Bolivarian candidate Nicolas Maduro won the Venezuelan presidential election of April 14 by a narrow margin. With 99.12% of the votes counted, there was a 78.71% turn out, with Maduro receiving 7,505,378 votes (50.66%), and Capriles 7,270,403 votes (49.07%). Capriles declared that he does not recognise the result and demanded an audit of 100% of the vote.
The results were announced by the head of the National Electoral Commission (CNE) Tibisay Lucena at 11.45pm local time after a long and tense wait. The reason for the delay was clearly the fact that results were so close that they wanted to announce them only once they had counted a number of votes which would make the result irreversible. This was the case particularly as the opposition campaign had been spreading rumours that they had won and Capriles himself announced that the government was planning to “change the results”.
The Bolivarian masses had rallied outside the Miraflores Palace to celebrate the expected victory and they were addressed by Nicolás Maduro. Meanwhile the mood was sombre in the opposition campaign headquarters. Small numbers of opposition supporters rioted in upper class residential areas like El Cafetal in East Caracas, burning tyres and blocking the streets.
Capriles announced that he did not recognise the results and demanded a full 100% audit of the vote, alleging that over 3,200 irregularities had taken place. He was backed by CNE rector Vicente Díaz who also asked for an audit of all ballot boxes. The truth is, however, that the opposition had conducted a relentless campaign for weeks to try to discredit the CNE and Capriles and other opposition spokespersons had cried fraud hours before any results had been announced. This was their strategy all along.
The first thing that needs to be said about the results is that this is yet another election victory for the Bolivarian revolution, however narrow. The so-called “democratic” opposition had no problem when Capriles won the governorship of Miranda by 40,000 votes, or when they won the 2007 constitutional reform referendum by the narrowest of margins (1.4%). At that time the Bolivarian revolution accepted the democratic results. The pattern is clear, whenever the oligarchy wins they accept the result, but when they lose, they cry fraud.
As Maduro pointed out in his victory speech, Bush was declared the victor of the US presidential election in 2000, even though he got fewer votes than his rival (and there were widespread allegations of fraud which were never investigated). Throughout the campaign Maduro had insisted that he would recognise the results given by the CNE, even if these were against him by just one vote. Capriles on the other hand had consistently refused to say he would do the same and refused to sign a document along those lines drafted by the CNE.
The turnout was over 78%, only 3 points below the massive turn out on October 7 last year when Chávez was re-elected. Despite all the attempts of the opposition and imperialism to question the democratic character of the election, all international observers agreed that they had been conducted in a free and fair manner and that the voting system was foolproof and efficient.
Election day itself had started early, as is traditional, with revolutionary activists sounding the wakeup call at 3am and large numbers of people voting throughout the morning in the working class districts. The opposition issued instructions for their supporters to come out and vote massively in the afternoon, though there did not seem to be long queues in the middle and upper class residential areas at any point during the day. Throughout the day the mood was tense as it had been during the last days of the campaign. Colombian and Salvadorian paramilitaries had been arrested in the country, accused of attempting to carry out actions of destabilisation. They were armed and some had Venezuelan army uniforms in their possession. The armed forces had also seized a cache of weapons, ammunition and explosives.
You will read in the capitalist media all sorts of reports about alleged actions of violence against opposition supporters, but the truth is that it was Bolivarian activists who were on the receiving end of all sorts of provocations and violence. It is worth giving a few examples. A group of a few dozen opposition thugs attempted to set the governor’s building on fire in Mérida at the end of a Capriles rally. A PDVSA worker, who was letting off celebratory fireworks at the end of Maduro’s huge closing election rally on April 10, was shot dead by two assassins on a motorbike. On April 14 itself, a camera man for community TV station Barrio TV was shot at in El Valle while reporting on the elections. Detailed destabilisation plans worked out by opposition youth organisation JAVU were also discovered and made public. Bolivarian supporter Potro Alvarez, a known baseball player and singer, was assaulted by a frenzied opposition mob as he went to vote in the upper-middle class district where he lives, in Baruta, East of Caracas. Also on election day, a group of revolutionary activists holding an information “red point” in Los Ruices (East of Caracas) were surrounded by an angry, violent opposition crowd and had to be protected by the national guard. As polls closed there was an all out cyber attack with the hacking of the Twitter account of Maduro, a number of ministers and prominent Bolivarian activists, as well as the defacing of Maduro’s campaign website and the bringing down of a whole host of government and ministerial websites. This was all calculated to create uncertainty and fear at a crucial time when everyone was waiting for the election results. This is the real face of the so-called “democratic” opposition, which are exactly the same individuals, parties and economic forces which organised the April 11 coup in 2002.
