Caracas, July 2, 2023 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Dozens of popular power collectives came together on Friday and Saturday for a meeting dedicated to communal democracy.
The “Reflections on Communal Democracy” summit, organized by the International Network of Communal Democracy, took place at the Panal 2021 Commune in western Caracas. It featured more than 100 participants from nearly 40 grassroots organizations.
The delegations that came from different regions of Venezuela were joined by representatives from Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) and Colombia’s People’s Congress.
The International Network of Communal Democracy brings together popular power experiences from Venezuela, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Catalunya, the Basque Country and Kurdistan to create spaces of debate as well as bring together like-minded emancipatory projects. It held a previous summit in Chile in November 2022.
Robert Longa, spokesman from the Panal 2021 Commune, offered welcome words at the event’s opening and took stock of the communal project and its present challenges.
“We have to move from a resistance to an offensive stage,” he said. “In our case, the task at hand is the ‘proletarianization’ of our barrio,” Longa explained, in reference to the commune’s efforts to own and develop its own means of production.
Former President Hugo Chávez proposed communes as the “unit cells” for the construction of socialism in the South American nation. They are assembly-driven organizations envisioned as local self-governments that are set up to aggregate on a national scale.
The two-day congress featured speaker panels on topics such as the contrast between liberal and communal democracy, the construction of a post-capitalist society and the struggle to move communal production beyond the margins of capitalism.
One of the transversal topics discussed was the tension between bottom-up projects like communes and state institutions.
“We need to have a clear ideological route in order to tackle these contradictions with the powers that be,” stated the Che Guevara Commune’s Felipe Vanegaz, who likewise underlined that grassroots democratic projects need to focus on addressing the issues that affect the majority.
Vanegaz was one of many invitees from the Communard Union, a national platform that brings together more than 50 communes from 15 Venezuelan states. The organization held its founding congress in March 2022 to approve its political program and elect regional and national delegates.
Juan Lenzo, from community media outlet Tatuy Tv, offered a self-critical look at the communal project in Venezuela.
“How do we build a communal economic system in a context of economic liberalization?” he urged the audience to consider. “Are we supposed to face monopolistic companies in the same conditions?”
Lenzo argued that popular power organizations need to fight for protectionist policies as part of the fair distribution of the oil rent. He went on to urge organizations to “strengthen their roots” in the territory, in order to avoid the emergence of a “communard bureaucracy.”
The panels were followed by roundtable discussions to gather participants’ views on the different topics. The conclusions were gathered in a final statement approved in a final plenary session.
In her closing words, Anacaona Marín, spokeswoman from the Panal 2021 Commune, praised participants for their “discipline and commitment” to the communal project.
“These events fill us with hope,” she concluded. “That is why we always need to broaden our horizons.”
The event ended with a concert by popular singer Sandino Primera on Saturday evening.