I don’t think that I have ever felt so physically and mentally exhausted. Physically, because I sleep on a mattress on the floor of the living room and the comrades in the flat went to bed an hour ago. They had been up until 6.30am playing music and writing articles on the computer trying to analyse the results of the referendum, so sleep was constantly interrupted. Emotionally, because today I leave Caracas for Quito in Ecuador and the past 28 days here have been an emotional roller-coaster ending up in a massive crash.
What happened? When we started the blog, the signs were that the results were going to be close. The opposition was mobilising and was making inroads into areas of support, workers and people of colour, that they had never had before. Some ultra left trade union leaders like Chirinos were also calling for a No vote and therefore sowing confusion amongst some sections of workers. The pro Chavez campaign was music, songs, red flags and the handing out glossy material as if that was all to the campaign. It was devoid of content that explained. I have said all of this in previous blogs.
And then came the euphoria of the pro Chavez rally and we got carried away with the show of strength on the streets. I predicted an even greater winning margin for Chavez yet the reality on the day was that the opposition forces mobilised and Chavez’s support fell by more than 3 million compared to the presidential elections of a year ago. I should have taken more notice of the words of one of the leaders of the 23 de Enero barrio, a man called Carlos, when he said that people will turn out for the presidential elections but not for constitutional reform matters. In other words they will turn out when Chavez’s position is at stake.
As the delay from in the announcement of the results by the National Electoral Council went on into the early hours of the morning we knew that something serious was going on. Chavez had promised to resign if the proposals were rejected. Was he preparing his resignation speech?
When he did appear and spoke of the willingness of people to engage in democratic voting systems, we knew that he had lost and that the proposals for constitutional change would be shelved, POR AHORA, for now. Yet he did not resign. He still has another 5 years as president and although the changes to the constitution would have taken the revolution forward ON PAPER, the fact is that at the moment the process of the revolution is deepening on the streets, in the barrios and in the workplaces.
This will be a setback for Chavez’s supporters. And Chavez himself will now come under terrific pressure from some of is own so-called supporters in the state bureaucracy who will advocate a slowing down of the changes and an accommodation, a reconciliation with the opposition. But how in a relatively backward capitalist country like Venezuela, where the bourgeoisie is tied by a thousand threads to the interests of multinational conglomerates and imperialism and is therefore incapable of taking Venezuelan society forward, can you have a reconciliation between the forces of capital and the forces of labour? SUCH A RECONCILIATION WOULD BE AT THE EXPENSE OF ALL THE REFORMS THAT HAVE BEEN CARRIED OUT AS THE BOURGEOISIE SEEKS TO RECOVER ITS DOMINANCE IN THIS COUNTRY.
Will Chavez be able to resist these pressures? If he relies only on the state bureaucracy, no. If he now mobilises the ranks of the Socialist Party and encourages the setting up of councils in the workplaces, on the land, in the universities and barrios, and brings these councils together at local, regional and national level as alternative organs of power, then he will have a solid social and political base to carry through reforms not on paper but with the living forces of the working class, the peasantry, the marginalised sectors and the students.
We have always said that constitutions are bits of paper that reflect the balance of forces at any given moment. The real battle will be between living people outside the realms of assemblies and parliaments. Yes, the result is a setback, but only that. It is not a defeat. Many battles have been won by the Bolivarian Revolution in this war, this battle was lost. The war however continues, and has to continue, because capitalism can offer nothing to the people of Venezuela and Latin America.
A starting point in the counter attack must be the war on economic sabotage, the withholding of products from supermarkets by capitalist firms. If people have the food that they need, the basis of support can be rebuilt. The next point of attack must be to take on the state bureaucracy to weed out those who are deliberately sabotaging the pace of existing reforms and to attack head on the corruption that exists. These two measures alone IN DEEDS will do far more to reactivate the basis of Chavez’s support than ALL THE WORDS that have been spoken about the need to move towards socialism.
December 3rd 2007
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