by Ewan Robertson
Mérida, 12th May 2014 Venezuelan leftists met in two conferences over the weekend as part of efforts to design the direction and strategy of the country’s Bolivarian revolution in the coming period.
One of the conferences was aimed at discussing the political ideology of Venezuelan socialism based on the ideas of key Venezuelan and Latin American thinkers. Titled the I Bolivar – Chávez – Martí Ideological Political Conference, the meeting was held in the Andean town of Tovar in the west of the country.
Some 400 – 500 lecturers, students, United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) members, and commune activists attended the conference, which was organised by a group of university professors and local socialist party officials.
Francisco Gonzalez, a lecturer in Latin American thought and integration at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), and one of the conference’s organisers, told VA.com that one of the aims of the meeting was to develop new ideas for the Bolivarian process ahead of the PSUV national congress in July.
“Hugo Chavez was a dynamo in terms of producing ideas. Now that he is not physically present, we need to be collectively generating ideas,” he explained to VA.com.
Meanwhile Edgar Lugo, the head of the curriculum of Bolivarian thought at the Caracas faculty of the UNEFA university, said that the objective of the conference was to “put thought and ideology into practice for the development that this country’s revolutionary activists need, and to increase the commitment of youth to participate in these processes of revolutionary formation”.
Some 16 presentations were given by different speakers at the conference, including invited figures from Cuba, Argentina and the United Kingdom. The lectures included “Economy in the 21st Century”, “The Social Geopolitics of Hugo Chávez” and a presentation by activists from the Ministry of Communes about their work.
Many speakers argued for the need to maintain the status quo around Hugo Chavez’s ideas into the future, tracing these back to the thought of Simon Bolivar and other Latin American historical figures. Others focused on the changing political, social and economic conditions in Venezuela.
Questions from the floor were directed to different presenters, including younger female students who raised concerns over the effect of corruption in facilitating the contraband of Venezuelan products to Colombia, and the possibilities of employment in their chosen professions upon graduating.
Jose Mantilla, a commune activist currently working with Ministry of Communes to develop international solidarity with Venezuela’s communes, said that the conference had allowed for a sharing of ideas between figures within the political current of Chavismo.
“With the exchange of ideas between academic and grassroots figures, criteria were unified for the revolution’s political activity both locally and regionally…and how the revolution can overcome problems in the community,” he told VA.com.
Meanwhile civil engineering student Laura Díaz said that she had found the international aspect of the meeting useful. “Along with reflecting upon and learning more about the ideas of local figures, we heard international opinions about the situation in Venezuela and the wider world. It was a congress that allowed us to reflect and receive different ideas about the political system and other values and cultures,” she stated.
Organisers hope more such meetings can be held around the country before the PSUV congress in July, highlighting other issues such as communes and the economy.
Conference for eco-socialism
Another conference was held in Caracas last weekend to discuss proposals for the construction of “eco-socialism” in Venezuela. Representatives of over 1000 environmental groups and governmental institutions were present, including Environment Minister Miguel Rodriguez.
Attendees considered how environmental conservation and protection present themselves in a nation which largely depends on oil drilling, industrial and mining activities, but also qualifies as one of the world’s seventeen “mega-diverse” countries in terms of biodiversity.
Environmental policies pursued by the previous Chavez government include implementing energy saving light-bulbs, investment in renewable energy generation and mass tree planting programs. However, recycling systems have still not been rolled out on any widespread basis.
Around 70% of electricity generation in Venezuela comes from hydroelectric power.
One of the five “historical objectives” of the Maduro administration’s national development plan, which was drawn up by former president Hugo Chavez, is to “contribute to the preservation of planetary life and to save the human species”.
Last weekend’s conference designed an environmental plan to be debated nationally over the next three months, whose conclusions will then be presented publicly.
Suggestions borne of discussion groups were readily incorporated into the plan, including elements for creating an eco-socialist model, initiatives to reduce toxic pollution from industrial processes, active citizen participation in policy formation and implementation, and to create a school subject on environmental education.
Fidel Colina, a worker with the Forests and Parks Foundation, said the conference was “an incredible moment to be able to organise ourselves into a national movement that is capable, from municipalities and communal councils, of raising a voice about environmental problems”.
Colina said the aim of this movement should be to change the “capitalist model” for one of “local production that can correct the environmental problems that capitalism has created”.
Meanwhile Gabriel Gabrael, a coordinator of the Mission Nevado animal rights program, argued that the Bolivarian government had “rescued” the country’s politics and oil reserves.
“Now we need to overcome the greatest challenge that perhaps we have: rescue the human being to be able to rescue the planet, our common habitat,” he said.