The “socialist battalions” of Venezuela’s new political party met last week in open assembly in various districts of the capital Caracas. This is to be repeated across Venezuela.
The formation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was announced by president Hugo Chavez some months ago. When he called on people to join nearly six million people responded.
There were debates throughout the movement as to whether to register. The problem was, and is, that none of the structures or aims of the PSUV have yet been defined.
At one level, the response was an expression of loyalty to Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution.
For many workers, however, the issue of the independence of the trade unions was a key question – especially since a leading spokesperson of the PSUV had already suggested that anyone outside the PSUV was a “counter-revolutionary”.
The leaders of the new party spoke passionately about “people’s power”. Yet the PSUV was declared from above rather than built from below.
The purpose of the “battalions” is to “prepare people politically” to become full party members rather than candidate members. It is unclear whether that process will allow argument within the new party, or whether it is a process of selection.
A series of assemblies, beginning in September, will produce the programme and the organisation of the new party. This process that will be completed by December.
Chavez has announced that the PSUV will not be a Marxist party nor will it be based on class. The base units of the new organisation are to be geographical. This points to an electoral machine based on constituencies.
What “popular power” means to the majority of those who have supported Hugo Chavez, however, is something very different – direct control of communities from below and workers’ control of factories.
The reality is that while Venezuela has made many advances, it remains a capitalist economy in which private capital is still dominant, even when it is collaborating with the Bolivarian government.
If the PSUV is the party of government, the ability of the mass movement to organise and act independently of it is critical.
If, on the other hand, it becomes the political expression of that movement, challenging and questioning the government of Hugo Chavez, it will be a very different party from the one that is being built today.