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The revolution in Venezuela is in danger!

By Fred Weston

This article is based on material published in Venezuela, which is available in Spanish (see links at the end of this article). We will provide more material in the coming days. We ask all our readers and supporters to step up the campaign we launched last week in defence of the Venezuelan revolution. Keep collecting the solidarity signatures, organise meetings, raise money, spread the word about what is happening in Venezuela.

Events in Venezuela are moving fast. Twice the "opposition" – which gathers around it all that is reactionary in Venezuela – has tried to overthrow Chavez. First they tried the coup in April 2002, then the so-called oil workers' strike. On both occasions mass opposition from the workers and poor of Venezuela stopped the reactionaries in their tracks. But in the last few days they have adopted a new tactic, to sow terror on the streets. Workers, students, Chavez supporters, left activists have come under physical attack. This is part of a grand plan to destabilise the country and create conditions more favourable for the opposition, including the possibility of another coup.

Speaking at a mass rally in Caracas on Sunday Chavez made the harshest speech he has ever made yet against Bush. He said that if US imperialism dares to interfere in Venezuelan politics and tries to remove the democratically elected government of the country, not one drop of Venezuelan petroleum would go to the United States. This is a serious threat because Venezuela exports about 1.5 million barrels of oil daily to the U.S. He also raised the possibility that the U.S. may be tempted to carry out a military intervention. In such a case there would be enough mountain, enough jungle, enough savannah, enough dignity and also enough guts to confront such an attack.


Chavez speaks at Sunday's demonstration

The campaign to destabilise the country is being orchestrated nationally within Venezuela and internationally. In different towns and districts around Venezuela small but very determined and fanatical groups have been carrying out attacks on supporters of the revolutionary process. Faced with the counter-attacks of the workers and youth, these gangs have fired on ordinary civilians.

These activities have already provoked mass reaction. On Sunday, February 29th, Caracas saw millions of ordinary working Venezuelans, the downtrodden, the poor, the workers and youth, march through the streets for six hours. The masses could sense the danger that was looming. Two days earlier the opposition had mobilised a much smaller force on the streets of Caracas. Sunday's mass rally represented the whole people mobilising in defence of their basic democratic rights and in defence of the revolutionary process unfolding in Venezuela.

At the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) a small gang of "oppositionists" tried to raise barricades but they were swept away by the spontaneous mobilisation of students and workers. Similar provocations have taken place elsewhere. In the area of El Valle a group of about 100 provocateurs backed by an armed group attempted to take control of the streets, but were later dispersed by the mobilisation of the local people. The students at the UCV were holding a mass meeting today to discuss how to proceed.

These events are all part of a grand plan to present Venezuela as a country falling into chaos, with the clear aim of justifying moves against Chavez and the Bolivarian movement that stands behind. They want to confuse the workers and youth of the world about what is really going on in Venezuela and thus justify their attempts to overthrow the democratically electe3d government and President of Venezuela.

But why is all this happening now? After the failure of the April 2002 coup and the "oil workers' strike" the reactionary opposition was in difficulty. It had lost its momentum. Its supporters were demoralised. They were no longer capable of mobilising the already weak forces they had. Recent opinion polls actually show that they are weaker electorally. The same polls show that Chavez has more than 60% support among the population. There is even greater support for some of his basic reforms, such as in education and healthcare. These have 75-80% support. Ordinary workers and poor know where their interests lie!

Faced with this, the opposition shifted all their efforts to getting a recall referendum, which the Venezuelan constitution allows for. For this they need to get a minimum of 2,400,000 signatures. They have failed abysmally to achieve this figure. They claim they have the signatures, but it has been clearly demonstrated that many of these are false. There have been many cases of people declaring that their signatures had been falsified. In some cases it has been proven that the signatures were of dead people! Even children were signing for the opposition! And many signatures were duplicates. The opposition could sense that the National Electoral Council (NEC) was not going to come down on their side.

