Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 3 December 2008

Venezuela elections: Chávez wins victory but opposition gains ground

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in the UK , photo Paul Mattsson

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in the UK , photo Paul Mattsson

ON SUNDAY 23 November, more than 14 million people in Venezuela came out early in the morning to elect governors, mayors and regional representatives.

Johan Rivas, Colectivo Socialismo Revolucionario, the CWI group in Venezuela.

These were the second regional elections to take place during the course of the 'Bolivarian Revolution' (the first ones took place in 2004). Twenty-two provinces, 330 communities and 225 federal representatives were elected from 8,000 candidates standing on behalf of political organisations (national and regional parties and independent organisations).

"The Bolivarian government won 17 of the 22 provinces that were contested... president Chávez confirmed that this triumph is the ratification of the people for the socialist project of the 21st century," said the deputy president of PSUV [United Socialist Party of Venezuela], retired general Muller Rojas, in a press conference. He dismissed the opposition's electoral gains.

Nonetheless these results are an advance for the right-wing opposition forces that apparently have abandoned for now the conspiratorial route and instead are concentrating on kicking Hugo Chávez out of power by democratic means.

It is possible the opposition has a long-term plan and their next objective will be the next municipal elections and the national parliamentary elections in 2009. On the side of the 'Bolivarian movement', with all its contradictions, Chavez's supporters still maintain the majority of the governors and also popular support.

It would appear that one force is recuperating and the other is losing ground. Out of six of the governorships obtained by the opposition, four are new and amongst them is the high governor of Caracas (the regional governor for the capital).

The other three are a state which borders Columbia, Taxhira; the central state of Carabobo (one of the principal industrial developments which includes the principal seaport of the country, Puerto Cabello where the majority of imports enter), and Miranda, where the PSUV candidate was considered the successor to Chávez and inheritor of Chavismo as the leader of the reformist wing of the party.

The opposition maintained its control over the state of Zulia, which borders Columbia and has the majority of the petroleum wealth of the country.

There, the opposition has its principal leader, Manuel Rosales, who initiated the autonomy movement ("For a liberal and capitalist independent Zulia" is his slogan), similar to the Media Luna autonomy movement in Bolivia. This state was the most visited by president Chávez and the state where he put the most emphasis during the campaign. Chávez even threatened to put the opposition presidential candidate Rosales in jail on charges of alleged corruption.

In concrete terms, the opposition controls six regions of vital importance, three of which have the largest electorates: Zulia, Miranda, Carabobo, and in total it now controls 37% of the national electorate. This foreshadows a new stage in the Bolivarian Revolution.


Fidel Castro with Chavez and Morales

Fidel Castro with Chavez and Morales

Venezuela's Chávez government has been trying without success to construct a 'socialist' model but without breaking with the structures of capitalism and the capitalist state it inherited.

The government has introduced a programme of social investment and reforms that have favoured the most marginalised sectors of the population - while 50% were in poverty in 1998, today official statistics reduce that figure to approximately 20%.

However, the same demands of the population, which Chávez articulated in his 1998 presidential campaign when he was elected for the first time, still apply: overcoming insecurity, the demand for new jobs, housing, higher-quality public services and measures to counteract the high cost of living.

So far this year there is an accumulated inflation rate on food products and basic necessities in the capital city, Caracas, of more than 45% and at the end of the year the inflation index will be between 28% and 30%. At the same time, the minimum wage of the working class rose by 30% this year.

Homicides in Caracas have increased, making murder the third-highest cause of death according to some statistics and studies carried out by human rights organisations. Additionally, it was not until 2006 that the government really began to construct housing, and even that year, the percentage of new housing built was less than half of the original goal to construct 200,000. Each year, the shortage of houses amongst the Venezuelan population increases by 100,000.

The problem is that the state is the same one that was left by the capitalist governments of the past. It has stimulated corruption, bureaucracy and inefficiency amongst individual ministers. Given these contradictions, the opposition has very skilfully developed a campaign to exploit the government's weaknesses.

For example, four years ago it was unthinkable to imagine a leader of the opposition visiting public institutions to carry out a political campaign and introducing themselves in the poor neighbourhoods without being rejected by the vast majority.

During this campaign, in an important public health centre of Caracas, the opposition candidate for the post of high governor (the state governor) presented himself. And even though he was rejected by some workers, he was able to be in the building for a number of minutes and received support from other workers there.

In an informal interview, one of the workers who supported the opposition candidate affirmed that she was with Chávez, but that she supported the opposition for governor because she was tired of the current governor's corruption; that the institution was deteriorating; that they didn't pay salaries on time; nor did he listen to the rest of her demands and that, as a punishment, she was going to vote for the opposition candidate.

Maybe this example can give us an idea of what is happening in Venezuela today after ten years of revolution and counter-revolution.

Patriotic Alliance

As in all of the electoral processes before, the Chavismo formed a coalition of political organisations - Polo Patriotico - in the attempt to unify its forces and run unified candidates.

The bureau of the PSUV had convened in the middle of the year some internal meetings so that the militants could elect their candidates. But what initially appeared to be an act of revolutionary democracy by the party soon became the beginning of political differences between the various tendencies within the party and the parties of the alliance.

This was because a large number of those who aspired to be PSUV favourites did not get what they wanted and instead the decision of the president of the party - Chávez - was imposed. This resulted in some of these candidates withdrawing from the PSUV and running with other political organisations.

