In this interview Venezuelanalysis talks to one of the activists who has been involved in the formation of the GPP almost right from the start. Although the GPP, an organisation which formally unites 35,000 Venezuelan movements and collectives, is just in its initial stages, we try to get a hang of what kind of organisation it could be, and the processes and forces that have been involved in its formation.
Jessica Pernia is a member of the Tatuy Community Television collective, and represents it on the regional promoter team of the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) in Merida state
VA: Can you describe the process of forming the GPP? The steps involved, and who has really been behind its formation - the government, or the grassroots?
JP: After the national registration process in October 2011 [when 35,000 groups registered across the country as members of the GPP] we began a process of regrouping, or of accumulating forces, in all states. In Merida, it was the continuation of a process which began in March 2011, almost a year ago, where the grassroots movements had been meeting and debating the idea of the GPP.
What happened was, the PSUV had put out its strategic lines – proposed by Chavez – and one of those lines was the promotion of the GPP, and so people were already talking about it they started to organise themselves with the initiative in mind, and Merida was part of that. We have been working consistently for the past year in order to form and strengthen the GPP. So my point is that the GPP in Merida wasn’t born with the registration, it already had a history, there had already been steps taken.
However, the registration helped, it provided a form of agitation, and assured that even more movements were drawn in. Creating just one national registry for social movements meant we had a better chance to get to know each other and to organise ourselves better.
So the GPP is basically the integration of diverse social movements, organisations and collectives in different areas, groups with different political positions, but always oriented towards the socialist revolution. It means that those groups can now more easily and directly join with this aim [of socialist revolution] through the GPP, which is a place where proposals to Chavez can be made.
Anyway, in Merida, as we already had a group of movement representatives who had been meeting, and who were recognised by the people of Merida, the process of forming the regional promoter team here was fairly straight forward. This team promotes the formation of the GPP at the state level.
And in order to form the GPP, there are a range of stages to go through. The first stage was the formation of the national promoter team, which was sworn in and approved by the president. It is made up of 153 comrades, spokespeople of different collectives at a national level. That stage ended with the national registration. Next came the second stage of regrouping, which are the ongoing meetings of all the collectives registered in the GPP. After that, which is where we are at now, comes the stage of carrying out the popular assemblies of the GPP. These are where the planning, decision making, and debating of all those participating in the GPP takes place. Finally, there is a last stage, which consists of the national congress, or the national popular assembly, with President Chavez. That will be held on 13 April this year and it’s where the new proposals for the national organisation will be discussed and voted on.
In Merida we have carried out a range of assemblies [interviewer’s note: the first one was a state wide one, then in five smaller regions, then on a municipality basis, at each level, people also voluntarily noted themselves down to participate in promoter teams] ... and now we are ready to start organising the popular assemblies so that we can make decisions and put together a plan of action for Mission 7 de Octubre [the electoral campaign for Chavez] – as a political tactic, but also as a strategy, which is more important – a strategy for debate and for organising the tasks necessary to deepen the revolutionary project from the bases. That implies a revision of national management [of the Bolivarian revolution], and of plans and proposals based on revolutionary political thought, that will strengthen socialism in our country.
So the important thing to highlight now is that the assemblies aren’t for venting. Rather than just a space for the different movements to talk about their distinct needs, we want the assemblies’ purpose to be to improve the conditions, not just of the organisations, but also of the Bolivarian political process.
Finally, I should also mention the commissions, the national methodology recommended was the formation of communication, organisation, mobilisation and logistics, and systematisation commissions, but here in Merida we have a formation [increasing consciousness] commission, organisation, communication, and systematisation.
VA: What collectives and organisations have been involved in the promotion stage in Merida?
JP: There are different organisations participating in the regional promoter team. Movements such as the Tupamaros, the Educational Community Socialist Front, the Frebin (the Bolivarian Front of Researchers and Innovators), the student movement Community Integration, the comrades in the rural workers front- the Campesino Front Ezequiel Zamora, the popular educators network, the Women’s Bicentennial Front , and of course Tatuy TV, among others, have been actively promoting the GPP across the state.
VA: Have you had to face any obstacles?
JP: Yeah, definitely. One of those has been the regaining of the trust of the movements, something that has dwindled in the face of opportunism and reformism in the political spaces in our country, so we have lost the trust of movements when it comes to political participation. In that sense the biggest obstacle that we have to overcome is apathy, and we can overcome it through consciousness in the construction of a social fabric committed to the struggles of the people, and understanding the historical importance that a process like the one Venezuela is going through, has for humanity – in the face of capitalist barbarism.
Another significant obstacle has been the commotion produced by the Venezuelan opposition, which is trying to make people believe that the GPP is an organisation that is hostile to the PSUV [the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela], and in no way has it been like that. However, we have had to work hard to get rid of this perception.
