[For Edgardo Lander, a Professor of Social Studies at Caracas' Central University, the
establishment of a disciplinary tribunal in Chavez’s new socialist
party before it even has statutes and structures is a worrying sign for
those committed to radical democracy in Venezuela. Click here to view a Spanish version of this article.]
Party Disciplinarians: The Threat to Dissidence and Democracy in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela
The establishment of a disciplinary tribunal in Chavez’s new socialist party before it even has statutes and structures is a worrying sign for those committed to radical democracy in Venezuela.
note: The United Socialist Party of Venezuela was proposed by President
Chavez during the 2006 elections after winning several elections with a
coalition and left and progressive parties. His proposal to unite the
Venezuelan left was accepted by several (but not all) small parties who
agreed to dissolve and help form the new party.
On 5 March 2007, Chavez announced the start of the process for forming the party and the designation of a technical council to oversee the process. He also outlined the first steps which would include swearing-in and recruitment of members, formation of local “socialist batallions”, a founding assembly and elections of a party council.
Edgardo Lander is a TNI fellow and Professor of Social Studies at Caracas University who has been part of the organising committee of the World Social Forum and worked as part of the Venezuelan Government negotiating team to defeat the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.
The style of debate and the mechanisms for resolving differences currently being developed within the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV) are extremely serious. If its style of leadership, decision-making structures and dispute mechanisms are not swiftly reversed, then the new party structure will be one that develops Stalinist conceptions and practices.
This is not an issue that only concerns present candidates or future members of this party, but one that concerns the whole of the Venezuelan population, and the millions of people on this continent and the rest of the world who are monitoring the present Venezuelan political process with the expectation that it is possible, in today’s world, to confront predatory-militarised capitalism and take steps towards the construction of another possible world, a world of radical democracy and never-ending democracy.
This is not about any old party, or about just one more among many parties. It is about the party of the government (of the State?), the party of President Chavez, the party which seeks to bring together all the political sectors that support the government. Its more or less democratic, plural or participatory nature or, by contrast, more or less vertical or authoritarian nature, will be the measure of the model of society that it will be possible to build as a result of the present processes of change that are taking place in the country. It will not be possible to make progress in the deepening of democracy, in the construction of an ever more democratic society, with sustained growth in popular participation if the main political instrument of the process of change in society, in this case the PSUV in its formative stage, is not a democratic organisation.
In this regard, the information that has recently been made public with regard to the creation and operation of the Disciplinary Tribunal of the PSUV is worrying.
Firstly, what is very striking is that a political party which is in the process of creation, a party that does not yet have members or doctrinal documents, has no statutes, and does not yet have organic structures, should already have a Disciplinary Tribunal in operation, a Tribunal which has already been sent its first case for consideration.
At the end of August, President Chavez addressed an audience of ‘socialist battalion’ members at the Caracas Polyhedron on the subject of the high level of discipline that every aspiring member of the future revolutionary party should have, and reported that a ‘Provisional Disciplinary Committee of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’ had been created, presided over by the governor of Miranda State, Diosdado Cabello1.
The first action of this Disciplinary Committee came about with regard to the conduct and declarations made by deputy Francisco Ameliach, who, until then was the Coordinator of the United Socialist Block in the National Assembly. As it has publicly transpired, deputy Ameliach had expressed the opinion that if by the time of regional elections in 2008 the formation of the PSUV had not concluded, “we will revive the organisations that are legally registered…”2 , that is, the Fifth Republic Movement (Movimiento Quinta República, MVR,)3.
The response by Chavez was devastating:
“I have passed a national leader (who aspires to be part of the party) to the Disciplinary Council for talking nonsense. I will be watching closely … Critical thinking is fundamental to a revolution, but that is very different to going around talking badly about a party that has not been born, collecting signatures to present them who knows where. Anyone who wants to be an anarchist, get out of here, you are not wanted, what is needed here is a creative, but disciplined active membership.” 4
Immediately, in the National Assembly it was announced that Ameliach was suspended, or had resigned, first from the Presidency of the National Assembly’s Defence Commission5, and the next day, from the Coordination of the Parliament’s United Socialist Block6. His replacements were named immediately.
Recalling ‘self-criticisms’ from the past, deputy Ameliach declared a few days later that it had been his decision to resign from the Presidency of the National Assembly’s Defence Commission and the Coordination of the United Socialist Block, and that his conduct had been a “political mistake”, confirming his loyalty to the “only leader of the process”7. He denied the existence of a letter signed by 140 deputies, and stated that “…what exists is a draft document that collects some concerns of some deputies that I, Francisco Ameliach, sent to President Chavez, so that he as leader, can take the decisions he wishes to take”…. “I have been extremely loyal to President Chavez; here a revolution is impossible without President Chavez”.8
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