what happened?

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.

Darrall Cozens
December 3rd 2007


13 Responses

  1. This is undoubtedly a huge blow for the revolution. From limited information I can only speculate as to the reasons for defeat, but the following points stand out:

    1) We mustn’t rule out some kind of electoral fraud (perpetuated by sections of the state bureaucracy); although at the moment I don’t think this is the most likely explanation, the next few days will reveal whether it has in fact taken place.

    2) Assuming the results are fair, the ‘no’ voters scarcely increased their numbers from previous referenda/elections (they represent the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, well-paid professionals, students from such families, etc.), and are fairly constant. The big change was the abstention rate, with nearly 45% failing to vote. This means that a large section of the Bolivarian movement hasn’t supported the constitutional changes.

    3) ‘Defectors’ such as Baduel are a red-herring, since they still represent the old state and it was only a matter of time before the revolution would become too radical for them. However, there were splits within the workers’ movement itself. For example, the UNT took an ultra-left position to Chavez, resulting in one of their leaders coming out against factory occupations! Chavez still has the support of the majority of the workers, though.

    4) The factory occupations movement (representing one of the most advanced points in the movement) is only in its infancy, and is as such vulnerable. In any working-class movement, different sections have different levels of conciousness. This may explain the divisions, reformism and ultra-leftism in the movement.

    5) The counter-revolutionaries will undoubtedly be emboldened by this. There will likely be violent reaction, directed by the US, possibly in the form of incursions from Columbia, or a coup. The movement may sadly be forced into a defencive position, increasing the chance of its defeat.

    All-in-all, this is a sad day. Whilst this defeat highlights the weakness of the revolutionary movement (which will be possibly fatally exploited by US imperialism and its minions), the only thing revolutionaries in Venezuela can do is to strengthen the most advanced part of the revolution, namely the factory occupations. If the revolution is to be salvaged, the occupations movement must play a leading role. Discussions must centre around how to make this happen.

  2. One thing to note in “retail” politics. Prevalence of signs and big rally attendance have nothing to do with the final result. Rallies are held to boost the morale of party workers. They have no further effect.


  4. Thanks to Darrall for his tireless reports and analysis from Venezuela. It has bin absolutely refreshing to get a taste of the events taking place, the feelings of the human beings involved in this marvellous revolutionary process.

    Surely this setback can feel a bit desillusioning for a lot of activists across the world. But let us remember, that a revolution is not a process that advances in a straight-forward manner, but rather a complicated, complex situation, where different social forces see themselves pushed in different directions and reaching definite conclusions, as the situation develops.

    As a matter of fact, many revolutions have seen periods of lull, of tiredness – even of reaction. Remember that the Spanish Revolution from 1931-39 also had a short interval (1933-35), with reaction and apathy among some sectors. The “black years”. That did not prevent the working class from taking up arms to defeat the fascists and defend the revolution.

    I think that the results of the referendum, will not in anyway serve as a reciept for “stability” or “normality” in Venezuela. Rather, I think it will create more contradictions and divisions inside chavismo, where a number of bureaucrats will argue in favour of “recouncillation”. This will inevitably shock head-on with the desire of the masses for the completing of the socialist revolution

  5. It seems to me that perhaps some of the old, small, opportunist parties of the former Chavista galaxy (those who refused to join the PSUV) retain some influence locally and were able to sow division. I think it’s only a matter of time before they become empty shells just like the former giants AD and Copei… but it’s possible that they’re still a little bit alive for now.

  6. Chavez just became to full of himself. Even loyal followers expect some humility occasionally. As long as oil prices remain high, he will be popular but the people aren’t going to annoint him God.

  7. There is another theory:

    Perhaps the masses dared to defy your wishes and dreamed of a country withut a President for life. Perhaps they wnat it about as badly as you’d prefer a President Bush without limits of terms in office.

    Perhaps the masses dared to hope of a military devoid of politicization. Instead, they continue to march with official chants of: “Homeland, Socialism, or Death!”. Can you imagine soldiers of the West marching with “Capitalism or Death!”. Atrocious politicization.

    Perhaps the people wanted some autonomy attached to the Central Bank again, instead of being tied to Hugo.

    Perhaps the people dared to wish for a litle more separation than currently exists between state and judiciary, now that Hugo has stacked the benches.

    Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

  8. Perhaps “Craig M” will explain us why he is scared about “president for lifetime”? A theme that all bourgeois newspapers are echoing. Someone can only get president, if he or she is ELECTED by the people! Remember, that in Europe, there is no limit on how many times you can be prime minister, in any country I know of.
    So what’s the problem? Perhaps YOU are scared, that Chávez might win against the right-wing in future elections, because he puts forward left-wing ideas?

