If nothing else, the "First International Meeting of Parties of the Left" in Caracas last week was ambitious. Heeding the call by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for a fifth socialist international, participants set in motion planning for a founding session next April in Caracas.
They were called upon to respond, also, to new threats from U.S. imperialism. Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, a Liberal Party member, ended the meeting by urging support for protests worldwide Dec. 12-17 against new U.S. bases in Colombia.
A working group was established to prepare for the April meeting, particularly for ideological discussion. That gathering is timed to the 200th anniversary that month of a rebel government taking power in Caracas. Now it's the socialists' turn to organize a "solidarity based" society, declared Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan foreign minister.
Last week's meeting took place over three days at the state-owned Hotel Alba, formerly the Caracas Hilton, dedicated now to "socialist tourism." Some 120 participants were on hand representing 50 parties and groups from 39 countries. The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) hosted the gathering.
A "Commitment of Caracas" coming out of the gathering set forth six overall goals. They included calls for action against the U.S. bases, reversing the coup in Honduras, shaping a "culture of peace," dissemination of revolutionary consciousness, building a worldwide vehicle for cooperative action, and solidarity with all those in struggle.
The document contained three "Special Declarations." One demanded an end to the U.S. anti-Cuban blockade and release of the Cuban Five, and another, mobilization for a "world vigil" on Nov. 29, election day under the "Honduran dictatorship." The third declaration called for convening of the fifth socialist international (The First International was the one that Marx and Engels participated in, the second was the grouping of Socialist parties prior to the First World War, the third was the Communist International (COMINTERN) established after the Russian Revolution, and the "Fourth International" brought together followers of Leon Trotsky).
President Chavez called the conference outcome "ratification that Bolivarian Venezuela is not alone," especially with mounting U. S. and European media hostility, U. S. bases in Colombia, and Colombian paramilitary forays crossing into Venezuela. Piedad Cordoba urged upon the meeting "absolute backing" for Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution so that Chavez not be "cornered." She held up his role in the transition to socialism as crucial.
"I assume the responsibility before the world," said Chavez introducing his proposal for a fifth international. In contrast with the European orientation of previous internationals, he explained, this one would have roots in Latin America, incubator of present-day socialism. Chavez cautioned that as the fifth international confronts both imperialism and capitalism, it must steer clear of errors that undid 20th century versions of socialism. Welcoming ideological debate, he argued that "socialism of the 21st century'' will be determined by the history and needs of individual nations.
The Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) joined other Communist parties present in withholding approval for a new socialist international on grounds that world Communist parties are already acting in concert through yearly meetings of communist and workers' parties organized from Greece. On its Popular Tribune web site, the PCV backed common struggle against "terror and the looming military threat," specifically a "broad, continental anti-imperialist front," a project that non-socialists would also join.
A fifth international, however, is another matter. The PCV took exception to the ideological scatter of the left parties represented in Caracas and involvement even of right-wing parties, notably the Institutional Revolutionary Party of Mexico and Argentina's Justicialist Party, which includes Peronists of every kind.
Some non-Communist left formations - for example, Germany's Die Linke, France's Parti de Gauche, the Alternative Democratic Pole of Colombia (which includes the Colombian Communist Party and others), and the Brazilian Workers Party - were favorably disposed, but postponed approval. The French, Cuban, Greek, Portuguese, Chinese and Vietnamese Communist parties were represented, also the FMLN of El Salvador, Nicaragua's Sandinistas, and Bolivian President Evo Morales' party, Movement toward Socialism.
The complete Commitment of Caracas is published on venezuelanalysis.com. Its far-reaching goals are epitomized by characterization of the "structural crisis of capital [as an] economic crisis, an ecological crisis, a food crisis, and an energy crisis." This onslaught represents "a mortal threat to humanity and mother earth," the document says. The remedy is "construction of an ecologically sustainable society as a fundamental axis of our struggle for a better world."