[Marxism] The Constituent Assembly: Venezuelan Thermidor?

Stuart Munckton stuartmunckton at gmail.com
Tue Aug 22 05:14:35 MDT 2017


while there are many problems not just in general but clearly with the
"official" and government response to the economic problems and serious
political crisis, i would just say there are a lot more voices than the
government spokespeople, the amplified voices of the hard right and
sometimes outright fascists on the streets or even those on aporrea, which
runs a wide range of views but is very far from the be all and end all of
left and revolutionary perspectives.

I would also say the government, and the movement as a whole, faces an
opposition that is desperate to take power not just as soon as possible but
not through elections, and this explains the sustained nature of the
violent protests and actual terrorist attacks (there are separate accounts
of who is responsible for what deaths than the one Joaquin mentions that paint
a different picture <https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/13081>, but we
can leave aside the question of exactly whose killed who and say that
burning someone alive because you suspect they are Chavista, or just as
likely because they are poor and black, is terror, as is improvise
explosive devices that rip through a national guard contingent -- largely
drawn from the poorer sectors -- violent attacks on maternity hospitals and
military bases all amount to terrorist campaigns. Of course not everyone
who joins a protest is involved in or necessarily supports all these
things, but neither are they isolated).

This campaign of violence and terror has reached a bit of a dead end, and
partly because the constituent assembly elections went ahead despite
pledges to stop them, while no sector of the military has responded to more
than four months of these protests and appeals to bring the government
down, nor has any serious section of other institutions still loyal to the
process or at least constitution, broken, with pretty much the sole
exception of the attorney-general..

The opposition would prefer to come to power outside of having to face an
electoral test (even if they are clearly a reasonably chance to win
elections) because they want a period of time without having to rely on any
mandate in which they can smash up the social gains of the revolution. An
example of what they want is in neighbouring Brazil, where the unelected
coup president temer has an approval rating far, far worse than Maduro's
and his regime is ramming through harsh neoliberal and ant-worker measures
that go further than what the military dictatorship got away with. Compare
this to Argentine, where Macri came to power through electoral means and
has had a tougher time actually getting through his hard-right agenda.

And that is just Brazil, with far milder social reforms under the PT, and
dramatically less popular empowerment. In Venezuela, not only are they
desperate for a far deeper series of counter-reforms, but need to smash a
deeply organised mass movement, that whatever weakening it is has suffered
in recent years is still a force to contend with,. It isn't alarmist to
raise the spectre of 1973 in Chile, but whether it reaches such a scale,
there is no doubt the right coming to power, *especially* outside of
elections, it will involve a deepening of the terror already underway
(where it is at high levels already in the country side, see this detailed
and disturbing eyewitness account in Green let Weekly "The War for Power in
Venezuela's Countryside
<https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/war-power-venezuela-countryside>").
The fact that in the two days they held power during the coup in 2002, when
they combined overturning all of the progressive laws including the new
constitution with killing 60 chavistas and hunted down and tortured many
more, is indication enough.

Then no doubt, once the worst of the counter-reforms are implemented and
repression against popular sectors achieved its aims, then you could have
elections, the country will be "ready" and up will jump representatives of
the friendlier face of the opposition and the elite, critical of the
"excesses" of recent times, wanting to "heal the nation" and "bring us back
together", end the excesses of the neoliberalism and terror the preceding
"government of national unity" has implemented *and* of course the
"excesses" of the Chavistas beforehand. Before then, they don;t WANT to
have to rely on any electoral mandate, it will only act as a handbrake on
their plans.

All this is not just "yes of course" level of ticking a box and saying
you;ve noted it, it is essential to the situation and the difficulties of
finding a way forward when the opposition won't talk and won't play the
constitutional games, with -- despite clear differences within them -- the
hard right still in ascendency.

There are those often critical of the government and its (frequently lack
of) actions in recent times, who nonetheless do not see it as a
dictatorship or moving towards a dictatorship. (And in relation to the
National Assembly, while the government has prioratised legal and
constitutional manoeuvres seemingly over attempting to serious deal with
the political problems and growing frustrations or apathy among the base,
it has nonetheless sought to do aso within a constitutional framework, even
if this is contested, with both sides seeking to claim institutional
legitimacy.

