With 184 socialist communes in construction in Venezuela, yesterday, during his weekly TV show Alo Presidente, president Hugo Chavez emphasised the need for “production independent of the capitalist market” in these communes and in general, and also directed Caracas mayor Jorge Rodriguez to expropriate buildings in plaza Bolivar in order to rescue the city’s history.
Chavez highlighted the importance of the communal councils, neighbourhood based organisations of up to 400 families which aim to solve local problems and develop and implement local projects, saying they are the nucleus of the current “change process” in the country and are where “socialism will be constructed”.
A spokesperson for the Communal Council Colinas de la Dignidad (hills of dignity), Morelbis Aguiar, explained that a commune, which is made up of several communal councils, is local, community self-government, “where we, the people, we are the ones who decide what our community wants and what the improvements are that we want to work on in our area.”
“It’s not the state that comes and decides; its us who decides which street we need, where to locate the university or high school… We decide what we’re going to do with the financing and resources that the revolutionary government gives us,” Aguiar continued.
The minister for communes, Erika Farias, said there are 184 communes in construction, 93 in rural areas, 65 in urban areas, and 26 mixed. According to the minister, the communes together have so far carried out 706 projects, involving an investment of over BsF 100 million (US$ 23 million).
During the television program, Chavez visited the commune Paraiso del Tuy via satellite link. Richardo Sanches, the minister for communes in Miranda, where the commune is located, explained that 32 communal councils had “united their efforts” to construct the commune, whose main projects are “social-productive”. The commune has 62 “productive gardens” that grow their own vegetables and medicinal plants as a method of self-supply.
Members of the commune told ABN press, “The communes aren’t something you decree, they are born out of the needs of the people and the communal councils.” The commune incorporates 5,900 families.
In order to counteract the rise in prices in the capitalist market, Chavez encouraged communes to create new systems of distribution and consumption. He gave the example of the Socialist Arepa shop in Caracas that sells the popular Venezuelan food at about half of the normal price, and makes the arepas from corn meal that was precooked in “socialist centres”, and purchased at a non-profit price.
The National Assembly is currently working on the Law of Popular Power, which will give more strength to the councils. Dario Vivas, first vice-president of the National Assembly, explained that the law aims to outline the communes and the various other aspects of revolutionary social organisation. Currently, while there is a law of communal councils, there is no law that governs, defines or gives legal recognition to the communes.
“The topic of the communes is very important because we are already constructing popular power, and we’ll make the law that defines the communes from this experience,” Vivas said.
“While the communes keep growing, more ways of relating to each other and of producing as brothers, without exploiting each other, are unlocked,” Chavez said.
Rescuing the historic city centre
During the program Chavez also directed the mayor of the municipality of Libertador in Caracas, Jorge Rodriguez, to expropriate buildings around the main plaza, Plaza Bolivar, among them a range of jewelery businesses, in order to help with the transformation of the area into a historic centre.
“It’s not right that these buildings, with so much history, with so much legacy of our leaders, are used by businesses. They belong to all Venezuelans, it’s a historic area that we should rescue,” he said.