The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Chavez’s Victory ... But What Guarantees for Working People?

Aug 30, 2004

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez easily won the referendum of August 15 organized against him by the right wing opposition. There was a very high turnout of 80% of the electorate. And nearly 60% voted to keep Chavez in office.

Chavez was elected in 1998 and then re-elected in 2000. Now he’s won this test of forces with the opposition grouped in the Democratic Coordination. He received two million more votes than he had won before in the presidential elections.

When the results came in, thousands of Chavez supporters demonstrated their happiness, especially in workers’ neighborhoods where there had been massive mobilizations to get out the vote. In the well-off neighborhoods, which opposed Chavez, the opposition cried fraud, even though observers from the Organization of American States and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said that the election was fair.

The attempt to remove Chavez by referendum is only the latest episode in a fight waged by the opposition against him. In April 2002, there was an attempted coup d’etat, supported by the United States. It failed when Chavez supporters massively mobilized. Then there was a long strike led by top management and technicians in the state oil company–aimed at paralyzing the country and blocking oil exports that account for half of Venezuela’s income. Chavez survived this bosses’ strike and removed the top layers of the state oil company.

In fact, since the election of Chavez in 1998, the capitalists and their petty bourgeois allies, supported by U.S. imperialism, have never stopped demanding the resignation of this "left" government, which they see as threatening their privileges. Chavez wasn’t part of the corrupt leading circles who lived well off the profits of the oil industry and who drowned a popular revolt in blood in 1989. In fact, Chavez, a former paratrooper lieutenant-colonel, had attempted a coup d’etat himself in 1992 against these corrupt layers. After it failed, he was imprisoned for two years. These actions were what gave him his popularity in the poor neighborhoods and in a big section of the army.

Chavez uses populist arguments, appeals to the anti-rich and anti-U.S. sentiments of the population. This is why he is hated by the oligarchy and a good part of the petty bourgeoisie, and has been attacked by U.S. leaders.

Up to now, Chavez has been successful in mobilizing his partisans and reinforcing his power against his opponents, while neutralizing the maneuvers of the U.S. leaders to remove from power. Nevertheless, even though he has carried out token spending on some social programs, especially in the weeks before this referendum, he has never seriously taken on the interests of the capitalists, which he defends in his own manner. This is why the imperialist oil companies consider his hold on power a lesser evil, taking everything into account.

The poor layers of the population who have put their hopes in Chavez are far from having their problems solved. Some 80% of the population lives beneath the poverty level. Chavez hasn’t really addressed this problem himself, nor has he proposed to the poor layers that they organize to take what they need from the capitalists who benefit from their labor. He leaves them only one solution: applaud Chavez and vote for him when he calls upon them. But what would happen to them if Chavez were no longer there?

The only guarantee for the workers and the poor layers of the Venezuelan population would be to really attack the power of Venezuelan and imperialist big capital. This is where the resources are to overcome Venezuela’s poverty. If the poor do not mobilize to take the oil and other wealth away from the exploiters, they will remain disarmed in front of the exploiters.