Its over! After 16 years the legacy of Hugo Chavez ended with a clear victory for the capitalist opposition in the December 2015 parliamentary elections. The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela ( PSUV ) lost its majority to a coalition of anti-socialist political parties, called the ”Democratic Unity Round-table” ( MUD ). This coalition will do what the ruling class of Venezuela demanded since 1999: A return to capitalist law and order. Millions of workers and poor hoped for socialism under Chavez and his supporters. Instead the leader of the Bolivarian revolution kept his nation stuck in a state-capitalist model, that turned bureaucratic and ineffective. After Chavez died, his successor failed to move towards socialism and now the parliament is under capitalist control!
This victory will also fuel the capitalist propaganda machine of not only Venezuela, but of the whole world. Millions hoped for changes under Hugo Chavez and Venezuela was seen as a beacon for a democratic socialist future. All this is now over, with the parliament under capitalist control. Still the presidency is owned by the PSUV, the party of the late Chavez. It will be difficult for the anti-socialist MUD to work with Nicolas Maduro, successor of the ”Great Commander”. But MUD leader Henrique Capriles Radonski played the game very well. He did not used classic anti-socialist rhetoric, instead he and his cronies used leftist ideals against the bureaucratic PSUV government!
Revolutionary socialists feared that this would happen. The ruling class will claim that socialism has failed. International capitalist media groups like Fox News, CNN and the British BBC, will go on a triumph march. They never agreed with the social programs of the Chavez government. But what they hated the most was his opposition to western imperialism. Hugo Chavez gave the working class of Venezuela a feeling of hope. It is therefore very unfortunate that he himself, was unable to see beyond his petty bourgeois idealism. Because in his whole life, Chavez was never able to understand what socialism means. He first tried a mixture of social democracy with some leftist populism. Then he moved more radical and started to mix stalinism with nationalism. Key enterprises were nationalized and massive nationalist propaganda was used to boost public support!
In nationalized enterprises, state managers replaced capitalist bosses. There were no democratic councils of workers and consumers who took over. Managers of the government were installed as new bosses. This was called ”socialism” and millions believed it. However deze state bosses lacked expertise which the capitalists call ”business insights”. Workers also do not like them because they enjoy privileged with the government. Hugo Chavez wrongly believed that the state should run the economy in a top-down way like Cuba!
Economic and political corruption is a major problem in Venezuela. Before the Chavez era, the state was weak. Most power lay with a small capitalist class, who owned the media and most means of production. The government was only there to ensure ”capitalist freedom” and to show to the world how ”democratic” Venezuela looked. Hugo Chavez was a army officer who tried to take political power in 1992. His military coup failed, but it brought him the support of the poor. Six years after the first attempt, Chavez won the 1998 presidential elections. His Movement for the Fifth Republic defeated the candidate of the bourgeoisie!
The ruling class was in shock. Never before was a unknown candidate able to defeat their man. Chavez did not have the support of rich people or the capitalist media. In fact he only had the support from the communist party and the trade unions, who were marginalized and stigmatized by the capitalist television networks. It was the vote of poor people and workers that made his victory possible. Chavez’s first three years were moderate, but the ruling class feared what he could do. So in 2002, anti-socialist army generals staged a coup and removed Hugo Chavez from power. Pedro Carmona was installed, a puppet for the new military regime. But the army soon realized that the people were with their president, so they turned on Carmona!
Chavez was liberated and returned to power. From then on it was open war between the state media and the capitalist media. Supporters of the president used the only media network willing to listen, while the capitalist media spread anti-socialist and anti-Chavez propaganda on a daily base. However the poor and the lower working class did not have modern televisions at home. So the president started with major social programs to lift many out of poverty. This gave him a popular base of support and he won the 2006 elections with over 62% of the vote!
Western media outlets started to criticize, the growing anti-imperialist rhetoric of the Venezuelan government. Hugo Chavez turned on the USA and called George W Bush a devil. His friendship with Fidel Castro was also not supported by western nations. It seemed that the president of Venezuela, made allies with almost all enemies of the west. Enemies like Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Ho Jintao of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia. Venezuela was put under a military embargo, but Chavez was not impressed. He bought Russian jet fighters and was even willing to sell F-16 fighters to Iran!
