Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Founding Of The PSUV Youth - A Crucial Battle In The Bolivarian Revolution

By Patrick Larsen in Venezuela
Monday, 25 August 2008

The Venezuelan revolution today finds itself at its most critical stage ever. After a narrow but alarming defeat in the December 2007 referendum, the revolutionary movement faces a new, important test in the November elections for mayors and governors. Preparations are in full swing, and the counter-revolution is trying to mobilize maximum forces to win as many positions as possible, in order to use them in their continued campaign to undermine support for Chávez and the revolution.

As part of this campaign, the sabotage of the capitalists continues, with scarcity of many basic food products. Speculation is an additional factor that has boosted inflation to extreme levels, making it very difficult for hundreds of thousands of working class and urban poor families to make ends meet at the end of each month. Crime rate has also increased - something the opposition conveniently uses to discredit the government.

If the revolution is to sweep away the counter-revolution, it must resolve these problems. We must remember that in December 2007, the referendum was not lost because of a big increase in votes for the opposition. It was lost because approximately 3 million people who had previously voted for Chávez abstained. The reformists attempt to explain this abstention as stemming from the allegedly "low" level of consciousness of the masses. They promote the idea that this was a proof that the Venezuelan people are "not ready" for socialism.

However, for the Marxists, the explanation is very different. From our point of view, the analysis of the December defeat is still the key to understanding the present situation and the tasks that lie ahead. In our opinion, the abstention of three million chavistas was not at all due to the "low" level of the masses. In fact, what is astonishing is the degree of loyalty displayed by the Venezuelan working class and peasants to Chávez and the revolution. Time and again they have moved to defend the revolution against its enemies - not only in electoral battles - but on the streets, in the factories and the military barracks.

The reason the December referendum was lost was is because after 10 years of almost uninterrupted mobilizations, the masses see that their main problems remain unsolved. The power of the oligarchy is still in place, and even though the government has tried to put a check to this with partial measures and nationalizations such as SIDOR, Los Andes, the cement industry and recently Banco de Venezuela, this is not enough to stop the sabotage of the capitalists and begin a serious plan of production that can solve the pressing problems of the masses. To do this would require the complete expropriation of the bourgeoisie and a Socialist plan of production, distribution and exchange, democratically worked out by the workers and peasants.

The PSUV Youth

The PSUV, which had its founding congress in February-March, enjoys widespread support. In June, some 2.5 million party members participated in the internal elections to determine the party's candidates for mayors and governors. Another two million are closely following the development of the party from the sidelines.

The most recent development is the call on behalf of the national party leadership to set up the PSUV Youth organization. This is of the highest importance. As we shall see, the youth have played a very important role throughout the Venezuelan revolution. The formation of the PSUV Youth is something that the Marxists of the CMR (Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria) have been advocating for the last year. It was the central slogan of the two Marxist youth encounters held in Caracas in July 2007 and in Ciudad Bolívar in November 2007, which brought together many young people from all over Venezuela.

The founding congress of the PSUV Youth is set to take place on September 13-15th in Rio Chíco, in the state of Miranda. At present the process of electing voceros (spokesmen) per each 10 youth is taking place in the Socialist battalions (branches of the PSUV). The idea is that these spokespersons will then join with a further 9 spokespersons from other PSUV battalions, and from among them, elect a delegate to the founding congress. In that way, the plan is that the founding congress will represent as many as 140,000 young PSUV members.

The Youth in the Bolivarian Revolution

In the bourgeois media on a world scale, the Venezuelan youth (especially the students) are often portrayed as ardent supporters of the opposition. This is a blatant lie which is intended as a means of shoring up public opinion against the Chávez government. The reality is somewhat different.

The beginning of the Bolivarian revolution was an invaluable source of inspiration to tens of thousands of Venezuelan youth. In the poor urban neighborhoods, many young people began to form Bolivarian circles, groups and societies. Even in the old universities, which have traditionally been dominated overwhelmingly by the children of the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeoisie, the revolution found a resounding echo.

