Merida, August 28, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – More than three hundred commune activists from across Venezuela gathered in Lara state this weekend to participate in the inaugural National Assembly of Communes.
The meeting was held to try to strengthen the connections between different communes in a range of areas, include linking up productive micro-projects, communicational initiatives, and educational networks.
It also discussed current challenges to the communal movement, territorial defence plans, how to push for the construction of a communal state, and ─ given recent widespread problems in state-run public services ─ how to incorporate public services such as water, electricity, and rubbish collection under the communes’ purview.
The assembly was convened and organised by the El Maizal Commune and the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), and was held in the communally-controlled university installations of Sarare in the Simon Planas municipality of Lara state.
Present were representatives from seventy four communes from numerous different regions of the country, including Lara, Apure, Barinas, Tachira, Merida, Yaracuy, Falcon, Carabobo states and Caracas. The initiative was organised independently from the national government.
Five members of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) were present, including prominent El Maizal spokesperson Angel Prado, who was elected to the ANC in July 2017.
There was also representation from the campesinos who recently marched 435 kilometers to meet with President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, as well as from Brazil’s Landless Workers’ peasant organisation, theMST, and Argentina’s Patria Grande movement.
Communes are conglomerates of communal councils, which were launched in response to a initiative by ex-President Hugo Chavez to empower local communities and devolve power to the people.
Communes are currently in a process of construction across the country, and according to the Ministry of Communes, there are at least 2,500 currently registered, with differing levels of organisational capacity. Some of the better organised communes, such as El Maizal in Lara state, are working on the construction of a “communal city” together with neighbouring communes.
“We, who are in the common struggle, don’t work together , we need a war plan to fight and resist the advances of our enemies and reformism which wants to finish this [Bolivarian Chavista] process,” stated ANC Deputy Angel Prado at the opening of the meeting.
ANC Deputy Orlando Zambrano reiterated Prado’s call to action, proclaiming that “We have to pass onto the offensive.”
Whilst communards have received wavering support at times from the national government of President Maduro, including a pre-electoral visit by him to a communal gathering in Lara state, tensions have often arisen between often local government officials and representatives of popular movements.
However, those present at the gathering were quick to express their support for Maduro, with Prado proclaiming, “Behind all of this [initiative] is Chavismo!”
The final declaration of the gathering, which also reiterates its “backing” of the government, likewise endorses Maduro’s recent economic measures, which include tying wages to the price of a barrel of oil, raising VAT and income tax, reordering gas subsidies, launching a revalued currency, and eliminating exchange controls.
The declaration also identifies a series of challenges for the popular power movement, including the supply of productive materials, the granting of communal land rights, the fight against state bureaucracy in the communal arena, and the transfer of powers to the communities, especially over public services.
“Across the country we have seen in various states clear consciousness from the communal activists in two central areas: production and the serious situation of the public services,” explained ANC Deputy Pedro Alvarado at the gathering.
The activists also identified the need for the creation of a space of dialogue between communal spokespeople and the national government.
“We see how [the government] have created spaces for debate with businessmen/women, bankers, importers, but not communal leaders nor with other sectors of the organised people,” the manifesto reads.
In closing, the communards stressed the need for the pro-government grassroots movements to come together in the push towards socialism and “build a new alliance.”