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Editorial Venezuela elections: socialist victory buys the revolution breathing space

AS POLLS closed for Venezuela’s National Assembly elections the overall political situation became clearer. The progressive pole that embodies the enduring legacy of the late president Hugo Chavez enjoys a clear majority.

It is clear that the forces acting as a brake on progress cannot command a decisive majority nor can they, despite their capacity to inflict significant damage, mount a decisive challenge for political power.

Juan Guaido, artfully described by one Venezuelan diplomat as the “president of Narnia,” posed before his pretend presidential seal to call for a boycott.

With Venezuelans forced by boycotts, blockades and sabotage to endure shortages and power cuts it is remarkable that the state proved durable enough to mount an election process that by all objective standards is one of the most secure and trustworthy in the world.

Not that this makes any difference to the US National Security Council which said before the polls opened that Sunday’s election was fraudulent.

The various branches of the US intelligence community know perfectly well that their strategy of pretence — that the charlatan Guaido can claim any semblance of legitimacy — cannot survive the election of a new National Assembly. Thus they are forced to tweet that: “This election only serves to keep Maduro in power and does nothing to build a better future for the people of Venezuela.”

With border provocations and ham-fisted armed invasions decisively defeated by Venezuelan security forces, empty rhetoric from the US over human rights and freedom sounds especially hollow to people throughout Latin America who have ample experience of US intervention.

The European Union refused to send observers to Sunday’s election, saying the conditions for a democratic process don’t exist. This supine submission to US State Department dictates makes a mockery of the EU’s pretensions to moral supremacy.

The voting figures give cause for both optimism but also sound a warning note.

While those voting were a clear majority the abstention rate is high. The centre-right opposition polled respectably with around one in five votes. The importance of this is that the strategy of tension pursued by the extreme right and sponsored by the US with the collaboration of important sectors of reaction in neighbouring Colombia has failed in its bid to close down formal politics and foment an open civil war.

In the closing stages of the election President Maduro went on TV to condemn the tactics of the US-backed extreme right: “There are those who plot coups, those who ask for military intervention, we say: votes yes — war no, bullets no.”

The election result is thus a qualified success but it is important to note that where the Venezuelan revolutionary process has failed to deepen its working-class content it has gone backwards.

Capitalist relations of production remain dominant. The corruption and middle-class privileges which are embodied in the particular form of state management in the oil industry exercise a malign influence.

Bogus notions of a “revolutionary bourgeoisie” encourage peace feelers to sections of the right; in convincing many to abandon violence and participate in the electoral process, this has had positive results, but the unwillingness to risk a decisive confrontation with capital is one reason Venezuela’s counterrevolutionary forces remain strong enough to have launched serious destabilisation campaigns in 2017 and 2019 that cost many lives, even if the government’s successful mobilisation of millions to defeat those insurgencies demonstrates its deep roots in the people.

These are the reasons the Communist Party and some other left formations stood this year as a distinct electoral formation intending to deepen the revolutionary process.

Life is proving richer than theory as notions of a distinctive “21st-century socialism” able to escape the sharp realities of revolutionary praxis are tested.

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