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Venezuela: A Decisive Turn In The Crisis
IN A surprise announcement, the radical left-populist Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, has accepted the decision of the National Electoral Commission (CNE) and will face a recall referendum. The acceptance of the CNE results by Chávez has given the opposition the opportunity to go onto the offensive again.
Tony Saunois, CWI
Yet all of the evidence clearly points to a fraud. The figures announced by the CNE are only 15,738 more than the 2,436,083 signatures needed. 1.2 million signatures had to be subject to the 'repair process' or checked. Of these only 614,968 could be "confirmed" by the opposition. 74,112 people did not acknowledge their signatures, meaning they had been used without their consent. There is also the issue of 50,000 people who should not have been on the electoral register because they are dead!
Raids on the headquarters of opposition parties such as Accion Democratica have also found 600 forged ID cards and bundles of forms supporting the recall already filled in. One man was arrested in Caracas for carrying 420 false ID cards!
In addition to this are widespread reports of intimidation against workers in the factories if they refused to sign. The Coca-Cola plant in Antimano threatened 50 workers with the sack and closure. Unions at Coca-Cola plants in Carabobo, Lara, Bolivar and Monagas all reported similar incidents. The Venezuelan subsidiary of Coca-Cola just happens to be owner of Venezuela's largest TV network and a leading supporter of the opposition - Gustavo Cisneros.
The right-wing opposition has being conducting an on-going campaign to gain the 2.45 million signatures necessary to trigger the referendum. This follows two attempts to overthrow Chávez, in a failed military coup in April 2002, and a bosses' 'lock out' between December 2002 and January 2003. Both these attempts at reaction were defeated by the mass mobilisations of working class and masses from below despite the vacillation and hesitation of the leadership of the movement.
THE CNE announcement comes only a matter of weeks after a plot involving the entry into Venezuela of more than 100 Colombia right-wing paramilitaries was exposed. It seems these forces were colluding with right-wing reactionaries in Caracas to launch a bombing campaign aimed at provoking instability and a possible assassination attempt on Chávez.
These attempts to overthrow Chávez indicate that a 'creeping coup' is under way. They clearly show that the ruling classes throughout Latin America and US imperialism are now determined to remove his regime and replace it with a more pro-capitalist government which US imperialism can rely on.
Unfortunately, reaction has now been given the opportunity to regroup and try to strike again. This has been possible because following each defeat suffered by reaction - because of the mass movement - the revolution unfortunately has not purged the state of reactionary forces and overthrown capitalism.
A workers' government has not been established that would introduce a socialist plan of production based upon the nationalisation of the major sectors of industry and the banks, democratically run and managed by the working class. Rather than take such decisive steps Chávez and the leadership of the movement have, so far, tried to placate the forces of reaction, and thereby given them the opportunity to prepare to strike again.
'Twin track' policy
US IMPERIALISM and the ruling class in Venezuela will not be placated by Chávez's acceptance of the CNE's results. They have adopted a twin track policy of attempting a military coup and bosses lock out and at the same time using 'constitutional' means of defeating the government. The right wing will now energetically try to mobilise its forces to firstly win the referendum.
If that fails, they will not accept the result and will launch a further campaign accusing the government of fraud and initiate a further attempt to overthrow his government.
Big layers of workers and Chávez supporters understand that the referendum is now being called on the basis of a fraud and is a further attempt to overthrow the regime. The Bolivarian trade union federation, UNT, the Bolivarian Workers' Front and the National Co-ordination of the Bolivarian Circles have all rejected acceptance of the referendum. The referendum decision has also been rejected at meetings of government supporters up and down the country.
The working class needs to strengthen its own organisations to confront reaction and take the revolution forward. Rank and file soldiers' committees need to be set up which will begin to purge all officers who support reaction and institute a system for the election of officers. These committees need to be linked up on a district, city-wide, regional and national basis. These should form the basis of a new workers' and peasants' government. Through these bodies, an armed workers' militia needs to be set up to defend the revolution from the threat of reaction.
It is clear that the National Constituent Assembly, which was created by Chávez when he came to power, cannot be relied on. 20 MPs elected on the Bolivarian list have now gone over to the opposition! The creation of workers' councils or the expansion of the Bolivarian Circles, with the election of delegates subject to immediate recall, would be a more democratic and reliable basis for the working class to take the revolution forward.
IT WILL not be easy for the reactionary forces in Venezuela to secure a victory. They need not only to win a majority in the referendum but to win more than the 3.8 million votes that Chávez won in 2000
Chávez still has the support of the overwhelming majority of the working class and poor. Over one million have been lifted from illiteracy. Millions more have been given access to doctors and medical care for the first time. But society is polarised along class lines between the left and the right. The reforms that have been introduced are threatened by the continuation of capitalism.
Chávez, who was elected with over 60% of the vote, has lost some significant support especially amongst the middle class. This is mainly due to the deep economic crisis which has rocked the country. This is partly due to the effects of the bosses lockout and partly to the economic sabotage and flight of capital which has taken place.
The failure of Chávez to break from capitalism and introduce a socialist planned economy based upon a genuine workers' democracy has prevented his regime from being able to offer the middle class a solution to their problems. This erosion of support has given the 'creeping counter revolution' social forces on which to rest. Whether this is strong enough to defeat Chávez in this referendum remains to be seen. However, it will continue as a threat that will eventually succeed unless capitalism is overthrown.
This threat of reaction, especially in the form of US imperialism can only be averted through the establishment of a workers' and peasants' government in Venezuela and an appeal to the working class of the whole of Latin America and the USA for solidarity and support with the perspective of spreading the revolution to establish a Democratic Socialist Federation of Latin America and the Americas.
In The Socialist 19 June 2004:
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