[ The continuation of a comunero leader’s reflections on the
future of the communal project and the contradictions in the
Bolivarian Process, in this interview with VA’s Ricardo Vaz.]
THE COMMUNE HOLDS THE SOLUTION TO THE CRISIS, PART 2
Angel Prado and Ricardo Vaz
August 22, 2018
_ The continuation of a comunero leader’s reflections on the future
of the communal project and the contradictions in the Bolivarian
Process, in this interview with VA’s Ricardo Vaz. _
Mural in El Maizal, Ricardo Vaz
_El Maizal commune is located in the middle of the Venezuelan plains,
between the Lara and Portuguesa states. With a history of struggle and
construction of popular power, it is a flagship of the communal
movement in Venezuela. Continuing the discussion begun in Part I of
the interview [https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14005], we talked
to Angel Prado, communal spokesman, about the political project that
El Maizal is pushing forward, the questioned mayor’s elections of
December, the role of the commune in the current context, and how the
issue of the commune should enter into the new constitution._
EL MAIZAL PRODUCES CORN BUT SELLS ITS HARVEST TO THE STATE COMPANY
AGROPATRIA (1). HOWEVER, IF THE COMMUNE IS TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE
CONSTRUCTION OF SOCIALISM, SHOULD THERE NOT BE CONTROL OVER THE ENTIRE
That is one of our aims in building the communal city and accumulating
forces to allow us to grow and move forward. A first stage involves
controlling more means of production, because we need them to go
beyond being just primary producers and enter the cycle of
industrialization. Before that happens, we know we will come up
against a variety of enemies, but we will also count on plenty of
allies in the government and throughout the country.
We believe that, with our experience and political capital, we cannot
continue being mere raw material producers and hand everything over to
the state or the private sector, and then leave this region with no
supplies, which is absurd. The issue of self-government is about
people realizing that territorial self-government is capable of
solving problems. And right now the priority is food, and our economy
is based on food production, so we cannot go on producing and have the
state or the private sector take it all in the end.
For that reason, this year we are creating a network of
micro-companies, using very basic technology, that will be able to
receive, process, conserve and distribute within the communities. For
example, for corn we have a small mill and we have the barn ready to
install a small machine to process corn. The only step remaining is to
build silos, even if in a do-it-yourself fashion. The milk and meat
production, which has been increasing, is not being sold to the state
nor to the private sector, but is instead distributed directly to the
community. The same thing goes for coffee, vegetables and other things
we are growing here in the commune and with small producers.
The next step is to set up a small industry that will at least allow
us to enter this dynamic and consolidate an industrial system adapted
to our capacity. We will not have a mega-industry like Polar (2), but
we should at least be able to process what we produce.
WITH AN AGRICULTURAL COMMUNE, IT IS EASY TO IMAGINE MAKING THE
ORGANIZATION AROUND PRODUCTION. BUT IF WE CONSIDER THE CASE OF AN
URBAN COMMUNE, HOW CAN PRODUCTION BE CARRIED OUT THERE? WHAT DOES AN
URBAN COMMUNE PRODUCE?
I believe that organization is born out of necessity. Where there is a
larger population, there is greater necessity. What is not produced in
the countryside can be produced in the city. Here we can grow corn and
raise cattle because we have the right conditions to do so, but in a
city, in any house one can produce clothing, or the eyeglasses one
needs, watches and shoes. One can also process food.
Now there is a certain “complex” we sometimes perceive, a selfish
attitude among those who live in urban areas and believe that only
campesinos should produce, that only campesinos need to organize in
communes. If we were to apply the same logic, why not consider those
in the city to be mere parasites? If a truck with food goes from here
to Caracas, then it should return from Caracas with clothing! This is
an important debate. We have told many communities in Lara state, that
it is fine to come to El Maizal and buy something at a fair price, but
what are you contributing from your end?
In the urban barrios of big cities, where there is a high
concentration of people, there needs to be organizing, be it around
the problem of security, of social coexistence, healthcare or
services, in addition to developing productive activities. The big
industries, the mechanical workshops, etc., are in the city. The
workers live in the barrios! Because of this accumulation of people,
there is also better access to information and technology. In effect,
we need to dispel the myth that the productive commune can only exist
in the countryside.
