Venezuela: Significance of the election results and the new struggles (with audio)

Supporters of the revolution mobilise in Miranda, in defiance of the opposition victory there. Photo by Winston Bravo, ABN.
By Federico Fuentes, Caracas

November 29, 2008 -- Supporters and opponents of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution have come out with differing assessments post the November 23 regional elections, which Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez had defined as the most important electoral contest yet for the process of change.

Hear Federico Fuentes discuss the November 23 results on Latin Radical

Open in a new window

In the lead-up to the poll, which involved 22 governorships, 328 mayors and 233 legislative council positions, Chavez presented the vote as a virtual referendum on his government’s socialist project — and goal of deepening the revolutionary process that has succeeded in significantly reducing poverty, but is facing increasing pressures with huge amounts of power still in the hands of the corporate elite.

Echoed by the international media, the opposition — whose traditional support is drawn from the upper and middle classes — claimed it stood on the verge of delivering a significant blow to the Chavista movement that has drawn its support from the poor majority, while continuing its attempts to paint the government as dictatorial.

However, as with the previous 12 national polls held since Chavez was first elected in 1998 (11 won by pro-Chavez forces), the vote was free and fair, as noted by the more than 130 international observers.


The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), led by Chavez, has highlighted to its victories in 17 governor races, as well as winning 81% of all mayoral positions and a national PSUV vote that surpassed that of the counter-revolutionary opposition by 1.5 million.

The PSUV, with almost 5 million votes on its own, far surpassed its next contender, the opposition A New Time (UNT) party, which scored just over 1 million.

The US-backed right-wing opposition has highlighted the fact that it won the three largest states — Zulia, Carabobo and Miranda — and the Greater Caracas mayorality.

It now has control of five states.

In the last regional elections, held in October 2004, the pro-Chavez forces were riding the wave of their crushing victory in the August 2004 recall referendum on Chavez’s mandate. Against a demoralised opposition, who — following unproven claims of fraud by their leaders in the referendum — largely abstained, the Chavistas won all but two states.

In elections traditionally marked by low turnouts, only 46% of registered voters participated. This time, on top of an increase in the number of registered voters, a massive 65% voted — reflecting the increased political participation that has occurred as part of the Bolivarian revolution

These elections occurred one year after the first electoral defeat suffered by the Chavista forces. On December 2 last year, voters narrowly rejected the government’s proposals for a wide-ranging, and at times confusing, package of constitutional reforms that in large part were aimed at opening the path to deepening the revolution.

After a record vote for Chavez in excess of 7 million in the December 2006 presidential elections, some 3 million abstained in the constitutional reform referendum, allowing the opposition — whose vote was only slightly larger than the 4.3 million it received in the presidential poll — its first electoral victory since 1998.

The opposition parties and the 95% of media outlets aligned with the counter-revolution immediately announced the beginning of the end for Chavismo. The private media talked up the possibility of the opposition winning 12-15 governorships.

The right wing hoped that some of the factors that contributed to the referendum defeat — dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy and corruption, the poor performance of a lot of Chavista officials and ongoing problems such as crime and housing — would pave the way for significant gains based on making inroads into Chavez’s impoverished support base.

However, far from focusing on individual candidates, the campaign became in large part a referendum on the direction of Venezuela — between accelerating towards socialism or else ratifying the decline of support for Chavez and opening up important spaces from which the opposition could launch a frontal attack on the revolution.


Given this scenario, what do the results mean?

The Chavista vote rose from just over 4 million last year to more than 5.5 million this year, a reflection of an important recuperation of support although only half way to the 7 million votes for Chavez in 2006.

Especially signficant is the nearly 5 million votes cast for the PSUV, consolidating it as the primary political force in Venezuela less than a year after it was formally constituted.

Chavez had called for the formation of the PSUV after his 2006 victory as a way of uniting the often dispersed revolutionary forces and creating a badly needed political tool to lead the process towards socialism.

Only properly formed this year, the lack of such a tool to lead the constitutional reform campaign contributed to the campaign’s defeat.

Previously, the process had to rely on the amorphous electoral machine of the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), viewed by much of the ranks as a vehicle for opportunists, and a number of smaller parties.

Significantly, the PSUV held primary elections for its candidates, involving 2.5 million people — the first time this has occurred in Venezuela’s history.