For instance, the Supreme Court ruled that the assembly could not swear in
four deputies (three aligned to the opposition, one Chavista, until an
investigation into allegations of electoral irregularities is completed.
The opposition deputies in control of the National Assembly defied the
supreme court and ruled its three deputies in, with the Supreme Court
ruling the Assembly in contempt. So you have had a stand off between the
executive and supreme court and the assembly, with the opposition aborting
(seemingly screwing up) its recall referendum campaign.

Could it have been handled better by the government as well as opposition?
No doubt. But the opposition has also refused any talks or serious attempt
to negotiate a solution unless its "political prisoners" are released,
while burning barricades remain.

In this context, many grassroots sectors seen the constituent assembly a
potential way out of the crisis, to advance the process, although not
inevitably. They see it as a remobiisation of the chavista base to directly
intervene, which has the potential to impose itself on the situation,
although it depends on how the government responds.

Green left has run a series of interviews and pieces giving various
responds to the constituent assembly from those invariably with some often
very strong criticisms of maduro "from below":

*Maria Helena Ramirez Hernandez, *an activist with the Revolutionary Sex
and Gender Diversity Alliance (ASGDRe) and student at the Bolivarian
University of Venezuela, spoke with *Green Left Weekly*’s *Federico
Fuentes *about what the July 30 vote for the ANC meant for grassroots
*Chavistas* https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/
venezuela-revolutionary-sex-and-gender-diversity-alliance-
constituent-assembly

*Stalin Perez Borges *from the LUCHAS (United League of Chavista
Socialists) and a member of the Consultative Council of the Bolivarian
Socialist Workers’ Central (CBST) https://www.greenleft.org.au/
content/venezuela-socialist-trade-unionist-constituent-
assembly-terror-attack-military-base

Ex-minister for communes, revolutionary activist and sociologist *Reinaldo
Iturriza, who* has spent many years working with popular movements in
Venezuela, ahead of the constituent assembly https://www.
greenleft.org.au/content/reinaldo-iturriza-fate-chavismo-and-venezuela-
revolutionary-democratic-experiment

*Marco Teruggi* writing from Caracas: https://www.
greenleft.org.au/content/zero-hour-venezuela-ahead-constituent-assembly-vote

Carlos Morreo (venezuelan academic) on the constituent assembly as a
chalenge for opposition and "critical chavismo"https://www.greenleft.org.au/
content/venezuela-constituent-assembly-poses-challenge-
opposition-critical-chavismo

And in this interview from a week ago, Steve Ellner, who has lived in
Venezuela since the 70s and offers some (imo) balanced assessments based on
trying to interpret the real situaiton beyodn rhetoric, spoke to Green Left
Weekly, on what he calls the "fragile upper hand" the government has
achieved through the constituent assembly elections to date.
https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/venezuela-trump-talks-military-options-
maduro-constituent-assembly


All that said, I don't think some sort of "coup" in the name of Chavismo
out of desperate self-defence from some sectors, namely some of the
military or at least with military support, can be absolutely ruled out,
even if not necessarily likely, if they see no other way out of the crisis
against an opposition, in clearly alliance with imperialism, that wants
them all in jail at the very least, and the phrase "very least" is
deliberate. However, I just don't see much evidence the Constituent
Assembly is it. If anything, it appears as a potential way to
democratically break the deadlock -- although this remains potential,
something the voices in these pieces emphasise.

But while figuring out what is going on is crucial to orientate ourselves,
I think there is a crucial point Steve Ellner made in an earlier piece, on
the tasks of supporters of the revolution from outside the country in the
context of this crisis. On the economic crisis in particular, where he said
as far as he could see there were three major factors behind it, which he
gave more or less equal weight: the huge drop in oil prices aggravated by
venezuela's dependency on oil; the imperialist campaign against venezuela
and economic war; and the mistakes and bad policies of the government and
the institutional corruption.

He pointed out that, from outside venezuela, in the global North, while we
seek to understand all of this, the only one we can actually act on, the
only obvious way we can help, is to take action around the imperialist
intervention.

Stuart



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