No: 4.522.332, 51,05 %
Yes: 4.335.136, 48.94 %
With the vast majority of the media owned and operated by Venezuela's racist comprador bourgeoisie, a media that has never suffered a day of government control even approaching what is exercised against media in the United States, the Constitutional Referendum that had bundled 69 reforms failed by a hair. Feral Scholar's friend Rootless Cosmopolitan may have put his finger on one of the aspects of the referendum that made that margin. The entire package was bundled into a singular up-or-down vote.
Rootless criticized this as undemocratic, and that is a fair reaction to this electoral tactic.
My own sense is that its deeper tactical failure was that one cannot compete against the capitalist media in the realm of ideas when one is trying to explain a list of 69 constitutional reform items -- written in legalese -- against the ability and willingness of that corporate media to simplify, spin, and often just lie... with incessant and coordinated repetition through the vast echo chamber of capitalist control over the entertainment media. This is a lesson we all need to internalize. The media's power in this regard cannot be overestimated; and it is a real thing that cannot be wished away in our own tactical considerations. Given the house of cards that international finance is, and the drip-drip hemorrhage of the myth of American military invincibility, this capacity to shape culture and ideas has become even more critical to the exercise of power.
Before the vote began, Venezuela's government had agreed to randomly open 30% of the ballot boxes to monitors in order to assure a fair election. Upon receipt of the result, President Hugo Chavez -- the putative dictator in waiting for Venezuela -- announced simply, "I congratulate my adversaries for this victory. For now, we could not do it."
The Venezuelan and American press -- both enormously and dishonestly hostile to Venezuela's Bolivarian transformation -- had spun the article dropping term limits as a bid to become "President for Life," though there was no provision to ever stop presidential elections that put that decision into the hands of Venezuelan voters. We shall now see if a single mea culpa is expressed by any of the media in the wake of the Chavez government's quick and gracious acceptance of the referendum result. I doubt it.
In 2006, the vote to re-elect Chavez was more than 7 million to just over 4.5 million iirc. So this is not a wholesale rejection of the Bolivarian process, though I believe a win would have accelerated the process. Chavez is an old paratrooper -- like me, so I do overidentify with him sometimes -- and he takes risks. Hopefully, he will dust himself off and begin immediately pushing through the individual reforms that will strengthen Bolivarian democracy where it most requires further development. His government has many successes to build upon.
In particular, the further development of the communal councils as independent and effective bodies of relocalized governance must have more time to mature... with more experience, these councils will deepen the cultural revolution that has lagged behind the policy changes of the Bolivarian government. I hope the workerist left in the Bolivarian government is outweighed in its influence on the emphases of future developments, because they are investing their hopes in the political party (PSUV) that was the vehicle to promote these reforms. I hope they are outweighed by those who argue that the PSUV must become the responsive and subordinate expression of popular political vitality, and not a kind of "democratic centralist" command general staff. Democracy can only become as direct as it is local; and this idea is anathema to many of the Old Left.
I hope Chavez continues to develop the idea of arming, training, and supporting local militias as both an adjunct and counterbalance to the national armed forces. This will protect direct democracy, as well as make future schemes of invasion generated in the north more untenable.
I hope Venezuela will place special emphasis on food security, sustainable agriculture, and permaculture design principles as a critical defense of the Bolivarian struggle against neoliberalism. These initiatives are already in place, but they can be expanded, and they are the practical basis of a combined social and cultural revolution. The additional constitutional definitions of property were paving the way for this; and re-asserting this reform as soon as possible, along with the reduced workweek, increased minimum wage, and expanded social security benefits, will materially strengthen the people against the oligarchy and begin the process of breaking dependence altogether with initiatives the reduce the essential dependence of more and more people from the monetized economy altogether.
But Venezuela has made great strides, so with my distant hopes, I'll trust in the collective experience of the Bolivarians and re-commit to the struggle we have to wage inside the belly of the beast. That is where we can do the most to assist the rest of the world in breaking with neoliberalism.
The one paradoxical victory here is that Chavez and his government have made the dictator narrative from a panicking corporate press a pretty tough sell. That is a breach we can go though to make an inch or two more progress in our general unmasking of what passes for journalism in the United States. This will also stand down contingency planning from Embajada Americana to foment a coup d'etat.... hopefully. (Old joke in Latin America: Why has there never been a coup in Washington DC? Answer: There is no US Embassy there.)
Here is today's headline:
Dictator humbly accepts electoral defeat
Don't hold your breath.