Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on August 15 for his government to give greater support to the construction of communes in the country. He proposed several initiatives by which this could be done.
Communes have their origin in Venezuela's communal councils, which are grassroots bodies made up of members of the local community. These self-managed bodies receive public funds to undertake community projects and small-scale public works.
Communes are made up of groups of community councils, and are able to take on larger scale projects and further develop mechanisms of local self-governance. There are more than 44,000 registered communal councils, but there only about 200 established or developing communes in the country.
Speaking on his weekly television show, Bolivarian Dialogue, Maduro urged his cabinet to work to consolidate and expand the building of communes.
“Let’s make the issue of the communes into a central issue for the building of territorial socialism, concrete socialism, where we all contribute to the construction of the communes, [and] support and consolidate those communes already established,” he said.
Maduro entrusted this task to Vice-President Jorge Arreaza, communes minister Reinaldo Iturriza, and communication minister Delcy Rodriguez.
“Established and consolidated communes must be transformed into a vanguard that goes out, with their example, to educate, motivate, form and support the building of new communes,” added the president.
Maduro proposed several initiatives for the government to better support the building of communes and the country’s grassroots democracy in general.
One initiative is the establishment of a vice ministry dedicated to the spreading of information about the experiences of Venezuela’s communes and other social movements.
This task was given to Rodriguez, with the new body to be named “The Communications Vice Ministry of Communes and People’s Power”.
A second proposal was for the creation of a national television channel for communes, which will be dedicated to sharing information about the work and daily life of communes and community councils.
“We’re going to design a national television channel, Commune TV, so that the life of the communal councils and communes can be seen,” said Maduro. “It would be a subject that could produce endless documentaries, news and music programs.”
Maduro entrusted the coordination of this project to the ministers of communes, communication and science and technology. He explained that such a channel could operate nationally on the new Open Digital Television service.
In 2009, the government established the Ministry of Communes and in 2010 passed the Communes Law. However, in a cabinet meeting in October last year, late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez criticised his government for not doing enough to support the bulding of communes.
“Where are the communes?” Chavez asked Maduro, then vice president. Chavez said he was considering eliminating the Ministry of Communes altogether.
The National Network of Communards responded to these comments in a written statement, in which they affirmed that communes were being built across the country. It said: “We are constructing the communes through our own knowledge and actions, because we aspire towards a communal way of life, as a community, in socialism or communism.”
The network said “almost nothing about this appears in the national, regional and local media”, adding that “nothing like any ministry or institution created up until now” reflected the aims or needs of the commune movement.
Speaking on August 15 in a town in the Andean state of Merida, Maduro said the communes should be central to a new productive economic model in Venezuela.
“Every communal council and every commune should aim to be an organised [group of] people, that develops an economically productive socialism,” Maduro said. He said these bodies should help meet the needs of the local community, playing an important role in local economic and social life.
As part of the televised broadcast, Maduro approved 100,000 bolivars ($17,300) for the Ezequiel Zamora commune in Merida, in part for the commune to organise repairs to a nearby aqueduct.
[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]