The Venezuelan government established a presidential commission for communes yesterday, and President Nicolas Maduro has announced further measures to strengthen the political role of communal councils and communes in Venezuela.
Communes are organisations made up of a number of communal councils. Self-managed bodies, they are a way for communities to organise to solve their own problems and implement local socio-productive projects.
There are currently over 44,000 registered communal councils, though the level of activity in each of those would vary. According to communes minister Reinaldo Iturriza there are 112 communes registered, with the highest amount in the centre-west of Venezuela. AVN reported that a further 377 communes are under construction.
The presidential commission will be presided over by Vice-president Jorge Arreaza and communes minister Reinaldo Iturriza, and is charged with ensuring that each ministry has a policy focused on directly attending to the communes in construction, as well as with accelerating the “Commune or Nothing Plan.
Announced on 8 August by the national government, the Commune or Nothing Plan aims to solve the administrative obstacles faced by communes to register and more generally to “diagnose, correct, and promote” commune functioning.
Maduro also announced on Thursday at a meeting in Caracas with commune members that the Ministry for Communes and Social Protection will be restructured and renamed the Ministry for Communes and Social Movements. A superintendency will be created for the social protection area. Maduro explained that the restructuration means that communes minister Iturriza can now focus exclusively on the communes and social movements
The new superintendency will coordinate the following social missions: Hipolita, Baby Jesus, Greater Love, Children of Venezuela, and Jose Gregorio Hernandez. These missions are for homeless assistance and drug rehabilitation, maternity, the elderly, children living in poverty, and people with disabilities, respectively.
On 7 and 8 September there will be a nationwide census of the communes and communal councils of the country.
Maduro also asked Vice-president Arreaza to work on putting together a “political, ideological, and organizational vanguard” out of the existing communes so that their members “become the future of the country”.
He also talked about strengthening the “communal financial system”, and setting up more communal banks. Further, he said the national government has been evaluating close to 200 new communal projects aimed at producing food, textiles, processing aluminium, and production of other goods.
“The commune has to be the new economic power…strengthening the capacity for solidarious work, productivity, culture, and … of work… for the community, for society,” Maduro said.
He stressed that problems of unemployment, crime, violence, shortages, and lack of housing can be resolved through communes. “When 50% of the people are joined in communes, we will have resolved practically all the inherent problems of ….capitalism,” he said.
These latest measures to strengthen the role of the communes follow a call by Maduro ten days ago to provide greater support to the construction of communes and to make them “central” to government policy and in the construction of socialism. Among his proposals at the time was the creation of a national television channel for communes.
A few days later the government also announced that mass grassroots elections will be held to elect spokespeople for a number of new communal councils and communes. For the first time, the National Electoral Council (CNE) will provide technical assistance in the elections, though the communal councils and communes will continue to organise the elections themselves, through their electoral councils.