Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro yesterday called on his government to give greater support to the construction of communes in the country, proposing several initiatives by which this could be done. The head of state also announced a “complete restructuring” of his government.
Speaking on his weekly television show, “Bolivarian Dialogue”, Maduro urged his cabinet to work to consolidate and expand the construction of communes in Venezuela.
“Let’s make the issue of the communes into a central issue for the construction 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 of government to Vice President Jorge Arreaza, Communes Minister Reinaldo Iturriza, and Communication and Information Minister Delcy Rodriguez.
“Established and consolidated communes must be transformed into a vanguard which goes out to construct, and with their example, educate, motivate, form and support the construction of new communes,” added the president.
Communes in Venezuela have their origin in communal councils, which are grassroots bodies composed of members of the local community. These bodies are self-managing and receive public funds to undertake community projects and small-scale public works.
Communes, meanwhile, 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. While there are currently over 44,000 registered communal councils, there are only around 200 established or developing communes in the country.
Vice ministry and television channel
Nicolas Maduro proposed several initiatives for the government to better support the construction of communes and country’s grassroots democracy more widely.
One of these was 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 minister for communications, Delcy 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. It would be a subject that could produce endless documentaries, news and music programs,” stated Maduro.
The Venezuelan president entrusted the coordination of this project to the ministers of communes, communication and science and technology, and explained that such a channel could operate nationally on the new Open Digital Television (TDA) service.
In 2009 the government established the Ministry of Communes and in 2010 passed the Communes Law. However, in a cabinet meeting in October 2012 late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez criticised his government for not doing enough to support the construction of communes.
“Where are the communes?” Chavez asked his then vice president Nicolas Maduro, adding that 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 constructed across the country, and that “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 also argued that “almost nothing about this appears in the national, regional and local media” and that “nothing like any ministry or institution created up until now” reflected the aims or needs of the commune movement.
Speaking yesterday in a town in the Andean state of Mérida, Maduro argued that 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,” he stated. He further argued that 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, the president approved 100,000 bolivars (US $16,129) for the Ezequiel Zamora commune in Mérida state, in part for the commune to organise repairs to a nearby aqueduct.
Maduro also proposed “a complete restructuring” of his government yesterday in order to optimise its functioning and better achieve stated objectives. Prior to this restructuring, an evaluation of the pertinence, functions and organisation of existing government ministries will be undertaken.
“We’ve inherited the structure of the bourgeois government, the bourgeois state. We need to erect a new structure,” the president declared.
Part of this restructuring will be a greater focus by ministries on mechanisms of grassroots power. “We call ourselves ministries of people’s power. We have to be ministries of peoples power,” Maduro exhorted.