Venezuela’s Chavez Calls for International Organisation of Left Parties

Workers Action

By Kiraz Janicke
Republished from Venezuela Analysis

Workers Action Introduction

Below, we have reproduced two documents. The first is a report, published by Venezuela Analysis, of a conference of left political parties held in Caracas, Venezuela at which Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, called for the formation of a Fifth International in order to promote the defeat of capitalism and the creation of “Socialism of the 21st Century.”

The second is the official statement, referred to as “The Commitment of Caracas,” that was issued by the conference that is the basis of the Venezuela Analysis report.

We in Workers Action believe this conference and the statement it produced hold tremendous significance for socialists in particular and the working class in general around the world. It contains several points we wish to highlight.

First, the statement calls for the replacement of capitalism by socialism, pointing out that capitalism threatens the survival of humanity as well as the survival of all life, because capitalism combines “the economic crisis, with an ecological crisis, a food crisis and an energy crisis.”

Second, some parties that have signed the statement, for example, from Venezuela and Bolivia, are large, mass political organizations, which means that powerful resources may be available for the creation of a world socialist movement.

Third, it calls for an “ideological debate on the fundamental aspects of the process of construction of socialism.”

Fourth, it recognizes that the Third International degenerated under Stalinism, which betrayed struggles for socialism around the world.

Finally, and most importantly, the statement of the conference notes that it “received” the call by Hugo Chavez for the creation of a Fifth International and voted to “create a Working Group comprised of those socialist parties, currents and social movements who endorse the initiative, to prepare an agenda which defines the objectives, contents and mechanisms of this global revolutionary body.” The conference also called for a “constitutive event” in Caracas in April 2010 that would aim at organizing this new international.

This call for the creation of a Fifth International can serve as a lightning rod for uniting socialist parties and social movements around the world in order to magnify by many times the power of the movement for socialism. The new totality, achieved on an international basis, will be far greater than the sum of its constituent parts. Moreover, in countries where socialist parties currently do not exist or are small and lack any substantial power, the Fifth International has the potential to serve as a pole of attraction, thereby overcoming the isolation and accompanying sense of hopelessness and demoralization of those fighting for a better world. It can therefore serve as an indispensable tool in helping working people around the world organize themselves in order to fight against the routine daily assaults of capitalism that are throwing increasing numbers of humanity into abject poverty and completely destroying the environment while at the same time making a tiny minority obscenely rich.

By joining such an international, socialist parties will be able to translate their aspirations for a better world into a framework that can realistically hope to achieve revolutionary change. It has the potential to forge the indispensable link between theory and practice.

This Fifth International can promote the strategical approach embodied in united front structures that can unite working people around the world in opposition to the capitalist class that oppresses them. The united front brings together working people, although they might adhere to different political points of view or persuasions, in order to unite workers as workers rather than as members of a single political party. In other words, it unites working people as a class and in this respect promotes the development of class consciousness. Therefore, it encourages working people to act independently of the capitalist class in defense of their own interests, as opposed to their feeling compelled to support one capitalist candidate or another in exchange for a few crumbs.

Moreover, the united front approach is an attempt to win the majority of the working class to a revolutionary perspective by organizing workers, first and foremost, to put up a fight in defense of their interests. It begins with those issues that workers themselves want to win and are prepared to fight for, no matter how modest these issues might be from a revolutionary perspective. In this respect, the united front approach is distinguished from the approach of social democrats, who are fundamentally reformists and do not want to put up a fight. The social democrats look to the capitalists to give workers some gains and are prepared to accept anything that comes their way, or nothing. The united front approach is also distinguished from the approach of the ultra leftists or sectarians who are only prepared to support a struggle if it exhibits a sufficiently revolutionary content. For example, the united front approach is prepared to take up a struggle for higher wages, if that is what workers want and if that is all they are prepared to fight for. The ultra leftists or sectarians insist on injecting more revolutionary demands into the struggle, even at the expense of alienating all, or almost all, the workers in the process. The united front approach, by encouraging workers to put up a fight, establishes a link between the day-to-day struggles of workers on the one hand and the struggle for socialism on the other hand, because the act of standing up and organizing a fight has the potential to fundamentally alter the consciousness of all those involved and raise it in a revolutionary direction. When this is achieved, the relation of forces between workers and capitalists is changed to the advantage of the working class.

While we offer our enthusiastic support of the call for a Fifth International and urge the involvement by all those dedicated to socialism, we in Workers Action also hasten to caution our readers that the road ahead can contain many pitfalls. We believe it is crucial not to let this international unwittingly degenerate into another social democratic formation, where instead of fighting for socialism, members are content to reform capitalism. In fact, some of the formulations in the Commitment of Caracas leave open the possibility of being interpreted as endorsing such a deviation. For example, the statement declared: “One of the epicenters of the capitalist crisis is in the economic domain; this highlights the limitations of unbridled free markets ruled by private monopolies.” This might be read by some to imply that what is needed are government regulated free markets that are ruled by multiple private businesses that compete against one another.

The fight for socialism, like everything really worthwhile, will be a long, arduous struggle. We believe that essential ingredients of the kind of socialism worth fighting for include the following:

1. The fundamental pillars of the economy are nationalized and operates according to a plan that has been determined democratically by the entire population. Hence, it will serve the needs of the people, not the profit margins of a rich minority at everyone else’s expense.
2. The people democratically control the government. The government does not control the people.
3. Quality education (through college) and health care are considered basic human rights and are free. Quality housing is available to all at affordable prices.
4. Everyone is guaranteed a well-paying job. People are rewarded first and foremost according to how much work they perform. By guaranteeing work for everyone, as opposed to the capitalist system of condemning large numbers of working people to the ranks of the unemployed, the workweek can be reduced.
5. The environment is cleaned up and pollution is eliminated.
6. Government administrators can be recalled at any time and may not be paid more than working people.

Venezuela’s Chavez Calls for
International Organisation of Left Parties

By Kiraz Janicke

Republished from Venezuela Analysis

Caracas, November 23, 2009

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for the formation of a “Fifth International” of left parties and social movements to confront the challenge posed by the global crisis of capitalism.

The president made the announcement during an international conference of more than fifty left organisations from thirty-one countries held in Caracas over November 19-21.

“I assume responsibility before the world. I think it is time to convene the Fifth International, and I dare to make the call, which I think is a necessity. I dare to request that we create my proposal,” Chavez said.

The head of state insisted that the conference of left parties should not be “just one more meeting,” and he invited participating organizations to create a truly new project. “This socialist encounter should be of the genuine left, willing to fight against imperialism and capitalism,” he said.

During his speech, Chavez briefly outlined the experiences of previous “internationals,” including the First International founded in 1864 by Karl Marx; the Second International founded in 1889, which collapsed in 1916 as various left parties and trade unions sided with their respective capitalist classes in the inter-imperialist conflict of the First World War; the Third International founded by Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, which Chavez said “degenerated” under Stalinism and “betrayed” struggles for socialism around the world; and the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938, which suffered numerous splits and no longer exists, although some small groups claim to represent its political continuity.

Chavez said that a new international would have to function “without impositions” and would have to respect diversity.

Representatives from a number of major parties in Latin America voiced their support for the proposal, including the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) of Bolivia, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) of El Salvador, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) of Nicaragua, and Alianza Pais of Ecuador.

Smaller parties from Latin America and around the world also indicated their support for the idea, including the Proposal for an Alternative Society (PAS) of Chile, New Nation Alternative (ANN) of Guatemala, and Australia’s Socialist Alliance, among others.

Sandinista leader Miguel D´Escoto said, “Capitalism has brought the human species to the precipice of extinction… we have to take control of our own destiny.”

“There is no time to lose,” D’Escoto added as he conveyed his support for the proposal of forming a fifth international. “We have to overcome the tendency of defeatism. Many times I have noted a tendency of defeatism amongst comrades of the left in relation to the tasks we face,” he continued.

Salvador Sánchez, from the FMLN, said “We are going to be important actors in the Fifth International. We cannot continue waiting — all the forces of the left. The aspiration of the peoples is to walk down a different path. We must not hesitate in forming the Fifth International. The people have pronounced themselves in favour of change and the parties of the left must be there with them.”

Other organisations, including Portugal’s Left Block, Germany’s Die Linke, and France’s Partido Gauche expressed interest in the proposal but said they would consult with their various parties. A representative of the Cuban Communist Party described the proposal as “excellent,” but as yet the party has made no formal statement.

Many communist parties, including those from Greece and Brazil, expressed strong opposition to the proposal. The Venezuelan Communist Party said it was willing to discuss the proposal but expressed strong reservations.

The Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA) from Colombia expressed its willingness to work with other left parties, but said it would “reserve” its decision to participate in an international organisation of left parties.

Valter Pomar, a representative from the Workers Party of Brazil (PT), said its priority is the Sao Paolo Forum— a forum of various Latin American left, socialist, communist, centre-left, labour, social democratic and nationalist parties launched by the PT in 1990.

A resolution was passed at the conference to form a preparatory committee to convoke a global conference of left parties in Caracas in April 2010, to discuss the formation of a new international. The resolution also allowed for other parties that remain undecided to discuss the proposal and incorporate themselves at a later date.

Chavez emphasised the importance of being inclusive and said the April conference had to go far beyond the parties and organisations that participated in last week’s conference. In particular, he said it was an error that there were no revolutionary organisations from the United States present.

The conference of left parties also passed a resolution titled the Caracas Commitment, “to reaffirm our conviction to definitively build and win Socialism of the 21st Century,” in the face of “the generalized crisis of the global capitalist system.”

“One of the epicentres of the global capitalist crisis is the economic sphere. This highlights the limitations of unbridled free markets dominated by monopolies of private property,” the resolution stated.

Also incorporated was a proposed amendment by the Australian delegation which read, “In synthesis, the crisis of capitalism cannot be reduced to a simple financial crisis, it is a structural crisis of capital that combines the economic crisis, with an ecological crisis, a food crisis and an energy crisis, which together represent a mortal threat to humanity and nature. In the face of this crisis, the movements and parties of the left see the defence of nature and the construction of an ecologically sustainable society as a fundamental axis of our struggle for a better world.”

The Caracas Commitment expressed “solidarity with the peoples of the world who have suffered and are suffering from imperialist aggression, especially the more than 50 years of the genocidal blockade against Cuba… the massacre of the Palestinian people, the illegal occupation of part of the territory of the Western Sahara, and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, which today is expanding into Pakistan.”

The conference of left parties also denounced the decision of the Mexican government to shut down the state-owned electricity company and fire 45,000 workers, as an attempt to “intimidate” the workers and as an “offensive of imperialism,” to advance neoliberal privatisation in Central America.

In the framework of the Caracas Commitment, the left parties present agreed, among other things, to:

• Organise a global week of mobilisation from December 12-17 in repudiation of the installation of U.S. military bases in Colombia, Panama and around the world.
• Campaign for an “international trial against George Bush for crimes against humanity, as the person principally responsible for the genocide against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
• ”Commemorate 100 years since the proposal by Clara Zetkin to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, through forums, mobilizations and other activities in their respective countries.
• Organise global solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution in the face of permanent imperialist attacks.
• Organise global solidarity with the people of Honduras who are resisting a U.S.-backed military coup, to campaign for the restoration of the democratically elected president of Honduras, José Manuel Zelaya and to organise a global vigil on the day of the elections in Honduras, “with which they aim to legitimise the coup d´etat.”
• Demand an “immediate and unconditional end to the criminal Yankee blockade” of Cuba and for the “immediate liberation” of the Cuban Five, referring to the five anti-terrorist activists imprisoned in the United States.