The Vitality of the Revolution

Reinaldo Iturriza was iconic as Communes Minister, and has long been an important revolutionary voice within the government. Yesterday, as per Nicolas Maduro's cabinet "shakeup", Iturriza was reappointed as Minister of Culture. This discerning look at the place communes hold within the Bolivarian process, written only hours before that switch, stands as a testament to his efforts in that area.


 The communal councils are spaces of common political construction. They are not, as Foucault says, subjects of rights. Nor are they a subject. They are, again, a space in which the common denominator is chavismo, that vigorous subject of subjects, that not only predominantly shares a class origin, but a common experience of politicization.

Chavismo is fundamentally made up of men and women of the popular classes that have suffered, and feeling rejected they rebelled against representative democracy. The suffering, the rejection, including indifference, at first created a passive attitude, a decision to remain on the political margins, rebellion is a political event that creates possibility for changes. Chavismo, before being recognized as such, incorporated the act of rebellion into the political. Chavismo is inconceivable without collective memory, without the common notion of rebellion: it is in rebellion that kinship and politicization of men and women happens, it is baptism by fire.

The misunderstanding of the historic conditions that led to the emergence of chavismo as a political and ethical subject, creates an ignorance of the nature of the spaces where chavismo operates. In other words, if one doesn’t understand the singularity of the process of politicization of chavismo and, above all, the political cultural that has been constructed in the past years, it is impossible to recognize the potential of a space like the communal council.

Chavez did not create the communal councils to bring them to the lowest common denominator, but to incorporate those from below, to guarantee them a space, a place. Chavismo has not been domesticated, not been molded into the image of the same old as it has been said, but because we recognize it as something else, something different, like as a subject that points in the direction of the construction of another politics. Chavez knew how to identify the ways in which chavismo could hold a defiant spirit that could nonetheless operate with other more traditional forms of political participation.

These spaces of political construction of the communes are characteristic of all revolutionary processes. However, the tendency to control them is equally characteristic; a task that is always taken up by the most conservative and bureaucratized forces within the revolution. Despite constant historical examples of scandals, doesn’t mean that we should give up. Exactly the opposite, we should be proactive.

There is no more of an effective way to control these spaces (the communal councils) than to corrupt them, neutralize them: try to convert the organized people into clientele, into a venue where popular leaders that manage in a way that makes it impossible for communities to successfully execute solutions to their problems, especially in the face of the state bureaucracy, and therefore the communal councils loose total legitimacy. When they are converted into scenarios of disputes about positions or resources, these spaces become closed: the people begin to identify them as more of the same and, in the worst cases, they remove themselves from these spaces.

But none of the previous phenomena, expressions of the old political culture, could make us misunderstand the nature of the space: the purpose for which it was created, for conceiving of the political subject. The continued survival of the old can not impede us in recognizing its radical novelty.

There is no place in the world where an organized people could do what is being done today by the communal councils. Without the vitality of the a significant number of communal councils, and in spite of many obstacles, it would have been impossible to make a qualitative jump towards what the commune movement has experienced, which today drives the Presidential Council of the Communal Government with extraordinary vigor. In spite of what the biggest skeptics say, the communes are playing an important role in producing another society. Our way of living is being put into question in many of these territories. And this political boldness of the communes would be inconceivable without the communal councils (the vital origin of the Communes).

The indispensable vitality of the spaces of participation is a recurring topic in the extensive bibliography of popular revolutions. For example, citing the classic text “The Russian Revolution,” written in 1918, Rosa Luxemburg firmly questioned the Bolshevik’s decision to dissolve the constituent assembly in November of 1917: “ But the remedy which Trotsky and Lenin have found, the elimination of democracy as such, is worse than the disease it is supposed to cure; for it stops up the very living source from which alone can come correction of all the innate shortcomings of social institutions. That source is the active, untrammeled, energetic political life of the broadest masses of the people.”

Ten years later, Christian Rakovski wrote “The professional dangers of power”, in which he tried to unravel the reasons behind the gradual process of bureaucratization of the Soviet Union: “The bureaucracy of the Soviets and of the party constituted a new order. It was not in isolated cases, in the failure of the conduct of some comrade, but of a new social category which should have dedicated itself to the treatise”

Reviewing the experiences of the French Revolution gives one of the causes of lethargy of the revolutionary process “the gradual elimination of the electoral principal and the substitution of a principal of appointments.”

The bibliography, as I have said, is very extensive and constitutes a substantial part of the collection of humanity. There is not a better form of preserving it than to have time for studying it, in a way to be able to be capable of correcting errors that, that other dignified and seasoned peoples have made, just like us. This same bibliography tends to coincide with the approach that says that the terminal crisis of popular revolutions have a direct relationship with the closure of spaces of popular participation and the rise of a bureaucratic caste or, as John William Cooke said, with the predominance of a bureaucratic “style.”

