Since January, tens of thousands of United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) militants, together with activists from other left parties and social movements, have been debating the future of Venezuela’s revolution.
Their sights are set on the crucial 2012 presidential elections.
This years’ pro-revolution May Day march will be the platform to officially launch Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s re-election bid.
The US-funded right-wing opposition is yet to decide its candidate, but the election will be critical to the future of a country undergoing a profound process of change.
A clear victory for Chavez — like the 63% he won in the 2006 elections — would give a powerful mandate to deepen the revolution.
However, the revolutionary forces face two key obstacles.
The first is US imperialism and its local allies in the opposition, who are desperate to get rid of Chavez.
Addressing a mass assembly of workers on April 26, Chavez warned that sections of the opposition dreamed of trying another coup or creating a scenario for a foreign intervention.
“We not only have to win the elections, we also have to impede them from upsetting national peace,” Chavez said.
The second challenge comes from within the revolution. It is the danger represented by the bureaucratism and corruption undermining the self-organisation and motivation of the poor and working people that make up the revolution’s base.
These weaknesses help explain the declining Chavista vote since 2006.
In this context, Chavez, who is also PSUV president, released a document titled “Strategic Lines of Political Action” on January 21.
The document has been distributed across the country and published in pro-revolution newspapers.
It aims to “open up a great debate within our own ranks, in the ranks of our allies and in the hearts of the people” and build “a plan of action for the next two years”.
The document says it is necessary to “recuperate and regroup those forces that are dispersed, demobilised, demoralised or confused due to our adversary or our own errors”.
Key proposals include the need to convert the PSUV from an electoral machine into a “party-movement” at the service of the struggles of the people that can help develop and strengthen popular power.
It also proposes the formation a “Great Patriotic Pole” to strengthen unity with other pro-revolution groups, while internal working within the PSUV to eradicate what it calls “capitalist culture” among its ranks.
The results of discussions on the document will be presented to Chavez on May 7 at a PSUV assembly.
On March 28, Chavez delayed his departure to Argentina — the first stop on a regional tour — to take part in a mass assembly called by PSUV leaders.
In a scathing attack on the vices plaguing the party, he warned: “The old way of doing politics is devouring us, the corruption of politics is devouring us … those old capitalist values that have infiltrated us from all sides.”
The Soviet Union failed, Chavez said, because its leaders “forgot their principles, they were corrupted”. The party needed to return to its principles to “recharge and refresh”.
Chavez called on those present to re-read the PSUV’s declaration of principles, program and statutes approved at the November 2009-April 2010 extraordinary party congress.
Chavez said those documents “came from the grassroots, from an open discussion, from a splendid participation”.
He said: “We held an extraordinary congress … because the party was going badly.”
Chavez said that it was necessary to govern “not by ordering, but obeying the people”. It is the people that must “order, challenge, scold, orientate and criticise us”.
Immediately afterwards, Chavez left to visit Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia. The tour came days after US President Barack Obama visited Brazil and Chile.
In the face of growing imperialist intervention internationally, notably in Libya, Chavez used the tour to push the need for regional integration. He delivered the message not just to heads of states, but social movements.
Speaking alongside Bolivian President Evo Morales at mass assembly of peasants and workers in Cochabamba, Chavez said: “The working class, miners, peasants, students, young people, soldiers, agricultural producers, intellectuals, social movements, indigenous people must always assume the vanguard of this struggle.
“This is the issue that I am insisting on with passion because I am conscious that time is passing and the danger lies in delaying. We cannot, must not hold back on [needed] strategic actions.”
Chavez stressed the importance of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), an anti-imperialist project for regional integration headed by Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia, as “the path for unity, for peace and the liberation of our peoples”.
He said there formally existed an ALBA Council of Social Movements, side by side with the presidential and economic councils, but criticised the fact it had not yet become a reality.
He urged social movements to hold planning meetings to elect spokespeople for a planned ninth presidential ALBA summit.
The Uruguayan and Argentine governments have stayed aloof from ALBA. But in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, Chavez invited Uruguayan social movements to take in the summit.