by A. Shaw
Lenin defines revolution as the passing of state power from one class to another. Revolutionaries often overlook the definition of revolution.
Clearly, a proletarian revolution is the passing of state power from some other class to the workers. Venezuela is important for US revolutionaries, because a passing of state power from the bourgeoisie to the working class is taking place in the South American country. During the last 13 years of revolutionary struggle, less than half of state power has passed to the workers. In Venezuela, the workers were able to win a small amount of power using the democratic form of the state. This is the way many US revolutionaries see the US revolution happening. In Venezuela, this small amount of power included winning the presidency by revolutionary Hugo Chavez, winning a parliamentary majority by revolutionaries, and the appointment of revolutionary majority to the supreme court. But the bourgeoisie still holds powerful positions in the bureaucracy, military, and police and, again, the bourgeoisie exercises more than half of state power. During the 13 years in which the working class and bourgeoisie have shared state power, the revolutionaries have gradually dismantled some key positions held by the bourgeoisie. So, things are moving in the right direction, but at a slow pace. This is the way some US revolutionaries expect things to develop in the USA.
However, the main difference between US and Venezuelan revolutionaries is that the Venezuelans have acquired a high level of electoral skill and US revolutionaries have none at all.
PROLETARIAN DEMOCRACY AND SOCIAL DEMOCRACY
Many US revolutionaries are turned off by the Venezuelan revolution because they can’t see the difference between social democracy and proletarian democracy. Social democracy is social programs under a bourgeois state because state power doesn’t passed from one class to another. Proletarian democracy is social programs under a proletarian state because state power passes, sometimes swiftly and other times slowly, from one class to another. The Venezuelan revolution is an emerging and nascent proletarian democracy. Venezuela has social programs in health care, education, housing, nutrition, etc. They are called “Missions.” In addition to these social programs, state power of executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government is passing to the working class. The passing of power in the military, police, and bureaucracy from the bourgeoisie to the workers is harder to effect. But it is being done. So far, only a small amount of state power has passed. Whether state power passes from one class to another doesn’t depend on whether the path to power is electoral or military or conspiratorial. The electoral, conspiratorial as well as the military paths to power can result in a passing or in a failure to pass state power.
Anyway, in less than three months, the presidential election will take place in Venezuela. A lot is at stake, nationally and internationally. This week, the Venezuelan presidential entered the US presidential race.
On July 10, Pres. Barack Obama told a Miami TV station “But overall my sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the past several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.”
The next day, Mitt Romney, the reactionary GOP candidate, bit Obama. “The idea that this nation [Venezuela], this president [Chavez], doesn’t pose a national security threat is simply naive and an extraordinary admission on the part of this president [Obama] to be completely out of touch with what is happening in Latin America,” Romney said.
Here’s my take on “what is happening” in the Venezuelan presidential.
Bravado is often defined as feigned confidence. Bravado seems to be strategy of Venezuelan reactionaries supporting Henrique Capriles Radonski in the race for Venezuelan president set for Oct. 7 this year.
In over 30 opinion polls on the presidential race conducted by reactionary as well as liberal pollsters between March 2012 and July 2012, Capriles, the reactionary candidate, has trailed Pres. Hugo Chavez, the revolutionary candidate, by a double-digit margin. One poll however conducted in March limited Chavez’ lead over Capriles to only five points.
It’s proverbial in Venezuelan politics that revolutionaries own about 60% of the electorate and reactionaries own about 40%. The 30 polls show that Chavez is getting 57% and sometimes 58% or even 59%. In other words, Chavez getting what he’s expected to get. Now, Capriles is expected to get about 40% of the electorate. The polls show that Capriles bounces around between 24% and 35%, well below the 40% he’s expected to get. So, some reactionaries in the electorate are withholding their support from Capriles. Why? Reactionaries say (1) some of their supporters are afraid to disclose their political preferences to pollsters or (2) some reactionaries are genuinely undecided. Neither of these explanations makes any sense.
Everybody is trying to figure out why so many reactionaries are holding back and pulling away from Capriles.
As Capriles falls further and further behind Chavez in the polling, reactionaries express greater and greater certainty about Capriles’ victory on Oct. 7. At one time, reactionaries were only “certain” of a Capriles victory. Now they are “absolutely certain” of his victory. In early July, with about three months left in the campaign, the reactionaries supporting Capriles brag that they can now “guarantee” Capriles’ victory on Oct. 7.
Reactionaries argue that polls don’t tell the whole story. They say Capriles is ahead of Chavez in the streets, even though Capriles trails Chavez in the polls.
On July 10, Capriles turned out about 300,000 thousand people in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, to celebrate his registration as a presidential candidate. On July, 11, the next day, Chavez turned out about million people to celebrate his registration.
Capriles has campaigned hard in the streets since March. But streetwalking hasn’t help him to improve his numbers. Chavez hasn’t done any streetwalking in the campaign. But he is way ahead of Capriles in the polls. Although Chavez has not been in the streets, his campaign organization has been in the streets, visiting 1.3 million homes during a nine month period between July 2011 and March 2012. As election day nears, the Chavez’ organization will send hundreds of thousands campaign workers into the streets to contact at least 2.6 million households in only a few weeks.
The Chavez campaign must not over-visit voters because over-visiting wears out the welcome mat. The important things are a gigantic effort with early voting and an unprecedentedly huge Get-Out-The-vote operation on election day.
