Federico Fuentes, part of the Green Left Weekly/Links Caracas bureau, spoke
to two of the key leaders of Socialist Tide, asking them their opinions on the
PSUV and its founding congress, particularly in light of the defeat of the
December 2, 2007, referendum on Chavez's proposed constitutional reform.
During the first week of February 2008, he spoke to Gonzalo Gómez and
Stalin Perez Borges. Gomez is a delegate to the founding congress from
the well-organised area of Catia in Caracas, a journalist and co-founder of the
Revolutionary Popular Assembly (Aporrea), which was formed in the wake of the
April 2002 coup. It brought together a large number of the social and community
organisations in Caracas to organise in defence of the revolution, and whose
website is the most read website of news and analysis on the Bolivarian
Stalin Perez Borges is a national coordinator of the UNT and a key union
leader in the state of Carabobo, the private industrial heartland of Venezuela.
Following the completion of the congress Links will publish
interviews with a number of delegates and revolutionary activists in the PSUV
to get their views on what occurred.
Over the weekend February 29-March 2, the provisionally named United
Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) held the last general assembly of its
founding congress. The 1671 delegates, who since January 12 have been meeting
each week to discuss and debate the key documents of the new party, will vote
on the party's declaration of principles, program and statutes. The following
week, the elected spokespeople and heads of commissions from the more than
14,000 socialist battalions (the local grassroots unit of the new party) voted
for the provisional leadership of the party.
Since Chavez's call on December 15, 2006, to launch a new party of the
revolution — a political instrument at the service of the social movements and
the revolution – many previously existing revolutionary groups have joined the
PSUV fighting to ensure it truly becomes a mass revolutionary party. Amongst
those are the militants now organised around the newspaper Socialist Tide.
Many of the key leaders of Socialist Tide have been decades-long militants
in the Trotskyist movement in Venezuela. Coming from a range of different
organisations such as the Socialist Party of Workers (Partido Socialista de
Trabajadores), The Spark (La Chispa) and others. During Hugo Chavez's first
presidential campaign in 1998, the Trotskyist movement in Venezuela split over
support for his candidature. Over the next few years, many of these militants
went on to form the Option of the Revolution Left (Opcion de la Izquierda
Revolucionario) and consolidate an important base in trade union movement.
Some of them played key roles in the defeat of the bosses' lockout in
December 2002-January 2003, organising amongst the oil workers, and afterwards
in the creation of the revolutionary trade union federation, the National Union
of Workers (UNT), which quickly replaced the rotting carcass of the corrupt
Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV). With the formation of the UNT, a number
of national and regional UNT coordinators, involving many of the current
militants of Socialist Tide, went on to form the Classist, Unitary,
Revolutionary and Autonomous Current (CCURA), today arguably the largest
current within the UNT.
In 2005, a number of these union leaders and social movement activists
launched the Revolution and Socialism Party (Partido Revolucion y Socialismo,
PRS) as an attempt at creating a “independent workers' party''.
With Chavez's announcement of the formation of the new party, the PRS
underwent a split with the majority of the party, and in particular its union
base decided to join the new party. CCURA also overwhelmingly voted to go into
the new party, as did all the other major union currents in the UNT.
Federico Fuentes: What were the reasons behind the defeat of President
Chavez's constitutional reforms in the December 2 referendum?
Stalin Perez Borges: There were many factors, there was no single
cause. The principal one was the situation of the government not resolving the
fundamental problems in society, the bureaucratic actions and corruption that
exist in the institutions of the state. This affected hundreds of thousands of
militants, the people for the barrios [poor neighbourhoods] who have defended
the process, who have risked their lives. So for this sector, when the
bureaucracy grows and the problems are not solved, the people do not feel any
incentive, they do not feel enthusiastic about accompanying the process of
Along with this the [opposition] campaign, a terrible, diabolic campaign of
fear, of scaring people, was dominant; that also influenced people. We still
have hundreds of thousands of people who have repeatedly voted for Chavez, but
whose consciousness is a not fully class conscious, and who believed it when
they were told that their houses were going to taken away from them.
I personally had an experience with someone who works at a newspaper stand
here at the entrance of the La Paz metro station, I used this example in a
number of speeches I gave during the campaign. One day there was a headline on El
Mundo and I made a comment about it and he said that, yes the people were
very angry because the Chavez government was going to taking their property
away from them, that the government was going to interfere in their ability to
drink whisky. So the problem there was that this person was lacking
consciousness; he was going to benefit from the reforms but the campaign had
convinced him that he was going to be negatively affected by the reforms because
“they were going to take away'' his property, even though he didn't own an
type of property.
