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Chavismo, Part 6: Who Builds The Other Power?

  • It is necessary to return to Chavez, to reinvent forms of Chavismo, to accumulate, to dispute, writes Marco Teruggi.

    It is necessary to return to Chavez, to reinvent forms of Chavismo, to accumulate, to dispute, writes Marco Teruggi. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 May 2018

It is necessary to return to Chavez, to reinvent forms of Chavismo, to accumulate, to dispute. Reason and strength: that was his key, writes Marco Teruggi.

The covered parking was full in Caracas, where they cross La Vega and El Paraíso, neighborhood and middle class. They had installed a big tent, the shifts were day and night, they talked about the self-construction of houses, that there – on that oil-stained asphalt – they were going to build more than buildings, a community. There were many women, young people, pure people of the hill. That was my first image of Caracas, April 2011. Seven years later there are the apartments, a central square with a bust of Chavez, a dining room and a training room. Those who took the land built their roof with volunteer work. We do not have to declassify ourselves, they always repeated.

Chavismo, Part 5: The Party of the Revolution

In May of that same year, the Great Housing Mission of Venezuela began, which in seven years delivered two million homes. Of this total, one part was built by the state, another privately and another by popular organization: central communal councils and communes and, in some cases, by a popular movement battling against urban estate owners, the Movement of Settlers, which was in Caracas.
Just as a unified party was necessary, it was also clear that the revolution did not fit into a single political/organizational tool. Chavez explained when founding the PSUV: "Social movements are very important, because beyond the parties there are some very powerful social currents, which are not in any party, but have their own identity. We must respect them – students, young people, women – who have their natural leadership... We must help to promote these movements, link with them, to shape the great patriotic alliance." The plan was not a one-party socialism.

Multiplying Movements

Movements multiplied during the years of the process. Some were born of a government policy, others by initiative of thosee raised Chavismo – cadres with previous experience. Little was accumulated before the beginning of the revolution: there was a powerful mobilization, subaltern radicalization, and little organization. Most of the movements that were formed after 1999 did so locally: in a single territory, sectorial, with a single axis of development, and with the logic of state financing, because there was a call and institutional support. He gave Chavismo a plural dimension, savage, at the same time dependent on the state.

Just as Chavez pressed for the PSUV to be a party of the revolution and not an electoral party, so did the movements, the need to move from claiming logics "to a political force capable of promoting structural and superstructural transformations." Every organizational form had to do with objectives according to the stages: party, popular organization, popular/social/collective movements.

Chavismo, Part 4: 'We Are All Soldiers'

Chavez devised an architecture of government policies to open floodgates, mediations to advance. The scheme could be explained as follows: the state creates conditions, the party of the revolution unifies vanguards, guarantees elections, contributes to the development of the transition, popular movements focus their work in the construction of popular power, in becoming tools in themselves, and can participate in elections – via the PSUV or not – and state management. The strategic objective is neither the party, nor the movements, nor the management. It is the process of recovering power in the hands of the organized people, the popular organization that Chavez condensed into the communal form. When he put the communal state as horizon, the question was then: who will promote/accompany that development? There was the need for movements.

Revolutionary Task

"The revolutionary task is not made subordinate subjects, dependents or prebendaries of traditional institutional structures, or the ruling political parties and their leaders. It is carried out by autonomous subjects of the popular field: social movements, Indigenous movements, left parties, territorial organizations, references of communes and communities... It is up to them to create, build, sustain and deepen another power, popular power," says Isabel Rauber.

Some popular movements devoted much of their efforts to community development. This is the case of the Bolivar Revolutionary Current and Zamora, and the Alexis Vive Foundation. There was the greatest accumulation, movements, with structures, previous experiences, betting on the process of urban or rural communal organization on the rise. 
Movements grew as much as the communes that accompanied their development. It can be traced from the 23 de Enero neighborhood, in Caracas, to the border areas of Apure and Tachira, where consolidated experience is found, with self-governments, social economies, progress towards the proposed horizon. It is part of the communal accumulation, which was also the work of the initiative of comuneros and comuneras that were organized without waiting for anyone, they did it with their previous experience and the guiding lines of Chavez.

Organizational Expansion

There were not many movements that were raised/could expand their geographic, organizational development, achieve self-financing, capacity for mobilization, dispute meaning, consider a strategy of power within the unit of Chavismo. By traction of the bureaucracy towards ministerial logics not possible to leave, as by difficulties of the same leaderships of the movements. The majority remained in its territory/neighborhood with its axis of development. 

Chavez's death showed the limitation this represented, not because of the work itself – the case of housing is an example of that power – but because of political barriers, the dependence of the state to articulate and maintain itself economically. That difficulty left a flank exposed to the revolution. Who presses to advance if the peasant policy goes back and it is decided to freeze the advance against the estate owners? Who publicly interpellates the bureaucracy, corruption, wrong decisions? Who articulates a communal policy, the development of the organization of women in the territories, or presses to put in place mechanisms of popular control in a scenario of war? 

Chavismo Will Be Socialist Or It Will Cease To Exist

To date, it has depended more on ministries than on the capacity of the movements. The same happens with street mobilization: it is sustained to a large extent by the call from the institution, the party, the presidency. Chavismo should have a movementist dimension for the necessary diversity in the architecture of the process, the non-dependence of the institutionality to deepen. The perspective of communal socialism posed by Chavez needs that social and political actor that expands and, in that act, develops popular power. 

There are riddles that must be solved in the Chavista culture, in the way in which they learned to do politics in the popular classes, which bear the weight of the state need, the material resources, together with a loyalty in great battles, and an irreverence away from the bureaucracy and allow thinking in ways that Chavez put again and again on the table as strategic. It is necessary to return to Chavez, to reinvent forms of Chavismo, to accumulate, to dispute. Reason and strength: that was his key. 

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