The legalization of the recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez—conducted by the Venezuelan right with pre-meditated fraud and recurring acts that violate the rule of law—open the doors for a possible loss of power for the Bolivarian forces. Such a loss could occur either de facto or de jure (via the institutions).
The August referendum is, in military terms, the decisive battle in the four year war between the oligarchic–imperial axis and the presidential–patriotic axis. It is the Waterloo of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Ayacucho of Antonio José de Sucre, the Kursk (1943) of the Red Army, and the Carabobo of Hugo Chavez.
The importance of the coming referendum cannot be overestimated. “The ultimate remains of Spanish power in America expired in this fortunate field,” wrote the victor of Ayacucho to the Liberator (Simon Bolivar), when the battle had just ended, on December 9, 1824. Nothing less is at stake this August, 2004, in Venezuela.
To lose this battle means to lose the war. It means, to lose everything. Just as the legalization of George Bush’s electoral robbery by Washington’s Supreme Court initiated a disgraceful period, not just for the U.S. population, but for the whole world, the liquidation of the Bolivarian Process would be the end of any attempt to unify Latin America because its dynamic element, the Venezuelan president, would disappear.
The defeat would be equivalent to the triumph of the FTAA, of Plan Colombia, of dollarization, of the hemispheric exterritoriality of U.S. jurisdiction and of the Democratic Charter; it would be the end of the progressive and Latin American potential of Kirchner and Lula’s politics; it would create an extremely dangerous situation for Cuba and would leave the MAS of Bolivia and the FARC and ELN of Colombia, the CONAIE of Ecuador, and the other progressive social movements in all of Latin America without a concrete strategic horizon.
In order to avoid a possible defeat in August it will be necessary to take a number of urgent measures. The first is obvious: the replacement of the campaign team that took the referendum to the current disaster and which has been left in complete discredit: the Commando Ayacucho, among other directive bodies.
Independently of the other factors that have produced this calamity, it is unforgivable that one of the richest states of Latin America, whose government counts on the solid support of the Armed Forces, with a relatively high popularity, with massive social and educational programs, and that disposes of state-run television and radio stations, was not able to defeat a coup-oriented and demagogically debilitated right wing, lacking in projects and national political personalities.
This failure points to the principal Achilles Heel of the Bolivarian process: the insufficiency of work groups in the political and bureaucratic spheres that are efficient, committed to the cause, and that give continuity to initiated projects. What prevails instead, with some exceptions, is improvisation, the constant change in directive positions, party and personal opportunism, and routinized discourse, which make advances in the process difficult.
Part of this landscape of human failure is the triumphalism that has not been overcome within the Bolivarian ranks. A few months prior to the military coup of April 2002 it was obvious that a coup d’état against the president was being forged. Nonetheless, even while the diagnosis of a coup was being reinforced by the opinions of high ranking military officers and by the intelligence services, it was impossible to penetrate the triumphalist and individualist wall that dominated the highest levels of the process; a wall that impeded taking preventive measures in the situation.
The failure of the “Bolivarianization” of the union movement is another example in this regard. Trusting in the popularity of the president, an improvised campaign was launched that was defeated by the corrupt unionism of the Fourth Republic; a grave mistake that is being paid for with years of destabilization coming from the white unions.
Connected to this triumphalism are two mechanisms that could cause serious consequences if they are not taken into account during the decisive battle. The substitution of precise and profound analysis of the concrete present situation with references to the past, on the one hand, and the chimera, supported by many functionaries and leaders, that the Bolivarian revolution is a unique and absolutely novel experience in Latin America, on the other hand.
The first mechanism expresses itself in the idea that Bolivarianism has electorally defeated the right seven times and will also win, as a consequence, the August referendum. It is possible that such a slogan would be useful to reinforce the enthusiasm and emotional determination of those in one’s own party.
However, one must differentiate between this psychological extrapolation of the past and the nature of the objective truth. From the point of view of science, it has to do with an absolutely unsustainable argument. Every scientist knows that one tendency in evolution is that a phenomenon can drastically change its course or its behavior in very little time. For this very same reason, the current popularity of the President does not confer any security with regard to the future, that is, for the upcoming contest.
The idea of the historical uniqueness of the Bolivarian process, which emerged immediately following the President’s electoral triumph, has a defeatist effect that is complementary to the mechanisms above. Something that is an absolute novelty cannot be studied, per definition, neither in history nor in books. Thus, it relieves political activists and the citizenry in general from studying and learning from the destruction of Unidad Popular in Chile, of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, of Peronismo in Argentina, of Joao Goulart in Brazil, and, of course, of the war of Paraguay.
