Campesino and community forces led the battle for socialism in 2019. (Gerardo Rojas)
A new year has begun, and once again in Bolivarian Venezuela we find it tremendously difficult to sustain our levels of joy and quality of life amid the attacks and contradictions.
Alongside Chavez and Bolivar, the popular movement flies the flags of socialism. It is our job to also raise the banners of unity and struggle, as well as coherence, in the defence of a project which we assume to still be alive.
We must use our accumulated experience to unite us and to sustain what we have already won, recover what we have lost, and fight for what is left to achieve.
This requires us to be deeply self-critical and evaluate our actions. Without overlooking our triumphs, this evaluation will demonstrate that we face serious limitations when confronted with the tasks of the moment. We need to rethread the needle in order to strengthen ourselves and to pick ourselves up. Also, we need to forge a clear path for progress, a path which will have great obstacles.
To walk this path will prove very difficult, not only because of the harsh circumstances of our day-to-day life, but also because of the complex and changing realities. These realities force us to join forces, to work on improving the correlation of forces in favour of the majority and the project under construction. This project is none other than the Communal State, Bolivarian socialism, which has evolved out of the initial call to build a social state of law and justice.
In this regard, for the purpose of necessary debate, we propose some possible tasks which could contribute to these objectives.
Retake control of the Chavista project of Bolivarian revolution, contesting power through the building of a majority
The popular Chavista camp must make a permanent effort to focus its actions around the context of the socialist horizon of the Bolivarian revolution. It must define its actions along the lines of the policies, laws, projects, plans and proclamations which are evidence that the process is alive and which look towards a concrete utopia. It must bring all these elements together so that they may offer guidance to our tasks, discourses, and our relations as equals in the new circumstances.
These actions must be a banner which is raised every time we confront a moment of tension with the government. They must also be our cover letter to fight for the principles that define us, demanding coherence and respect for Commander Chavez’s legacy.
Assuming that politics requires reason and strength, we must sustain a Chavista practice to accumulate forces, to build a majority, to add to the defence of what has been won, to fight for what we need to take back, recompose and create.
Only by adding people to our cause, creating hegemony by upholding revolutionary democracy, can we weave the relationships necessary to build popular power and see socialism grow in our fields and cities. This is how we can defend our nation from the empire and its lackeys, as well as from those who look to abandon the Bolivarian project or hand it over to our enemies.
Defend the people’s daily struggle to sustain their dignity
Chavez was able to connect our history with today’s struggles, expressing continuity in the journey of a rebellious people in search of their freedom, independence and sovereignty.
We are not subjects of empires but neither are we helpless citizens who need protectors. We are the force that achieved the independence of a continent, which raised its head whenever it was necessary, that gave everything to honour its words of justice and equality.
Today, we are facing a tremendous battle in everyday life, surviving between permanent attacks that try to deny us a dignified life. We must proudly shout out what it has meant to stand up, while all the while finding the way to continue to do so and believing in the Bolivarian project.
We must reclaim the collective epic of a people seeking the strength to win, recognising the government’s efforts to assist us between limitations and great difficulties, but honouring what deserves to be honoured. Between irreparable deprivations and losses, we are not intact, but we are whole, and assume the struggle that claims popular prominence, because only the people may save the people.
Overcoming the black-and-white analysis for necessary re-politicisation
The Venezuelan process has been deeply polarised, leading to the defence of two antagonistic projects which are in dispute: that of the poor against the oligarchy; of the patriots against the empire; of participatory and protagonist democracy and socialism against representation and the handing over of power.
Today, this polarisation seems to become a kind of mirror between sectors of both the government and opposition, where fundamental differences undoubtedly persist. However, in the economic arena, these two sectors are closing in on each other, becoming reflections of the same intention.
This is why it is necessary to reclaim polarisation from a class- and liberation-based perspective to politicise all disputes. This will overcome the black-and-white narrative which reduces the whole conflict to merely a top-level struggle between two sides, a simple and empty analysis which presents easy ways out or fatalisms. We cannot ignore the action of the majority and the great nuances which are the richness of the revolution, the very same space where we are all able to come together.
