Speech delivered at the conference “Challenging Capitalist Modernity II: Dissecting Capitalist Modernity–Building Democratic Confederalism”, 3–5 April 2015, Hamburg. Texts of the conference are published at http://networkaq.net/2015/speeches
Andrés Pierantoni Giua studied political sciences in Milano. He worked as a businessman and political advisor. Currently he serves as co-ordinator of 11 community councils in the Hatillo-Baruta rural area and as an advisor to the minister of commerce of Venezuela.
By: Andrés Pierantoni G.
In the short time available for my presentation, I will try to provide some "traces" on two issues requested by comrades Mehmet Alí Dogan and Gran Özkan as of particular interest to this Congress and for which I thank their collaboration in drafting this paper: Plurinationalism and Communal Power.
In fact, both topics are interrelated as the two faces of the same coin: in Bolivia and Ecuador, the concept of Plurinationalism is intertwined with indigenous or Afro- descendant communities rooted to their "Pacha Mama" and traditions, as the Rojava communities are; the Venezuelan case, instead, is that of mostly urban, uprooted communities, similar to the Kurdish ghettos, e.g. in the Istanbul outskirts.
One essential text to understand the thinking of Öcalan and the Kurdish progressive forces, “Democratic Confederalism”, proposes:
"The democratic confederalism can be described as a type of
Without any doubt, the ”vanguard” to this end in Latin America, not only at community but also at country and State level, is the Plurinational State of Bolivia, as it can be perceived by simply reading certain articles of its Constitution:
Article 1. Bolivia becomes a unitary State of law, plurinational, community, … democratic, intercultural, decentralized and autonomous. Bolivia is founded on the … political, economic, legal, cultural and linguistic pluralism, within the integrating process of the country.
Article 2. Given the precolonial existence of Nations and indigenous peasants and their ancestral dominion over their territories, their
institutions and the consolidation of their territorial entities...
Article 3. The Bolivian nation is comprised of all Bolivian women and men, nations and native peasants, indigenous peoples and the intercultural communities and Afrobolivians which together constitute the Bolivian people.
I.official languages of the State are Spanish and all the languages of the Na- tions and indigenous peoples, who are the aymara, araona, baure, besiro, canichana, cavineño, cayubaba, chacobo, chiman, that eija, guaraní, guarasu’we, guarayu, itonama, leco,
Article 9: Purpose and essential functions of the State, besides other established by the Constitution and the law, are to:
1... consolidate plurinational identities.
2... encourage mutual respect and plurilingual, intercultural and intracultural dialogue.
3... preserve, as historical and human heritage, the plurinational diversity.
…cultural diversity constitutes the essential basis of the community plurinational State...
A similar approach can be appreciated in certain articles of the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador:
Article 1.- Ecuador is a constitutional State of rights and justice,... unitary, intercultural, plurinational and secular. It is organized in the form of Republic and is governed in a decentralized way.
Article 3.- … fundamental duties of the State are to:... strengthen national diversity in unity...
Article 60.- ancient, indigenous peoples,
Article 257- in the framework of the political administrative organization, indigenous or
If we read the Rojava “Charter” or “Social Contract”, we can see a similar approach: “... we, the people of the autonomous communities, together in the spirit of reconciliation, pluralism and democratic participation so that all can express themselves freely in public life... To establish this Charter, we declare a political system and the civil administration founded on a social contract that reconcile the rich mosaic of Syria...”.
The experience of Venezuela: the “Comunas” as cells of a new society and a new State
Unlike Bolivia and Ecuador, in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, while it is true that in its Constitution there is a whole chapter (VIII) of “the rights of indigenous peoples”, including the collective ownership of their lands, the indigenous people that still live in ancestral lands, and under ancestral rules and habits, actually are only 2.5% of the population (725.141 out of 28.946.101 inhabitants: census 2011); and the total rural population is only 11.2%, due to an oil based economy which rent was mainly allocated to the large cities and their nurturing ports (“nurturing” meaning imports of finished products and intermediate goods for
In the ideology of Comandante Chávez the term “Comuna”, therefore, embraces not only economic, social and
Nobody better than Chávez, born and raised in a village of the “deep Venezuela", acknowledged the cultural impoverishment and uprooting of values caused by the fast
In this sense, the concept of “Comuna” is both tactical and strategic: the latter being related to the a.m.
In the same Homeland Plan, i.e. the legacy of Chavez projected to the future (2013- 2019), for the Great historical objective N° 1 (“To defend, expand and consolidate the most precious good we have retaken after 200 years: national independence”)
two General and Strategic Objectives are highlighted: “1.1.3 To strengthen and expand people's power” and “1.4.To achieve food sovereignty”. "
Öcalan appeals for a “return to the countryside” (in order to recover the ancient Kurdish territory―flooded with dams and intervened in every possible way―but also to recover the
The concept of the “Comuna”,
So far, the only electoral defeat of the Bolivarian Revolution (with a narrow margin: 49%) was in the Referendum for Constitutional Reform on December 2, 2007: almost five (5) years before that “Golpe de Timón”.
On January 6, 2008―one month after that defeat―at the N° 299 “Aló Presidente”, Chávez made the following
And to get that “progressive increase” the answer was “give more power to the peo- ple through the organization, duties and resources transfer”, in line with of article 184―among others―of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: “law will create open and flexible mechanisms for States (regions) and municipalities to decentralize and transfer to communities and organized neighborhood groups the services that they can manage...”.
The above jointly with “… the Socialist production model... in the creation of communal production units, for the transfer of productive power to the communities...
I want that we choose in the country a few pilot projects, 20 or 30,... building up the Communal Council federations or “Comunas”, in each State choose a pilot project...
and then we focus our efforts there, in order to get it as a model, a display cabinet…” (N° 299 “Aló Presidente”).
To this end, considering that the
the following instances: Plan & Budget (from discussion and approval through monitoring) and Planning & Management of the territory.
Consistently with the above, the functions of parish authorities were substantially reduced by the reform of the Municipal law, the same month of December 2010, for those functions to be transferred to the starting “Comunas”.
Going back to the a.m. “Golpe de Timón (Rudder Struck) for the new cycle of the Revolution”, President Chávez made a balance of these legislative achievements and, at the same time, a
― “I think that we have a few new codes; I think we got a new legal architecture since the Constitution; we have laws of Communal Councils, laws of “Comunas”, communal economy, laws of development districts; but we do not pay attention to
any of those laws; …in most of the small, medium or large projects that we are push- ing for (homes, new cities, scientific development poles, agricultural development
poles), ... there are no Comunas“
― “is it our target the railway? is it the road? or is it the change of all the
― “We need to partner with small producers, but we have to implant social owner- ship, socialist spirit, along the entire chain from agriculture through the distribution system and consumption... we must not lose sight... to the core part of this project: we must not keep opening new factories that are like islands, surrounded by the sea of capitalism, because they will be swallowed by that sea”.
And to this end, three guidelines were set:
- economic: "these productive implants shall have policies of partnership among themselves in a cluster form, in order to increase their scale" (The Homeland Plan, 22.214.171.124)
- institutional: "a shared governance, a shared and joint agenda of actions which should be developed between the Government (at national, regional or local level) and the people’s power expressed in instances of Comunas or of Comunas aggregation systems": see the Agreements of the Presidential Council of Popular Government with the “Comunas” (which we will mention later), which included the incorporation by President Maduro of that Council to the Federal Government Council, on last December.
And President Chávez concluded his “Golpe de Timón” (Rudder Struck) as follows: "The problem is cultural, comrades... Because the XXI Century Socialism, which resurfaced here as from the dead, is something new; has to be truly new, and one of the things new in our model is essentially its democratic character, a new democratic hegemony, that obliges us not to impose but to convince and from there... the media issue, the communications issue, the argumentation issue...".
And the central challenge, in this context, is how to achieve that Communal Territo- ries not to be “swallowed” by the “sea of capitalism”, as the
The complexity of the challenge of the “sea of capitalism” can be appreciated by this graph that we extracted from the “First Nation’s Plan
By October 2012 Chávez already envisaged that at the end of the day (2013), the share in the Venezuelan economy of the “Empresas Capitalistas de Estado” (State companies) would have been increased (to the detriment of the “capitalist private companies”), but not that of the “Empresas de Economía Social” (Social Economy Companies), still marginal despite being pivotal to the XXI century Socialism: as the base for a “new metabolism for the transition to socialism” which consists in
“promoting new forms of organization of production that put the production means at the service of the society..." (Homeland Plan, 2.1.1).
So the “Situación Futura” (Future Situation) planned in 2006 to be achieved by 2013, was (and still is) far from being achieved !
By an apparent paradox, on the other hand, in electoral terms the impact of the community project has been conspicuous: the first law of Communal Councils in April 2006 contributed to break the 60% votes barrier (52.6% were when Chávez was elected President in December 1998, then stabilized in July 2000 and August 2004 at 59.76% and 59.09%, respectively), while the "peak" of the votes achieved by the Bolivarian Revolution so far (62.88%) was in the December 2006 presidential elections (i.e., 8 months after the new law of the Community Councils was enacted and started being implemented).
