Formation of the PSUV: A Step Forward
By Carlos Torchia
During the last 15 years Venezuelan people have greatly contributed to the struggle against capitalism and for a just society.
Firstly, the Bolivarian revolution has shown to the people of the world that is possible to challenge neoliberalism, which has devastated the lives of millions not only in the Third World but also in the countries of the center, and successfully confront imperialism.
Secondly, the Bolivarian revolution has restored the idea that socialism is needed to replace savage capitalism, which is threatening to annihilated humankind. The project “Socialism for the 21st Century” is beginning to resonate not only in Venezuela and Latin America but everywhere that people face exploitation, hunger and environmental degradation. The Venezuelan revolution has challenged the reactionary Margaret Thatcher’s slogan TINA (There Is No Alternative – to capitalism]).
Thirdly, the foundation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) should be a key instrument not only for the Venezuelan revolution but also an asset for all of us. Why?
The idea of a revolutionary party has been discredited by the negative experience of the Communist parties in building the so-called “real socialism” or state socialism in the former USSR. Non-democratic and bureaucratic socialism was built upon the image and likeness of the party. On the other hand we have witnessed the bankruptcy of the Social Democratic parties, which have renounced to the idea of socialism, embracing neoliberalism. The victory of the socialist revolution in Venezuela and other countries needs the presence of a democratic revolutionary party, which should not substitute for the initiative of the people but rather to accompany it in building the new society. The foundation of the PSUV is intended as to be a step in this direction.
The foundation Congress of the PSUV seems to have taken into account the experience of the Worker’s Party of Brazil (PT), which became a loose organization formed of various factions, which were in fact parties within the party. In the PT, the party leadership was divorced from its militants and the Brazilian people and had a free hand to move the party to the right, accepting neoliberalism as the only game in town. This type of party cannot be the instrument to help the masses to overthrow capitalism.The anti neoliberal rebellions in Latin America, in Argentina in 2000-2002, and in Bolivia 2002 and 2005, scored formidable victories over the ruling classes, victories that paralyzed their countries and expelled several presidents from office. Yet in the end the social movements were unable to unified all the segmented struggles in one national alternative to overthrow the rule of the capitalist class. This unifying tool, the revolutionary party of the oppressed, was absent in the case of Argentina and Bolivia anti neoliberal rebellions.
The foundation congress of the PSUV
The foundation of the PSUV is a significant step in the task of giving a unified direction to the Venezuelan people in the struggle of resolve the contradiction between capitalism and socialism. That is why a number of different socialist tendencies decided to join the new party.
President Hugo Chavez sensing this urgency, proclaimed: “The PSUV is born, destined to make history.” Assessing the Congress outcome, Chavez said that the foundation of the Party signifies a “revolution within the revolution… [The party] fundamental role is to be…the biggest guarantee of [the revolution’s] permanence”.
President Chavez called for the creation of the party on December 15, 2006, to unify the revolutionary forces in the country and to integrate in one body the heterogeneous electoral movement that had supported him from the beginning. From April to June 2007, some 5.7 million Venezuelans responded to Chávez’s call to support this party. This was an astonishing development in a country that had no tradition of popular political participation in mass parties, a country in which for 50 years the masses had been excluded from politics that was only the privilege of the elites. This massive response constituted a great achievement of the Bolivarian revolution, at time when in the so-called western democracies people reject participation in party politics. Cells of 300 or more people formed a local battalion. Seven to 12 battalions in a district came together to form socialist circumscriptions or districts (or communes). From these districts 1,674 delegates to the founding congress were elected.It can be said was that the party was being founded from below, even though the initial call was issued from above.
The congress sessions were held from January to March 2008. There was a democratic and tense exchange in the discussion of key documents such as the declaration of principles, program and statutes. The congress was a battleground as delegates representing grass roots organizations seeking to deepen the process confronted the bureaucratic and right-wing sectors seeking to put brake to the revolution. In the end these right-wing forces suffered a setback.
The congress approved a clear anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist platform. The right-wing delegates had wanted to eliminate the anti-capitalist stance.
