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Venezuela: Socialist party prepares for ‘transition to socialism’; PSUV discussion document

By Federico Fuentes, Caracas

August 8, 2009 -- On August 1, United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) members across the country participated in 1556 local assemblies to discuss the reorganisation of the party’s base into local ``patrols''. 

This push to strengthen revolutionary organising comes at a time when attacks on Venezuela’s revolutionary process revolution “from outside and within have intensified”, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, also president of the PSUV, said on August 4.

“Each time that the revolution advances and accelerates its march, the attacks intensify. I will continue to put my foot down on the accelerator of the Bolivarian revolution. That is my role, that is my task and there is no time to lose. Today, in Venezuela, we are creating a true socialist democracy.”

After his re-election in the December 2006 presidential elections, Chavez issued a call to build a “new party… from the base” and at the service “of the people and the revolution, at the service of socialism”.

As an expression of a deeply felt need for greater revolutionary unity, almost 6 million people enrolled as aspiring PSUV members between April and June, 2007. Organised into 300-strong local battalions, several hundred thousand aspiring members embarked on the task of building the PSUV, which held its founding congress in early 2008.

However, a national leadership handout distributed at the assemblies said the process of forming battalions had generated “a number of logistical difficulties [that meant] grassroots participation in the battalion meetings profoundly diminished, and in doing so debilitated [their] functioning and political performance”.

Drawing on the lessons of previously successful election campaign structures, the leadership announced a re-organisation of the bases, where activists who know each other and live in the same street, block or local community were to unite into patrols comprising 20 to 30 members.

The smaller size and self-selecting nature of the process aims to facilitate greater organisational capacity and cohesion.

It is expected between 100,000 to 200,000 patrols will be formed in the lead up to the PSUV’s second national congress, scheduled to begin on October 10.

Despite announcements by Jorge Rodriguez, head of the PSUV’s national organisation commission, that patrols would only be organised on a territorial basis, representatives of the PSUV’s Socialist Workers Front told Green Left Weekly that Chavez proposed they move ahead with forming factory- and workplace-based patrols.

PSUV Youth members have also said they plan to form university and high school patrols. Despite more than 60% of the 1.5 million new members who signed up this year being below the age of 29, youth participation in the assemblies was extremely low.

On the political front, activism in local communities and ideological formation was emphasised. The PSUV leadership document (see below), circulated for discussion at the assemblies, said this was crucial for “accelerating the transition to socialism”.

The document said this transition involved “the transformation of the bourgeois state into a revolutionary and democratic state ... the creation of socialist property relations over the means of production ... [and] the creation of revolutionary consciousness in working people [through] a profound ideological and cultural revolution”.

[This article first appeared in Green Left Weekly issue #806, August 9, 2009.]

Analysis of the political situation for discussion at the assembly of future PSUV patrullas (patrols)

International situation

  1. The most important international issue for our country at this moment is the announcement made by President Hugo Chavez to freeze relations with Colombia. This is due to a set of provocations and acts of confrontation by the government of [Colombian President Alvaro] Uribe in the last few days. Among those it is worth highlighting the decision to establish five US military bases in Colombia and the reiterated accusations, which are totally unfounded, that link the Venezuelan government to the FARC [the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia].
  2. In regards to the military bases, we are dealing with an open act of aggression, although the Colombian government wants to try and cover it up with the euphemism that they are Colombian bases that will count with the support of US military personnel. In reality, the US policy of economic expansion and political confrontation in the hemisphere seeks to establish a military foothold. In this sense, the hostility of the US government in relation to our revolution has been more than proven. 
  3. The government of Uribe has transformed Colombia into a military base and seeks to defeat the popular movement and insurgent forces in Colombia. At the same time, these military bases aim to contain the advance of the revolutionary forces in the continent.
  4. Colombia has opted for subordination to the US, expressed in its insistence on signing a Free Trade Agreement with the US, and now with the establishment of military bases, something that is incompatible with maintaining stable and friendly relations with our countries.
  5. The revision of economic relations on our side signifies, among other things, a notable decrease in trade. Colombia will lose its second-largest market, an important destination for exported manufactured and agricultural goods. These can be imported to our country from other countries or substituted by national production. It will be much more difficult for Colombia to find alternative markets within the framework of the world crisis. This will represent a drop in employment, production and income in an economy like Colombia’s that has already been seriously affected by the world crisis of capitalism.
  6. In general terms, we believe that this situation will lead to an intensification of the Colombian economic crisis and the strengthening of anti-imperialist positions in this country.
  7. Another important issue is the coup in Honduras. As we have already said in other opportunities, we are dealing with a coup against Honduran democracy, against the advance of the popular movement in that country, but also against Latin American and Caribbean democracy, as well as, and especially, ALBA. Having converted itself into a counterweight to imperialist hegemony, it is being punished with this blow. Despite the ambiguities of the US government, there is no doubt that imperialism participated in the military coup.
  8. The lessons of the coup in Honduras have [proven] to us, among other things, that imperialism is the principal enemy of the revolutionary process; that every revolution or process of democratisation has to be capable of defending itself, for which it must count on a united revolutionary party with deep popular roots; and, lastly, that we have to be prepared in the face of any escalation of aggressions against our revolution, consolidating the continental and global unity of anti-imperialist and progressive forces.

