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Communal Councils

Venezuela: ¡Comuna o Nada!

 

By George Ciccariello-Maher

 

March 23, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from ROAR Magazine with permission — Have you heard about Venezuela’s communes? Have you heard that there are hundreds of thousands of people in nearly 1,500 communes struggling to take control of their territories, their labor, and their lives? If you haven’t heard, you’re not the only one. As the mainstream media howls about economic crisis and authoritarianism, there is little mention of the grassroots revolutionaries who have always been the backbone of the Bolivarian process.

 

This blindspot is reproduced by an international left whose dogmas and pieties creak and groan when confronted with a political process that doesn’t fit, in which the state, oil, and a uniformed soldier have all played key roles. It’s a sad testament to the state of the left that when we think of communes we are more likely to think of nine arrests in rural France than the ongoing efforts of these hundreds of thousands. But nowhere is communism pure, and the challenges Venezuela’s comuneros confront today are ones that we neglect at our own peril.

 

Venezuela: a turning point for Latin America?

 

By Stuart Piper

 

January 25, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Socialist Resistance with the author's permission

 

“They hit us in the stomach. The revolution, and we as social movements, haven’t been able to deal with the problem of food.” Marisa, community activist in La Vega, a day after the election.

 

Confrontation inside and outside parliament

 

On the morning of Tuesday, 5 January, a few thousand supporters of Venezuela’s right-wing opposition gathered around La Hoyada metro station in central Caracas. Most had travelled in from the better-off neighbourhoods to the east. The mood was euphoric, but tense. They would march the short distance west to the National Assembly, in the company of their newly elected representatives who were about to be sworn in.

 

Rightists’ election victory poses major threat to Venezuela’s advances: Can People’s Power save the Bolivarian Revolution?

 

 

President Nicolás Maduro addresses Chavista supporters on December 7, following election defeat the previous day.

 

By Richard Fidler

 

January 13, 2016 - Life on the Left, reposted on Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with author’s permission - Seventeen years after Hugo Chávez was elected Venezuela’s President for the first time, the supporters of his Bolivarian Revolution, now led by President Nicolás Maduro, suffered their first major defeat in a national election in the December 6 elections to the country’s parliament, the National Assembly.

 

Coming only two weeks after the victory of right-wing candidate Mauricio Macri in Argentina’s presidential election, it was a stunning setback to the “process of change” in Latin America that Chávez had spearheaded until his premature death from cancer in 2013. The opposition majority in the new parliament threatens to undo some of the country’s major social and economic advances of recent years as well as Venezuela’s vital support to revolutionary Cuba and other neighboring countries through innovative solidarity programs like PetroCaribe and the ALBA fair-trade alliance.

 

Venezuela: Racism and the counter-revolution

Chavez’ revolutionary government spent $300 million to build a futuristic funicular [cable car]. It eliminates hours of climbing on foot up and down treacherous mountain sides to reach jobs, schools, health clinics and other vital destinations. It benefits tens of thousands of shack dwellers of San Agustin—most of whom are African descendants.

By Arlene Eisen

March 27, 2014 -- Venezuelanalysis.com -- It’s late morning in Caracas, February 12, 2014. From the restaurant inside the hotel around the corner from Plaza Venezuela we can hear chanting, but it’s too muffled to understand. Are they yelling “Maduro Salida” or “Maduro/burro Salida”[1] or something else? From the window, we can see people, almost all smiling white people, streaming down the street to join the first huge anti-government demonstration that signalled the onset of the current outrages in Venezuela.

Venezuela: Revolution brings substantial improvements to working-class neighbourhoods

Hillside barrios in Caracas. Photo by Ryan Mallett-Outtrim/Venezuelanalysis.

By Enric Llopis, Rebelion, translated by Ryan Mallett-Outtrim and Tamara Pearson

October 10, 2013 -- Venezuelanalysis -- At the invitation of the Jose Marti Valencian Association of Friendship with Cuba (Asociación Valenciana José Martí de Amistad con Cuba) and the Acontracorrent union, Yasmin Zabala and Hector Acosta -- social activists from the Caracas neighbourhood of 23 de Enero (January 23) -- have lectured at the social sciences faculty in Valencia. They come from a neighbourhood that has historically been very combative, with a strong tradition of community and mutuality.

This barrio of about 250,000 inhabitants, situated on a hill west of the city and near the Miraflores Presidential Palace, has been part of all the major revolutionary moments in Venezuelan history. 23 de Enero owes its name to the date on which the dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez fled the country (in 1958) after his overthrow by a military-civilian movement.

Marta Harnecker: 'Chavez's legacy: with the people, building a socialist alternative to capitalism'

Thousands turn out in Caracas to remember Chavez.

