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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 August 2004

Venezuela referendum - corrupt elite lose again

ACROSS VENEZUELA hundreds of thousands have celebrated the defeat of the attempt to 'recall' the radical President Hugo Chávez.
The overwhelming referendum result is a huge blow against US President Bush's policies and the Venezuelan ruling class.
The opposition had hoped that they would be able to mobilise sections disappointed by Chávez and thereby secure a victory. ROBERT BECHERT reports.

This is the third time that an attempt to overthrow Chávez has failed. The April 2002 US-backed military coup disintegrated in the face of a mass movement from below, as millions of Venezuelans protested on the streets.

A strike by senior staff at the PDVSA nationalised oil company and widespread bosses' lock-out in other sectors took place from December 2002 to February 2003. This petered out in the face of support for Chávez's popular reforms and the determination of the poor masses to defeat the bosses' strike.

This latest referendum is the eighth time since 1998 that Chávez has won at the ballot boxes. He has been elected President twice and his policies have now been supported in six referendums.

The right-wing opposition seized upon the recall mechanism that Chávez himself had introduced into the constitution, something that does not currently exist in any other country in the world. The opposition used all types of fraud, including signing up the dead, to bolster their claim that they had collected the necessary number of signatures to trigger the holding of the recall referendum.

Clearly Chávez's victory has been based upon a widespread mobilisation of the impoverished working class and poor. The number of voters rose from 12.4 to 14 million as the poor registered and many long-term immigrants were given identity cards.

The preliminary results gave Chávezz 58.25% (4,991,483 votes) and the opposition 41.74% (3,576,517 votes). This pro-Chávez vote was a huge increase on the 3,757,773 votes Chávez won when he was elected President for the second time in July 2000.


But it is clear that the opposition leaders, a privileged clique struggling to defend their power and wealth, will not simply go away. Their propaganda campaign has not stopped and sometimes they can be quite creative.

As the voting was underway the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the existence of a pre-recorded fake press conference that had the voice of the CNE President proclaiming Chávez's defeat. Also, during the voting the opposition published 'exit-polls' claiming to show they were winning and then, when the votes were announced, they used their own exit polls as evidence of rigging.

The opposition may step up this campaign over the next few days, attempting to justify new attacks on Chávez. Sections of the international media have already joined in this campaign. The Independent in London even published an article, while the voting was still taking place, that gave 'figures' claiming to show that Chávez was losing. These were quoted from the previously unheard of "mid-morning results", whatever they were.

Socialist programme

HOW WILL the Venezuelan ruling class and imperialism react to this result? The more impatient could move towards more extreme measures, including terrorism and assassination, to attack the Chávez government. Other sections may adopt a more long-term view working either to tame Chávez or to undermine both his regime and support over a longer period.

Despite having implemented reforms that have, for now, improved conditions for the poor, Chávez works within the capitalist system. Currently this means Venezuela suffers from high inflation of around 22%, something that has been worsened by the two currency devaluations Chávez has carried out.

So long as capitalism remains there is the prospect that a fall in the current high price of oil in the future could rapidly decrease the room for reforms and Chávez's freedom of movement. This is why the positive reforms already implemented and the hopes for a secure better future are tied to the question of whether capitalism continues in Venezuela.

Having won this important victory it is necessary for the Venezuelan working class and poor to move onto the attack. The momentum of the referendum campaign has to be used to prepare a lasting victory over the ruling class and their imperialist allies.

This means strengthening the working class and popular organisations, like the Bolivarian Committees, and ensuring that they are fully democratic.

At the same time, the question of the workers' movement adopting a socialist programme that breaks with capitalism and establishes a workers' and peasants' Venezuela will become increasingly urgent as the ruling class and imperialism resumes its attempt, using direct or indirect methods, to re-establish firm control over Venezuela.


Revolution in the revolution

YASMIN IS an active member of a marxist organisation in Venezuela which has support in universities, workplaces and communities. She spoke to the socialist about the referendum vote and its aftermath.

What do you think about the referendum result?

This was an important victory. But before the referendum we explained that the opposition, who were losing support, would try and sabotage the election process and declare it a fraud.

Because of the instability in the energy markets worldwide the western imperialist countries, including the United States, wanted a 'surgical' process so that the price of oil would not go any higher. So the result was declared quickly and endorsed by the Carter Centre and the Organisation of American States.

The opposition have been exposed as liars which will have undermined their credibility with some sections of the middle-class.

What did your organisation do during the referendum campaign?

Chávez called for the building of 'electoral patrols' in every voting area to help build for a 'no' vote. We were involved in these. But we called for the election of a 'popular' leadership at local, state and national level, rather than a handpicked leadership from above. We also called for the building of a revolutionary leadership.

What do you think should happen now?

Now we need ideological clarity. Imperialism is still preparing to claw back the gains of the revolution and people must be prepared to confront that. That means political clarity and the building of a revolutionary leadership without bureaucrats or reformists. We call for the building of a socialist state as the only way to stand up to imperialism and move forward.

The Chavista leaders, however, think this is possible within the capitalist system. But it's clear that we will encounter more obstacles and the choice will be between going forward to socialism or retreating to conciliation or negotiation with imperialism. Our position is summed up by our slogan "revolution in the revolution".

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In The Socialist 21 August 2004:

Warning: Public Sector Under Attack

Action needed across the public sector

New Labour at war with firefighters

The fighting spirit that saved a pit

Know your rights

Europride Manchester: Stop bullying and discrimination

International socialist news and analysis

Resistance in Iraq

Oil prices set to rock world economy

Armed intervention in Sudan must be opposed

Venezuela referendum - corrupt elite lose again

Boston: Hundreds pack Ralph Nader meeting

Building for a socialist world

Workplace news and analysis

Swansea staff fight outsourcing

Yorkshire bus drivers: Determination pays off


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