In Venezuela's October 7 presidential elections, the candidate leading the polls — President Hugo Chavez — is standing on a platform of pushing a socialist transformation.
Leaked documents show his main opponent, Henri Capriles Radonski, has a neoliberal agenda. But publicly he presents himself as a social democrat who supports pro-poor policies such as the Chavez government's health and education social programs.
Luis Hernandez Navarro wrote in the September 23 Guardian: “In Venezuela, to be a rightist is out of fashion.”
“As is shown in several opinion polls,” he writes, “Venezuela has given birth to a new political culture where the socialist ideal is widely accepted. Half the population agrees with the idea of building a socialist country, against 29% who oppose it.”
Hernandez Navarro pointed out: “The strength of this new political culture, and of the strides towards social inclusion made by the Bolivarian government, make things quite difficult for Capriles … He can't oppose this ideal in public without damaging his chances of victory.”
On the other side, Chavez is standing for a drastic deepening of the process of change — in a context where, despite the changes, huge sections of the economy and state remain under the control of big business.
In this context, Amilcar Figueroa, a Venezuelan political scientist, member of the Continental Bolivarian Movement and former president of the Latin American Parliament, spoke to Alba TV on the significance of the October 7 poll.
The interview was translated by Venezuelanalysis.com's Ewan Robertson. A longer version can be found at Venezuelanalysis.com.
* * *
What do you think the right-wing strategy be on October 7 and the days after?
What we know is that they have been thinking about and working on a strategy that involves [claiming] electoral fraud. This strategy, launched from Europe and the United States with the media power that imperialism and the right wing have, could have some impact.
It would depend on the margin of the Chavez victory. If it’s overwhelming, it’s going to be a bit more difficult for them to implement this strategy.
What is certain is that after [Chavez’s] victory, radical sectors [of the right] will try to deepen destabilisation in various ways, I couldn’t say which. On the other hand, there's a part of the opposition that isn’t thinking about destabilisation, but rather of trying to gain ground in the regional mayoral and state governor elections in December.
These possibilities are there and we shouldn’t disregard either. Everything largely depends on the result on October 7, and the margin by which we win.
With Chavez re-elected, what will be the challenges for the Bolivarian revolution?
I think that we need to start by demanding something that Chavez proposed: rectification. It’s necessary to deepen [the revolution], supported by the forces that historically are most interested in the development of a socialist Venezuela.
This happens by understanding the class structure in Venezuela, what the structural composition of classes in the country is today and which of these classes are most interested in deepening change. We should develop all of our most important political activity there.
[We should] weave the social framework of the revolution from below, and strengthen [grassroots] organisations and popular power.
I believe that’s the strategy. We still haven’t freed ourselves from the cultural hegemony of the capitalists. The values of capitalist society are still alive and kicking in all areas of Venezuelan society.
In the words of Chavez, one of the main objectives of the 2013-2019 stage of the revolution (the next presidential term) is “crossing the threshold” — securing the path to socialism in a way that the changes become irreversible transformations. What do you think of this?
Advancing supposes having a very strong debate about how to understand the transition, how to understand socialism, what socialism is. All socialist theory needs to be brought down to a concrete level and be seen in the conditions of Latin America; in the conditions of the 21st century.
It’s a great challenge for the revolutionaries of Venezuela, where there has been an extraordinary advance, which rose up in a moment of global revolutionary retreat.
We have to fight a tremendous battle in theoretical construction. We won’t successfully advance if the construction of theory around the revolution in Venezuela and Latin America is not done.
We are living in a historic moment where the capitalist system [is degenerating]. It’s becoming clear that capitalism isn’t an option and the option needs to be sought outside [of capitalism]. That option is socialism.
Focusing on the Latin American context, is it feasible to think about a continental socialist project? Or are we in a time of defensive retreat of anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist tendencies?
In 2005, the [US-pushed] Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) suffered a tremendous defeat [when Venezuela and some other South American nations rejected it]. However after this, some Latin American countries signed free trade agreements with the US and strategic treaties with Europe.
These agreements represent a bid by capital to regain hegemony in Latin America.
On the other hand, the tendencies of unity guided by the Bolivarian spirit are advancing, like the ALBA [the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America] could be. The alliance with the countries of the Mercosur [the Market of the South, which Venezuela joined as a formal member in July] is an advance in this sense.
[Joining Mercosur] supposes great challenges. It makes it indispensable for the Bolivarian revolution to take a leap forward in the expansion of its internal productive forces to develop a productive economy of a socialist nature.
This process should be supported by the classes with the greatest ability to build socialism, but also by a leap forward in scientific-technological development. The building of socialism isn’t possible in only one country, and in the case of Latin America this beautiful process of unity needs to be combined with the struggle for socialism.
Something indispensable is the unity of the peoples [of Latin America]. Up to now there have been great advances in unity between nation states, in the good relations between heads of state. However the unity of the peoples must be strengthened, a unity that carries at the same time a leap forward of a revolutionary nature in society.