Interview with representatives of the Movimiento de Pobladores y Pobladoras: Iraida Morocoima and Juan Carlos Rodríguez, from Campamento de Pioneros y Pioneras; and Hernán Vargas and Nélida Cordero, from Movimiento de Trabajadoras Residenciales Unidas por Venezuela.Reinaldo Iturriza
I propose that we try to evaluate what has happened in Venezuela since December 9, 2015, when an important popular mobilization took place in Miraflores, largely promoted by Popladores y Pobladoras, three days after the defeat of Chavismo in the parliamentary elections. Why this date? Because that mobilization is not only a milestone for the popular movement, but because it precedes what is undoubtedly the most difficult moment of the Bolivarian revolution: In the long year of 2016, in which speculation and the hoarding of basic necessities increased, we are suffering the effects of the collapse of the price of oil; the anti-Chávez violence of 2017, the sanctions against PDVSA, the beginning of hyperinflation; the opposition that rises from the dialogue table in February 2018, the frustrated assassination; the self-proclamation of Guaidó, the continuation of economic aggressions, the attack on the National Electric System; as well as the launching of the economic mechanisms, the creation of CLAPs, the election of the National Constituent Assembly, the re-election of President Maduro, among other events. And in this context, the intensification of tensions within Chavismo, directly related to the different ways of confronting the challenges of the complete historical moment.
On December 9 there was a great sadness in the city. Sadness because the National Assembly had been lost. But not only that, it was like that Assembly had been lost by Nicolás, which I think is terrible, because the people were very conscious that it was Nicolás who should continue, but he needed to make readjustments to govern better, together with the people.
Before the 9th there was a debate: either one went to the Assembly or one went to support the President. There was questioning about the support for the President, and we were very firm in saying that the support was absolute, because we continued with Chávez, because Chávez was us, and that was a clear orientation like the moon that Chávez had given us.
In that struggle against that sadness that we had, we went with all the love of the world to where our President was. It was a necessity for the people to meet Nicolás Maduro and tell him to count on our support. It was like hugging the President to strengthen him, fill him with energy and continue with the battles that were coming. I think that day was important.
Maybe there were people who believed that we went to ask for positions, but what we always propose is that the communal state be built. We have all our strength and our energy in general self-management, in self-management as a liberating form, in order to build that communal state. Without self-management there will be no communal state, and Chavez proposed it in the Golpe de Timón. It is necessary to always be revising it, because its message was clear, precise: we have to build the Commune. It is not a responsibility of a ministry, it is a responsibility of a people, and of a President who has to govern the people, with the people, with those from below.
There are always those who doubt the people. The advantage of Chávez was that he always believed in the people, he listened, and if he didn’t listen he was scolded, he understood that the people were guiding him, and for that very reason he meant that.
I believe that 2015 was a year in which we hit rock bottom in various aspects, and a very peculiar period is opening up within the revolution, which is characterized, on the one hand, by the blockade as a strategy of imperialist attack, and on the other with a sharpening of the internal contradictions of the Bolivarian revolution. But it is also a period marked by uncertainty, as a test of things, both for the right wing and imperialism and within Chavism.
And I say that 2015 is a year in which we touch because there is a number of things that Chavism has been carrying, from 2013 onwards. There is a tendency to believe that from 2013 a new period began, and I don’t think that’s true. Without a doubt, Chávez’s physical disappearance is a fundamental milestone, but it does not mean a total rupture. In any case, one of the aspects that I want to refer to is that for some time now the political class has been moving away from the sentiments of the majority of the people, and in 2015 that took its toll on Chavismo, but not because the right moved closer to the sentiments of the majorities.
The mobilization of December 9 was also a clear message from the popular base to the bureaucratic leadership of Chavismo, because, as Iraida said, some of them were thinking that it was a moment of internal change and even of transition, of defeat of the Bolivarian revolution. In fact, as soon as 2016 began in many ministries there was talk of having six months to govern, meaning that they had taken seriously the National Assembly’s ultimatum.