So these factors influenced the result: the incapacity to resolve problems,
the growth of the bureaucracy and the propaganda of the right. Those three, and
other factors as well.
Gonzalo Gómez: I believe that that there were diverse causes; that
any analysis is complex. But, taking into consideration the debates that have
unfolded in Aporrea between different writers, the discussions that have
occurred in the battalions [local units] of the PSUV and amongst the popular
organisations, and my own reflections, I think that one of the causes was the
manner in which the reform was proposed. It was very rushed, very much done on
the run, without giving the organisations, the movements and ordinary people
time to assimilate it. There weren't sufficient opportunities to incorporate
contributions from the workers, peasant and popular movements.
It is true that there were events held as part of the “parliamentarism of
the street'', and there were a few modifications made, but it was not an
organic, systematised process. Who was responsible for whether proposals from
the movement were accepted or not? Who determined this? Who decided it? It was
not an orderly consultation.
It was certainly much more democratic than anything else we have seen in
this country in the past, before we had this revolution. Yes, the revolution
has widened the framework of participation, but this participation is yet to be
channelled in the manner it should be.
So the National Assembly continued to decide on its own what should go in
the reform, and President Chavez made his own decisions over what went in and
what stayed out. This led to a situation where there wasn't sufficient
[popular] identification with the proposals.
Of course, despite this we supported the reform — we fought for a Yes vote
— but we also brought along with us many concerns, worries; there were
observations, criticisms against some elements, some aspects which could have been
This was the democratic, or methodological, problem; there was also the
problem of timing, of the moment chosen, given that the United Socialist Party
of Venezuela (PSUV) as such had still not been constituted; the programmatic discussion
hadn't yet unfolded. What was our reference point for pushing forward with the
reform? Was the reform going to determine the principles and program of the
party, should the principles and the program of the party guide us in our
proposals regarding the necessary reforms to the state? The cart was put before
the horse; the process was inverse, the reverse of what it should have been.
It would have been preferable to wait, because the discussion that was
unfolding in the PSUV was halted and it was necessary to dedicate ourselves to
the reform campaign and the referendum, as I said before, in a rushed manner.
This led to a situation where there wasn't the necessary consistency and where
the PSUV was not able to create its own electoral apparatus to confront this
There were some who used this to say that it was necessary to go back to the
previous structure of the MVR [Movement of the Fifth Republic], because that
was an electoral machine. Despite all this, [the PSUV] worked quite well, [even
though] the PSUV had never [before] intervened in elections.
I believe that the other fundamental problem that has to be taken into
consideration is that the government did not adequately confront the campaign
run by the oligarchy, by the bourgeoisie. It let itself be cornered in regards
to many aspects because it did not take the opportune measures, for example
measures that are now being adopted in relation to food shortages, the
speculation of food. The lack of milk and other products had been impacting
negatively on the people for some time and the government did not implement any
measures, took no action, and the people began to ask “Why the hell do I want
the reform?'', “What reform are they talking about if I don't even have milk
to give to my child''. Moreover, the right-wing took this up as one of their
slogans, they utilised this situation to manipulate popular sentiment.
Similarly, there were other situations that led to sectors of the mass
movement refusing to vote or demonstrating their discontent, their lack of
enthusiasm with government policies. For example, take the workers' movement.
They can be offering you the six hour day – which is a grand conquest – but if
at the same time they are not discussing your collective contracts; they keep
you on individual contracts, labour casualisation-style, with neoliberal-type
employment relations, including in the public sector, where ministers have
workers in precarious conditions; they don't respect union rights; there are
experiences and situations of workers' control and occupied factories and the
same state functionaries come and seek to give back the factory to the boss and
pay workers their redundancy, even financing the business owners.
Are these functionaries being guide by a principle that points towards
deepening the revolution and pushing forward the transition towards socialism?
Are they trying to favour and support social production and collective forms of
property? No! They are there doing business, who knows what, trying to make
sure that the bourgeoisie is not bothered; they have an interest in pleasing
sectors of the bourgeoisie or the most conservative sectors of the middle class
so that they do not become irritated.
There they leave the people to the side, the Chavista people, those
who could be willing to wholeheartedly support the president. These are some of
the examples that one could give as to why the people did not go to vote en
masse in support of the government and the president's proposals as they had
It has to do with the issue of how to resolve problems. Take the example of
the informal economy, that encompasses some 48% or 49% of the labouring masses
… it is true that there are distortions in the informal economy, there are
individuals who own many stalls and charge others to manage them and attend to
the stalls. In reality some of them are capitalists or are parts of the roscas
and mafias linked to narcotrafficking, there are sectors that are even linked
to hired assassins… But the government has not had a policy to combat this,
appealing to the democratic organisation of the buhoneros (street
vendors), taking into consideration their concerns and seeking out opportune
solutions, instead, when the situation gets to an extreme, where they are
affecting the right to a clean city, the right to health and the ability
circulate through the streets, it reaches a point where they come into
contradiction with the rest of the citizens. Then the local mayor steps in and
resolves the problem by evicting the buhoneros, removing them from their areas
using the police.
OK, one part of the population applauds this as an alleviation of the
problem, but the other part of the population, who have children to feed, who
have a family, have no jobs, etc., is left feeling resentful, attacked, and
this leads to a loss of votes for the government.
This is not the way to resolve problems. The way to resolve them is through
democratic discussion, attacking the capitalist and corrupt elements that exist
within this sector, fighting for leadership, opening up alternatives in the
social economy for these sectors, seeking jobs for them, and not having to end
up opting to negatively affect their interests and earning the antipathy of a
sector of the population who were part of our voting base, or which continues
to be, but which does not manifest itself. Therefore, many of them abstained in
the referendum; they didn't participate as they had at other times.
All these things really have to be taken into consideration, because what
most affected us is the fact that we are not applying the measures that the
actual revolution puts on the table, and which the government offers but
afterwards does not follow through with in action. Measures [are] announced,
[but] they stop halfway. This leads to a deterioration of the situation.
What is your opinion of the actions and statements of the government
following December 2, for example the cabinet changes, the seeking alliances
with the national bourgeoisie, etc.?
Borges: I don't believe that President Chavez is correct when he said
that the people did not have the capacity to take up the changes he proposed.
There were some important changes, but I also don't believe that, with the
changes that were being proposed, we were going to go directly to socialism.
There were small advances; the social and popular movements would have been
able to assume greater initiative and power, but it was a lie that we were
going to socialism.
Moreover, President Chavez has been talking about socialism for two or three
years — he was elected president campaigning for socialism — so it wasn't a
fear of socialism, it was an expression of anger against the bureaucracy,
against talking about socialism but not resolving problems. For the people,
whose political consciousness has been growing, socialism is where there will
not be a few people who grossly enrich themselves, where there will not be
bureaucracy, where things will be shared by all, where it is possible to
resolve problems regarding food given that there is so much land in this
country. So I would say that it is wrong to say that because they were not
socialist they did not vote for the reform.
For me, I am not so worried about the result: I thought that defeat, as we
always say, borrowing a phrase from Trotsky, would serve as a whip — the whip
of the counterrevolution – that it would serve the revolution, but I'm are not
sure it will be like that.
Parting from the assessment that he took out of the referendum, that the
people were not prepared, we have seen a process of rectification, which has
left in place the majority of the ministers, and where the majority of the
changes signified little change at all. This cannot lead to the serious
rectification that is needed.
I think that the three R's [revision, rectification and relaunch] are a
necessity, but it needs to be a serious effort towards rectification. Who's
going to carry out this rectification, the same people who have made the
mistakes? Meanwhile, the people have no say in making these decisions. There
will be no improvements if it is done in this manner. So what most worries me
is not the defeat, but rather the changes that have been announced and the
assessment of the defeat, the new ministers.
The people are also unhappy about this. I spend most of my time in the
workers' sector, the trade union sector, and by leaving the same minister of
labour who we have denounced 20,000 times, because the minister, who comes from
one of the union currents within the UNT [National Union of Workers] that has
wanted to position itself as a supposed majority within the unions, has carried
out actions of favouritism, attacking all the other currents, including many
times in collaboration with business owners; that is not the way to build a
real union movement with revolutionary class consciousness. Progressive things
such as labour solvency have been thrown in the bin; many of the functionaries
in the ministry are more interested in doing business.
If there is not a real change, there is a big risk than we could face another
defeat and lose the process. I'm optimistic in the sense that I know that this
process has created hundreds of thousands of people who today want change, but
we have a problem of leadership, as well as of the apparatus that has been
kidnapped; if we do not get rid of that bureaucracy in the state apparatus and
institutions, I'm not sure what will happen to those people who want change.
Gómez: It seems to me that now that the three R's have been proposed,
all this has to be done. But my question is: who is going to revise, rectify
and relaunch? Is that for the cabinet and President Chavez to do on their own,
separately, or is it something that needs to be done involving closely the
social and popular movements to see what type of revision is carried out?
Because, if not, President Chavez can reflect with the Minister of Labour
about labour policies and policies towards the workers' movement…aha! But why
not involve all the currents of the National Union of Workers (UNT)? President
Chavez has said that he is annoyed by the division, the fragmentation of the
workers' movement into different currents, that's ok, but you can't solve this
problem by opting for one of the currents, which moreover, is a minority
current, or by cosying up to one of the sectors that is not exactly the most
free of bureaucrats.
Why not create a consultative body involving the social movements and the
president of the republic, and the government, where proposals and policies are
placed under consideration so that all of us can intervene in their design,
their elaboration? That is popular power.
Popular power cannot remain solely at the local level — communal councils
that resolve the problems of so many streets, so many blocks. It also has to
involve the big national organisations that the Venezuelan people have at hand,
with all there defects, no more than the defects that the government has. It is
fundamental that we are able to intervene in leading the country. So, if we are
going to revise, if we are going to rectify and if we are going to relaunch,
let's do it together with the grand social organisations, with the organised
workers' movement, with the peasants, with the organs of popular power. Let's
summon all of them to sit down at the table, instead of putting things in terms
of “dialogue'' with the bourgeoisie, of meeting with business sectors, with
the Church, which is something we are beginning to see an inclination towards.
In that regard, I don't think they have the best reading of the situation:
it is not that the people were not mature enough; it's that the political
leadership did not know how to do it. Through the process of struggle, in the
dynamic of the struggle, it is the people setting the standard. Take the
example I put to you before, of workers' control: if the workers are occupying
factories and putting them under workers' control, the workers are more mature
than many government functionaries who, instead of supporting this initiative,
backing it so that it comes out in front, so that it is strengthened, so that
it is extended, they sit down with the bosses to see how they can give them
back their factories. So, who is mature? Many of the functionaries of the state
are the ones who suffer from a lack of maturity; there are sectors of the
people who know much better what they have to do, what is necessary to make a
We do not need a dialogue which is fundamentally with sections of the
opposition; I am not against dialogue, but the first dialogue has to be with
the people … to see how we should deal with the problems, with different
situations and [resolve] conflicts in our favour, and not to give concessions
to sectors that are seeking to utilise any weakness in the process to finish
off everything we have achieved, and finish off the government and President
I think that this is fundamental: what is needed here is for popular power
to go beyond the local sphere….. There are social organisations in this country
that are being ignored, there are peasant movements with a national scope such
as the National Peasant Front Ezequiel Zamora, there is the National Agrarian
Coalition, there is the National Workers Union, divided, but well… call all the
currents, sit down with all of them, rather than telling them off because they
are divided; sit them down, all of them and see what is put forward, let them
intervene and discuss, along with other sectors of the popular movement.
I believe that in any case, the objective situation is obliging the
government to once again take a confrontational stance, because the
bourgeoisie, with the continuation of this sabotage of the food security of the
people, with their contraband, their hoarding … are obliging the government
to have to take harsher measures. The government wants dialogue with the
bourgeoisie, and at the same time the bourgeoisie sabotages the distribution of
food, so the government is obliged to radicalise: they detain trucks,
confiscate hoarded food, raid factory sheds where milk, rice, coffee are being
hoarded. Aha! But what other measures need to be taken? Are we going to
continue to live with problem? With the National Guard having to chase the
trucks of business owners trying to smuggle food over the border to Colombia?
Or are we going to take other measures?
On one hand, the government is trying to develop national state food
production, which should involve social participation in its control and
management. But on the other hand it will also be necessary to expropriate some
capitalists, to control the foreign trade of basic food produce.
Didn't we want to prohibit monopolies in the reform? Well, which are the
monopolies in the food sector, in the production, processing, distribution and
commercialisation of food? Do monopolies exist in this sector or not? What is
Polar [the largest food distributor in Venezuela]? Should we touch their
interests or not? And we do not need to reform the constitution to do this: the
1999 constitution already takes up the issue of monopolies in some form and
there is the legal backing, and moreover there exists the element of
mobilisation and struggle.
More decisiveness is required. The bourgeoisie itself is presenting us with
an opportunity, and therefore measures should be taken with the support of the
people. The people will, as we say here, “jump on one leg'' and will
vigorously demonstrate their willing to back President Chavez in any new
electoral contest. But if this does not occur, we could continue to go
backwards, or we could suffer new defeats, because if the revolution does not
continue resolving problems, and therefore begins to go backwards or comes to
halt, it will mean that capitalism will continue to destroy us and continue to
destroy the conquests of the revolution.
