Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Venezuela: counter-revolutionary provocations in the run up to the constitutional referendum

By Jorge Martin
Tuesday, 06 November 2007


On Monday, November 5th, the campaign for the constitutional reform referendum in Venezuela was stepped up with the call by retired general Baduel for a NO vote. General Baduel was a close collaborator of Chávez and remained loyal to him during the April 2002 military coup which briefly ousted him. In July of this year he resigned from his position as Defence Minister and retired from active military office. His attacks on the constitutional reform are part of a concerted campaign by the ruling class to prevent it from being approved in a referendum which will take place on December 2nd.

The amendments to the 1999 Venezuelan revolution were announced by Chávez after his election victory in December 2006 with the stated aim of bringing the Constitution into line with "Socialism of the 21st century". They were then formally proposed by Chávez in July, discussed throughout the country and passed with a whole series of modifications and additions by the National Assembly on November 2nd.

Amongst the most significant of the amendments are those dealing with the new power structure, in which legal status is given to the Communal Powers in an attempt to do away with the current structures of the capitalist state. In the field of property of the means of production there are a whole number of articles which have been attacked by the opposition as being an attack on private property rights while at the same time enshrining new forms of collective and social property.

Even though the proposed amendments are limited in their character, in the context of the class struggle taking place in Venezuela they have become the rallying cry for a new clash between the classes, on the one hand the oligarchy and imperialism, on the other hand the overwhelming majority of workers and peasants.

The ruling class is well aware that whatever the actual text of the constitutional reform (and this is certainly an advanced and very progressive proposal which includes the 6-hour working day and a 36-hour week), the proposals are seen by the masses as a step forward towards socialism. And for this reason they have, once again, tried to mobilise all their forces to stop it.

In the last two weeks, a series of small demonstrations by opposition students have been taking place in Caracas and other cities which have often been the scene of violent clashes with the police. There are clearly organised fascist elements present at these demonstrations intent on causing clashes which can then be used as an excuse to paint Chavez's government as dictatorial and repressive.

This has been accompanied by calls for a stoppage of public transport, an incendiary call by the Episcopal Conference to oppose the constitutional reform, articles in the media calling for a military intervention to prevent the referendum from taking place, etc. This, incidentally, confirms what we said after the presidential election in December 2006. At that time some argued that we now had a "democratic opposition" in Venezuela, since Rosales and his supporters had accepted their defeat in the election. We responded that this was just a question of opportunity. At that time they did not have the necessary forces and points of support inside the army to launch a coup, so they were forced by the action of the masses on the streets to accept the results.

Now the talk of a coup and the intervention of the army is again on the agenda. So in his column in El Nacional on November 2, Pablo Medina, one of the main leaders of the opposition and participant in the 2002 coup, made an open appeal: "gentlemen of the National Armed Forces, lets overthrow the reform".

In a move reminiscent of the coup in April 2002 and the lock out in December of the same year, the leaders of business organisations Fedecamaras and Consecomercio have appeared on TV appealing to the people to oppose the reform and the referendum.

At the same time, the opposition is not in a position of strength. The student demonstrations of the last few days have been violent but small. The balance of forces remains enormously favourable to the revolution as was graphically shown by the two demonstrations last weekend. The first, on Saturday, called by the opposition gathered just a few thousand people. The second, on Sunday, called by Chávez, gathered hundreds of thousands, marching through Caracas and filling, yet again, the whole of Bolivar Avenue and the adjacent streets.

At this rally Chávez delivered a very militant speech in which he appealed for the referendum campaign to be organised from the rank and file through the Socialist Batallions, the basic units of the new United Socialist Party. Talking to revolutionary activists from "23 de Enero" and Vargas districts, they agreed in emphasising the fact that the mobilisation for Sunday's demo had been carried out by the rank and file activists rather than the apparatuses of the Bolivarian parties.

The radicalisation of the Bolivarian revolution after the December 3rd presidential elections has also pushed the more right-wing sections of the Bolivarian leadership into the camp of the opposition. "Podemos", the social-democratic party which until recently was part of the government coalition, has now officially joined the opposition. All this is to be welcomed, since it helps to clarify where they really stand.

