"The internal situation will intensify over the next months, more contradictions will emerge, simply because we have no plans to hold back the march of the revolution", said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on March 24, speaking to more than 2000 promoters of the new socialist party being constructed in Venezuela. "These contradictions", he said, would "intensify, because we are dealing with the economic issue, and there is nothing that hurts a capitalist more than his pocket, but we have to enter into this issue, we cannot avoid it".
On July 28, while attending a meeting of his local battalion of the provisionally named United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Chavez reiterated this point: "We are in the presence of one of the most important moments [in this revolution], like during the coup [in April 2002]." Chavez explained that this was because, as well as open enemies of the revolution, there were also "snakes" who worked to undermine the revolution from within, which the new party aimed to combat.
Since Chavez was re-elected on an explicitly socialist platform on December 3, the Bolivarian revolution — as the process of transforming Venezuela in the interests of the poor majority is known — has gone on the offensive. The first half of this year has seen the revolutionary government advance its plan to nationalise strategic industries and promote the "explosion" of popular power — primarily through the communal councils, as well as calling for the creation of worker, student and campesino (peasant) councils. The most recent initiative is Chavez's proposed constitutional reforms aimed at enshrining popular power and creating a legal framework for the creation of a "new socialism of the 21st century".
These moves have intensified the class struggle, and Chavez has called for the construction of the PSUV to enable revolutionary militants to unify their efforts. In response, almost 5.7 million people have registered to become members.
Unity from below
Although Chavez's public announcement of plans for the new party came on December 15 during a speech to activists who worked on his election campaign, he made numerous references to the need for a new party during the campaign. Several months earlier, Chavez had called a closed meeting to bring together the leaders of the various pro-Chavez parties and key individuals to explain his proposal for a new party to be formed post-election.
Chavez, in his December 15 speech, proposed all left currents unite to form "a political instrument that puts itself at the service of the people … at the service of socialism". As part of this process, Chavez has continuously called on the other pro-Chavez parties to dissolve, following the example of his own party, the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), to help facilitate building a new united party, arguing the revolution does not need "an alphabet soup … We need a political instrument that unites wills and is not worn down in intestinal fights."
While most of the smaller parties have followed the MVR, the Homeland for All Party (PPT), Podemos, and the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) — which, after the MVR, receive the most electoral support in the pro-Chavez camp — have so far declined to dissolve, although many members from these parties have left to participate in the PSUV.
Chavez argued the new party should build on the existing organisation of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans in grassroots groups that carried out the immense mobilisation that saw Chavez re-elected the highest number of votes in Venezuela's history. "In this new party the bases will elect the leaders. This will allow for the emergence of real leaders."
He added that "A new party needs new faces". He insisted that the new party cannot simply be a "coming together of what already exists", as "that would be fooling the people".
In a speech on April 19, Chavez explained the relationship that should exist between the party and the "multitudes". The party had the role of developing consciousness among the broadest layers, while at the same time "out of the multitudes emerge the cadre, the leaders".
Reformism and dogmatism
Chavez argued that it was necessary to combat two currents within the revolution that would undermine the creation of a mass revolutionary party. One was reformism, which he dubbed in his March 28 speech "the silent assassin", that aims to put a brake on the process. Chavez has repeatedly pointed to Podemos, which defines itself as social democratic, as representing this current. Leaders of Podemos have argued increasingly right-wing positions, echoing some of the views of the US-backed opposition.
The second current is dogmatism. Chavez argued that the PSUV was not "a Marxist-Leninist project". He claimed that "If Karl Marx and Vladimir Ilich Lenin were alive today" and studied the modern world, "I am sure that they would not come up with a radically different thesis, but with a number of differences to the thesis they developed …" Chavez pointed to what he argued were dogmatic errors committed by Latin American communist parties, including by the PCV both through its history and in the current period.