WHAT DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE THE ROLE OF NATIONAL CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
(ANC), OF WHICH YOU ARE A MEMBER, IN THE CURRENT POLITICAL CONTEXT?
I believe the Constituent Assembly should have assumed the role of
legislating and taking tough decisions in order to really tackle the
economic crisis. We have always seen the government depositing a lot
of trust in the private sector, allocating dollars, and making
concessions. We have given plenty of opportunities to the private
sector, and yet what we see is the situation getting worse every day
with regard to food, prices, inflation, etc.
The ANC received a lot of support for two main reasons, one had to do
with the guarimbas and the need to secure peace, which to a certain
extent it did. The other was the economic situation, which
overwhelmingly affects poor people, and is still to be solved. Now, I
believe the ANC also has the role of restructuring the constitution
and implementing a series of laws to allow for an accelerated advance
towards the communal, socialist state that we believe in and which
Chávez proposed. There is a great deal of interest and hope to see,
once we win the elections (3), what political course the country is
going to take, keeping in mind that the ANC has yet to take the
important decisions it should.
HOW SHOULD THE COMMUNE FIGURE IN THE NEW CONSTITUTION?
We believe the commune should be a theme that runs through the entire
constitution and not just an article in it. If the commune marks the
way forward, then the whole constitution needs to reflect that, so
that the state is reoriented towards the communal state and socialism.
It makes no sense to have 350 articles and then add a 351st which
states that the commune exists! I believe that, from the first article
to the last, the issue of communes needs to cut across the
constitution, to make clear the kind of state we want to build.
Ángel Prado (center, with cap) with local small scale producers.
(Photo: Ricardo Vaz)
We should also point out that the commune is not just about legal and
administrative questions. It is also a cultural issue; it has to do
with building a new culture of government, a new way of doing politics
and of managing and assigning resources. All of that needs to be
addressed by the new constitution. Furthermore, when we talk about
culture, that also has to do with terminology. By contrast, when we
talk about municipalities or parishes, that is not ours!
Therefore, the commune also has to do with the territorial
organization of the country. El Maizal is in two municipalities, in
two states, but it is the same phenomenon. More than a political and
territorial breakdown, the challenge is to create a new way of
organizing the territory based on the people’s logic, the human
geography, and do away with borders that were inherited from
colonialism. In a way, it is about going back to Simón Rodríguez’s
concept of toparchy: the government from the territory and with the
WE ALSO NEED TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT CHÁVEZ’S PROPOSALS REGARDING THE
COMMUNE THAT HE MADE ON MANY OCCASIONS…
I believe the proposal that President Chávez made was quite concrete,
and his proposals regarding the new geometry of power are very
interesting. On the question of, territorial organization, we find his
proposals very appealing. For example, Chávez put forth the idea of
the communal council, and then that of the commune. After the commune,
he launched the idea of the communal city and then came the communal
federation. Finally, at the highest level, we would have a
confederation of communes spanning the whole country.
Now, I believe this should lead to an interesting and intense debate
in the ANC, with a view to recovering, in case we have forgotten it,
the proposal of comandante Chávez. It is one way of moving forward.
It might not be the only or the most perfect one, but Chávez studied
presented it, and from where we stand we believe it could be a viable
way to carry out the territorial organization of the new state as we
move towards socialism.
As I said, El Maizal is a territory that spans two states, and our
communal city will spread through many parishes. The communal
federation we envision, from here to Buría, which is an area where
there are four communes, would incorporate territory across three
states: Yaracuy, Lara and Portuguesa. Therefore I think the new
constitution needs to address this new territorial order the way
Chávez presented it: with new terminology, new forms, a new logic,
and with the new geometry of power in the territory.
(1) In a forthcoming article, we will delve into the productive
activities of the El Maizal commune, as well as its complex
relationship with the state.
(2) Venezuela’s largest food conglomerate.
(3) This interview was conducted in May 2017, before the May 20
presidential elections in which Nicolás Maduro won reelection.
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