Sunday, May 06, 2007
SWP's international divided over Venezuela
In a remarkable statement by the Central Committee of the SWP’s sister organisation in New Zealand, internal divisions between the SWP and its international affiliates over the nature of the Venezuelan revolution are laid bare, as well as concerns about the privaleged position of the SWP within the IST's decision making.
This statement is a response to a proposal by the SWP’s Alex Callinicos (27 September 2006) that the International Socialist Tendency (IST) adopt a new "Coordination" structure. The IST is the international grouping of the SWP. Socialist Worker-New Zealand has been an affiliate of the IST since 1995.
The full text of their statement is a welcome appraisal of the significance of the Bolivarian revolution, and is worth reading in full . (See the Red Squirrel's blog for more on this topic ).
Socialist Worker (NZ) make a very positive assessment about the significance of the formation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) "While the initiative for the PSUV came from Chavez, it will be built "from below". Socialist militants, who played a key role in mobilising the Chavista vote during the 2006 presidential election, have become the "promoters" of the new mass socialist party. They are going out to the people to register members, who will be organised into "socialist battalions" of 200 people each. The aim is to organise 20,000 of these "battalions" across Venezuela, from which delegates will be elected to attend the PSUV's founding conference in August 2007. ”
Socialist Worker (NZ)'s appraisal is closer to that of the Australian DSP than the British SWP's. It was noticeable that Munyaradzi Gwisai , leader of the SWP's Zimbabwean affiliate and a former Member of Parliament in Harare, visited both Australia and New Zealand in the last two weeks, and his public meeting in Australian was built for by the DSP. Zimbabwe ISO is one of the most significant sections of the IST.
With regard to the SWP and the IST, the following section of the Socialist Woker (NZ) statement is very interesting:
"It is within the context of the deepening revolution in Venezuela that Socialist Worker-New Zealand responds to Alex Callinicos's proposal to create an IST "Coordination". Alex defines such a Coordination as consisting of "selected organisations" whose leaderships would consult and meet between annual IST gatherings "to deal with initiatives, problems, etc".
“Socialist Worker-New Zealand has two substantive concerns with this Coordination proposal. First, it is not intimately linked to the global political situation, and in particular to how the IST needs to engage with the mass revolutionary process in Venezuela. Instead, the proposal is couched in terms of the IST's own internal processes.
“Socialist Worker-New Zealand believes the unfolding Venezuelan revolution, if it continues to move in the direction it's currently going, will reshape the socialist and labour movements in every country on every continent, just as the unfolding Bolshevik revolution did from 1917-24. Therefore, rather than looking inwards, the IST needs to be focused outwards towards the most advanced revolutionary upsurge in 90 years and the global socialist regroupments it will inevitably set into motion.
“At present, there seem to be real differences between IST affiliates over the nature of what is happening in Venezuela. At one end of the IST spectrum, Socialist Worker-New Zealand see Chavez & Co as being at the centre of the most important "revolution in the revolution" since the Bolsheviks proclaimed "All power to the Soviets" in 1917 Russia. At the other end of the IST spectrum, the Venezuelan revolution was a "non-topic" in the official discussion bulletins of the British Socialist Workers Party in the lead-up to their national conference in January 2007.
“So how do we form an IST Coordination when the IST appears to lack real political coordination over the key strategic issue of Venezuela's revolution? If we were to do it just on the basis of IST tactical organisation, any such IST Coordination would be a sham from the outset.
“The deepening Venezuelan revolution has sparked intense discussions among the world's different Marxist organisations about what makes a revolution, how to move towards socialism, what is the dialectic between the leaders and the masses, how to establish workers' control and other strategic questions.
“We all have a lot to learn from the world historic events in Venezuela. We cannot assume that any one Marxist group has readymade answers to everything. Any IST Coordination, therefore, must be based on facilitating this global debate among all Marxist groups, most of them outside the IST, in tandem with fusing the IST into a strategic engagement with the PSUV's leaders.
“It's a global debate about the Venezuelan revolution that the IST needs to start coordinating, and that requires democratic input from all IST affiliates around the world.
“That brings us to our second substantive concern. The IST Coordination proposal calls for unspecified powers to be granted to "selected" organisations. Any such "selection" would leave non-selected IST groups on the margins of IST decision-making, given the tyranny of distance over a global coalition like the IST. It would fix the bureaucratic curse of the initiating "centre" and the non-initiating "periphery" onto the IST.
“Why can't every IST affiliate have one representative on the IST Coordination? With modern communications technology, face-to-face meetings in London can be replaced by extremely cheap "virtual" meetings that link all continents. The material basis already exists for an all-in IST Coordination that interacts on a global scale as frequently as needed. The real question is whether the IST has the political consensus and the political will to bring it about”
Socialist Worker (NZ) concludes: “In Venezuela, for the first time since Lenin's Bolsheviks, we are seeing a mass movement well on the way towards establishing socialism within the borders of a whole country. The front line of the epochal war between capitalism and socialism is now in Venezuela.
“Even where there has been resistance to the neo-liberal offensive over the last two decades, the international workers' movement has been floundering on the widespread assumption that "there is no alternative". The Venezuelan revolution is putting socialism back on the agenda in a practical and living way -- the way most people will come to socialism. The IST must be an organic part of this process.
“Any IST Coordination needs to be focused on relating to forces outside the IST. That's because the forward movement of the Venezuelan revolution and the wider Latin American uprisings look likely to provide the essential material foundations for a positive regroupment of the socialist and radical left on every continent, and the parallel emergence of a mass socialist international.
“Socialist Worker-New Zealand believes the political and organisational decisions made within the IST must reflect this historic opportunity to move towards a mass socialist international. This is the first time since the early days of the Comintern that such a possibility has existed.
“This requires the IST to directly engage with PSUV leaders in the building of a mass socialist international. The IST can play a positive role in this process if we make that turn now.”