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Communal Councils

Photo essay: Venezuela's Comuna 'Renacer del Sur' -- people's power in practice

Faces from the Comuna `Renacer del Sur'. Photos by Peter Boyle.

By Peter Boyle

August 20, 2009 -- At the base of the Bolivarian revolutionary process in Venezuela are some 30,000 communal councils. These are pictures of some of the people active in communal councils in poor barrios (neighbourhoods) in the south of the city of Valencia. They were taken in November 2008 when members of the Australian-Venezuela Solidarity Netwok brigade were hosted by the Comuna ``Renacer del Sur'' (Rebith of the South Commune).

Daniel Sanchez, a leader of the Rebirth of the South Commune, and Yoly Fernandez, a community organiser in Mission Mercal, Venezuela’s subsidised food program, are touring Australia in August and September to explain how “people’s power” is transforming their country and creating a new socialism of the 21st century.

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Marta Harnecker: Popular power in Latin America -- Inventing in order to not make errors

A communal council meeting in the community of Andres Eloy Blanco, state of Zulia, Venezuela.

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Coral Wynter and Federico Fuentes
Closing lecture given at the XXVI Gallega Week of Philosophy, Pontevedra, April 17, 2009.

``Either we invent or we err''
--
Simon Rodriguez

Venezuela: New mission, laws to extend popular power; trade union movement rebuilds

By Federico Fuentes

Caracas, September 6, 2008 -- The August 24 announcment by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to officially launch the social mission April 13, and the decreeing of 26 new and reformed laws on July 29, represent a further push to empower the poor communities.

Moreover, these moves represent a new offensive as part of Chavez’s stated aim of building “socialism of the 21st century” and eradicating poverty by giving power to the people.

Among other things, the new mission and laws build upon the communal councils that have been established across the country with the goal of organising the Venezuelan people, in order to transfer responsibilities until now in the hands of the state bureaucracy inherited by the Bolivarian revolution.

Mission April 13 is named in honour of the successful struggle of the poor majority, who along with the majority of the armed forces, defeated the coup organised by Venezuela’s business federation, Fedecamaras, on April 11, 2002. The coup briefly removed Chavez from the power, but an uprising resorted him two days later.

Venezuela's young militants: An antidote to the weaknesses of the revolution

By Tamara Pearson

July 30, 2008 -- We stayed up until 2 am two nights in a row -- students from a range of faculties, and young people from various movements and revolutionary organisations. In the campsite of La Mucuy in the Andean city of Merida, we discussed and debated the role of youth in Venezuelan’s revolution and the construction of a youth wing of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), while around us clouds hugged the buildings and mountain slopes, horses slept in the foreground and mosquitos made meals of our legs and faces.

Following the call for a youth wing of the party, various revolutionary youth in Merida had organised the camp as a space to meet and ensure that this new youth organisation would be specifically revolutionary, and that it wouldn’t contain the errors of the current PSUV. As well, it was important that this organisation be built by the youth from the ground, rather than declared by the leadership and built downwards.

Too often, in my opinion, the initiatives of the revolution come from Chavez rather from the base. When Uribe, the right-wing president of Colombia, came to Venezuela recently, Chavez came out against calls for protests against him. In Merida, it was the young people who protested anyway.

Michael A. Lebowitz: Socialism is the future -- Build it now

By Michael A. Lebowitz

Ideas become a material force when they grasp the minds of masses. This is true not only of ideas which can support revolutionary change. It is also true of those ideas which prevent change. An obvious example is the concept of TINA -- the idea that there is no alternative, no alternative to neoliberalism, no alternative to capitalism.

Certainly we know that there have been significant changes in the terrain upon which the working class must struggle -- changes which are a challenge because of a new international division of labour and because of the role of states in delivering a passive, docile working class to international capital. It is not only changing material circumstances which affects the working class, however. It is also the loss of confidence of the working class that makes these material changes a deadly blow. Even the Korean working class that has demonstrated so clearly in the past its militancy in the struggle against capital has been affected.

Venezuela: Building popular power through Communal Councils

By Jim McIlroy

October 3, 2007 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Living in Caracas, Venezuela, for a year during 2006, the most striking impression one gained is of a tumultuous mass movement, in which the social energies of the people have been released in an outpouring of revolutionary enthusiasm and creativity. One was constantly reminded of Vladimir Lenin’s description of revolution as a “festival of the oppressed”.

My partner Coral Wynter and myself spent last year in Venezuela as the Caracas Bureau of the Australian socialist newspaper Green Left Weekly. It was a life-changing experience. As long-time members of the revolutionary socialist movement in Australia, the practice of being a radical activist in the West has been, generally speaking, a hard slog over the past couple of decades.

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