For some weeks now, in the face of the complex situation in Venezuela, there has been an interesting initiative, as a political and organized response, on the part of three organizations. These are the Commune of El Maizal, the Patriotic Force Alexis Vive and the Revolutionary Current Bolívar and Zamora. The initiative has been proposed as a Communal Social Policy Platform, but before acronyms, logos, slogans and rhetoric, the decision was to begin to advance in a concrete way, with exchange days, itineraries, visits, tours of specific territories in different parts of the country, gatherings, meetings, assemblies. From a shared in-depth diagnosis and from the diversity of perspectives, stories and accumulated experiences, what stands out is the deep conviction of the need to come together and coordinate in order to face the challenges of the Venezuelan people and the Bolivarian revolution in the present and in the years to come.
With regard to this collective effort, the press of the Bolivarian Revolutionary Current and Zamora held a round table discussion with Robert Longa, Ángel Prado and Pedro Alvarado, spokespersons for each of the organizations, during which we talked about the reasons for the initiative, the challenges that lie ahead and the keys to progress.
Why do La Corriente, Alexis Vive and El Maizal come together?
Pedro Alvarado, from La Corriente:
On the one hand, we see that the threat of imperialism’s aggression today is different; it has been modified tactically and operationally. Its strategic objective is the same: to overthrow the Bolivarian revolution, to neutralize Chavism. But it ceased to be a threat and became a multiple aggression that advances. Internally, we see that the right wing, in the course of this year, has made important advances: in January, February, March, it set the agenda, it was on the offensive, it went to the streets, it managed to unite around a leadership, which is something they did not have. Today all that offensive by the US and the local right is being brought to a negotiating table. So we asked ourselves: what is being negotiated? Because we see that imperialism never ceases: the blockade continues, an important paramilitary advance has begun from the border with Colombia. This is also part of a strategy. One side goes to negotiations and the other continues the military intervention against the country.
At the same time, the crisis is deepening and the collapse of services continues to wreak havoc, without any structural or effective solutions being developed. What we had conquered with Chavez we are losing at an accelerated rate. As a result, the people have been losing hope in the Bolivarian revolution and it is no longer an option for them. This is extremely complicated because that is precisely the objective of imperialism.
Pedro Alvarado CRBZ
Furthermore, the enemy in their analysis has been focusing on the issue of collectives as a way of criminalizing the entire popular Chavista movement and placing it in the crosshairs of the entire process of aggression. That is why we consider it essential to advance in this Communal Socialist Popular Platform in order to be stronger in the face of an internal scenario of difficulties, an external threat and a negotiation between the government and the right wing over which we do not have the least influence and we do not know what is being negotiated. Because we also see that the dialogue between the government and the popular movement is without interaction, through agreements and statements that are not being fulfilled. In that aspect we see something very complex, which is an unstructured popular movement, without cohesion, dispersed. In each territory there is a total fragmentation: Somos, Ubch, Clap, Unamujer, Consejos Comunales, all dispersed, as each one surrenders to different sectors and interests.
So, in the face of all this enormous difficulty, we see the need to come together, those of us who are willing to fight and defend the Bolivarian revolution and have concrete experiences of communal construction, namely, of the real exercise of participatory and protagonist democracy proposed by Chávez, revolutionary democracy, the power of the people. And we propose to advance in the construction of this Popular Socialist Communal Platform with four lines of action, to begin to chart a course: 1) the productive economic, 2) the formative, 3) the communicational, 4) security and defense.
Ángel Prado, Commune of El Maizal
Above all, we see that imperialism exists, and that we live in a country with enormous wealth that will always be coveted by one empire or another, by one power or another. In the correlation of forces among the powers, Venezuela plays a role, unfortunately not to compete, but to agree on ways in which resources can come to the country in exchange for our wealth. In addition, there has been a weakening of the left in Latin America, a setback in the progressive process. And we see how the local bourgeoisies of the continent have been implacable in their alliance with imperialism and have put our left on the defensive, and we have not been able to rise up and continue to lose ground. That puts Venezuela at the center of the dispute because the Bolivarian government is still held in Venezuela and the hope of the left remains in us.
Internally, we are experiencing a very profound ethical and moral crisis. Since the physical passing of Chávez, there has been a fragmentation of the different political currents of the Bolivarian revolution, there has even been an internal struggle for parcels of power in order to concentrate more power, and in the midst of this situation the popular classes, the poor people, are increasingly affected. Then we see a deterioration in the economy, corruption practices even at the lowest levels, where social policies are manipulated, and our people are subjected to group interests.
The government distances itself more and more from the people, popular organizations are neutralized, in order to preserve power and privileges, our political leadership agrees more and more with the private sector. If the government is making pacts with the bourgeoisie, popular power has no entry into that pact. That is why the popular movement is weakened and policies are implemented that further fragment the popular bases.
Those of us who were able to build in the years of abundance are therefore called to appeal to our conscience and come together, to organize ourselves. We believe that it is time for unity to prevail over acronyms. It is time that as popular organizations, as communes, we make a national call to the Chavista people, to the popular classes, to become aware that we are the ones who can save the original project of Comandante Chávez. Chávez’s project served the poor and is the alternative for us, to return the years of Chávez, to the dignifying standards of living that we achieved with Chávez.
