Venezuela – PSUV founding conference success

‘Throughout this period of transition, which at this moment marches from a state capitalism dominated by market forces towards a state socialism with a regulated market, the aim is to move towards a communal state socialism, with the strategic objective of totally neutralising the law of value within the functioning economy’. (Draft Programme of the United Socialist party of Venezuela, paragraph II.4)

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was established in April 2007 to unite all the pro-Chavez forces that have emerged during the political revolution that has taken place over the last ten years. By June 2007, some 5.7 million people had joined the party. It had originally planned to hold its founding congress in October. However its members postponed the congress so as to campaign for the amendments to the Constitution put to the December referendum. The narrow defeat in the referendum was certainly a consequence of the absence of a functioning mass working class party. This is clear from the intense efforts President Chavez is making to build the party on a socialist programme. The founding conference thus began on 12 January and, with meetings all across the country, finished on 2 March. At the final meeting President Chavez argued that the party must unite different groups and consolidate a mass base among the poor that support the revolution: the party’s fundamental role is to guarantee the revolution’s permanence.

The last weekend in February saw Chavez elected president of the party with the power to appoint five vice presidents, the first of whom was retired General Alberto Muller Rojas who headed the successful 1998 presidential campaign. On 1-2 March, 16,071 delegates approved a programme and declaration of principles for the new party. The whole process was complete when on 9 March 90,000 spokespeople and alternate spokespeople elected 15 delegates and 15 alternate delegates to a national directorate, as well as five heads of commissions. The spokespeople had themselves been elected by local aggregates of 7-12 branches or battalions of which there are over 12,000. Great efforts had been made to ensure a really democratic process throughout.

Muller Rojas noted that ‘you cannot construct a party in one year – we have a multitude of 5.7 million people who enrolled in the party and it will take years to build such a party, particularly given the lack of political culture, after 40 or 50 years of the exclusion of the majority from politics’. There is an active concern among party members about the need to fight ‘bureaucratism’, and about the dangers of a long culture of corruption and clientelism within the country. Muller Rojas announced the forthcoming inauguration of a PSUV publishing house – funded by members – to support the study of history and the revolutionary process, and the training of party cadres.

There is both a call for unity amongst the 20 different groups that have merged into the PSUV, and a call to respect the many currents outside the party, such as indigenous movements and student groups. Chavez has withdrawn his criticism of the Communist Party and ‘Homeland For All’ for not joining the PSUV. There is also a call for an alliance of the left in Latin America to defend it from US imperialism. The growing threat from the US – its recent provocative military acts alongside the Colombian regime, its joint naval exercises with Colombian forces, the reinforcement of its fleet and bases in Curacao, the defamation campaign against the Venezuelan government, its financing of opposition activities of all sorts, its promotion of separation for the state of Zulia, demonstrate the accuracy of Chavez’s observations and the coherence of his international strategy.

The process of building from below is now to be supported by a new ‘Mission 13 April’ and a programme for the formation of socialist communes mooted during the constitutional reform attempt last December. These are communities that collectively manage and operate productive enterprises. On 17 March Chavez stated ‘We have to aim at the base of the economy, from the bottom up…We have to multiply this, and put the means of production into the hands of the people.’ From mid-March nearly two thousand community projects will be granted the equivalent of $186 million. Most of these projects involve repairing or building new infrastructure, including water and irrigation systems, and the formation of new communal economic enterprises. Chavez insisted that ‘Every penny, every credit that we give out has to go towards the construction of a socialist model. But we have to plan it, and it should be accompanied with socialist ideology.’ In the face of the most recent US attempts to provoke war in the region, domestic construction must go hand in hand with internationalism. ‘The conclusion is clear: in order to end poverty, it is necessary to give power to the poor and build socialism; to impede war, it is necessary to end imperialism.’ (Draft Declaration of Principles of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. paragraph 3)

Alvaro Michaels

FRFI 202 April / May 2008


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