In his December 15 speech, Chavez emphasised the new party would not be Stalinist, pointing out that after the premature death of Lenin, the Bolshevik party, which had led the Russian Revolution in 1917, fell prey to a "Stalinist deviation", creating an elitist regime that could never create socialism.
However, Chavez also argued: "We know that one of Karl Marx's proposals was precisely that of the dictatorship of the proletariat; but that is not viable for Venezuela in these times."
Instead, Chavez stated, "We, here, are going to construct a Venezuelan socialism, the original Venezuela socialist model and a political instrument that helps us conquer that objective!"
According to the document being distributed by the national promoters team to the battalions formed to construct the PSUV, the "point of unity" for the different strands of "revolutionary and socialist thoughts" within the PSUV would be the ideology of Bolivarianism — which takes its name from Simon Bolivar, who liberated much of South America from Spanish rule in the 19th century. This ideology is described as the sum of "the most famous effort for national and social emancipation of our past, the most genuine Latin American internationalism", and as being "the motor of the socialist revolution unfolding in Venezuela".
The document argues that the declaration of principles for the new party, which will be the product of widespread discussion, would represent "the synthesis and surpassing of all the revolutionary forces of Venezuela", embracing those that belong to "the exploited and oppressed classes, along with all the men and women that embrace the Bolivarian ideal".
The document argues that "capitalism in its imperialist phase has reached its limits" and claims that capitalism can only continue to expand the gap between rich and poor — within and between countries — and threatens the planet with extinction.
"The conclusion is clear", the document says, "to end poverty, it is necessary to give power to the poor and construct socialism; to end war, it is necessary to put an end to imperialism". This is the task that the Venezuelan revolution has set itself, "placing itself in the vanguard of this struggle" around the world.
The second document for discussion deals with the question of what program the new party should have. It notes that while there is no single political program "for all times and all places", the PSUV should have as its clear objective the construction of "a government based on councils of popular power, where the workers, campesinos, students and popular masses are the direct protagonists of political power".
It proposes moving towards "a democratically planned and centralised economy, capable of ending the alienation of labour and satisfying all the necessities of the people", which should "plan production and the satisfaction of collective necessities in harmony with the requirements of the ecosystem".
The document of principles states that "just as it is indisputable that private ownership over the means of production, in any society, determines labour relations, human relations and all aspects of life", in the transition beyond capitalism, it is necessary to "guarantee the conscious participation of the majorities, and the necessary efficiency to comply with all the requirements of national life …"
The document argues that central to the party's revolutionary strategy should be "the alliance of the people with the Armed Forces, just like that of the workers with the middle classes of the countryside and city (small and medium campesinos, small industrial bourgeois and urban and rural commerce)".
Its method of struggle should be based on "the largest possible number of men and women [involving] themselves in the resolution of all the problems" through the communal councils, the military reserves, and "in the specific area of industrial workers … through workers' control and self-management".
According to the document, the current world situation creates, and makes necessary, the formation of "an international anti-imperialist bloc on a grand scale" made up of governments, social movements and parties "to unite in action hundreds of millions of people in all the world against imperialism and its wars".
Moreover, the current wave of rebellion in Latin America opens up the possibilities of "qualitative transformation", in the struggle for liberation being waged by "tens of millions of exploited and oppressed". Therefore, the document states that internationally the PSUV should work to construct "a world anti-imperialist bloc" and "socialist and revolutionary convergence of the people of Latin America and the Caribbean", conscious of its role as "a vanguard in an era of immense challenges and great victories: capitalism is international; the revolution is international; international must be the thought and actions we carry out".
Speaking on August 26, Chavez stressed the internationalist character of the PSUV and called for a new "international" of left-wing parties, saying "2008 could be a good time to convoke a meeting of left parties in Latin America to organise a new international, an organisation of parties and movements of the left in Latin America and the Caribbean".
Chavez concluded: "There is a resurgence of consciousness of the people and we must continue building the movements and leaders of a new left, of a new project."