Baduel's statements have to be seen against this background. As we have explained before on a number of occasions, the situation inside the Army is far from being under control. It remains a capitalist army and if it is not smashed and replaced by the people in arms, it will eventually be used against the revolutionary masses. This is how we described the situation a few months ago:

"It is clear that the most reactionary military officers purged themselves out of the Army in 2002 by participating in the coup in April and the attempted coup in December (when they declared themselves "in rebellion" at the Altamira Square). Of those who remained the majority are probably loyal to Chavez in one way or another, but the reasons why they are loyal to Chavez are varied. Some of them are loyal simply because Chavez represents the official government of the day, others reflect the corrupt nature of the bourgeois state and plead loyalty simply because they are making a lot of money through legal and illegal businesses they have access to by being in the Army, and many of them probably feel uneasy about all this talk about socialism. It is clear that if the situation came to a decisive turning point of taking over the means of production and destroying the capitalist state most of them would be on the side of reaction." (See: The challenges facing the Venezuelan Revolution)

It was already clear from Baduel's parting speech when he resigned as Minister of Defence in July that he was very uneasy with the direction the movement was taking. All the talk about socialism made him very nervous. If what was meant was social democracy, then that was OK, but any talk of nationalising the means of production he could not accept. "The wholesale abolition of private property and the brutal socialisation of the means of production always have a negative effect in the production of goods and services and provoke general discontent amongst the population", he declared.

These are the ideas of the reformists in Venezuela within the Bolivarian movement. "Socialism of the 21st century" yes, as long as what is meant is not genuine socialism, but social democracy. It is significant to note that Baduel wrote an introduction to Heinz Dieterich's book on "socialism of the 21st century" and was the main figure involved in the launch of that book in Venezuela. Clearly the ideas of Dieterich (basically advocating "socialism" without changes in the property of the means of production) provide a "theoretical" cover for the reformists in Venezuela, who, as the revolution becomes more radical, reveal themselves in their true nature as agents of the counter-revolution.

Baduel's statement yesterday, delivered to a press conference to which only opposition media were invited, was only the next logical step. Using the same terms as Pablo Medina and other opposition leaders, he described the proposed constitutional reform as a "coup d'Etat", amongst other reasons because "with the excuse of distributing wealth amongst the people, the Executive does away with private property". He said that what was being discussed were not minor reforms but a "transformation of the state and a completely different model of country".

In what sounded like an appeal for an uprising against the Bolivarian revolution, he added that the constitutional reform should be agreed through "a social pact of broad consensus", otherwise "a wide majority would not accept it, would always try to change it, even if it has to resort to violent means to do it"!

He ended with an appeal not to "underestimate the capacity of Venezuelan military men to analyse and think", in what was a clear appeal to the armed forces to come out against the reform and the referendum. As in previous occasions the ruling class and imperialism are trying to gauge what forces they can count upon. First they will try to discredit and prevent the referendum from going ahead, though they might be forced to participate in it in the end.

In any case, the reaction of the Bolivarian revolution to these statements and counter-revolutionary provocations can only be to go on the offensive. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, the balance of forces is extremely favourable to the revolution, but this strength must be put into action in an organized manner. The mobilisation for the December 2nd constitutional reform referendum should not be seen as merely an electoral issue. A widespread revolutionary mobilisation must be mounted, not only to win the referendum but also to implement the measures contained in the proposed reform.

Any companies that participate in sabotage of the economy, particularly transportation and the food distribution chain, should be immediately occupied by its workers and expropriated by the government using the laws that already exist. A serious campaign of political agitation should be launched inside the army with the setting up of Socialist Battalions of the new United Socialist Party composed of revolutionary soldiers and trusted revolutionary officers. This should be accompanied by the setting up of units of the territorial guard in all factories and working class neighbourhoods and for these to be given military training and equipment.

These measures should be seen as the first steps towards taking out of the hands of the ruling class the levers of economic power it still has and is using against the democratic will of the majority. These should be put under workers' control and democratically managed to the benefit of the majority. On the other hand, the structures of the old capitalist state must be smashed once and for all and replaced by a network of Communal and Factory Councils with spokespersons elected and recallable at any time which should cover the whole of the country's territory.