On top of the PSUV vote, a further 500,000 votes were obtained by candidates from other parties that are part of the of the pro-Chavez Patriotic Alliance that involves the PSUV, while a number of “dissident Chavista” candidates that stood against PSUV candidates garnering just over 400,000 votes.

These originated either as candidates that didn’t win PSUV pre-selection or else were proposed by the Communist Party of Venezuela or the Homeland For All party — both of whom have declined to join the PUSV, but formed part of the Patriotic Alliance.

This comparatively low vote indicates the general rejection of those from within Chavismo who attempted to pose as alternatives to the PSUV.

While in some cases such candidates expressed discontent from the left with the PSUV candidates, but in most cases they were candidates whose political positions were counter-posed to the revolutionary process.

The vote for opposition candidates nationally tallied up to just over 4.1 million, a drop of almost 10% from their vote in the 2007 referendum.

Opposition gains?

Much has been made in the Western media of the fact that the opposition won five states, as opposed to the two it secured in 2004. However, before the latest poll five governors elected as pro-Chavez candidates in 2004 had broken with the government.

Two of the governors who broke with Chavez — in Aragua and Sucre — were aligned with the social-democratic party Podemos that left the pro-Chavez camp in 2007. This time, Podemos candidates were supported by the opposition and vice versa.

Three other governors — in Carabobo, Guarico and Trujillo — openly broke with the process this year, standing candidates against the PSUV.

This means from 16 states previously controlled by Chavista forces, the PSUV no hold 17.

While the PSUV did not win the two states the opposition won in 2004 (Zulia and Nueva Esparta), they regained control of Aragua and Sucre — destroying Podemos on the way — as well as Guarico and Trujillo.

In Carabobo, the opposition candidate won a narrow victory — with the votes won by the right-wing Chavista “dissident” almost certainly preventing the PSUV candidate from winning.

Having narrowly won Tachira, which borders with Colombia, in 2004, the Chavistas lost it this time.

Furthermore, the PSUV won 264 municipalities, up from the 226 the Chavistas won in 2004, including 80 of the 100 most populated municipalities. The opposition dropped from 70 to 56 mayoral offices.

The biggest upsets, however, came with the opposition victories in the state of Miranda — which includes part of Caracas — and the Greater Caracas mayorality.

Balance sheet

The first thing to note when drawing up a balance sheet is the partial revival of the Chavista vote. This can be explained primarily by three factors.

First, some decisive government measures this year to combat widespread problems causing dissatisfaction among the population had an impact.

This includes the nationalisation of strategic industries such as cement, steel and milk production, together with policies that helped overcome food shortages, increase the construction of housing and, in part, improvements in combatting crime.

Second, the non-stop political campaigning by Chavez, who remains hugely popular, ensured that each time he visited a state and raised the hand of a PSUV candidate, their standing in the polls rose several percentage points.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, was the eruption of the PSUV. Together with Chavez, it was the grassroots units of the PSUV that drove the election campaign.

This dynamic relationship between Chavez and the grassroots, revived after a certain weakening in 2007, was for the first time expressed in an organic manner through PSUV structures.

This was crucial for overcoming some of the discontent among the popular sectors.

This relationship was ratified on election day when internal PSUV exit polls looked bleak around midday. The PSUV moved into action and mobilised the popular sectors that recognised the danger.

This helps explain not only the fact that voting booths in many areas remained open well past the official closing time of 4pm, but also why the opposition tried to pressure the National Electoral Commission to close the polling booths after that time — despite Venezuelan law stating that as long as there are people waiting to vote, a booth cannot be closed.

In the other direction, it also explains the surprising losses in Miranda and Greater Caracas.

While an important turnaround in voting trends occurred, with many of the last polling booths to close being in impoverished neighbourhood of Petare, this was not enough to secure victory in the Sucre municipality, handing the opposition victory in Miranda and Greater Caracas.

The mismanagement and corruption of the previous mayor of Greater Caracas, Miranda governor and Sucre mayor — all Chavistas and all with jurisdiction over Petare — meant that many in poorer areas of Petare refused to vote for Chavista candidates.

In these areas, abstention averaged between 40-45%.

Another factor was popular rejection of candidates like incumbent Miranda governor Diosdado Cabello — widely viewed as a leader of the Chavista right wing.

The opposition vote overall stayed solid at around 40%. While such a vote is not enough to win national elections, a process that aims to move towards socialism — which requires the support and mobilisation of the great majority to defeat the capitalist elite — has to break down this bloc.

