Mérida, June 12th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) — On Thursday evening Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez hosted the first of what will be a series of special episodes of his weekly presidential talk show, "Hello, President." The focus of these episodes is the theory of socialist change, in contrast to the discussions of current events and exhibitions of government projects that are the usual themes of his Sunday afternoon broadcasts.
"There can be no revolution if there is no revolutionary theory," said Chávez to an audience of note-taking supporters. "Science, theory, and method are vital in order to construct anything."
In a teacher-like tone, Chávez said that communes should be "the space in which we are going to give birth to socialism." He said organized local communities must take the initiative to form these communes with the goal of placing "the ownership of the means of production in the hands of the commune."
"Where socialism should emerge is not from the Presidency of the Republic. This is not decreed… it must be created from the grassroots… it is a creation of the masses," Chávez said, citing a passage from a book published in 1966 about communes in the People's Republic of China under the leadership of Mao Tse-Tung.
The creation of communes has occupied a growing share of the public policy discourse in Venezuela since February, when Chávez created the Ministry of Communes following a national referendum in which voters approved a constitutional amendment that lifted term limits on public offices.
"Our communes have not been born," the president explained. "We talk about communities, socialism, and we say ‘fatherland, socialism, or death,' but what we are doing is shuffling, searching, creating, inventing. But we cannot say that in Venezuela today there exists one commune," said Chávez.
With Minister of Communes Erika Farías at his side, Chávez said that communes cannot exist in isolation, but must eventually be connected together in a national network. He also called on local community councils to step up and take a more assertive role in shaping public policy, calling them the "nuclei" of the future communes.
"This is not about opposing the decisions of the state, but it is about demanding respect for the opinion and everything that affects the local community," said Chávez. "Community councils cannot be appendices of the mayor's offices, the governorships, the ministry, or President Chávez… don't let it happen! They are the people's!" he exclaimed.
As an example, Chávez encouraged community councils to actively oppose the granting of public lands for the construction of shopping malls such as the "capitalist monster" Sambil, even if officials from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) or Chávez himself are the ones who have conceded the lands.
To boost the community councils, the Chávez government granted 371 million bolivars (US $173 million) to finance more than 4,000 community council projects on Thursday. Last year, the government granted nearly 5 billion bolivars (US $2.33 billion) to community councils to finance local projects related to infrastructure, housing, food security, culture, recreation, and more, according to the government's news agency ABN.
Currently, a reform to Venezuela's national Law on Community Councils has been opened for public debate in community councils nation-wide. The reform includes a change to how the community councils' funds are managed, which until now has been through communal banks registered as financial cooperatives. The National Assembly hopes to pass the reform by mid-August, according to Legislator Ulises Daal. The original Law on Community Councils was passed in 2006 to give legal recognition and a financial structure to local organizing.