Win a massive "Yes" vote in the referendum, move decisively towards socialism! RENEGADE EYE

29 comments:

Dave Marlow said...

Good article. I'm glad you posted it. Venezuela is the most democratic nation on Earth and will very likely become the first modern socialist state. Many of Chavez's critics on the left accuse him of being more of a populist/social democrat, but what they fail to realize is that one cannot simply apply archaic ideas to every situation. I view Chavez as an autonomous Marxist.

roman said...

Any companies that participate in sabotage of the economy, particularly transportation and the food distribution chain, should be immediately occupied by its workers and expropriated by the government using the laws that already exist.

Ahem.... so, in other words, any companies that are physically located in Venezuela will become the property of the Chavistas. All that's needed is for the NEW RULING CLASS to judge it as guilty of sabotage (whether real or imagined) and grab it. I can hear the sound of nervous investors frantically selling their shares of anything remotely having to do with Venezuela before it disappears ala Cuba '59.

politiques USA said...

Hi guys;

I think the best example of socio-economic changes for the Americas is Brazil in the 1st place, then Venezuela in the 2nd place ... but I might be wrong, it depends on if you think in term of "progressive" VS "radical changes" for social unrest.

Anonymous said...

Has BBC and the rest of the world forgotten about countries like Venezuela and Zimbabwe? What is the BBC doing about these dictatorships? Or do people need to die first before the BBC will make a big fuss. Well, people have started dying, and it continues.

So BBC, over to you. Or are you not brave enough to take on a real story?

Daniel said...

Ah, Renegade, you renegade! The Capitalist Robber Barons must be shaking in their Gucci shoes at the very name of Chavez.

Problem is that we get rid of one group of rulers and, in the blink of an eye, another takes its place.

Perhaps we're born to be ruled!

Aaron A. said...

Even in a blink of an eye, I don't think that will be the case. The Venezuelan people won't stand for it.
A move toward socialism and worker's control is not a new group of rulers.

Renegade Eye said...

Anonymous: I listen to BBC every night. Attacking Chavez is their favorite pastime. The irony is that my radio is on this moment, and they are attacking Venezuela.

It's the methodology of rightists to put Zimbabwe and Venezuela in the same sentence, without any content.

Roman: Any companies that participate in sabotage of the economy, particularly transportation and the food distribution chain, should be immediately occupied by its workers and expropriated by the government using the laws that already exist.

That hasn't happened. That is the way Chavez will have to go to stop the provocations.

Daniel: I don't understand your point.

politiques: Lula calls Bush43 "Comrade Bush." Lula has on his hands, a movement like in Venezuela and Argentina of occupied factories. His program is cutting social security, making labor and trade union law, harsher toward workers.

Dave: Autonomous?

Aaron: Chavez is at a crossroads. He has to take the measures not to become Allende.

azgoddess said...

nice article - thanks!! and about brasil...having traveled there in 2000..they still have a long way to go..

Renegade Eye said...

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE STUDENT PROTESTS

According to eyewitness reports from Hands Off Venezuela members, violence broke out yesterday in Caracas when opposition students arrived back from a peaceful demonstration against the proposed constitutional reforms. Apparently frustrated by the lack of violence, a group of about 250 of the opposition students (many from other universities) went straight to the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) to the School of Social Work which is a stronghold of revolutionary students inside UCV.

There, a group of revolutionary students was campaigning for a yes vote in the referendum. They had an assembly for students/teachers/non-teaching staff in the morning and were putting up posters and giving out leaflets.

They were then attacked by the opposition students who surrounded the School. Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown, the toilets were destroyed, the door of the Students Centre (Bolivarian dominated) was burned down, and around 150 people (students, teachers and non-teaching staff) were trapped inside the building for several hours, with the violent opposition students trying to force their way into the building to lynch them.

Some of the students inside the Faculty are nationally known Bolivarian student leaders (including Andreina Taranzon who spoke in the debate with opposition students at the National Assembly earlier this year at the time of the RCTV protests). They managed to call the state TV and reported live on what was happening.
The police are not allowed to enter University premises owing to a law on University autonomy. The Mayor of Caracas offered the possibility of the Metropolitan Police going in to contain violence and allow people in the School to come out, but the rector of the University, a member of the opposition, refused the offer. The University authorities are responsible for security on their own premises and did nothing to prevent violence from escalating.

