Continuity: with 50.75% of the votes, Nicolás Maduro was elected President. In 14 years, it is the sixth election to the presidency that carries the revolutionary proposal to victory. Despite the magnitude of an unprecedented mass mobilization in defense of the revolution, the opposition rose to 48,98%, five points higher than the same candidate’s outcome in October. The difference is a warning that the President acknowledged in his speech following the announcement of the National Electoral Council (CNE). Now comes the implementation of the Plan for the Homeland, the enormous economic challenges of transition in times of capitalism’s agony, the struggle against inefficiency, sabotage and insecurity, the defense of the regional union, the consolidation and projection of Alba (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas). All this within the opposition’s offensive and an emboldened imperialism. But the real result of strategic significance is the role of the masses in a campaign that counter posed explicitly and directly the «labor candidate» against the “little bourgeois one;» the son of Chávez against the imperialism’s delegate, socialism against capitalism.
It was the longest and biggest mobilization in memory. It started in every corner of the country in December, when due to the risks posed by a fourth surgery, Hugo Chávez designated Nicolás Maduro as the candidate for the possible new presidential election. And culminated for the anniversary of the 2002 coup on Thursday April 11, with Caracas overwhelmed by an unprecedented human flood. Before that, with a different characteristic, Venezuela went through a similar mass mobilization for the October 7 presidential election.
As on April 14, 11 years ago, Chávez — embodied in the figure of Nicolás Maduro — returned to the Presidential Palace of Miraflores. Unlike that symbolic date in which the masses arose spontaneously to defeated the coup remote-controlled from Washington, this time an explicit strategy of transition to socialism won, it was the organized consciousness in an electoral struggle: 50.66% for Chávez’s candidate; 49.07% for the White House’s and local bourgeoisie’s candidate. It is a result that takes on another dimension considering that it comes after 14 years of a revolutionary government in constant confrontation with the bourgeoisie and the capitalist centers of world power. With the passage of time we will know details of the number of sabotages to power grids, the maneuvers to impose food shortages and cost of living, and the activity of undercover foreign mercenaries that acted in favor of the right’s candidate.
Nevertheless, the formidable mass mobilization succeeded in imposing the candidate of the Revolution. It did not happen by simple spontaneity; the masses would have won the street under any circumstances: it was the action and determination of the Political-Military leadership of the Bolivarian Socialist Revolution, that translated into a favorable outcome: working class, peasants, students, masses, armed forces, with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) as the center and leader, led by the team closest to Chávez: presidential candidate Nicolás Maduro, Diosdado Cabello from the directorate of the PSUV and the National Assembly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Elias Jaua and Rafael Ramírez, President of the Venezuelan Petroleum Co. (PdVSA) and key figure in the finely-tuned Chávez core.
Also part of the political-military committee are ministers and military leaders, tested and committed cadres of the PSUV, Community Councils, union leaders and other social organizations, all united around the Homeland Plan and the figure of Maduro.
Advocacy of the masses
It is impossible to quantify the mass eruption of these 120 days. Hopefully someone will work on a rigorous survey about the many rallies, marches and acts of this period (between April 2 & 11, Maduro attracted 7 million). Millions upon millions of people took to the political stage to defend Chávez after his last surgical intervention, to mourn his death, lift his legacy and ensure continuity of the Revolution, from the March 5 onwards.
That prodigious mobilization is not reflected in the votes. Until late, the author of these lines expected a significantly greater difference. Local consultants’ polls had similar forecasts – even the official report of the CIA. They all ensured Maduro’s victory with an advantage of over 10% of the votes. In light of the results, a hidden discontent is revealed that, with Chávez’s absence, was demonstrated with a slight decrease in turnout (79.8% against 80.67% in October), and a significant vote crossover to the opposition candidate.
The right itself was surprised with the result and had no adequate reactions to the new situation open to them. In his speech at midnight on Sunday the 14th, on a mounted platform in Miraflores and in front of thousands of people in and out of the Palace, Maduro said that the losing candidate had called him to ask for delegates from both sides to negotiate an agreement with the National Electoral Council. The threat was to ignore the official data and launch a mobilization. The President rejected the claim and the defeated candidate finally announced that he considered the results of the CNE as temporary, while ordering street protests. When this article was finished, the protests were reduced to small pockets in neighborhoods of the oligarchy.
Then Maduro reiterated the points made during his campaign, the factors that resulted in the loss of votes. Days ago these were admitted as serious problems in the march of the revolutionary government, now they explain the countless attacks and constant power outages, insecurity, inefficiencies, pockets of corruption, inflation, shortages and incompetence to combat food shortages and the cost of living. These confirmed that the solution was to strengthen the Revolution, for a greater role and power by the Community Councils and, ultimately, a more radical advance toward «building a Bolivarian, Christian, Chavista socialism, in democracy and in peace.»
It is important to note that in the very short time stipulated by the Constitution for the election after the death of Chávez, the government could not respond with a firm hand to pre-election tactics such as sabotage and shortages and other destabilizing actions. That would have been an excuse for worldwide condemnation, the justification for the withdrawal of the opposition candidate and preparing the ground for a violent offensive articulated by Washington.
In the week prior to the election, groups of students were sent to violently protest at military installations. They were obviously seeking to provoke bloody confrontations to be blamed on the authorities.
Thus, the government had to move within very narrow space, while the opposition would get the benefits in either their actions or in the government’s reaction. In any case, to be effective, the authority’s actions required to stop the violent protests could not be superficial nor merely rhetorical. It is obvious that in addition to these factors, the results were significantly influenced by Chávez’s absence.
One hypothesis to be corroborated with specific studies indicates that the bulk of the votes that migrated to the counterrevolutionary candidate came from the middle class. Again, the traditional political flip-flopping of the petty bourgeoisie came to demonstrate and teach a lesson to the revolutionary forces. However, this cannot tarnish nor diminish the huge challenge of replacing — socially and politically — a figure of Chávez’s stature in just one month and 10 days of effective campaigning.
Even before the election period formally started on April 2, Nicolás Maduro had weathered the toughest test: the people recognized him as the son of Chávez. Gone are empty speculations engaged in pointing out the «lack of charisma» of the unexpected candidate. It seems that the bourgeois thought cannot understand the reality and can only repeat stereotypes. If it is certainly true that Chávez’s traits helped the majority of Venezuelans to assume a revolutionary and socialist perspective, it is also clear that without this perspective those traits could not have stood the test of time. Just as obvious is the fact that Maduro’s identification with the socialist strategy paved the way and in a dramatic timeline, endowed the disciple with the characteristics of the master Chávez, that up until now were invisible in Maduro.
There was, as expected, resistance and resentment in the middle class of society and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to willingly accept the final strategic decision of the Comandante. But Maduro managed to communicate with the masses of workers and dispossessed; he vigorously promoted the Plan of the Homeland (which he called «Chávez’s Testament»); maintained the symbols; gained supporters and affirmed the socialist path. And when he began the journey «from Barinas to Miraflores» on the morning of April 2, the battle was already decided. However, what came in the next nine days astonished even the most optimistic connoisseurs of the grass-roots Revolution: in a poignant mix of sadness, pain, joy and combativeness, streams of men and women joined the slogan «Chávez, I swear to you, my vote is for Maduro.”
Chávez, Revolution, Socialism, Homeland, were the most repeated words these days. Shouted by millions, put into dozens of songs of all styles, and again acknowledged by Maduro in each of the 25 campaign events. An overwhelming synergy among millions of wills expressed loudly and the candidate ensured the determination to fight and the certainty in the continuity of the anti-capitalist transition.
Clear objectives, unparalleled energy, a determined and organized vanguard plus the unique traits of this exceptional people, was the mortar with which the collective spirit was recomposed after the severe blow caused by the death of Chávez. That force in action, rooted in the masses, cornered the bourgeoisie and defeated their candidate once again.
From Sabaneta to Miraflores
The starting point of the last stretch of this electoral campaign, was a humble house in Sabaneta de Barinas, where Chávez lived his childhood and adolescence with his beloved grandmother Rosa Inés. That place, now a historic landmark, is PSUV’s headquarters. In the large backyard, two trees planted years ago by Evo Morales and Hugo Chávez grow. They named them Rebellion and Revolution respectively, as if another symbol to both proletarian background principles was needed. Under their shadows, Maduro gathered parents and siblings of the Comandante to a round of anecdotes and remembrances. On the verge of tears, such a firmness of purpose made no slogans nor elaborated phrases necessary. It was crushing and yet genuinely invigorating emotions, no feigned mourning, culminating in music and songs from the plains, a constant combination that characterized every rally to come.
Outside, thousands of men and women, exuding strength, conviction, and a stunning clarity of purpose gathered. But that burst of fervor was nothing compared to what came next: on the road between Sabaneta and the capital Barinas, when Maduro drove in a simple open-top vehicle first and a public bus later.
The bourgeoisie tried to discredit Chávez’s candidate remembering his past as a bus driver at the Caracas’ subway company. Far from being intimidated, Maduro claimed proudly his working class background and made it his campaign image: a worker against a «little bourgeois whim [of Capriles].» He arrived to every rally driving a bus and often drove hundreds of miles between each State capital.
The attempt to disqualify him became the opposite: it gave the campaign an unequivocal class content and to Maduro, an opportunity to show his grassroots upbringing and to broaden his popularity. This writer knows what he’s talking about when he says that Maduro is a veteran driver. His many years on this profession are revealed when he sits behind the wheel and drives, while talking to the passengers and greeting the escorting flock of motorcycles and the crowds piled up on both sides of the road.
That experience is a book full of mysteries and revelations. The bikes loaded with parents and one or two children intersect like bees slowing down or speeding up to approach the bus. Red berets and Venezuela’s flag abound. Chávez’s photos hoisted from the bikes as spears pointed at an imaginary interlocutor.
What invisible force moves these people? Where does that fervor comes from? The outstanding religiosity of these people stands out; a feature which is at once a powerful force in the anti-capitalist struggle and yet also flank for penetration, which the enemy has already devised a strategy for. But there is more. They have seen a horizon of emancipation.
Adán Chávez, governor of Barinas and brother of the Comandante, analyzes the event with a sad smile. The question everybody asks is how there are no accidents. But like a swarm, each bee has an invisible sensor which allows them to intersect, buzzing between thousands without even touching anyone. In this apparent irrationality there is intelligence and order.
What comes next is even more astonishing: A motley crowd waiting for the bus near the place where the rally is. Jumping, dancing, shouting slogans, always accompanied by smiles and flying flags. From there the symbiosis between mass and candidate goes to a major key. The furor seems to be contagious and spreads like flame. From balconies and roofs, perched in trees and columns, thousands of men and women of all ages want to say hello, touch, give him a message, deliver a message to Chávez’s son. And always resonates, repeated with ardor, the name of the deceased Comandante.
Behold the Revolution engine, the infinite energy of the masses inspired by the idea of a better world, waving red flags and reaffirming socialism. «Ideas are a material strength when they penetrate the masses.» Mature ceaselessly greets pounding his left fist into his open right palm; a characteristic Chávez gesture that the people assumed as its own and uses to convey unequivocally a political proposal.
Invisible, the PSUV’s oiled machinery acts as an organizational guide in what the poet Herbert Read called «higher order of a vast upheaval». The political leaders in Europe and Latin America are confronting the capitalist crisis without the historical legacy of the class struggle, the notion of a revolutionary party. Would they learn these lessons?
