Venezuela’s National Assembly is currently debating the Law of Communal Cities. President Nicolás Maduro has announced the target of creating 200 communal cities by June. The law is expected to face its second reading between April and May.
The project looks to build upon existing community structures like communal councils and their conglomerate communes. It reportedly includes the transfer of competencies and financing to organized communities, the application of participative democracy, the creation of communal enterprises, and the formation of a National Communal Parliament.
According to Socialist Party (PSUV) deputies, the law’s objectives include “de-colonializ[ing] current consciousness and social praxis (…) and transcending the mechanical summing of communal councils and communes to build a new and truly human spirit and subjectivity.”
The white paper has, however, drawn criticism from opposition sectors that claim it creates unconstitutional “parallel structures” and will do away with mayor and governor offices while imposing “socialist structures.”.
Some leftist communards have also expressed concern, with a handful of Venezuela’s stronger communes pointing out that communized spaces cannot be created through top-down legislation. Others also warn against reformist or bureaucratic trends or question the State’s commitment to communal construction, drawing from previous grassroots experience in which efforts to construct communal cities faced resistance from State players.
The following is a statement by one of Venezuela’s stronger grassroots organizations: Movimiento de Pobladoras y Pobladores [Settlers' Movement, henceforth Pobladoras].
Pobladoras considers the proposed Law of Communal Cities to be an opportunity with great revolutionary potential. It offers continuity with the philosophy of the Bolivarian Revolution and may unleash the strength of Chavismo. It will also allow for a strategic internal debate, and for the regrouping of forces in the fight for a revolutionary communal horizon.
The imperialist blockade killed rentier capitalism [in Venezuela] and, as such, incited class struggle between the country’s people and the dominant sectors. In this context, the law must be a tool to politicize the current crisis, to weigh influence on the false dilemma between trying to revive the dying rentier capitalist model or pushing for the birth of communal socialism.
We denounce this false dilemma: Venezuela has not withstood this harsh situation due to its rentier condition, but rather due to its community and collective structures.
These collective structures have been promoted and strengthened during our revolution and have, in fact, compensated for the absence of rent income or have allowed what remains of it to be translated into better material living conditions through solidarity, mutual support, collective work, voluntary brigades, self-management, and popular economies. These manifestations have allowed us to implement our greatest strength: the power of the people.
If we fight for it, the Law of Communal Cities may be used as a tool to strengthen the communal path to Bolivarian socialism that allowed us to wage multiple battles against imperialism.
Communization must be the policy that guides this stage of the Bolivarian Revolution. Communal cities, an element of the communal fabric, must be part of a revolutionary strategy to enhance community structures. These structures are what have allowed the people to resist the imperialist blockade, the systemic crisis of capitalism, and the global Covid-19 pandemic. They should be the cradle of communal socialism as an alternative to the dying rentier capitalist model.
Four aims of struggle for the communal cities
The battle against imperialism and its hybrid war against Venezuela is fought from the communal territories and with popular forces unleashed for class struggle.
Popular control and self-management are activated against exploitation and looting. Assembly power and self-government against bureaucracy and paternalism. Territorial control and popular defense against mafias and violence. Chavista and revolutionary popular unity against the enemies of the people. The flesh and blood of communal socialism in a communal city against capitalism.
In order to contribute towards ensuring a strategic political discussion, and to strengthen some aspects of the law, Pobladoras proposes:
- The communization of all areas of life, including political management, production planning, organization, and social relationships, which should be transferred to the hands of the organized people. All this must have the fundamental objective of reproducing a communal way of life based on common necessities – a concept used by indigenous and campesino people. Self-management should be the basis for an organized community’s direct control of shared means required for living (food, health, education, transport, water, energy, housing, among others) by one or more groups in a given system of territorial aggregation.
- The application of popular sovereignty and direct democracy following the principles used by communal councils. Communal cities should be comprised of all the communards that inhabit them and exercise popular sovereignty through the mechanisms that the law proposes. All communities in a communal city must have an active citizens’ assembly as the base level structure – a space where the most important issues will be debated and important decisions validated.
- Social control and self-management must be central to socialism in the communal city. All state or private-sector relations that exist in the communal territory must be progressively subject to social control by the communal city, which must supervise consumption, ownership, and management. Equally, most of the public- and private-sector relations key to the life of the communal city should progressively pass to direct communal self-management.
- An urban revolution. Democratizing the modern city involves going beyond the bourgeois liberal way of life and its pattern of territorial development based on extracting life from the majority of the people and the environment. The communal city is about decolonizing the territory. We are not talking about the right to city life, but about a city built for living, with shared purposes, and managed by the commoners. We are talking about a territory where the use of the common is subordinated to the common good of its inhabitants. It is the self-government of historical disputes of our neighborhoods and territories. Soil, water, energy, transport, education, and telecommunications among others are common elements that are collective and should be administered by the communal city.
We put forth these four axes as the guiding criteria in a struggle and popular debate of historical proportions.
They should also be part of the ongoing struggle to build a socialist communal society and consolidate a popular civilization as an alternative to the colonizing model imposed on us by imperialism.
Movimiento de Pobladoras y Pobladores:
Movimiento de Trabajadoras Residenciales [Residential Workers' Movement]
Campamentos de Pioneros [Pioneer Encampments]
Movimiento de Inquilinos [Tenants' Movement]
Comités de Tierra Urbana [Urban Land Committees]
Movimiento de Ocupantes de Edificios Organizados [Organized Building Occupiers' Movement]
Translation by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.