Excerpted from EWAN ROBERTSON:
“The Venezuelan government and commune movement are taking steps to move towards the creation of what is referred to as a “communal state”, which involves community organisations assuming collective control of local production and decision making.
Communes in Venezuela are formed out of groups of community councils, which are small neighbourhood organisations representing 250-400 families – where local residents organise to develop their local community and run community affairs. They can also receive public funds to undertake a variety of projects in their area.
Communes themselves are created when an election of local residents is held to select spokespeople from each community council in a given area to form a communal parliament, which has different sub committees and covers community affairs over a larger territorial zone. The commune can then take on larger scale tasks and responsibilities than individual community councils. They can also register with the Ministry of Communes, which makes them eligible to apply for public funding for productive, educational, cultural, infrastructure or other development projects.
There are currently around 40,000 communal councils and 600 communes registered in the country, with more communes currently in the process of formation.
Over the past year and a half the Bolivarian government has stepped up efforts to encourage citizens to organise themselves into communes. This coincided with a speech that late former president Hugo Chavez made in October 2012, criticising the lack of progress in establishing communes in the country, and the appointment of Reinaldo Iturriza as minister of communes by President Nicolas Maduro last April.
Some of the main ideas behind the creation of communes expressed by activists and commune ministry figures are for local communities to play a greater role in productive activities such as agriculture, and for communities to play a greater role in local decision-making and administration.
Earlier this month, President Maduro created a Presidential Council of Communal Governance to act as a direct link between the government and communes and to receive proposals from communes on how government policy can better support communal development.
“You make the proposals, I’ll articulate them with policies, and you send me the criticisms about the shortcomings of the Bolivarian government. Long live grassroots criticism, let’s learn to grow from criticism, let’s not fear the truth, that’s Hugo Chavez’s method,” said Maduro to 10,000 communards (commune members) in Caracas upon making the announcement.
Another announcement was that authorities will distribute 980 cargo trucks to communes in order to support their productive and agricultural activities. This will help local farmers transport their goods to markets without expensive private sector middlemen charging speculative rates for the service, which drives up the prices of food and reduces farmers’ incomes.
Press also reported that Maduro agreed to a meeting with communards to examine difficulties for communal enterprises in issues such as investments and sales, in order to resolve these issues with presidential law-making powers.
Various other commune meetings are planned for June such as a national communal productive fair. There is also a proposal to be debated soon in the Federal Government Council for the transfer of some competencies of local government to the communes.
Dameris Herrera, a spokesperson of the Orinoquia commune in eastern Venezuela, told media her impression of the announcements. “He [Maduro] is saying that yes we can, especially in the transfer of powers, because we can be the administrators of many things that are being done at the level of the constituted power [local representative governance], and as the constituent power [direct participatory governance]; we have this responsibility,” she said.”
The problem with the case of Venezuela goes beyond official announcements made by its president or the inherent potential of collaborative social models yet undeveloped. Venezuela’s economy suffers from a serious misuse of their proportionally gigantic GDP among other structural factors related to their public institutions. A social crisis related to intense and historical social class clashes, a high consumerist culture and a lack of any sort of social contract make of any attempts from innovative socio economic models like p2p, just an sterile proposal unable to launch itself form its theoretical realm.
Western societies like European countries can hope to achieve such social and economic transformations (and even to catch a glimpse of them on reality) thanks to their highly evolved social development. Sharing a car or a bike without worrying of it being stolen or abused, or having access to the means to build a commonly designed car are benefits that only countries from the first world can enjoy in the practice.
Sure, the principle behind the whole p2p paradigm its what matters at this stage of our evolution as a global society, but using the Venezuelan case as an example to illustrate how these p2p concepts can be implemented, without regarding the major failures the venezuelan example embodies, results nonetheless as deeply misleading.