The program discussed by the congress affirmed that “the aim is to move towards a communal state socialism, with the strategic objective of totally neutralizing the law of value within the functioning of the economy… [The objective] is to end poverty, giving power to the poor… the people… [to] build a government based on Councils of Popular Power, where workers, peasants, students and popular masses are direct protagonists in the exercising political power… [promoting] democracy and an assembly-based culture within the party and in all spheres where it is present (communities, work fronts, areas of study, activity etc.)… [to] struggle to make self-government a reality [in] cities, communal councils and communes as the basic political units…”
Tensions appeared also with regard to democratic participation, transparency and the way the congress was conducted, specifically in regard of the election of the leadership. Some delegates expressed that was necessary to “profoundly revise the internal processes that during the founding congress have unfolded…
A heated discussion was also held on the subject of corruption and bureaucracy. In this respect a strong paragraph was included in the declaration of principles: “The inefficiency in the exercise of public power, bureaucratism, the low level of participation of the people in the control and management of government, corruption and widening gap between the people and government, threaten to undermine the trust that the people have placed in the Bolivarian revolution.”
According to General Alberto Muller Rojas, a close ally of president Chavez and one of the party vice-presidents, bureaucratism is the most significant enemy of the revolution, even more dangerous than the imperialist and rightwing threats, because tends to create a new class that makes party life (and society) much more rigid. This was exactly what happened in the former USSR.
PSUV Leadership. The great diversity of the party was reflected in the composition of the elected leadership: afro-descendents, indigenous, whites, and youth with a variety of different political positions. The leadership, which was elected for a one-year term, consists mainly of cadres that supported president Chavez from the beginning of the revolutionary process. The elected leadership represents a happy medium between the most radical delegates and the moderate ones. Hugo Chavez was elected president of the PSUV.
The party is rich in currents and tendencies, although they do not constitute factions. (This should mean that all the its militants are bound to the party’s decisions.) In the party coexist Marxist, Christian and American indigenous cosmovisions.
The tasks ahead for the PSUV
According to General Muller Rojas, the main task is to organize the party territorially either on the basis of radical geography, which consider a special territorial division that take into consideration cultural and economic plurality in regions, or following the traditional Venezuelan state territorial division. In any case the party must have a presence in the whole Venezuelan territory.
Second, the PSUV must build an alliance with the Patriotic Pole, even though many of its members are militants of the PSUV. The Patriotic Pole groups political organizations that have their own history, traditions and space, such as the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) Fatherland for All (PPT) and the People’s Electoral Movement (MEP). According to General Muller Rojas, to forge and alliance between the PSUV and the Patriotic Pole is necessary to push ahead the socialist transformation of Venezuela.
Third, the relationship between Chavez’s government and the party is symbiotic. The party is not merely the external support to the Bolivarian government. The party should be the promoter, the driving force of the revolution policies, in the understanding that the government does not dictate what to do to the party, but rather both government and party should work together and with the social movements.
Fourth, The PSUV should reduce the role of bureaucracy and maximize the role of ad-hoc structures. The political cadres of PSUV must commit themselves more to “ad-hoc-cracy” than to bureaucracy, when they work supporting governmental plans in health, educational or the economic field.
In sum, after the foundation congress PSUV’s militants have a chance to build a political party to help the people make irreversible the transition to socialism in Venezuela. This will require breaking the capitalist bureaucratic state and replacing it with the communal state based in people’s power, and resisting imperialist intervention. The PSUV’s cadres could make a great contribution in restoring the credibility of the concept of a revolutionary party in the eyes of the oppressed of the planet. If the PSUV succeeds in these goals it should be an invaluable contribution of Venezuelan people to the struggle for socialism in the planet.
Pending issues and questions
1. Given the fact, that as General Muller Rojas stated, a party cannot be built in one year, it is understandable that President Chavez has been elected president of the PSUV. However, in the future this situation should change.
2. The same cautionary note would apply regarding the power that the congress gave to president Chavez to appoint five vice-president to the party’s leadership (among them General Muller Rojas)
3. It should be clearly understood that the PSUV is not the government and that the party’s role should be “the political controller of the objectives of the government and will keep a watch over it to ensure these objectives are carried out,” as the programmatic platform proposed.
4. Five of 15 elected members of the executive committee are women. Will further progress be made in integrating women into the leadership of the party at all levels?
5. What about the presence of the organized working class in the congress?
6. Are capitalist elements still being admitted as members of the party? Are there capitalist elements in the party’s leadership?
(1) Fuentes, Federico. “The PSUV is born, destined to make history”
(2) Venezuela: Draft program and principles of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) p. 3 http://www.dsp.org.au/links/node/261
(5) United Party of Venezuela is an Instrument for Socialism. Pp. 4-5