How to improve on a “perfect” constitution while a fascist throws a petrol bomb at you
by Paul Dobson
The evening Hugo Chávez passed away, in between his tears a friend said to me that now the moment to get stuck in defending this process of changes in Venezuela had come, that now the hard battle was about to begin. And how right he was!
By the time this article is printed, and following President Maduro’s master move of convoking it, a new National Constituent Assembly should have been elected and installed to redraw Venezuela’s Constitution of 1999. This is no mean feat, as it comes in the midst of yet another wave of right-wing, terrorist action, with strong fascist elements (especially in the logistical, organisational and communication areas), which has left nearly a hundred people dead.
How will the constitution be redrawn? Upon what political lines? Will the terrorists permit the election and the completion of the process? How will this affect the balance of classes and the advance towards socialism?
We are in a period of deepened class confrontation and uncertainty in Venezuela.
The state media have always described the 1999 Constitution as “perfect,” “progressive,” and “unimprovable.” Such descriptions are a better reflection of the fierce nature of the propaganda war than the implacable quality of the 1999 document. We, the communists, always described it as “a great step forward,” “progressive” and “hugely important” but lacking in numerous fields, where it “did not go far enough.”
Let us hope that this National Constituent Assembly is bold enough to take the drastic steps needed to bring about the structural, political and economic changes the country needs to move out of its present prolonged crisis (of capitalism) in a revolutionary and not a reactionary manner.
We, the communists, are working to bring to the Constituent Assembly the audacious changes that are required in the structure of the state, in the bourgeois electoral model, in the extractionist, parasitic economy that the nation’s social programmes rely on, in an antiquated neo-colonial political model, and in addressing a balance of classes that still benefits the bourgeoisie, despite nearly twenty years of “revolution.”
However, reformist and reactionary wings within the multi-class governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV)—similar to the PSOE in Spain and the Labour Party in Britain—have gained ground in recent years and will be looking for a different, social-democratic model to be defined in the Constitution.
The internal comradely struggle within the Chavista ranks, which includes the PSUV, the communists, and a range of other small groupings, will ultimately determine our future. If we are able to realign the balance of forces in favour of a worker-based, scientifically socialist revolutionary bloc and remove the bourgeois, reformist Chavista elements from significant positions of power, condemning them to be our allies on common ground such as patriotic, anti-imperialist defence of the nation and no more, then we will have won a major battle for the workers of the cities and the countryside.
However, this struggle is being conducted delicately in parallel with a rearguard action against an advancing far-right assault.
These were among the major threads of debate in the recent 15th Congress of the Communist Party of Venezuela, held in June.
Meanwhile the right-wing opposition continues to advance in what can only be considered successful terms towards their objectives. Following their electoral victory in the National Assembly, they have continued to take advantage of very real failures, inefficiency and corruption within the government to add people from the middle and working classes to their cause. Their hugely successful communication campaign, both within Venezuela and in the international field—often based on untruths, manipulation, and downright lies—has convinced many Venezuelan workers and small business owners to turn their back on the Chavista project of national liberation and socialism, and has alienated them from their class bases.
Recent terrorist street action, which has been combined with legal manoeuvring, talks and other, more “civilised” activities by the parties representing these strata of society, has put immense pressure on the government.
The opposition’s recent “plebiscite,” which the communists described as a “theatrical scam,” while not achieving the 7.1 million votes they claimed it did (the unverifiable figure was probably closer to 2 million), was nonetheless a success in the propaganda war. As was the bizarre decision by the High Supreme Court to grant house arrest to one of the fascist leaders of the extremist right-wingers, Leopoldo López, after serving a tiny percentage of his fourteen-year sentence behind bars for his role in the terrorist acts of 2014.
This semi-liberty he now enjoys has only remotivated the right-wingers, who sense a weak government and stride forward in the knowledge that full or partial impunity awaits them should they be caught torching a bus, shooting a civilian, looting a shop, lynching a passer-by, blowing up a power station or oil refinery, extorting businesses, or even throwing a petrol bomb at a public office—all of which, and more, has happened in recent weeks.
The tasks facing President Maduro, the government, its allies, the Constituent Assembly, and us—all the socialists, revolutionaries in the streets, with whom the responsibility ultimately lies—are huge. The repercussions, should we fail to guarantee and firmly advance in the current process of changes, will be fierce and will probably include repression and persecution of both the legal and extra-legal types.
A systematic structural crisis of capitalism is to blame for the economic woes we now face; and the outdated, corrupt, corroded political system put in place to protect the interests of the capitalist class is the root cause of the political crisis we are now confronting.
Hence, in this centenary year of the Great October Revolution, it is fair to say that, when searching for a solution to such problems, only a break with capitalism and a genuine, class-based, scientific, planned, worker-based advance towards socialism can provide the answers.
This article appears in Socialist Voice, published in Dublin by the Communist Party of Ireland