Some reactionaries threaten to riot on election day if Capriles loses.
The government will deploy over a 100,000 troops to protect voters, polls, and the electoral process. Another 100,000 will be on call if something big happens. Reactionaries will not have ground for rioting because teams of international observers will monitor the voting with unprecedented access to polling places.
If the rioting happens, there is a possibility that US imperialists who dominate the bourgeois regime in Washington will try to intervene. Inciting violence, Mitt Romney, the reactionary US presidential candidate, hints he will advocate an US aggression against Venezuela, if an opportunity presents itself.
Reactionaries also argue that Chavez is sick with cancer and he may not make it to Oct. 7. The voters have known about Chavez’ battle with cancer since July, 2011. But the polls this year between March and July 2012, with one solitary exception, have consistently shown Chavez with a double-digit lead over Capriles. The lead has been anywhere between 13 and 30 points for Chavez. So, Chavez’ battle with cancer has not ,so far, hurt him electorally.
As for the prediction that Chavez will die before Oct. 7, reactionaries are not renown for their gift of prophecy, Just a few months ago, reactionaries went into a frenzy predicting the date of Chavez’ demise. None of the prophecies got more media attention than that of US propagandist Dan Rather who reported he had reliable inside information that Chavez would die in two months. The two months ended on June 30 with Chavez still alive. It is slowly beginning to dawn on reactionaries that they cannot rely on the mere possibility of Chavez’ death as their “guarantee” for victory on Oct 7.
Reactionaries say they are “certain” of victory on Oct. 7 because polls are inaccurate or, indeed, some of them say polls are no good at all. These polls generally find two things. First, Chavez has a big lead over Capriles. Second, Capriles at present is more popular than any of the likely successors if Chavez dies before Oct. 7. The reactionaries passionately reject the first finding — that is, Chavez’ lead over Capriles — but they embrace the second finding — that is, Capriles’ lead over likely successors.
So, reactionaries are two-faced about the polls. They recognize as true the part of the polls that is favorable to them. But they deny the truth of the part that is unfavorable.
Revolutionaries generally acknowledge that the part of the poll which is unfavorable to them is a matter of concern.
Reactionaries boast that they have a campaign issue that will carry them into the presidential palace. They say their issue is crime, insecurity, and the high murder rate. They say insecurity replaces Capriles’ support for the Missions or social programs as the signature issue of his campaign.
Insecurity has been a really serious problem in Venezuela during the 13 years that the revolutionaries have been in power. The country averaged one major election a year during the 13 years of revolutionary power. The revolutionaries have lost only one major election in 13 years and this solitary 2007 defeat over constitutional reform had nothing to do with insecurity. This is first time that revolutionaries have faced an opponent who is slick enough to make insecurity the principal issue of his campaign. Being a serious problem is one thing, but being the main political issue is another thing. It’s not clear yet how much traction, if any, Capriles will get from making insecurity the centerpiece of his campaign. He doesn’t have a long time to show results. Meanwhile, Chavez is getting tremendous traction from the housing mission which built in a year and a half about a quarter million homes for workers and the poor. Over a million people already occupy the quarter of million homes. The bourgeois media spreads false propaganda that only 34,000 homes have been built. But nobody believes this lie.
The remainder of the campaign will likely be a struggle between housing and insecurity themes for media prominence.
Finally, the reactionaries argue that they will win in Oct. because the bourgeois media at home and around the world support Capriles.
The bourgeois media in Venezuela seem to constitute about 85% of the media. Venezuelan revolutionaries are remarkably successful in discrediting the bourgeois media by consistent references to its class character and its falsification policies. More and more, Venezuelan revolutionaries expose “the media “as bourgeois, capitalist, rich, millionaire, privileged, etc. The workers and the poor in Venezuela know they are not bourgeois, capitalist, rich, millionaire, privileged, etc. So, the mass of the working class conclude that the news and the line of the bourgeois media are not in the interests of the workers. The main tactic of the bourgeois media in support of Capriles is daily showings of horrendous pictures of murder victims sprawled in the streets. The murderers seem to coordinate their random killings with the political needs of the desperate Capriles campaign.
The 15% of the Venezuelan media that is non-bourgeois, is mostly proletarian and government owned. It is small compared to the bourgeois media, but the non-bourgeois media enjoys great credibility with the working class and the poor because the non-bourgeois media usually takes the side of the workers and because it has a high reputation for veracity. There is element in the non-bourgeois media called the “alternative” or the “community” media which usually supports revolutionaries or, at least, liberals.
Venezuelan law gives the president the power to compel all media to broadcast live certain messages from the president. Chavez isn’t shy about the exercise of this power.
The capitalist media around the world, especially in the USA, exerts a powerful influence on the Venezuelan bourgeoisie and middle class. But the foreign media has very limited influence over the working class, not because it’s bourgeois but because it’s foreign.
Capriles has campaigned for four months — from March to June — with solid backing of the bourgeois media. But his standing in polls remains low. Why should continued solid backing of the bourgeois media make any difference in the campaign between July and October?
If Capriles’ prospects rest on the support of the “lying cappie [capitalist] press,” he should quit right now.
Reactionaries in Venezuela are putting on a very good show of bravado, strutting and bragging about their “certainty” of victory. This show is perhaps the only thing that prevents the bottom from falling out of their pathetic campaign.