Without the referendum the "opposition" faced a further weakening and demoralisation of its forces. However, even if the NEC were to declare that this time round a sufficient number of signatures has been collected it seems very unlikely that in the given conditions, the opposition could win such a referendum.

The opposition leaders are fully aware that they would most likely lose, but they need something to keep their forces mobilised. Part of their plans are clearly to try to go ahead with the referendum, and if the result turns out be a defeat for them they would then declare it a fraud and mobilise on that basis. This seems to be how they were planning to do things, but now that the referendum may not even take place they have been forced to anticipate events. Time was playing against them. Opinion polls show that they could even lose control of some local councils. This, again, would put them in a very unfavourable situation. They could not claim to represent the "people" of Venezuela as they have been trying to do, once the masses had passed their verdict.

The opposition has thus found itself in extreme difficulty. It is their very weakness which has placed them with their backs to the wall. They must move, they must do something if they are to get their supporters mobilised behind them. But it is their very weakness which is leading them to act in the desperate way they are doing at the moment.

They may even be contemplating an attempted assassination of Chavez himself. If this were to happen, Venezuela would be thrown into even greater turmoil. A civil war could be on the agenda. The masses would not remain passive. They would come out in their millions. We would be facing a new "Caracazo", but this time on a much higher level. The masses are much more organised. They have a greater experience. They have gained much and will not be willing to give all this up to the reactionary, pro-imperialist gangsters that want to turn the clock back.

The opposition is clearly thinking of what their next step should be. Some must be playing with the idea of another coup. They are looking for support among the higher levels of the military. For now, the balance of forces, even at this level of the armed forces, is still weighed against them. Most of the officers have stated their loyalty to Chavez. In fact, last time there was a coup, under the pressure of the masses, a wing of the army moved to save Chavez and overthrow the coup leaders. However. There is no guarantee that this "loyalty" will remain for ever. It depends on several factors.

If they see the country falling into "chaos" some of them may decide to switch their allegiances. We have seen this many times before. At the crucial moment, the top officers side with their own class, the bosses. But it seems we have not yet reached that stage. But this stage clearly remains within the plans of the opposition. What they are doing is trying to create a more favourable situation for such a scenario.

One short term option is a possible embargo to be imposed on Venezuela from outside, led by the United States and backed by their allies in the rest of Latin America. This however, also has its risks. Instead of weakening Chavez it could push the movement onto a higher level, with the masses lurching evermore leftwards, thus increasing the pressures on Chavez to take even firmer measures against imperialism.

Another rumour circulating in Venezuela is that the governor of Zulia, an oil-rich region on the border with Colombia, may be tempted to declare independence. This would be a provocation aimed at getting Chavez to intervene militarily and thus justify some external intervention to "save" Zulia. The fact that it is on the Colombian border would facilitate this.

All these are clearly possibilities that the opposition is considering. The problem is that at this stage the balance of forces is still massively weighted against them. If they don't move then they clearly demonstrate their weakness and thus boost the confidence of the masses. If they do move they are escalating events and pushing the masses to counter-attack.


Mass demonstration

So it seems that their actions over the last few days are dictated by their desperate need to keep up the morale of their supporters. They are doing this by mobilising the dregs of society in these cowardly attacks of armed gangs against unarmed workers and youth. This is part of a more ling-term strategy aimed at destabilising the country and preparing more favourable conditions for reaction.

Their slogan is "the worse the better". More chaos and disorder they succeed in sowing, the more likely they feel they can start to change the balance of forces within the institutions of the state, in particular within the army tops. If they can convince some key elements at this level that the country faces "collapse" or some kind of "communist take-over" then they would be preparing the conditions for a new coup at some point in the future.

However, it is not ruled out, that faced with a desperate situation, they could be pushed into a premature action and try and base themselves on those officers who are already with them. We cannot be complacent about the situation. The Venezuelan revolution is staring reaction in the face. Any sign of weakness on the part of Chavez, or of the Venezuelan masses, would invite further aggression.


Mass demonstration

This threat will not go away. At best, it will be delayed for a further period. But the opposition will not stop until it has achieved its aim – to crush the Venezuelan masses, to give them a lesson they will not forget for a long time. We must make sure that it is the opposition that receives a lesson it won't easily forget. That will not be achieved by maintaining the status quo.

Last Sunday' massive mobilisation in Caracas shows clearly the immense power of the Venezuelan masses. They could crush the opposition a thousand times over. But this will not be done with pious appeals from the government. It is time to move into action. It is not enough to defend the revolutionary process. It must be deepened. The power of the opposition is based on its property. It owns the bulk of the media, the TV, the newspapers, the radio stations, it controls large parts of the economy. It still has substantial power. It has reserves of support within the state apparatus. Even the National Electoral Council is divided 3 to 2 in favour of Chavez. For now the NEC has taken the correct decision to challenge the signatures. However, there is no guarantee that they will stick to this. Under pressure, it would take just one of its members to shift their opinion, for it to fall into the hands of the opposition.

To defend itself the revolution must move forward. The property of these oligarchs should be expropriated. It should be nationalised under workers' control. However, this also is not enough. The opposition is armed and backed by the rich capitalists, behind whom stands imperialism. These forces are not going to stand idly by while the masses remove all their instruments of power from their hands. That is why it is an urgent task to organise the masses.

The first steps should be:

- call mass meetings in every working class neighbourhood and workplace; these should elect defence committees, elected by all and with the right of recall;

- workers' defence squads should be created to defend each area and each workplace;

- the Chavez government should distribute arms to these squads and provide the workers with the necessary training to use them; that is the only way the workers can seriously defend themselves against the criminal gangs that the opposition is unleashing;

- special defensive measures should be taken to protect those activists of the movement, shop stewards etc., against physical attacks; not to do all this with the excuse that this would merely provoke a reaction on the part of the opposition would be a serious dereliction of duty; the opposition is already mobilising, it needs no excuse;

- these committees and defence squads should be linked to the loyal sections of the army and measures should be taken to make sure the sons of the workers in the army stay with their class;

If such measures are taken quickly and the masses are mobilised then no force on the planet could stop the Venezuelan workers. The fascist scum would flee in the face of such a mighty movement. Not to take the above measures would be playing into the hands of the opposition. It would facilitate their manoeuvres. They may be weak now but they are preparing for the future.

The workers of the world must be vigilant. A defeat for the Venezuelan workers would represent a defeat for all workers, especially for the workers of Latin America. We repeat: the only way of stopping reaction in Venezuela today is to take the revolution forward, complete it!

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President Chavez thanks In Defence of Marxism
for our Hands Off Venezuela! solidarity campaign

Brothers, fraternal greetings,

The President of the Republic has asked me to pass on his gratitude to you for your solidarity actions in favour of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Luis Bonilla-Molina,

Caracas, March 5, 2004

Spanish original:

Hermanos un fraterno saludo,

El Señor Presidente de la Republica agradece por mi intermedio, las iniciativas de solidaridad desarrolladas por ustedes en favor de la Revoluciòn Bolivariana

Luis Bonilla-Molina,

Caracas, 5 de marzo del 2004

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Labour MP publicises Hands off Venezuela appeal

By John McDonnell MP


This article was first published in the British daily, the Morning Star (March 26, 2004) in its Features section: True Labour - The voice of the majority, under the title Hands off Venezuela. We are publishing it to make it available to a wider international readership. It is important to highlight that the article is written by John McDonnell, chairman of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs. (March 30, 2004)

While the world's attention has been focused on the occupation of Iraq and the Israeli assault on Palestinians, there has been little reportage of the renewed and systematic programme by the Bush regime to extend US hegemony over south American states.


Morning Star 26/3/2004

The central target of the Bush regime is the government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world and yet, as a result of its history of US economic exploitation, up to 80 per cent of its population lives in poverty.

The operation of US neocolonialism in Venezuela has traditionally maintained a rich ruling elite who, in return, ensure the cheap flow of oil to northern America at the expense of the dire poverty of the majority of the population.

President Chavez was elected by a popular majority on a clear programme to tackle poverty and to empower the people by using the great oil wealth of his country in the interests of the people as a whole.

His government's programme of reforms has included an additional 1.5 million children in school getting three free meals a day, over one million adults obtaining literacy, 1.5 million more people gaining access to drinking water, the establishment of indigenous people's rights to land and bilingual education, the distribution of two million hectares of land to small farmers, the introduction of food subsidies and vouchers for pregnant women and after birth as well as a massive expansion of health care to working-class families.

The response of the US has been to support a reactionary right-wing opposition in a series of attempts to destabilise and remove the Chavez government from office.

First, in April 2002, they tried a straightforward coup in the style of the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile. This involved the kidnapping of the president and seizure of power by an US-backed puppet regime.

Within days, the mass popular street protests of the people ensured the return of Chavez and the toppling of the US-led junta.

Then came a so-called oil strike engineered by Chavez's right-wing opponents and aided by US agencies. This attempt to destabilise the country failed miserably in the face of the determination of the Chavez administration, actively supported by an overwhelming majority of the population.

More recently, the opposition has launched a petition under the Venezuelan constitution to force a recall referendum on the government.

Alongside this manoeuvre, the opposition has sought to push the country into chaos by mounting a series of orchestrated physical attacks, demonstrations and disturbances.

These provocations are aimed at portraying Venezuela as unstable and, therefore, in need of a right-wing regime or even military intervention by the US to restore order. Haiti was just one recent example of the implementation of this US strategy.

The referendum strategy of the opposition is descending into near farce as many of the 2.4 million signatures that it requires to trigger a recall referendum are being found to be forgeries.

The question now is what, when this latest tactic has failed, will the right-wing opposition and the Bush regime contemplate next? The various scenarios range from US-led covert economic sanctions and embargoes, another attempt at a coup and even the assassination of Chavez.

President Chavez's response to these threats has been robust. He has made it clear that, if US imperialism attempts to interfere in Venezuelan politics and seeks to remove a democratically elected government, not one drop of Venezuelan oil will flow into the US.

At present, 1.5 million barrels of oil are exported from Venezuela to the US every day. Chavez has signalled forcefully that any military intervention would be met with solid resistance.

The plight of Venezuela has been barely reported in the British and European media. While the British labour and trade union movement has had a long association with the struggles of the peoples of south America in Nicaragua, Chile, El Salvador and Colombia, there has been little solidarity action as yet with the progressive forces within Venezuela.

The organisation Global Women's Strike has worked closely with Venezuelan women's organisations and co-operated in organised consciousness-raising tours in the US.

In addition, this week, it organised a meeting at the House of Commons to launch an Early Day Motion condemning the US government's interference in Venezuela.

The solidarity group Hands off Venezuela Campaign has been founded and has launched an appeal against the increasing interference of US imperialism in the country in the run-up to the decision on whether a recall referendum will be convened.

The appeal statement says: "The United States government has no moral standing to give the Venezuelan government and people lessons in democracy" and goes on to demand that the US halts its interference in Venezuela.

This appeal statement has been signed by numerous progressive politicians and trade unionists from around the world including Tony Benn and NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear.

It is time for all socialists, trade unionists, progressives and democrats to stand up for the right of the people of Venezuela to elect their own government and determine their own future.

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Cuban Right-Wing Terrorist Group"F-4 Commandos" Training Venezuelan Paramilitaries in the Miami Area

By Cort Greene

George Bush, who declared a "War against Terrorism", and has needlessly taken the world to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, has conveniently forgotten to look in his brother's own backyard in fighting it. Recently in Jeb Bush's Florida, Cuban paramilitary leader Rodolfo Frometa of the right-wing terrorist group"F-4 Commandos" openly admitted helping and training Venezuela paramilitaries associated with Luis Garcia Morales, a former National Guard captain who fled Venezuela after fomenting a military coup against the government of President Chavez. The Miami area has been a hotbed for terrorist groups for decades - the largest CIA center outside the Washington D.C. area is at the University of Miami. Many members of the Death Squads from the Wars in Central and South America of the 60s,70s, and 80s now reside in Miami. Also, two former members of the Venezuelan National Guard, wanted for terrorist attacks on the Spanish embassy in Caracas are currently being held at the Krome Detention Center - but efforts to extradite them for prosecution in Venezuela and / or Spain are being stalled by the US government. It's clear that for the US imperialists, "terrorists" aren't so bad when they're pro-US.

At last weekend's Anti-Chavez rally in Miami, where less than 200 demonstrators attended, leaflets were handed out with a picture of Frometa and Morales dressed in military clothing and brandishing guns, along with a statement calling on Venezuelans to rise in insurrection and encouraging them to wage a war against President Chavez if the opposition fails to oust him by a recall referendum. Rodolfo Frometa, who is well-known as a terrorist to the United States government, having been imprisoned for 3 years for illegal weapons purchases, said: "Our camps are open to any Venezuelan who understands that there can be no dealings with Communists". In a speech at the rally, fugitive CTV boss Carlos Ortega called for the assassination of Chavez and subversion against the Venezuelan government.

Since both Republican George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry are vying for the Cuban right-wing community support in the upcoming election for President, they are trying to out-do one another to garner their votes. Bush has turned a blind eye to the homegrown terrorism of the "F-4 Commandos" in Miami, and covertly funds groups trying to undermine the Bolivarian Revolutionary process in Venezuela. The Democrats' Jimmy Carter demands that the recall referendum process continue even if fraud has been committed; and John Kerry who also concurred with Carter, has unscrupulously attacked President Chavez; calling him a dictator, ranting about how President Chavez will turn Venezuela into a Cuban-style government and comparing him to Cuba's Fidel Castro. These are nothing but red scare tactics and code words designed to whip up mass support for a counter-revolution both here and abroad.

Need we remind John Kerry and his supporters that at the very least President Chavez has been democratically elected; the Bolivarian Revolution has been affirmed by the people of Venezuela on 7 different occasions; and that he has mass support for himself and his social programs. That's more than can be said of George Bush, whose election is still in question; has less popular support than Chavez; has broken treaty after treaty; fought illegal predatory wars; turned back 70 years of progressive legislation for workers and the poor; and whose economic policies have only been to the benefit of the capitalist class, bringing disaster and misery for everyone else.

Those who say the upcoming US Presidential elections are nothing but a choice between Cancer and the Plague, and that neither party offers a way out of the worldwide economic crisis or a meaningful shift in policy for the masses of Venezuela or anywhere else are indeed right. It's crystal clear that the so-called "war on terror" is really a war on working people at home and abroad. Now more than ever, solidarity action with the Bolivarian Revolution and a strengthening of the process towards socialism is necessary to safeguard it.

  • No to US intervention in Venezuela!

  • Defend the Venezuelan revolution!

  • Forward to Socialism!

Contact us for more information on the Hands Off Venezuela campaign at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Venezuela: Bolivarian masses anger at referendum decision

By Jorge Martin

 

On Thursday, June 3, the Venezuelan National Electoral Commission (CNE), basing itself on preliminary data, announced that the opposition had collected enough signatures to force a presidential recall referendum. The opposition needed the support of 2,436,083 voters, in order to trigger a recall referendum, and according to the CNE they have collected 2,451,821 signatures, which is barely 15,738 signatures above the required amount.

The last part of the process by which the opposition was trying to force the recall referendum was the so-called "repair" process in which doubtful signatures were being ratified or denied by the people and this took place over the weekend of May 28 to 30. This process was fraught with irregularities. Large numbers of forged ID cards were found by the police at different locations. A computer, scanner, printer, repair forms, and forged IDs were found at the local headquarters of the opposition party Accion Democratica in El Valle, Caracas, where people who were being pursued by the authorities sought refuge, and 600 ID cards were also found in the Accion Democratica headquarters in the Caracas district of El Paraiso.

In these police raids they also found leaflets inciting violence and calling for a repeat of the riots that took place in February (a full account of irregularities can be found in this excellent article by Gregory Wilpert and Martin Sanchez). There were also instances of workers sacked by their bosses for refusing to re-verify their signatures, as was the case at the Coca-Cola plant in Antimano, where 50 workers were threatened with the closure of the plant. The Venezuelan Coca-Cola subsidiary is owned by media magnate and opposition leader Gustavo Cisneros.

Some 1.2 million signatures had been sent to this "repair" process, and the opposition managed to re-confirm only 614,968. This in itself gives an indication of the scale of the fraud that went on in the whole signature collection process. Also 74,112 people did not acknowledge their signatures, which means that these had been used without their consent.

There is also the issue of some 50,000 people who should have been excluded from the electoral register because they were already dead, but the data had not been updated. According to CNE board member Jorge Rodriguez, this was due to deliberate sabotage.

For all these reasons on Sunday night, Bolivarians were pleased and confident and came out on the streets spontaneously to celebrate the defeat of the opposition, as it seemed clear that with so many irregularities, the CNE could never concede a recall referendum. But even at that time many were not sure of what would happen. In the run up to the repair process there had been extremely harsh pressure on the part of US imperialism and the opposition to say that if the referendum was not called, then this meant Chavez was a dictator and measures would be taken (economic embargo and military intervention included). The local agents of this pressure were the Carter Centre and the Organisation of American States, which were allegedly "observing" the repair process. In reality from Monday on they started interfering directly with the work of the CNE and making public statements that coincided almost word by word with the statements of the main opposition leaders, to the effect that enough signatures had been re-certified and that the government was stalling the process. This was another way of piling more pressure on the CNE and on the government itself.

By Wednesday it was becoming increasingly clear that the CNE would rule that there should be a referendum and there was a lot of pressure on the government to recognise such a result, despite all the irregularities. Joy turned into anger amongst the ranks of the revolutionaries. They could see in front of their eyes how, once again, a victory had been turned into defeat. The National Workers Union (UNT) rejected the calling of a referendum based on fraud, and the National Coordination of the Bolivarian Circles issued a joint statement with the Bolivarian Workers Front on the same lines. The same position was taken up and down the country by many revolutionary organisations. At the Central University a meeting of revolutionary organisations of teachers, students and workers (amongst them the Revolutionary Marxist Current and the Revolutionary Left Organisation) passed a resolution opposing the referendum and calling on all people and revolutionary organisations to mobilise against it. At 5 pm, an improvised rally with 3,000 revolutionaries from about 14 different neighbourhoods in the capital took place in Plaza Caracas, outside the CNE building. There was a lively discussion and many resolutions were passed, amongst them "1) to strongly reject the fraud and declare that it would not be accepted under any circumstances, 2) To reject any possibility to allow the fraud to be validated through political negotiations at the top, 3) expel the Carter Centre and the OAS for meddling with the process and not being impartial observers, 4) not to accept that electoral crimes are left unpunished (as happened with the crimes committed by those who organised the coup on April 13th, 2002)".

Prior to this rally there had been mass meetings of revolutionary activists in many neighbourhoods to discuss the situation. The resolutions that came out of them were extremely angry and strongly worded. "The Bolivarian people of Caricuao" in a meeting on June 1st, passed a resolution which started by saying clearly: "we refuse to accept this repair process which is fraudulent", and then went on to explain that "we will not accept any referendum, they will use all sorts of tricks in order to win: getting dead people, foreigners and under aged children to vote, etc" and correctly pointed out that "if we win the referendum they will invent something else to get rid of you Mr president, that is the only thing these criminals want." The mood of the resolution was very bitter: "how long are we going to allow them to f**k around so that they cannot call us dictators or violent, when they have committed all sorts of crimes against us, from spitting at us to killing us and organising military coups and bosses’ lock outs". And the resolution ended with an appeal to the president: "The people support you, president, we do not want a referendum, send the Ayacucho Command [which coordinates the leaders of all pro-Chavez parties] to hell. We do not believe in anybody else, president, we believe in you, do not be afraid. It does not matter if they call you a dictator, after all the people know that you are not, and that you are more of a democrat than all of them put together through a food processing machine. Do not fail us president, we support you. We are not asking for anything for ourselves, just a little bit of justice and democracy for us, is this too much to ask? Ask the people, president what we want. Meet with the Popular Movement, break the siege around you".

The revolutionary masses, as always, realised very clearly what was going on behind the scenes. Strong pressure was being applied on the president by all the reformists and the moderates within the Bolivarian movement (many of them to be found in key positions in the leadership of the parties of the movement, the Comando Ayacucho, and amongst the presidential advisers). The idea was that a referendum should be allowed to go ahead, regardless of the signatures, since the opposition will be defeated in it and this would give the president and the revolutionary movement more international legitimacy. The clearest expression of this article can be found in the statement of a Bolivarian activist quoted in a Venezuelanalysis.com article: "We would win the recall referendum by a wide margin, and that would be an excellent opportunity to re-legitimize the [revolutionary] process. U.S. imperialism wants the CNE to declare that there were not enough signatures for the recall, so they can say that Chavez prevented the opposition from exercising their democratic rights. It's a trap to label Chavez as a dictator, invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela and isolate us," he said (quoted in Venezuela Leader to Face Recall Referendum).

But this kind of argument was strongly rejected by the rank and file activists of the Bolivarian movement. They argue, correctly, that one should not make any more concessions to the opposition which after all is responsible for the April 13th military coup and the failed coup of December 2002. The leaders of the opposition should be in jail paying for their crimes and not collecting fraudulent signatures for the recall of the president. Furthermore, if during the signature collection process hundreds of thousands of fraudulent signatures were used, then these are hundreds of thousands of electoral crimes for which someone must pay. Any concessions made in the past to the opposition have resulted not in the opposition turning towards exclusively democratic means of political action, but rather in them preparing new counter-revolutionary attempts. As for imperialism, they already maintain there is no democracy and an authoritarian populist ruler in Venezuela, and their opinion will not change. They will simply look for any other excuse to "justify" an intervention.

In any case the opposition will not be prepared to recognise the results of the referendum if this does not give them victory. They will immediately start a new campaign of pressure and imperialist meddling, threats, and all sorts of dirty tricks, and then if Chavez is reaffirmed as a president, they will say that the referendum was rigged and this proves Chavez is a dictator. The opposition is lead by the oligarchy, the rich and the bankers, the owners of the means of production and is closely linked to the interests of imperialism. They see their fundamental interests threatened by the revolution which is developing in Venezuela. They will not cease in their attempts to put an end to it by any means necessary. Their use of democratic means (like the recall referendum) is just a small part of their strategy which includes the use of paramilitary forces, riots in the streets, sabotage of the economy and eventually foreign intervention. Making any type of concessions will only strengthen their counter-revolutionary activities and it can cause, at a certain point serious demoralisation amongst the revolutionary masses.

This is exactly what happened in Nicaragua. After years of a low intensity war, with imperialist financed guerrillas constantly attacking the country, with permanent sabotage of the economy, with diplomatic pressure (through the Contadora Group of Countries, represented in Venezuela by the Group of Friends and the Carter Centre and OAS observers), etc, finally the Sandinista leadership accepted the call for an election. The election took place against this background, and with the tiredness and demoralisation of ten years of revolutionary struggle, with all sorts of pressures and dirty tricks on the part of imperialism, and finally it was lost. The insistence of using only purely "democratic" means and staying within the limits of capitalism faced with a counter-revolutionary opposition which was prepared to use all sorts of undemocratic means to overthrow the government and put an end to the revolution, finally led to the defeat of the Sandinista revolution.

The anger of the rank and file of the Bolivarian movement led some of its most radical elements to take to the streets on Thursday 3rd, clash with the opposition controlled Metropolitan Police, burn vans belonging to companies known to have supported the coup, etc. Later on thousands gathered outside the presidential palace in a rally called to show support for the president and the revolution. It was here that Chavez announced that he would respect the decision of the CNE, that had been announced only hours before, and that there would be a recall referendum. For the reasons explained we think that this is a mistake. The reactions of the people present could be divided roughly into three main groups: those who accepted the argument that a referendum would give more democratic legitimacy to the revolution and the president and that this was the right decision; those who were angry and opposed to the decision but accepted it out of loyalty to Chavez; and finally those who are opposed to the decision and still want to fight to try and change it. They are calling for a rally today, Friday 4th, but they will also participate in the mass rally in support of the revolution which has been called on Sunday. That will be a good opportunity to see what the real mood of the masses is regarding this decision.

What is clear is that a lot of the criticism has been centred on the role of the Comando Ayacucho. This was set up a few months ago and is composed of the leaders of all Bolivarian parties (MVR, PPT, PODEMOS, PCV, LS). The revolutionary masses rightly feel that this unelected body is largely useless and out of touch with the workers and the people. They confidently promised that enough signatures had been collected to trigger recall referendums against 20 opposition MPs which had been elected on Bolivarian lists. They could only narrowly trigger 9 of those referendums and only after a "repair" process. They confidently announced that 200,000 people had not acknowledged their signatures to the presidential recall referendum, and in the end only 74,000 had done so. And this is not for lack of popular will or enthusiasm, but mainly because of lack of organisation and incompetence of this body. On top of this the Comando Ayacucho in many towns, cities and states, has imposed candidates for the forthcoming council and regional elections without any consultation with the rank and file and in many cases in complete opposition to them.

This is probably one of the more acute problems facing the Bolivarian revolution at this juncture: that of its leadership. As a leaflet distributed ine these days by the Revolutionary Marxist Current argues, there is the need for a National Revolutionary Assembly of Delegates elected and with the right of recall from all the local revolutionary organisations and assemblies. Only a genuine democratic leadership of the revolutionary process can replace the Comando Ayacucho and set the basis for a genuine revolutionary policy. Such a structure could take over the running of the state and industry in order to replace the capitalist state structure which is still in place in Venezuela (in the ministries, the judiciary, etc).

In order to defend the revolution, some basic self-defence measures need to be taken. All those responsible for crimes committed during the counter-revolutionary attempts in the last few years should be put on trial and sent to jail. The properties, factories and land of known counter-revolutionary conspirators should be expropriated without compensation and put under workers’ control and management. Workers control and management should be implemented in publicly owned companies, in order to prevent corruption and bureaucratisation and use their resources to the benefit of the majority of the people. All know agents of imperialism (including the Carter Centre and the OAS "observers", and the US ambassador) should be expelled from the country. There should be an immediate default on all payments of the foreign debt so that this money can be used to the benefit of the people. As announce by Chavez, workers’ and peoples’ militias should be set up in order to guarantee to defend the revolution from imperialist aggression. All these measures would go a long way to strengthen and defend the revolution and advance it towards socialism.

June 4, 2004

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