The Corriente Revolucionaria Bolívar y Zamora, a Chavista social and political organization, got the opportunity to interview Ángel Prado, the spokesperson of the Socialist Commune El Maizal, during the second national meeting of communal leaders. The Socialist Commune El Maizal is a Venezuelan peasant organization comprising of 22 communal councils dedicated to building socialism at the grassroots level, The organization celebrated its 10th anniversary on March 5.
Corriente Revolucionaria Bolívar y Zamora: What are the strategic and immediate objectives of the Socialist Commune El Maizal?
Ángel Prado: The strategic objective of the El Maizal commune, is the construction of socialism. It is a medium to long term objective that for us is not a utopia, but a real process with concrete expressions of people’s power, the communes, the communal councils, where we build different social relations, of solidarity, of concern for each other, where living, feeling, working and caring for each other in a collective manner, is an indication that socialism, as commander Chávez said, is materialized at the grassroots level. There are people who intend to impose the idea that it is impractical and that the society must live on the basis of special interests of each individual. They try to say that Chávez’s dream died with Chávez, but it is just the opposite.
Socialism for us is to take on the construction of a process and of a new society. The grassroots movements and the ordinary people have the political will to take on this proposal of Chávez as their agenda, make it a reality and strengthen it. Therefore, our strategic objective is the construction of socialism: to not let this debate die within the public opinion, as it was done during the decades when alternatives to capitalism were not considered.
We also have specific objectives within this initiative. The most important thing today are the ideas that have contributed to this platform, in which a vast majority of expressions of people’s power, social movements, cooperatives, peasants, fishermen, youth and women’s movements are involved. The people who organize in the commune, who form the commune, are also involved and are heeding Chávez’s call in his last proclamations. The “commune or nothing” can materialize the process of organizing people to assume power from the community, from the self-government of their territory.
At the moment, one of the specific objectives is to achieve as much strength as possible at the grassroots level, in a perfect unity, a unity of the Chavista people, of the working class, where the need overwhelms and, from this need, the aim is to strengthen the organization, to put it at the service of solving tangible and immediate problems. We try to build a work plan with a common fighting agenda, which is the orientation to follow in this journey, in this new scenario that we are facing.
There are several grassroots movements in the country, but unfortunately they have been unorganized. That’s why, another important objective is to achieve organization, in a unity based on respect, recognition, coincidence of political and ideological coherence where we identify with each other in the battle against imperialism, the right, in the face of reformism and the factors that seek to weaken the revolutionary processes, deflecting the original project of commander Chávez.
CRBZ: In these initial moments, in concrete terms, what has been achieved?
AP: A major step is that we have had successful experiences that are a reference of the actual construction of people’s power. We have also been able to invite people and organize groups, which sometimes go unnoticed, but are very good experiences, which remain in their territories, and focused on defense in the face of the contradictions in our own government. There are comrades dedicated in their localities to avoid controversy with our parties, with our government, with our political leaders, with the institutions. It is a great step that we have organized with a number of groups that took part in the first national meeting to start this great debate.
This has allowed, in a short period of time, each person to share, from their own space, the idea of connecting with each other, getting to know each other, visiting each other and organizing with each other. The El Maizal commune has had the opportunity to visit communes of different states such as Falcón, Apure, Mérida, Caracas etc. We have also received invitations from this very commune of Lara. Every day we receive invitations from communes all across the nation, even from the east region of the country. This in the case of El Maizal, but there are also people who are interested in learning about the experience of Alexis Vive, of the Corriente Revolutionaria Bolívar y Zamora, the experience of Palito Blanco, from the Pío Tamayo commune, of the communes connected to the National Network of Communes, of the communes of Anaco in the east region of the country. There are people who are reviving and integrating into this new prospect that has been created: joining, contributing, inquiring, investigating and communicating with those people who are also building similar interesting processes in the territories.
