Venezuelan Socialists Discuss the Struggle for Revolutionary Party

Since January 12, more than 1,600 delegates to the founding congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) — along with thousands of local socialist battalions (branches — have been discussing the new party’s program, principles and statutes, and in large part the future of the Bolivarian revolution.

Since January 12, more than 1,600 delegates
to the founding congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela
(PSUV) — along with thousands of local socialist battalions (branches —
have been discussing the new party’s program, principles and statutes,
and in large part the future of the Bolivarian revolution.

The PSUV was initiated by President Hugo Chavez following his
reelection in December 2006 in order to unite the many groups and
individuals who back the revolution. Chavez spoke of the need to unite
militants from the grassroots in a democratic mass party in order to
overcome the problems of opportunism and bureaucracy that have
developed within the revolution, hindering its advance.

Federico Fuentes, a member of the Green Left Weekly
Caracas bureau, has interviewed a number of elected spokespeople from
local battalions and delegates to the congress. Many have come from
previously existing revolutionary parties and have now thrown their
weight behind constructing the PSUV, forming left currents to wage a
struggle against more right-wing forces seeking to transform the new
party into an instrument of bureaucratic and opportunist sectors.

One such current is the Assembly of Socialists (AS), which brought
together more than 20 revolutionary organisations in November 2006 as a
step towards a united party. AS became a current inside the PSUV after
Chavez announced its formation. Another current is Socialist Wave,
formed by activists from a Trotskyist background previously involved in
the Party of Revolution and Socialism, which had a strong base in the
National Workers Union (UNT).

Below are some extracts from interviews with a range of these
activists. The full interviews will soon be available on the site of
e-journal Links, http://links.org.au.

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Question – What is the importance of this founding congress of the PSUV for the future of the revolution?

Ana Elisa Osorio, battalion spokesperson, AS — The
revolution needs a party, a united party, a party that brings together
revolutionaries, that outlines the principles of the Bolivarian
revolution and marks out a program towards socialism … towards a
confrontation, an offensive against imperialism … a party that can
convert itself into a dynamic axis of ideological debate and formation.

Gabriel Gil, president of CatiaTV, AS — The importance
of the founding congress has to do with the fact that we are going to
have a democratic party, which has already declared itself socialist.
Its importance lies in the fact that it unifies not only a great part
of the left parties that previously existed, but has also incorporated
many individuals actively into the ranks of the party, in a situation
where a strong anti-party culture existed.

This culture exists around the world, and in Venezuela was very
strong. But now the idea that you need a political party that can truly
lead and organise the revolutionary process is being revived.

Sergio Sanchez, alternative congress delegate, AS —
This is the founding congress of a mass party, which is very important.
I think that Chavez has taught those of us on the left a lesson: the
left has always had the policy of a “cadre party” — we here in the
Assembly of Socialists think it is a trap.

It is not a choice between a cadre party or a mass party, rather it
should be a party of millions of cadre — the people make the revolution
and we need people to be involved politically in revolutionary

Gonzalo Gomez, congress delegate, Socialist Wave — The
congress is a step forward in structuring a political force closely
tied to this revolutionary process — renovating it, allowing the coming
together of the different tendencies, currents and forces within the
revolutionary process. To have this united framework is a grand

Question – But can the PSUV be a useful vehicle given the number of problems we have heard about?

Gil — There are many opportunist and right-wing
tendencies that will continue to try to control the party. I think one
of the things we have to do is organise ourselves to prevent the party
from being kidnapped and ensure it remains a democratic party.

Generally, the democratic structures and debate have been
maintained. Our proposal is to defend and deepen the structures for
debate and participation. I think that the people are participating [in
the PSUV] and we have to be present, working with them.

Gomez — There is a process that has opened up valuable
democratic space, although with methodological vices, problems and
dangers. But there is a discussion among the grassroots.

The fact that we are discussing the principles, program and
statutes of the party — that we can put forward positions about the way
in which we should elect our leadership and select candidates for
elections — is very important.