The present situation prevails and shortens the time for reflection: the candidate steps up to the stage with all his companions. And the great test begins. From a recording: the hymn sung by Chávez as he always did in his rallies. Everyone ripples with excitement. The Comandante is present and Maduro does not try to hide this fact, quite the opposite, he stands as a humble and loyal disciple.
A video is shown where Chávez announces that «if something happens to me», the candidate is Maduro. «That’s why I’m here,» says the candidate. Then he takes the flag that the Comandante gave to him. Because of his legacy and the Homeland Plan – the program with which he won the elections last October 7 – Chávez still in command of the Revolution.
Maduro spends long minutes searching the invisible contact between the speaker and the masses in which each component feels and acts as an individual. Finally the time comes and the contact’s tune is affirmed. Then Maduro displays the government program. An explosion of endorsement is ignited. Done: Barinas, Chávez’s birthplace, has acknowledged and accepted his son.
The official channel accompanies the candidate. And, presumably TV combines inequalities.
However, what is certain is that already in the second phase of the campaign, hours afterwards in Maracaibo, capital of Zulia state, key in the nation, the point of reference is what happened in Barinas and the candidate is now established. From there with each act is a growing quantitative and qualitative expression on both sides: above and below the stage. Maduro applies all the resources utilized by Chávez to make his speech simple and friendly, but he doesn’t copy the maestro. He introduces variants that some like and others don’t, but it always impacts those who are up close.
With an average of three events a day, followed with long marches among the multitudes in each case and then hours of talks, exchange with the crowds, more music and, each time with singing as the climax. It almost seems impossible that the energy of the masses and above the strength and voice of the candidate can keep on going. But they do.
As what happened with Chávez in October, each event brings larger crowds and more fervent combativeness. With a difference: although it is impossible to measure it precisely, the observer is convinced that these acts are bringing out the multitudes and that the revolutionary determination is even greater. It is not illogical: one of the most repeated slogans of the Comandante was when he explained that “We are all Chávez.” It is obvious that the idea penetrated among the masses. Millions of people realize that in the absence of the revolutionary leader, his role is crucial. And it fits with Maduro’s attitude, who facing the opposition’s claim that he is not Chávez, agrees that the deceased leader is irreplaceable and only together, the people in its entirety — the leadership of the party, the mass organizations and the Armed Forces — can take his place and carry the Revolution forward.
The apothesis came Thursday the 11th, in Caracas. Millions of people packed seven central avenues. The aerial shots prove it is not an exaggeration. But the direct experience in the streets tells a different story beyond the numbers: the organized contingents were complemented by spontaneous crowds to affirm the continuity of the revolution. When enormous screens showed the image of Chávez in that same place, October 4, in the rain, with his strident voice and even stronger concepts, an irrepressible emotion broke over the boundless crowd.
The contrast with the opposition gatherings could not be greater, doubly sparse: in their closing rally in Caracas four days before, it filled barely two blocks and a half of Bolívar Avenue with apathetic and thin lines that began to break up at the very moment that the ultra-right candidate began his speech. Some of the events in other states were even weaker.
We can presume that his more reactionary sectors will move toward an open break with the institutional regime, especially if, as Maduro stated in his speech as elected president, the Revolution’s forces move to renew, correct errors, energize and achieve their objective, to recover a new and more solid, broad majority. Because of all this, it is erroneous to characterize what has occurred in the last few days as an “electoral campaign.”
What we have is an eruption of the masses in an attitude of combat to defend and push the Revolution forward, understanding that Chávez himself was preparing for his third government an acceleration that would be capable of sweeping away all the obstacles that hold back and divert away from the transition to socialism. Four months crowned by nine days that moved Venezuela mark a strategic victory of the Revolution.
A residual balance remains as the sum of deforming habits, ideas and behavior characteristic to any essentially bourgeois election campaign.