A detailed breakdown of the results has not yet been announced but from the state-by-state figures released it can be seen that the opposition has this time managed to recover a lot of the ground it lost in the October 7 presidential elections and the December regional elections. It has won in Mérida, Táchira, Zulia, Lara, Nueva Esparta and Miranda, which it held before, as well as winning over Anzoátegui, which it had already won in the National Assembly elections in 2010. Significantly, the opposition has won in the key state of Bolivar where the main state owned basic industries are situated and where there is an extremely critical mood amongst the Bolivarian rank and file against the governor Rangel and the bureaucracy in general because of their role in fighting against workers’ control. Still, Maduro won in 16 out of the country’s 25 states, including in the Capital District and the industrial states of Carabobo and Aragua.
In his speech from the peoples’ balcony of the Miraflores palace Maduro touched on an issue which is very sensitive for the revolutionary masses: that of making concessions or conciliating with the oligarchy and imperialism. He explained that he had received a call from Capriles an hour before the election results were announced offering him a pact. Maduro said that he had rejected any such pact and had replied that the precondition for any talks was the recognition of the election results, which Capriles of course refused to do.
Maduro repeated what he had already said earlier in the day, that there would not be any dialogue with the bourgeoisie and that this was no longer the time when things were negotiated away “behind the backs of the people”. While not rejecting having talks or a conversation with “reasonable spokespersons of the opposition”, he insisted that what was needed was a genuine dialogue “with the worker, with the soldier” and that a debate should be opened “in the factories, in the neighbourhoods in order to develop the Plan de la Patria (the election program Chavez stood on) and Chávez’s legacy,” which he said was the “building of a socialist country”.
He explained how during the campaign he had come up against a systematic campaign of economic war and sabotage. “Every state I visited there would be an electricity black out, only for power to be restored as I left,” he explained. As a matter of fact, some 23 people have been arrested accused of participating in the sabotage of the electricity grid. The same can be said for the sabotage of the food supply chain, with speculation and hoarding. Finally, he admitted the need for self-criticism and an “in-depth rectification” and for the people to participate in that process.
The hard truth is that this was a victory, but only by the narrowest of margins, which should serve as a serious warning call for the revolution. Since October 7, the Bolivarian revolution has shed 680,000 votes, while Capriles has won the same number. The mood amongst the revolutionary masses is one of celebration at having achieved yet another victory, but at the same time there is an angry militant mood of self-criticism. The accumulated discontent at the “Bolivarian” bureaucracy and the reformists is turning into a militant demand for action against the saboteurs and infiltrated elements within the revolutionary movement, particularly all those local mayors, regional governors and state functionaries who swear by Chávez and wear a red shirt but in reality are just careerists, opportunists or even worse, corrupt. There are growing calls for a purge within the PSUV.
Maduro is correct in saying that what the revolution is up against is an economic war of attrition on the part of the ruling class. All the necessary conclusions must be drawn from this. The only way to complete the revolution, and defend its massive social gains, is by dealing blows against the economic power of the capitalist class, which they use to sabotage the democratic will of the majority. This means expropriating the means of production, the banks and the latifundia in order to allow for the democratic planning of the economy in the interests of the majority of the population. This in itself would allow the revolution to deal with problems such as inflation, hoarding and speculation, which are clearly having the desired impact of eating away at the social base of support of the revolution amongst the workers and the poor.
