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.
The movement’s assessment of the milestone of the popular mobilization on December 9, 2015, three days after the defeat in parliamentary elections, has become quite clear. In addition, they have incorporated very valuable analytical elements, related, for example, to the issue of Nicolás Maduro’s leadership or the way in which the contradictions within Chavismo are expressed. I would like to deepen the evaluation of these years, but emphasizing the issue of housing.
Juan Carlos Rodriguez:
There is something about December 9 that also needs to be analyzed, and that is that the people have been blamed. The leadership blames the people, because they say that the people are ungrateful, that everything that has been given to them… and we have only partially overcome this criminalization.
Why do I say this? Because when this critical economic situation occurs, due to the fall in oil prices, everything that was the policy that was executed through popular power begins to diminish, the entire amount of resources that were destined for popular power in all areas, not only in housing.
At least in our case, in the housing sector, the financing was reduced, and the amount of materials, and that was progressively paralyzing everything that was being implemented through popular organization.
There is a dilemma that is still valid. One does not argue that alliances should not be made with the private sector, but it is necessary to maintain the transfer of means of production to the organized people. If at that time we had had a policy of transferring means of production to the people’s power, if communal production had been promoted during 2016, 2017 and 2018, today we would be in a better position to face the current situation.
What cannot happen is that when there is excess, abundance, then the forms of communal organization and production are financed and promoted, and in times of difficulty that is precisely what is sacrificed. A political decision was made and the result is that the communal production capacity is greatly diminished.
We also have to assume our responsibility, from the popular movement, because at that moment we were discussing that it was necessary to organize in order to produce, and on our part there has been some difficulty in organizing communal production.
As for the projects that we had been carrying out as settlers, there came a point at which practically no one received materials or resources. These projects would have been finished two or three years ago. They are still ongoing, and it is becoming more and more difficult to complete them, because the conditions are becoming more and more complex.
So how are other possibilities opening up in economic terms, to overcome the rentier economy, and how are the forms of organization and communal production being strengthened? This cannot be a dilemma for us. The latter are the ones that we would have to strengthen so that the new forms of political management that Commander Chávez proposed as a historical project, as a strategic horizon, can eventually emerge.
As a movement, we propose the need for a State policy aimed at strengthening production processes and communal and popular organization. We continue to defend self-management. In these three years we have not been able to make self-management a program of State housing policy. There is the experiment, but it does not exist as a specific program.
In this period of the Bolivarian revolution there is a crisis with the logic of the circulation of capital, which is caused in part by the fall in oil prices, a situation that the United States takes advantage of to redouble its attacks against us. Internally, this has been expressed as a very strong dispute of common sentiments on how to deal with this crisis situation.
In addition, at this time the contradictions between our symbolic universe, our political discourse on revolution, and the way the material is reproduced in revolution are becoming quite evident. We realize that the rules of the game, in terms of material reproduction, have not changed much in all these years.
There were gaps, there were opportunities. The self-management policy that we are struggling with, which is very close to the communal, rural policy, which has been promoted in different places, of land recovery, of means of production, are rather new and very opposed to what has been happening.
One sometimes sees that some of our comrades within Chavismo are surprised because we give money to Empresas Polar to produce, when this has always been the rule of the game.
There are people here who, objectively, never believed in Chavez, and who saw in this crisis situation the opportunity to say, just as they once said, that Chavez perhaps made a mistake by entrusting Nicolas, or, that Chavez made an economic mistake.
What is the most serious part of all this? The offensive of US imperialism has been aimed at destroying the possibility of life for Chavismo, because it understands that it is not possible to defeat it if people continue to have quality of life.
What is self-management? In very general terms, the ordinary people doing for ourselves the things that are necessary for us to live.
Of the basics: you appropriate the mechanisms of production and reproduction in order to guarantee that certain things can happen. But there are those who believe that the solution is to continue correcting the wrinkle in the rentier logic: that capital circulates, the more money there is in the street, the better, through remittances, through the parallel dollar, etc. Those same people calculate and conclude that instead of supporting those who have occupied land and are planning to produce by self-management to provide housing to the 50 or 200 families that are there, it is more lucrative to give that money to the Real Estate Chamber or to another private party, and if not benefiting from it directly, at least allow the money to circulate, and since that is the logic of the functioning of this economy, then they place their bets on that side.
