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

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.

‘Creeping Coup’

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

Overwhelming support

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

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.