By the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front
As Venezuela faces yet another attempt by the Right-wing opposition to create political, economic and social turmoil in the wake of the upcoming municipal electoral process, the Hugo Chávez People’s Defense Front of Canada, organized a 5 City speaking tour with Katrina Kozarek from the Comuna Socialista Ataroa in Lara, Venezuela. According to organizers, the purpose of this tour was not only to bring attention to the renewed destabilization campaign against Venezuela, but also to show exactly what this process of building peoples power in Venezuela looks like from the ground.
According to Santiago Escobar, of Barrio Nuevo and the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front, the speaking tour had the intention “to promote the accomplishments of the Bolivarian revolution, especially the socialist communes, which are concrete experiences of popular power from below and to the left, also with the intention of creating a network for educational and information interchange as an alternative to the information created by mass corporate media”.
Since 2006 Venezuela has begun to create a new ‘geometry of power’ in an effort to deepen and fortify the Bolivarian Revolution. This has meant the application of direct democracy through participation in economic, social and political planning and decision making from the grassroots, local organizations building towards a ‘communal state’.
At the neighbourhood level, laws were passed providing guidelines for the people to organize themselves into communal councils comprising of up to 400 families in a defined geographic area. Once formed through a democratic process that invites and includes all people living in this area, the communal council decides the identity of the area (including the name), elects spokespeople and defines the neighbourhood priorities. Importantly, it can also obtain funds in order to meet its assessed needs. Since the passing of the Law of Communal Councils in 2006, over 33 000 communal councils have been registered and over $2 Billion transferred from the central government directly to these communities for projects ranging from repairing of stairs and roads, to neighbourhood sports facilities, to cooperatives producing shoes and bricks.
In 2010, the Law of Communes was passed, which outlined the process for neighbouring communal councils to come together to take greater control over their area. Over 1100 communes have been registered to date.
Kozarek, who is part of the Ataroa Socialist Commune which comprises a territory which includes roughly 30 000 families, describes the communes “as the primary defense strategy of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela that promises to bring the country to the point of no return towards a truly democratic, and socialist future, creating an infrastructure for direct participation from a grassroots level, as well as promoting local and national production and self-sustainability.”
Kozarek acknowledged the fact that this process is still in construction and that capacity of Venezuela to resist the economic and other forms of sabotage is extremely important for the future of Venezuela and all of the countries and popular movements that have come together under the platform of the Bolivarian Alternative of Our America (ALBA) to resist imperialism in the region and build a model that moves away from neoliberalism.
The tour started off in the University of Toronto on the 7th of November, passing through Guelph University, Centro Hispano de York, Kitchener, Ottawa and finishing off in Montreal. The diversity of organizations, individuals and groups that participated in the events, joined in the call to participate in a solidarity social network created by community media and social movements of ALBA in Venezuela, called the Cayapa Communicacional, to share information and counter-act the opinions and information disseminated by the opposition and their supporters on an international level.