The National Assembly, for its part, in the midst of this climate of uncertainty that has marked the new period, was debating between the democratic path, between a political move, for example, with the so-called Real Estate Scam Law, which was to try to capitalize, to transfer to real estate capital everything that had been invested in previous years in popular housing, or to follow the lead of the Yankees, in which they began to threaten that in six months the government would fall. Once this dilemma was posed, the right ended up opting for the second option, that is, for violence, and there it weakened tremendously, because it abandoned political development, subordinating itself completely to the gringo strategy. Perhaps the clearest expression of this is Julio Borges rising from the negotiating table in the Dominican Republic in February 2018, when the agreement was to be signed.
The right wing came from attempting the path of street violence in 2014 as a way to generate rupture, again in 2017, and was defeated by the Venezuelan people: Nicolás took a correct line, which was the Constituent proposal as a way to solve the problems, and the people made it their own. Not necessarily as one might think: to deepen socialism, etc., no. The majority of people simply identified that between street violence and the possibility of a constituent process, the preferable was the constituent process, and just as in 2015 they slapped Chavismo in the face and passed the bill, at this moment they punished those who had the intention of generating chaos in the country. As a result, the Venezuelan right has weakened enormously: It no longer has a street policy, it has no policy to offer.
On the side of Chavismo, in this period there was a discussion about what the model might be. On the one hand, and after that initial anguish because we were going to be overthrown, the bureaucratic leadership began to understand that it had to govern. On the other hand, there was a people that defined the fundamental moments: the election of the National Constituent Assembly was one of them, what we experienced recently, with the attack on the National Electric System, as well. Just as the government activated the economic engines, on the side of the imperialist offensive different lines of undermining were also activated: without food, without medicines, and recently without light, as Pompeo said. It has been the people who have provided the necessary support to resist this difficult situation, but they have also been providing concrete solutions.
Recently, when they cut the light, as a summit event of this strategy of asphyxiation, the Venezuelan people gave an absolute demonstration of the will for life and peace, to solve the problems in a democracy. This is another of the moments in which all that has accumulated in this time has surfaced, and a people that believed in the Bolivarian model, believed in a Constitution that guarantees them a set of rights, have again expressed themselves. In fact, I believe that many of their annoyances have to do with the precariousness of those rights that they felt were guaranteed: water, electricity, health, food, transport, a whole way of life to which they had become accustomed. And here it’s not a question of whether you’re Chavista or anti-Chavista, here it’s simply: I don’t believe in being cannon fodder for a Yankee offensive, I don’t believe in military intervention. That is, in general, the response of the people.
But then you have a Chavismo in whose interior the contradictions are sharpening, a part of the political leadership that is beginning to rethink the way forward, that thinks that instead the formula is to try to reach a negotiated solution, which has to do with a recomposition of a neoliberal capitalist model. You also have a Chavista people who are reconfiguring their way of organizing, of fighting. The political leadership distances itself from the communal councils, from the Communes, as a strategy, it throws away the idea of the CLAP as another formula, something that is not new, because so many times the idea of changing the organizational formula without having accumulation occurred, then Chávez with the communal councils and the Communes proposed a strategy of accumulation of all those organizational forces, and now that effort is dispersed again. However, Chavismo is once again betting on another form of organization, the CLAPs, which in fact have been key to being able to guarantee the supply of food without intermediaries. In short, there is a Chavismo that, in spite of so much precariousness and difficulty, continues to mobilize in the street, but within a context of deepening internal contradictions.
An example of this is that just as the right wing tried to build policy by promoting a Real Estate Scam Law as a way to capitalize on what had been invested in housing by taking it to the real estate market, today sectors of the Chavista leadership consider that this is the formula: that all this must be capitalized, that the real estate market is going to allow capital to circulate and that will allow the economy to recover.
It is something that we have been discussing for a long time: the problem is in trying to build the Bolivarian project reproducing the logic of modernity, of Venezuelan rentier capitalism, without questioning the modern/colonial accommodation of Venezuela, and the role that was assigned for capital to reproduce and circulate on a global scale.
