Mérida, October 21, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The first ever International Congress of Communes and Social Movements was held in Caracas’ Alba Hotel over the weekend.
The gathering was attended by 130 international delegates from 27 countries joining around 600 Venezuelan representatives, according to government sources organising the event.
The congress was held under the slogan “Communes or Nothing” on occasion of the seventh anniversary of former President Hugo Chavez’s influential Strike at the Helm speech, in which he stressed the need to devolve power to the people.
Delegates discussed macro political issues such as national sovereignty and self-determination, as well as more communal-specific topics including communal production and financial systems, as well as the conformation of communal cities and their relationship with local mayors and governors.
Delegates were also joined by the wider Caracas population in a “Great Internationalist Communard March” on Saturday.
Speaking at the close of the event, President Nicolas Maduro explained that the initiative to organise the Congress emerged from the July meeting of the regional left-wing regional bloc, the Sao Paulo Forum.
The president went on to highlight the role of communes and popular power in Venezuela, describing it as “the soul of the Bolivarian project [and] the only road to construct Bolivarian Socialism.”
Venezuelan communes bring together local communal councils into regional decision-making bodies that also incoporate other grassroots community groups, including workers’ councils, feminist or ecological groups, as well as the Bolivarian Militia. Some of the more organised communes have spearheaded recent efforts to overcome the economic crisis by creating self-sufficient community productive units and providing local solutions to problems in the health and food sectors. Their efforts have often led them into conflict with state bureaucracy, private landowners, and local government representatives.
From Caracas, Alberto Maza of Carabobo State’s General Manuel Cedeno Commune explained that “Communes are of strategic importance for the construction of socialism in Venezuela [and also] the fundamental cell for the new mode of production.”
According to Maduro, there are currently 3,173 communes organised in Venezuela, and 25,772 communal businesses have been registered. He also indicated that there are 48,090 communal councils, of which 22,095 are urban, 23,363 rural, and 2,632 based in indigenous territories. It is unclear how many of these communes were represented at the congress.
Last October, Maduro publicly apologised to communal leaders for “half-hearted” progress in the devolution of powers to the communal structures, claiming his mandate has been plagued by mere “speeches and applause” on the issue.
However, his government has since come under continuing fire for pushing forward with privatisations of state land and enterprises in lieu of turning them over to communal organisations.
The final document signed at the Congress congratulated Venezuela’s efforts to build popular power, describing the experiences of self-government as “anti-establishment practices which return power to the people, as well as sharpening efforts to struggle for a different world.”
The declaration also explains that communal organisation is “an important form of resistance against the oppressive plot of capitalism, an emancipatory project against the bourgeois state, and a distinct way of doing politics.”
Concretely, delegates agreed to create an International Confederation of Communes, Social Movements, and Popular Power, a Centre for the Safeguarding and Reproduction of Native Seeds, and a Bolivar-Chavez International Institute for Advanced Studies of Popular Power.
Delegates also plan to form a Popular Network of Alternative Communication, which will divulge information from the varied commune movements in a range of languages, via TV, radio, social networking, video conferences, street art and newsletters.
They also proposed establishing a Venezuela-based Latin America and Caribbean International Popular Economic Commission (CEIPAL), which will “study and articulate efforts in the economic, productive, and technological fields of popular power,” paying special attention to cryptocurrencies and communal barter systems.
A global “Anti-Imperialist Twitter Campaign” was also agreed upon for November 5, as well as a range of events in capitals cities on December 9 and in the context of the #NoMoreTrump campaign.
Similarly, marches in support of the Bolivarian Revolution and against neoliberalism were called for February 27, while a global protest in favour of peace in Latin America is planned for April 2020. Finally, delegates agreed to organise protests rejecting the Monroe Doctrine and international sanctions on June 28, 2020.
Those participating in the Congress also used the opportunity to express their rejection of US-led sanctions against Venezuela, as well as what they termed “the monopolisation” of seeds by multinational firms including Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta.
The final declaration also expressed solidarity with a number of protests currently being held across the continent.
“Today the peoples are rising up in resistance to imperialist attacks and we are watching the struggles of our Chilean, Ecuadorian, Haitian, Brazilian, Argentine and Colombian brothers and sisters closely,” explained Mervin Maldonado, a United Socialist Party (PSUV) Congress representative.