That is one of the dramas, which we usually handle very quietly, but I think it is time to raise it vigorously for discussion, because quietly we have been defeated in the battle of common sense. We were defeated during these years when they imposed the idea that it was preferable for prices to be high as long as the products were available and everyone could buy them without queues. The same applied to exchange rates.
Or that companies have to be privatized because it was clearly demonstrated that we are not capable of producing
Of course, this is another idea that they are imposing on us: the people are incapable, they are not efficient, they are slow, we have to pay them, but the private sector can more effectively bring in money. This is also a myth, because in practice it is not true that any money comes in.
The most serious thing is that the empire’s strategy is specifically to suffocate us. And if our metabolism is rentier, they are asphyxiating that. We cannot continue to scurry along that wrinkle because we are going to fall. In this context, self management becomes a policy of necessity, social control and self management become a necessity.
It also has to do with learning from the challenges of this time. It is necessary to learn how to build an alternative movement that can resist. The Commune of El Maizal can now guarantee production, because it has been strengthened to guarantee it. It is not in vain that we can continue to maintain mobilization and strength, precisely because we have dedicated ourselves to its accumulation.
All this time we thought that socialism was going to be built when we were in the best possible conditions, in a period of prosperity. One sees it in retrospect, and that which Chávez proposed, the need to transform the rentier logic and build another productive matrix, was practically impossible, because they said: why are you going to produce all that if it is cheaper to buy it? That logic was unbeatable. At this moment, what Chávez was proposing is a real need.
Now, it is a dispute. We propose: It is necessary to produce goods for use, both housing and the food we need in order to live. But there are other people who tell you: if I sell that in the market, there are so many dollars, and at this moment it is preferable, because that way we have more money and we buy more cases. The dilemma is clear. And if we don’t begin to understand that we have to assemble a united front to be able to fight that, with that same basic sense they will continue to defeat us.
I want to make it clear that the people always can do this. We’ve always been able to. We can produce. In the case of Pobladores, we produce houses, buildings. The Great Mission Housing Venezuela has been a success, true, but a success thanks to the Venezuelans who build the houses and build the city.
But there is also the bureaucracy, which does not know how to produce anything, which only knows how to live on income. And this is the one that tells us: you cannot, it is not possible.
Our Government, our President must be convinced of the need for a self-management policy, so that people can organize themselves and can see how to do it. The bureaucracy tends to treat us as if we were incapable or wheelchair-bound: you are able, but remain in the chair, you build and produce what you are going to produce, but I will provide you with someone to carry the chair.
There are settlements here that haven’t been able to finish building because the cables are missing, we don’t have cement. And we have had to look for other alternatives. That’s how we’re building. The people don’t stop, and for nothing in the world have we stopped building houses. You go anywhere and people tell you: give me that I will do it. There’s no one to tell you: no, it’s not going to be possible.
What is required here is a government that governs with the people. Let’s get Nicolas out of the bubble and start leading the people. Because we are Nicolás’ supporters, we are not going to betray Nicolás. And we are not going to betray him because it would be like betraying Chavez, and betraying Chavez is betraying the people who can, that is to say, ourselves.
What we need is trust. Because they ask us for trust and we trust. They tell us to move forward and we move forward. Nevertheless, it seems that they don’t want to trust us. We march every day wherever there is a march, we march for the neighborhood, we march for the lines. What more are they going to ask of us? What more demonstration are we supposed to do?
You can’t keep telling the people that you can’t, because all the good things in the revolution have been built by the people.
The bureaucracy is very clever at dividing the people. It teaches us to believe that we are given a television and then we have to pay it homage. Those are the things we have to change. They have caused us a lot of damage. Not having confidence in the people, always doubting the things the people do, that has caused some people, some organizations to square off with the highest bidder. How long are they going to place us in that competition? That is unacceptable, and in this situation of war even more so.
And in this situation of war, is the solution private enterprise? We do not question the President when he trusts the private sector, but his duty is to trust the people. And the only way to build peace is through self-management.
I think this interview is very good because the time has come for us to go deeper into these issues, to assimilate Chávez’s message, who was like a prophet who could see the future. And if we don’t analyze it and study it, we won’t be able to overcome the obstacles we encounter along the way.
Translation by Internationalist 360°