National situation

  1. Confronted with this international context, the Venezuelan revolutionary project is unfolding in the midst of an important set of contradictions, which tend to intensify as we advance.
  2. One of the greatest successes of our government’s management has been to avoid the economic recession via its anti-crisis policy. In light of the collapse of oil prices and the recession that is hitting the world economy hard, this represents a notable success. The anti-crisis policy, moreover, has allowed for the consolidation of important social indicators regarding employment, poverty and misery. The popular and revolutionary character of our government was made clear when measures that defended the interests of the workers were applied, contrary to the past, when the objectives of capital were prioritised.
  3. This situation has allowed for the strengthening of the political positions of the revolution, but it is undeniable that we have to make a greater effort in improving efficiency in public management in the deepening of the revolution.
  4. In both scenarios, the PSUV plays a star role. In its role of watchdog over public management, as well as political leadership of the government, we have to establish the mechanisms that allow us to impact with greater force over the exercise of government in all instances. The same applies for the effects of the deepening of the revolution.
  5. If we had to synthesise in three grand lines of action the strategy for accelerating the transition to socialism, we would have to highlight: a) the transformation of the bourgeois state into a revolutionary and democratic state, which finds in the communes one of its principal expressions of popular power; b) economic development and creation of socialist property relations over the means of production; and c) the creation of revolutionary consciousness in the working people, as the result of a profound ideological and cultural revolution.
  6. It is in this context that the National Assembly (NA) has presented to society laws of extraordinary importance that create the legal premises to undertake these changes. The most notable here are the laws regarding social property, education, communal councils, labour, workers’ councils, electoral participation and culture, etc. All these laws have to be approved on the basis of popular legislative exercise and revolutionary political hegemony. It is about giving a resounding popular backing to these laws. 
  7. Last, we have the decision to implement the laws regarding the use of radio frequencies. Many TV channels and radio stations broadcast illegally, other legal ones violate the law. This situation cannot continue. We are not only dealing with an excess on the part of the owners of the media, but a political attack, a destabilisation attempt by the most active and powerful expressions of the Venezuelan opposition: the private media.
  8. The attitude of the media is inscribed within the strategy of conspiracy, which is making calculations in the lead up to the parliamentary elections in 2010. This will not only be a measure of force, but a desperate attempt by the opposition to hinder the possibility of approving strategic laws in the NA and explore using the “Honduran road” to get rid of President Chavez
  9. We have to be alert and demonstrate in our actions that Venezuela is not Honduras and that this is a revolution capable of defending itself as it advances towards socialism.

    [Translated for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Federico Fuentes.]

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United Socialist Party of Venezuela Restructures

Mérida, August 9th, 2009 (Venezuenanalysis.com) - The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the party which supports President Hugo Chavez and which currently has almost 7 million registered members, is reorganising itself into smaller units called "patrols," in order to increase participation and ideological formation, party leaders said.

On August 1 the PSUV held assemblies across the country to discuss and inform about the restructure, then on Saturday it began the process of regrouping into patrols of twenty to thirty members based on geographic regions.

The PSUV guide says all members should be registered in the party and each patrol should decide on a permanent place to meet. Patrols filled in forms that they handed in at red tents distributed in plazas across the country on Saturday.