The problems of corruption and bureaucracy can only be dealt with by introducing workers’ control and management at all levels of the economy. How is it possible that in a state company like Corpoelec, the electricity generator and distributor, there is widespread sabotage? Revolutionary workers in the company have been denouncing this for some time. The way to deal with it is through workers’ control, which is the same way in which the problems of large scale theft and inefficiency of the basic industries in Guayana can be dealt with.
The obstacle in the way of adopting these measures is not so much the strength of the opposition. Despite their strong electoral showing on Sunday, still 70% of the people think that the Chavez presidency was good for the country. The overwhelming majority of the people support the social programs introduced. If a significant number has been convinced by the siren calls of Capriles, it is partly because of the inability of the government to deal with the problems of economic disorganisation which are the result of the continued existence of the capitalist market, not the opposite. The last two months have shown that the Bolivarian masses are still aroused and are far superior to the forces of the opposition when it comes to mass mobilisation in the streets.
The obstacle in the path of completing the revolution towards socialism is not the “low level of consciousness of the masses” as the reformists argue. Quite the contrary! What more can be asked of the masses of Bolivarian workers, peasants, youth, women, the poor? Once and again they have proven to have a fine revolutionary instinct, a very developed political understanding and a fighting will. They are the ones who have saved the revolution in all crucial junctures, including yesterday, and propelled it forward after each victory.
The pressure on the Bolivarian leadership for conciliation will now be extremely powerful. The bourgeois media internationally has already built up the discourse of a “divided country”, the “fading appeal of chavismo”, Maduro having “no mandate”, etc. The New York Times was pushing for a reconciliation with the United States when it published a statement by OAS representative and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson to the effect that both Maduro and Foreign Affairs Minister Elias Jaua had approached him:
“Bill Richardson… said Mr. Maduro called him aside after a meeting of election observers on Saturday and asked him to carry a message. “He said, ‘We want to improve the relationship with the U.S., regularize the relationship,’ ” Mr. Richardson said. The foreign minister, Elías Jaua, met with Mr. Richardson on Sunday, and said Venezuela was ready to resume the talks that it had cut off, Mr. Richardson said.”
What the NYT and the US ruling class are talking about is not so much the resumption of diplomatic relations but rather that Maduro should move to the right and conciliate with imperialism. This was also the meaning of former Brazilian president Lula’s poisoned message of support for Maduro, when he said that he should “form alliances with other sectors.” Ignacio Ramonet was pushing in the same direction last night on Telesur, when he referred to a “political dialogue with businessmen, investors, sections of the opposition.” With advice from friends like these, who needs enemies?"
A layer of bureaucrats and careerists will now start to consider whether the Bolivarian camp is the one which gives them the best guarantees for furthering their own careers, which is all they are interested in. A number of regional governors have already joined the opposition in the last few years and now the pressure to jump ship will be much stronger.
If the oligarchy is intelligent (and that is not certain), they would play it out for the medium term, combining pressure on the question of the so-called “election fraud” and the audit of the results with economic sabotage, while at the same time offering a hand to different sections within the Bolivarian bureaucracy.
The revolutionary working people are the only guarantee against these manoeuvres, which would mean a death sentence for the revolution. The revolutionary vanguard, which is present in every working class neighbourhood, peasant community, factory and military barracks urgently needs to get organised around a clear programme of how to complete the revolution, how to carry out the legacy of Hugo Chávez of a socialist country.
The strengthening of the Marxist current within the Bolivarian movement, gathered around the Lucha de Clases (Class Struggle) newspaper is therefore crucial, as revolutionary Marxism is the only ideology which provides a finished expression to the instinctive revolutionary aspirations of the Bolivarian masses.
- Defend the election result through mass mobilisation and vigilance!
- Fight sabotage through workers’ control!
- Fight economic dislocation through the expropriation of the means of production, banks and big landed states!
- Build a strong Marxist tendency in the Bolivarian movement!