Venezuela. Communes or Nothing? Three years since the change of direction

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By Marco Teruggi / Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn / October 20, 2015.- It was on October 20, 2012, 13 days after the new electoral victory of Hugo Chavez, Commander of the Bolivarian revolution, as president of Venezuela. The meeting, a cabinet which was broadcast on national television, was deemed as a “change of direction” (golpe de timón), and had a central slogan: communes or nothing.

“For us, the change of direction is a claim collected by the Commander directly from people, which is felt in all territories where the people want to empower themselves, and there is resistance within the government itself, which he himself instills; where are the communes? how do we build socialism if we don’t empower the people? how will we build a process if each leader is not committed, and if they don’t give space to the people?
The change of direction is a public demand in view that only the people can save the people, in order to deepen the construction of socialism, in concrete, the direct and participative democracy”, says Duiliam Virigay, spokesman of the Revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Organization (CRBZ) that currently accompanies, “directly, with leadership, and with organizational structures”, 450 of the existing communes and that are 300 under construction.

The bet on the communes from the CRBZ is prior to the change of direction of October, 20. It comes from the attempt of the constitutional change in 2007: “There, the Commander raised the new geometry of power, the structural re-foundation of the Republic, from a political, organizational point of view, to change a State that was mainly a rentier, oil-dealing, and bourgeois State to set the foundations of a socialist State, a native socialism, built by our people”. That is when, from below, began the construction of: communal councils, socialist communes, and —firstly tested, and now a reality— socialist cities.

With the development of the lines of work, tensions began: “All processes of empowerment of the people in the framework of the Bolivarian revolution have met much resistance from colleagues who have institutional spaces, sometimes due to lack of awareness, or by not understanding the Commander’s vision”, that is why, says Virigay, he wanted to transmit the meeting by national television, to accelerate the transition process.

“Three years after “the change of direction” it is more alive than ever, it seems like we are still making the same claim. There are still many obstacles, the same happens to the President of the Republic: things are oriented, the presidential council is organized nationally, but in the States, the empowerment of the people is not achieved without a fight. It would be much easier if every person who is in the head of the process in the different structures would facilitate the process of empowering the people, the construction of that instrument, of the people of the territory, where all social actors coincide”.

When the presidential term of Nicolas Maduro started, the number of registered communities was less than one hundred. Today, there are more than 1300 throughout the national territory. How can we measure the depth of the this process of communalization of life, the “spirit of the commune?”.

“One thing is the written record, that’s a quantitative way to measure, but it is not enough. Another thing is the process within the commune, their empowerment. Chavez said in a speech at the National Assembly that the people’s power should be institutionalized progressively in its territory, and in that matter we have much to do, because you can register the commune but the process of transferring powers to the commune is still slow, as is the management of some political and economic issues, and also the recognition of the Old institutional framework to the new one, these new socialist institutions. The commune could be legally recognized but not recognized as a political player in the process, as an economic actor”.

The scenario of the difficulties should not overshadow the strengths that the revolutionary process has, emphasizes the leader of the CRBZ. One of them is the existing will: “The people want to empower themselves, take the leading role, fight for their spaces, have courage to continue building this political and economical subject, which is the commune”.

The stage we are currently emerged on, which is always necessary to remember, has a structural difficulty from its start: “We must review the history of the continent, the world and revolutions, Which processes were maintained after the loss of their historic leader? Our historical leadership was and remains to be Commander Chavez, and even though he is not with us today, even after this loss, this process continues”.

At this stage, there are many strengths: “That level of consciousness that the Commander Chavez created is alive today, as if he were here today, all he did to raise awareness to the people is still present today”. So, Virigay notes that the soundness of the process: “It is important to highlight President Maduro’s will, expressed in the conclusions of the last congress of the national leadership of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV, Chavez’ and Maduro’s party), that the legacy of Commander is maintained, but above all, to support, encourage and try to consolidate the people’s power and ensure that slogan from October 20th: communes or nothing. Calling popular government to the presidential council is a strategic investment”.

The advantages are more: such as the unity that exists today within Chavism, through its two main policy tools: the PSUV and the Great Patriotic Pole, and also that, according to the polls: “Over 60% of the population it remains Chavistas, and over 50% believe in building socialism. Not one country in the world, at any point in history, has had such a high level of acceptance for the construction of a socialist project, an alternative to capitalism and neoliberalism”.

These are the foundations, on which Virigay considers that is possible and necessary to deepen the line of work proposed on October 20th, addressing weaknesses, such as continuing to disarm the oil rentier model. “We can only leave behind that model by building a new one, and in Venezuela there are possibilities of that happening through the communes, so, we, as actors of this process, have to dedicate ourselves to that, so that any grassroots leader, even the ones that write articles for newspaper, opinion pieces, are able to start building socialism through the commune”.

The alternative to the legacy in the communes is articulated in a powerful movement: “It is important that the whole communal movement bets on unity for it to become a major player in the process, that when we talk we build the agenda, that despite the differences, strategic unity is not lost. We need the empowerment of the commune along the territory, to have a growing importance in the national dynamic, politically, economically, and even in the dynamic of the Party”.

For this to continue the next elections appear as key: “We must close ranks in the elections of December 6th, in order for President Nicolas Maduro, and the entire military-political process, continue to be at the head of this government because a right-wing government would completely eliminate the possibilities of building the dreams that Commander left open for us, such as the construction of the communal State, the social State of law and justice”.

A win on December 6, with Chavist unity and the growing role of communes on a  strategic perspective, is what must be fought for, building on the projection marked by the slogan of Chavez that guides the steps of the CRBZ: “Commune or nothing is what we can say in these times to make the revolution irreversible, to continue to transform our economic model, and keep Venezuela in the forefront of the process of building socialism in the continent and in the world”.

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