Referendum day – the summoning of the faithfull

It is 4.30am on this Sunday morning, the day of the Referendum, and I feel groggy after only 4 hours sleep. I need more but it is impossible due to the noise outside in the street. The rockets and loud bangs of the fireworks have been going on intermittently all night but at 4.15am the concert started.

In the square below the flat a convoy of cars appeared and from one of them came the sound of a cavalry charge. And as the sound of the trumpet rang out repeatedly, a cacophony of fireworks and thunderflashes lit up the sky. I felt as if I was being besieged. And I was.

On the one hand I wanted to go down and say to the car and van drivers, “Look here, lads. Would you mind buggering off so that I can get some sleep?” On the other hand, you have to marvel at the level of enthusiasm and organisation of the Chavez supporters.

The polling stations do not open until 7am but here they are calling the faithful, the Chavez voters, to rise at 4.30am to lay siege to the polling stations so that they can get in and vote and at the same time put on a show of strength. This was a sign to the opposition saying we are here, we are not gong to go away, we are the real majority. As the cry on Friday at the mass rally was, “Somos mayoria. Somos alegria.” Not exactly a ringing political slogan, but an expression of certainty that despite all the possible scenarios, the Chavista forces were going to win.

The convoy of cars is now circulating around the narrow streets of this inner city area, around the Plaza de la Concordia where I am staying, with the same cavalry charge blaring out. The last time I heard such a sound was in old John Ford movies as the cavalry came to the rescue of a party that had been besieged by native Americans trying to protect their land from the invasion of the white man. That is not as it was portrayed in Ford movies. Then it was the brave peaceful and intrepid whites being attacked by bloodthirsty hostile Indians smeared in war paint.

Times have changed and the reality of the bloody extermination of native Americans is now more widely known. But these images from films of long ago keep echoing in my mind as the cavalry charge goes on outside. I wonder if the opposition feels the same, besieged?

Now we have a role reversal. Until Chavez was voted into power, a vote that has been endorsed eleven times since 1998, the ruling class had mostly been associated with the lighter skinned wealthy oligarchy, the bourgeoisie.  The Chavez supporters came in the main from the darker skinned barrio dwellers whose shanty towns encircle the city of Caracas. Outside we now have the cavalry charge coming from those who in the past had been denied access to wealth, power and participation in the political process. The ones who are besieged are the old elite that is still clinging on to power as it still controls the large companies, the land and the banking system.

The trumpet charge is a warning to them that their days are numbered. And their days have to be numbered. The economic power that they have has to be taken away if the reforms of the Bolivarian revolution are to last for any length of time. As long as the ruling class still has its hands on the levers of power, they will alwys have the chance to srike at the right time to stage a counter revolution.

But it goes further than that. The solution to the problem of food and housing shortages, to name just two, can only be solved by democratically planned development. Yet the resources needed  are in the hands of a bourgeoisie that is trying  to sabotage the revolution. As the old saying goes, you cannot plan what you don’t control and you cannot control what you do not own. Until these major economic assets of Venezuela, the large multinationals, the agroindustrial monopolies, the banking and financial system, the land and so on are taken into public ownership through nationalisation and then democratically planned through a system of councils, which the new constitutional changes call into being, the needs of the vast majority of Venezuelans, the workers, peasants and the marginalised, will never be solved.

It is now 5.30am and the cacophony is still going on outside. But now the dogs have joined in too. Oh, for some sleep before I rise to take photos of the queues outside the polling stations.

Darrall Cozens


2 Responses

  1. “This was a sign to the opposition saying we are here, we are not gong to go away, we are the real majority.”

    28%? Some majority, mate.

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