Many interesting things have been discussed in this organizing process, for example, economic aspects. We have already managed to make exchanges, for example, the hogs of El Maizal with chocolate from some communes of Merida. We have managed to establish work agreements with communes of Caracas, such as the Panal 2021, where the herd of pigs are sacrificed and distributed, which we exchange for clothing from the textile plan of this commune. We have also promoted and planned how to push El Maizal’s food distribution policy through the El Maizal shops. We consider that our production reaches different parts of the country through these shops, proving the myth wrong that the peasants who were given land with Chávez do not produce.
It is also important to have media coverage of what we do to make people aware. We do not want the production of our commune’s fields to remain in our commune only. We want it to reach the popular areas that we would say in commercial terms, are very important commercial squares for the distribution of food and that only speculation, contraband, has taken over to loot the pockets, the economy of poor families. We have spoken to other communes so that with the El Maizal shops we can sell our products and also of other communes. But above all, so that the commune, where the shop is, can take up the administration process, and be a space for food distribution that can generate surplus to strengthen the economic dynamics within these communes. The aim is to be able to feed the poor people, also ensure that the poor people can benefit from the production of lands that were recovered and made to produce food with the efforts of the peasants.
Proposals such as the El Maizal shops are an alternative to save the proposal of Commander Chávez such as the bicentennial food markets. We can bring much cheaper and good quality food products, for the moment in a small quantity. As the government distribution systems have been weakening, we from the commune, from the grassroots, with a perspective of growing, propose an idea for the communal movement to take over. It is an initiative to contribute for those communes that were most affected by economic warfare and the weakening of the process. We believe that it is possible to rise up from the bad times we are going through.
The idea is to break with the media campaign that the right and some sectors of the reformism promote. They have tried to make it look like the poor people cannot project themselves because they cannot administrate, manage or execute, that they do not know how to take control of a project, that they do not know how to make the land productive and that the urban communes only know how to manage a bakery.
In a short period of time, we can measure some achievements such as organization, debate on economic issues and the exchange of production. A new topic has also emerged, which is, the intention of different communes to be trained, to be prepared theoretically. People feel the need that a leadership must be developed, for greater clarity, awareness, and preparation. We have invited people to join our school of political, ideological and technical training; and we have also received invitations from them. Within a short time, we have been able to establish a solid foundation for enhancing the communal movement and the initiative that is being built.
CRBZ: The second national meeting of this initiative is taking place. Who all took part in the first meeting and promoted it and who else have joined this new meeting?
AP: We will not act with dogmatism, we will not reduce the initiative where if you are not from the commune you cannot participate in the process. We believe that every expression of organized people’s power with strong structures that has the political will to take on the agenda of revolution, will be called and welcomed to participate in this space.
At the first meeting, we, the communes, peasant councils, peasant sectors, intellectuals, fellow leaders and social movements were there. At the meeting that took place in the El Maizal commune, we met with comrades like Lalo, who produces seeds in Merida and is a political representative; there were people from Palito Blanco who have been giving a tough fight on the Venezuelan border with Colombia in the area of Guajira, Zulia; the international organizations such as the MST of Brazil; the Corriente Revolutionaria Bolivar y Zamora was also there and they have many years of experience, the people of the commune Pío Tamayo were there; the Simón Bolívar Coordinator; the Panal 2021 commune; the Alexis Vive Patriotic Force; comrade Julio Escalona, whom we respect a lot and consider as a teacher and a defender of the Bolivarian, Guevarista and Chavista ideology; comrade Reinaldo Iturriza, who worked in a public sector in a ministry and gave people the space so that they could participate in the policy making decisions. People from the Anaco commune also took part; comrade Braulio Alvarez, who is a representative of peasant struggle in the country; there were also people from some communes of the Fabricio Ojeda de Portuguesa; people from the communes of Carora; comrade “Chicho” Medina, who is a communal member and who organizes communal lines of work in several central-west areas; there were people from the admirable peasant march, today known as Peasant Struggle Platform, who are waging a tough battle against the large estate owners and dealing with the assassinations of fellow comrades; communes of Caracas participated; the people of the Left Cultural Front and the Altos de Lídice commune, which is an important experience in the capital city, were also there.
