[Marxism] Further on the Venezuela referendum

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Jun 6 11:29:29 MDT 2004

I agree with the pessimists about the referendum in Venezuela on one
point: this is a bourgeois election taking place under conditions where
the capitalist state and capitalist economic domination have not been
overthrown.  As such, it is organically stacked against working people.
Understanding this dictates not opposition to the referendum or
pessimism about it, but eternal vigilance, especially by the Venezuelan
masses and their leadership, starting with Chavez.  All indications that
I see indicate that the level of such vigilance today is adequate
sufficient and on the increase.  The leadership and masses seem equal to
this challenge.  The runup to the referendum has been one long exposure
of the reactionary intentions and corrrupt methods of the capitalists
and their imperialist backers.   That is a good preparation. 
Among other things, I hope, believe, and assume that the referendum
process will be accompanied by and not delay or obstruct the process of
training and organizing the peasants on the land, workers in the
factories and unions, and the people in the neighborhoods and villages
for the military defense of the country and the revolution against
reactionary attacks.
Of course, victory in the referendum by Chavez (which seems probable but
far from certain in the given relationship of class forces) will settle
nothing. Neither imperialism nor the local bourgeoisie and landlords
will accept an outcome favorable to Chavez, any more than they have
accepted the numerous past verdicts.
For experienced revolutionaries, I think some confusion about this
referendum is caused by the 1990 defeat of the FSLN in Nicaragua which,
in my opinion, registered the decline and disintegration of the 1979
revolution and its leadership. The defeat of the Nicaraguan revolution
was not caused by the bourgeois election and could not have been
prevented by refusing to hold it or by militarily rising against the
outcome.  The revolution had been defeated by the shift in the
international relation of  forces against the revolution (the stalemate
and retreat of the struggle in El Salvador, the overturn of the Bishop
regime in Grenada and subsequent US occupation, the disintegration of
the Soviet workers' state which was reflected in part in the minimal aid
it gave to Nicaragua, the US offensive against Panama, the defeat of
Argentina in the Malvinas, and the consequent rise of "neoliberal"
submission to imperialist demands in Latin America, the enormous
destruction caused by the contra war and imperialist embargos);  and by
the combined retreat and corruption of the Sandinista government in the
face of these brutal pressures.
If  we are going to make comparisons which have very limited validity,
the conditions surrounding the current vote in Venezuela more resemble
the bourgeois election of 1984 in Nicaragua, which the Sandinistas won
at a time when  the revolution was closer at its crest, a point which
the Venezuelan revolution may well not have reached yet.
Today's election comes with a different state of the world as well.  The
popularity of the Cuban example is on the rise again in Latin America,
and that of Venezuela is even wider if anything.  Popular resistance to
"neoliberal" submission to imperialism is still on the rise in  Bolivia
and other countries.  The world class struggle has absorbed the collapse
of the Soviet Union and its East European allies, and has begun to work
its way forward in the wake of that development.  The US invasion of
Iraq has had different consequences for Washington than the invasions of
Grenada, Panama,  Yugoslavia, and Iraq in 1990.  Instead of
demoralization and submission, Washington has run into a broadening
resistance (led at this point by sectors of the national bourgeoisie)
which has not defeated Washington as yet has clearly registered the
limits of imperialist power.   Economic difficulties and resulting
intensified competition have more deeply divided the imperialist
enemies, which is a favorable circumstance for our side.  For instance,
the Spanish election shifted that government's official stance toward
Venezuela away from a bloc with Washington against Chavez, and toward
keeping trade links and lines of diplomatic communication open.
So I think basic confidence in the Venezuelan leadership (from Chavez on
down) and the increasingly mobilized working people is clearly justified
as they approach the challenge of the new electoral test.
Fred Feldman

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