We are facing a situation of international aggression but also a turn towards neoliberalism and there the popular movement has a very important role to play: to close ranks in order to strengthen what we have and build a single national force and a plan of struggle with a concrete agenda that allows us to enter into the correlation of forces to dispute power, with legitimacy from the rank and file, which we will be measured as an alternative in determining which path our country should follow.
Robert Longa, Patriotic Force Alexis Vive:
On the international stage we are experiencing an entry into something similar to the post-Cold War period. In this world reorganization, the United States has to order everything that they have defined for Latin America from the Monroe doctrine, their backyard, and in this process no country is convenient for them that is not aligned with the logic of world capitalism. Chavez’s leadership absence was necessary for them. It was necessary to remove Chávez because he was a leader who embodied not only the hope of Venezuela and Latin America, but a whole new world philosophy. The whole world saw Venezuela as a beacon of hope. For that reason, then, this murderous offensive attempts to destroy any vestige of the Bolivarian revolution as a paradigm, unleashing a savage offensive, and in this world reorganization, countries like Colombia become what Israel is in the Middle East. The objective is to erase Chavism from the face of the earth. The war scenario is set down there, it involves the obliteration of everything that Chávez meant.
Today we have means of production in our hands, popular construction in our hands. It is up to us, the heirs of all that construction of the Bolivarian revolution, to collectively lead the resistance and go on the offensive. It is up to us to lead collectively, and for that we must interconnect and manage a productive, effective, communicational policy that allows us to oppose the offensive of the economic war and encourage the people from the very exercise of self-management, of communal self-government.
Militants of Alexis Vive
Faced with the recomposition of an emerging bourgeoisie and a traditional bourgeoisie, we are also called upon to present ourselves as a historical bloc. We are condemned to disappear if we do not see it from that perspective and deprive ourselves of individualism. The call to unity is not today a caprice or wishful thinking, but a strategic necessity to defend the legacy of Commander Chávez in the street and to achieve the advancement of the Bolivarian revolution.
We have to establish the politics of the communal model as successful. Because each one of the experiences has been successful. Where we have not been successful is in the ability to unify strategic efforts. There is a key: each experience, with its advances and setbacks, has succeeded, from the analysis of the practice, in building knowledge and conceptualizing its own construction exercises in order to become wiser in popular processes every day. If we manage to gather all that experience and all that knowledge, it is destined to be something extraordinary.
And it is not that we are going to demand to be invited to the table, but that we are going to be invited to the table because we are going to create on the canvas of the homeland a face of our own that is going to influence the decision-making of this country. It is crucial that collective leaderships committed to the revolutionary project emerge that will allow us to become a practical reference point and recapture, recover Chavista hearts towards the popular struggle for life, for peace.
Here everybody is welcome, but the ideological nucleus is in the commune. We are facing a new productive and revolutionary political insurrection based on Chávez’s legacy. Those who betray Chávez are mistaken, the corrupt are mistaken, the bureaucrats are mistaken. The communes are not mistaken because they are literally and practically embodying Chávez’s legacy.
What is the dispute?
We are not calling the organized people into a partisan dispute. We fight against imperialism, against the landowners, against the bourgeoisie. It is important that this be clear to the comrades who lead the PSUV and the GPP parties. In spite of the contradictions experienced locally and nationally with some leaders, we maintain the hope that the PSUV will continue to be in the vanguard of the revolutionary process as an instrument for construction. There are very clear orientations of President Chávez, we have the Blue Book, the Red Book, we have the statutes, we have the debates in the different congresses that have taken place. At some point there must be a profound revision so that the objectives for which this political instrument was created are fulfilled. We are clear about the role of the party, the power of the party and its influence. And we are clear that it is the party that designs the policy. And if we speak from the ethical point of view, let the party answer for what is being done in the country.
Today the popular movement is weak, fragmented, until now it has not had the capacity for cohesion, for hegemonizing, not even to overcome the attachment to a few acronyms, to the local identity where an organization is territorialized. To the extent that we are preparing to build strength and that we achieve that the ordinary people see the way in the communal process, interesting processes of participation and mobilization are generated, and the people will begin to confer legitimacy on this communal initiative, to the extent that we have an impact we will begin to situate ourselves in that correlation and we will begin to be recognized.
El Maizal Commune
The issue is that of building a force, but one that is based on the concrete fact, beginning with the issue of the economy, the conquest of the means of production, primary production, industrialization, the creation of a policy of food distribution that reaches the people. To that extent the party itself will recognize the importance of our existence and our actions. In the current conditions, weakened, dispersed, we have no way to enter the dispute.
We are not going to beg for power but to build our power. And whoever has power in this country will have to depend on our existence and we will be at that table, as well as the bourgeoisie, the reformist sectors and the parties of the great patriotic center, so the communal movement, which is a concrete and permanent reality, will be in that dispute, based on the force that we are capable of building.
