Last week, as hundreds of community activists gathered in downtown Caracas to demonstrate their steadfast support for the socialist policies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, he reiterated once again that, “Venezuela’s communes must be consolidated if we are to truly carry out the program elaborated by our leader, Hugo Chavez”.
Duilliam Virigay agrees. National Spokesman of the Simon Bolivar National Communal Front (FNCSB), he was in Caracas last week to participate in the national assembly of the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), a social movement dedicated to pushing the Bolivarian Revolution forward. In this interview, he describes the interesting yet difficult challenges faced by Venezuela’s radical experiment with participatory democracy.
How did the FNCSB first come together?
Before the FNCSB came to be, our people were actively involved in building the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ). In 1998 and 1999, the FNCEZ was working with rural people in the struggle for agrarian reform. This struggle for land was extremely violent, with the Venezuelan oligarchy, the landed elite, murdering over 300 rural leaders. As the FNCEZ consolidated itself and became strong, we identified the need to build other organizations that could attend to the needs of other sectors of society.
In 2005, we brought together some 350 communal councils in the first constituent assembly of the Simon Bolivar National Communal Front (FNCSB). Thanks to the grassroots organizing we had been doing for years, we were able to mobilize active leaders of these communal councils and form what is today the FNSCB.
Why did you, as a social movement, decide to prioritize the formation of communes?
All we did was to follow through with the vision outlined by President Chavez, a vision that proposed we re-found the Republic, re-found it from below from the neighborhoods, from the countryside. Chavez understood the need to build a new and revolutionary institutionalism from deep within the roots of Venezuelan society. To do this, Chavez proposed the consolidation of neighborhood-based communal councils, the joining of these councils into communes, joining these into communal cities, and so on. That is Chavez’s proposal for dismantling the bourgeois and oligarchical state that exists in Venezuela today, and that is why we’ve prioritized the communes.
We began our communal work in the state of Apure, a very difficult area to do grassroots organizing because of thefts, contraband, irregular forces that exist along the border (with Colombia), paramilitaries, and assassinations carried out by local elites. There in Apure we got started. The first thing we did was to bring together 39 communal councils and form eight communes. Once that was accomplished, we formed the country’s first communal city, now known as the Simon Bolivar Socialist Campesino Communal City (CCCS-SB).
It wasn’t easy, but we’ve made real progress since then. We’ve built communes and communal cities using nothing more than hard work, dedication, and our philosophy of organizing, educating, and mobilizing. We’ve helped build the consciousness necessary to bring people together. Today, and I say it with all humility, the CCCS-SB is the best example of social organization that exists in Venezuela. Of the 420 communes that are formally registered with the Ministry of Communes and Social Movements, 269 are communes that the FNCSB organized. That’s 60%.
Building communes isn’t just about defending the Revolution, it’s also about moving forward, being on the offensive. What we propose, as the CRBZ, is a nationwide strategic counter-offensive against the right. We want government policies to be implemented all across the nation. Policies that aren’t put into practice everywhere are policies that remain incomplete. That’s also why Chavez proposed the communes – so that policies turn into concrete actions in every corner of the country.
Private media in Venezuela and abroad tend to demonize the communes. Why do you think that is?Correo del Orinoco International