The victory of Nicolas Maduro in the Venezuelan presidential elections on April 14 is being celebrated by Venezuelan state media as a great triumph for the Bolivarian revolution. While Venezuela’s Chavistas have every reason to celebrate their important victory, serious questions and problems remain. All the polls before this election suggested a comfortable victory for the incumbent president, yet the opposition managed to get 49,07 percent of the vote.
Henrique Capriles Rodonski, the meretricious front man for the Washington-backed Venezuelan oligarchy, has claimed that the election results do not truly represent the interests of the Venezuelan people. Capriles is correct. There is no possible way a corrupt gang of corporate cronies represented by Capriles, a discredited cabal of latifundistas and social parasites, could truly represent the interests of over 49 percent of the Venezuelan people. In this sense, then, the election poses serious problems for the Bolivarian process of national liberation and democracy.
The problem is this: 14 years of national democratic revolution under Chavez leadership laid the foundation for the construction of a socialist society. The national democratic reforms of the Bolivarian government involved:
1. Poverty: Significant redistribution of national oil wealth to the country’s poor, reducing extreme poverty by over 60 percent.
2. Education: A mass literacy campaign under the auspices of Mision Robinson, Mision Ribas and Mision Sucre which have transformed Venezuela into a fully literate country with the highest literacy rate in the Caribean and Latin America of 95.2 %. Unesco has ranked Venezuela fifth in the world and second in Latin America in terms of university matriculation, which is currently at 83%. The construction of new schools and universities under Chavez’s reign says much about the man’s obsession with learning and intellectual inquiry: The Bolivarian University of Venezuela (2003); Indigenous University of Venezuela,(2000), The Maritime University of the Caribbean (2000); the Southern University of Lago Jesus Maria Semprum (2000); the Experimental Security University(2009) and finally the initiative announced by Chavez in his letter written to the Third Afro-Latin American summit in Equatorial Guinea on February 2013 to form a Southern Hemisphere People’s University to educate and train a new generation of Latin American and African revolutionaries for the purposes of constructing a new, multi-polar and more just world.
3. Housing: The social housing scheme Mision Casa Vivienda, which received received major investments from Belarus, Russia, Iran and China.
4. Socialist restaurants where wholesome meals are offered at highly affordable prices in clean, well staffed premises.
5. Food programmes: Subsidized Mercal supermarkets where citizens can read their democratic rights on the packaging of food products sold at affordable prices.
6. Media: Progressive popular media outlets, which have enabled a degree of liberty of expression that exists in no other country in the world today.
7. Economy: Industrialization and technologization represented by the construction of the country’s first tractor manufacturing plant, the launch of the country’s first satellite in 2008 as well as scientific and technological transfer with partners in Iran and Belarus in particular.
8. Health: The construction of a full universal free health care system with extensive help and advice from Cuban doctors and consultants.
9. Foreign Policy: A multi-vectored foreign policy that promotes Latin American integration while opening up new bilateral trade agreements with countries not subsumed to US/EU hegemony such as Belarus, Iran, China, Russia, Libya, Syria and Cuba; Latin American/African integration to coincide with Latin American integration under Bolivarian Alliance, Unisur and Mercosur.
10. Security: The reform and purge of all national defense and domestic security forces, with new training facilities and courses teaching security personnel the values of the democratic revolution and the respect for human rights and dignity.
(a) This long and difficult process resulted in the formation of the Policia National Bolivariana in 2009, a highly trained and well-paid police force who have reduced crime by 60 percent in areas where they have operated;
(b) The establishment of the Experimental Security University for the purpose of training police and security personnel;
(c) The formation of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, SEBIN Servicio Bolivariano de Intelligencia National to replace the old, corrupt and discredited DISIP, Direction National de Los Servicios de Intelligensia y Prevencion; and,
(d) The formation of Peasant Militias in 2010 to protect peasants from paramilitaries in the service of landlords and rich farmers. The reforms in Venezuela’s security apparatus have proved to be effective in protecting the country from US destabilization strategies, as evinced by the expulsion of US Air Force officials from Caracas after Chavez death on March 5th after they were accused of attempting to foment a coup.
11. Agriculture: Making Venezuela self-sufficient in food production has been one of the central ambitions of the Bolivarian Revolution. Since 1999, Venezuela has increased agricultural production by 44% reaching 80 % self-sufficiency in 2012. The country aims to complete the revolution in food sufficiency in the next few years. There has been massive state investment in irrigation, agricultural machinery, and agricultural science. ‘Mision Vuelan Caras’ Mission Changing Face, has trained 650,000 people in agricultural science and the formation of collectives, which have risen by 18% since 2004.
These achievements are of enormous importance. The Chavez years transformed Venezuela into an independent nation and a significant emergent power in the world. Chavez raised the prestige of the nation and the dignity of the people, in particular the working class and the campesinos. He laid the basis for the total seizure of power by these classes.
But Venezuela still remains a capitalist country. Rich and poor classes still remain, the national economy is still run on the basis of commodity production and profit seized from the extraction of surplus value from labour, and the vulture capitalists Henrique Capriles Rodonsky represents are still capable of seizing power through the bourgeois electoral process.
