The mood at the Miraflores presidential palace on Sunday night was
one of cautious waiting and one could even feel a slight nervousness in
the air as thousands of Bolivarians had gathered to hear the first
results of the country’s parliamentary elections.
stakes were very high in these elections. Several newspapers and news
agencies around the world had written that Venezuela was in fact
deciding not just on the composition of its parliament, but on the fate
of the march towards Socialism that the Chávez government has as its
Finally, at 2am in the morning, the results were proclaimed by the
National Director of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena. Although the first
bulletin of the CNE only gives a general picture and has not provided
detailed figures (there are still six seats where no winner has yet
been declared), it does allow us to make a balance-sheet and draw some
A very close result
According to PSUV and Opposition sources the PSUV and its allies,
the small PCV (Communist Party of Venezuela) and MEP (Peoples’
Electoral aMovement) won 98 seats, while the parties in the MUD
opposition alliance won 65 seats, the PPT 2 seats and 2 seats went to
indigenous independents. Official results still give 95 to the PSUV and
62 to the Opposition.
No figures for the absolute votes have come out yet. The right-wing
are claiming that they won a majority of 52% of the vote, and claim
that they were beaten by the system of constituencies, where they lost
in the majority of the cases.
However, that does not match with the result of the absolute votes
given for the elections to the Parlatino, the Latin-American
Parliament: PSUV and allies 5.222.364 (46.62%); right-wing opposition
5.054.111 (45.10%). It is quite possible that the overall result in the
parliamentary elections is close to these figures.
People in Caracas are in fact talking of a “technical draw” in terms
of the absolute number of votes cast, but due to the national
distribution of the constituencies the PSUV won the majority of the
If we examine the different states briefly, it is clear that the
revolution has lost terrain in a number of key regions. It was to be
expected that the Opposition would win in Zulia, where they have had
the governorship for many years, but few thought it would achieve such
a massive victory as the one we saw yesterday; whereas the opposition
won twelve seats, the PSUV only managed to capture three.
Another big surprise was the result in Anzoátegui, where the PSUV
suffered a humiliating defeat of 1 to 5, in spite of the fact that the
party holds the governorship and has a long record of electoral
victories in the state.
In Miranda state it was a draw between the PSUV and the MUD, each
taking six seats. In Nueva Esparta the PSUV was defeated 3 to 1. A
general trend was that the most populated centres of the country were
lost to the opposition, a feature we also saw back in 2008 in the
election of mayors and governors.
The victories of the PSUV in many constituencies were by small
margins. The official figures haven’t been released yet, but unofficial
reports provided by PSUV organisers indicate that Robert Serra in
Constituency 2 of Caracas only won by a margin of around 3,000 votes.
Aristúbulo Istúriz, also running in Caracas, won by a similar margin in
a very close race against the oppositionist in his constituency.
Why did the PSUV fail to win the 110 deputies?
situation after these elections is that the PSUV still holds on to a
simple majority, but it failed to win the 110 deputies which would have
given it a two-thirds majority. In the article we wrote on Sunday (The meaning of today’s elections in Venezuela)
we stressed that this was a key target from Chavez’s point of view,
because it would allow the government to continue legislating without
any interference from the Opposition, as it would provide him with the
majority required by the Constitution to pass organic laws.
As we emphasised, the Opposition would concentrate all their forces
on denying Chavez this two-thirds majority, because it would give them
the opportunity to block and hinder any new revolutionary initiatives.
Unfortunately they have achieved this, winning more than one third of
the seats in the new National Assembly.
The question on every PSUV member’s mind is of course, why the party
did not succeed in winning two-thirds of the parliament. Furthermore,
many people correctly fear that the Opposition is now organising in a
qualitatively different way.
While the difference between the revolution and counter-revolution
in terms of votes cast was 58% to 42% in the November 2008 elections of
mayors and governors, in the 2009 Constitutional Amendment referendum
it was reduced to 54% to 46%, and on Sunday the result was a “technical
In other words, it is clear that the Opposition has emerged
strengthened. Not to admit this would be a serious mistake, as it would
serve to divert attention from a danger which is getting very real. We
have to draw up an honest and critical balance-sheet of these
elections, if we are to avoid a defeat for the revolution in the future.