At every decisive juncture, young people have energetically defended the revolution. For example, this was the case a year ago, when small gangs of fascist youth, supporters of the opposition, tried to set up burning barricades and blockade the streets of Caracas, in response to the non-renewal of RCTV's license. At that time - and again during the December referendum - the balance of forces was clearly very favourable to the revolution. While the opposition students could only mobilize a couple of thousand, the Bolivarian youth organizations mobilized more than one hundred thousand.

In the heat of the revolution, different youth organizations were born, most notably the Frente Francisco Miranda (FFM), which was started in 2003. Chávez gave it important support, both morally and financially. The FFM was launched with revolutionary slogans and called for young people in the poor neighbourhoods to get organized and solve local problems at the community level. It also began to organize brigades of Venezuelan youth to go to Cuba, where they received political and ideological courses, etc. As a result, the organization grew rapidly. In the space of less than one year, it had grown to more than 40,000 members, and had hundreds of organizers in communities throughout Venezuela.

But there was another side to this as well. The organization was born with a highly bureaucratic, top-down structure, and the leadership did not allow criticism within the ranks. Ideologically, the FFM leadership tended towards a Stalinist position, only advocating Socialism after Chávez had embraced it, and focusing on the idealist conception of creating "a new Socialist human being", instead of pointing out the main political tasks that the Bolivarian revolution faces. As a result, this led slowly but surely to the widespread demoralisation of the membership, with thousands abandoning the FFM. From more than 40,000 it dropped to around 8,000 at the present moment.

This experience provides a clear warning. A genuine revolutionary youth organisation must have a fully democratic structure or it will become stale and the youth will abandon it. Also, if the PSUV Youth do not adopt the ideas of Marxism, it will inevitably fall under the influence of other ideas (reformism and/or Stalinism). As happened to the FFM, this would ruin the organization and all the revolutionary potential of the youth will vanish.

A Crucial Battle

There are historical experience as well, that allow us to fully appreciate the significance of the PSUV Youth. In the 1930s, Trotsky carefully analyzed the situation in the workers' movement. At that time there was a ferment in the working class that began to express itself in the Socialist Youth in various countries. In France, where there was an important pre-revolutionary movement of the working class, Trotsky advocated his supporters to enter the Socialist Youth and win over its left wing to Marxism. This tactic was unfortunately only carried out too late and in a half-way manner.

In Spain, where a revolution had begun in 1931 with the proclamation of the Second Republic, the Socialist Youth become extremely radicalized between 1933 and 1935. The possibilities for a revolutionary Marxist tendency within the Spanish Socialist Youth were huge. Trotsky understood this and advocated the entry of his followers. He even predicted, in the summer of 1934, that if the Trotskyists did not win over the bulk of the Socialist Youth in France (and Spain), they would be won by the Stalinists.

This was exactly what happened in Spain, where the Trotskyists under the leadership of Andreu Nin rejected the call by the Socialist Youth leadership to join their ranks in order to "Bolshevise" the Socialist movement. The Stalinists were more clever and understood that the mass base of the Socialist Youth would be decisive for the outcome of the Spanish Revolution. In 1935 they fused their Youth Organisation with the Socialist Youth, and in the coming years, used this mass base to effectively impose their moderate slogans on the movement ("First win the war against Franco, and only afterwards win the Revolution"). As we know, the result was a crushing defeat of the Spanish working class that led to 40 years of Franco dictatorship.

This lesson should be fully absorbed by the Marxists today. The CMR will be actively participating in the building of the Youth. We will fight shoulder to shoulder with the left wing delegates and put forward a Marxist position in the discussions that will take place in the congress (so far, we know that the food scarcity question and the question of military defence against imperialism are on the agenda).

