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.
Within hours of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó calling for street mobilisations to back his attempted military coup against President Nicolás Maduro on April 30, Guaidó’s supporters had looted and set fire to the headquarters of the Indio Caricuao Commune in south-west Caracas. The building was used for local residents’ meetings and housed a commune-run textile enterprise, which funds projects in the community. Atenea Jiménez, from the National Network of Comuneros (commune activists) said: “Once again attacks on the communes by fascist sectors have begun.”
After the May 20 elections, the Bolivarian Revolution is entering a new stage. Plenty of analysis has been written about the elections, and there are many demands that are waiting to be fulfilled in the context of Nicolás Maduro’s reelection. The dangers are evident: our enemies are advancing with a plan that is clear to everyone. However, the question remains: how is the government going to drive forward the strategic project of constructing socialism? For many, the road ahead means following Chávez’s path: commune or nothing. More than a slogan, this phrase captures the long road of 20 years of revolutionary experience, of achievements that are now threatened. As such, this phrase demands not only the political reorientation of the Revolution but also its advancement.
By Stan Smith for MLToday. The grassroots struggle to build a new society, focusing on the cooperatives, the community councils, the communes, established to strengthen popular participatory democracy, is keeping the Chavista revolution alive. This communal movement began with the fight against neoliberalism’s anti-working class measures even before the Caracazo, the 1989 outburst against IMF imposed cuts resulting in the then government killing up to 2000 protesters. In Venezuela these struggles gave rise to popular local assemblies and neighborhood councils to meet community needs neglected by the government. In the Chavez era these became institutionalized as communal councils, participatory organizations for self-governance.
Stephen Gaskin, a Marine combat veteran and hippie guru who in 1971 led around 300 followers in a caravan of psychedelically painted school buses from San Francisco to Tennessee to start the Farm, a commune that has outlived most of its countercultural counterparts while spreading good works from Guatemala to the South Bronx, died on Tuesday at his home on the commune, in Summertown, Tenn. He was 79. Leigh Kahan, a family spokesman, confirmed the death without giving a specific cause. By Mr. Gaskin’s account, the Farm sprang in part from spiritual revelations he had experienced while using LSD, the details of which he described to thousands of disciples, who gathered in halls around San Francisco to hear his meditations on Buddhism, Jesus and whatever else entered his mind. But to his followers, he ultimately offered more than spiritual guidance. In founding the Farm, they said, he gave concrete form to the human longing for togetherness coupled with individual expression that had energized the counterculture.