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Yoshie Furuhashi for MRZine

March 6, 2013 -- La Segunda -- When Hugo Chávez triumphed in the 1998 presidential elections, the neoliberal capitalist model was already floundering. The choice then was whether to re-establish the neoliberal capitalist model -- clearly with some changes including greater concern for social issues, but still motivated by the same logic of profit seeking -- or to go ahead and try to build another model.

Venezuela: Eyewitness impressions of the Bolivarian revolution

October 25, 2012 -- Green Left TV -- Several European activists participated in the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) brigade to Venezuela in September-October 2012, which witnessed the presidential election won convincingly by socialist President Hugo Chavez.

Brigade participant Pip Hinman spoke in Caracas to Christian, a writer and activist with the German solidarity online publication Amerika21.de, about his impressions of the Bolivarian revolution. Film footage of the 3 million-strong October 4, 2012, Chavista election rally provided by Poul-Erik Jørgensen, a Danish participant in the brigade.

Grassroots interviews from Venezuela: Developing the power of the community

Ana Marin talks about her revolutionary activity.

October 21, 2012 -- The British Revolutionary Communist Group, publishers of the newspaper Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, sent a delegation to Venezuela to cover the October 7, 2012, presidential election. The following interviews, published at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission, were conducted in the lead-up and the aftermath of the poll. More interviews and articles can be found at the delegation's website. The delegation collaborated with the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network brigade that was visiting Venezuela at the same time.

* * *

Ana Marin interviewed by Sam McGill

Solidarity statements: 'A vital victory for Chavez, Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolution'

Brigadistas from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network brigade get ready for the massive march in Caracas, October 4, 2012. For eyewitness accounts from AVSN members, join the AVSN Facebook page.

Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network statement on the October 7, 2012, presidential elections

October 9, 2012 -- AVSN/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Three days after more than 3 million people took over the streets of Caracas in a huge show of support for Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez and his socialist platform, Chavez has won the October 7 Venezuelan elections with more than 55% of the vote, against right-wing opposition candidate Henrique Capriles’ 44%. A record 81% of the 19,119,809 registered voters in Venezuela participated in the election.

Venezuela: Communes in Caracas

Concrete block production by the Ezequiel Zamora Commune, Antimano, Caracas.

September 7, 2011 -- Cuidad CSS, translated by Owen Richards for Venezuela: Translating the Revolution. Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Among the aims of community organisation is that of building the communal state, where power is exercised directly by the people, through self-government, with an economic model of social property and local self-development.

Based on this premise, 236 communes and more than 9000 communal councils have been established, according to information from the Ministry of Popular Power for the Communes.

Through this process the city of Caracas has turned into a space full of examples of self-government.

Socioeconomic model

In the Capital District around 44 sectors exist that are in the process of building communes in order to lay the foundations for Venezuelan socialism.

In the Antimano ward, 18 communal councils of the Carapita sector and part of Santa Ana organised to establish the Victoria Socialist Commune.

What if the state of the world were measured by its majority?

What real democracy looks like: a communal council in Merida votes for its electoral commission in July 2010. Photo by Tamara Pearson.

By Tamara Pearson, Merida, Venezuela

December 30, 2010 -- Venezuelanalysis.com -- The rich and their golf courses. From their perspective the whole world is one -- a wonderland of hillocks and streams and games made just for them, watered without thought for drought, and the world’s poor nowhere to be seen. But a bit of the map has said it doesn’t want to be a golf course. The rich, sweaty and sulking, arm themselves with reports, statistics, surveys, foundations, institutes and “causes” and set out to prove that Venezuela is burning and broken, its economy rumbling, its health system out of order, and its politics repressive.

In fact, Venezuela has the worst economy in the world, according to a Newsweek study in August 2010.

A new opportunity for Venezuela’s socialists


More at The Real News
Greg Wilpert discusses the September 26, 2010, election results on the Real News Network, on October 3. For transcript, visit HERE.

By Gregory Wilpert

Michael Lebowitz on the socialist alternative and real human development

Prof. Michael Lebowitz on the socialist alternative from Dangerous Minds at Vimeo.

August 30, 2010 -- Michael Lebowitz is a Canadian Marxist economist. He is the director of the “Transformative practice and human development” program at the Venezuela-based left-wing think tank, the Centro Internacional Miranda. He is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University and author of Build it Now: 21st Century Socialism and the 2004 Isaac Deutscher-prize winning Beyond Capital: Marx's Political Economy of the Working Class. His latest book is The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development.

Venezuela: Communal power in Caracas

Wilder Marcano.

Wilder Marcano interviewed by Susan Spronk and Jeffery R. Webber

July 4, 2010 -- The Bullet -- We caught up with Wilder Marcano, director of the network of comunas [communes] in Caracas, on the morning of June 18, 2010. He talked with us just before addressing a crowd of a few hundred representatives of different comunas from around the capital who had gathered in the offices of the Ministry of Popular Power for the Communes and Social Welfare to discuss a whole series of issues related to building popular power from below in the poorest barrios.

