Polls have repeatedly shown a class-based polarisation around Chávez, which some political science analysis on Venezuela has recognised. This paper seeks to show, however, that this class-based division needs to be placed in historical context to be fully understood. Examining Venezuelan history from the colonial to the contemporary era the paper shows, unlike most previous work on Bolivarian Venezuela, that race is an important subtext to this class-based support, and that there is indeed a correlation between class and race within the Venezuelan context. Furthermore, class and race are important positive elements in Chávez's discourse, in contrast to their negative use in opposition anti-Chavismo discourse. The paper briefly reviews the Chávez government's policy in tackling the class/race fissures in Venezuelan society, and concludes by asking whether these policies represent a change in the historical patterns of classism and racism within Venezuelan society or are simply reproducing past patterns.