Venezuela: The revolution has a party


What makes the current situation in Venezuelan an era of social revolution is not the fiery rhetoric of its leaders, particularly of its central leader, President Hugo Chavez.

Popular participation helps clarify this issue, as it is part of the revolutionary process underway. But it is not its essence.

The discourse used interprets — and gives meaning to — a set of cultural, social, economic and political phenomena that underline sentiments and aspirations of a people repressed by a power structure controlling the globe.

That is why we have to go to the roots of this movement for change being led by Chavez to understand its nature.

It is true that there exists a historic tradition, renewed in the recent past with the insurrection of 1960s, something that could be considered as a antecedent to the current situation.

But it is also true that this rebellous nuclei was absorbed by the dominant structures created by capitalism. Carved up into multiple groups, who competed between themselves, the left became fully incorporated into the dominant oligarchy, which gave them tiny spaces of power within the existing corporative regime.

In doing so the oligarchy was able to consolidate the "illusion of harmony" advocated by the consensus of the elites in 1959.

Only a few small groups maintained their radical opposition. And although one of these groups, Causa R, was able to win significative popular support in the 1990s, the lack of internal political consensus — which manifested itself in conduct not consistent with the revolutionary movement — distanced it, like the rest of the political parties, from the nation's social bases.

Only the spontaneous movement of the excluded majorities, expressed in the form of the popular rebellion against International Monetary Fund-imposed price rises on essential goods of February 4, 1989 known as the Caracazo, was able to revive the rebellious spirit that had always present throughout Venezuelan history.

It was the historic crisis that generated the social explosion. The swift application of the neoliberal "Washington Consensus" — with its perverse effects on the non-privileged classes — was the spark that provoked the Caracazo.

But this showdown made no impact on the internal order of the state due to a lack of political leadership; a gap that was filled by the military rebellions of 1992, particularly that of February 4, carried out by the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement 200 (MBR-200) led by Chavez.

Although the attempt failed, the action converted its actors into a group that unified the discontented population, bringing into its orbit the large majority of the left political organisations that were attempting to revive themselves on the national stage.

This was the context that helped give birth to a revolutionary movement that today controls national power — gained peacefully via the electoral and political institutions established by the corporative rentist state that was dominated by the party-elite agreement in the functional spheres of society.

Without a doubt, a revolutionary program — inspired by the Rousseauian ideas of 19th century South American independence hero Simon Bolivar; and the socialist ideas of Bolivar's teacher Simon Rodriguez and peasant leader Ezequiel Zamora — provided the cement for the Chavez government.

But the relationship Chavez built with the social bases was direct and personal — between the leader of the process and the multitude that supported him.

The different parties that signed up with the movement, including the one formed by Chavez himself — the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR) — only acted as electoral machines with the goal of taking over the state apparatus, a necessary step in order to take the reigns of politics.

The formation of this historic bloc that brought together revolutionary social movements with political organisations, lacked the instruments to make their action effective.

Following the crushing victory that reelected Chavez president with 63% of the vote in December 2006, when the "promoters commission" to work towards the establishment of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was formed under Chavez's initiative.

This commission was an ad hoc organisation whose first task was the mobilisation of the multitude in order to achieve the massive PSUV membership enrolments. Almost six million people applied for membership in June last year. The next task was to organise them into functional units of action.

The process of selecting a national leadership, and debates over the principles and program, were the product of the direct participation of the grassroots. This dynamic resulted in a party that began to function by July this year.

From that moment on, the Venezuelan revolution has been able to count on a political organisation — an association of free people that desires to participate autonomously in the construction of a society inspired in a humanism that finds its best expression in socialism.

This is a socialism not conceived of as dogma.

Today, this party is being used to confront conservative reaction, including the imperial conduct of Washington, and through the lessons learned from practice, a theory for action is beginning to be constructed, along with a policy for its application.

The revolution has its party.

[Alberto Muller Rojas is the PSUV first vice-president. This article was first published in America XXI. It has been translated, with permission, by Federico Fuentes.]

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