We must re-politicise so as to restore politics as a right and something exercised by all, because it cannot be the task of the few as it was before the revolution. Participation in public affairs is the correct path for Chavismo to re-polarise, re-politicise and re-unite its forces for the construction of the strategically defined project of socialism.
Demonstrate effective public administration as a practice consistent with the strategic project
Through practice, we must demonstrate that the strategic project is possible.
We must show that it is feasible to put the land in the hands of the campesino, the factories in the hands of the workers, to do what is necessary to transform our urban habitats, producing life and the coming together of our country. By weaving power relations that level out and liberate, with the common or the communal as a guiding referent, we add strength to our project to build the communal state.
This demands transparency and accountability from us in public administration. Through autonomy and co-responsibility, we will be able to fully enjoy our rights. This also includes upholding the feminist struggle, the defence of nature and common spaces, permanent education, solidarity with all our struggles and those of the sister peoples. To summarise, in our labour, we must show that Chavez was not only right, but still lives among us.
Fight for unity at the heart of the strategic horizon
Unity, struggle, battle and victory, these premises still bear the intonation of Chavez’s voice. They are a permanent mandate that we must honour.
In this regard, no effort is enough and every effort is necessary and rewarded. We must do what is in our power to bring all of the people together and not only the “convinced, the irreducible” ones, to remember Chavez’s famous anecdote.
Considering that the nation is what brings us together and the way to reach the socialist strategic horizon is by defending it, we have to reestablish respect for the differences amongst us.
We must overcome the blackmail which seeks to lump us all together, negating the other and postponing the voicing of differences and criticisms to a better moment (which never arrives). These differences and criticisms are exactly what must be resolved to ensure real unity by correcting many of the mistakes which have contributed to the deepening of the current crisis.
This demands that we call the enemy by its name, identify it wherever it may be, and clarify common objectives. This is necessary for an effective unity in which the great majorities can express themselves and join forces for the good of all.
Emphasise what must be done and recuperated through struggle rather than defeat
It is our responsibility to speak out in favour of what still needs doing, without losing sight of what we have lost during the crisis, which also needs to be won back.
This means being part of the day to day struggle and action, despite adversities and contradictions. This is vital to sustain and increase our efforts and coherence in the direction of the historical objectives which we propose.
The Venezuelan process is one in flux, in dispute, with much still to be defined. This is why it is important to contribute in any way so that the popular forces can be seen and can concretely struggle and fight for their objectives.
Without denying the difficult situation in which we live, which affects every popular organisation currently in resistance, we must define our actions according to the need to advance and not from a position on the back foot.
Construct a clear, coherent, and viable plan of struggle
We must move forward in the struggle, in the defence of our nation and its advances, in the recuperation of what has been lost, and in what is still to be won, consolidating our organisations and training them.
We must include clear and possible objectives, as well as rally every comrade who has been left without a space of action or excluded from what was (until recently) the fundamental practice of being a lifelong [revolutionary] militant involved in the tasks of constructing a better life. For diverse reasons, this commitment has been reduced to mere day-to-day survival.
We must fight to place the means of production in the hands of the people, and we must do what is necessary to push forward, improve, and multiply the productive units and circuits involved in planned production, distribution, and consumption. This is our best way to struggle against the returning inequality, which is installing itself and undoing an important part of our revolutionary victories.
We must struggle to stop this, to push it back, and to guarantee the rights which were won and which today are being undone. We must demand that the state assume the role given to it by the constitution and the revolution to struggle against the logic of capital and neoliberalism.
By constructing a plan of struggle which allows mobilisation and unity, we will bring about a strategic correlation of forces in favour of the people and the revolution. We will then be able to defend the nation, socialism, and Chavez from the [attacks of the] empire, bureaucracy, and from the conservative vision which has adopted part of the economic agenda of the enemy and which attempts to impose it in the country in the name of the revolution. This is why we must demand coherence from the government, and we must act ourselves without allowing silence to be an answer, nor allowing ourselves to be silenced or blackmailed into de-mobilisation to avoid our criticisms and denouncements.