Political parties represent social classes. Historically, political parties are a result of the bourgeois revolutions in 17th and 18th century England, America and France. In order to construct socialism a class representing the end of class domination is required as it is the only political organization that can lead the people to this goal. It is now time for Venezuelans to work towards dismantling the last vestiges of the bourgeois state, removing political parties from the functions of the state and inaugurating direct, participative democracy, through the collective ownership and democratic administration of the means of production.
The foundations of this process were laid during the Chavez years with mass, paticipative democracy initiatives within the confines of capitalist relations of production, but one giant leap remains to be taken to bring the masses toward socialism. The construction of socialism will require the direct seizure of control over the means of producton by the workers and campesinos and the replacement of commodity production for the domestic economy by product exchange. However, socialism in one country would still require the maintenance of captialist relations with other bourgeois democracies.
Although the state has played a constructive role in the service of the people, oligarchs and crony capitalists still control much of the economy. They are not only part of the opposition, they have also infiltrated the organs of the PSUV party and Bolivarian state, corrupting and attempting to wreck it from within. Opportunism and corruption are major challenges facing the administration of Nicolas Maduro. In spite of the setting up of Telesur, Radio del Sur, Radio Mundial and many other popular press agencies, private corporations still control much of the mainstream media sphere, corrupting the minds of the public with lies and pro-capitalist propaganda. US government financing of phony opposition media outlets and so-called ‘civil society’ projects, through the National Endowment for Democracy, the Office of Transition Initiatives and other US government agencies may have failed to reverse the national democratic revolution but the fact that an obnoxious US puppet like Henrique Capriles could attain 49.7 percent of the national vote suggests that bourgeois and petit-bourgois ideology holds sway over a large percentage of the population.
Contrary to Western claims to the contrary, the first thing one notices when one arrives in Venezuela is the wide circulation of opposition media from oligarchs in Venezuela, Colombia and the United States. While this may serve to prove that there is total ‘freedom ‘of expression in Venezuela, it also poses the paradoxical problem of class hegemony. These papers are written according to the corporate interests of their owners. This is not simply an opinion. It is an objective scientific fact. As such, this allows a minority class to manipulate public opinion in accordance with its own class interests.
On a class basis, Capriles represents less that 1 percent of the population. Yet, his phony promises of change and prosperity with a return to the failed policies of neo-liberalism managed to get over 49.7 percent of the vote. Maduro should have won the election by a much wider margin. The fact that he didn’t should serve as a warning to the Chavista base in the country to use the next 5 years to move more aggressively towards socialism. The basis of a national welfare-state or state-capitalist economy with strong social features has been laid by Hugo Chavez. However, socialism means the dictatorship of the proletariat and Venezuela is still run on the basis of bourgeois and petit-bourgois interests.
In his book Anti-Duhring Frederich Engels describes the nature of the state thus:
The proletariat seizes from state power and turns the means of production into state property to begin with. But thereby it abolishes itself as the proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, and abolishes also the state as state. Society thus far, operating amid class antagonisms, needed the state, that is, an organization of the particular exploiting class, for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, and, therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited class in the conditions of oppression determined by the given mode of production (slavery, serfdom or bondage, wage-labor). The state was the official representative of society as a whole, its concentration in a visible corporation. But it was this only insofar as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for its own time, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, of the feudal nobility; in our own time, of the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection, as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon the present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from this struggle, are removed, nothing more remains to be held in subjection — nothing necessitating a special coercive force, a state. The first act by which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — is also its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies down of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not ‘abolished’. It withers away. This gives the measure of the value of the phrase ‘a free people’s state’, both as to its justifiable use for a long time from an agitational point of view, and as to its ultimate scientific insufficiency; and also of the so-called anarchists’ demand that the state be abolished overnight.
The process described above has not yet happened in Venezuela. The Bolivarian Revolution established the principles of national sovereignty, people’s power and dignity. The process of nationalization undertaken by the Chavez administration went a long way towards achieving these goals. But this process has created a huge state bureaucracy which has attracted opportunists and ‘officials’ like flies to honey, thus maintaining capitalist relations of production and exploitation and creating sufficient discontent with Bolivarian ‘socialism’ to allow the most unscrupulous enemies of the people such as Henrique Capriles Rodonski to achieve almost 50 percent of the national vote, through a campaign of lies and false promises.
If Venezuela is to create the first socialist society of the 21st century, the collective ownership of the means of production and the dictatorship of the proletariat will have to be the aim of the next few decades. Only then, will the revolution be fully embedded and the reactionary, anti-social class represented by people like Capriles finally expropriated and thus effectively eliminated AS a class. This would require a movement away from the bourgeois model of parliamentary democracy and representative elections toward direct democracy similar to Cuba where delegates are elected to a National Assembly with the possibility of direct recall, and where the possibility of a class of big property owners seizing power is only possible through a violent coup. Capitalism is not a system that can be tamed and controlled. Maduro will have to show that he is capable of taking the Bolivarian socialist revolution to the next level of total popular power if he is to prove the equal of the man who started the Bolivarian revolution 1999.