This consistent vote can be explained more by the corporate media monopoly than the policies of a divided opposition, which is only capable of uniting around the goal of removing Chavez.

Another important factor is US intervention. On the border states of Zulia and Tachira, right-wing Colombian paramilitaries played a significant role in ensuring opposition victories, while the US government agency USAID funded opposition-run “popular networks” that built a base of support among discontented sectors of the poor in Petare.

The election outcome and reactions to it seem to point in the direction of growing confrontation, and a possible return to the turbulent period of 2002-2003.

While the opposition secured control of some crucial posts, it is clear there remains strong support for Chavez and the revolutionary process.

At the same time, the revolution needs to resolve some internal questions.

The rejection by the revolution’s support base among the working people of right-wing Chavista candidates, and the possibility of newly elected Chavista governors jumping ship — potentially in Lara where the new PSUV governor previously expressed his willingness to run on an opposition ticket and formed his own party during the campaign — demonstrates the need to carry out the “revolution within the revolution” that Chavez has spoken about.

Crucial will be building on the momentum to develop the PSUV into not simply a powerful electoral machine, but a real political instrument at the service of working people and the revolution.

Chavez has stated that the election results are a mandate for accelerating the pace towards socialism. This will require dealing with the domination of the corporate media, US subversion and capitalist economic sabotage.

Opposition violence

Chavez has openly warned the opposition governors that any destabilising activity will be met by the full weight of the law. A number of opposition governors were openly involved in the 2002 military coup that briefly overthrew Chavez, and will undoubtedly seek to use the institutions they control against the national government.

Already, disturbing reports have emerged of opposition thugs in the newly opposition-run areas in Miranda, Tachira and Caracas, as well as other places, violently attacking activists involved in communal councils, social missions and other popular organisations.

In some places, violent street battles broke out, while in others activists were violently ejected from buildings that house the popular projects that have helped tackle the needs of the poor.

Addressing supporters on November 28, Chavez read for eight minutes straight examples of attacks on the pro-poor social missions that have occurred, without completing the list. He declared: “They want confrontation. Venezuelan people, Venezuelan soldiers, we are ready to defend the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution!… We are willing to die for the Bolivarian revolution, for the spaces that the people have recuperated and the path we have chosen to take.

“Where a civil or military functionary tries to interfere in the process of the recuperation of the property that belongs to the people, they need to singled out by the people … and we need to apply the full weight of the law against this functionary, no matter who they are.

“This is part of what I call a revolution within the revolution.”

That day, thousands of people marched in defence of the social missions in the capital of Miranda, Los Teques, and against the newly elected opposition governor, Henrique Capriles Radonski, who has been accused of orchestrating violent attacks.

The march was led by Chavista mayor-elect of the Guaicaipuro municipality, Alirio Mendoza, who stated: “We are here today supporting the people in defense of their constitutional rights. We can not allow the representative of capitalism, of fascism to violently seize the spaces that we have won with struggle and revolutionary committment.”

In this new political context, the PSUV will have to develop a strategy to directly confront any coup-plotting activity in Miranda, Caracas, Zulia and other regions, which can only occur by simultaneously confronting the powerful righ-wing within the PSUV.

The next year looms as decisive for the Bolivarian revolution, as the process faces the pressure of likely lower oil prices, internal battles over direction and the newly secured control over important positions by the counter-revolution.

On the other hand, the important gains in 2008, as well as the still-high popular support for the process, indicate the potential for significant progress.

[This article first appeared in Green Left Weekly issue #777, December 3, 2008. Federico Fuentes is Green Left Weekly/Links correspondent in Caracas and a member of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, a Marxist organisation affiliated to the Socialist Alliance of Australia.]


By Jorge Martín, Yonnie Moreno and William Sanabria

The final results of the Venezuelan elections are now out. The Socialist United Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has won about 80% of all local councils and 17 out of the 22 governors that were up for election (there were no elections in the state of Amazonas, ruled by a pro-Chavez governor). The PSUV won in three states, Sucre, Aragua and Guarico, where the governors had been elected on a Bolivarian ticket but had then joined the opposition. Meanwhile, oil-rich Zulia in the border with Colombia and tourist island state of Nueva Esparta remain in opposition hands. To this we have to add the loss of two important positions, the Caracas Alcaldía Metropolitana (Greater Caracas Council) to opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, and Miranda state (surrounding and including parts of the capital city) to Capriles Radonsky. Finally, the industrial state Carabobo and the border region of Táchira, where the results were close and were not announced immediately, also fell into the hands of the opposition.

Chávez shows a map showing council election results
Chávez shows a map showing council election results

The Libertador Council in Caracas (the most populated one in the capital) remains in the hands of the revolution, while the Sucre Council also in Caracas (second largest) fell to the opposition.

In those states where the PSUV won, it did so by a large margin. More than 10% points over the opposition in 8 states, between 20 and 30 points in 4 states, more than 30 in two others, and more than 50 points advantage in Monagas and Lara. The opposition only won one state with a sizeable majority (more than 10 points in Nueva Esparta) with the rest of the victories being extremely narrow.

If you take number of votes, PSUV and other Bolivarian candidates for governor received a total of 5.5 million (around 58%), while opposition candidates received just 4 million votes (41%). This means that if you compare these results to those of the constitutional reform referendum one year ago, the revolutionary forces have won an additional 1.1 million votes, while the opposition has lost nearly half a million.

In the local elections, the PSUV won 263 councils, and an additional 14 were won by PSUV allies, while the opposition only won 56. In relation to 2004, the forces of the revolution have increased control over 52 councils, while the opposition has lost 14. Even in sates where the opposition won the governor, the PSUV has made important advances at the local level. This is particularly the case in Zulia where the Bolivarians win 13 out of 19 councils (previously they only had 5), or Carabobo where the PSUV won in 11 out of 13 councils (including the capital Valencia for the first time).

However the loss of Miranda, Carabobo and the Metropolitan District of Caracas, all of them extremely important from the point of view of politics, economy and population, and the fact that the PSUV did not win Zulia (something which had been hoped for) is a serious warning for the revolution, which has to be added to the defeat of the constitutional reform referendum.

There are specific reasons for some of these setbacks. The defeat in Táchira was very narrow (6,400 votes or 1.2%) and was helped by the fact that there was a dissident Bolivarian candidate who received 6,200 votes.

In Carabobo, the sitting "Bolivarian" governor Acosta Carles had been marred by corruption scandals, and accused of financial irregularities. He is a typical representative of the corrupt and bureaucratic breed of politicians that occupies many of the elected positions of the chavista movement. He was expelled from the PSUV, the right thing to do, but then stood as an independent and managed to receive 56,000 votes (6.5%) just enough to prevent the election of PSUV candidate Mario Silva (who lost by 25,000 votes, or 3%).

In Miranda, the only place where a sitting Bolivarian governor stood for election and lost, the candidate, Diosdado Cabello, is widely discredited amongst the revolutionary rank and file and is seen as the most outspoken representative of what is known as the derecha endógena, the bourgeois right wing of the Bolivarian movement. He was not elected in the internal elections to the PSUV leadership, but was smuggled back in by Chavez as a regional vice-president. Miranda state includes part of the capital, particularly the Sucre council in the East, a mixture of working class and poor revolutionary barrios and petty bourgeois and upper class urbanizaciones. Sucre council had been ruled by another right wing "Bolivarian" bureaucrat, Rangel, who had also become widely discredited.

Map of states: Red - PSUV win; Blue - Oppositon win
Map of states: Red - PSUV win; Blue - Oppositon win

These elections had a very high level of participation (more than 65%, 15 percentage points higher than the previous regional elections in 2004). The fact that the revolutionary forces managed to increase their vote by more than 1 million in relation to the constitutional reform referendum is due mainly to the active participation of Chavez himself in the campaign. At the beginning of the election campaign the mood amongst the Bolivarian masses was flat, and there was even talk of losing 10 states. Only when Chavez threw himself into the campaign, visiting all of the states in dispute and some of them on several occasions, did the Bolivarian masses rally behind the candidates (some of them known right wing bureaucrats and anti-working class politicians like Rangel in Bolivar, who ordered the National Guard against SIDOR workers earlier this year).

This underlines once again the enormous reservoir of support for the revolution, and for Chavez himself, whom the masses identify more clearly with the idea of socialism. At the some time it reveals the poverty and greyness of many of the other components of the leadership of the movement, grey career politicians who do not inspire any revolutionary fervour.

