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Venezuela 2008: Balance sheet of the revolutionary process

By Gonzalo Gomez

December 17, 2008 -- During 2008, our revolutionary process has had its ebbs and flows. Overall, we had significant progress, especially in the recuperation of sovereignty, with the nationalisations and the electoral victories in the great majority of governorships and mayoralties. The right-wing also had its successes, as it managed to retain and seize several strategic places. The process is not linear, but the revolution needs to move forward in a permanent manner or the hangover of a counterrevolution will raze the achievements obtained, including the crushing of the vanguard.

You cannot build socialism in the bowels of capitalism. It requires qualitative leaps, in a timely manner and in accordance with the correlation of forces, to enable the break with capitalism and initiate a real transition to socialism. In capitalism there is no solution for the exploited masses; it undermines any economic, social or political conquest of the people, if they are not used to promote the deepening of the revolution, with the organisation and mobilisation of the workers, peasants and popular [sectors].

The social layer that administers the state, which still is bourgeois and carries the burdens of the past, is constantly exposed to the corrosiveness of bureaucracy and corruption. This generates contradictions with the workers and the people, causing disenchantment, fatigue and the withdrawal of more or less extensive sectors.

Fortunately, the Venezuelan revolution is still very strong and is unfolding in a very progressive Latin American scene, that in the context of the global crisis, places capitalism much more clearly as an exhausted model.

The development of all forms of People's Power and the vivacity of the struggles, should be antidotes against the stagnation of the process and the reconciliation with the exploiter class, which opens dangerous gaps to the recuperation of their original power.

From the defeat of the reform to the battle for the constitutional amendment

In the course of 2008, we can distinguish several stages. The year began with the consequences of the constitutional reform referendum defeat. The struggle of the SIDOR workers and their nationalisation marked a recuperation stage of the revolutionary offensive with a "wave" of nationalisations. The regional and municipal elections showed the strengths of the process in vast areas of the country but also its dangerous vulnerabilities. At the end of the year a new and crucial battle is approaching: the struggle to achieve the possibility of re-election of the leader of the Bolivarian revolution.

The defeat of the reform slowed the process

As we said, the beginning of 2008 was marked by the effects of the defeat of December 2, 2007 [constitutional reform referendum]. That denied the possibility of major changes, which in their great majority would have been very positive for the deepening of the process, to improve the living conditions and for a revolutionary governance.

But the necessary steps to advance the revolution in Venezuela do not depend solely on the reform of the Constitution and laws. It fundamentally depends on the organisation and capacity of mobilisation of the workers, together with the peasants and other popular or excluded sectors.

Above all, it depends on the political will to carry forward revolutionary action, with the effective participation of the people, outside the logic of capital and with increasing the transfer of effective power, instead of keeping it divided between the economic control of the bourgeoisie and the domain of the political-administrative bureaucracy.

Regarding the defeat of December 2, we said, at the time, that there converged a series of intertwined factors, including: delays in resolving the most pressing problems of the population; lack of timely action to control sabotage to the productive apparatus and supplies; impunity and weakness with conspiracy and media terrorism; and the absence of mechanisms that allow a real involvement and protagonism of the people in the introduction of changes...

At times it seemed that state policies were more directed towards coexistence and equilibrium with the bankers, with the large owners of the means of production or with the landowners, than towards the purpose of seizing control and putting it in the hands of the working people. The measures are taken with much delay or are half measures.

What happened on December 2 generated a fruitful discussion, critical of the predominance of reformism in the practical politics and accusative of the bureaucracy. But the conclusion that the government drew was that the people were not yet "ripe" for the changes proposed, when, in our view, those conditions were not only ripe but they began to rot. However, we remain on time and we must advance with determination.

One of the best signs of revolutionary vitality, in spite of what happened with the reform, was that at all times the formation of popular committees and communal councils continued, in an extensive and generalised manner, along the length and breadth of the country.

The struggle of SIDOR re-launched the revolutionary offensive

Before the triumph in SIDOR, the revolutionary process spent almost half a year in relative stagnation. During the management of the previous labour minister (José Ramón Rivero), the working class and the trade union movement experienced a recrudescence of compromises between employers and the bureaucratic establishment; collective agreements remained blocked in the public sector; division and parallel unionism was fomented; he abounded indolence [as an] official; and, also, there was the repression of some labour disputes.

This was the case with Sanitarios Maracay, a factory occupied under workers' control; the official conduct favoured the preservation of the capitalist status, instead of opting for the nationalisation of the company, as was just raised by President Chavez, several months later.

The prevailing attitude was to brake the process. The workers of SIDOR in a lawsuit against the transnational Terniun, had to go on strike and demanded the re-nationalisation of this basic industry that was privatised in the Fourth Republic. Initially they had to confront the former Minister and the Governor of the Bolivar State, who authorised the use of the police and the National Guard.

Then came the applauded decision of President Chavez to nationalise the steel plant and the commitment to end outsourcing; although at SIDOR the model of state capitalism is still maintained, it is still pending the advancement towards the implementation of new social relations of production, by worker and popular control. The case of SIDOR opened the floodgates for the nationalisation of the cement industry, the sectors of fuel and domestic gas transport, as well as the announcement of the acquisition of the Bank of Venezuela (Santander).

It was a recuperation of the revolutionary pace, which was lost after the nationalisation of CANTV, Electricity of Caracas, and the non-renewal of the concession to the private, coup-plotter channel RCTV.

The result of November 23 and the new battle for re-election

On November 23, the PSUV consolidated its dominance over four-fifths of the country in governorships and more so in the mayoralties, including those of states where it had lost its governorship. The volume of votes for chavismo recovered noticeably with respect to the referendum, although still not reaching the votes from the presidential [elections] nor the total that are registered in the PSUV.

There were sectors that expressed their discontent with the inefficient local management that are dedicated to the simple administration of capitalism. They did so with abstention or with the intent of a “punishment vote,” although the effect of any vote for the right-wing is always a punishment for the people themselves.

A clear and large majority manifested its will to continue with the Bolivarian revolution and [a] path towards socialism, as has proclaimed President Chavez. We have also defeated some traitors of the process such as [Governors Eduardo] Manuit and Acosta Carlez.

But the defeats suffered in the governorships of Zulia, Tachira, Carabobo, Miranda, and the Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas, although [the PSUV] winning the municipality of Libertador, represents the emergence of a dangerous reactionary enclave that exacerbates the threats. The fascist conduct displayed immediately by the right-wing, wanting to expel from the scope of their administrations the communal councils, the Barrio Adentro services and other missions, the UBV or UNEF [universities], is clear evidence of what they can do against the people. But they did not measure their forces well and the massive popular response did not take long, in defense of the most cherished social achievements of the revolution. Once again, the whip of the counterrevolution becomes a spur that obligates us to fight to defend and deepen the process, without yielding space and waiting for the opportunity to revoke their mandate.

Now, at the close of the year and without rest, there is a new battle; this time for the constitutional amendment to allow the crucial permanence of the leadership of the revolution, through the reelection of President Chavez.

This battle can only have meaning if it is to redouble the fight against the bureaucracy and corruption; if we advance the measures for the transition to socialism; if we complete the agrarian revolution; if we assume the domain of the state [in] finances, technology and foreign trade; if we prioritise the social debt and stop paying the corrupt foreign debt; if we establish worker and community control over the means of production and services towards there socialisation; if we build a public system of communication in the hands of workers and communities incorporated in the People's Power; if we establish communal governorships and give way to national bodies for the workers and peoples government; if we underpin the unity of all peoples in revolution.

Therefore, next year, we will ensure the reelection of Chavez with the constitutional amendment, and that it is also a year of campaigning against the bureaucracy and corruption, the year that breaks with capitalism, the year that advances decisively towards socialism. “¡Clean house and more revolution!”

[This article was originally published in Spanish the newspaper Marea Socialista Nº 15 and on its website www.mareasocialista.com and in English at Venezuelanalysis. Gonzalo Gomez is co-founder and member of the editorial team of Aporrea.org, member of the editorial team of the newspaper Marea Socialista, and member of the Regional Political Task Force for the PSUV of Caracas. It was translated by Gonzalo Villanueva with the permission of the author.]

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