FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Chavist vs. Chavist: Class Struggle on the Rise Following Venezuela’s Local Elections

Photo by Joka Madruga | CC BY 2.0

This Sunday, on the 187th anniversary of Simón Bolívar’s death, grassroots leader Angel Prado voiced the concern that he and his supporters had been, like that historical figure, abandoned by the very state that they helped to build. The reasons for this worry are obvious: Prado, who is a popular Chavist candidate for mayor in the Simón Planas township, won a landslide victory on December 10 against the government’s candidate, only to see that victory taken away by decree.

Prado is a grassroots leader like few others. For the past decade, he has worked to develop El Maizal, one of Venezuela’s most emblematic and successful communes, which are key building blocks in the path to socialism as Chávez conceived it. El Maizal was visited by the late President at its inception in 2009, and today it produces 4000 metric tons of corn every year, alongside important quantities of meat and cheese.

To prevent mayor-by-decree Jean Ortiz from taking office, Prado’s supporters have spontaneously occupied Simón Planas’ central plaza. Their methods are peaceful: they broadcast loud patriotic music and their children play around the encampment. They speak of Prado’s victory as an expression of the “people’s will,” and say they won’t budge until they get a response from the government.

The case of Angel Prado and the township of Simón Planas is not unique. Now that the opposition has all but disappeared from view in Venezuela’s political panorama — in part because their violent tactics met with mass disapproval and in part because Maduro adopted most of their economic program — it is logical that contradictions among different Chavist tendencies should come to center stage.

In Caracas, alternative Chavist candidate Eduardo Saman, who was supported by the Communist Party (PCV), competed with the PSUV’s Erika Farías. Farías’ people played a dirty game, using overt clientelism to leverage voters and positioning party cadres around the poles to spread the rumor that her opponent had resigned. In this case, the unfair pressure on voters was unnecessary: Farías won by an ample margin because her opponent is little known, especially among younger voters.

Why does the government play so hard against Chavist alternatives, even against options that have emerged within the Chavist Polo Patriótico bloc that includes (together with the PSUV) PPT, Tupamaros, Redes and the Communist Party? One answer is that political culture in this country has been despotic and clientelist for at least a century. The United Socialist Party (PSUV) was constructed in a great hurry, and it reproduced many of the most problematic characteristics of this culture of power.

Yet the recent rise in hardball politics also relates to the political conjuncture. Governments and movements need unquestioning obedience when they are developing pacts with historical enemies that will damage their original bases. The Mexican PRI worked in the same manner during its move to the right that began in the 1940s, after Lazaro Cárdenas’ presidency. In Venezuela, negotiations with the political opposition and generous concessions made to the local capitalist class speak for a similar “right turn” taking place under our noses.

The last year in Venezuela has seen the birth of mass organizations and projects such as Somos Venezuela and Plan Chamba Juvenil. The government has used these far from spontaneous movements to capture youth that knows little about the original impulse of the Bolivarian Revolution. Because of the dire economic situation, they are easily attracted by modest stipends. Along with other stipend programs, such organizations form the base of a new Chavism that the government feels it can count on for uncritical support, even when compromising with class enemies.

Chavists who want to oppose this kind of pact and preserve the original socialist project will need a great deal of political shrewdness. Contradictions with the governing group need to be downplayed, since this group has Chávez’s mark of approval and is also a bulwark against imperialism. Nor can the different popular and grassroots Chavist movements work alone. Instead, they will need to organize across Venezuela’s vast territory and build a solid alliance between both urban and rural revolutionary Chavism. Only then will this bloc be strong enough to maintain the course toward socialism.

More articles by:

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 20, 2020
Katie Fite
How the Military is Raiding Public Lands and Civilian Spaces Across the Western Front
Nicholas Levis
Bloomberg is the Equal Evil
David Swanson
Shut Down Canada Until It Solves Its War, Oil, and Genocide Problem
Thomas Knapp
Freedom for $5.30…and This Time Mexico Really is Paying for It
Nick Pemberton
Mr. Sanders: Would You like Your Coffee Without Cream, or Without Milk?
Rachel M. Fazio
A Trillion Trees in Rep. Westerman’s Hands Means a Trillion Stumps
Jeff Mackler
Break With Two-Party Capitalist Duopoly!
Rebecca Gordon
Impunity Guaranteed for Torturers (and Presidents)
Jacob Hornberger
The CIA’s Role in Operation Condor
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Let Rome Burn
Jen Pelz
Reforming Expectations to Save Western Rivers
Maria Paez Victor
Canada Trapped By Its Own Folly
Binoy Kampmark
Pardoning Julian Assange: Trump, WikiLeaks and the DNC
Mel Gurtov
Poor Bill Barr
February 19, 2020
Ishmael Reed
Social Media: The New Grapevine Telegraph
David Schultz
Bernie Sanders and the Revenge of the Superdelegates
Kenneth Surin
Modi’s India
Chris Floyd
Which Side Are You On?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Hysteria Isn’t Killing Nuclear Power
Dave Lindorff
Truly Remaking Social Security is the Key to Having a Livable Society in the US
ANIS SHIVANI
Bloomberg on Bloomberg: The Selected Sayings of the Much-Awaited Establishment Messiah
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Occupations: The UN Business “Black List” and Israel’s Settlements
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Case: Critical Moment for the Anti-war Movement
Howard Lisnoff
The Wealth That’s Killing Us Will Save Us: Politics Through the Looking-Glass
Yves Engler
Canada, Get Out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS
Nick Licata
The Rule of Law Under Trump
Sam Gordon
A Treatise on Trinities
Nino Pagliccia
Open Letter to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Lima Group Meeting
John Kendall Hawkins
Just Two Kings Talking
February 18, 2020
John Pilger
Julian Assange Must be Freed, Not Betrayed
Peter Harrison
Religion is a Repeating Chapter in the History of Politics
Norman Solomon
The Escalating Class War Against Bernie Sanders
Conn Hallinan
Irish Elections and Unification
Dean Baker
We Shouldn’t Have to Beg Mark Zuckerberg to Respect Democracy
Sam Pizzigati
A Silicon Valley Life Lesson: Money That ‘Clumps’ Crushes
Arshad Khan
Minority Abuse: A Slice of Life in Modi’s India
Walden Bello
China’s Economy: Powerful But Vulernable
Nicolas J S Davies
Afghan Troops say Taliban are Brothers and War is “Not Really Our Fight.”
Nyla Ali Khan
The BJP is Not India, and Every Indian is Not a Modi-Devotee
Binoy Kampmark
Buying Elections: The Bloomberg Meme Campaign
Jonah Raskin
Purgatory Under the Patriarchy
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Herakles in the Age of Climate Chaos
Bob Topper
The Conscience of a Conservative
John W. Whitehead
We’re All in This Together
Gala Pin
Bodies in Freedom: a Barcelona Story
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail