Rebel Resource

projections for a revolutionary century || rebel cinema

Posted by Carlos on December 11, 2007

The Other Reason Behind The Defeat

Only a minority of abstainers might actually have disagreed with individual proposals


After a period of reflection, a central reason is fast emerging why nearly three million Chavez voters stayed at home on the day of the vote for constitutional reform. In my previous article I made the case that these represented the more moderate wing of Chavez’s support. That must be true in large part, given the weight of the reforms, and the limited time the electorate had to debate them.

However, there was a general impression that these were not the people’s own reforms. Although 9,000 ‘town square’ meetings took place across the country and 80,000 telephone calls were received by a special hotline, these supposedly helped shape the second block of proposals while the first remained largely unchanged. And the nature of all this popular input remained undisclosed, leaving everyone uncertain as to how much influence it really had.

In effect, the mass abstention might well be seen as a form of protest. Venezuelans have repeatedly been told they are the leaders of the revolution, and that with each passing day they should be more active in deciding its future. Though nearly half of all Chavez’s support abstained, it is telling that they did not dislike the proposals enough to vote against them. Perhaps only a minority had any problems with the actual reforms, while most simply made a conscientious or principled decision against their top-down nature.

For those that still require persuasion, the real debate is set to continue until the revolutionary majority achieve their desired changes. The opposition’s scare tactics will lose effectiveness, and as Chavez’s final term progresses it should become more clear that the two-term limit would only prevent the first-choice candidate being reelected in 2012. If a “new geometry of power” is necessary for communal councils to be a driving force in the national hierarchy of power, that too will become increasingly evident.

The popular initiation of reforms is surely what Chavez really needs to prove to his detractors that the journey in Venezuela is not led by him, or even dependent on him. By laying out a complete shopping list we now know Chavez would not change “a single comma” of the defeated proposals the people now have a comprehensive idea of the requirements for the next logical stage of the revolution. The attempt at constitutional reform itself was also a vital lesson for those who would otherwise have little idea of how a grassroots drive might work in practice.

Whether or not Chavez intended to lose in order to prompt popular reforms, the abstainers have unwittingly engineered a clutch of favourable outcomes, including a much-needed media coup that provides breathing space for the next phase of the revolution. And all of this far outweighs the consequences of a slim victory and having to implement 69 reforms in a climate of intensifying attacks from the opposition. Indeed, if that is accepted, who would bet that Chavez did not swing the vote for the opposition by leaving his best voting tables uncounted on the night in question?

As Trotsky said, “the revolution needs the whip of a counterrevolution”. This was no counterrevolution, but every bit as effective. Just as the opposition’s gains are illusory, so are the revolution’s losses; it would have been deeply unwise for the movement to continue feeling invincible, as if they could achieve “21st century socialism” on cruise control. Ultimately, that things will continue as per normal for the moment is no loss at all. And from now on, the sensation of ‘what we could have had’ will drive the popular battalions onwards.

Popular power should now reinforce itself and act without permission from the state, perhaps not even using its resources. During the recent campaign, state media gave no impression other than that Chavismo was apparently fully behind the reforms. But in spite of the eventual results, the revolutionary movement should not believe that presidential term limits are valued by a majority of the electorate, nor that executive power has reached a ceiling of popular acceptance. In a scenario where the people’s proposals end up being highly similar to what Chavez and the National Assembly wanted, even the moderates would understand their vote would be for a democratic consensus.

It would be preferable if Chavez was not seen encouraging popular reforms, or using decree/other powers to pass important elements of the unapproved reforms – if only to help maintain his new democratic image in the eyes of his more reasonable detractors. One of the opposition’s strategies will undoubtedly be to portray a people’s initiation of reforms as being led behind the scenes by Chavez. To try and impede its progress, violence is already being capitalised upon by the private media while they proclaim to “just want peace”, implying wherever possible that the root cause is Chavez’s unwillingness to accept democratic defeat.

The force of revolutionary momentum in Venezuela, together with its recent injection of self-realisation and urgency is very likely to result in the eventual realisation of the most democratic constitution in the world. The abstainers represent pivotal electors who can reveal which elements of the reforms they did not support, if any, and go on to play leading roles in the front line of the popular initiative. Far from being culpable in a counterrevolutionary sense, their abstention has greatly assisted the health and impetus of the revolutionary movement.

The organisational structure of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is perfect for ensuring these abstainers are addressed in person, providing they can be identified. Meanwhile, the opposition should be publicly persuaded to join in deliberations and perhaps coaxed into formalising their own block of proposals. Whatever the response, it would make it extremely difficult for anyone to deny the democratic nature of the reform process, or to assert that the previously defeated reforms were ever dead in the water.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s