Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — No other issue in Cuba is as thorny and worrisome these days as the adverse results faced by Chavismo in Venezuela’s recent parliamentary elections. Through Telesur and Cuban television, Cubans received the news of the super-majority secured by the opposition with great surprise and concern. For me, personally, it wasn’t much of a surprise at all.
Why was I expecting something of the sort? For some time, conversing with Cuban health professionals who return from their work abroad, I’ve been able to gage the decline of Chavismo and the resurfacing of other, opposing forces, particularly that of Primero Justicia (“Justice First”), opposition leader Henrique Capriles’ party. The results were also to be expected: the situation in this sister nation is economically critical and politically explosive.
The Maduro government blames the opposition, accusing it of leading an “economic war,” something which is not entirely untrue, but Venezuelans aren’t stupid and know that the country’s vast financial resources and more than a decade and a half of exorbitant oil prices were not adequately invested to reach the goal of diversifying the economy. They have no doubts the government has failed in economic matters and has had a long enough term in office to have something to show for it. The people did the math and punished the government with their vote.
On the other hand, people’s civic awareness is still alive in Venezuela. We were able to confirm this in the previous referendum (2007), in which Chavez called for the approval of a constitutional reform to validate socialism. Venezuelans, more than 60% of whom supported Chavez, said no. This offers us a very clear message: Venezuelans are a cautious people and are using their right to vote to defend their interests.
On a different occasion, when Chavez’ condition worsened and he was unable to be sworn in on January 10, 2013 as the constitution established, the people of Venezuela questioned, and the opposition argued, that Chavismo had far too much power and was stepping over the constitution. The result of this was the narrow margin with which Maduro won the presidential elections on April 14, 2013.
This series of events have brought us to this point, the overwhelming victory of the opposition in the parliamentary elections. But, what remains of Chavismo after this? Could this be the end of the neo-socialist revolution? Were they actually betrayed by their own people, as many Cubans believe?
Of course not. Their defeat is what people feel the most now, but it’s clear the Bolivarian revolution needed this setback to restructure its bases, adjust its program and regain strength, with a more realistic project.
The Chavista ideal of investing resources to settle the social debt is admirable, but it should not become a trap used by the government out of fear of losing popular support, not even in times of crisis. Nor can the government become involved in spending the country is unable to sustain without undermining its own development.
Another important issue is the political polarization of society. A social project that causes so many divisions in a given country, even while pursuing a noble aim, is unviable. The massive popular support they had enjoyed till recently is a sign that they offer much of what the people want, but this immense setback is a wakeup call telling them they must revisit their platform.
Even if they lost the presidency in an eventual referendum held months from now, it would not be the end. Quite the contrary, it would be an opportunity to come back into the game with a truly inclusive national project that satisfies all social sectors.
Chavismo revolutionized, not only Venezuela, but the entire region, and it has had a global impact on many fronts. Hugo Chavez was a true leader and even his adversaries feel respect for his legacy. The social achievements of the Bolivarian revolution is undeniable and its more important results have yet to be reaped.
To be socialists and build a better world, there is no need to hate the capitalists. In society, all social actors are important: the workers, peasants, business owners, professionals, politicians and so on and so forth. If a social model threatens to destroy any of these sectors, the sector will defend itself and fight for its life. It’s a simple survival instinct.
From the word go, the Bolivarian revolution threatened the business sector, which constitutes a minority but is still very powerful. They underestimated their ability to rally the people and now they are once again a political majority. Understanding that there’s room for everyone in society and that new forms of socialism must not undermine the legitimate interests of any social group, not even the capitalists, is fundamental.
A fairer society needs everyone and should only do away with the “dictatorship of Capital,” not capital as such. By empowering social majorities, these societies should not encourage any type of dictatorship, not one of the proletariat or a Party – it must simply build a better society, with everyone and for everyone. These basic principles are key.
The Americas need a victorious Bolivarian revolution as much as Venezuela does. This defeat does not spell a debacle for Chavismo, it is a much-needed opportunity for readjustment. Revolutionary praxis is important, but it is only a tool, not a vehicle. We need to know where we are heading and what the road ahead looks like as much as what we want to accomplish. That would be the best lesson Venezuela can draw from this setback.