In a May 1 statement, Socialist Worker-New Zealand hailed the developing revolution in Venezuela, arguing it would have a profound impact on not just world politics, but on the international socialist movement. It urged all socialists to relate to the mass revolutionary movement headed by President Hugo Chavez, and in particular expressed solidarity with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), a party of revolutionary militants being constructed to advance the revolution. SW-NZ urged socialists around the world to build solidarity with the revolution and seek to use the inspiration and example of the gains in Venezuela to advance the global struggle for "socialism of the 21st Century".
SW-NZ is part of the International Socialist Tendency, made up of socialist groups in different countries with the leading group being the British Socialist Workers Party. The SWP has put forward a different analysis of the Venezuelan revolution, welcoming many of the gains for the poor majority associated with the Chavez government, but arguing that neither Chavez nor the PSUV could provide adequate leadership for the revolution to advance towards socialism, counter-posing the struggles of working people "from below". SW-NZ has called for a wide-ranging debate on the Venezuelan revolution involving socialists from different backgrounds internationally, hosting many contributions to the debate on its blog ( http://www.unityaotearoa.blogspot.com). At the Latin America Asia Pacific International Solidarity (LAAPIS) forum, held in Melbourne over October 11-14, Vaughan Gunson from SW spoke to Green Left Weekly's Bronwyn Jennings about the Venezuelan revolution and the NZ solidarity movement.
What solidarity work have you been carrying out in New Zealand?
Our solidarity work is still in its early stages. When Nelson Davila, Venezuelan charge d'affaires in Australia, came to New Zealand we organised a meeting with him and out of that meeting we set up the Venezuela-Aotearoa Solidarity Team (VAST). The prospect of Chavez coming to Australia — and potentially New Zealand — next year may be a catalyst for getting VAST up and running. [Chavez has expressed strong interest in GLW's invitation to tour Australia. To sign the petition for Chavez to visit Australia, visit
Why did you see it as important to set up a solidarity network in New Zealand?
Firstly, to raise awareness of the alternatives to neoliberalism in Venezuela within the activist movements in New Zealand, because that's not coming through at all in the capitalist media. Secondly, it's important to show solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution in case of interventions by the US or other pro-capitalist forces.
In May, SW-NZ put out a statement in support of the Venezuelan revolution, which has sparked a lot of discussion in the IST. Could you explain the purpose of that statement and what's come out of the discussion?
We had been studying Venezuela for quite a while and began to realise that there were different analyses within the IST of what was happening. All the IST groups have expressed support for the progressive changes in Venezuela and have expressed solidarity. However there are differences over the leadership role of Chavez and the relationship between Chavez and the leadership around him to the mass movement. What we in SW-NZ see is a positive dialectical relationship, particularly after the 2006 presidential elections that Chavez won overwhelmingly.
After Chavez's re-election, we saw a left turn within the revolution, a "revolution within the revolution" as Chavez has called it.
The differences within the IST prompted us to put out the May Day statement. This process enabled us to concretely put down on paper our analysis. We wanted to get a debate going within the IST.But right from the start we saw it as not just an IST debate, because what's happening in Venezuela is far more important than that. We wanted to have a much wider debate with other Marxist organisations around the world. We're a small player in the global context, but we can still play a role with our ideas and analysis.
Our position has in no way been won inside the IST as a whole, so the differences in analysis of what's happening in Venezuela remain. We'll continue raising our ideas, which we did with a follow up statement after we had replies from the SWP and the Australian International Socialist Organisation, as well as contributions from other socialist organisations and individuals not in the IST. Our July 7 follow up statement (posted on our blog) included a more in-depth look at what was happening in Venezuela. Coming to the LAAPIS forum we wanted to raise our ideas and have a debate with other left organisations and individuals about the Venezuelan revolution.
The May Day statement argued in support of the formation of the PSUV. Why do you see its formation as an important part of the developments in Venezuela?
The Venezuelan revolution has had leadership from Chavez and those around him, but it has been hampered by the coalition structure of the parties that have backed Chavez, which have been criticised for problems of bureaucracy and are often a barrier to advancing the revolution.
Chavez and others recognised that a new vehicle was needed to push the revolution further. The PSUV is a genuine attempt to build a mass socialist organisation with organic links to the activists and workers, and the people in the barrios who are the driving force of the revolution. It's bringing that leadership that exists with Chavez and others into a much tighter and organic relationship with those masses of people.
What's positive is the way that the PSUV has been constructed, with the people themselves, it appears, very much at the centre, so it's not a top-down affair — it's actually the democratic creation of a socialist party.
For the PSUV to become a genuine revolutionary party, there'll be internal struggles and ideological battles, as in any mass party. For us the key is the situation of "dual power" [between working people and the capitalist elite] that we believe exists in Venezuela, where the revolution has to keep advancing because the capitalist class — in alliance with other classes — is still capable of defeating the revolution.
The revolution faces tough questions on how to combat economic sabotage by the capitalists, and the critical issue of workers' control of nationalised industries. I think the debates about how the problems faced by the revolution are going to be overcome will happen within the PSUV. So, we think that all Venezuelan revolutionaries should be inside the PSUV debating strategies and tactics for advancing the revolution.
What are SW-NZ's proposals for advancing international solidarity with Venezuela?
The starting point is that the revolution in Venezuela is a genuine socialist revolution with a socialist leadership that has tactical and strategic nous, plus there's the PSUV with 5 million people wanting to join it, and then there are uprisings happening across Latin America where the struggle against neoliberalism is quite advanced, with millions of people in motion. Given this, we believe that this is the first time in a long time that the conditions exist for the creation of a new "socialist international" — and a real one, not one where somebody just decides they can build one, but one that has a mass basis. This gives it every chance of becoming a reality, so we want to raise the prospect and prompt other groups to think about it, which is what we have tried to do with our statements.
Subsequently, Chavez himself has talked about a new international organisation that unites left-wing parties across Latin America and the Caribbean, with a forum to be held next year. So obviously Chavez and others within the PSUV are looking at this type of internationalism, which has been an element in the revolution from the start.
Of course if the goal is to achieve a new "socialist international" that can unite socialist groups worldwide, then there needs to be a process to get there. It can't just be proclaimed. We've suggested that one step could be the establishment of an international editorial committee to bring together representatives from different organisations that are relating to and backing the revolution in Venezuela. It would have to include comrades from the PSUV. That editorial committee should be charged with starting to facilitate a discussion about the analysis of what's happening in Venezuela and then getting it out there in a mass way, whether through websites or publications. The response that I got at the LAAPIS forum was quite positive from a number of people, so that's a good sign that what we are suggesting is resonating with people.
[Visit SW-NZ's blog www.unityaotearoa.blogspot.com to read its statements on the Venezuelan revolution, as well as other contributions to the debate.]