We understand the historical moment and the role of the PSUV in the Bolivarian revolution. And we understand that the PSUV is Chávez’s party and that we have decided to join it. Its statutes defined the PSUV as a party of movements, the political party and the governing party. Hence the acronym United Socialist Party of Venezuela, where all the expressions of the Bolivarian revolution come together. Nowadays that is not the case at all.
Today that is not entirely so. And today we see how practices such as cooptation, dedocracy, clientelism, the imposition of leaders without roots or leadership at the grassroots are gaining ground. And we are concerned because we are talking about democracy, which is one of the great conquests of this revolution.
So one objective with militancy, with UBCH, in the territories, is to conquer spaces of participation there in the PSUV. Because there are structures such as the vice-presidency of communes and social movements that do not concretely exist in the territories, but are theoretical, without the expression of the movements and communes and organizations that exist in the regions and territories. Only in some cases in the party, in a very minimal way, does popular power have small, almost invisible expressions. It is then a question of waging a battle of ideas. Where there is a well organized commune, with concrete construction, there will be a battle for more democracy, more participation, more protagonism, from below and as a collective expression.
And we are not a prefabricated discourse but a concrete reality of the construction of experiences of revolutionary democracy. That is why it is a question of how to aggregate what we are, beyond acronyms. And I think we have been taking important steps in that direction. All this exchange that we have been carrying out. Years went by and we were isolated and we didn’t realize it. It’s about accumulating, here there are many people who want to participate, many people who are invisible, isolated, because they have been displaced by some sector. The challenge is to have the capacity to unite concrete expressions of construction in what is territorial and not to be a pamphlet and speech only.
What we have to do is strengthen ourselves and fight for our spaces of participation because we are also Chavistas and nobody has a revolutionometer to define who is Chavista and who is not. In addition, from the new paradigms that have been occurring in the political struggle, there are multiple and diverse forms in which the organization is given for the exercise of power and the dispute for power, and in that diversity and multiplicity enter the communes and any other form of organized collective expression.
That is why it is up to us to build our referents from within ourselves and to win the battle in all spaces without abandoning any space of struggle. That struggle can only be fought from unity. We cannot be told that we are shameful because we speak of participatory and protagonist democracy, because we want to dispute power. That is why we have to debate, and present the facts, demonstrating how we produce, how we implement in our territories that democracy of which we speak. And not to have this debate with leaders and elites, but with the people, in the bases, in the popular assemblies, in the political revolutionary journey.
What to do in the face of disenchantment and the loss of Chavista hegemony?
We see how the political leadership is becoming increasingly separated. The message does not arrive. The plan does not land. The declaration is not fulfilled. The leadership is disconnected. So, in order to raise the banner of popular power, one must act from the concrete. What are the most meaningful issues for people today? The main one is the issue of food, which in turn includes the issue of production. So it is a question of generating concrete responses to this issue, which implies specific battles with sectors within the government. In this specific case it is about an import sector, with a lot of power, that monopolizes the economy of the State, a sector of the FANB that is anchored in those spaces, and an emerging sector that comes from having political power and that now has economic power. In the battle to produce we will have to confront these sectors. So we have to generate alternatives that can deliver concrete answers. Although we know that this is not the solution, the structural problems are in the agro-industry, in the issue of foreign exchange, in the issue of banking, in corruption, in decisions about the country’s productive model.
And in the concrete struggles there is a key issue, which is to have the real measure of our capacities, of our presence in the territories, of our capacity to organize, train and mobilize, and we have to be clear about who we are and what strength we have. Because we cannot run the risk of championing struggles in a rhetorical or symbolic way, as happens to some small groups that speak on behalf of entire sectors.
We have to move from unity, to coordination, to common effort, towards the construction of concrete policies that allow people to demonstrate that the communal fact, the communal reality, generates concrete solutions to fundamental needs such as, for example, food. That is why the battle for production is key today. And in this area of food, the communal movement has a lot of potential (land, means of production, experience, knowledge, industry, transportation systems). The problem is that we have been disconnected.
We have to advance further, for example, in experiences of new methods applied for the distribution of products, seeking to make it more attractive, more interesting for people, expanding towards products that we obtain from this process of articulation and complementarity. It is a question of looking for new ways, of renewing the way of doing things. There are forms that are being tested, forms of participation for sowing with small financing to small landowners, ways to confront in a combined way the sowing of lands of the commune or of other landowners. And there is also the issue of the use of surpluses to influence other areas such as education or health. These are all possibilities that are opening up as a result of the exchange that we have been undertaking.
And all this with one important key: the participation of the people, that the people get involved. To design policies that are not abstract, not dogmatic, but that touch people, sensitize them, guaranteeing participation. There is the key. We have to show love by example, by practice.
Management, ethics, morals. Chávez answered these questions first and connected an earthing cable. Here it is about working with people with love, without mistreatment, without blackmail. And that means demonstrating management models in production, food, health and recreation. Here are four key aspects to make people fall in love again. All this, built from within the government in the territory, in an interconnected way, not just us in this region, but linked. This is about coming together.