By Yanis Iqbal
Venezuela’s Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) – an alliance of revolutionary and progressive forces led by the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) – won the legislative elections held on December 6, 2020. Obtaining 69% of the total votes, the PSUV and its allies will hold 253 of the 277 seats in the parliament.
The electoral victory of the GPP amid a full-blown US hybrid war forces us to think about the future of the Bolivarian Revolution. Initiated in 1999, the Bolivarian Revolution blocked the privatization of the world’s largest oil reserves, regained control of its industry, overcame illiteracy, reduced poverty, empowered women, the indigenous and the proletariat, provided them with free healthcare services, raised their levels of nutrition, and politicized their consciousness. In a nutshell, it tried to clear the path for a long transition to socialism.
As external attack, internal sabotage, counter-revolution, scarcity of resources and bureaucratization attempt to sap the strength of Hugo Chavez’s project, we need to re-asses the correlation of class forces in Venezuela. This assessment leads to the concrete contextualization of President Nicolas Maduro’s governmental policies in the entire matrix of the current conjuncture.
I interviewed Greg Wilpert regarding the aforementioned issues. He is the deputy editor at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, co-founder of Venezuelanalysis.com and author of Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government, published by Verso Booksin 2007.
Yanis Iqbal (YI): Considering the drastic decline in oil revenues, how will the Chavista administration facilitate the project of socialism?
Greg Wilpert (GW): The Bolivarian-socialist project (as it is sometimes known) in Venezuela really has two main dimensions: economic and political. The political is the aspect of participatory democracy, such as the communal councils and the communes. This aspect does not depend on oil revenues and can thus be pursued even when oil revenues are way down. However, given the constant assault from the outside that Venezuela is subjected to, it has been extremely difficult to advance in this aspect of the project. The government unsurprisingly sees dissent and decentralization of power as something that only strengthens the opposition.
The economic aspect of Bolivarian socialism involves the redistribution of wealth via social programs and nationalization of key industries, as well as economic democracy via cooperatives and worker participation or co-management in large industries. This aspect, especially the social programs, is extremely difficult to maintain in conditions of low oil revenues. This is thus the first policy domain that will be unachievable under the current circumstances.
In theory, economic democracy could still be pursued in an economic crisis. However, I think the government is reluctant to do so at the moment because it would mean relinquishing control over aspects of the economy at a time when the government feels that it must control all aspects of the economy.
YI: Will increased political polarization and renewed counter-revolutionary efforts lead to the further radicalization of the Bolivarian revolution or the formation of weak alliances with the bourgeoisie?
GW: As things stand at the moment, it looks more like the government believes that alliances with the bourgeoisie, as long as it does not try to undermine or overthrow the government, is the more viable path to pursue than radicalization, which so far seems to have led only to great economic and political problems.