Hugo Chavez addressed upwards of a half million supporters on the final day of campaigning for constitutional reform on December 1. He was confident of a victory that seemed assured. The turnout was impressive as a sea of red filled Caracas’ main Avenida Bolivar boulevard and spilled over into adjourning streets. It dwarfed the November 29 final opposition rally Rupert Murdock’s Times online/UK and Fox News estimated at “more than 100,000″ ahead of saying “polls predicted an agonizingly close result” that referred only to the corporate-run ones. They turned out to be right.
A day ahead of the vote, Chavez addressed the joyous crowd saying a “yes” vote will “open the path to socialism (and is) a vote for Chavez and the revolution (while) vot(ing) “no” is a vote for Bush. We are not simply confronting the pawns of imperialism. Our true enemy is US imperialism (that) will only recognize the results if they win.”
Perhaps to Mr Lendman, the word “democracy,” as in his phrase “social democracy” means something other than what I understand it to mean: “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.”
What President Chavez was seeking would have:
- created new forms of communal property;
- shortened the workday from eight hours to six;
- created a social security fund for millions of informal laborers;
- promoted communal councils where residents decide how to spend government funds;
- allowed the President to declare a state of emergency and rule by decree;
- let Chavez handpick local leaders under a redrawn political map;
- lengthened presidential terms from six to seven years; and
- let Chavez seek re-election indefinitely.
The last four items seem somewhat inconsistent with democracy to me. Rather, they are the types of things that totalitarians use to gain lifetime power and absolute power, but do it with a false show of legality. Mr Lendman, however, was bitterly disappointed by defeat of the “reforms:”
Writing this article began on Sunday. It intended to say they didn’t, but sadly they did so the struggle continues.
Mr Lendman continues with several paragraphs claiming that there was some huge CIA “Operation Pliers” had been put into action, a “psyops” program to deceive Venezuelan voters into voting against the great President Chavez. I’ll not quote Mr Lendman here, but you can read his claims easily, at either link.¹
The author then quotes James Petras, one of the men alleging the existance of this “Operation Pliers,” writing:
In Petras’ words, Venezuelans had “a rendezvous with history” on Sunday to “provide the legal framework for (further democratizing) the political system, the socialization of strategic economic sectors, (further) empower(ing) the poor, and provid(ing) the basis for a self-managed factory system.” Winning impressively and avoiding a likely bloodbath from “a successful US-backed civil-military uprising” prevents the reversal of “the most promising living experience of popular self-rule (anywhere), of advanced social welfare and democratically based socialism.” One electoral defeat is disheartening but changes nothing. Venezuela’s struggle for social democracy continues under a man who’s worked nine years to build it. Don’t ever count him out or his strong popular support.
I guess that it is my inferior understanding which prevents me from seeing how a proposal to allow unlimited presidential terms and give the president totalitarian powers is “further democratizing” the system. Heck, the National Assembly rubber-stamps President Chavez’ demands now, including a period of time in which he may rule by decree — and Mr Chavez wanted to do away with even the formality of getting the rubber-stamp!
But Mr Lendman sees hope for the future!
The Struggle Continues
A partial draft of this article was written Sunday under the incorrect topic heading - Savoring the Triumph. It began:
For now, victory is sweet and Chavistas savored it all night on Caracas streets. Manana was back to reality and the knowledge that triumph is never secure as long as an imperial power threatens it. Nine years of social progress can be erased with a keyboard click the way coup plotters did it on April 11, 2002 for two days. After deposing Chavez, they repealed the Bolivarian Constitution, dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme Court, and dismissed the attorney general and comptroller. Only mass people power with military support put Chavez back in office. So far, he’s prevailed impressively in every presidential, parliamentary, municipal and referendum election since December, 1998….until now.