Hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie and Imperialism
The constitutional amendment has been presented by the bourgeoisie as a dictatorial move whereby Chavez is aiming to install himself as President for life. This is complete nonsense and corresponds to the propaganda campaign of lies and misrepresentations that the western media has conducted against the Bolivarian Revolution from the very beginning.
Reactionaries and imperialists have raised a hue and cry: "Chavez is authoritarian." This is pure hypocrisy. In France, Spain, Britain, there are none of these limits. What is being proposed in this referendum is not that Chavez be President for life, or even for a moment longer than his present mandate expires. What is being proposed is that the people of Venezuela should have the right to vote for Chavez at the next election. The people ought to have the right to vote for whatever candidate they choose. This is a basic democratic right, which we defend. Moreover, this rule would also apply to local mayors and regional governors.
In a democracy the people should have the right to choose a president of their choice. In some western countries that like to think of themselves as democracies, the head of state is never elected. That is the case in Spain, where king Juan Carlos has never been elected by anyone, but was nominated by the dictator Franco. Yet this unelected Bourbon thinks he has the right to tell the President of Venezuela, who has been repeatedly re-elected by big majorities to "shut up".
What sort of democracy is it where the head of state is decided not in an election but through an accident of birth? Yet this remains the case in Britain, Belgium and other countries that claim to be democratic. In Britain and other countries there is also no limitation on the number of times a prime minister can stand for election. This fact is non-controversial and nobody even mentions it. But when it comes to Venezuela other standards are applied. Why? The answer is clear: They don't want Chavez to stand again because they fear he will win.
A crucial moment
This referendum is taking place at a crucial moment of the Venezuelan revolution. After ten years of revolution the contradictions are sharper than ever before. The mass of urban poor, youth and workers have moved time and again to save the revolution and defend its gains. On several occasions their mobilizations have prevented open counter-revolution (the coup d’etat of April 2002, the bosses’ lockout of December 2002, etc.).
However, after ten years of ceaseless struggle, the revolution has still not been completed. The bulk of industry, land and the banks remain in private hands. The counter-revolution is waging a ferocious struggle to undermine the economy, organizing a deliberate sabotage that is causing scarcities of particular foods and giving an additional twist to the spiral of inflation. They are organizing a strike of capital that results in stoppages of production in factories throughout the country.
Although the revolution has made significant gains, it is still not irreversible. The first serious warning came in December 2007 with the defeat in the constitutional reform referendum. In November 2008 the revolution lost important Mayorships to the opposition. Although the PSUV [Chávez's Socialist Party] received 58% of the vote, there were high levels of abstention in traditional Chavista strongholds. That was why strategic areas such as Miranda and the Mayor of Caracas were lost.
The masses want action. They defend the achievements conquered by the revolution, but they are growing weary of speeches and empty talk about Socialism, with no fundamental change in society in sight. The masses demand a solution to inflation, food scarcity, bad housing and corruption. They are tired of the slow pace of events and are pushing with all their might for an immediate change. They are beginning to understand that a “revolution within the revolution” is necessary – not just in words, but also in deeds.
The Venezuelan revolution is clearly at the crossroads. Either it goes ahead with the task of expropriating the economic power of the capitalists, the landlords and the bankers or sooner or later it will end in a defeat. It is in this context that we must see the new referendum on the constitutional amendment.
A class point of view
There are some intellectuals and even supposedly “left-wing” organizations that will remain silent on this referendum. Or they will try argue against the referendum, on the grounds that it shows “disrespect for the past decisions”, or that it is “against the democratic traditions of the country” and so on. These self-styled “Lefts” and “democrats” are reflecting the pressure of bourgeois “public opinion”. They see everything in legalistic terms, pointing to this or that detail as a supposedly “democratic problem.”
We answered these people in advance. In December 2007, in an article that explained the referendum defeat, we wrote:
”The reformists believe that the working class must always observe the legal niceties. But long ago Cicero said: Salus populi suprema est lex ('The good of the People is the Supreme Law'. We might add: the Good of the Revolution is the Supreme Law. The counter-revolutionaries showed absolutely no respect for the law or the Constitution in 2002 and if they had succeeded they would have abolished the 1999 Constitution immediately. Yet now they are all shouting about the defence of that very same Constitution. ”
This is not just a question of formal democracy. For the workers and the poor people of Venezuela the election of Chavez meant the social reforms and gains of the last few years - an environment of revolution in which trade union organisation has flourished and the ordinary people who were excluded from political life, have found a voice and a goal. This is why they want to re-elect Chavez.
The masses are very practical people. They will say; “If we lose the presidency, the right wing will smash all the social projects and the other conquests of the revolution”. These concerns are well grounded. When the Governorship of Miranda was lost in November last year, the first thing Radonski, the new opposition governor, did was to attack the misiones and let fascist gangs run amok, threatening Cuban doctors working in the Barrio Adentro projects. This reveals the ugly face of the counter-revolution. It is also a warning of what we can expect, should the counter-revolution get its hands on the presidency.
The masses will fight to win this referendum. It is a very concrete question. They understand very well that Chávez is the only candidate that can beat the right wing in new presidential elections. Thus they see the referendum as a direct struggle between revolution and counter-revolution. The counterrevolutionaries see it in exactly the same light. Only hopeless petty bourgeois and blind sectarians can fail to understand this.
