After weeks of imperialist threats and opposition violence, the elections for the Constituent Assembly (ANC) in Venezuela took place on July 30th. The result was a massive turnout of over 8 million voters, around 41% of the electorate, which gave chavismo a much-needed shot in the arm. The western media reacted by trying to dispute the number and sticking even closer to the narrative being pushed by the opposition and the US State Department. With the opposition scrambling and US authorities bringing more sanctions and threats, it is now chavismo that has the political initiative. The Constituent Assembly will not solve everything by itself, but it is a tremendous opportunity to push the Bolivarian Revolution forward.
Part 5 - What happens next?
The total of 8M votes is higher than Maduro’s 2013 total and 2.5M more than what chavismo got in the 2015 legislative elections. This is being presented as “evidence” against the official results. This stems from a very narrow-minded perspective that does not understand that chavismo is much bigger than Maduro, just like it was much bigger than Chávez himself.
The Venezuelan opposition and the mainstream media also seem incapable of considering that people would actually vote in defiance of the violent actions of the opposition and the imperialist threats from the US. Instead we hear the same recycled allegations that public workers or people living in houses built by the government were forced to vote.
The poor showing in 2015 was blamed by the grassroots on the top-down nature of the chavista electoral machine, which simply chose the candidates. For these elections the more radical sectors were able to put forward their own candidates, and as a result many people who would not necessarily vote for Maduro or for PSUV legislative candidates went out to vote for the specific proposals put forward by friends, co-workers and comrades.
In retrospect, Maduro’s gamble can only be seen as a huge success for chavismo and a huge failure for the opposition. With the opposition ramping up (violent) pressure on the streets and claiming they were an overwhelming majority, Maduro essentially “called their bluff” (phrase borrowed from Mike Prysner).
By calling for a Constituent Assembly, Maduro hoped, and managed, to galvanise chavismo with a participatory process that could reach the bases, and at the same time expose the opposition by forcing them bring forward their ideas. Polls reveal that Venezuelans are aware that the opposition has no plan whatsoever, and the opposition duly backed itself into a corner by refusing to participate, reducing their political arguments to these lobotomised slogans “we do not want to be Cuba”.
While the turnout represents a victory for chavismo, the battle is far from over. The Constituent Assembly is not a magical cure for all problems, and whatever comes out of it will depend heavily on the balance of forces among its members.
Now more than ever it is urgent to make clear push to the left, with more power to the communes, increased worker control over the economy, expropriations against the instigators of the economic war, etc. With the opposition hell-bent on their violent regime change plans and a permanent imperial onslaught, only radicalisation will ensure the survival of the Bolivarian Revolution.
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