Throughout the country, there are young people in dozens of local collectives as well as unorganized activists who will see the PSUV Youth as a possible revolutionary tool that can throw out the bureaucracy and finish the power of the oligarchy. These layers have seen first hand that reformism does not work, and they are searching for other ideas. This is the reason why the recent speaking tour of the British Marxist theoretician Alan Woods - organized by the CMR - was such an unprecedented success, precisely because he explained revolutionary ideas that connected with the aspirations of the rank and file of the movement.

It is the duty of any genuine revolutionary to work with these wide layers of Bolivarian youth and win them over to the programme and methods of revolutionary Marxism.

Ciudad Guayana
August 18, 2008



Ducky's here said...

Unfortunately ren, there hasn't been much of a solution to the problems imposed by price controls.

I don't know how long gains by the working class can be sustained in that environment.

Bolivia, like all landlocked poor nations without rich neighbors has an even tougher road to go. It's much the same problem as trying to bring "capitalism" to Afghanistan. Note that capitalism managed to turn both coutries into drug dealers.

Phil said...

A very positive development. I'm sure our comrades will be active in it too.

Frank Partisan said...

Ducky: Countries like El Salvador have fully stocked supermarkets, because people can't afford to pay for groceries. Venezuela has been getting a larger middle class.

Chavez has room due to oil wealth, to import food products.

Some actions have been taken against the conscious sabotage, but not enough. Speculation is more of a problem than price controls.

Drugs linked to Venezuela, is a Beakerkin fabrication. The rightist bloggers never talk about the documented closeness between Escobar and Uribe.

I'm planning a post on Colombia. The article is really long and in three parts. I might post just the links. It goes into everything, FARC etc.

Phil: Your comrades don't support the PSUV, as far as I know.

MC Fanon said...

IDM consistently offers the highest-quality Marxist analysis of the Venezuelan situation of any source on the subject. I think the comparisons between Venezuela and Spain are apt. Chavez will need to take some critical actions in the coming years towards revolutionizing the state. He has nearly taken the bourgeois structure of the Venezuelan government to its farthest extreme leftward.

Frank Partisan said...

Dave Marlow: The Int'l Marxist Tendency was the first socialist group, to recognize what was happening in Venezuela.

Alan Woods toured Venezuela, speaking to thousands of factory workers. He was on national television as well. The national oil company bought 10,000 copies of his new book, attacking the reformist ideas of Heinz Dietrich, the "creator" of the idea of 21st century socialism.

ModernityBlog said...

Off topic:

Harry’s Place has been attacked, and is functioning from a backup blog,

Your support in this matter would be appreciated

Dave Brown said...

To my knowledge the Woods tendency doesnt say is it necessary for the rank and file to be independent of the Bolivarian Party and the Chavez government.

I support youth caucusing in the PSUV, I don't support a special youth branch of the PSUV, called into existence by the pre-founding Congress leadership! That's a recipe for cooption because it creates a left wing of the PSUV for the specific purpose of containing new layers of youth. Nevertheless, despite and because of this fact, revolutionaries should be fighting inside the PSUV to break workers out of it into a real workers party.

Why do I say that? Because the PSUV is a popular front party that contains elements of the bourgeoisie, a fatal flaw, giving the enemy class the opportunity to mislead and contain the revolutionary comrades.

The parallel with Spain in the 1930s is important. The purpose of Trotskyists joining the Socialist Youth was to break them from the Socialist Party and the popular front, not to give the popular front a left cover.

So while it is necessary to enter the PSUV (and youth can play an important role in this), this is to win workers to an independent workers party with a workers' program.

That program should be at the forefront of the fight today with urgent demands not just directed at Chavez, (which are necessary to expose his Bonapartist role) but to organise workers into councils and militias able to take control of all bourgeois firms necessary to meet the workers needs.

This means, not just demanding that Chavez nationalises land to feed the people, but that the poor people actually occupy and put this land into production now.

It means not just demanding that Chavez nationalises the Bank of Venezuela WITHOUT compensation, but puts it under workers control so that it can supply credit to cultivation and food production, as well as investment in plants under workers control.

The main demand to unite and organise workers around their own program must be NOT, join the PSUV as the road to socialism, but call a national congress of workers, poor peasants and youth, to put in place the means whereby a socialist planned economy can be put into effect. Representing youth inside the PSUV, in order to break workers from the PSUV, should be part of that program.

Dave Brown CWG NZAotearoa

Frank Partisan said...

Dave: I don't see how it's possible to be independent of the PSUV at this time. It would seperate our tendency, from being able to even talk to Bolivarians.

At this point if you don't support the PSUV, you are supporting the oligarchy.

Most on the left who oppose entry into the PSUV, have no members or from small sects. The PSUV is the largest openly pro socialist party in the world. To be outside is political suicide.

By being inside we are able to promote the idea of expropriation without compensation and have an audience. Bolsheviks even joined police unions, so joining the PSUV is not bad.

Dave Brown said...

Then this is not the entrism that Trotsky supported, which requires you to stay independent by entering a party standing openly on your whole program. That's why entrism is short term and usually ends with you being thrown out. THe point of entrism in a formation like the PSUV is to break it up, not push it to the left.

If you think it is potentially a workers party and give away your independence to stay in, then you have already conceded to the bourgeois program, even by demanding that Chavez doesnt pay compensation. That demand is good but it should only be directed at him to prove that he can't and won't do it.

The only chance of him doing it is if he is forced to by workers taking over workplaces independently of the state and condemning the state for paying bosses compensation out of the wealth generated by workers which can be used to plan the development of industry and agriculture.

landsker said...

Hi Ren. Eye.
From the references to Spain in the 1930`s, the author appears to portray the civil war as being a battle between left and right, where the left is composed solely of Marxists and Stalinists.
No mention of the Anarchists, who were at the centre of the battles in Barcelona, and have also been chronicled as being active at Madrid, Valencia, Teruel, Zaragoza, the balearics etc. .

Not wishing to deflect from the topic of the post, but so little attention is paid to this important facet of the workers battle to wrest political power from capitalism.
Ok, I`ll get my hat now, time for work!

Jobove - Reus said...

You are an oasis inside the American desert
A greeting

troutsky said...

I think Dave mis-reads the readiness of revolutionary forces. Any division within Bolivarian unity right now will provide a disasterous opening for the Right, not just in Venezuela but Bolivia,Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay. Gains must be consolidated continent wide,food security must be first priority.

Frank Partisan said...

Landsker: Thank you for visiting.

If the Spanish anarchists joined the existing unions, instead of setting up counter institutions, they could have outvoted the Stalinists.

Té la mà Maria - Reus: One of these days I should post about the Spanish Civil war. The pictures at your blog were very good.

Troutsky: I agree. The PSUV has over 5 million members. That is not something to be ignored.

Dave: I'll reply late tonight.

Frank Partisan said...

Dave: There are over 5 million members of the PSUV.

There is a fight for the heart of the party. Big sections of unionists, are working to get rid of the hacks. Several candidates endorsed by Chavez, have not received endorsements.

A time might come when splitting the PSUV may be necessary or possible. That is not done from the outside.

The idea of nationalization without compensation and other measures, don't come in one swoop. We bring that idea right to the PSUV base.

The PSUV does have to move fast. The masses have attended rally after rally, and heard promise after promise for about 10 years. They do tire. An upheavel this long is an anomaly of history.

ortho said...

Wow, another superb article! Thanks for sharing, Renegade Eye!

Mariamariacuchita said...

5 million members of the PSUV is not chicken feed.

So often leaders go in with good interests for representing the workers and end up over time working for their own interests.

This may be a rudimentary question, but I have wondered: What are the checks and balances to keep philosophical purity intact and systemic corruption from occurring while advancing the rights and needs of the workers?

troutsky said...

Marias question goes to the heart of the struggle : how to ensure participatory democracy, both in terms of process (such as rotating representatives, open meetings, published minutes etc)and fostering participation of all sectors (rather than educated technocrats,) especially those that present challenges to status quo.

Empowerment is not something that occurs magically overnight but I believe Bolivarian theory is generally on the right track. The language of "endogenous development " tells us a lot.

Anonymous said...

even though the government has tried to put a check to this with partial measures and nationalizations such as SIDOR, Los Andes, the cement industry and recently Banco de Venezuela, this is not enough to stop the sabotage of the capitalists and begin a serious plan of production that can solve the pressing problems of the masses.

Gee, where have I heard that argument before...

During the 1930s, work was hard to find in the United States and for the first time more people were leaving than arriving.

Many opted for the USSR, the vaunted worker’s paradise where, as legend had it, scientific socialism prevailed, as opposed to the chaos of capitalism.

The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia, tells their story, and a lot more.

Some were committed communists but most were ordinary American workers, mechanics, machinists, electricians, a multi-tasking group.

They arrived full of enthusiasm and played baseball in Gorky Park, unaware that their exploitation had already begun and their demise would not be long delayed. They may have got a hint when the Soviets grabbed their passports, which the regime later used to insert spies into the United States.

In the USSR, the Americans became “witness to, and victims of, the most sustained campaign of state terror in modern history.”

That judgment comes in the early going, a clue that author Tim Tzouliadis sees this horror story with clarity. No moral equivalence between USA and USSR in this account.

The master terrorist was Stalin, who targeted the Americans as wreckers, spies and saboteurs.

According to the logic, socialism is perfect so if things are not going well, and they weren’t, it can only be due to deliberate sabotage.

The Americans not summarily executed disappeared into prisons and slave labor camps.

It was terror on a scale that beggared belief, and the author, a documentary filmmaker and television journalist, has assembled the tragic stories.

There is no photo section, which would have given faces to the names.

Consider the case of Arthur Talent, a gifted violinist who came to study at the Moscow Conservatory.

He was arrested, tortured, and executed at the age of 21.

In other cases, the Soviets reasoned that if they released a certain prisoner he might be used to criticize the USSR, so they killed them.

Many others perished in the Gulag, where they had been transported in American ships and American trucks, to work in conditions far worse than any slavery to that time.

These Americans were truly forsaken, by their own government.

Tzouliadis shows how Joseph Davies, Roosevelt’s ambassador to the USSR, knew full well about their cases but did nothing.

The forsaken Americans got no help from Harry Hopkins, Henry Wallace or Stalinist devotees such as Paul Robeson. For the Soviets’ alibi armory, the attitude was your country, right or wrong.

Any criticism would play into the hands of anti-communists, and the forsaken Americans were on the wrong end of that dynamic, which lives on to this day.

...indeed it does. The must either kill the Kulaks or its' time to build the gulags...

Frank Partisan said...

This week the RNC is in St. Paul. I'm going to attend a legal, permitted demonstration, despite disagreements with the organizers about the political direction. There are many fake radicals, that with their loud rhetoric, front for the Dems.

Maria: In Venezuela inside the PSUV, is a big struggle for the heart of the party. In Venezuela there is the right to recall by ballot. There has been several times, that Chavez endorsed candidates didn't get the endorsement of the PSUV.

There was a problem, that is starting to disappear. It was people so happy with Chavez, they expected he'd always have the right answer. They are learning they need to rely on themselves as well.

Ortho: Thank you.

Troutsky: I agree.

FJ: There is some truth to what you said.

You left out that Trotskyists were the most consistent foes of Stalin.

I couldn't reprint what Trotsky thought of "The Nation Magazine."

Rita Loca said...

Don't place too much faith in the number of members in the party. Everyone working in any government capacity at any level had to join or lose their job. The same is true of many of the youth who had to join for a place in the schools.

Foxessa said...

Off this topic, Ren -- but I hope you are OK, today, Sept. 1, with all the police action going on in your hometown(s).

You're in our thoughts.

Love, C.

Frank Partisan said...

Foxessa about today's RNC demonstration:

The events with police, seemed to take place away from the main route of the demo. Most people could be at the main demo, without knowing what was going on at side streets.

My comrades and I, had disagreements with the organizers. The first was the vague slogans.

Secondly they made an agreement with the anarchists, supporting a diversity of tactics, and to not criticize each other.

A better way, is to democratically decide the tactics, and everybody be on the same page.

The police allowed rightist protesters to get too near to the main demonstration, allowing an obviously provocative situation. I don't think anything happened.

One person whose house was raided, I know is too smart to be in a direct confrontation with police. Amy Goodman was braver than I was. I wouldn't deviate from the march route.

I'm fine. I wouldn't go near masked guys dressed in all black.

The anarchists didn't even have a speaker on the platform to explain their position.

Most have illusions in Obama. The most militant rhetoric underneath it all, was only against Republicans. There are others with illusions about small groups.

Jungle Mom: I'll reply tomorrow.

Frank Partisan said...

JM: Several rightist Venezuelans go to the best schools, and have great jobs, without being in the PSUV.

Rita Loca said...

So, are you implying it is ok for the government to manipulate and control the poor and educated?
I notice you did not respond to the comment and articles which clearly show the military was involved in the nationalization and 'negotiations' process.
Are you aware of the black outs and power failures happening across the country due to the nationalization and lack of maintainance? Over half the country was without power for up to 12 hours. The outages are now daily and last for hours on end.
The Beauty of communism!
And you seem to have no comment on the new Telecommunication Law.

Frank Partisan said...

JM: It's not a communist party. It's a bourgeoise democracy, with a capitalist economy.

I don't know about the new telecommunications law.

I do know the electricity grid needs to be replaced. It has nothing to do with nationalizations.

I don't follow Venezuela day to day. I'm a socialist, which is different than a Bolivarian.

Rita Loca said...

Walks like a communist, talks like a communist...must be a communist!
Anyway, If you do not know what is actually happening in Venezuela, you should not be posting on it's greatness.

Masshole Marxist said...

I agree with your analysis that the referendum defeat is not due to the "masses not being ready for socialism."

Instead, it was due to frustration with the slow nature of the process (which you mention). Possibly more importantly is the fact that people were (RIGHTLY) suspicious of the extension of Chavez's personal power in the proposed Constitution. You don't mention this.

Of course, socialists should have supported a yes vote, but a CRITICAL yes vote. Socialists who actually did this were ostracized in the PSUV and the unions. Combine this with the populist balancing act and the insistence on personal power. Your tendency is going to end up with egg on its face.

REN SAYS: "At this point if you don't support the PSUV, you are supporting the oligarchy."

Doesn't sound like a Marxist to me. More like a black-and-white empiricist or a Marcyite or something.

"Most on the left who oppose entry into the PSUV, have no members or from small sects."

The Woods group in Venezuela has no more than a couple dozen members.

Alan Woods has writings on Mandelism and Pabloism which are quite good. Ted Grant's "Programme of the International" is essential reading for socialists. Look at how these writings contrast with your groups current Mandelite trajectory.

Frank Partisan said...

JM: Chavez is not a communist, nor is Venezuela a communist country.

Bryan: Often I respond to leftists who have no clue of the importance of what is happening in Latin America. When I said what sounded black and white, I was responding to Dave, who is from a Trotskyist group, that doesn't understand the process going on.

The IMG had a growth spurt in Venezuela, including a major Venezuelan TV reporter and host, joining.

We are not Bolivarians. We support the PSUV, with an independent line.

Do you have a blog?

Masshole Marxist said...

Fair enough response. I hope you aren't grouping me in with "leftists who have no clue of the importance..."

What is the IMT's analysis of PSoL in Brazil? This development to the left of the PT would seem to contradict the "traditional mass political organizations" mantra.

No, I don't have a blog. I'm a CWIer int the USA that lurks on the left "blogosphere" when I'm bored.

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