The “Bolivarian Revolution” of Venezuela is a home-grown (criollo) product as old as Latin American independence itself and, at the same time, universal, just as European Bonapartism and Keynesian developmentalism are. This is why the understanding of its particular and universal historical components is so important for the survival of the process, just as is the study of the concrete current situation.
The underestimation of the manipulative power of contemporary social sciences would be another major mistake. Nowadays, elections in all countries are won with two essential ingredients: a) money and, b) science. Money, in contrast to many other countries, is more than enough for the Venezuelan state, a fact that would resolve, in the abstract, fifty percent of the problem.
Missing is the use of science, in a double sense: a) understanding its use by the enemy and, b) its use on the part of the Bolivarians, in order to neutralize the maneuvers of the right. To this end it would be important that the team that leads the referendum battle researches in depth the upcoming electoral processes.
The electoral process of 1990 in Nicaragua, in which the paramilitary aggression of the “contras,” nine million dollars given to the opposition by the U.S. Senate, along with the threat of war on the part of Washington, caused the Sandinstas to lose the government; comparing the populations of the two countries, the Venezuelan right would receive about 72 million dollars for August.
The substitution of Edvard Schevardnadse in Georgia with Mikhail Saakashvili in 2004, is probably even more important. In November 2003, following a prolonged campaign of street protests, organized and financed by Washington and the mega-speculator George Soros, Schevardnadse gave up the presidency, opening the path for the country to be controlled by the energy transnationals of the empire.
The parliament’s speaker, Nino Burdshanadse, assumed the presidency so as to be replaced subsequently by a perfectly designed and financed campaign from Washington, which then brought the New York educated lawyer Saakashvili to power in January 2004, with an absolute majority of 96%.
Finally, the process of the electoral triumph of Boris Yeltsin, of 1996. Faced with a popularity of 6% for Yeltsin in February of 1996—similar to Toledo’s in Peru or Gutierrez in Ecuador—the white house was very worried about losing its puppet in the Kremlin. It immediately sent a campaign management team that converted the moribund candidacy of Yeltsin into a solid triumph in June (!!) of the same year.
At that time, Stalin had positive valuations that were higher and negative valuations that were lower than that of Yeltsin, who more than 60% of Russians considered corrupt.
However, a combination of falsified opinion polls; the permanent repetition of the supposed danger of a civil war in the case of a triumph of the Communist party; the systematic violation of electoral laws; the conversion of the media into a state propaganda apparatus; the extensive use of focus groups, of representative samples, of in-depth interviews, of visual culture, and of the massive disbursement of money, brought about in merely four months a result, which the moved President Clinton called, “The consolidation of the democratic process in Russia.”
It is obvious that Bush will send a similar team, along with suitcases filled with tens of millions of dollars to buy the necessary voters, functionaries, judges, editors, and TV spots. If the manipulative and corrupting machinery of Washington manages to repeat the successes in Russia and Georgia, the headlines of the U.S. press are predictable: “Consolidation of the Democratic Process in Venezuela.”
In that event, Jimmy Carter would sweeten the return of oil to hemispheric democracy with his sweet smile of [bonachon] and his pastoral blessing; the wolf Cesar Gaviria, protected by a lamb’s face, would say his usual silliness about representative democracy, and Andrés Oppenheimer, the beacon of Latin American journalism, would illuminate his anti-Castro (gusano) clientele, between commercials, about the news that, against all expectations, the populist Chavez accepted the results of the referendum.
So as to not arrive at this moment of extreme desolation for all patriots and revolutionary Latin Americans, it would be convenient if the Bolivarian forces consult with and support themselves with the best professional teams that are available in the world market for electoral marketing.
The referendum campaign should be, on the part of the Bolivarians, a process of electoral homeopathy, in which fire is fought with fire, and the poisonous with poison. This decisive battle cannot be improvised because if it is lost, the future of the Patria Grande (Big Fatherland) would be lost.
This should be planned scientifically, without ingenuousness, nor triumphalism, nor misplaced democraticisms. It cannot be home-made nor self-taught, but must be “industrial” and take into account the first axiom of electoral marketing, which says, cynically, but correctly: “perception kills reality.”
But, this being the case, it must be done with abundant funds, with the best troops, and the best supplies that can be bought and with the full will to neutralize the methods of dirty electoral warfare that won in Russia, Georgia, Nicaragua, and in the first phase of the recall referendum.
“A revolution that does not know how to defend itself is not a revolution,” said the genius of political everyday dialectics, Bertolt Brecht.
From today until August, the Bolivarian revolution must define itself in the face of this imperative, what it is and what it wants to be.
 “White unions” refers to the union movement that is controlled by Acción Democrática, the formerly governing party and whose party color is white.