Sunday, December 04, 2005

Bombs going off in Venezuela

This report suggests that at least some parts of the opposition are prepared to use violence to drive home their call for abstention in tomorrow's elections:

"Three people were injured Friday from explosions near the Republic Attorney General's and the Fort Tiuna 3rd Division of the National Armed Forces. At the same time, three explosive devices were detected close to Central University (UCV) and the offices of the National Electoral Council (CNE). Authorities reported the arrest of 11 people in Ojeda, in western Zulia, and the confiscation of 55 Molotov cocktails, 31 containers of combustibles, 40 cell phones, and other items."

Can they bring any of the army with them? I doubt it: since the 2002 coup, the military's leadership has been cleaned out. Chavez is blaming the US for the sabotage, and the Organisation of American States election observers are giving the opposition a cold shoulder.

Update: Gregory Wilpert gives us a detailed background to the electoral boycott here. His view that a new opposition will be born, out the vacuum the boycott is probably creating, is interesting, but I'm not sure that it takes into account the changed political conditions in Venezuela. It is quite possible that there will be no heir to the old opposition parties, and that the real political divisions in Venezuela will instead be found within the Bolivarian movement, which is already diverse and disputatious. I mean, how far can any opposition that wants to roll back the major gains of the Bolivarian revolution get? How many votes can a platform that promises the abolition of fee health and education and land for the landless get?

Update: Results just announced show a 75% abstention rate, and 89% of the votes for pro-Chavez candidates. While the opposition's claims of a moral victory are of course nonsense, I think that by failing to mobilise a larger chunk of its base the Fifth Republic Movement has handed a small propaganda victory to the right.

Chavez won the big struggles - the coup attempt, the lockout, the recall referendum - in 2002-2004 by mobilising his supporters. To do so he had to give them a real role in the struggle, and encourage them to build real organisations of struggle over which they had some control. If the Bolivarian Circles hadn't existed independently of the state they wouldn't have been able to mobilise and stop the coup; the same goes for the unions and the role they played in defeating the lockout by occupying industry. In the leadup to the recall referendum last year Chavez led a huge campaign to build the Fifth Republic Movement and mobilise its base - to this end rank and file activity was encouraged, and candidates for municipal and gubernatorial elections were selected in democratic primaries.

By contrast, the candidates for these elections were handpicked by Chavez and a few intimates; not surprisingly, reports suggest less enthusiasm amongst the party rank and file, even some open expressions of unhappiness, and even independent breakaway campaigns. The fight for democracy in Chavez's party reflects the larger fight between Bolivarian bureaucrats intent on slowing the revolution down and militants at the grassroots bent on speeding it up.


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