FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail