Venezuela’s recall referendum took place on Sunday 15 August. Some 58 percent of people voted no when asked if Chavez should go.
By 1.45pm the following day former US president Jimmy Carter and former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria confirmed the figures. They do not always support legitimate elections. This time, however, the balance of forces was against them.
The heroic armed resistance in Iraq and the rising price of oil mean that the US was not in a position to challenge the vote, or take on a people obviously prepared to fill the streets to defend their interests.
In any case, the right wing opposition’s main objective was to hold back the revolutionary process and maintain its economic domination.
In the longer term, its ultimate purpose is the creation of a government of national unity.
This demand has little support today, but a politics of conciliation is not out of the question – Carter and Gaviria’s support for the vote was designed to leave them in a position to mediate.
The leading activists from the political and social movements place very little faith in these representatives of the interests of the North American ruling class.
And, although Chavez argues for reconciliation with some sections of the opposition, and has not declared any intention of expropriating the big capitalist groups, he is not willing to throw away the gains he has made.
The government is stronger now – and Chavez hears the voices from the street that demand that change should continue and go even further.
The opposition accuses Chavez of being undemocratic, but the truth is that Chavez alone can prevent the current class conflict from turning into a violent mass confrontation.
One option for the US is to try to negotiate a stable political future with Chavez remaining in power.
We cannot know when the next confrontation will occur. Neither can we predict how far Chavez will be prepared to go in his negotiations. What is certain is that Chavez is in a stronger position now, and that on 15 August anti-imperialism won a great battle under the leadership of Hugo Chavez.
The Venezuelan constitution, the most democratic in Latin America, was a victory for the Boliviarian revolutionary process. It provided for the recall referendum which has allowed the Venezuelan people to express their support for Chavez and their desire to continue and deepen the Bolivarian Revolution.
The people are patient, but they are actively waiting. They are calm but aware, conscious of the need to consolidate the defeat of the right wing and those dedicated to the overthrow of Chavez.
At the same time people are conscious of the need for change in the regime itself – taking on the bureaucratic sectors linked to the Bolivarian Revolution who are more interested in defending their own privileges than in advancing the interests of the people.
That struggle requires increasing democracy in the country, building the influence of the mass organisations, and increasing the people’s control over the country’s oil wealth.
All this points to a key demand, which the government has never seriously addressed – the expropriation of the big capitalist groups.
On the hills above the capital, Caracas, we could hear activists posing this question: “Is this the moment for the revolution within the revolution?”
The militant “patrol groups” and the electoral units who guaranteed the no vote by campaigning door to door, community to community – genuine mass organisations set up by Chavez – are the base on which the “revolution from below” can be built.
The militant trade unions are in a position to grow and develop.
The UNT, for example, is becoming the reference point for militant workers. So in a sense, we can say that the struggle is only just beginning.
But the Venezuelans have already earned a place in the vanguard in Latin America and offered an example to the whole world.