What is the role of the comunas in the construction of socialism in Venezuela?

John Bellamy Foster on Venezuela: Marxism and `vernacular revolutionary traditions'

The following article is the Foreward to the July-August 2010 issue of the US socialist magazine Monthly Review, which features Marta Harnecker's “Latin America and Twenty-First Century Socialism: Inventing to Avoid Mistakes". Bellamy Foster will be a feature speaker at the Climate Change Social Change conference, to be held in Melbourne, November 5-7, 2010.

* * *

I’m certain that this process is irreversible. This movement of change, of restructuring, of revolution, will not be stopped.

Hugo Chávez, 20021

By John Bellamy Foster

Eric Toussaint: Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution at the crossroads?

By Eric Toussaint

[See parts 2 , 3 and 4 below.]

Part 1: Nationalisation, workers’ control: achievements and limitations

April 14, 2010 -- Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt -- The economic, social and political situation in Venezuela has changed a lot since the failure of the constitutional reform in December 2007, which acted as a warning to President Hugo Chávez's government. |1| This failure had the effect however of reviving the debate on the need to have a socialist perspective. The debate revolves around several key questions: further nationalisation, workers’ control, the place of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), people’s participation, etc.

Building socialism from below: The role of the communes in Venezuela

Antenea Jimenez.

Antenea Jimenez interviewed by Susan Spronk and Jeffery R. Webber

June 13, 2010 -- The Bullet -- We met with Antenea Jimenez, a former militant with the student movement who is now working with a national network of activists who are trying to build and strengthen the comunas [communes]. The comunas are community organisations promoted since 2006 by the government of Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez government as a way to consolidate a new form of state based upon production at the local level. She told us about the important advances in the process, as well as the significant challenges that remain in the struggle to build a new form of popular power from below.

Can you tell us about the barrio where you live and the comuna?

I live in a barrio [neighbourhood] in the north part of Caracas and work in a national network that is building comunas. Currently we operate in seven states; the majority of the comunas are situated outside Caracas.

Venezuela: New moves to build workers' power; Revolution in the electricity industry

By Federico Fuentes, Caracas

March 22, 2010 -- The free, sovereign and independent homeland of our dreams will only come true if we radicalise the process and speed up the transition to socialism”, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez wrote in his March 14 weekly column “Chavez Lines”.

The Venezuelan government has launched a number of initiatives in recent weeks aimed to tackle threats to the revolutionary process — including from elements within the pro-Chavez camp that seek to undermine plans to deepen the revolution.

Central to this are new measures aimed at speeding up the transfer of power to organised communities.

Chavez wrote in his February 21 column: “The time has come for communities to assume the powers of state, which will lead administratively to the total transformation of the Venezuelan state and socially to the real exercise of sovereignty by society through communal powers.”

Participatory democracy

The previous day, Chavez announced the creation of the federal government council in front of thousands of armed peasants that are part of the newly created peasant battalions in the Bolivarian militia.

Venezuela’s revolution faces crucial battles; Chavez: `Towards a communal state!'

Revolutionary youth mobilise in Caracas, February 12, 2010. Photo by ABN.

By Federico Fuentes, Caracas

February 20, 2010 -- Decisive battles between the forces of revolution and counter-revolution loom on the horizon in Venezuela. The campaign for the September 26, 2010, National Assembly elections will be a crucial battle between the supporters of socialist President Hugo Chavez and the US-backed right-wing opposition. But these battles, part of the class struggle between the poor majority and the capitalist elite, will be fought more in the streets than at the ballot box.

So far this year, there has been an escalation of demonstrations by violent opposition student groups; the continued selective assassination of trade union and peasant leaders by right-wing paramilitaries; and an intensified private media campaign presenting a picture of a debilitated government in crisis — and on its way out.

Venezuela plans deeper popular democracy to address economic crisis

By Federico Fuentes, Caracas

September 24, 2009 -- Faced with the growing impact of the global economic crisis, Washington’s intentions to establish seven military bases in Colombia and growing challenges in solving structural problems, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reaffirmed the need to build a new state.

“We have inherited a capitalist state that serves the interests of the bourgeoisie and is still penetrated by interests contrary to the revolution. We need to carry out an internal shake up of the government structures”, Chavez said on September 19 during the second expanded council of ministers meeting, which also involved governors and mayors aligned with the Bolivarian revolution.

The meeting was called to discuss a series of new measures the revolutionary government plans to announce in coming weeks to confront some of the challenges it faces on the economic, political and social fronts. In all, 54 new measures have already been approved by his cabinet.

Global economic crisis

New figures released by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) showed the national economy contracted by 1% in the first half of the year, including a 2.4% drop in the second quarter.

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