Why did the opposition gain terrain? We know that the level of
abstention was not as widespread as could have been feared. The
electoral participation amounted to around 67% which is a very good
turn-out for a parliamentary election in Venezuela, although it is a
little below the 70% turn-out in the 2009 referendum.
We still lack the information on abstentions in each constituency
but it is very likely, that the level of abstention was higher in the
chavista strongholds than in the petit-bourgeois and bourgeois areas.
We know for sure that the PSUV lost again in Petare, one of the poorest
neighbourhoods in Venezuela, if not Latin America. This is a serious
warning, that something is going very wrong.
Also it is likely, that some layers of traditional Chavez supporters
cast a “voto castigo”, i.e. they punished the PSUV bureaucracy for its
bad policies by voting for the Opposition. Not because they are
satisfied with the opposition, but because they are tired of the
inefficient and even corrupt character of many functionaries and
professional politicians within the ranks of the Bolivarian movement.
This is the main reason that explains the defeat in Anzoátegui. The
reason why the PSUV lost in such a disastrous manner in this state is
not hard to see. The governor, Tarek William Saab, who is
officially in office as a representative of the Socialist Party, has
been carrying out a policy which is very far from Socialism. He has
supported the bosses in the automobile sector, some of them
multinationals, in their struggle against the factory occupations in
Mitsubishi, Vivex, Macusa and other factories. That explains why the
working class of Anzoátegui showed very little enthusiasm in these
The same phenomenon was repeated in many places. To this should be
added the general problems facing Venezuela. These were the first
elections that Venezuelans have participated in since the outbreak of
the economic crisis affected Venezuela. Apart from the huge inflation
in the prices of food and consumer goods, which hits especially hard
the workers and poor, we have the ongoing problems of the black market
and the parallel dollar, which serve to boost speculation.
The government succeeded largely in avoiding food scarcity in the
run up to the elections by throwing millions of dollars into food
programmes. But as a recent article in The Economist
explained, this resulted in the government being short of dollars, and
many of the other credits and loans that had been agreed to middle
class families and small businesses were thus postponed.
Speculators made a business out of intensifying the black market,
where the dollars could be bought. This effectively dominates the
economy now, as many prices are regulated according to the black market
dollar rates, not the official Bolívar currency. Without a monopoly on
foreign trade, the government is unable to really tackle this problem.
Other problems such as the growing crime rate and the blackouts in
the electricity supply also weighed heavily on ordinary people. But
probably the most important thing is that people feel that after eleven
years of revolution and constant mobilisation, the main levers of power
are still in the hands of the oligarchy.
In spite of the many progressive reforms and the steps forward, the
landlords are still oppressing the poor peasants, the bankers still
control credit and the capitalists continue to exploit the workers. 70%
of Venezuela’s GDP is still produced in the private sector – a fact
which shows that Capitalism is still very much alive in Venezuela.
Reconciliation and pluralism?
On Monday morning most of the right-wing media in Venezuela were euphoric. “Venezuela is no longer red territory!” El Nacional
proclaimed on its front page. Referring to the government, opposition
leader Ramón Guillermo Avelado said that “those who argue for war and
national division were defeated today”. Furthermore he stated that the
result was a signal to the government that it should not legislate in a
unilateral socialist manner.
same theme has been repeated over and over again in all the opposition
media. Fully aware of the fact that the situation is still not
favourable for a direct onslaught against the revolution, they portray
themselves as defenders of “reconciliation between the two blocks”.
Thus Conindustria, the industrial bosses’ federation, issued a
statement (Industriales venezolanos consideran que es el momento de tender puentes en el país) saying that they think it is time to “build bridges of dialogue” which would “build a climate that allows private initiative”.
