We call for casting an invalid vote in 12/2 Referendum

December 01, 2007




As shown by the clashes between students from the
right-wing opposition and chavista students, that left
several wounded by bullets, and the recent death of
the worker sympathizer with chavismo at the hands of
right wing groups, the political situation in
Venezuela is characterized by growing polarization
caused by the constitutional reform promoted by
Chávez, which will be submitted to a referendum this
Sunday, December 2. The campaign about the referendum
has agitated the political climate with actions and
marches by right-wing students, together with bosses
of the traditional parties of the right, and street
clashes with sympathizers of chavismo. Chávez and the
government say this is to “deepen the revolution,†the
right-wing opposition says that it is a question of an
outpost against “private property.†But, as we will
explain, there is nothing socialist in the proposal,
and, for this reason, now more than ever, a workers’
force to show an independent workers’ solution is

The political situation was convulsed with statements
by retired General Isaías Baduel, until recently the
Minister of Defense and a man close to Chávez, who
called for open opposition to the reform. While
Chávez, in his November 4 speech, had anticipated that
some individuals from his ranks could “jump the
fence,†the strong speech did not cease to be
surprising, because of the important role that, as is
known, Baduel carried out in the defeat of the April
11, 2002 coup. Although it remains to be seen what is
behind Baduel’s political move, it clearly shows the
divisions of the power groups that surround Chávez. It
also revived the movement that opposes the
constitutional reform from the right and tends to show
a real political weakness of the national government.


The bulk of the student movement, strongly influenced
by the opposition parties, has a clear right-wing
profile, since they mobilize in defense against what
they call attacks on private property by the national
government. According to them, “there is movement
toward a nationalizing socialism,†that “will lead to
the Cuban model that we do not want.†This has to do
with a social base composed of well-to-do and upper
middle-class students, from public and private
universities, where support for Chávez is extremely

While this sector has captured certain democratic
banners, as is the case with the changes for states of
emergency, where there is a threat of restricting
democratic guarantees, they think that this is in
order to put the country under the orbit of an alleged
“Castro communism.†They clearly charge that under the
reform plan, more powers are concentrated in the
President, but they object to this because allegedly
it will be used to attack private property.

It is clear that with the reform the government aims
at concentrating more powers in the person of the
President -a matter we have explained in other
articles - moving forward to make the regime more
Bonapartist and limiting certain rights and democratic
guarantees in states of emergency. But the proposal by
all these sectors is to return to the Constitution of
the Punto Fijo agreement, where two right-wing parties
took turns governing, concentrating everything in
their own hands, where an extreme minority also
decided the directions and destinies of the country.
This is the real face of these sectors, that are now
taking up their banners again, after the marches by
right-wing students, that, for example, on the terrain
of the university, do not want the poor of the
neighborhoods to have access to the university.


The constitutional reform does not aim at deepening
any revolution; rather it continues with the policies
of a limited bourgeois nationalism, that for some time
has been making agreements with all those business
sectors that accept its domination, with the big
communications media magnate Gustavo Cisneros,
representing the most typical sector. Chávez, contrary
to what the right wing says, has insisted many times
that he will respect private ownership, beyond all the
boasts that he repeats daily against capitalism. His
politics do not go beyond a “socialism with
businessmen,†that is, continuing private ownership of
the means of production. There has even appeared a
sector of “socialist businessmen for Venezuela,†that
supports Chávez and his constitutional reform.
Although it is certain that the big business sectors
do not recognize him as their government, and while
they are negotiating, they continue to aspire to
retake control of the government, and once again get
the hen that lays the golden eggs, the state oil
company PDVSA.

Also, for all the diatribes that he spews out daily
against imperialism, Chávez is raising the mixed oil
companies with the big transnational corporations, to
constitutional rank, accepting them as partners in the
oil business with all the guarantees so that they will
be able to take their entire profits back to the
imperialist countries, proving there is no break with
imperialism beyond the strong disagreements he has

As far as the countryside is concerned, the “abolition
of large estates†is raised to the constitutional
level, but in reality, it does not go beyond what is
already established in the law on land, that after
eight years maintains the large landowners and [keeps]
the campesinos without land, while large estates are
defined by whether the property is producing or not,
and not by the size of the estate. Thus, the
juridical-constitutional promulgation ends up in a
dead letter, and there is no land distribution to the
poor campesinos (however much it is negotiated with
the large landowner, that he should surrender part of
his lands with compensation), and if they move forward
in occupying productive lands themselves, that is
punished with prison.

At the same time, Chávez seeks to attract workers and
the people with proposals like reducing the work day
to 36 hours a week and the right to social security
for [nonprofessional] self-employed workers,
fundamental demands of the workers. But the act of
including them in the text of the Constitution does
not guarantee that they will be implemented; it is
well known that almost 50% of employed workers are in
the informal economy, when informal employment
surpasses these percentages. The workers of Sanitarios
Maracay showed, during their nine-month occupation of
the factory under their management, that they could
work four hours daily maintaining production, without
the need for extended hours. However, the government
had the policy of suppressing this experiment, instead
of generalizing it.


In view of the current situation, the need for the
workers to raise a clear independent politics is key.
We are facing a proposed Constitutional Reform that
seeks to increase the range of government power, in
order to regiment the class struggle and the movements
of the different factions of the classes, on the road
of its “socialism with businessmen.†This is supported
by the bourgeois sector of owners that backs the
government and receives a boost from government,
while the majority sectors of the dominant class
oppose the reform, defending the 1999 Constitution. We
do not support this reform because it keeps the legal
bases of capitalism, of continuing the exploitation of
the workers of the city and countryside, by setting
the framework of class society. It continues to defend
the exploitation of workers and the poor; it keeps the
existence of millions of [plots of] lands in private
hands, while thousands of poor campesinos continue
without land to work, and the reform continues to
defend the partnership of interests with the big
imperialist transnational oil corporations, beyond
every grandiloquent “socialist†declaration that it
incorporates, and beyond the fallacy of “popular
power†elevated to constitutional rank, that only aims
at coopting any organization the workers and the
people provide for themselves. It would be different
if all these big problems and the workers’ and
people’s demands could be discussed in a free and
sovereign Constituent Assembly, problems that the
constitutional reform that Chávez is raising does not
take on. We have been on the front line confronting
the different attacks by the pro-imperialist
right-wing opposition, and we clearly defend the
conquests won by the workers. But Chávez is unwilling
to submit the fundamental problems of the country to
debate by the workers, campesinos and the poor. He
talks about “constituting power,†but he does not dare
begin a true “constituent process,†by convening a
real free and sovereign Constituent Assembly to
discuss all these fundamental problems. Rejecting this
perspective, he leaves this democratic banner to the
reactionaries and coup-plotters of the opposition that
use it to deceive the people better, [to the
rightists] that will never dare to raise a Constituent
Assembly, unless it is rigged and controlled in the
old manner of AD and Copei [reactionary parties,
alternating in power before 1999].

Chávez’ constitutional reform does not set out the
break with imperialism, nor the measures that would
entail the complete nationalization of the strategic
sectors of the economy under workers’ control, much
less the liquidation of the bourgeois state that
begins with arming the workers in the form of workers’
militias, that would be the serious point of departure
of every truly socialist program. Chávez will never do
this, and this should be the workers’ program that
must proceed from (anti-spam-(anti-spam-winning)) the independence of the
unions from the government and the state, with the
perspective of building their own mass organizations,
like workers’ and popular councils and the workers’
militias. Now more than ever, it is essential to fight
for the break with imperialism on the road of a true
national liberation, a profound agrarian revolution,
ending once and for all the structural problem of
housing that afflicts millions of Venezuelans, moving
forward on the road of expropriating the big
capitalists and landowners, with the perspective of
struggling for a government of workers and the poor.

In the present referendum, there are apparently only
two choices, that of YES to the Reform that Chávez and
the National Assembly are proposing, and that of NO,
defended by the broad majority of the right-wing
opposition sectors and minority sectors that have
withdrawn from the chavista movement, calling for
defense of the 1999 Constitution. Neither of these
variants is a choice for workers, since, reformed or
not, the Constitution continues defending private
ownership of the means of production, that is, the
regime of capitalist exploitation. Therefore, we are
calling for [casting] an invalid vote (“votar nulo†)
this Sunday, December 2.

We have mobilized to defeat attacks from the
right-wing opposition and from imperialism, as during
the April, 2002 coup, and during the oil
walkout-sabotage, and we would not hesitate for a
second to do that again, every time there is a new
attack from imperialism and the Venezuelan
reactionaries, but this willingness does not in any
way imply support for President Chávez’ project, nor
in this specific case, for his proposed Constitutional
Reform, for all the reasons we have put forward and
established in this statement, and we have developed
it broadly in the special edition of our paper, En
Clave Obrera, on the Reform. [This is available in

To move forward to fight for the political
independence of the workers, it is necessary to raise
independent workers’ politics, setting up a party
belonging to the workers themselves, that would make
it possible to take the fundamental steps towards
class independence, and turn their backs on both the
old Venezuelan right wing, as well as “socialism with
businessmen†that Chávez is hawking, with the
perspective of fighting for a powerful revolutionary
party of the workers. Therefore, we call on all
organizations that consider themselves revolutionary
socialists, of workers, and belonging to the working
class, together to set up immediately a big movement
for a big party of the workers, based on workers’
organizations like class-conscious unions, factory
committees, etc. From the Juventud de Izquierda
Revolucionaria, we have maintained that this is
necessary. Once more, we are making the broadest call
for unity, especially to the sector that Comrade
Orlando Chirino leads, that coordinates dozens of
unions in different states, and C-CURA-Petróleo, in
order to unite all our forces and build a real party
of the workers, with the perspective of imposing a
government of workers and the poor.

Translation by Yosef M.