Federico Fuentes, Caracas 31 October 2008
On November 23, we will not just be voting for this or that governorship, we will be deciding the destiny of this revolutionary process", Stalin Perez Borges, a national coordinator of the National Union of Workers (UNT) and United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) militant, told Green Left Weekly.On that day, regional elections for 23 governorships, more than 300 mayors and hundreds of state legislative assembly members will occur — a crucial contest between the revolutionary forces lead by President Hugo Chavez (mainly grouped in the PSUV) and the US-backed right-wing opposition.
Perez Borges and militants from the different union currents that are also in the PSUV have been organising in their unions and workplaces to ensure a strong victory in these elections.
"Our position is that, despite some of the problems that exist, we as revolutionaries will be participating not just on voting day, but in the campaign. This is the best way to strengthen and deepen the process."
Asked about the possible outcome, Perez Borges stated that the situation today is "contradictory". These elections provide "an enormous opportunity to deal a big blow to the right and imperialism", particularly given that the opposition candidates look bad.
"Yet, despite the high approval rating for Chavez, in the factories and in some neighbourhoods there is a strong sense of malaise, discontent against the government and apathy towards participating in the elections."
The reason, according to Perez Borges, is that "among some of those in the PSUV and functionaries in the government, important errors are being committed".Perez Borges said that while one of the problems is that the some of the candidates do not want to work with all the different forces within the mass-based PSUV, provoking discontent in the ranks, "what is most grave is that there are problems that are not being resolved when they could be, creating conflict".
"Take the example of the contract workers in Sidor [steel factory, nationalised by Chavez in April]: for three months, the government, [basic industry minister] Rodolfo Sanz, the governor and the company president have been breaking promises in regards to resolving the problems of the 8000 contract workers."
Angered by the lack of government response, the contract workers — whose conditions are far worse than the smaller number of permanent workers — went on strike for 90 hours on October 17, as tensions rose to the point of exploding.
The situation further escalated after Sanz called two meetings for October 29 and 30 with the contract workers — and then failed to show. Fed up with the lack of government response, the workers set up roadblocks and began burning tyres.
"This is just one of many examples. There are similar situations in [aluminium plant] ALCASA, in the electrical sector, the car industry, and that is without talking about the problems of the local communities.
"All this is a problem not just from an electoral point of view, but is a political problem because it weakens the worker and popular base of the revolution, which is what sustains Chavez", Perez Borges commented.
"The people are not going to go against this process, and if Chavez was the candidate, everyone would turn out to vote, but many of the candidates are doing little to raise enthusiasm.
"Instead, Chavez — together with some good candidates and the revolutionary bases — has once again had to mount the campaign on his shoulders.
"There is no excuse for not winning. The crisis that capitalism is facing today demonstrates that it is no alternative. We have time to win everything, so that not a single governorship falls into the hands of the enemy.
"But these candidates should also be clear: our votes are for Chavez and the deepening of the revolutionary process", insisted Perez Borges.
"And if because of their actions and state functionaries who don't listen to the people, the result are not as favourable as they should be, they have no excuse for turning around and saying that the people are not prepared to push forward.
"Everyone will have to assume their share of the responsibility for the result."
[Federico Fuentes is part of the* Green Left Weekly* Caracas bureau. *GLW *is the only Australian media outlet with a journalist based in Latin America. To keep up to date with the ongoing coverage of the Latin American revolutions, subscribe at subscribe now