In this context, what is the importance of this founding congress of the
Gómez: Well, the importance of the congress is that it is a step
towards structuring a political force closely tied to this revolutionary
process, renovating it, allowing the coming together of different tendencies,
currents and sectors within the revolutionary process that were not all
contained in the previous political formations, that were not just the MVR or
PPT [Homeland For All]; it includes many sectors of the left that have been
working in the social movements. To have this space, this unitary framework is
a grand conquest.
A second conquest is that we have a process with valuable democratic spaces,
although with methodological vices, with problems, with difficulties, with
threats, but in general terms the people are discussing in the grassroots. The
fact that we are discussing the principles, the program, the statutes of the
party, that we can put forward positions regarding the manner in which to elect
our leadership and candidates for the next electoral processes, all this is
And the internal debate, in and of itself, is something very rich and very
positive; the process itself, more than the specific results that it may have
in the immediate term, because this party has to intervene in the class
That said, there are some things that we consider to be weaknesses: it would
have been very important to have had a greater presence of the organised
workers' movement. The weight of the organised working class has been diluted
by the initial territorial-based formula chosen for the construction of the
party, where the social fronts where never established. These two things should
have been combined because one finds at the congress that there is a lack of
presence of the organised working class, of workers. The composition is essentially
popular-communitarian, with some elements of the peasant movement and the
organised working class.
We need to workerise the PSUV, insert the working class into the PSUV,
because otherwise there will not be a sufficient counterweight to those
sectors, that do exist, who have committed acts of corruption, who have
bureaucratic practises, who we know have accumulated wealth, who aspire to be
capitalists or who are already part of the bourgeoisie, who do not aspire to be
part of a socialist economy but rather to enrich themselves, to have their own
property, exploiting workers. We do not want to build a party with people like
that. They are passing over to the side of the class enemy and this is
something that needs to be resolved. But this will not be simply be resolved
with a congress.
Borges: Everything that I have said to you — about the possibility
of rectifying, and the grassroots imposing themselves on the institutions and
the apparatus so that changes occur – almost 80% of this passes through the PSUV,
and what it could end up being. The PSUV has created great expectations for the
millions of people who have expressed their will to belong to the party. Those
aspirants who have become active in their battalions, constituting a vanguard
… intend to make real changes and know what has to be done.
But if that does not become a reality — in the form of a good program;
punishing the corrupt ones and making sure they are not able to continue to act
with complete impunity; where unlike the past when the government told the
party what to do rather than the party becoming an instrument of the social
movements and the grassroots of Chavismo to democratically define policies and
decide the candidates to stand for elections for public posts — it will be a
What are the fundamental points that need to be dealt with at this
Borges: The whole future of the revolution should be dealt with at
the PSUV congress! Though, I don't know if they will be able to do this.
Nevertheless, the necessary issue is the birth of the party. Many of those that
are part of the Technical Commission, who are directing the construction of the
party, and many government functionaries are not too worried about what type of
program, what type of declaration of principles the party will have. Instead,
they see the need for this organisation purely so that they can begin their
electoral campaigns. Of course, we need the party [to contest the elections],
working together with the other parties of the Patriotic Pole [pro-revolution
parties outside the PSUV], and the social movements — because the challenge of
the elections for governors and mayors cannot be left only to the parties –
they have to link up with the popular movement and the small parties from the
left, beyond just the PPT and PCV [Communist Party of Venezuela].
I believe that the party needs to discuss how we can build a truly socialist
economy, because today we continue to live in capitalism. How do we truly build
Another issue that cannot be simply seen as of secondary importance is the
role that Venezuela plays in Latin America, serving as an example, a reference
point for other countries to begin to take the path towards a democratic,
revolutionary socialism, with Venezuela leading the way. Why is this important?
Because no matter how much force and resources Venezuela may have, no matter
how much force there is in the grassroots, wanting to advance towards
socialism, we all know that capitalism is a global system and that is it a lie
that Venezuela can defeat it on its own. To be able to defeat capitalism and
build socialism in a few countries, it is also necessary to count on the
capacity to extend the revolution to other countries, because otherwise that
experience will go backwards. So alongside discussing how to advance the
revolution in Venezuela, we need to begin to elaborate ideas about how we can
help construct a continental revolution.
The party needs to discuss what democratic methods it will use so as to not
exclude anyone from the discussion and from participation: to ensure that
criticism is not sanctioned as is the custom, believing that democratic
centralism and discipline means excluding criticism regarding how different
people see the process. We need to guarantee that in a democratic manner all
these discussions and different opinions come together in a big melting pot,
where the possibilities exist to enrich proposals, creating the real
possibility that everyone will feel like it belongs to them.