Juan Carlos Rodríguez:
To take stock of almost four years, with all the things that happen in Venezuela every three months, is a challenge for a short interview. But well, you were starting to ask us about December 9. And at that moment there was a dilemma, which I even believe is still valid, which is the problem of the leadership of the project, of historical leadership.
At that moment, with the political defeat we had, the elections for the National Assembly, Nicolás began to be blamed. The political price is paid by Nicolás. Then the matrix of opinion begins to emerge that Nicolás had not been up to the task, and that we had to think about the possibility of a change, of refreshing leadership, and so on.
There is a central theme, and that is that the people continue to believe in Chávez: in the things that Chávez proposed, in the things that he envisioned, that he proposed as an alternative, as a future, as an idea of society. There is still a very strong subjectivity within the Venezuelan people, marked by Chávez’s ideas. That faith in the things that Chávez put forward has not been lost.
For example, from Pobladores, we still believe in the proposals of Comandante Chávez. Then, at that moment, faced with the dilemma of the issue of leadership, what we said was: Commander Chávez told us that the continuity of the historical leadership of the revolution, which goes beyond the office of President, passed through Nicolás Maduro. If we question that, we are questioning what Chávez proposed, and that would be to facilitate a fracture in the leadership, which would leave us in a situation of insurmountable weakness. We were proposing that we had to shore up that leadership, just as Chávez had advised.
Some said that Chávez could also have been mistaken, etc., but there is another debate: how historical leaderships are constructed, because the commander Chávez himself is a leadership that arises from popular struggle, is created in battle.
That was what motivated, primarily, the mobilization of December 9 of that year: to support that historical leadership, to continue maintaining the figure and to shield that leadership. Then, of course, because many actors converge in these processes of popular organization, this mobilization was understood as a kind of platform to question all the ministers, etc. In spite of this, I think it was an important moment, even for the development of President Nicolás Maduro’s leadership, because it was being questioned by all sides, from within Chavismo.
Now, taking stock of the leadership in these four years, evidently one of the objectives of the right wing and imperialism is to destroy the leadership, because in that way you can destroy the movement. Attacks on leadership have been increasing more and more, not to mention the other types of attacks we have suffered: economic, media, diplomatic, etc. The President at that moment was able to connect, and that connection allowed him to interpret reality, which enabled him to take important steps later. But the very attack on the leadership of President Nicolás Maduro, which led to the assassination attempt, has led to the loss of the link, the connection.
There is a kind of isolation, because of the situation itself, because of the attacks, and that is a problem. The commander Chavez stated that it is to lead the destiny of the homeland together with the people, and furthermore we were building a very strong leader-people relationship with comandante Chavez, which we want to maintain with the leadership, but the dynamic has been different.
So, one of the things is how we, from the popular movement, are able to re-establish the link and the connection with the leadership in order to maintain the strategic course. I believe that to the extent that the leadership isolates itself, and loses the connection with the movement, with its bases, there is a strong risk that the leadership will be lost.
In that crucial moment that we lived, when in 2015 we decided as a popular power to protest, we wanted to transmit to President Nicolás Maduro the confidence that we have in him, the faith in the things that we had been building for many years with Commander Chávez; that his departure affected us a lot, but that we knew that he had left us a responsibility.
I think most of us who were there took advantage of that moment to express our support to President Nicolás Maduro, because he had to remain there, with nobility; that he should not feel alone, that there was a people that, despite the small defeat we had suffered, we were going to continue fighting the battle, because comandante Chávez said to the people that if there was anything, it was that we had to keep on fighting, constantly. With Chávez we did not rest, because he always kept us active, we never stopped building things. That has allowed us to continue building, wanting to do things.
We bear a great responsibility: to preserve the things that we built together with Commander Chavez, and those things that we have not yet been able to pursue. If we have loosened a little it is with the communal councils, but it is within the revolution that the road is and it is there that we must all go.
In this crucial battle that we have, the empire and its lackeys here have thrown everything at us, but the people have known how to resist. There is a people that despite adversities know that the first thing is to defend their homeland, to fight to defend the conquests they have. In addition, we have much to build. That dream that we began to build with Chávez is very beautiful, and we are not going to let it slip through our fingers.
Translation by Internationalist 360°