Previously, the PSUV was organised into "battalions" or branches, based on population areas of around 1,000 people. Battalions therefore often had around 300 registered members, with a small proportion of those active, and while there were formally around 14,000 battalions, many had not been meeting. Elected spokespeople from ten battalions formed a "circumscription," which also elected delegates.

Such delegates and spokespeople will now no longer exist. The new patrols, according to PSUV leaders, will not have any coordinators, spokespeople, or other such positions.

Green Left Weekly reports that a leaflet distributed at the information assemblies said that due to logistical difficulties grassroots participation in the battalion meetings had diminished. The PSUV leadership, drawing from the successful experience of the election campaign structures, announced this new structure where activists who know each other locally get together to form a patrol.

Hugo Cabezas, governor of Trujillo state, said one of the main tasks of the patrols is to help the "the revolutionary government govern, in order to construct socialism" and to form cadre activists who have "ideology and revolutionary vision."

"We have to make it known in the popular sectors that socialism is the path and for this, the membership has to prepare itself ideologically," Cabezas said.

Jorge Arreaza, PSUV coordinator of the political formation committee said that the patrols would become "study and socialist action groups." He said in the first meetings of the patrols, they would be given the question; "What is the role of the people of Bolivar in this historic moment?" and that other questions would follow, "in order to create party cadre, people with commitment...with the capacity to analyse a concrete situation and from such analysis, transform reality."

Arreaza said patrols would meet for such formation once a month.

Freddy Bernal, a PSUV leader, said the new patrols would function in an ongoing basis, "not just during election time." He also said "membership reserves" would be formed by members who are registered in the party but who don't regularly attend meetings.

Bernal said the patrols would analyse problems in the community, as well as discuss national and international issues.

"The patrols are founded on the basis of the need to construct the party we need, with small dynamic units, that meet easily and allow for the integration of all the different sectors of the country," he said.

PSUV youth leader Robert Serra said that the 1 million young people registered in the party should join the patrols and that such youth would also promote the creation of children's patrols to encourage recreational activities, "in order to rescue Venezuelan values."

National Assembly legislator Dario Vivas also said the aim of the patrols was to "agitate and mobilise the seven million members that the PSUV has, in order to adapt its structure ...to the current situation that the Bolivarian revolution is living."

Vivas also said they would be the basis for the organisation of the PSUV congress due to be carried out in early October.

PSUV organisation committee leader Jorge Rodriguez said 5 million PSUV members participated in the assemblies last Saturday, in 1,556 assemblies, out of a total of 1,663 that the party had planned, and Bernal said that in Caracas, there have been 296 such assemblies until now.

A PSUV leader in Carabobo state, Saul Ortega, said 600 patrols had been formed in that state. However, most states are still collecting information on patrols registered so far, and all patrols have until 15 August to organise themselves.

On 3 May President Hugo Chavez said the PSUV would undergo a "re-definition" in which sectarianism and corrupt party leadership must end and the party must strengthen its ties to social movements.Chavez called for the creation of the PSUV in December 2006 in order to bring together all the left wing parties who supported his presidency into one, democratically run party.

PSUV and socialism

I still have many doubts about the ability of the PSUV to create a socialist nation in Venezuela. Since 1998 Chavez is in power and since 1999 capitalism still rules Venezuela.

Chavez talks big, but under his regime capitalism was challenged but not destroyed. Venezuela is still a tool of international capitalism. And that capitalism is getting stronger as the revolution turns more social democratic each year.

Beside the PSUV is also nationalist, playing on left wing nationalism not on internationalism. That is equal to Stalin's socialism in one country, and we know that socialism cannot survive in one country win out totalitarian control of one party over the state.

Hugo Chavez is also to good friends with dictators. Like comrade Fidel Castro, or Gadaffi of Libya. He is playing with fire, only to insult America and the west. Beside his Bolivarism is also totally wrong named. Simon Bolivar was a right wing liberal who supported free market capitalism.

Venezuela is not socialist and will never become as long as the PSUV plays with nationalism, social democracy and Simon Bolivar. The workers of Venezuela need real democratic socialism, not stalinism, not social capitalism, but socialism.

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