The party also has to be the most important watchdog, keeping a close watch
on state functionaries, governors, mayors, ministers etc., in order to put an
end to the two scourges that are dealing enormous blows against the
revolutionary process: corruption and bureaucracy.
The party has to be capable of at least doing four things: implementing an
agro-industrial program for development that tackles the problems of
unemployment, provides dignified wages, contributes to an end to crime — which
is a very grave problem– and that contributes to providing resources to
guarantee dignified social security; helping promote the continental
revolution; creating democratic structures that are open to all types of
debates and criticisms; and closely monitoring state institutions in order to
tackle the problems of corruption and bureaucratism.
Gómez: One of the fundamental points [which] has not been dealt with
in a fully satisfactory manner, is the method of functioning of the congress.
[The functioning of the congress is being overseen by] a nominated Presidential
Commission and Technical Commission, and now the Support Commission. From these
emanate the guidelines for the congress. While the PSUV has been adopting a
structure of battalions [local grassroots part units], circumscripcions
[party electoral districts that unite eight to 12 local battalions], of
spokespeople, of delegates etc, these commissions are not made up of delegates.
They should have been transferring the direction and control of the congress –
and of the process of construction of the party – to the main body of
delegates, without that implying the marginalisation of the members of
commissions, … but who now [should] integrate themselves with the delegates.
They should discuss with the delegates in order to take account their points
of view, the concerns they have over how things are proceeding, above all else
to synchronise the discussion of the congress with the discussions in the
battalions, in the circumscripcions.
What is occurring is that we have been, in a rushed manner, discussing
documents that have not been discussed by the grassroots and it is not clear
what mechanisms exist to give these documents their final form, so that the
definitive formulation truly emerges from the grassroots … so we can vote on
something that has truly emerged from the grassroots discussion.
In my opinion, the problem began before the congress. We should have
convoked a period of pre-congress discussion of some three months; of course,
the constitutional reform was thrust on us in the middle and it ate up what
could have been a pre-congress period. During this period, discussion of the
documents could have unfolded, giving time to elaborate and present other
If someone wants to present a document, how do they do it? How do they
distribute it at the national level? How do they ensure that it gets to
everyone [for discussion]? Is it only the documents that come from the Support
Commission that can be distributed at this scale or can other contributions
emerge? So, there are some important details that it is necessary to solve
during the course of the congress.
Some of the organisational questions in the congress have been improving,
things are functioning a bit better, but undoubtedly, before dealing with the
next issue or session, there has to be a discussion of the methodology — which
is what the delegates from Caracas proposed — so that we can adjust this
methodology and that the congress can have a presiding commission made up of
delegates, together with members of the Support Commission, but one that is
elected and designated by the congress itself.
Because, if you find yourself reporting back from one of the discussion
tables, standing on the stage, and there is no an adequate control of the
congress session, where there isn't adequate [chairing], minutes are not being
taken of the plenary, nor are things being put to a vote if there is a proposal
to be voted on; all these affect democracy, the principle of participatory,
grassroots democracy… There continues to be a grand democratic participation,
never seen before, but it needs to fine-tuned, because organisational
difficulties continue to exist that affect the full exercise of democracy.
Moreover a request to discuss the role of the regional liaison delegate [who
were elected the day before the congress began, on the basis of one from each
state] by discussion table* 11 and conveyed to congress floor by myself as the
spokesperson of this table was put to a vote during the plenary session at
Charallave [in the state of Miranda, where the first general assembly of the
congress was held over the weekend of January 19-20] and approved by a great
majority. However, it seems that this vote was ignored by the [Support
[*As well as having plenary discussions, the 1671 delegates at the congress
were organised into 50 mesas de discusion (discussion tables) or mesas
de trabajo (work tables), in which they debated the program, principles and
statutes of the party and then reported back to the congress on their
Another thing is that there are some prerequisites [required] in order to be
able to do things. For example, a programmatic document can't be discussed
without having previously having clearly approved and established [political]
principles… Moreover, it is necessary to have a discussion about the
political conjuncture, or the social-historical context, an evaluation of the
revolutionary process and the characterisation of the Venezuelan revolution —
what type of revolution we have. How are we going to identify the problems that
we have to resolve, and how are we going to formulate slogans, if we do not
have an analysis of the context we are in?
You cannot just take a document that has been handed to you and begin to look
it over, make criticisms and evaluate it. What reality do you take as your
point of reference? What each person has in their mind or something that is
contained in a document that we can approve, that we can amend, that we can add
to, or where we can present alternative document? This has not been resolved;
it is a very important issue.