I may miss out someone that I do not remember now. There were a number of comrades with whom we connected and agreed on the need to be part of this initiative. An initiative that is not of an individual or of a group, but of a large collective in the Venezuelan territory that is organizing at the grassroots level and refusing to be exterminated or disappeared. And as Chavistas we are going to defend what many people abstractly call Commander Chavez’s legacy. For us, Chávez did leave a legacy that must be cared for, maintained, and strengthened, to be the guide and the way forward.
Lastly, comrades who were not there in the first meeting have joined, such as the Che Guevara Commune of the state of Merida; the Indio Caribay commune, a very humble group of people who with their contribution and experience in the plantation of rice have made an exchange with the El Maizal commune. There are people who are learning about the initiative, and it is our responsibility, of all of us here, to take care of it, so that it is not affected by any particularity, anyone’s bad intention, any unwanted and unintentional mistake. We will continue to invite people who have not connected so far, because it is normal that they have their concerns, they are watching how the process evolves. As long as we have lines of work, and as long as we are talking with the example, with morality and concrete work, the initiative will gain the trust of the people and eventually many people will join.
CRBZ: Are there any defined participation criteria and methods of building?
AP: The first criteria that we put on the table is that participants should be people who are building real processes linked to the grassroots, people who are promoting true grassroots organizing in their organizations. There should be people who are linked to a real construction process, Even if they don’t have anything to share because they haven’t advanced much. Because unfortunately when interesting processes like this emerge, it is likely to have those who contribute little to the process, but speak a lot. Then time gets wasted and people get tired.
We look for a profile of people who participate in this process, without wanting to condition that we are all equal. We look for the best, perhaps not the most famous, but the best, where the quality is measured. We are going to be careful to avoid people who do not build anything and come to try to appropriate the space. It’s a serious initiative where a lot of people are putting a lot of work in. The criteria is that people who join are building real processes, in the diversity that exists in the country in the world of people’s power.
Another characteristic that we are promoting for organizations that connect is to have a discussion on the economic issue. Every city, rural, urban, peasant, communal organization, we all call to become involved into the economic issue at this stage of the Bolivarian Revolution, due to the need, from the blockade, from the sabotage that even many from the government are making in this game with the national bourgeoisie. From assuming the means of production, carrying out concrete industrial production to entering business and exchanging with strength. This has to be the profile of a communal leader, of a Chavista, to put everyone on the strategic task of national production. Not only of food, we are talking about the production of manufactured goods of all kinds that are demanded by our society, the national initiatives that were unfortunately ended due to imports.
Now, as a result of the blockade, we have an opportunity for everyone to develop their knowledge on the basis of generating some kind of production that can power the communal economy that we are trying to create at the grassroots level with a lot of effort. For example, the city communes should not expect only the peasants to produce, in the cities things can also be built and produced. In the neighborhoods also. Obviously the reality of the countryside is not the same as that of a city, but President Chávez showed us the ways to investigate, to have access to technology, the techniques of manufacturing output, of industrial production. Everyone has the capacity. This is an aspect highlighted in the criteria.
We are not conditioning that only Chavistas take part in this instance. It could be anyone from the nationalist sector, anyone from poor sectors that may even include an opposition activist. We are not going to be sectarian that someone who does not share political and ideological views with us can not take part. For us, it is a challenge that no one from the popular classes admire the right, the bourgeoisie or the oligarchy. Although obviously we are Chavistas from our hearts, who learned to have a political conscience with Chávez, who are going to take the reins of his project.
We have to have the political maturity to take care of the unity. We must set goals for the short, medium and long term. We call on all the comrades who are part of this process to be very careful. We have to respect this project beyond the individuality of everyone. We believe we’re not dreamers or fools. We believe that this initiative is a real alternative. We can all take Chavez’s legacy forward.
Translation by Tanya Wadhwa, Spanish version first appeared on the website of CRBZ.