The fight for a United Socialist Party

President Chavez is determined to establish a new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), dissolving the current governing party, the Movement of the Fifth Republic (MVR). He has offered open discussions on the new party’s constitution with all members of other parties presently supporting the government. In March the first groups of ‘promoters’ of the new party were sworn in; then 16,000 more activists began their task of motivating and registering members. A target of 70,000 promoters was set for 26 May; they will constitute socialist battalions. Discussions about the new party will be organised across the country. The State National Electoral Council has been asked to supervise party registration. At the end of June PSUV members will elect representatives to a Founding Congress to design its political programme: a socialism for the 21st century.

The December announcement shocked the three bigger parties that have worked with the MVR. Patria Para Todos and the Venezuelan Communist Party which won 590,000 and 340,000 votes respectively in the last elections, subsequently agreed to join the discussions which anticipate their organisations’ dissolution. However, Podemos, a ‘moderate’ left party that gained 750,000 votes, has rejected the idea. Chavez makes clear distinctions between socialists and liberal democrats so he has called on the electorate to recall two Governors, of Sucre and Aragua, leaders of Podemos now opposing the embryonic socialist party.

Not only is imperialism and the small middle class in Venezuela concerned with this extremely significant step, but all the US’s political allies throughout Latin America are also becoming alarmed. On 27 May the broadcasting licence of Radio Caracas Televsion (RCTV) expired, its renewal refused by the government. RCTV’s owners exploited its popular soaps and game-shows to transmit gross lies about the government. It supported every attempt to unseat President Chavez, including the defeated 2002 business-class coup and the economic sabotage of 2003. The loss of this ugly propaganda machine has infuriated the reactionary class of wealthy owners.

The Venezuelan government’s fight to deny super-profits to global corporations has struck a deep chord in Latin America’s masses, giving an example to new governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, and threatening the region’s traditional pro-US parties. With profits seized back from global corporations, the percentage of Venezuelan families in poverty dropped from 25% in 2003 to 9.1% in 2006, and the minimum wage is now US$238 per month, the highest in Latin America after Chile, higher if food supplements are included.

National and regional development
Repossessing national resources is central to the fight against imperialism. In Venezuela three sectors are now centre-stage: oil, electricity and telecommunications. The national telephone company (CANTV, privatised in 1991) is under state control from 4 June and to be removed from the New York Stock Exchange. New contracts with all foreign oil corporations mean that taxes are now 75% of every barrel produced, in contrast to 32% in 1995. The National Development Fund has already invested US$20.15bn in housing, energy, popular defence, health and civil infrastructure.

Seven years ago Venezuela proposed the formation of the Banco del Sur. At the March meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank it announced the Banco del Sur would start operations on 1 June. With a capital of $7bn, it initially included Argentina, Venezuela and Ecuador, now Nicaragua and Brazil will join. In 2006 Argentina, with Venezuela’s help, paid off its IMF debts, and Brazil is following the lead. By pooling much of their reserves into the new Banco del Sur these states can avoid paying high interest to western banks, or being strangled by the IMF.
Promoted by Venezuela, in March eight states formed the South American Organisation of Gas Producers and Exporters (Oppegasur) a natural gas cartel with technology co-operation and exchanges for development. Venezuela has the world’s third largest gas reserves and in April proposed a global gas cartel, similar to OPEC for oil, at the Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Doha. The US sees this as a ‘threat to world energy supplies’, the US Congress calling OPEC ‘a global organisation of extortion and racketeering’.

In April, ten of the 12 South America presidents met in Venezuela for the first South American Energy Summit and discussed economic unification of the continent, including the Great Gas Pipeline of the South and the Trans-Caribbean pipeline. Only the presidents of Uruguay and Peru were absent. The Union of South American Nations (Unasur) is the name chosen by these states, which will elect a permanent executive secretary and locate its HQ in Quito, Ecuador.

Venezuela is in the process of joining Mercosur which opened its Regional Parliament in Montevideo in May to replace its 1991 Joint Parliamentary Commission. With 90 legislators this is further sign of the profound influence Venezuela is having in Latin America.

Venezuela founded the Bolivarian Alliance, which now includes Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador, and which has allowed a strengthening of the fight against the bullying global corporations. Venezuela is breaking the immoral US blockade of Cuba as Venezuela’s national oil company PDVSA supplies Cuba and will help it build a new refinery. Venezuela has promised more than £500m in investment and exploration in Bolivia’s gas fields and offered to help Bolivia build its military, and to intervene against any attempted coup. Cheap oil is being supplied to local authorities in Nicaragua, and aid is being provided to impoverished Haiti, long a horrific example of imperialist oppression. No one should dare say that the political changes in Venezuela are not dramatic. The government of President Chavez has had a profound effect in the region, one that can only accelerate with the formation of the PSUV.
Alvaro Michaels

FRFI 197 June / July 2007


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