Meanwhile, opposition TV stations were full of reports that masked Chavista supporters had fired on opposition students and that one person had been killed (this was then proven to be false, nine students were injured, most of them from inhaling fumes from the fires started by opposition students).

Finally, the head of emergency and fire-fighting services was allowed by the rector to go into the university and negotiate the safe exit of the people who were trapped inside the School of Social Work by a violent mob of opposition students.


The School of Social Work trashed by opposition students (ABN)
The international media has been "reporting" about these clashes as if "armed Chavista gunmen" had fired on peaceful opposition students. A member of Hands Off Venezuela was present at the University when the violence broke out. He reports that the gunmen who originally opened fire stopped him on his way through the UCV to the Bolivarian University nearby. He reports that the two gunmen on the motorbike did not look like students, but were more likely thugs hired for the occasion and that they were shouting anti-Chavez slogans and boasting of having shot at Chavistas.

Even news agencies now are reporting that Bolivarian armed men arrived at the UCV after the opposition students had sieged 150 people inside the building of the School of Social Work to help those sieged gain safe passage out:
Later, armed men riding motorcycles arrived, scaring off students and standing at the doorway - one of them firing a handgun in the air - as people fled the building. (The Guardian )

What Hands Off Venezuela eyewitness report is that, faced with the inaction of the University authorities, hundreds of students, University workers and people from nearby neighbourhoods finally went into the University to help the people at the School of Social Work escape from the violent mob of opposition students. Some of them were carrying guns, which was only normal considering the extremely violent nature of the situation.

Bolivarian students, teachers and non-teaching staff have now held a joint meeting at the UCV and called for a demonstration against fascist aggressions to take place in the UCV on November 15.

sonia said...

Ren,

Chavez is at a crossroads. He has to take the measures not to become Allende.,

That's correct. Chavez obviously prefers to become Pinochet instead.

Little Pope said...

From Encyclopedia Britannica:

“…different stages of a major revolution. After the government is overthrown, there is usually a period of optimistic idealism, and the revolutionaries engage in much perfectionist rhetoric. But this phase does not last very long. The practical tasks of governing have to be faced, and a split develops between moderates and radicals. It ends in the defeat of the moderates, the rise of extremists, and the concentration of all power in their hands. For one faction to prevail and maintain its authority, the use of force is almost inevitable. The goals of the revolution fade, as a totalitarian regime takes command…”

That is gonna happen with Venezuela and its “Socialismo del Siglo 21”
Come on, Renegade eye, Latin-American is tired of socialist adventures
Get real.
WE WANT FREEDOM!!!!!

Renegade Eye said...

Sonia: Using Pinochet as a metaphor for dictatorship, is something new.

Little Pope: Thank you for visiting.

When the Iron Curtain fell, it was the end of Stalinism as a force in the world.

Democracy has been good to Chavez. The more power he gives ordinary people, the more elections he wins, the more he is called a dictator. The 2002 coup made clear what the opposition thinks of democracy.

The reactionaries feel enpowered enough to demonstrate carrying slingshots and molotov cocktails. I bet they wouldn't in Pakistan.

The Happy Revolutionary said...

I think it's quite telling that we have people here, and plenty more in the mainstream media getting hot and bothered about Chavez, and calling him a 'dictator'.
The same people studiously avoid any mention of neighbouring Colombia, which is an actual dictatorship, and where men and women are still shot for joining a trade union.

sonia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sonia said...

Happy Rev,

The same people studiously avoid any mention of neighbouring Colombia, which is an actual dictatorship, and where men and women are still shot for joining a trade union.

Not at all. Colombia is a place where drug-dealing Marxist guerrillas kidnap people for ransom (including even presidential candidates) and where left-wing terror leads to right-wing terror.

It's also a place where the anti-capitalist, Bolshevik US policies concerning drug trade are causing this tragedy in the first place.

Instead of impeaching Bush for overthrowing Saddam Hussein, the Left should impeach Bush for continuing the Bolshevik War on Drugs.

If drugs were legal, Colombia would as rich as Switzerland and as peaceful as Sweden...

