Desiring the Commune

Reinaldo Iturriza, Venezuela’s minister for communes examines how the building of communes in Venezuela is going, why communes are important as alternatives to capitalism, and the conditions necessary for them to flourish in Venezuela.


The following article was written by Reinaldo Iturriza, Venezuela’s minister for communes.

On 10 August 2012, a little more than a year ago, the first commune was formally registered in Venezuela. This took place in the San Francisco municipality, Zulia state. The commune with the honour was called Gran Cacique Guaicaipuro.

But it wasn’t until after the well known “Golpe de Timon” speech by commandante Chavez on 20 October that the process of registering was sped up; there were two in November, nine in December, and 26 in January 2013. From then on what followed was a slow but sustained decline, which without a doubt was a result of the urgent policies that we had to face and overcome, until in June, right in the middle of the street government, we began to see an improvement: 13 registrations, 24 more in July…

Today, the number of registered communes has gone up to 103. These are communes that are “recognised” by the Bolivarian government. But further, (and this, like the last figure, is one that is growing constantly), there are 377 communes that are “under construction”. Lastly, we have identified at least 409 additional cases of organised people who have expressed their willingness to set-up communes.

Those who do the maths know already: among them all, we’re talking about 889 trenches from where there are battles to construct our very unique, unrepeatable, and “top-archist” version of socialism. And be sure that there’s more; places we haven’t been to yet, experiences that we don’t know.

Very well, beyond the numbers, which are indispensible for guiding us, are the stories. The blood and bone people.

To tell the story of the communes is to tell the story of Chavismo, I said some days ago to Carola Chavez, with whom I have chatted extensively about the topic. It’s not possible to understand why a portion of Venezuelan society has decided to organise itself in communes if we aren’t capable of identifying the historic uniqueness of the Chavista phenomenon.

During these difficult days, where fears and uncertainties bloom, it’s timely to remember one of the distinctive signs of Chavismo: If the normal thing in society is to resist change, what defines Chavismo is its resistance to resign itself to more of the same. Chavismo is belligerent and political and its political culture is deeply at odds with resignation.

In our contemporary capitalist societies a common logic prevails which is expressed in a range of forms: there is nothing beyond capital. One of the inarguable achievements of capitalism is having persuaded millions of people in the whole world, and particularly the youngest ones, that they were fighting for their personal wellbeing, when really they were declaring themselves beaten and resigned.

Capital, at the moment of reproducing itself, knows no limits or borders. However it builds a society where there is no horizon beyond itself and it doesn’t matter if the survival of the human species is put at serious risk. In capitalism, anything is possible, with the condition that everything be possible for a few people, and that many people don’t have anything. Everything is possible, yes, but not for the invisible people, because they don’t count, because they won’t be part of history, because history is what happens despite them, despite their insignificant existence.

In capitalism, personal wellbeing is, in reality, about whoever can save themselves. Competition is heartless. Selfishness. No free development of the personality, because personality is only fully developed collectively, with others, with the communes.

Returning to the main thing:  Maybe this revolution doesn’t look like the little books written by European authors that we read as though they were primers. But when one has the strange historic privilege to see how a people appear, how they tremble and mobilise; when one sees a people that is reluctant to give up, when one sees a people voting for crazy things like the construction of Bolivarian socialism or the preservation of life on the planet, one knows that one is in the presence of a revolution.

When a part of the Chavista people expresses a desire to organise itself in Communes, it’s because, as Oscar Varsavsky would say, it has developed a level of consciousness that means it doesn’t resign itself to the most probable trend. Rather, it is waging on building a more desirable future.

To accompany this extraordinary process of building communes means at least two things. First of all, it means creating the conditions so that more and more people want to gather together in communes. Communes won’t be a reality that is imposed, nor will there be aerial communes that are valid. They should be yearned for, even a need. The commune is nothing more than opportunity to live better, to live a life that we like, that deserves to be lived. That’s why the construction of communes is closely associated with one of the twelve lines of work that our president Nicolas Maduro outlines: to promote a cultural and communicational revolution. It’s important to overcome the capitalist common logic, synonym of resignation and a beaten people, there where it is expressed.

Secondly, this process demands that we – continuing with Varvsavsky – make this future desired by our people a viable future. Because we know very well that desires don’t mean actions. We have to roll up our shirt sleeves and work tirelessly so that the new society ends up being born.  In this point the urgent thing is still the progressive reduction of the distance between institutions and organised people. To hurry ourselves so that we can walk at the rhythm of the real movement.

That’s where things are at.

Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com