It would be good for the congress to discuss immediate responses to issues
that are emerging in the current context. For example, it is very important to
issue a pronouncement backing the policy of President Chavez's humanitarian
mediation in the internal conflict in Colombia, and in support of the president
in the face of the offensive that imperialism has launched to discredit him, of
putting President Chavez in the terrorist camp, things like that. This is a
very delicate situation. We have to issue a firm pronouncement backing the
president and the government, and the policy of denouncing Plan Colombia.
Another is giving our support to firm, energetic measures that are being
taken, or that could be taken, by the government in regards to the issue of
hoarding and contraband, the sabotage of the distribution of food, but also
proposing social control by communities, together with the social
organisations, the workers in the food sector, the organs of popular power, the
communal councils, to carry out the task of inspections, of social
intelligence. Where the government takes measures, that we [should propose] to
carry out a grand mobilisation in support of measures against the monopolies
and financial empires of production, distribution and commercialisation of
food, as is the case with Polar, already implicated in other the petroleum
sabotage [of December 2002-January 2003]. We have to take measures such as
expropriation under the control of the workers and the communities, and hand
them over to the state, because they are acting against food sovereignty and
the security and health of the population, which is a fundamental right.
Another thing that we should take a position on has to do with opposing
moves by those who are attempting to benefit from the amnesty [decreed by
Chavez for some of those involved in the April 2002 coup attempt] who were
involved in violations of human rights and in crimes against humanity. This is
the case of those found responsible for the acts of April 11, members of the
Metropolitan Police and the ex-commissioners of [Caracas Mayor Alfredo] Peña,
who assassinated dozens of people in Baralt Avenue and Puente Llaguno,
utilising the arms and vehicles of the police of the ex-mayor Peña, a fascist
Meanwhile the victims of the coup need more solidarity, and greater support,
so that those responsible for the assassination of their relatives, or those
that injured them, are not let off the hook as if nothing had happened, because
here we are dealing with a threat for the rest of the social, popular
organisations that fought on April 11 against the coup. This is a very
As well, as this, we need to supporting the proposal of the president for a
referendum, which could include a recall referendum on the president – in which
we would be obviously in favour of keeping the president, of ratifying the
government – but where we would once again have the opportunity to allow
President Chavez to be re-elected in order to maintain the impulse of the
revolutionary process, with the leadership that is at its head. I do not see
another candidate emerging from within Chavismo for the next period that
is not President Chavez. There are many sectors that have pretensions, who are
to the right of the president. There is no figure that could impose themselves
from the left, and the social, popular movements etc. have to back the
re-election of Chavez. No other leadership has emerged from the social movements
that is sufficiently strong enough to be able to relieve the president from his
position as head of the government…, that has to mature, develop.
Of course, President Chavez has to work together with the social and popular
movements, to ensure a very tight and very strong alliance, to ensure that this
bond is not broken, and from there comply with a series of tasks so that the
people are satisfied, so that they see a determination to continue deepening
Within this framework, the social movements, the popular movement, needs to
take up elements of the constitutional reform in order to once again put them
forward, with the necessary adjustments, and fight via the legislative road or
via the carrying out of a new referendum, alongside fighting in the streets, in
the daily struggle, in the class struggle, so that the social, democratic
conquests that were contained in the proposals of the constitutional reform can
be carried out.
We cannot remain with our arms folded; we had the possibility of approving
the six-hour day, are we going to give that away? We had the possibility to
move towards the recuperation of retroactivity of social security benefits, are
we going to give that way? There are the issues of social security and the pension,
the coverage for non-dependent workers; the protection of families in the face
of possible judicial measures to evict them from their homes; the possibility
of students, together with workers in the universities, having a vote equal to
that of professors, of strengthening the democratisation of the university and
its autonomy. There were grand conquests in elements of the constitutional
reform that had to do with the new geometry of power and the development of
popular power, communal councils, communes, the self-government of cities. We
have to relaunch all this; this has to be part of our program.
So now it is our turn. It was unsuccessful via the path that was taken,
through the executive and the National Assembly, but I believe that the social
movements have the capacity, if we all come to an agreement, because it is us
who will benefit or lose out, because they are things we can enjoy or be
deprived off. Those are some of the things that I believe need to be pushed at
What is the strength of the left inside the PSUV congress? Is its
presence being felt? What about the weight of the UNT?