  9. Patrick says it all. In how many countries are there limits to the number of times that you can stand for the highest office? In the UK you can stand as often as you want. The decision on being elected is not in the hands of the candidate but the electorate. Who elected the UK head of state, the Queen? Who elected Juan Carlos in Spain who told Chavez to shut up? Nobody! He was nominated by a fascist dictator, Franco! As for the army being politicised, Craig has to remember that the armed forces under capitalism are there to protect the status quo in society and that means protecting the interests of those who stand at the top of society. Without a politicised army there is no chance of changing society. The lower ranks in Venezuela are with Chavez against poverty and hunger. The top brass are split between the opposition and their jobs and careers.
    Darrall Cozens

  10. As much as I hate GW Bush, I don’t think that the term limit he’s going to reach is democratic. If the US are to get rid of him, it would be much better if it was as the result of a democratic vote, rather that for a legal-technical reason like this.

  11. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Zoospore.

  12. As a gringo I must say something for the demonic behavior of the United States involvement in the personal lives of our brothers and sisters of Latin America. I am ashamed to live in this country and my solidarity with your struggle can only be in my prayers and wishes for you to defeat the devils from my country that are invading your country! Please search them out and take care of business, export them in a horizontal position with a bullet between the eyes! They deserve nothing less! Viva la Revolucion!

  13. I wonder if the people who made this website live in Venezuela or speak spanish and listen to Chavez. Because all the things he say is crap. He is a non educated man and doesn’t have diplomas. He talks and talks and talks and the non educated people of Venezuela believe in this man because they don’t know better. 10 years of power and still nothing changed. The people can even travel with dollars if they want to .. they have to buy dollars on the black market if they want to leave the country. He lies and lies and lies and lies to his people how can you say that this is a good thing? It is so obvious that this man doesn’t have the skills to govern a country. It is not honest and the people who are against him are lovely people with a hart who wants the best for all the people in their country. They want to go to school savely without worries that someone kill them for their shoes. I’m sure that all these people didn’t travel truth caracas to the mountains of little houses were live people who can’t read and have a big poster on their house of carton with SI CHAVEZ SI!

    How can you explain this? It is a mind game that chavez plays with this people. Maybe he has good intention but certainly he don’t know how to organize. 10 years of power and everything is getting worse, I have seen it with my own eyes. How do you explain that at sunday the dirst of february he said in the evening that nobody can gow to work the next day because of his aniversery of 10 years? Only the liquerstors where open and all people in red clothes drinking and celebrating. The people who wanted to work were punished by the police. He imports everything. Venezuela don’t produce nothing only petrolio and where does all that money goes? Where are all the dollars if the normal people can’t buy dollars?!?! Their are a thousand more reasons why this men has to go.

    All the people who are against Chavez that I know in Venezuela. Don’t think about captalism or socialism they don’t care what kind of government they have.. the only thing they want is that their comes system that works. They want good education, Money for their work (not 10 BSf a day), good health care and hygiene, Security and police men that are wurth it not the one that steel from all the drugsadicts and use drugs by them selves, they want to be able to travel free around all the world, and a lot of more things that chavez in the 10 years of his power didn’t IMPROVE AT ALL.

    Now people say why so many people vote for this men? Because he manipulates them with money, houses etc. and words.
    For example the people who are campaining for Chavez receive money for this. They live in the porest houses and have a big car in front if it with a big music instaltion. They drink bear all they and shout CHAVEZ SI SI SI. And this is how they live.. they are fine with it because they don’t know better. You can say they are no sheeps but they are pore and happy with all the money they recieve. It is a very said thing that is going on and I wish that one day their comes a president who knows to govern and helps all the people.

    Venezuela is a beautifull country with beautifull people who all wants the best for everybody they want that the Chavez people open their minds to improve the country. They are agains it for a reason .. not to just be against it! I’m sorry if my english isn’t that perfect I’m dutch girl and a very free girl. I can buy all the money that is availeble in the world and I have free access to all the places in the world. I can live without fair being robed every day and I learn English and all other things I want to at school. I lived in Venezuela for 2 years and I have seen the struggles because of Chavez. My boyfriend is from Venezuela and he just want to live Free and he knows that with Chavez this is imposible because this men has a very closed mind and doesn’t see the real issues of his country. The real issue isn’t SI or NO! They want to feel save with chavez or without him!!!!!

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