This week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on all individuals, organizations, and social movements committed to the Bolivarian Revolution to join the “Great Patriotic Pole”, a grassroots coalition tasked with achieving a sweeping victory in next year’s presidential elections.
Speaking at a Council of Ministers meeting on Saturday, Chavez told supporters that an open registration process to join the coalition will begin this Friday, October 7, one year to the date of the 2012 election. “Get ready, all you social, political, patriotic, nationalist, socialist, humanist, and Christian movements…but above all else the social movements, because starting October 7 registration begins for the Great Patriotic Pole”, Chavez announced.
The Venezuelan President said his was an “open invitation” to all “existing political, social, cultural and other movements” to incorporate themselves into the coalition, adding that that membership will be based on “conditions of total equality” among its members. While the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), with some 7 million members, is expected to be a majority force within the coalition, Chavez emphasized the importance of “uniting” all of his supporters into one unified front. The coalition, Chavez said, “Will not come from the top down” but instead is to “surge from the roots, the base, to then rise as a volcanic force” aimed at consolidating the Bolivarian Revolution for years to come.
According to Chavez, as soon as registration takes place the country’s patriotic forces will “begin the integration of networks that transcend the local; networks that will be formed in neighborhoods, municipalities, states, the nation, as well as internationally,” because, he argued, “this battle transcends the borders of Venezuela”. “When we speak of the Great Patriotic Pole”, he said, “it is conceived as part of the global chess match for a multi-polar world”.
Scheduled for October 7, 2012, the results of next year’s presidential elections will greatly affect the future of Venezuela’s democratic, socialist, and participatory revolution, as well as regional integration efforts across Latin America and the Caribbean and global initiatives to consolidate a multi-polar world spearheaded by the Venezuelan President.
THE GREAT PATRIOTIC POLE: A MASS COALITION
Just under a year ago, Chavez called for the “rebirth” and “renewal” of the Patriotic Pole, an electoral coalition formed in 1998 to help him win his first presidential election. After its initial victory, the Patriotic Pole went on to secure 120 of 131 seats of the country’s Constitutional Assembly, playing a vital role in developing the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (1999). The coalition later dissolved and was largely replaced by the mass socialist party, the PSUV.
Fernando Soto Rojas, President of the Venezuelan National Assembly and the top-ranking member of the PSUV tasked with bringing together the Great Patriotic Pole, recently submitted a report to the Venezuelan President on year-long efforts to relaunch and revamp the coalition. In it, the socialist lawmaker outlined numerous aspects of the proposed mass coalition, including, among other things: ongoing efforts to unite prospective members, ideas on how leadership positions will be determined, grassroots strategies for how to organize the coalition, the role of social movements, political parties, and individuals within the organization, and the role of the united front in upcoming elections.
Speaking to members of the PSUV last week, Soto Rojas explained that the Patriotic Pole “is a line of action for mass organizing that goes beyond the PSUV”. “While it is not an electoral front”, he explained, all those who defend the Bolivarian Revolution “will soon face the important battle of October 7, 2012” and, as such, the Great Patriotic Pole will certainly become “an important political instrument” for pending encounters with the Venezuelan opposition.
Soon after the October vote, Venezuela will hold gubernatorial and municipal elections in December 2012 an April 2013, respectively. Soto Rojas added that the long-term strength of the broadbased coalition is found in “its profoundly democratic, strongly nationalistic, and essentially anti- imperialist nature”, allowing all those who support the Revolution, the Constitution, and the President to come together under one umbrella organization.
For example, in an interview this week with Venezolana de Television (VTV), Braulio Alvarez, of the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ), told reporters that the coalition, “guarantees the advance of an expanding alliance aimed at deepening and consolidating socialism”. The coalition, he said, will work with its diverse membership to sharpen “the ideological convictions and commitments associated with the revolutionary process”.
STRUGGLE FOR SOCIALISM
Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Chavez explained that the Great Patriotic Pole isn’t “just about winning elections, it’s about defending them”. Questioning the democratic nature of right-wing attempts to select a viable candidate for next year’s election, the Venezuelan President said he only wished the opposition’s so-called Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) “would sign, as part of the numerous summits and signings they’re holding, an agreement to respect the results of the elections”.
Chavez told supporters that it is “important to pay close attention” to opposition candidates, not out of concern for their electoral possibilities but “for another reason: their plans for destabilization”. He added that the Venezuelan opposition “defends the indefensible: capitalism”, and that the entire pool of opposition candidates currently engaged in a primary process “bend their knees to the United States” and its business interests in Venezuela.
In contrast, said Chavez, the Great Patriotic Pole will be “a powerful moral, political, and social force” that will allow the Bolivarian Revolution to “once and for all bring an end to a bourgeoisie culture that had taken over Venezuelan society, forcing people to follow orders of the bourgeoisie, often unknowingly”. Citing Italy’s Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), Chavez affirmed that the struggle for a socialist hegemony “is a prolonged fight” against capitalism with “strong international connections”.
“Just because we’ve been in power for 12 years and we win the election next October 7, it doesn’t mean that we’ve won the struggle (for socialism)”, affirmed Chavez. “However”, he said, “the accumulation of forces” that will result from the Great Patriotic Pole “will allow us to maintain and increase the new hegemony” needed to advance towards 21st Century Socialism