Gómez: There is a very important layer of delegates closely tied to
the popular movements, who are in tune with the sentiments of the grassroots,
who have a critical stance. It is a critical sector, a sector that stands firm
in the face of corruption and bureaucratism, that proposes the formation of
commissions within the PSUV to review the situation of high functionaries of
public power, of governors, mayors etc., to make sure we do not have anyone in
the party who has committed acts of corruption, who is implicated in violations
of human rights and are in a position incompatible with the principles of the
For example, a latifundista (large landowner) who owns a large number
of haciendas cannot be a member of the party, much less of its leadership. On
what moral basis can big business owners involved in large business dealings
speak about socialism? What socialism are we talking about where those that
exploit workers in their factory afterwards talk about socialism in general
terms? Is dedicating some resources towards creating a mirage of workers'
participation the formula for eradicating exploitation, whilst maintaining
private property? Capitalist private property implies exploitation, [the
extraction of] surplus value.
There can agreements made in the economic sphere, in the political sphere
with some of these sectors, but we cannot have the bourgeoisie in the party, we
cannot have the bourgeoisie within the government. We are talking about giving
power to the poor, to the exploited; you do not give power to the poor by
allowing the participation of supposedly nationalist business sectors in the
government. I have never met these sectors that are consistently
anti-imperialist. I would like someone to name them to me, to talk about their
trajectory, to say what it is that they have done against imperialism, against
the exploitation of [human by human], how they carry out their business; I
believe what they are doing is complying with their role as a class.
Borges: Now, I'm not a delegate, I [missed out] by one vote, but I
have information from comrades that have participated, and they have been
surprised by the enthusiasm of many of the delegates there. Unfortunately,
there is a lot of disorganisation in that has occurred in the congress. But the
determining factor is that there exists an enthusiasm [among] a large layer of
delegates, a big percentage, almost 40 or 50%, [who] really want to have a
party that is capable leading the revolution.
Regarding the UNT, the UNT is in no way represented at the congress. As
Gonzalo mentioned, one of the errors was the character of enrolling in the
party, where people enrolled to become a militant within a territorial
structure. This has meant that the social movements, as movements, are not
represented in the party as such. Sooner or later this will have to be
corrected. Similarly with the intention from the start to try and impose the
idea that there were not going to be any currents, tendencies [within the
PSUV]. It is inevitable that different opinions will arise in a process as rich
as that in Venezuela… there are going to be contrary opinions, differences,
criticisms that this situation will not be able to be contain.
This has means that the UNT, or the trade union movement in general, is not
represented… Once there is an opening up within the PSUV of spaces for the
different expressions of the social movements, then the UNT, all the different
currents, will also be expressed there.
What is the importance of the construction of this party, which has
emerged out of a revolutionary process, for the world today?
Gómez: Today, Venezuela is the vanguard of the world revolutionary
movement, or part of it, and it is a very important reference point for Latin
America. Other processes are occurring, such as in Bolivia, or the process in
Ecuador, all these countries that are part of ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative for
the Americas]. I think that there is a lot of sympathy from left and
progressive sectors towards the Venezuelan process; it is a voice on the
international stage that is strongly taking political ground away from
imperialism, constantly denouncing, pointing out the wrongs; this is something
that irritates imperialism. Much more concrete measures could be taken in the
economic terrain, for example expropriations, or in relation to investments by
transnationals in Venezuela. The political problem is fundamental and Venezuela
has escaped from imperialism's control. It is a country that has an independent
Moreover, in defining itself as a party with an internationalist character
and program the PSUV says internationalism does not only imply establishing
ties with movements of other peoples in struggle, not only implies solidarity,
but it also implies the construction of forms of integration between nations
shaking off the yoke of the transnationals, of imperialism, of neoliberal
policies. This points towards the formation of a international front on the
world scale of the peoples, movements and organisations that are fighting
against imperialism and capitalism.
Borges: As I mentioned before, the PSUV needs to discuss the issue of
how it is going to come together with the other processes in Latin America,
demonstrating the example that Venezuela poses in two ways: what is beginning
done here to resolve the problems of the people, and providing an example for
how to construct a democratic socialist party, that can act as a reference
point for other countries.
How is this resolved concretely? Well, by converting itself into a
democratic and revolutionary party that aids the construction of other
organisations in other countries in order to — I'm not sure if it will be a
new international, or at least an international coordinating body — contribute
in some way to the revolutionary process in each country by setting a good
example, and by having the capacity, the cadres that will be able to help in
other countries in the construction of revolutionary parties. That is what was
done during the Russian Revolution, where cadres went to other countries to
help contribute to other revolutionary processes.
However, the best way the PSUV will be able to aid other processes is by
carrying out concrete action here and deepening the revolution towards