Re: [OPE-L] Venezuela After the Referendum

From: clyder@GN.APC.ORG
Date: Tue Dec 04 2007 - 17:16:13 EST

It did strike me as odd that as a trotskyist Woods would be so
blase about constitutional changes which enhance the position
of a strong leader. It could hardly be said that 20th century
socialism suffered from a lack of strong leaders, quite the reverse.

Tariq Ali and Dieterich seem more perceptive in their analysis
of the incipient party/state and the excessive centralisation of

> Woods doesn't mention the substance of the proposed constitutional
> changes.
> Since many of the changes can be legislated -- e.g. the length of the
> workweek, it would seem to me to be a reasonable question to ask "what are
> the KEY elements of the proposal".  The legislated changes can be done
> immediately.
> Appointments of regional administrative officials and unlimited terms for
> the President do require constitutional changes.  So, would one be wrong
> to
> think that some of the progressive economic measures were introduced into
> the proposal as a 'bribe' for popular support in order to obtain those
> that
> really did need a constitutional revision?
> A test of the above would have been to separate the progressive economic
> proposals, from something like term limits, which is pretty
> straight-forward concept.
> By the way, what was the precise argument for the necessity of eliminating
> terms limits?  As I recall, its introduction into the 1999 constitution
> was
> described then as being a progressive, democratic step.
> Paul Z.
> ************************************************************************
> (Vol.23) THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF 9-11-2001  "a benchmark in 9/11 research"
>            video summary from Snowshoe Films at
> *********************
> --On 12/4/2007 10:28 AM +0000 Paul Cockshott wrote:
>> Note that the conclusions of Wood are rather different:
>> Venezuela: The referendum defeat - What does it mean?
>> Bay Area Indymedia - San Francisco,CA,USA
>> Reformists like Heinz Dieterich are always harping on this theme like a
>> repeating groove on an old gramophone record. Yes, the army is a
>> decisive
>> question. ...
>> From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Dogan Goecmen
>> Sent: 04 December 2007 08:59
>> Subject: [OPE-L] Venezuela After the Referendum
>> Lessons for the Bolivarians
>> Venezuela After the Referendum
>> Hugo Chavez' narrow defeat in the referendum was the result of
>> large-scale abstentions by his supporters. 44 percent of the electorate
>> stayed at home. Why? First, because they did not either understand or
>> accept that this was a necessary referendum. The measures related to the
>> working week and some other proposed social reforms could be easily
>> legislated by the existing parliament. The key issues were the removal
>> of
>> restrictions on the election of the head of government (as is the case
>> in
>> most of Europe) and moves towards 'a socialist state.' On the latter
>> there was simply not enough debate and discussion on a grassroots level.
>> As Edgardo Lander, a friendly critic pointed out:
>> "Before voting in favour of a constitutional reform which will define
>> the
>> State, the economy, and the democracy as socialist, we citizens have the
>> right to take participate in these definitions. What is understood by
>> the
>> term socialist state? What is understood by the term socialist economy?
>> What is understood by the term socialist democracy? In what way are
>> these
>> different to the states, economies, and democracies that accompanied
>> socialism of the 20th century? Here, we are not talking about entering
>> into a debate on semantics, rather on basic decisions about the future
>> of
>> the country."
>> And this was further amplified by Greg Wilpert, a sympathetic journalist
>> whose website,, is the best source of information
>> on the country:
>> "By rushing the reform process Chavez presented the opposition with a
>> nearly unprecedented opportunity to deal him a serious blow. Also, the
>> rush in which the process was pushed forward opened him to criticism
>> that
>> the process was fundamentally flawed, which has become one of the main
>> criticisms of the more moderate critics of the reform."
>> Another error was the insistence on voting for all the proposals en bloc
>> on a take it or leave it basis. It's perfectly possibly that a number of
>> the proposals might have got through if a vote on each had been allowed.
>> This would have compelled the Bolivarians to campaign more effectively
>> at
>> grassroots level through organised discussions and debates (as the
>> French
>> Left did to win the argument and defeat the EU Constitution ). It is
>> always a mistake to underestimate the electorate and Chavez knows this
>> better than most.
>> What is to be done now? The President is in office till 2013 and
>> whatever
>> else Chavez may be the description of 'lame-duck' will never fit him. He
>> is a fighter and he will be thinking of how to strengthen the process.
>> If
>> properly handled the defeat could be a blessing in disguise. It has,
>> after all, punctured the arguments of the Western pundits who were
>> claiming for the last eight years that democracy in Venezuela was dead
>> and authoritarianism had won.
>> Anyone who saw Chavez' speech accepting defeat last night (as I did here
>> in Guadalajara with Mexican friends) will not be in any doubt regarding
>> his commitment to a democratically embedded social process. That much is
>> clear. One of the weaknesses of the movement in Venezuela has been the
>> over-dependence on one person. It is dangerous for the person (one
>> bullet
>> can be enough) and it is unhealthy for the Bolivarian process. There
>> will
>> be a great deal of soul-searching taking place in Caracas, but the key
>> now is an open debate analysing the causes of the setback and a move
>> towards a collective leadership to decide on the next candidate. It's a
>> long time ahead but the discussions should start now. Deepening popular
>> participation and encouraging social inclusion (as envisaged in the
>> defeated constitutional changes) should be done anyway.
>> The referendum defeat will undoubtedly boost the Venezuelan opposition
>> and the Right in Latin America, but they would be foolish to imagine
>> that
>> this victory will automatically win them the Presidency. If the lessons
>> of the defeat are understood it is the Bolivarians who will win.
>> __________________________________________________
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