Tour by Activist from Venezuela discusses Socialist Communes
Tuesday, November 19, 20130 Comments
Courtesy Venezuela Analysis
Venezuela is a country that represents a different vision for our future. Its revolutionary process is different from capitalist austerity and neoliberalism that many working class people around the world are facing today.
On Monday, November 11, Katrina Kozarek came to Guelph as part of her tour to speak about Venezuela’s revolutionary process.
Kozarek is active in the Ataroa Socialist Commune and a long-term activist in the Nacional Association of Community, Free and Alternative Media (ANMCLA). She grew up in Apollo,Pennsylvania, but moved to Venezuela in 2003.
Kozarek gave a background into the situation in Venezuela before launching into discussion about socialist communes. Venezuela faced neoliberal policies in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1989 uprisings occurred across the country against neoliberal politics.
Hugo Chavez was elected to be president in 1998, backed by a people’s movement and progressive forces. Right away he initiated policies that helped the poor, including a land law that redistributed unoccupied land to peasants or the state.
Chavez’s reforms went too far for rich corporations, and the right wing organized a coup in 2002. The coup was to no avail though, mainly because the people in Venezuela showed their strength and brought Chavez back to power from unrest.
The main part of Kozek’s presentation focused on her experiences living and working in Ataroa Socialist Commune that has a population of about 30 000 people in Lara province. The people of Venezuela have been setting up communes even before the Socialist Government implemented the Ministry of Communes in 2009. Socialist communes are real living examples of socialist democracy.
Communal councils are made in areas of around 250 families. These families get together frequently in what are called citizens assemblies to take control over their lives, and democratically organize their communities.
Spokespeople are elected from the councils, and these spokespeople represent the communal council in larger communes, and in some cases, even communal cities. Decisions made in higher bodies, like communal parliaments, are to be brought back to smaller communal councils for approval, allowing everyone to have the opportunity to have a say in decision making.
The people decide the geographical boundaries of communes in Venezuela.
“In our commune, we have a territorial ties because we fought together against the privatization of health in our community,” Kozek explained. The history of organizing in the Ataroa community, and other factors, were what influenced the community’s decisions about the boundary of the Ataroa commune.
Now, thanks to their struggle for public health care, a health clinic that faced threats privatization is now a hospital that is socially run by the commune.
The communal city Kozek is from, like all communes in Venezuela, organizes to control communal enterprises in common. The idea is that these enterprises will benefit the community. For instance, Ataroa Socialist Commune runs its own block making enterprise under communal control.Therefore, as well as getting some funding from the government, people in communes look to create funding from these socialist enterprises.
The Ataroa commune also democratically controls a school that teaches people construction skills, and another separate agricultural school. Along with schools, enterprises, and a hospital, the commune runs cultural events, and allows people in the commune to be empowered by collectively operating different grass roots media outlets that Kozek is very involved in.
The Ataroa Socialist Commune sometimes has conflict with big business. The owners of big business do not want production to be organized and controlled by workers and communities in communes.
For instance a company that extracts sand from a river in the area of the commune causes environmental damage.
“That company causes problems for the commune, because it’s under private control and it has no interest in the community whatsoever,” Kozek explained.
The socialist commune has a plan however.
“The idea is to somehow to do a take over of that company and get permission from the Ministry of Environment to take over the extraction,” she added. By extracting sand in their territory in an environmentally friendly way, the community can benefit from collectively taking over extraction.
The Ataroa Socialist Commune is also located in the state of Lara, an area of Venezuela that has elected an opposition governor, making it impressive that the people have been able to set up a people’s commune. Unsurprisingly, the commune has faced opposition from the governor of the state, Henry Falcon, a neoliberal politician in support of big business.
For instance, the sewer system in Ataroa is about to collapse; yet the people are receiving no support from the Falcon to fix the problem. Falcon has been in office for four straight years without tackling the issue despite growing demands. The reason behind his inaction is his dislike of socialist communes that threaten the material interests of his main supporters, big business. The communal city also has goals of connecting with other communal cities to create a communal state, something that would make his position obsolete.
Kozek emphasized the importance of organizing in solidarity with the Venezuelan people in their process of the Bolivarian Revolution. Wealthy corporations, and rich people with particular interests, have been trying to cause economic chaos in Venezuela. Speculating on the dollar value has caused Bolivars be worth little compared to the dollar. At the same time, companies are hoarding food and other resources to create psychological and economic panic. People often have to wait in long lines for food when companies and supermarkets behind closed doors store large amounts of food. The result is a type of psychological warfare.
Wealthy elites in Venezuela and imperialists from Canada have interests in sabotaging the Bolivarian revolution because they want to overthrow a government that takes into account the interests and demands of working people.
“Venezuela is preparing itself for some sort of military intervention in the next months,” Kozek warned.
Kozek emphasized that there will be municipal elections on December 8, and the right wing opposition is already threatening to create havoc during the elections to make the Bolivarian Revolution look bad. It is important for supporters of the revolution in Canada to hear true stories during any upheavals that will happen during the municipal elections by connecting to people on the ground in Venezuela. By connecting to people in Venezuela activists can spread the true story of the Bolivarian Revolution to fellow citizens.