What would governing institutions look like in a just, peaceful, and democratic society? Would they be essentially the same as the current institutions, but with less corruption, less abuse of power, better representation of women, and other progressive gains? Or would they be fundamentally transformed?
In Chávez The Radical XII, President Chávez says that the Bolivarian Revolution should create new institutions from the ground up, starting with the communal councils, which are local democratic assemblies formed by families and neighbors. These councils must avoid focusing narrowly on the logistics of soliciting public funds and coordinating community improvements, he says. They must also have a broader vision and form relationships with other community councils, and these regional bodies must then link up to form a national confederation.
This new institutional structure will be based on “constituent power”, says Chávez, meaning it will draw its power from direct links to the people participating in their local councils. Therefore, it will be an alternative to the centralized, hierarchical, and bureaucratic structure of the corporate capitalist state, which Chávez refers to as “constituted power”.
Constituted power, according to Chávez, still lives in the traditional governing institutions of Venezuela, specifically the mayoralties, governor’s offices, and regional and local legislatures. These institutions have typically served the interests of the capitalist class, the Catholic hierarchy, and the traditional land- owning elite. This bourgeois state must be transcended and gradually rendered irrelevant as new forms of participatory democracy emerge and the communal state coalesces.
Chávez draws inspiration for this vision from Venezuela’s independence fighter Simón Bolívar, who declared shortly after Venezuela became independent that he trusts the will and the voice of the people much more than that of the elites. He said there is no purer or less corruptible way of ensuring that people have control over their own lives than to consult with them directly, even on the issues managed at the highest level of national power.
The crucial element in the new communal state is the people’s will. Chávez emphasizes that people must be conscious that the power lies in their hands and that a new and better society will not arrive like a river that flows to the sea; we have to give birth to it through our collective efforts.