Amid growing tensions between the United States and Latin America, nearly 1200 young people — representing thousands more — met in the Venezuelan city of Puerto Ordaz on September 11-13 to found the United Socialist Party of Venezuela Youth (JPSUV).
The backdrop to the congress was the increased aggression of US imperialism against the peoples and governments of South America. Less than 24 hours before convening the JPSUV's founding congress, evidence of a planned coup and assassination attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was revealed. At the same time, in Bolivia the conflict between the indigenous government of Evo Morales and the right-wing opposition, backed by the US government, threatened to lead to civil war.
The congress was the result of several months of preparation, where members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela under the age of 28 began to organise themselves into youth teams of 10 people each and build towards creating a socialist youth organisation.
After weeks of discussion, each youth team elected a spokesperson. Afterwards, the spokespeople came together in a meeting of 10 spokespeople from their local area to elect a delegate to the founding congress.
Previous attempts to organise young people have included the Federation of Bolivarian Students and the Frente Francisco de Miranda, however the JPSUV is the first of its kind to be constructed from the grassroots.
Sitting around 47 tables discussing the program, politics and statutes of the new organisation, the congress erupted into cheers and chants as they heard Chavez over the television announcing the dignified decision to expel the US ambassador from Venezuela. "Go to hell, Yankee shit", proclaimed Chavez, sending the ambassador packing due to his role in destablising the Venezuelan government, and in solidarity with the decision by Morales to expel the US ambassador to Bolivia only days before.
These delegates made up the majority of 2000 people who gathered to hear Chavez close the congress.
Standing together with the rest of the international delegates on the stage, we joined in with the exuberant crowd as the audience continuously broke out in anti-imperialist chants, and danced as they waited for the leader of the revolution.
"If the conflict begins, we want guns!" they exclaimed, to which Chavez responded "The conflict has already begun!" adding that "a conflict has begun across the continent and the world".
Welcoming the creation of the JPSUV as a powerful instrument to help organise young people and push forward the revolution, Chavez reminded those present that the doors were also open for young people to join the National Bolivarian Armed Forces and the Bolivarian Popular Militias in order to defend the revolution, which today is directly in the firing line of US imperialism.
He announced that, as part of the restructuring of the armed forces, he would make half-time military service available to young people, so they could spend half the week training in the barracks and the other half studying or doing social work.
While the exact number of youth involved throughout the entire process is hard to calculate, and undoubtably not everything went to plan, the congress left no doubt that we were in the presence of a truly mass organisation of socialist youth committed to the defence of the revolution.
The formation of the JPSUV started a process of cohering dispersed sectors, organisations and, above all, individuals previously unorganised, into a powerful tool for the revolution.
Being able to participate as one of more than 20 official international delegates from 16 countries in Latin America, Europe and Oceania, representing the socialist youth organisation, Resistance, I could see — in the discussions and debates over issues such as food sovereignty, defence of the nation and the statutes of the organisation — that here was a range of young people from different backgrounds, experiences and political levels, all willing to actively participate and have their voices heard.
For example, some of the originally proposed statutes, seen by many of the delegates as top-down, were reformed, allowing for more active participation at all levels of the JPSUV. The congress also approved a declaration of principles and various documents rejecting the planned coup against Chavez and in solidarity with the Bolivian government.
The election of the national leadership, to be made up of 30 people — 27 elected by the grassroots and three elected by indigenous members of the PSUV — was deferred to a later date.
Commenting on the congress, Hector Rodriguez, who is part of the promoters commission for the JPSUV and recently designated secretary of the presidency, said this event was "historic", as never before had Venezuela had a political youth movement of this size.
Rodriguez said: "As young people we have been told that we are the future, but this is a lie they have been telling us. If we look at the world today, we do not have a future in front of us. Instead, what is necessary is for young people to organise themselves and fight to make that future we all dream of a reality."
"That is why we are here to give our all for the revolution, our joy, our hope, our light and even our lives if necessary, for a better homeland, for a dignified homeland, for a revolutionary homeland", he said.
Following the successful congress, a meeting of international delegates together with JPSUV leaders, including Rodriguez, was held in Miraflores Palace. The meeting agreed to put more effort into strengthening the Student Network for the Unity of Our America, REUNA, as well as working towards a congress of Latin American left youth organisations, with observers from the rest of the world, in the first quarter of next year, to propose an alliance of these organisations.
[Fred Fuentes is a member of the socialist youth organisation Resistance, visit