Venezuela: Socialist party sets goals, confronts serious problems

February 5, 2011
PSUV national meeting in Caracas, January 19

More than 1000 members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) met with President Hugo Chavez on January 19 and decided on five key strategic lines for the next two years.

The discussion included recognition of important weaknesses in the party.

Chavez, who is also president of the governing PSUV, presented the document, Strategic Lines of Political Action of the PSUV for 2011-2012, to the “National Assembly of Socialists” in Vargas state.

About 1440 party leaders were present.

PSUV legislator Jesus Farias said the idea of the “Socialist Assembly” was to “relaunch the project that the PSUV represents, in unity with other political organisations and social groups”.

He said the “reflection and establishment of new lines of action for the PSUV is related to a need to strengthen the party as a great machine of agitation and propaganda”.

Chavez said: “One of the big challenges that we have is to re-unify ... there are people who are dispersed, who have stopped believing ...

“Let’s go after them ... and convince them to re-join ... That is one of the short term aims as we head towards 2012.”

Many PSUV leaders have characterised 2012 as a “defining year” due to the regional elections of mayors and governors and the presidential election taking place.

Chavez proposed the creation of “Patrol points” and a “circle of action” or “popular struggle circles”, which would be in charge of diagnosing socio-economic problems and seeking solutions.

The PSUV is organised into “patrols” of about 50 people in any region-based area, workplace, or university.

This structure was a change from the previous one of “battalions” of about 300 PSUV registered members in any electoral district. The change to patrols aimed to increase participation and ideological formation, but most patrols are not active and do not meet.

Chavez criticised the party for not being visible enough within people’s “reality”.

The final document coming out of the “Socialist Assembly” outlined five key strategies for the party over the next two years.

It recognised the achievements of the party and the pro-poor “Bolivarian revolution”.

These included the “politicisation of society and popular protagonism, social inclusion, progressive advancement in the satisfying of human needs, the increased consciousness of our people, and the great achievement of the re-conquest of national independence”.

Its list of internal party problems included: “Bureaucratisation, opportunism, and sectarianism.”

The first of the five strategic lines outlined in the document is: “From political capitalist culture to socialist militancy.”

The document refers to the “capitalist culture’s” oil rentier model of political parties when Chavez was first elected president in 1998. Under this model, being a member of a party meant financially investing in the party.

Such involvement brought the benefit of jobs within the state or influence within it.

The document said the Bolivarian revolution has confronted this by “favouring direct contact with the people”.

However, the document recognised that because of “capitalist culture”, the “social Bolivarian base” has gradually “moved away”.

“Capitalist culture” is reproduced in the party, which for some sectors has become a method of “social promotion”. It is important the party doesn’t see its members just as “transmitters” of the main party line.

The second strategic line is: “Convert the machinery [of the PSUV] into a party-movement at the service of the struggles of the people.”

The document stresses the importance of “electoral mobilisation ... but principally, of ideological formation and coherency and synchronisation of popular actions”.

The document recognised that, within the PSUV, elections have been conceived of as an “end in of themselves rather than a task within the struggle for radically democratising society”.

The document said that, within the party, “the aspirations of militants to achieve internal democracy, in some senses, have been frustrated by some members with leadership or government positions”.

Therefore a “revision of the methods of selection of our authorities and candidates” is necessary.

Also, active members use too much energy in coordination and information meetings, rather than “in the communities with the people”.

The PSUV needs to establish a “wide range of alliances with various forms of popular organisation”, the document said.

The third strategic line is to: “Convert the party into a powerful means of propaganda, agitation and communication.”

The party needs to “resume its role as agitator of the popular masses”.

The fourth strategic line is: “The PSUV as a platform of development and strengthening of popular power.” This means there is a need to deepen the links between the party and “the masses”.

The document proposes the patrols organise the “popular struggle circles” as ways to “articulate the party with social movements and popular organisations” and “map conflicts and social problems generated by capitalism or the inefficiency of the state as well as projects proposed by the community”.

Popular struggle circles develop a plan to link with existing and emergency struggles and with relevant civil servants.

The final strategic line is about developing the Patriotic Pole (PP), proposed by Chavez in October, as a coalition of left-wing political parties and social movements.

The PP was first formed in 1998 as an electoral coalition to support Chavez’s campaign.

There is also the proposed creation of “Patriotic Bicentenary Councils” in all municipalities. These would involve members of the party, members of allied parties and “all forms of popular revolutionary organisation”.

The councils would have two main objectives: to debate and approve a concrete plan of construction of socialism; and to promote the popular struggle circles.

On the question the separation of party and state, Chavez proposed that high-level government officials, such as mayors, governors, and even the president, should not occupy party leadership positions.

Chavez said: “I should provide an example. We need a president of the socialist party. There are many comrades who could assume this role.

“This is just an idea.”

The PSUV was formed in 2007 following a call by Chavez for all left wing parties, or parties that supported him, to dissolve themselves and unite into one socialist party. Most of the more than 20 political parties that backed Chavez in the 2006 presidential elections agreed to join together to form the PSUV.

Some, however - including the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) - did not join, although the PCV is part of the PP.

The PSUV has about 7 million formally registered members.

[Abridged from .]

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