At the opening session of the PSUV congress Chavez made a very radical left-wing speech, calling for the setting up of a new international, explaining that it was necessary to destroy the bourgeois state and replace it with a revolutionary state, but also referring to the bureaucracy within the Bolivarian movement itself. It was clearly a speech that reflects the enormous pressure from the masses below who are getting tired of talk about socialism, while real progress towards genuine change appears to be frustratingly slow.
On Saturday November 21, the First Extraordinary Congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) commenced its sessions with the attendance of 772 red-shirted delegates. The majority were workers, peasants and students, elected by around 2.5 million voters (the total membership on paper is seven million!). The atmosphere was one of enthusiasm and expectation.
After a warming up session of revolutionary songs and a couple of opening speeches from visiting dignitaries from Nicaragua and El Salvador, Hugo Chavez opened the proceedings with a five hour speech that finished shortly after midnight.
The main emphasis of the first part of his speech was the need to set up a new revolutionary international, which he referred to as the Fifth International. Chavez pointed out that Marx had set up the First International, Engels participated in the founding of the Second International, Lenin founded the Third International and Leon Trotsky the Fourth, but that for different reasons, none of these Internationals existed today.
Chavez pointed out that all these Internationals were originally based in Europe, reflecting the class battles in Europe at that time, but that today the epicentre of world revolution was in Latin America, and especially in Venezuela. He pointed to the presence at the Congress of 55 left parties from 39 countries, which had signed a document called the Caracas Agreement (El Compromiso de Caracas), based on the idea of a worldwide fight against imperialism and capitalism, for socialism.
He stressed this idea repeatedly in the course of his speech, which also contained many radical ideas, attacks against capitalism, which he said was a threat to the future of the human race. Referring to the world capitalist crisis, he condemned the attempts of western governments to save the system with lavish state bailouts. Our task, he said, was not to save capitalism but to destroy it.
Referring to the situation in Venezuela, he stated that they had not yet succeeded in eliminating capitalism but were moving in that direction. His announcement that they were going to take over seven banks was greeted with enthusiastic applause. He denounced the Venezuelan oligarchy as a Fifth Column, which had sold out to imperialism.
Chavez pointed out that the state in Venezuela remained a capitalist state and this was a central problem for the revolution. Waving a copy of Lenin’s State and Revolution (which he recommended all the delegates to read), he said that he accepted Lenin's view that it was necessary to destroy the bourgeois state and replace it with a revolutionary state, and this task remained to be carried out.
Turning to the problem of bureaucracy, he warned that he was aware that some of the delegates present had been elected by irregular means and that some people were only interested in getting elected to parliament or as mayors and governors, which he described as unacceptable.
On the recent conflict with Colombia, he repeated his demand for the establishment of a people's militia, and that every worker, peasant, student, man and woman, should receive military training, and that this must not remain on paper but be put into practice.
“I attach great importance to this congress,” Chavez said, “and intend to take an active part in its proceedings.” He insisted that the congress should not end tomorrow (Sunday) but should continue to meet periodically for the next few months, so as to debate all these questions thoroughly. He insisted that the debates must be democratic, taking different opinions into consideration and that delegates must report back to the rank and file and discuss with them all the different proposals and documents.
The President emphasized that the next year would be difficult. The opposition would do everything possible to win the elections to the National Assembly in September 2010. “After that they will go for me,” he said. At this point one delegate shouted out: “They will go for all of us!”
All this highlights the central problem. After 11 years there are signs that the masses are becoming impatient and frustrated with the slow pace of the revolution. The crisis of capitalism is having an effect, and many are disgusted with the bureaucracy and corruption they see everywhere, including within the Bolivarian Movement itself.
This frustration sometimes expresses itself in strikes. The President expressed his frustration at some strikes, although he appealed for a dialogue with the workers. But behind this is a general feeling that those in the leadership of the revolution are out of touch and do not listen to the masses or understand their problems.
During his speech, Chavez also stressed the need to recover the traditions of revolutionary trade unionism, since the working class has to play a leading role in the revolution. "The consciousness of the working class is key to the building of socialism", he said, adding that there must be a close alliance between the party and the workers.
It is clear that Chavez is attempting to use the congress to breathe new life into the revolution. Let us hope that this will be the starting point for a new advance of the Bolivarian Revolution, which can only succeed by going onto the offensive, braking radically with capitalism, striking blows against the reactionary oligarchy and establishing a genuine workers' state as the necessary condition for advancing to socialism and launching a revolutionary wave throughout the Americas and on a world scale.
Caracas, 21st November