Osorio — I view it with a lot of expectations, with
hope. That’s not to say that I agree with everything that is occurring,
but I think that the party will be cleansed through the course of the
ideological debate and it will be strengthened — above all by
strengthening a current within the PSUV that is truly socialist.

We believe that we have to be inside the party. We need to continue
working towards the unity of the left, but [also realise] the party we
have is an expression of the reality of the Venezuelan people — it is
an expression of the Venezuelan reality.

Sanchez — In the battalion in the barrio
where I live, I remember in the first meetings people would come to
blows over silly things — that someone looked at them in a funny way,
that she did such and such. The level of experience of political
organisation is very, very low.

Creating a party culture will take some years. Any sector of the
left that thinks the socialist revolution is around the corner is
mistaken, because the people still lack a lot of experience in
political organising.

Question – What do you think will be the key debate at the congress?

Gil — The fundamental point is the program, more so
even than internal elections because one of the things we need is a
collective leadership, and to accomplish this it is fundamental that we
have [a good] program. It is not about having 13 learned people sitting
next to Chavez, not knowing what they think. We need to have everyone,
including the 2 million [PSUV] militants, together with Chavez, united
behind a single program discussing the way forward. Those who veer away
from the program will be seen as being outside the party line, and
outside the party.

Of course there is also the issue of the organisational structures
— that it remain democratic, and the people that who are elected to
leadership bodies be those who are the most in tune with that program.

Sanchez — I have been receiving reports from the
congress and they were saying that “Hell, the Marxist-Leninist sector
in the PSUV have expressed themselves with a lot of force!” It is in a
disorganised manner but this sector has control of the discourse at the
congress, and the right is disorganised and don’t know what to.

The problem is that the [left] is disorganised [as well]. The left
hasn’t made any written proposals. For instance, the left hasn’t
evaluated the statutes. So because they don’t have a proposal,
everything is left a bit in the air.

For me, the issue is not whether the ideas of the left prevail at
this congress, but if we have the capacity of controlling the
organisational aspects. This can occur only if the left converts itself
into a current.

Gomez — One of the fundamental points put forward, but
not taken up in a fully satisfactory way but in a partial manner, is
the methodology of the congress. The directives for the congress come
from [the support commission, and before that the technical commission,
appointed by Chavez]. But it turns out that the PSUV has been adopting
structures such as battalions, circumscriptions, with spokespeople,
delegates, etc.

This commission, which is not made up of delegates, should have
been transferring control over the congress — and the process of
construction of the party — to the body of delegates, without this
implying the marginalisation of the members of these commissions.

What is occurring is that we have been discussing some documents,
in a rushed manner, that have not been discussed in the grassroots [as
is supposed to occur]. It is not clear what mechanisms will be used to
give them a final form, so that they the final documents truly emerge
from the discussions in the grassroots and not from these types of

Question – What is the weight of the left within the PSUV?

Gomez — There is a very important layer of delegates
strongly tied to the social and popular movements, in tune with the
grassroots. It is a critical sector, a sector that appears to be very
firm in confronting corruption and bureaucratism.

This sector proposes that PSUV commissions be formed to revise the
situation among high-level state functionaries, governors, mayors etc,
in order to ensure that no one who has been corrupt or is implicated in
violations of human rights be allowed in its ranks.

Carlos Luis Rivero, battalion spokesperson, AS — There
are a number of sectors inside the PSUV that are fighting for more
profound changes and for the PSUV to be the expression of vast sectors
of the people and not the expression of the cliques that have formed
within the Venezuelan process.

There is a debate and that is positive. In this debate I think the
correlation of forces is on the side of those fighting to deepen the
revolutionary process. However, these positions could be defeated
rapidly because of the lack of organisation. But all this is part of
the debate, and part of the weakness of the actual process.

We cannot simply decree our strength and decree the organisation of
the people. We are trying to take steps forward, and the AS is an
effort in that direction in the PSUV.

Source: Green Left Weekly