FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Chavism Loses a Battle: Can It Recover and Rectify?

Caracas.

Chavism received a serious blow in the parliamentary elections this last Sunday, December 6. The strength of the blow is such that the movement is still reeling. The Venezuelan opposition, loosely organized in an electoral bloc called the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), achieved not just a majority of seats in the National Assembly but also the qualified majorities needed to call for referendums, initiate constitutional reform, and reorganize the judicial branch. The long-term consequences of this setback, which are likely grave and possibly disastrous, will depend on the Chavist movement’s capacity to both maintain internal order and also renovate itself.

Faced with these electoral results, President Nicolás Maduro has been among the first to call for self-critique and renovation in Chavism. This is something the late leader Hugo Chávez tried to launch with the “3Rs” campaign(Revision, Rectification, Re-impulsing) some five years ago. Yet serious self-criticism has always eluded the Bolivarian movement. More than an ethical issue, it is a problem of organization: who will critique whom and with what force? History has shown the difficulty in balancing democracy and centralism within the left’s universally-subscribed framework of democratic centralism. Effective critique usually comes only when a new internal force emerges, such as the Chinese Red Guards of the mid-1960s, typically supported by some fraction of the old guard. No such thing has ever happenned in Chavism.

Self-criticism also has to face facts and interpret them without prejudice. The key fact is that Sunday’s well-attended election’s saw two million more voters opting for the opposition bloc than for Chavism. Is this because, as President Maduro has said, there is an “economic war” against Venezuela and against his government? At best the explanation is partial. An economic war, such as the ones carried out against Salvador Allende’s Chile or Revolutionary Cuba, is not necessarily successful. If Cuba has resisted more than 50 years and with fewer resources, then the Venezuelan government’s conduct facing its own economic war must be erroneous. The key factor is surely that, despite the government’s constant alerts about economic aggressions, it has never proposed a coherent strategy to defeat them. That would mean clearly defining the enemy, locating its headquarters, and then organizing actions to attain a strategic victory.

The fact that Maduro has proposed no such strategy is likely the main reason that so many working-class voters, including those in historically-Chavist sectors such as the famed 23 Enero barrio of Caracas, voted against Chavism last Sunday. The Venezuelan people have shown their resilience and loyalty in situations that were far more grueling such as the Oil Stoppage of 2002-3, but when there is no end in sight because the leadership lacks a strategic plan, then it is almost impossible for leaders to preserve credibility and followers to maintain faith.

During the upcoming year, Venezuela’s serious economic problems, which are structural and have much to do with the global economic crisis, will continue, despite the Democratic Roundtable’s false promises that voting in their favor would lead to a rapid resolution. This means that 2016 will be marked by a discursive battle over who is responsible – in a split-power situation – for the persistence of the economic difficulties. Here Chavism will start out with a disadvantage, since as the recent voting result indicates, it is presently held responsible. Yet as the opposition’s false promises come to light – along with its internal division and incoherence, to say nothing of its profoundly fascist and genocidal tendencies – it will come under greater scrutiny and criticism by the masses.

Chavism will have to look to preserve its most treasured advances and legacies. These include the social programs and expanded democracy, which will all come under attack. Yet just as important are the ideas and the political example. These must not be allowed to be buried under the detritus of a hundred compromises and retreats, if the Chavist legacy is to continue inspiring people worldwide. The recent campaign saw Chavism engaging in miserable clientist practices (giving away phones and cars) and a fear campaign (“The right-wing will take your house and your computer”) that paradoxically resembled the opposition’s anticommunist propaganda against Chávez in 2006-7. It should be remembered that the opposition and imperialism want not only to defeat Chavism on the ground but also to erase its legacy. The latter is best achieved through an involution of the movement, as happened when European socialist movements became first “social-democractic” and then neither socialist nor democratic. For that reason, Chavists should work to resist such degeneration, even at the risk of losing state power.

More articles by:

Chris Gilbert is professor of political science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.

April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail