The Chávez government officially launched a nation-wide debate in Venezuela about the II Socialist Plan of the Nation 2013 – 2019, whose first draft President Chávez had presented to the country earlier this year.
Through a range of public assemblies and other mechanisms, officials say the aim of the debating process is to stimulate public participation and to gather ideas and projects to develop Chavez’s proposals into a cohesive plan for national development.
“From this moment a constituent process has begun, unprecedented in our history,” declared finance and planning minister, Jorge Giordani, while speaking in an event held in the capital Caracas last Saturday to launch the initiative.
“It will have repercussions not only in the coming years, but in that it can be an example to those countries that are in crisis and see hope in this [revolutionary] process, to materialise their own,” he continued.
Hugo Chavez first presented the Socialist Plan in June when he registered his candidacy for re-election as president. On that platform, he was re-elected on 7 October with 55% of the vote.
The Plan sets out five historical objectives to be worked towards by Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution in the coming period. These include consolidating national sovereignty, the continued construction of “Bolivarian socialism of the 21st century”, and promoting a multipolar world order “to guarantee world peace”.
Jaqueline Farias, a leader of Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), explained to the press on Sunday that while the Venezuelan president had “presented the framework and general objectives” of the Socialist Plan, “now the specifics will come from popular power”.
She further argued that citizens should participate in the knowledge that "this is a plan that is going to be executed, not like those of the Fourth Republic (1958-1998), that were fat books that were handed to the National Assembly and then nothing happened".
Mechanisms of Participation
The Chavez government’s initiative to encourage national debate about the Socialist Plan has five main channels of participation.
The first is through the establishment of “cities of debate” in each regional state, where permanent assemblies will be organised in prominent public places. These spaces will have daily discussions around a set and published program, with the participation of a variety of speakers including community leaders and government ministers.
A second mechanism is the encouragement of debating assemblies in communities, communal councils and communes, with a suggested structure of three hour debates and discussion groups around each of the Plan’s historic goals.
Meanwhile, the PSUV will establish 13,600 “red points” around the country designed to promote the population’s participation through discussions of the plan, awareness-raising and collection of proposals.
A fourth mechanism is “opinion boxes” located in public squares, where citizens can submit their concrete projects and proposals for contribution to the Plan. A special form has been designed for individuals and communities to do this, which can also be submitted to “red points” and debating assemblies.
Furthermore, a website has also been set up, where suggestions and proposals can be submitted.
PSUV leader Farias stressed that not only government supporters and organisations should participate in the debate, but rather all citizens were welcome, including those aligned with the opposition. “It’s a plan for everyone,” she added.
Farias also explained that the debating process would develop in three stages. Over the weekend launch events took place in every regional state, while from 12 – 30 November days of debate and discussion will be held.
From 1 – 31 December compilation, systemisation and presentation of results will be undertaken and reviewed by the government. Chavez will then present the completed Socialist Plan to the National Assembly 10 January for approval, a constitutional requirement.
In launch events across the country emphasis was made that the national debate represents a “constituent process”, a phrase referring to key moments of mass participation in the development of Venezuela’s contemporary political process, such as the passing of the 1999 National Constitution.
Speaking at the launch event in Caracas last Saturday, Venezuela’s Vice President Nicolas Maduro argued that this “is a process of mobilisation, it’s the activation once again of the creative power of the people, of the Constituent Power”.
He went on to describe this constituent power as “the power of the people to create and recreate, found and re-found, to build the country, and to permanently exercise their sovereignty with the constitution as a fundamental instrument”.
Supporters of the Chavez government have reacted favourably to the initiative.
The Bolivarian Socialist Workers Central (CBST), a pro-government union federation, organised its own event in Caracas last Saturday to begin a national consultation of workers over the Socialist Plan.
Carlos Lopez, the CBST’s coordinator general, argued that the Plan “must have the characteristics to make our Bolivarian and socialist revolution irreversible”.
Meanwhile, writing in alternative news website Aporrea, teacher Salva Camacho argued that “this debate has a grassroots essence like never before, [where] the main task is to make participation and popular protagonism the sustenance for the construction of socialism”.
He also claimed that the debate represents “an attack on the difficult knots that have impeded the advance of this revolution,” as well as being “accompanied by criticism” of underperforming public servants.