On September 26 the people of Venezuela will again head to the polls, to vote for the 165-member National Assembly. Since 2004 Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution has faced the people in a major election at least once a year: the 2004 regional elections, 2005 National Assembly elections, 2006 presidential elections, 2007 constitutional referendum, 2008 state and municipal elections and 2009 constitutional referendum. No other government in the world has faced so many electoral contests in the last six years.
While the Bolivarian revolution continues to advance, the capitalist class is far from being defeated. The revolution has overwhelming control of the military, the oil industry and other major sectors of the economy, but challenges remain. The major confrontation is still with US imperialism and its allies in the region. Over the last few months the aggression has intensified. The Obama administration and big business in the region, including in Venezuela, have intensified the campaign to undermine President Hugo Chavez and the revolutionary process.
The campaign focusing on the so-called dictatorial nature of the Bolivarian process has escalated with accusations that the Venezuelan government is harbouring terrorists. The US is now openly talking about the possibility of sanctions and, together with the Colombian government, has openly floated the possibility of intervention.
Eva Golinger wrote in an article posted on July 24 on the web site Postcards from the Revolution, “Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denounced this Saturday US plans to attack his country and overthrow his government. During a ceremony celebrating the 227th birthday of Independence hero Simon Bolivar, Chavez read from a secret memo he had been sent from an unnamed source inside the United States.”“As I said to you in my three prior letters, the idea remains the generation of a conflict on your western [Colombian] border”, read Chavez from the secret missive. “The latest events confirm all, or almost all, of what those here discussed as well as other information that I have obtained”, it continued.“The preparation phase in the international community, with the help of Colombia, is in plain execution”, said the text, referring to the session in the Organisation of American States (OAS) meeting during which the Colombian government accused Venezuela of harbouring “terrorists” and “terrorist training camps” and gave the Chavez government a 30-day ultimatum to allow international intervention.The letter continued with more details: “In the United States, the execution phase is accelerating, together with a contention force, as they call it, towards Costa Rica with the pretext of fighting drug trafficking”. On July 1, the Costa Rican government allowed 46 US warships and 7000 marines into its maritime and land territory. The true objective of this mobilisation, said the letter, is to support military operations against Venezuela.
The Colombian performance at the OAS appears to be an effort to justify war against Venezuela. Last year Colombia opened its territory to seven new US military bases in an agreement that the US Air Force said was necessary for “full spectrum military operations” throughout South America.
Chavez stated on July 24 at the closing session of the Third Meeting of the Trade Union Movement of Our Americas, “Colombia has become an instrument for US imperialism, becoming a violent and militaristic government that has acted against its own people and those in the region”.
“We have been forced to break relations with the government of Colombia, not the people of Colombia, for we are the same”, Chavez said. “The Colombian oligarchy is right to be worried, for they know that what is happening in Venezuela will impact on Colombia ... Since the revolutionary military rebellion of 1992 [in Venezuela], the Colombian bourgeoisie has been worried ... But now we are not just rebel soldiers. I am now the president of the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela.
“The Colombian government has given up its national sovereignty to US imperialism. It continues to lie and present false evidence about the movements of guerrilla forces in the region. We should not underestimate what is happening ... Imagine if a war broke out between Colombia and Venezuela. That would be something that we would cry about for the next 100 years.”
Chavez continued: “If we are attacked, we will not stand by with our arms crossed ... The government of Uribe should be careful not to follow the orders of US imperialism to invade Venezuela or to aggravate Venezuela as it did Ecuador. Be careful with the reaction that you will have from the people of Colombia, be careful with the reaction from some military forces in Colombia that I have known of for many years, Bolivarian forces.”
In response to the renewed threat, the Bolivarian revolution has gone on the political offensive, calling for international solidarity to defend the revolution. Nelson Davila, the Venezuelan ambassador to Australia, said in an interview with the July 21 (Australian) Guardian: “I would like to make it clear that it is not at all about the image of one person. There are some allegations that there is some kind of idolatry of Hugo Chavez. In reality Chavez is a historical leader and that is difficult to negate. If the people want President Chavez to continue governing he has the right to face another election. That is also a guarantee that the process will continue until we feel that the revolution has been consolidated.
“Because there are some aspects of the revolution that we need to strengthen. We need to consolidate the ideological consciousness. We need to make sure that the population understands the importance of socialism as a political model. So we consider international solidarity important as it will help us strengthen consciousness”, said Davila.
“For example, every year there are several delegations visiting Venezuela from Europe ... and of course from Australia different groups have visited Venezuela. And that is one of the reasons why our president has called for the construction of the Fifth International. If this is possible it would be a great advance ideologically and politically for the world.”
In the National Assembly elections, the capitalists will seek to capitalise on dissatisfaction created by the “pro-revolutionary bureaucracy”, which continues to plague the government and is one of the biggest challenges to further progress.
Since 1998, when Chavez was first elected, many of the biggest political, economic and social changes have had to be made by side-stepping the government bureaucracy. Though a new participatory people’s power is being developed through alternative structures and grassroots organisations, many of the old layer of government officials remain entrenched and are consciously undermining the revolutionary process.
Tamara Pearson wrote for the online news service venezuelanalysis.com on May 17, “The bureaucracy in Venezuela is basically a layer, or some would argue, a class, of people which hinders productivity and efficiency, and has a virtual monopoly on decision making, and resource allocation”. This large bureaucracy prevents people, collectively and individually, from controlling their lives and achieving what they are trying to achieve, by requiring exhausting amounts of documents and waiting and by not providing people correct information. This allows the bureaucracy to maintain itself in employment.
Antonio Padrino wrote in Aporrea: “The bureaucrat ... is a person ... proficient at what they do. They have the ability to blend into whatever governing party until they achieve their final objective, the ‘fruits of power’. They are the civil servants who are incompetent, inefficient, arrogant, scheming, extreme suck-ups and ‘fishers’ for good positions or posts. They ... hound the most efficient and productive workers in the department or ministry because the existence of such workers makes their own mediocrity and lack of revolutionary conscience evident.”
The right can also count on imperialist financial support. Eva Golinger wrote in the June 25 edition of Correo del Orinoco that US$40-50 million “donated by US and European agencies and foundations, goes to the right-wing opposition political parties, Primero Justicia (First Justice), Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Time) and COPEI (Christian Democrat neoconservative party), as well as to a dozen or so NGOs, student groups and media organizations”.
Golinger quoted from a report of a pro-imperialist think-tank which cynically observed that, in Venezuela, “Elections are the main link between democracy and dictatorship”. This is the doublespeak for funding right-wingers in the hopes of creating “a more US-friendly government”.