A Threat to What Was Won Through Struggle
from El Libertario, Caracas
This is the editorial from the November edition of the Venezuelan anarchist journal El Libertario, analyzing the controversy over the pending constitutional reform, from a position harshly critical of both the Hugo Chávez government and the conservative opposition. In El Libertario’s view, the conflict is between rival sectors of Venezuela’s elite for control of the country’s lucrative energy resources—with the Chavista sector now making a grab for total power. This translation provided by El Libertatio was slightly edited by WW4 REPORT.
Once again we must consider the dilemma of whether to participate or not in the electoral contest, this time with the difference that it is not a case of choosing a candidate but rather constitutional norms. This situation requires careful reflection. We have a ruling party that accepts en masse the reforms proposed by the Boss and increased embarrassingly in a premeditated manoeuvre by a servile National Assembly. The absurdities of the original constitutional reforms [of 1999] were so many that it set the scene for the comical debate which has resulted in a plastering of equally aberrant additions. There is no serious debate of content and reasons, only discourses that are submissive to the tyrant, without any other sustaining logic than the desire to keep him in power. On the other hand, the institutional opposition stumbles in the darkness, not knowing how to confront it, relying on discourses and spokesmen from the past. They content themselves with showing through the media a small part of the absurdities that the Constitutional Reform contains—precisely those parts that threaten their own narrow interests, such as the rule changes of the political game—without any clear position or concrete campaign.
Thus, we suggest that faced with the alternatives of either voting for the rejection of the Constitutional Reform or abstaining, it is better to renounce participation in the Referendum and promote abstention. The timid questions that arise from the grassroots supporters of the Chavez regime clearly demonstrate the general [low] level of analysis and understanding of the proposals, highlighting the infantilization of the discourse promoted equally by the leaders of the militaristic pseudo-left in power and the right-wing and social democrat opposition.
We can partially see the logic behind the rush to change what up until recently has been sold as the “best constitution in the world.” The oil bonanza allows the executive to increase its broad client network in readiness for the coming electoral showdown. In addition to this is the clear opportunism by which, bypassing proper electoral norms, the Government conducts its “Yes” campaign, forcing the support of public sector employees and everyone else who is dependent on public finance. The precariousness and lack of independence of the electoral process is illustrated by the trajectory of the last head of the CNE [National Electoral Council], Jorge Rodríguez, who is now Vice-President.
We believe that with or without voters, the Reform will be passed. However, through abstention it is possible to make it illegitimate, even when it is [technically] legal. A very low number of voters in the coming poll would be a way of debilitating the regime from making any further moves, demonstrating that there is no “revolution” in popular participation, but rather a deepening of presidential personalism. If you believe that this is unimportant because the Government will consolidate its power anyway (which will happen regardless), or because people prefer to be on the winning side even when its victory is deceitful or fraudulent, remember that there is always a space to negate the validity of the leadership due to its illegitimacy. An illegitimate Government, despite maintaining itself in power, dissolves the tacit relationship of obedience that the population bestows upon it, removing, even if partially, the collective acceptance of its activity, and thus the implementation of its mandates have to based increasingly on the authoritarian exercise of power.
A significant abstention would mark the separation of the people, their aspirations and desires from those who hold State power, breaking the voluntary servitude that makes it possible to govern. It would also highlight the failure of the State as an institution that manages collective life… Of course the transition from the current situation to a clear and coherent horizon of social justice and liberty will not be achieved in a short period of time. The avoidance of shortcuts and a focusing on the reconstruction of intransigent and autonomous grassroots social movements is, without doubt, a long road, but it is also the most realist. A first step in this direction would be a complete understanding of what confronts us in this country, a perspective that is both realist and utopian, which will not be found in the ballot boxes this December.
It is also relevant to consider the situation after the ineluctable ratification of the Reform. From January 2008, new powers granted by the National Assembly to the President, based in the approved constitution and through the mechanism of the Ley Habilitante (which gives Chavez the ability to pass laws without recourse to Congress) will be established. It will be necessary to withhold efficiency from the offensive prepared by the ruling party in order to have absolute power…. We underline the fact that Governmental and State actions to imprison public opinion in their own hands have already begun. This process implies a set of measures tending towards silencing dissidence, criminalizing protest, squashing any sort of opposition to the State and leading the country in an authoritarian manner, ready to punish dissenting attitudes…
The State’s economic boom is not exclusively subordinate to the price of a barrel of oil… The plans for social support are financially backed up by the current surplus of funds, but if this ceased to be the case, due to the overwhelming financial liabilities of the state, it would be necessary to employ regressive policies that would negatively affect the population such as devaluations, tax increases, cutbacks in the Misiones program [grassroots development initiative] and other measures… These factors will generate social conflicts that will be suffocated by different repressive means according to each case.
Faced with this panorama, those of us who don’t renounce liberty and social justice must prepare ourselves to confront a general increase of coercion and collective control. This must be done without becoming paranoid; we know that we are not faced with the military government of Myanmar but rather an expression of neo-militarism as an efficient model for maintaining the despotic domination of Venezuelan society, in the service of the global energy market. All of this suggests that we must prepare ourselves for the escalation of repression, legitimized by the constitution that will be approved in December and that will consecrate the architecture of the totalitarian State. Moving beyond the conservative and reactionary elements of the media-driven opposition, the social struggle must confront the governmental Leviathan by developing new, creative and unexpected forms of organization and resistance.
This article first appeared in the November issue of El Libertario, Caracas
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