Definitions and perspectives
In perfect tune with this collective affirmation, during the campaign events Maduro repeated his commitment with the Plan of the Homeland and his speeches produced a polarization that only Chávez knew how to do. “There are two models — he repeated time and again: Homeland or treason; there are two systems: neoliberal capitalism or Bolivarian, Christian and Chavista socialism; there are two candidates: one, the son of the bourgeoisie and the other a worker, a man of the people, formed by Chávez, son of Chávez.”
Against that dynamic — proposals were teeming from reformist sectors inside and outside of the Patriotic Pole and the State apparatus, for changing that radicalism starting the 15th. Sinister and protagonist interpretations about the current and future economic difficulties, are defending the idea of a strategic step backwards, negotiations with bourgeois circles and the abandonment of the perspective of radicalization in the transformation of the productive apparatus, such as is called for in the Plan of the Homeland.
It is highly improbable that the political-military leadership of the Revolution would opt for such a solution.
Regardless of conjectures about the behavior of these men and women who have sworn to give their lives for the revolution and legacy of Chavez, the final power of the masses is in the streets. It is not realistic to assume that after this workers’ and people’s epic, the protagonists will return to their homes to hear how 80% of television stations, 90% of the national newspapers and 90% of radio stations in the hands of the bourgeois opposition attack the Revolution, while in the feverish dreams of the reformists, the government led by Maduro makes concessions to those whom he defeated in the streets and at the polls, despite of the extreme resources used by the opposition .
There is no political willingness nor historical space to go backwards. The Bolivarian Socialist Revolution has won another great battle in the polls, but above all in the articulation and motion of the social and political forces committed to the transition to socialism. Regarding the risks that are posed by the electoral gain of the ultra-right, as Chávez would repeat in quoting Trotsky, “sometimes the revolution needs the whip of the counterrevolution.” This is one of those cases.
The intelligent and effective counter-attack that circumstantially diminished the relationship of forces of the government on the electoral plane compels the Political-Military Revolutionary Directorate to assert where it is strong and improve, as Maduro anticipated, the revolutionary gains. That means making the confrontation with the bourgeoisie and imperialism more direct and efficient. The bourgeoisie and the imperialist will not relent in its counterrevolutionary efforts. In turn, the popular power unleashed since December will oblige — and at the same time permit — the government to take all the necessary steps for effective action, the only way to strengthen its relationship with the masses.
At that point the strategic value of the PSUV will resurge, not limited to the role of a electoral machine, but as a living organism within the working class in all its strata, capable of affirming the conscience and extend the organizations of these majorities, articulated with the other classes and sectors committed to the transition.
They will be a rare exception, the principle cadres who do not understand these demands of the moment. The same team that was able to overcome the death of Chavez, promote and give direction to the mass mobilizations, will know how to improve itself to face this new stage.
Venezuela will continue to lead the Latin American-Caribbean-antiimperialist course. It remains to be seen whether the peoples and their vanguard will assimilate in time the legacy of Chavez and this new lesson of Bolivarian Socialist Revolution.
From Caracas, April 15, 2013
Traducción: Jacqueline Reinel, Fernando Torres
Armed Forces and revolution
Propagandists of capital, infiltrators and opportunistic charlatans rejoiced announcing that the death of Hugo Chavez would mean the disintegration of PSUV and its frontal collision with the Armed Forces.
Before the new government has begun its term, the facts expose the ignorance — and hidden objectives — of these agents of confusion:
How otherwise could such organization, the tremendous mobilization of the masses, be possible without the political-military leadership that is unified by a strategy, a plan of action and a common commitment?
How do they explain the fatal blow to the conspiracy in the hours before the election, the impeccable and implacable deployment of the Armed Forces during the Plan of the Republic, which guaranteed the election?
Of course there are tendencies in the PSUV. Of course there are differing grades of acceptance of the revolutionary strategy within the Armed Forces. Of course, by definition, one can assume the existence of weak elements and even traitors in any organization that involves hundreds of thousands and millions of people.