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Sonia,

Cocaine should be made legal in America the day after it becomes a capital crime to fund drug overdose clinics with federal money.

Renegade Eye said...

Sonia and Beamish: What a bunch of what they call in the carnival marks. Talking about the "War On Drugs," as if it has anything to do with socialism or drug addiction.

As for human rights abuses and death squads, I hear the sounds of silence.

sonia said...

Ren,

As for human rights abuses and death squads, I hear the sounds of silence.

Well, at least the Right isn't refering to victims of death squads in Colombia as "fascists" and "arsonists" - labels with which the Left is smearing the brave and heroic opponents of the oppressive Chavez's regime.

Your point about war on drugs isn't clear.

Beamish,

Cocaine should be made legal in America the day after it becomes a capital crime to fund drug overdose clinics with federal money.

There were actually more alcoholics in the United States during the Prohibition than earlier or later. If drugs were legal, there would be fewer addicts.

Smoking (which is legal) has decreased enormously in the last 10 years, while drug addiction (which is illegal) has actually increased.

Making it perfectly legal to snort cocaine and inject heroine will only make it less cool for most people...

Renegade Eye said...

I've never participated in a demonstration where molotov cocktails were involved. I've never seen any weapon other than a wooden picket sign.

This scum is crossing a line. They probably believe they can start an insurrection by killing innocent people as a spark. This movement has the social basis for fascism, petit bourgeoise and lumpen elements, threatened by the rising working class. They resent formerly illiterate people now going to college.

If Chavez doesn't quickly reorganize the army and police, to make such murderous actions seem futile, he will end up being Allende.

Pretty quiet about Pakistan on your blog.

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Ren,

As for human rights abuses and death squads, I hear the sounds of silence.

Isn't it enough that I state that I'm an anti-leftist without being redundant?

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Sonia,

There were actually more alcoholics in the United States during the Prohibition than earlier or later. If drugs were legal, there would be fewer addicts.

Smoking (which is legal) has decreased enormously in the last 10 years, while drug addiction (which is illegal) has actually increased.

Making it perfectly legal to snort cocaine and inject heroine will only make it less cool for most people...


Making it illegal to provide health care to people who poison themselves would be more effective.

Marijuana should be decriminalized. Everything else, no way.

sonia said...

Ren,

Pretty quiet about Pakistan on your blog.

There is a reason for it. I don't like Pakistan. I prefer India. Pakistan is an illegitimate country that shouldn't even exist.

Renegade Eye said...

Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are artificial countries.

A revolution in Pakistan will have a domino effect.

John Bolton is supporting Musharraf. Democracy is so last year,

I support Bhutto's PPP in Pakistan. I welcome her return.

sonia said...

Ren,

Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are artificial countries.

Not quite. India is a democracy, where the rights of Muslims are respected (there are almost as many Muslims in India as in Pakistan).

Bangladesh is a moderate Muslim country. They are human first, Muslim later.

But Pakistanis are being slowly inflicted with the totalitarian disease. Musharraf's illness is still in its early, nationalistic phase. Bhutto's disease is already in the "Peronist populist" phase. The ground, further irrigated by religious fanaticism on top of everything else, is therefore fertile for their Pol Kitchen Pots or Kim Ment-aly Ils to be born soon...

Pakistan will soon join Venezuela and Zimbabwe on the bottom of the worst basket cases in the next 10 years. Hopefully, Pakistan's neighbors, China, India and Iran, will be less sentimental than the Americans, in decisively dealing with them...

Farmer John said...

There are clearly organised fascist elements present at these demonstrations intent on causing clashes which can then be used as an excuse to paint Chavez's government as dictatorial and repressive.

There ARE fascist elements organizing the violence alright. CHAVISTAS who ACTUALLY ARE dictatorial and repressive THUGS!

Renegade Eye said...

Sonia: Bhutto returning was a good development. This crisis is a response to the fact almost 3 million people turned out to see her. The Islamists and Maoists had no concept of such a development.

They didn't turn out just because a bourgeoise politician is returning, it is because the PPP was formed with a socialist program by her father. My comrades brought thousands to the rally. They are also in parliment representing the Marxist wing of the PPP.

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