The high turn out also means that the opposition mobilised their social base of support to turn out to vote. These elections became a referendum about Chávez and socialism and this is the way most people saw them. But the opposition had already mobilised massively during the presidential elections in December 2006 when they received 4.3 million votes, and the constitutional referendum of December 2007, when they received 4.5 million.

Abstention in revolutionary strongholds

The difference this time, as with the referendum, was not so much the amount of votes for the opposition, but rather, abstention amongst those who traditionally have supported the revolution. The highest point of support for the revolution from an electoral point of view was the presidential election in 2006, when Chavez received 7.3 million votes. That was also an extremely polarised election, in which Chavez put the issue of socialism in the centre of the campaign, and the Venezuelan workers and poor responded massively and in an enthusiastic way. They voted to defend the gains of the revolution and to move forward to socialism in a decisive way.

However, after that election, no decisive action was taken in the direction of socialism. The ruling class organised a campaign of sabotage of the economy, particularly the distribution of food. That opened a golden opportunity to expropriate the oligarchy. A law was even passed to allow for it. But no serious measures were taken and the referendum was lost.

Map of councils: Red - PSUV win; Green - Oppositon win
Map of councils: Red - PSUV win; Green - Oppositon win

The impact of the impressive social gains of the revolution, mainly in the fields of education and health care through the misiones, was felt mainly between 2003 and 2006. Now that people have had access to education and health care, their expectations have been raised. They want the revolution to solve their most pressing needs in relation to food scarcity and price increases, housing, jobs, crime ...

But none of these problems can really be solved within the limits of the capitalist system. At the beginning of his mandate, Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Barreto became extremely popular by starting to implement a policy of expropriation of urban land and housing, trying to solve the problems of housing facing hundreds of thousands of caraqueños. He came under strong pressure of bourgeois public opinion and the right wing of the Bolivarian leadership. He abandoned his radical policies and concentrated on organising cultural events and other high profile stunts which did not solve any concrete problems. We wonder whether he was advised by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, but he has ended up the same way.

It is not only that many of the daily problems of Venezuelan working people have not been solved. Added to that we have the fact that in many occasions, when workers and the poor take the initiative, through direct action, to solve them in an organised way, they are faced with the demoralising wall of the bureaucracy, inefficiency and corruption. This comes both from the old structures of the capitalist state which remain largely intact and from the new "Bolivarian" bureaucracy which is scared to death of the direct participation of working people. To add insult to injury, those who organised the reactionary coups and plots of the opposition are free to walk the streets and have never been put on trial. This includes the newly elected governor of Miranda, Radonsky, who participated in the assault of the Cuban embassy during the coup in April 2002, Antonio Ledezma, the new Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas who participated in the coup in 2002, and Enrique Salas Feo, winner in Carabobo, who played an active role both in the coup in April 2002 and in the oil lock-out in December 2002, amongst many others.

In this context, to many, speeches about socialism do not mean anything anymore.

The fact that abstention amongst the Bolivarian masses is what lost key states in these elections can be very easily verified by looking at the actual figures.

Evolution of local councils over last three elections
Evolution of local councils over last three elections

Take the Sucre council in the East of Caracas, which is part of the Miranda state and at the same time of the Caracas Metropolitan Council and was key in losing both. Within these council there are middle class areas, like the Leoncio Martinez parish, where the opposition traditionally wins, which voted 81% for the opposition, 19% for the PSUV. Here abstention was 35%, the national average. However in working class and poor areas of the same council, where the PSUV won, abstention was significantly higher. In Caicaguita (64% for the PSUV) abstention was 43%, in Filas de Mariches (PSUV got 75%) abstention was 44%, in La Dolorita (70% for the PSUV) abstention was 40%. In the Petare parish, the largest in the council, Chavez received 112,000 votes in December 2006, for 96,000 for the opposition, abstention was 27%. This time, the PSUV candidate, Aristóbulo Isturiz, received 77,000 votes, for 97,000 for opposition candidate Ledezma, with abstention at 40%. The opposition barely increased, the revolutionary vote went down by 35,000.

Similar figures can be produced for working class and poor areas around the capital and throughout the country. In the Antímano and Sucre parishes in the West of the capital, strongholds of the revolution, abstention was 44 and 41%. In the escualido areas of El Hatillo (East of Caracas) where 81% voted for the opposition and San Antonio de los Altos (Miranda) where the opposition received 78%, abstention was only 31% and 28%, below the national level.

What conclusions from these results?

