The Spark

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

The reelection of Chavez in Venezuela:
Support from the popular masses … and from a part of the bourgeoisie

Dec 11, 2006

“It is another defeat for Mr. Danger, the devil (meaning George Bush). Venezuela will no longer be a colony for North America nor for any other country.” So declared Hugo Chavez, the winner by a big margin in the Venezuelan presidential election held December 3rd. He won 62% of the vote, his bestpercentage yet since he was first elected in 1998. Chavez won in all of the states in the country, including in Zulia where Governor Manuel Rosales, his main opponent, got only 38% of the vote.

The opposition to Chavez was made up essentially of those who, before Chavez took power, made profits in partnership with the United States, most notably from its oil. This was open pillage of Venezuela’s resources, which always left the popular classes poorer, as is the case in the rest of Latin America.

Chavez moved to reestablish state control over oil revenue, using at least some state revenue for the benefit of the popular masses – leaning on them in order to gain some room to maneuver with the United States. The Venezuelan owners, supported by the United States, did all they could to stop him. But two military takeovers failed, as did a referendum to try to isolate Chavez and their attempts to oppose him in different elections.

Chavez continues to furnish oil to the United States, but he has reinforced the weight of the Venezuelan state in the oil sector and used the revenue to finance different “social missions” that have visibly improved the lives of the disinherited – most notably in the area of healthcare (with massive support from Cuban doctors), in education and in food aid. Thanks to these things and to the organization of “Bolivar circles” that organized the population into new structures, Chavez found a large popular support – which was again shown in this latest election.

The news media, reflecting the views of those opposed to Chavez, speak about the “new rich” being formed out of this situation. But among those owners who are prospering in Venezuela under Chavez, there are not only the “new rich.” There are also the old ones for whom the “missions” opened by Chavez are an appreciable source of profits. This should come as no surprise, given that the regime itself says that it does not intend to put in question the hold of wealth over society. The banks and private companies thus continue to prosper. And even a U.S. agribusiness corporation, Cargill, runs the food distribution system that sells food at discount prices.

But the social policies of Chavez, even if they don’t put the capitalist system in question, clothe it with an appearance sufficiently exceptional in Latin America that it feeds the hopes of some 225 million poor people there and influences the way in which other Latin American parties have to speak to them.

U.S. imperialism had begun to hope, with the illness of Fidel Castro, that they would soon be rid of a symbol of someone who refuses to bend over in front of its might, this clear electoral victory for Chavez shows that the Latin American masses are not resigned to submit to the U.S. yoke.