But ideological plurality and political differentiation is a conceptually agreed-upon characteristic since the founding of the PSUV. And the iron hand of the high-command and cadre structure of the Armed Forces is keeping an eye on any who would try a means of destabilization.
The heralds of gloom, undercover agents, usual speakers, must seek new arguments.
In the White House the counterrevolution continues
On the morning of Thursday, April11, three days before the elections, the authorities discovered and detained mercenaries of Colombian origin, dressed in Venezuelan military uniforms and on the verge of activating a terrorist plan. Before that, 30 people were caught in the act of carrying out various actions to sabotage electrical plants and high-tension wires. In previous weeks there were electrical blackouts in different parts of the country due to the acts of sabotage.
Also in the days before the elections, a group of 30 youths violently entered the La Carlota air base in Caracas, when they overwhelmed the four officers guarding the entrance. Similar instances occurred in other military units of the country; in all of them the military forces worked to avoid a direct confrontation and to prevent any wounded or deaths, which was precisely the objective sought by the promoters of these attacks.
Then, two commando groups from El Salvador were detected by the intelligence services, which detained three of the members and continued searching for the rest in the hours before the election. In turn, on Thursday evening the 11th, a worker was assassinated by a bullet at the entrance to PdVSA, where he was shooting fireworks to celebrate the marvelous concentration of the seven avenues in downtown Caracas.
In a morning press conference on April 12, Vice President Jorge Arreaza, accompanied by Interior Minister Néstor Reverol and Defense Minister Diego Molero, confirmed this information. He emphasized that the operations of pursuit and capture were continuing and more precise information could not be given until it was completed.
“We will be resolute against those who try to deny the will of the Venezuelan people,” declared Arreaza. Meanwhile, the candidate of the rightwing refused to sign a commitment to recognize the results that the National Electoral Council was to issue in the evening of the 14th.
These are all facts that confirm the constant destabilizing actions of the opposition and their followers, actions that have been limited because of the constant alert of the masses and silent and efficient action of the Armed Forces and their secret research organizations.
Elections and revolution
Citizen participation in the election of authorities and genuine democracy are inseparable. But as they are known in the bourgeois societies, the elections are far from being an exercise in democracy.
In the difficult transition from capitalism to socialism in Venezuela, the elections are at once a means of participation by the masses, and at the same time a source of deformation of every type for the voters and candidates, which becomes an open manipulation in the case of the bourgeois representative.
On the one hand, the pressure of constant elections presumes more participation, more advocacy and the possibility of educating and organizing the great majority. On the other hand, the same phenomenon tends to convert many a leader into just a candidate and the candidate into a product for sale; the product on sale becomes a commodity and the commodity an object of publicity, where anything that takes away votes is considered harmful, and everything that draws support is considered laudable. Truth is the first victim of this perverse logic.
Thus the “advisors” proliferate, a kind of marketing manager who will capture the candidate and the citizenry that he leads. Ideas are prohibited: There is only room for sound bites that say the least possible. The capitalist techniques of capitalist focused on political action work like lethal poison against one’s intelligence, and even against genuine participation. From then on, successful advisors and massive publicity mean money, a lot of money, and therefore whoever has the most money becomes the best candidate (which does not mean a better leader).
Indeed, a nonviolent transition has to live with this dual, harmful phenomenon, and it’s just as well: the opposite is war. And the people, the genuine vanguard, resorts to violence only when the enemy leaves them no other way. That is, among many others, an extraordinary lesson of Commander Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution. And a possibility only in extraordinary circumstances, due to the uniqueness of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces.
Nevertheless, to uncritically glorify the elections of this type is the sure way towards committing errors and deviations that could potentially be very costly. Overturning the capitalist system also means overturning the elections as they are conducted in the bourgeois regimes.