The results this time were better than at the time of the constitutional reform referendum. It is correct to counter the lies and propaganda of the capitalist media who now argue that Venezuela has voted against Chavez. However it cannot be argued that this is a victory and all is rosy in the garden. As an activist in the Caracas PSUV said: "If this is a victory, why do I feel so bad about it?" It cannot be argued, as some do in the Bolivarian leadership, that the problem was one of logistics. That the revolutionary activists failed to put the technical means to bring people to the polling stations. Some are even suggesting that a new electoral law is needed to bring more polling stations to poor areas where ten years ago people just did not participate in elections. All this might be needed, but it certainly did not prevent the revolutionary masses of workers and the poor from turning out en masse in December 2006!

The reasons for this setback are not technical but political. This is what we have been arguing for some time. These results need to be analysed in a sober minded way as another warning to the revolution. Unless the concrete problems of the masses are solved, disillusionment, demoralisation and scepticism can set in and create the conditions for the oligarchy to come back.

The defeat of the referendum last year was interpreted by many in the right wing of the Bolivarian movement to mean that "the masses were not ready for socialism", "we went too far too fast", etc. They pushed for a line of collaboration with the oligarchy, opening up negotiations with the capitalists, offering them all sorts of incentives and lifting price controls. As was to be expected, none of this worked. Private investment is still at an extremely low level and the oligarchy continues to sabotage the distribution of basic products.

Assault against gains of the revolution

It is less than a week since the opposition won in some councils and regions and they have already launched an assault against the revolutionary movement and the gains of the revolution. In Carabobo, Miranda and the Caracas Metropolitan area there are many reports of such attacks. Reactionary thugs from Primero Justicia threatened to close down Radio Voz de Guaicaipuro, a revolutionary radio station in Los Teques, Miranda. Also in Los Teques there were clashes between police officers loyal to the new right governor and the revolutionary people, when the police tried to take over the Town Hall, controlled by a PSUV mayor. The newly elected mayor of Caracas is threatening to remove the whole team of Avila TV, run by young revolutionary activists in the capital. There were also reports of groups of thugs evicting communal councils from the buildings they were using in Baruta, in the East of Caracas. Many of the sites for the educational programmes have been locked by opposition governors, and there have been threats against Cuban doctors and the Barrio Adentro programme in Miranda and Carabobo. Also in Mariches, Sucre council, Primero Justicia thugs attempted to evict the misiones from the buildings they were using, arguing that "now we rule Miranda", but were repelled by the organised people who organised their defence.

The counter-revolution now feels stronger, emboldened by their electoral advances. But the revolutionary people have not been defeated and as the experience of past revolutions shows, sometimes the whip of counter-revolution can spur a radicalisation of the revolutionary movement.

Forward to socialism!

The balance of forces is still favourable, as reflected in the overall result: 5.4 million against 4 million. There are hundreds of thousands more (more than a million in fact) who voted for socialism in December 2006 who could be enthused with a bold policy.

The only way to break through this deadlock is if the working class enters the scene in a clear way. So far, the revolutionary potential of the UNT trade union has been paralysed by its leadership, divided amongst those who are scared to death of the revolutionary initiative of the workers and those who take a hopeless sectarian position towards the revolutionary movement of the masses. The recent gathering of UNT trade unions in Zulia showed the way forward: to unite the UNT on the basis of the struggle for socialism and workers' control.

The world capitalist system is in crisis and this crisis is unfolding in front of the eyes of millions of people. This crisis is already affecting Venezuela, with lower oil prices, shrinking demand for other raw materials and manufactured goods. This will mean a much-reduced possibility to use the oil resources to fund social programmes and massive investment in public works, which is the only thing that has kept the economy going, despite the strike of capital on the part of the oligarchy.

The attempt to regulate the capitalist economy cannot work and has not worked. A policy of social spending and public works and limits on the free activity of private businesses, while the economy remains capitalist, will only produce inflation, a strike of capital and economic sabotage. What you don't control you cannot plan and what you don't own you can't control.

The choice will now be posed in a much clearer way: the expropriation of the capitalist class to allow for a democratic plan of production under the control of working people, so that the vast resources of Venezuela can be put to productive use in the benefit of the majority. Chavez, in his analysis of the election results said that this was a new mandate for socialism. Socialism can only be implemented through the nationalisation of the land, banks and main industries under democratic workers' control.