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Issue #1590      April 24, 2013

Editorial

Maduro’s victory in Venezuela – lessons in social change

The victory of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela’s presidential election on April 14 sticks like bone in the gullet of imperialism. For years, columnists in the monopoly press had been theorising that the Bolivarian Revolution led by Hugo Chávez would fall into confusion and die along with its leader. Venezuela could then go back to business as usual – the business of skimming off the oil wealth of the country and giving it to transnational corporations and local pro-US elites. Nobody expected imperialism to be a gracious loser as its candidate, Henrique Capriles, failed again to dislodge the Bolivarian incumbent but socialists and other progressive forces worldwide can learn much from events that are unfolding.

The formula for unsettling an opponent of imperialism is familiar. US-sponsored groups have been instructing local reactionaries on new ways to destabilise independent-minded governments since the days of the “colour revolutions” in Serbia, the Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan during the last decade. Hold leaders up to ridicule, whip up an atmosphere of crisis with bogus reports, rally in mock anticipation that every election result will be “stolen”, create the impression basic rights are being trampled on, unite the more affluent people who may feel themselves to be the losers out of the status quo.

The recipe was followed to the letter in Venezuela. The bulk of the media was given over completely to this project. It helped coordinate a coup against Chávez in 2002, supported the sabotage of the state-run oil industry, a lock out by businesses and more during the term of President Chávez.

But they failed. The reason was the remarkable improvement in the standard of living of Venezuela’s poor (the vast majority of the population) since the triumph of the Revolution in 1998. People marginalised by rapacious, neo-liberal capitalism were empowered to change their lives dramatically for the better. They rallied to protect their revolution. Naive people would think that this reality would be enough to melt the hearts of the exploiters and make socialists out of them, but history tells a different story.

Henrique Capriles was not raised to love the poor. He was a member of an international fascistic organisation called Tradición, Familia and Propriedad (Tradition, Family and Property) and, despite his campaign rhetoric, is tasked with rolling back the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution. He refuses to recognise the authority of the country’s independent electoral commission despite its respected position internationally and despite its state of the art technology.

Maduro’s winning margin was narrow. The rightwing opposition has used its massive resources to polarise the country and now they are being directed toward de-legitimising the election result. The capitalist press worldwide is falling in behind demands for a recount and fresh hope for a counter-revolution. Meanwhile, violent anti-government protests continue. Plots against government figures are uncovered and the activities of violent Colombian paramilitaries in Venezuela are exposed.

Nicolas Maduro won the April 14 poll with 50.8 percent of the vote to Capriles’ 49 percent or about 200,000 votes. The US is withholding recognition of the new government and supporting calls for a recount. It is instructive that a margin of 200,000 is deemed “too close to call” by a country whose 43rd President, George W Bush, was elected by a minority of the country’s voters after securing a controversial “victory” in the state of Florida by a mere handful of votes.

It appears that in the face of unrelenting violence, the government of Maduro has agreed to an audit of the vote. Its victory will be confirmed but the campaign of destabilisation will not stop. However, the key to the survival of the Bolivarian Revolution does not rest on parliamentary elections alone. The elected government has set down roots deep inside working class communities and workplaces and established new forms of popular administration outside the old, decaying bourgeois system of capitalist rule. These forces are the backbone of the radical social change taking place in the country that will mobilise to defend their gains. When the time comes to establish a government of a new type committed ultimately to establishing socialism in Australia, this is precisely what will have to be done here. As we can see in Venezuela, the road won’t be easy but their achievements and example show us what can be done.

Next article – Obituary – Eddie Clynes

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