The PSUV and the GPP are arms of the one struggle, with President Chavez supporting both of them, and they are united in the construction of a new country. One concrete example is that in Merida there are excellent relations between both organisations, facilitated through collaboration between the social movements’ commission of the state committee of the PSUV and the regional promoter team of the GPP. We have worked together to create policies, plans, and ideas to strengthen the GPP.
VA: What do you hope the GPP will be? Is it a political party? What should its relationship be with the communal councils, for example?
JP: the GPP isn’t aiming to be a political party, or to have any kind of electoral ticket or back any regional candidates. Our only candidate is President Chavez for the presidential elections in October.
A lot of fuss has been generated about this, as there are sectors of the opposition who have tried to make people believe that we are in competition with the PSUV, but as I said before, that’s not the idea at all.
Many communal councils directly registered during the registration process, however the GPP is more focused on organisations and social movements, given that the communal councils have their way of organising – through the communes, which group them together. On the other hand, until now, the social movements haven’t had that possibility, we have been very isolated from each other, so the GPP is basically focused on the bringing together of all the different fronts, collectives, and social organisations.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t work directly with organised communities and the communes and communal councils. Actually, many of us within the movements are also participating in community struggles. As the patriotic assemblies [the decision making ones] take place we should come up with plans to unite the organised communities with the movements, and with the PSUV and all the other forces of the revolution, to then be able to consolidate it beyond the electoral campaign, into an unbeatable single force of the revolution.
VA: How does the GPP hope to wage a campaign in support of Chavez’s re-election?
JP: One of the aims of the campaign is agitation and raising the awareness of the Venezuelan people. The GPP has an important role in the campaign, which is to mobilise, and to overcome the current weaknesses within the current government and its institutions, and to educate all those Venezuelans who support socialism. We can achieve these things by defending all the most important social policies put forward by the revolution, by debating the theories that should be the basis of, and should help deepen, our revolutionary ideas. We should fully discuss the problem of non social property that the rich have robbed from society. And, we should discuss and work on the values and ethical and revolutionary principles that should guide our revolution.
We have to discuss the most serious topics with all management [of the government] because one thing many movements in the GPP are concerned about, something I don’t necessarily agree with, is the bureaucracy, and the administration.
It’s important to criticise the bureaucracy and opportunism that is evident within the revolution through education plans. We’ll come up with proposals for the creation of new citizens, the new person, and a useful slogan for the GPP would be that socialism is the science of the example. When revolutionary men and women do voluntary work we achieve a new consciousness of responsibility and that we are subjects [protagonists] in the revolution for the new generations and for humanity.
VA: How can we guarantee that the GPP won’t be another PSUV – that is, that it really is run by the grassroots?
JP: In this initial stage of the GPP, of accumulating strength, we can only measure the willingness of the people to participate. In Merida we have an action plan, a political program based essentially on a new life ethic. We can confirm the intention the people have to create a new reality.
For now, it would be difficult to say anything definite; it would be counterproductive, as we’re just in this initial stage. However there are very high expectations, as the social movements haven’t had such a broad fighting space as they do now with the GPP.
The GPP, years ago [in 1998, the Patriotic Pole was a different organisation with a similar nam; an electoral coalition which backed Chavez] was basically a pole of political parties. Now the movements are in the vanguard, and because of that, commitment is stronger. This is why we’re calling on all the members of the GPP to move beyond the catharsis, annoyances, and the lack of trust, and start on this new path where we can propose, dream, and found a new reality from the social bases.
A party or an organisation made for the revolution has its inexorable role in going beyond electoralism based on bourgeoisie laws, and in converting itself into a party-school, into an organisation or party that creates new revolutionary citizens – work that encourages creativity, effectiveness, and quality in all processes of the revolution. So even though the GPP isn’t a party, we can only get past electoralism and bureaucracy as we go about understanding those principles. As Fidel [Castro] says, “There’s no place in a revolution for false people, nor for mediocre people, nor for the weak or the cowardly”.
VA: In November, in Caracas, GPP activists, in an official statement, declared their solidarity with other global movements who are currently fighting the capitalist model, and stated that they would promote the development of an “international popular pole” capable of “presenting an alternative to barbarous capitalism” – is that still on the table?
JP: It’s a general and transversal position of all [revolutionary] processes that internationalism should convert itself into concrete actions of solidarity and into integration with other movements in the world.
Many of the movements within the GPP have experiences working with different organisations at a global level, and the objective we have in Merida is to consolidate an internationalist commission, which we had proposed at the start of the year. Because of new dynamics, that commission hasn’t happened yet, but it’s our responsibility to take the idea up again, as the struggles of the people don’t have borders, they can’t be scattered. We should overcome the logic that the capitalist system subjects us to and ultimately converts us into merchandise. It’s a logic they want to apply to the social movements- dividing us, and we end up specialising in our very local areas without having a global vision.
So another role of the GPP is to create an international network of movements to confront the damaging capitalist system in all its aspects and consolidate the construction of a different world. Another reality is possible and it’s up to the GPP to shape that integration.