Although the social reforms liberated millions from poverty, socialism was not build. Instead the capitalist class was left alive and this gave them time to sabotage the economy. When the government imposed price controls they did whatever they could to make a profit. Understandable since capitalists always want to put themselves before others. The government reacted with nationalizations and expropriated many key sectors. Hugo Chavez called it ”socialism of the 21st century”. In reality he strengthen the state bureaucracy to combat the old bourgeoisie!
By 2010, there were two forces at work, both political and economic. On the political front the anti-socialist opposition unified in the Democratic Unity Round-table ( MUD ). In this coalition you can find all kinds of political ideologies. From conservatism to liberalism and even social democracy. However the mains goals of MUD are to end the so called ”socialist” experiment and return the nation to free market capitalism. This is not seen in their propaganda. Henrique Capriles plays on the same populism as Hugo Chavez once did. The propaganda of MUD is based on anti-corruption, fair elections and an end to authoritarianism. This last position is what brought them victory in the December 2015 elections!
Supporters of the government are unified in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Founded in 2007 by merging all groups loyal to Hugo Chavez in one political party. Revolutionary socialists hoped that this party would become an open democratic workers party. However we soon realized that the PSUV was only a propaganda tool of the presidency. Those who criticized the state-capitalist direction of the government were called ”counter-revolutionaries”. Party leaders even claimed that the party was inspired by Mao Zedong’s works. Top down centralism became the party’s structure, no discussions only forced unity in action. The PSUV is a propaganda party, not a workers party!
Soon the Bolivarian revolution started to crack. As the government was unable to stop the growing recession after the economic crisis started, Hugo Chavez was diagnosed with cancer. Still he faced Henrique Capriles in the 2012 presidential elections. For the first time, Chavez faced an opponent who was able to fight him with effective propaganda. To fight the growing support for MUD, the PSUV unleashed their uncritical supporters, who praised the president as a god like figure. His cult of personality is rejected by revolutionary socialists, but it helped Chavez to win the presidential elections!
Although the president won the political fight, he lost his battle with cancer. In late February 2013, Chavez went into the hospital were he died on 5 march. Win-out their ”Great Commander” the PSUV was weakened in the propaganda war against MUD. The next presidential elections were won by Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro, but Henrique Capriles was closing in. With low oil prices and a bureaucracy so inefficient, MUD was finally able to win support from the working class. Because by 2014, basic products were in low supply. A mixture of economic sabotage, low oil prices, an ineffective government and mismanage of state enterprises led to shortages!
MUD claimed that only the government was to blame and they started with strikes and demonstrations. President Maduro reacted with arrests and police violence. This all worked in favor of the capitalist opposition. Young bourgeois students joined up with MUD leaders and demonstrated against the government. Revolutionary socialists called on workers to reject both the government and the opposition, but in this battle of two sides of the same coin, nobody listened. Most socialists and communists of the world supported Maduro and most liberals and conservatives supported the capitalist opposition. Revolutionary Socialist Media rejected this battle and calls for a new workers party on a socialist program!
On 5 December 2015, the parliamentary elections finally gave MUD, control over the parliament. It is possible that the next presidential elections in 2018, will result in total MUD control over the country. Because the PSUV has been hugely discredited after ruling for nine years, as tool of the state bureaucracy. What now? It is very possible that a new government will be created, one that is loyal to the markets. Price control will be dropped and austerity politics enforced. It may be possible that state enterprises are returned to their capitalist owners. However MUD also realizes that if they fully return to the days before Chavez, that the PSUV might win back power!
Revolutionary Socialist Media thinks that they will do it slowly, under the cover of populism and nationalism. Their victory today is a major boost for the political forces of capitalism in Latin America. President Nicolas Maduro will try to fight the new government, but with his political party in opposition, it remains to be seen what he can do. To stop austerity and privatizations, workers must unite in a party of their own. The United Socialist Party of Venezuela was never a force for socialism, although their propaganda claimed otherwise. Chavismo is over and gone, revolutionary socialism is the only road forward!