Much More than a Few Mayorships

Former Venezuelan Minister for Communes and academic, Reinaldo Iturriza, argues that the United Socialist Party of Venezuela's failure to back the mayoral candidacies of several commune activists and its focus on representative democracy could lead to the collapse of the revolution. 

National Constituent Assembly delegate and commune activist Angel Prado
National Constituent Assembly delegate and commune activist Angel Prado

In view of this December 10’s municipal elections, communards and revolutionary activists closely associated with the most important initiatives of communal organization in the country have been launched as candidates for mayor. This is the case, among others, of Angel Prado, of the El Maizal Commune (Simon Planas, Lara); Augusto Espinoza of the Cajigal Commune (Cajigal, Sucre), Jesus Silva of Alexis Vive and promoter of the Beehives of the Homeland* (Moran, Lara); and Jose Maria “Chema” Romero of the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current, involved in the building of the Communal City Simon Bolivar (Paez, Apure).

Although it can’t be spoken of as a massive phenomenon, it is undoubtedly a deeply significant event for various reasons.

There has always been a tense relationship between communes and mayorships. With some exceptions, such as that of the Torres municipality in Lara state (first with Julio Chavez and currently with Edgar Carrasco), those who assume government functions at the municipal level tend to view with suspicion those spaces where there are initiatives of popular self-government, even if it’s just a modest communal council. This is no ordinary tension: at no other level is the clash between representative and participatory political logics so clearly expressed. It could be said that the political earthquake that is the Bolivarian revolution has its epicenter there: these political logics are tectonic fault lines in constant movement. Chavismo is precisely the political subject that embodies the historic effort that gave rise to this earthquake. Nonetheless, in the name of necessary stability, the representative fault line has been taking the place of the participatory, which ironically could be paving the road for the collapse of all that we have built.

I know many cases of mayors putting all of their efforts into hindering these communal experiences, attacking their leaders, whom they view more as rivals than as comrades in struggle, occasionally trying to coopt them, almost always denying them any support – and it’s a fact that until very recently the overwhelming majority of these [communal] leaders never took seriously the possibility of becoming a candidate to any office. This is because the commune allowed them to aspire to something else: to lay the foundations of another politics, to build a new institutional framework on a radically democratic, participatory, and protagonist basis. The commune allows for collective aspirations, and any legitimate personal aspiration subordinates itself to the desire of one’s peers, to the commons, to those who make us what were are and without whom we are no one.

It seems to me that this began to change recently with President Nicolas Maduro’s call to elect a National Constituent Assembly (ANC), including delegates from the “sector” of communal councils and communes. These circumstances “obliged” our political class, far too inclined towards the logic of representative [democracy], to cede space to a subject which, and one has to insist on this point, is usually viewed as a threat instead of how it should be: as the most advanced segment of the Bolivarian political experiment. And it likewise “obliged” a part of our communal leadership to take a step forward, not only to force open the political game, but also to create the conditions for an urgent renewal of the Chavista political class, as the president himself has proposed tacitly on several occasions.

Of the four comrades mentioned above, only one of them has the “official” backing of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. But a handful of parties trying to fish in troubled waters do not lie behind the other three, and if that were the case, I know that those comrades would know how to keep them at bay. Behind them there are thousands and thousands of people who continue hedging their bets on the Bolivarian revolution as the possibility of putting into practice another form of politics, this we learned with Chavez.

It’s normal that leaders with these characteristics are rejected by those who have turned the United Socialist Party of Venezuela into a synonym of sectarianism and bureaucratism, imposing “leaders” severely questioned by the people. This should not intimidate us: we don’t have any other alternative than to continue fighting to put things in their place.

In the specific case of the ANC delegate Angel Prado, of the El Maizal commune, there are many hurdles** that he must surpass in order to be registered as a candidate for mayor of Simon Planas in Lara, despite having the support of the majority of the people. Now, the regional branch of the National Electoral Council has told him that until he has the permission of the ANC leadership, his candidacy will not become a reality. I am sure that this has nothing to do with the fact that Angel Prado is not the “official” candidate of Chavismo. Nothing would be more thickheaded than to reject the will of the majority and, in the process, place in question something that has cost us so much effort to establish: the credibility of the electoral arbiter.

What is at stake is much more than a few mayorships. Something more is happening. It’s the soil of our motherland that is trembling, which means that it’s still alive, that they have not succeeded in burying us. 

*The Alexis Vive movement’s “beehives” initiative is a network of direct consumer-producer links between urban and rural communes for the distribution of sugar and other products to inner city communities.

**As of November 28, Angel Prado’s candidacy appears to be blocked by the National Constituent Assembly, which has refused to give him permission to run, despite a 48-hour protest by his supporters outside the body’s offices this week.

Translated by Lucas Koerner for Venezuelanalysis.