Venezuela

Why did Chávez lose?

December 24, 2007

After some days, Chávez and the broad majority of chavismo emerged to
declare that what lost in the referendum was "socialism." From Chávez,
maintaining that "we are not mature enough for socialism," to student
leaders and intellectuals in chavismo commenting that "there is not
yet a conviction of socialism," they repeat this song. And thus, an
attempt is made to inculcate the reasoning that "the socialist
proposal lost." Now they discover that, in "the votes for Chávez’ in
December 2006, it is proven that they were not votes for socialism, as
the President believed." Do they mean by this that the hundreds of
chavista businessmen who appeared in a ceremony with Chávez in favor
of the "Yes," the businessmen are indeed in favor of socialism, while
a big sector of the working class and the poor, are not? One could not
make a more freakish and cynical statement.

For their part, the right wing and US imperialism state that "the
Venezuelan people showed that they prefer democracy to socialism."
They are surely referring to bourgeois democracy, "democracy for the
rich," as Lenin called it.

What really lost was Chávez’ attempt to have ever-increasing power to
negotiate with imperialism and the different factions of the
Venezuelan dominant classes, and to control workers’, campesinos’ and
popular struggles from above. In this sense, as we explained in the
Declaration*, chavismo was defeated, not by the right wing, but by its
own social base, where 40% of workers and the poor that voted [for
Chávez] in December [2006] did not swallow the fable of "popular
power," the same story they have been listening to for approximately 9
years: sometimes as "a participatory democracy that leads," at other
times with the slogan, "all power for the people," then called "an
explosion of communal power." For nine years, those "below," the
working class, the poor campesinos, and the people of the barrios,
have not seen their essential demands satisfied. Because of all this,
they abstained and did not vote for the right wing either.

Reaction raised its head, thanks to the government’s own policy, and
Chávez’ anti-imperialism did not go beyond being rhetorical (see the
Declaration). Meanwhile, workers and the people had to settle for
assistance policies like the Missions. Chávez’ "socialism with
businessmen" was only a discourse to subject the interests of the
working class to those of the business sectors who have now become
"nationalists" and "Bolivarians," and to orchestrate that
subordination, Chávez is building the PSUV, a big party of class
collaboration. Instead of presenting a solution for the workers’
struggle, Chávez confronted those struggles. A clear proof of all this
is the policy he maintained against one of the most symbolic struggles
of the country: that of the workers of Sanitarios Maracay. For nine
months, these workers occupied the factory and set it to producing
under their own administration, when the boss threatened to close it.
Instead of a positive response from the government, these workers
confronted an entire reactionary "holy alliance," organized from the
Ministry of Labor together with the boss to defeat this struggle. The
problem was that the workers of Sanitarios Maracay questioned the
sacrosanct private ownership that Chávez defends.

Now more than ever, it is necessary to make the force of the workers
felt, by fighting in the first place to promote a party belonging to
the workers themselves. If this action does not take shape, the right
wing, through agreements with the government, will be able to turn the
situation to their favor, that is, against workers and the poor.

(*)Originally published in Spanish on Wednesday, December 19, 2007. Available in www.jir.org.ve

Translation by Yosef M.