The socialist revolution, like the wars between nations, consists of a series of battles and partial struggles. Only by fighting and winning such battles can the workers and peasants acquire confidence in their own strength and thus proceed to greater battles. Marxists will therefore stand with the workers and peasants and against the oligarchy, imperialism and the counterrevolutionaries and will campaign for a YES vote.
The question of the state
Recently, an attack on the occupation of the Mitsubishi factory by the Anzoategui regional police took place, resulting in the death of two workers. It was later revealed that this crime was committed by corrupt and reactionary elements in the police. They were subsequently suspended and arrested by the Bolivarian governor, Tarek Saab. But this is not an isolated case. Other cases of infiltration in the Venezuelan police forces have also been exposed in the last period, as when eight unarmed youths were recently killed in Mérida by counterrevolutionary elements within the police.
The Marxists have been warning for years that it is impossible to use the old bourgeois state apparatus to serve revolutionary purposes. The latest events are an irrefutable proof of this! It is absolutely necessary to smash this rotten state apparatus inherited from the notorious Fourth Republic. Partial measures such as the purging of this or that institution cannot solve the problem in the long run. But we must replace it with something else. What do we put in place of the old rotten and corrupt bourgeois state?
The answer was given long ago in Lenin's “State and revolution”. He outlined a model based on the following principles:
- Free and democratic elections of all state functionaries with right of recall.
- No official to receive a wage higher than that of a skilled worker.
- No standing army or police but the armed people.
- Gradually, all the tasks of administration should be done by everyone in turn: when everyone is a bureaucrat in turn, nobody is a bureaucrat.
It is entirely possible to put this into practice in Venezuela. We have already seen how elements of this kind of organization were present in the struggle against the counter-revolution. In 2004 we had the UBE's (Electoral Battle Units) and later on with the Commando Maisanta, bodies elected directly by the rank and file from below, with the possibility or re-calling the elected representatives should they betray the struggle.
Another excellent example is the factory INVEVAL in Carrizal, State of Miranda, where the workers occupied the plant and through a long struggle achieved its nationalization. Now the president of the factory is a worker, elected by his workmates and who receives the same wage as the other workers in the factory. The workers at INVEVAL have also shown that Lenin's third point (about the arming of the people) is entirely possible. They have organized their own battalion of the National Reserve, thus showing in practice that the armingof the working class is completely possible.
Vote YES and move on to complete the revolution!
We must face facts and speak the truth: the murder of workers in Mitsubishi shows that the fundamental problems have not yet been solved. The revolution still has mass support (in the last elections the Chavistas won 5.5 million votes and 17 out of the 23 governors), but it has lost ground. Why? Because the masses are losing patience. The last two electoral contests (December 2007 and November 2008) have been serious warnings. The reformists in the Bolivarian Movement say that these defeats were because the Revolution has gone too far, too fast. The Marxists of the CMR say: On the contrary, it is because the Revolution has gone too slowly and has not gone far enough!
There have been too many elections, referendums, too many speeches, too much talk about revolution and socialism, while the fundamental task of expropriating the oligarchy has not been carried out. There have been reforms but the most pressing problems of the masses remain unsolved. These problems will be exacerbated by the world economic crisis. The fall in oil prices will have a serious effect on Venezuela. The Venezuelan capitalists are organizing an investment strike in order to destabilise the situation. This shows the failure of the reformists' attempt to build a "mixed economy" on the basis of "oil socialism". Half measures will not solve the problems but only exacerbate the crisis.
Comrades! The February referendum is another battle in the revolutionary war. We must win this battle in order to inflict a new defeat on the counterrevolutionaries and press on to the fundamental tasks of the socialist revolution. What is needed is to carry the revolution through to the end, expropriate the oligarchy, overthrow the bourgeois state and appeal to the workers and peasants of America and the whole world to join us in the socialist transformation of society.
For these reasons we say to the working people of Venezuela:
Vote YES in the referendum on February 15!
Step up the fight for socialist revolution!
Nationalize the land, banks and industry under workers' control!
Join the Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria, the Marxist tendency in the PSUV, and struggle for this programme!
Long live the Socialist Revolution!
- Venezuela: Manifesto of the Revolutionary Marxist Current on the constitutional amendment by CMR (December 19, 2008)
- Venezuelan elections: a victory for the PSUV, but a warning for the revolution by Jorge Martín, Yonnie Moreno and William Sanabria (November 27, 2008)
- Venezuela: A first balance sheet of the elections by Patrick Larsen (November 24, 2008)
- The elections in Venezuela by Alan Woods (November 21, 2008)
- Venezuela: Successful CMR trade union conference held at crucial moment of the revolution by our correspondent in Caracas (November 13, 2008)
- Venezuela: New clashes between revolution and counter-revolution are being prepared by Patrick Larsen (October 30, 2008)
- Venezuela: PSUV Youth congress - struggle between Reformism and Revolution continues by Patrick Larsen in Puerto Ordáz (September 15, 2008)
- Declaration of the IMT on the nationalisation of the Banco de Venezuela by IMT (August 2, 2008)
- Venezuela: The nationalisation of Banco de Venezuela by Alan Woods (August 1, 2008)
- Alan Woods' speaking tour in Venezuela
- Venezuela Six Years after the Coup by Jorge Martin (April 11, 2008)