois opposition has an absolute majority in the National Assembly, President Maduro has attributes and powers that allow him to run the government.

As a result of these powers, steps are being taken that should have been taken much earlier, such as the functioning of the “Communal Parliament” and a series of restrictions and measures that remain possibilities to the National Assembly. That is, institutional and legal obstacles.

So far there have been no responses to the crisis that continues to become sharper, to the scarcity and shortages of food, medicine and other essential items, to the insecurity; in fact this continues to be used as a platform for the offensive of the right, which now has an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

A good deal of the men and women of the left who are Chavistas, who are in the PSUV, are demanding corrections, a serious self-criticism and the recognition of mistakes; some point out the need to forcefully get to the root of the problems and change the actions and people, saying, “There have to be corrections, no matter who falls.”

The working masses and youth are unwilling to give up the social gains and will defend them, they will oppose the dismantling of those gains that the right is trying to do.

The leftist organizations and groups, the proletarian revolutionaries are calling for a rectification and deepening of the process, to make changes that will affect the interests of the capitalists for the benefit of the workers, for the strengthening of the trade unions, for the rooting out of the bureaucracy, for control and punishment of corruption and the corrupt.

The revolution and socialism are still objectives

The ideological and political confrontation that is taking place in Venezuela between the labouring classes, the people and the youth on the one hand and the ruling classes and imperialism on the other will continue, it will develop to new levels, to the fight for people’s power and socialism.

Chavismo’s proposals of the “Bolivarian revolution,” of “21st century socialism,” created illusions, they brought millions of people into the social and political mobilizations; they were expressed in significant social and material benefits. They revived the ideals of liberation and socialism in the minds of millions; but they did not resolve the basic problems of the working masses, the liberation of the country from imperialist dependence.

The levels of social and trade union organization, the degree of ideological and political mobilization of the masses and youth will enable the development of the struggle for people’s power and socialism, to the extent that revolutionary theory and the proletarian party take root and develop.

The ideological and political results of reformism and its failure will adversely affect this; hard work will be needed to overcome and transform this into the determination to continue the fight.

Chavismo played a historic role that cannot be denied, which should be evaluated correctly. It is and was an expression of discontent, of revolt of the Venezuelan people; a demonstration of the possibilities of promoting the process of change; the partial change affecting the economic interests of a sector of the bourgeoisie and U.S. imperialism; the establishment of a reference point for the popular struggle beyond national borders; the realization of an important step forward in the development of the workers and popular movement; the revival and development of various forms of the left, of the proletarian revolutionaries.

Chavismo, as seen from many sides, suffers from deficiencies and deviations: presenting itself as revolutionary and from in power it developed a compromise with the oligarchy and imperialism showed its conciliatory nature despite the radicalness of its forms. In fact, Chavismo did not and could not put forward the overthrow of capitalism and imperialism; it tried to sweeten them, to prettify them for the benefit of the workers. This situation is inherent in the reformist nature of their ideas and proposals. Hugo Chavez was an outstanding personality, the head and leader of the “Bolivarian revolution,” a consistent fighter for the conceptions and ideals that he took up. His role was important in the process; his early demise also had an impact, it played down its dynamism and authority, it weakened it.

The projection of the ideas of the “Bolivarian revolution” among the masses was not enough for its electoral support and even less for the militant defence of its achievements; however, they still dominate in the imagination; they were expressed in more than 5 million voters and could form a basis for their consolidation, for their conversion into revolutionary ideas, in the consciousness of their role as protagonists of the revolution and socialism.

The duty of revolutionaries is to clarify the limitations and responsibilities of reformism and its differences with the conceptions of the socialist revolution, at the same time to fight and expose the fallacies of Venezuelan reaction used by the bourgeoisie internationally in order to discredit and fight the revolutionary alternative and the forces of the left.

In Venezuela, as in all countries, the revolution is a question put forward for solution. The duty of the proletarian revolutionaries, of the Marxist-Leninist communists, is to continue the fulfillment of organizing and making the revolution.

Ecuador, January 2016


1. Pablo Miranda: “Latin America and the Social Revolution of the Proletariat,” Unity & Sruggle, Quito, 2007.

Click here to return to the April 2016 index.