Venezuelan Collectives: What They Are

Gustavo Borges of the American targets to be demonized is the dynamic motorized  force of Chavismo (Photo: Henry Tesara / AVN)

When I first saw a collective in action and what it’s capable of, I was a child. I was about nine, maybe ten years old. That takes us to 1969, in the hills of Los Frailes de Catia, in the upper part of the Macayapa neighborhood, at the foot of the Waraira Repano.

The place where the collective activity took place was the El Encanto ravine, which when flooded by rains left about one hundred and fifty families isolated due to the torrent that descended from the mountain of San Chorquis, from Porai which they call the Camino de los Españoles. There were almost a hundred men and women around me, in that part of the hill, active, mobilized, constantly carrying, lifting things, passing tools, unloading concrete blocks and stones, while others firmly fixed beams from one side to the other. A huge pot of stew smoked nearby.

This memory came to mind when I recently read that senior spokesmen for the U.S. government have requested that the popular movements organized in Venezuela under the figure or voice of “collectives” be added to their long list of “terrorist organizations” that are a danger to the world. The campaign of demonization via social networks and media immediately explodes. They add to the tasks of making false positives, false images manipulated to damage “communities” and encourage those in the North, who are recklessly eager to invade us, to reinforce the siege and blockade against the Venezuelan people.

Those people, from the collective of my childhood, brought to my memory, built nothing more and nothing less than a bridge over the El Encanto ravine for the neighbourhood. It still exists, lost in those mountains. Neither time, mudslides, nor use have been able to oppose the infrastructure. My father, Augusto, led the Macayapa Collective. They were in charge of electricity, pipes, shelter and maintenance of the springs, main sources of water for the community, putting out forest fires, the construction of stairs, the neighbourhood’s annual festivities and, of course, the security of the sector was the responsibility of these men and women from this collective at Macayapa hill at that time. Today they would be included along with hundreds of collectives on Washington’s terrorist list, along with my father, since their activities have not changed.

I have lost count of how many collectives I have known throughout my country. From an Urban Land Committee (CTU), at the top of the Magallanes de Catia, where the asphalt ends; the battle-hardened Consejo Comunal del Caruto, deep in the Barinas plains, comprised only of women; or the Colectivo de Trabajo La Piedrita, which has almost thirty-five years of community organization as of January 23. It is impossible not to name the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupamaro (Tupamaro Revolutionary Movement), the historic collective of the parish and the neighbourhood.
The   Alexis Vive collective have a foundation for social work in the neighbourhoods (Photo: Alexis Vive Foundation).

From these we move on to the most recent: the urban and rural communities of strong resistance in their popular areas: the Local Supply and Production Committees, better known as CLAP. They are everywhere. It’s unbelievable. Their level of organization with those at grassroots level has turned this structure into a collective that is becoming increasingly stronger. Diverting the capitalist distribution chain so that food reaches households directly is not easy. And that’s just one of their significant achievements in the communities.

In my job as a neighbourhood communicator I have had the privilege of meeting with those organized men and women from popular communities, but I also have gone into their spaces with hundreds of visitors from other countries who have also met with them and who can, reading this, attest that these movements are nowhere near “terrorist cells under the orders of a regime”. But they also can tell you about the immense power of defense and mobilization these collectives have achieved through years of community work.

There are two sectors or collectives widely demonized through social networks and the media repeats these falsehoods: they are the motorized collectives and the collectives of the 23 de Enero neighborhood. The former are part of a gigantic labour union in the country, most of them openly Chavistas from popular sectors; they are from the neighbourhood. They are famous for their motorized raids that manage to summon many hundreds of people when there are marches and rallies in support of the Bolivarian project.

The others, in 23 de Enero, like the Resistance Front of the Ernesto Che Guevara Community Work Group or the Simón Bolívar Coordinator or the El Panal Commune of Alexis Vive, have a marked and recognized revolutionary and community history well before the arrival of Commander Hugo Chávez.

Marco Rubio, the State Department and the Treasury Department of his country will have a long list to draw up in order to include Chavismo among the so-called “terrorist organizations,” because here we are all a collective.

Translation by Internationalist 360°