En “Peronismo y Revolucion” the Argentine Cooke affirms “The bureaucratic is a style in the execution of the functions of influence. Suppose, for now, operating with the same values of the adversary, it’s to say, with a reformist superficial, anti-ethical vision of the revolutionary. The bureaucracy is centrist, cultivating a “realism” that comes with being highly pragmatic. So then, this behavior is purified from the feeling of creation of revolutionary politics, of this projection towards searching for possible futures in each tactic, each task, each episode so that creativity doesn’t run out. The bureaucrat wants the regime to fall, but also to last, they await for transitions to take place without abandoning their positions. One can see how the representative or, sometimes, the benefactor of the masses, isn’t part of the masses, their politics is a succession of tactics that they consider to be arithmetic additions, extended to a temporal configuration of a strategy.

In Venezuela, the continuation of the Bolivarian revolution is conditional on the preservation and stimulation of a vitality of spaces of popular participation, particularly the communal councils. It will be indispensable to neutralize the conservative, and bureaucratizing influences which are present in all processes of revolutionary change.

Our political party has the ethical obligation to construct clear political route to stimulating the communal councils, and that they serve this role without looking towards creating loopholes of clientelism. The struggle against what, in the document “strategic lines of political action” is enunciated as “capitalist political culture,” should move from declarations into concrete actions expressed through sobering methods. This “capitalist political culture” should be signaled and fought from within the highest level. Our leadership should erect an ethical reference point. At the grassroots, the criticism against clientelism and other vices is truly ruthless. The chavista people have a clear consciousness about the problems. A firm position of the political leadership against these vices moreover, would boost morale.

At the same time, our party (PSUV) should expressly renounce the “instrumentalization” of the communal councils, to administer the spaces at their convenience. Before controlling them “at whatever cost”, conceiving of them as a space from which popular and democratic hegemony is constructed. The pettiness of administrators is unprecedented and runs in complete contradiction with the revolutionary politics that Chavez built with the people. This should be, as a comrade who follows Chavez said, “the art of convincing” that supersedes “the custom of administrating.” There is not a revolutionary politics without understanding the comprehension of how this force is constructed. This force, which today sustains the Bolivarian Rrevolution, that serves as a point of support, has been constructed by listening to the other, the one who thinks differently, adding that perspective, incorporating it. A political force incapable of convincing looses the right to call itself a force and as such enters a phase of decadence. The construction of the hegemony of chavismo has been, literally, a democratic exercise; and popular, not only in the incorporation of the majority but in the diversity of thought and demands. This capacity to construct hegemony has supposedly defeated the old political class, but this same form of cultivating “the art of convincing” could signify our ruin as well.

It s time to make a commitment to a militant politics oriented towards recuperating, to the point where it is necessary, defending, where appropriate, the community councils as spaces where, as Luxemburg says “ that source is the active, untrammeled, energetic political life of the broadest masses of the people”of Venezuela. For this, it is fundamental to re vindicate what Rokovski identified as “the electoral principle” By August 29th of this year, 33.2% of the 43, 198 registered communal councils had unsuccessful organizing bodies of spokespeople. Our party had to promote, for all of the reasons displayed here, and as one of the high priority tasks, the renovation of the organizing bodies. It will not be enough until all of them are valid.

Our effort has to be directed towards converting the communal councils into real schools of governance, where the communes execute the practice of self governance, so that they learn the art of governing. The art of self-governance requires experience, especially the experience of extracting lessons through ones’ own errors. Learning the art of governing is not so that the people eventually are converted into functionaries but instead to move towards constructing another “institutionality.” The revolutionary militant, needs to do their own part in working to reduce the breech that separates the institutions from the people, freeing a struggle without reproducing the bureaucratic style that Cooke warned of.

The communal councils are not, nor should they be, the only space of the Bolivarian revolution. But, they are excellent political spaces. Spaces that “can not be an appendices of the party,” as Chavez warned against on June 11, 2009. “The communal councils cannot be appendices of the local governments! They can’t be, nor should they be, don’t let them be! The communal councils, the communes, can’t be appendices of governors, nor ministers, nor of the ministry of communes, nor of President Chavez, nor of anyone! They are the people’s, they are the creation of the masses, they are of all of you!”

It should be that way.

* Reinaldo Iturriza López, at the time of writing this [Tuesday, September 2nd] was acting Minister of Popular Power for the Communes. He has since been reappointed as Minister of Culture as part of Nicolas Maduro’s Government “shakeup.”

Translated by Cory Fischer-Hoffman for venezuelanalysis.com.