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Opinion and Analysis: Politics

Calling for Democratisation in the PSUV

On 10 October, a little after 8:30pm, the vice-president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Diosdado Cabello, appeared in the media announcing his party’s candidates for governor in the upcoming elections. The response from the grassoots of the party was fast in coming.

In all the social networks, text messages, and in conversations with different comrades, there is a discontent with the way these candidates were chosen. What was the criteria that was taken into account in order to choose them? Has their previous management [as governors or in other positions] been evaluated correctly, and above all, do they enjoy popular support?

Comrade president Hugo Chavez, when he founded the PSUV, he said that this party should be the political organisation that drives the revolution, it should bring together all revolutionary militants, in every community, factory, barrio, town, and city. Chavez talked of being shoulder to shoulder with the workers, rural workers, students, housewives, and small producers. However, unfortunately the reality in the PSUV at this time is different.

Without any doubt it’s the PSUV that is most accepted party in Venezuelan society, all the opinion polls confirm it, and it’s the party with the highest amount of votes in all the elections. But, we still have to ask ourselves, is the party going in the right direction and if the choosing of candidates by the party leadership is the right policy to ensure that the party and the revolution strengthen eachother? Many comrades are really bothered by this choice, they comment that “this candidate isn’t admired by anyone” and “this candidate has never been to my community”.

In our opinion this form of choosing candidates doesn’t strengthen the party nor the revolution, but on the contrary, it weakens it. We think that the grassroots of the party should carry out the revolution. We’re militants on foot, those of us who come into contact every day with the feelings of our worker and rural comrades. They tell us what they think of all of their leaders. Who better than the rank and file militants to know how a governor or mayor has failed, who better than us to know the needs of each city, barrio, or street?

United Socialist Party of Venezuela

Despite comrade Hugo Chavez’s huge efforts to create a mass party that unites the best and most advanced people and to leave behind those parties that are just used as electoral machinery;  we have to say that these objectives have not been met.

At the moment the party is being used as an electoral machine and not as an organisation that constantly debates the policies that the revolution should implement at each moment in time from the grassroots. It doesn’t focus on the revolutionary ideas that we defend, nor discuss the programs that each state organism should follow, nor believe in our militancy and our tradition of struggle, commitment, and effort, nor discuss the methods and tactics to follow in each battle that we are faced with.

Our socialist party is only active in electoral campaigns, and in a very limited way. Unfortunately it’s becoming a machine to make propaganda for one candidate or another, and leaving behind the objectives in which it was founded by comrade Chavez.

The party should be present in every union, student, or rural worker struggle, in the communities, and also supporting and doing everything possible to help workers in other countries of the world in their battles; it should always be on the side of the poor people and the workers, always on the side of the class that is the motor of socialism. It should not just accompany the exploited classes, but rather it should be the tool used by them to wage their struggle.

At the moment the leadership of the PSUV is using the method of cooptacion [Translator: roughly translatable to “cooption” but not the same, it’s when an organisation internally names its own members or leaders, without depending on external criteria- eg when Roman emperors chose their successors, or the Catholic Church chooses its popes] to elect its candidates, but why are they using this undemocratic method for these candidates who will play such an important role in the immediate future of the revolution? It’s true that the method of cooptacion can be a preferred one under certain conditions, such as when a party is cornered and has to work clandestinely, but this method should be understood as an exception not as a general rule. As we understand the current conditions in Venezuela, they are just right for each candidate and member of the party’s leadership to be elected democratically by the bases.

Unfortunately, the damage that is being done to our party and to the revolution through using cooptacion is incalculable and we’re going to suffer its consequences in the short and long term.  The first consequence is the bad management that many of these candidates will implement if they are elected as governors, as they have already been put to the test and they don’t have many things to be proud of. This will bring demoralisation and cynicism to a large majority of our people.

The second consequence, and perhaps the more important one, is that we aren’t providing our membership with the opportunity to grow politically, to develop their ideas and political consciousness. It’s through debate and discussion that human beings reaffirm their convictions and clarify their ideas. Without these struggles and debates we would simply be robots who carry out pre-programmed tasks without awareness of what is being done. The education of a cadre isn’t done with just a talk or broadcasting a video, a cadre is formed through continuous debate.

What type of militants do we want to have? Every honest revolutionary who acts according to their beliefs should ask themselves this question. If we want to have conscious militants who are prepared for the struggles they will have to face in the future, the greatest amount of democracy should be allowed for in the party, in order to stimulate discussion of ideas. Every candidate election should be taken advantage of in order to have a discussion of program, method, and ideas. If we want a strong party, we should debate and elect candidates from the grassroots. But if we want militants without awareness, that are insecure, confused, unable to convince anyone, who only know how to stick up a poster or bulk out numbers in a rally – if that’s the type of militant we want, we’ll support the method of cooptacion. Unfortunately it seems that many would like this kind of militant.

None of us should be scared of the large amount of opinion produced in our party at the time of discussing politics and ideas, but if we’re sure of anything, it’s that the only true way that the correct ideas triumph, is through debate. We’re totally sure that after every discussion with our comrades, we will all come out strengthened and the PSUV and the revolution with us. Every election is a great chance to discuss ideas, programs, and methods among all the tendencies within the party.

Some comrades say that when elections among the bases are held, the candidates who have money and influence use such things to persuade many comrades to choose them. This is true, and has been seen in past elections of candidates for governor, and surely if we were called to vote for candidates these vices from the past would resurface. But that’s not an excuse to not call on the rank and file to vote. We should defend the bases’ choice of all candidates through popular election and at the same time ask for a fair campaign by them.

The candidates for governor in past elections were chosen by the grassroots, and many of those later governed very badly. That paves the way for many bureaucrats within the party to allege that “the bases have chosen inadequate candidates” and “they don’t have sufficient political consciousness to choose their representatives, we should tell them what is good for them”. For these men any candidate of the people is an “inadequate” one. Every candidate who comes out of the grassroots is one less chance for those at the top to make pacts between different groups and cliques. We don’t deny that sometimes we have been mistaken, but our mistakes in the choosing of candidates have been honest and not motivated by any personal interest. We demand our right to make mistakes!

All the most advanced comrades are aware of the danger that the bureaucracy represents for the revolution. Today, more than ever the people are critical of it; they see it as a brake, as the thing to blame for why many of comrade Chavez’s initiatives aren’t concretised, as the thing which, along with its many infinite manouevres, steals a large percentage of the resources that are destined to go towards solving their problems. A large and important layer of our comrades are becoming demoralised and apathetic; the most active among us are organising to defend ourselves and to defend the future of this precious revolution.

One of the main tools in the fight against bureaucracy is making decisions at the grassroots and demanding our right to choose candidates for all the elected positions.

Translated by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com