Several opposition spokesmen also argued that yesterday’s result
show the “desire for a pluralist parliament”. These ladies and
gentlemen conveniently forget that it was the opposition itself that
chose to boycott the 2005 parliamentary elections. They did this
because at bottom they are the same corrupt, violent representatives of
the oligarchy who tried to oust Chavez in the illegal military coup of
These people are now arguing for a parliamentary etiquette that
seeks “dialogue and compromise”, “reconciliation” and so on. They
appeal to the government not to use its majority in a “unilateral
socialist way”. But what does this mean? In reality it amounts to the
following: the majority should bend to the will of the minority!
Parliament should be suspended in mid-air, in order not to disturb the
This will probably find an echo in the reformist wing of the PSUV
bureaucracy, which will be eager to slow down the pace of the
revolution. If we were to follow such a policy, it would surely be a
recipe for disaster. It would signify a paralysed government, unable to
address any of the urgent problems facing the workers and the poor.
What is needed is not more moderation and empty talk. What is needed
is action! The PSUV is still has the majority in parliament. It could
approve an Enabling Act, giving the president the power to carry out
the necessary measures to abolish Capitalism once and for all. This is
the real way forward and it should be the demand raised in the PSUV by
all revolutionary workers, poor peasants and students.
Is the revolution irreversible?
These results have been a shock to many activists in the Bolivarian
movement. In the past it seemed that Chavez and the Bolivarian
Revolution were riding on a wave of immortality. They would win
elections over and over again, the only exception being the 2007
referendum. But now, after these elections with a “technical draw” in
the overall vote, many people are asking themselves the obvious
question: Is the revolution irreversible?
A true friend of the Bolivarian revolution is not one who gives long
speeches about the wonders of Venezuela and its leaders. A genuine
comrade of the revolution is he who dares to warn its supporters about
the real dangers implicit in the situation.
Venezuela’s revolution is far from irreversible. Latin America has seen many revolutions in the 20th
century, Bolivia 1952, Chile 1970-73, Argentina 1969 and 1973-76, and
so on. Nicaragua’s Sandinista revolution even lasted for eleven years,
from 1979-1990. But in the end all of these revolutions were defeated
and very little, if anything, is left today of the social conquests
that they once had achieved.
The main reason why the Venezuelan revolution is still not
irreversible is that the main levers of the economy remain in the hands
of the capitalists and landowners. This is a powerful weapon that the
enemies of the revolution can use as they please against the revolution.
So long as capitalism is maintained, the effects of the world crisis
will affect the everyday life of the workers and poor of Venezuela.
They suffer inflation, lay-offs, speculation and so on. This will
continue, and probably get worse, as long as the means of production
are in private hands.
How to stop the advance of the counter-revolution
The need to complete the revolution is more urgent than ever.
Incredibly, after more than ten years of revolution, the situation
still remains favourable. Chavez could still use his majority in
Parliament to take over the biggest companies, in the food and
supermarket sector, the banks and the industries that remain in private
This could be accompanied by a state monopoly of foreign trade,
allowing Venezuela to get full control over the country’s economy.
Furthermore, a decree introducing workers’ control throughout the state
sector would surely be met with an enthusiastic response and the
workers would set up factory committees in all the enterprises, as we
saw in an embryonic form in SIDOR and the other Basic Industries of
A development along these lines would quickly allow the government
to seriously tackle the problems of inflation, speculation,
insufficient housing, food hoarding, and inadequate infrastructure. A
radical agrarian reform could be introduced which would abolish the
dominance of the latifundia in the countryside and give land
to the peasants. Control of credit on a large scale would enable the
state to give cheap loans to small farmers and incentives to
agricultural production, thus bringing an end to the absurd mass
importation of food products.
These demands must be raised inside the PSUV and also within the UNT
trade union confederation. After these elections an increasing number
of rank and file members of the Bolivarian movement will begin to ask
themselves many questions. They will come closer and closer to the same
conclusions as the Marxists. It is the duty of the Marxists to give
this mood an organised expression.
One thing is absolutely certain: the Bolivarian Revolution will
triumph as a socialist revolution, or it will not triumph at all.