The “reverse of the coin”, as mentioned with the “Situación Futura”, are the poor results in terms of shifting the economy from being a predominantly private & state to an increasingly “social” (Communal) one, due to the fact that community networks from the very beginning (2006) were asked to support campaigning presidential or regional/local elections, in exchange of government resources being allocated to them for social projects (e.g. housing).
The outcome, therefore, was positive in electoral terms, but poor in terms of structural changes.
The “electioneering paramountcy”, however, was a “must”, namely after the April 2002 coup d’Etat and the strike in the State oil company (2 December, 2002 through February 3, 2003), to keep neutrilizing, by nineteen (19) electoral processes, internal and external harassment against the Bolivarian Revolution.
Here the first challenge: while performing an outstanding record of “Western democratic patterns” in terms of elections, structural changes were diluted or postponed, thus leaving the economy vulnerable – at present – to an even more aggressive “sea of capitalism”: fall in oil prices, US sanctions, etc.
A similar, even if not so tough situation, has been experienced by Evo Morales in Bolivia (who won January 2006, January 2010 and October 2014 elections), the Sandinistas in Nicaragua (November 2006 and 2011) and Correa in Ecuador (January 2007, April 2009 and February 2013). Unfortunately, that was not the case of Honduras (Manuel Zelaya: elected in January 2006 and ousted in June 2009) and Paraguay (Fernando Lugo: elected in August 2008 and ousted in June 2012).
In this sense, the alert in the “Golpe de Timón” (Rudder Stroke) is still there, as the last and main “legado de Chávez” (Chávez legacy): the need to transform the communal project from an
This “gradual increase” of “cells” (“Comunas”) and their aggregation systems, while displacing the old structures, would eventually allow the leap towards President Chávez main goal: the “Communal State”.
The complexity of this process can be appreciated from its social base: nothing further from the orthodox Marxist vision that a revolution greatly supported by "lumpen" sectors under a leadership that is cultural and “religious”, more than political and ideological, a leadership that offers to the “excluded” a new alliance with the State, or at least a fair part of its revenue as an
That betrayal has not been forgotten by the Venezuelan people who, from time to time, fire back with "volcanic" outliers, like the last one on February 27, 1989 (the “Caracazo”: more than 3.000 victims), which gave momentum to the Chávez insurgency in February 2002 and to his electoral victory on December 1998.
That same State, even with staff changes, keeps playing "old and harmful practices" (Homeland Plan, Presentation). The solution is to "completely pulverize the form of State bourgeois we inherited... by the radicalization of a participatory and leading democracy” (Ibid.), which is the communal power’s pivot: here is another challenge, the main one, perhaps.
In this respect, it has to be mentioned that the Öcalan Democratic Confederation scheme, as far as “the application of democratic decision making processes from the local to the global level” is related, cannot be mechanically applied to the Venezue- lan, Bolivian and Ecuadorian realities because the main resources in these coun- tries―and in most other Latinamerican ones―don’t come from the people labour, as in the main Kurdistan areas, but from the rent of natural resources which can only be exploited by large corporations: multinationals or State ones. See the similar and complex situation of South Kurdistan, where a large part of the population lives with the oil rent distributed by the Barzani and Talabani governments.
On the other hand, fresh agricultural produce instead of an industrialized one, satisfy- ing basic needs from the “circle” around the communities and not crossing Oceans, means not only a better rationale in social, but also in economic terms: sometimes not at the micro level (i.e., production costs of a small scale industry vs. a large one) but yes at the macro level (transportation and energy savings, less environmental im- pact, less infrastructural and social―e.g., health―costs, etc.).
This new vision of a sustainable development (that of Chávez, the Zapatistas, Öcalan and many others) eventually reached the General Assembly of the United Nations (under Father D'Escoto Presidency
Being aware of that challenge and of the legacy of Comandante Chavez in this re- spect, President Maduro deserves special attention to the General Objective 126.96.36.199 of the “Homeland Plan”: “the consolidation and the accompanying of Popular Power
By the last 1st April, when I boarded the plane to come to this Conference, we reached 1035 communes registered.
Besides, as mentioned, President Maduro on last September installed the Presidential Council of Popular Government with the Comunas, for them to enjoy direct access to the top government structure: the Federal Government Council.
However, if we need to update the
On the other hand, the strongest and more
Perhaps this is the most important aspect, so far, of the Communal and the whole “chavista” project: for the people to get back their collective memory, uprooted for decades, similarly as for the Kurdish people, and where the State bureaucracy is still perceived by the Communal Movement as the legacy of what Chávez called the “inherited bourgeois State”.
And until that national “bourgeois State” becomes part of some South American “Democratic Confederalism”, consistent with our history and culture, no social eman- cipation project is workable, against local and “imperial” oligarchies, in any single South American country: in this, again, Chávez and Öcalan have a quite similar vi- sion.