We must struggle to once again keep the people at the centre of politics, to bring back participative and protagonist democracy for the construction of socialism. This is the objective which will define our future as well as our gamble on assuming communal objectives as the national project (which go much further than those in the laws of popular power), a task which was given to us by Hugo Chavez, so as to overcome the current crisis.
Defend peace as the daughter of justice
Defending peace is a fundamental task.
The imperialist plan to impose a war – to fragment the national territory, to annihilate Chavistas as political subjects and eradicate any possibility of community gatherings or popular organisation – must not be allowed to win.
We must defend peace with all of the strength and means possible. Yet, we must be clear that peace is the daughter of justice and we must avoid being left as torched earth. This forces us to build the conditions for justice to flourish despite blockades and threats, amid contradictions and attacks, amid backstabbing and enemies.
Defending peace involves keeping the project of death promoted by imperialism and its lackeys at bay. It also involves producing, recovering fundamental services, struggling against inequality, impunity, and the mafias which have murdered our campesinos and our youth in the shantytowns, and which look to impose privatisation and other business mechanisms which will take from the people that what is theirs.
Communicate struggles and bring together expressions of solidarity
As never before we must communicate our struggles and bring ourselves together in expressions of solidarity through every medium and with every just struggle. These struggles allow us to come together through actions, parties, celebrations, through difficult steps forward, triumphs and defeats, and demands and complaints, showing our productiveness and processes.
We must be present to be able to raise our voices and project them for the necessary struggle. Likewise, we must be there to support each other, and to feel part of a vital being in movement and resistance but also in (re)construction and searching for new ways to continue the struggle as a Chavista people. This we must do with all our wisdom and experiences of more than 20 years of Bolivarian revolution. We must communicate our history, our practices, and our struggles to bring us together in defence and multiplication of who we are.
Find our equals in the Patria Grande
Our defence and project of liberty once again demands that we come together in the Patria Grande [Great Homeland] with its burning heart.
We must take to the streets to struggle against neoliberalism, dictatorships and intervention. We must fight against the new strategies of imperialism which use judicial systems as a new occupation army, halting processes of change, arresting people, and repressing anyone who accompanies the people to the streets against military and police repression with total impunity.
The peoples of this region, with all of the exceptions which we can observe, are bringing about a new wave of action against the ultra-right (which is growing in strength across the globe) and which, in the context of the current crisis, looks to take power by blood and fire.
This is where we must make the effort to come together and recognise the particularities of each process. We must highlight the great contradictions which we find amidst the complexities of these times and with the current contradictions determining the principal enemy and the horizon which we seek. Alongside Bolivar, we cry out that our nation is America. With Chavez we add our voices to the creation of a new institutional architecture which may make this a reality through struggle.
These are some of the tasks which look to spark a debate, but above all action, this year, which even from its first days looks to be complicated and intense.
For this reason, I appreciate the opportunity to share them in the National Campesino Assembly which was held in the Bolivar Ranch, Santa Barbara de Zulia on January 18, 2020 and which has been organised by the Campesino Struggle Platform, one of the organisations of the popular movement which, from the countryside, sustains and constructs the project which Chavez left us.
I am sure that similar activities from diverse sister organisations will be held to plan and project this year’s objectives in defence of the nation and to push initiatives forward. To these organisations and meetings I send my greetings and invite them to join our efforts to create unity for the common struggle. As a popular Chavista movement, this is the path which we must transit down.
We must share the slogan of the National Campesino Assembly and the Platform of Campesino Struggle and continue to fight for the construction of our “Food Sovereignty and the Defence of Campesino Rights,” and we should add this to all of our struggles in the common agenda for 2020.
Commune or Nothing!
Translation by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis