Joining the conversation from Merida, Venezuela are episode guests Felipe Vanegaz and Hilmar Rodriguez of the Comuna Che Guevara and the Unión Comunera. On August 1, WTF returned to Venezuela to participate on a 13 day delegation to study the Venezuela Commune System. While on assignment, each week we will share with you a WTF episode related to Venezuela's fight against US economic warfare including ending 200 years of US foreign policy based on domination of the hemisphere, as well as, the creation of socialist means of production for food and services which are helping alleviate the effects of unilateral coercive measures (economic sanctions).
El Sur Existe [The South Exists] is an urban and periurban commune in Valencia, Venezuela’s third-largest city. Its communards have displayed impressive flexibility and creativity in these times of imperialist blockade. They initially worked to develop an economic foundation for their commune that would respond to people’s material needs. Then they worked to strengthen a model of self-government where executive and legislative decisions have to be taken by the community, not by an isolated few. In Part I of this two-part piece for the Communal Resistance Series, El Sur Existe communards explained their commune’s history and its productive initiatives.
There is a confrontation of models, a clash of two paradigms not only in Venezuela and in Latin America, but also worldwide. One of the questions in the debate is: who is the historical subject? For us, that is the question of who is it that activates, who lights up the field, who pushes changes forward. And when we reflect on this issue, which means thinking about our own practice, we guide our interpretation by the proposal that developed with Comandante Chavez. Chavez developed a hypothesis after a process of maturing, after a rigorous analysis of the Venezuelan and continental realities, and after a reflection on the revolutionary potential under our feet (based also on a commitment to justice for the poor that was there from the start). His hypothesis was: The commune is the historical subject, the commune and its people, the comuneros, that is where the revolution really begins. So we made this proposal ours, we committed to it.
Dario Azzellini tells Theresa Alt about Venezuelan cooperatives. The Chavez government supported the formation of cooperatives. Many formed; few really succeeded in operating cooperatively. Liberation theology also had been encouraging cooperatives. Other cooperatives arose when entrepreneurs and landowners left Venezuela and the workers took over. Later initiating cooperatives was given to the local-government communes. Local communes have played a more constructive role than central government. Recorded June 8, 2022.
Monte Sinaí Commune is a young organization working hard to foster communal production and strengthen non-market social relations. This commune’s territory reaches into both Anzoátegui and Miranda states, but has its epicenter in the small town of Santa Bárbara in the Guanape Valley. Various crops, including coffee, cocoa, black beans, diverse tubers, and avocado, all grow in this lush and varied region. Since the coffee trees here are old and low in yield, the commune has built a plant nursery to grow coffee seedlings to replace the old trees. The process of forming the Monte Sinaí Commune began about a year ago. Since then, we have been working very hard. As the saying goes, we are a diamond in the rough, but the beauty of the project is beginning to show. Our parliament meets every Wednesday no matter what. That is where we bring our ideas to the table, debate, and plan.
Eastern Venezuela is home to extensive petroleum extraction and processing operations which have their hub in the cities of Barcelona and Puerto la Cruz in Anzoátegui state. The Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi Commune, one of the most advanced communes in the country, grew up in the shadow of this multibillion-dollar business in one of Barcelona's working-class neighborhoods. This is a rapidly-growing commune – remarkable because of its success in an urban context – which focuses on recycling and waste disposal to maintain itself. In Part I of this two-part series, Luisa Caceres’ communards explain the challenges of building a commune in a country besieged by US imperialism.
February 4 followed on the insurrectional footsteps of February 27 [1989, the Caracazo], a massive social explosion triggered by the absolute failure of the existing societal model. Three years later came Chávez’s military insurrection. Now, the element that was missing on the 27th was there on the 4th. Conversely, what was absent on the 4th was there on the 27th. The Caracazo mobilized the masses: tens of thousands of people went to the streets and expressed their dissent with the existing order. On the other hand, February 4th had a vanguard and a strategic objective, but the masses didn’t participate. The Bolivarian Revolution is the synthesis of those two moments: it brings vanguard and masses together.
Outside of Venezuela, communes are a little known aspect of the Bolivarian Revolution, yet the development of the communal state is integral to the vision of 21st century socialism laid out by former President Hugo Chavez. In this series, In Commune, Venezuelanalysis will explore different experiences of rural and urban communes to help better understand what these highly controversial bodies mean, how they have been put into practice, and what they could signify for the continuity of the Bolivarian Revolution in the current situation of political and economic imperialist aggression.
On March 5, 2009, in the shade of a great Samán tree on the edge of unused farm lands rescued from a large landowner near the border of Lara and Portuguesa States, the people gathered with President Chávez and vowed to organize a commune which would collectively produce on those lands. Eleven years later, the El Maizal Commune has become a national and international reference for communal organization and production.
The Altos de Lídice Commune is an urban commune located in western Caracas. Formed less than two years ago, the commune emerged from the need to create collective grassroots solutions amidst a devastating economic crisis and US unilateral sanctions. Access to medicine, adequate medical attention and nutrition are all aspects of communal health which have deeply affected the quality of life of the inhabitants of Altos de Lídice and almost all Venezuelans in the midst of the current unilateral sanctions, and for this reason healthcare became the initial focal point of the Altos de Lídice Commune.
Caracas a city made up of several cities. They oppose each other; sometimes they are afraid of each other. The east side bursts with news about Juan Guaido and the opposition. The west side is the territory of Chavista majorities, Miraflores Presidential Palace, the core of power. The division is about class but about names too: people in the east live in hills, while in the west they live in barrios. One of those barrios is the 23 de Enero neighborhood, which had a tradition of popular resistance even before Hugo Chavez came onto the scene and where several colectivos exist.