The Early Victories of the Communard Union

In the first delivery of his new column, Reinaldo Iturriza takes stock of the recent Communard Union congress.

The Founding Congress of the Communard Union was held on March 3 and 4 on the territory of the Maizal Socialist Commune in the municipality of Simón Planas in Lara state. The meeting brought together communards from 48 Communes from twelve states in the country as well as activists from a dozen popular organizations with an emphasis on territorial work.

The Founding Congress was preceded by at least three years of strenuous and sustained work, often hampered by severe material difficulties that impeded mobilization and then further thwarted by the pandemic. These circumstances that did not prevent small deployments by groups of comrades, in several waves, through some states of the east, the center, the plains and the Andean region, seeking to create or strengthen links with thousands of communards scattered throughout the territory. The initial contacts were followed by several meetings of regional scope, where a common agenda was macerated, while at the same time reaffirming the need to come together in an autonomous space, which would contribute to the reorganization of popular and communal Chavismo.

This could be considered the first early and partial victory of the Communard Union: having taken a decisive step towards the rearticulation of forces scattered throughout the national territory. The most lucid elements of the communard leadership in Venezuela were always convinced that Chávez’s commitment to the creation and multiplication of communes had found sympathetic ears, even in the most remote places. In addition, they were always willing to enthusiastically join the efforts aimed at building “a network that goes like a gigantic spider’s web covering the territory with the new”, in order to counteract the “giant amoeba” of capital, as Chávez himself would say in his Strike at the Helm speech.

For some time, organizations such as the Bolívar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), as well as the National Network of Communards, knew how to fulfill this role, contributing their valuable militant effort to the task of strengthening and elevating the communard movement. Around 2014, in times of intense communal mobilization, a considerable segment of the most advanced communes were part of one of these two organizations. But even then, the majority of the communes stayed away from any space of convergence, or limited themselves to establishing alliances of a more local or regional nature, which certainly should not be held against such initiatives.

Five years later, when the human sprout of what is now the Communard Union began to plan its imminent deployment throughout the territory, the situation was very different: those national organizations—for reasons whose analysis is beyond the purpose of this text—had markedly weakened or had decided to retreat, concentrating on their territorial strongholds. These circumstances were, at the same time, an expression of the state of ebb that the communard movement was going through. Precisely because the forging of the Communard Union took place in a context of an ebb in popular mobilization and therefore in extremely adverse political conditions, this fact undoubtedly constitutes the second of its early victories. This space is a good example that having the certainty that it is necessary to unite is not enough. Initiative is also needed. The Communard Union is the result of political initiative.

This important context allows us to fairly assess the significance of a seemingly modest initiative, especially if it is evaluated in quantitative terms (and taking into account that there are over four thousand officially registered communes), that in reality contains an extraordinary potential: eventually the Communard Union could become a kind of lever organization, that is, one that acts as a point of support that contributes to the reorganization of the communal movement and, further, to the strengthening of the diminished Venezuelan popular movement.

The third early victory would be the commitment to the quality rather than the quantity of communal organization processes. There are plenty of reasons to state that the Founding Congress could have been a massive staging, with people from several hundred communes and political groups from nearly the entire country. In fact, the attendance at some of the preparatory regional meetings of the congress exceeded one hundred communes. However, the idea of ​​building a solid initial nucleus ended up prevailing, to build around communes with a minimum track record of productive work, with strong territorial roots, etc. Clearly, the leadership of the Communard Union does not intend to “represent” the largest possible number of communes, a showing of force that does not actually correspond to reality, to negotiate resources or power quotas, to name one example. Its express intention, and this would be the fourth early victory, is to build real power in the territory. The Communard Union does not intend to “hegemonize” the commune movement, but instead to contribute to the reconstruction of popular and democratic hegemony, which is something very different.

The fifth early victory is closely related to the previous two: betting on the quality of communal organization processes, as well as on the construction of real power in the territory, necessarily supposes a medium and long-term view. In their speeches during the Founding Congress, various key figures of the Communard Union insisted again and again on the need to undertake the patient task of reconstruction and rebuilding ties, respecting the rhythms and levels of development of the different experiences of popular self-government.

The sixth early victory would be the special emphasis on programmatic issues: today, there are very few spaces where the Chavista leadership unreservedly upholds socialism, and there are even fewer spaces where any reference to socialism does not sound like empty rhetoric, to the degree that it is preferable to not to invoke it at all. Well, the Founding Congress of the Communard Union was a space where not only the validity of the socialist horizon was reclaimed, but also the need to “return to Chávez,” in the sense that an important part of the leadership has moved away from his ideology and praxis. More notably, it was a space in which the constant references to socialism were not just for appearances, but quite the opposite: it was about reaffirming a clear position in favor of the construction of socialism from within the territory, from the communal, from popular self-government and by strengthening social property.

Perhaps the seventh and last early victory would be the deep-rooted idea of the communard movement’s political co-responsibility, that is, the idea that restating and preserving the validity of the programmatic horizon of the Bolivarian Revolution is not a task that falls exclusively to those who today exercise government functions. It also falls to the organized people. Because only the people save the people. In the case of the Communard Union, this is not a mere slogan.

Reinaldo Iturriza López is an activist, writer, and sociologist with a degree from Venezuela’s Central University. He is the author of several books, including 27 de Febrero de 1989: interpretaciones y estrategias and El chavismo salvaje.

Iturriza López, father of Sandra Mikele and Ainhoa Michel and Venezuelan baseball enthusiast, is a former Culture Minister and Communes and Social Movements Minister. He also headed the Audiovisual Production School at Ávila TV. He writes regularly for the blog Saber y Poder.

Translated by Venezuelanalysis.com.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.