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The United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) victory in the October 15 elections for state governors is a major blow to the country’s right-wing opposition, as well as to its backers in Washington and Europe.
The victory also marks a significant step forward in the struggle to defend the gains of the almost two decade-long pro-poor Bolivarian Revolution, spearheaded by late former President Hugo Chavez.
According to results released by the National Electoral Council (CNE), the PSUV, led by President Nicolas Maduro, won 18 of 23 state governorships in the nationwide elections (compared to the 20 it won in the 2012 elections).
Overall, the PSUV lost five states it previously held but picking up three that were held by the opposition. The widely expected swing to the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) failed to materialise.
CNE President Tibisay Lucena announced on election night that 61.14% of Venezuela's 18-million-strong electorate had participated in the vote, the second-highest participation rate for any regional elections in the country.
Reporting on the elections for Venezueanalysis.com the following day, Lucas Koerner wrote: "The result defied forecasts of high abstention fuelled by the current economic crisis, as well as polls showing dissatisfaction with the leadership of both the government and political opposition."
"The PSUV won 54% of the total vote, marking a significant recovery since the ruling party's landslide defeat in the 2015 parliamentary elections when it garnered only 43.7% of the vote.
“The pro-government upswing follows on the heels of the July 30 National Constituent Assembly (ANC) elections, which saw over eight million people turn out to vote amid deadly opposition protests and escalating US pressure."
The success of the ANC elections, in the face of condemnation by Western leaders and the international corporate media, as well as violent protests by semi-fascist sections of the Venezuelan opposition, was a turning point in the class war being fought out in Venezuela at present.
It represented a declaration by ordinary Venezuelan people that they are willing to stand up and defend the social gains of the Bolivarian Revolution, which include free health care, education, public housing, social welfare and a deep process of people’s empowerment through active grassroots participation in decision-making.
It was also a further move in the direction of Chavez's goal of building a bottom-up "communal state" based on grassroots democracy and people’s participation, in opposition to the existing capitalist state bureaucracy.
The future of Venezuela's popular revolution, which has transformed the country by empowering the poor and beginning the process of transitioning towards what Chavez called "21st century socialism" had been imperilled by an all-out offensive led by Venezuela’s oligarchy and its international backers, particularly the US and Organization of American States secretary general Luis Almagro.
The offensive was carried out in co-ordination with the international corporate media which unleashed a ferocious campaign of fake news against the Maduro government internationally.
This offensive falsely branded the Venezuelan government as a "dictatorship," and led to escalating sanctions and even threats of direct military intervention from US President Donald Trump.
This international imperialist offensive against Venezuela is the latest, and perhaps most crucial, phase in a drive by world capitalism to turn back the so-called "Pink Tide" of progressive governments and social movement mobilisations in Latin America.
In recent years, left-of-centre governments in Paraguay, Brazil and Honduras have been overthrown via so-called constitutional coups.
Washington and its allies hope that by bringing down the Maduro government, they can strike a decisive blow against the popular mobilisations that have resulted in significant progressive changes in Latin America over the last 20 years.
The results of the October 15 elections in Venezuela have dealt a serious setback to this counter-revolutionary offensive.
However, while this reversal in electoral fortunes for the PSUV and the Chavista movement are important, it can only be temporary unless the popular forces in Venezuela regroup and launch a radical renovation of the revolutionary process that has made Venezuela the leading force of the Latin American revolution in the 21st century.
Strong measures to restructure and restabilise the economy, and a rebirth of the communal councils, communes and social missions which uniquely define the Bolivarian Revolution, are essential if the counter-revolution is to be decisively defeated.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan right wing and Western imperialism are preparing to strike back.
The MUD is crying foul and disputing the elections results, despite having no credible evidence of electoral fraud. The Trump administration is warning of increased sanctions against Venezuela following the elections, as is the European Union and Canada.
Any threat to Venezuela – military, political or economic – by the US and its Western allies must be strongly opposed with all the strength we can muster.
This is a vital question of international solidarity, in the interests not only of the Venezuelan and Latin American people, but the world labour and progressive movement.
Left and progressive forces around the world must redouble their efforts to defend the Venezuelan people and their Bolivarian Revolution in this time of acute need.
We must work hard to seek the broadest possible alliances in this mission, to expose the continuing campaign of lies and distortions directed against Venezuela, and to demand that our governments respect the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people and their democratically elected government.
[Jim McIlroy is a national co-convenor of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.]