The situation with the other parties of the alliance was even more complicated. The PSUV bureau presented its candidates as the only ones in the electoral campaign and the rest of the parties were told that they should support them. This produced conflicts within these parties and the bureau, including with president Chávez himself, who on various occasions denounced these parties, accusing them of being counter-revolutionary and of not recognising his leadership.

In the end, with all of the infighting, what should have been a great alliance of revolutionary forces that supported the Bolivarian Revolution was little more than a series of convenient agreements in regions where their candidates coincided, and in other areas where they were divided, there was no alliance.

Historically, for this kind of election, abstention ranges from 40% to 50%. But 65% participated this time, the highest turnout in the last ten years.

It was an untypical campaign, focused on the aggressive confrontation between Chávez and the candidates of the opposition. Faced with the unpopularity of the majority of his candidates, Chávez took up the campaign as his own and converted it into a kind of referendum.

According to unofficial figures, more than 5 million voted in favour of the candidates of the government, and 4 million for those of the opposition. That translated to 17 governors for Chavismo and six for the opposition.

In 2008, the global financial crisis has intensified, and although at the beginning Chávez had declared that it would not affect Venezuela, in recent weeks he has corrected himself and has called on the population to support his politics of austerity for the next year.

The fall of the price of oil during the last few months has him worried, as more than 60% of the national budget depends on oil. In Venezuela, out of every $100 of income into the country, $90 is for oil, which in large parts served to finance public expenditures in different social programmes.

At the same time, 60% of this income has been spent on importing food to meet internal demand because of the incapacity of the national agricultural industry to satisfy internal consumption.


In this acute situation, class struggles will intensify and the protests of the social sectors for legitimate demands will be greater, affecting the government as much as the opposition. Both sides will try to blame the other.

Faced with this scenario, revolutionaries should campaign for a socialist programme. Socialists cannot permit the government or the opposition to manipulate the population. We should demand the complete nationalisation of the financial system and the elimination of the financial and economic monopolies that are controlled by the five most powerful families of the country and the transnationals.

They must immediately be put under the control of the organised people in their communities, peasants without land and workers organised into committees, made up of democratically elected delegates, to begin the planning of the economy based on the true needs of the people.

This would be the first concrete step to transform the current structures and go towards socialism. In the same way there must be a constant mobilisation of the revolutionary social sectors to lead the people in their struggle for their just demands. We cannot let the opposition take the initiative in leading these movements.

It is also imperative that the workers' movement overcome its crisis of political direction and take its place in the vanguard.

Lastly, this whole scenario must open political debates about the weakness of the Bolivarian socialist model. It has shown itself incapable of changing or transforming the system.

Venezuela still has the opportunity to carry out a successful socialist revolution, but it depends on a change in the character of the Bolivarian direction or the appearance of an organised and conscious revolutionary workers' movement with clear socialist perspectives.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 3 December 2008:

Job losses

Fight back now against job cuts

Woolworths jobs threat

Fighting the threatened closure of Hoover factory

Environment and socialism

Our planet not their profit

Socialist Party editorial

India and Pakistan conflict

Terror mayhem strikes Mumbai

Socialist Party campaigns

Judiciary challenged over the right to protest

Building a left wing political alternative

Southampton uni students fight fees

Liverpool: mobilising against the far right

In brief


Social workers demand proper resources

Secondary education: PFI's gloss soon peels away

Socialist Party LGBT

Fighting homophobia

Socialist Party Marxist analysis

Crisis-hit capitalism fears prospect of revolution

International socialist news and analysis

Venezuela elections: Chávez wins victory but opposition gains ground

Marxist analysis: history

The Isle of Man general strike 1918: Workers' power paralysed government

Socialist Party news and analysis

Help fund the alternative to big business politics

Socialist women: Looking at the past to take action today

Housing crisis

Stop the repossessions

New Labour's housing crisis

Socialist Party workplace news

Vote 'no' to BT's pension cuts

A Christmas message from the Unite leadership

Dover docks strikes

Appledore shipyard


Home   |   The Socialist 3 December 2008   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleBirmingham Central Socialist Party: Venezuela - are the capitalists preparing a coup?

triangleCaerphilly and RCT Socialist Party: What are the lessons from Venezuela?

triangleHackney Socialist Party: Venezuela now, and its lessons for a future Corbyn government

triangleVenezuela: Capitalist offensive sharpens after assembly elections

triangleVenezuela shows battle that would be faced by Corbyn government


triangleGerman elections: rise of the far right and right-wing government will provoke resistance

triangleUsdaw elections announced - fight for a left leadership, vote for Amy Murphy

triangleHong Kong: mass demonstration against repression

triangleFrench elections: Macron's win


triangleConference on state spies: who's watching who?

triangleSocialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangleHundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP


triangle'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

triangleOctober 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'

Hugo Chávez:

triangleChávez wins majority but right-wing gains ground




Hong Kong

Campaign against political repression in Hong Kong



Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't



Solidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide



Eyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events



Exemplary resistance by the people of Catalonia



Germany: Election results in political earthquake



Strike against Madrid's 'state of emergency'!



German elections: rise of the far right and right-wing government will provoke resistance



French Labour reform protests



Catalonia: Student strike called



Brutal repression of Rohingya people sparks massive humanitarian crisis



Solidarity with Catalonia in the Spanish state



Berlin hospital strike



Korean peninsula: is nuclear war likely?



Interview with leader of students' union in the Spanish state: "When we fight, we win!"

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

More ...

triangle21 Oct Birmingham: NSSN Solidarity Forum

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice