VA’s Ricardo Vaz reports on efforts from the Chavista left to regroup and rescue Chávez’s socialist horizon.
By Ricardo Vaz
Published on Venezuelanalysis, July 6, 2019
A conference titled “Dialogue for a Chavista overcoming of the crisis” was held on Saturday, June 29th, in the Alameda Theatre,
in the San Agustín barrio of Caracas.
Over 100 people from different political organisations took part in this event focused on the debate of a document bearing the same title. This text was written by seven Chavista collectives  over months of meetings, and looks to work as a starting point for the construction of unity amidst the Chavista left, with the goal of struggling for hegemony and for Chávez’s legacy.
“The document means to be a meeting point,” Manuel Azuaje told Tatuy TV and Venezuelanalysis. “It is open for debate and for a programmatic construction of a Chavista exit to the crisis,” added the member of Laboratorio Crítico Comunachos, one of the organisations that wrote the document.
The collective text, which is built around an axis of “popular protagonism and the democratic socialist horizon,” offers an analysis of the conflict in Venezuela and the path that led to the current situation.
“The attacks from the empire and the opposition do not justify, from our perspective, the progressive closing of spaces of debate and popular participation. The political leadership has resorted to popular movements in the current scenario when it comes to joining top-down mobilisations, but has moved all decision spaces to other spheres,” the organisations argue in the text.
The diverse Chavista collectives presented a picture of the current situation, defining it as an “unresolved conflict with catastrophic implications for the people.” After analysing the different actors that play a role in the Venezuelan political scene, they set the “refounding” of Chavismo as the task at hand.
The final section of the document contains proposals at different levels: general orientations, collective action from below, and demands from the state. One of the general orientations is the following:
“Chavista Radicalisation. We contend that radicalisation means returning to Chávez by fighting for his radical legacy in the face of the way the leadership makes use of his name. Returning to Chávez is also rescuing to a way of doing politics from the grassroots and from the territory. This process should go hand in hand with solving the problems of the population and building common horizons.”
“Our proposals have to do, first of all, with building strength,” Antonio González, member of human rights outfit Surgentes, told Tatuy TV/Venezuelanalysis, explaining that popular Chavismo represents a majority within the Chavista camp but has not emerged as a political force. “There are thousands of Chavista organisations that feel that something’s going on with Chávez’s legacy. Chávez does not mean privatisations, or repression of popular sectors, or demobilisation.”
The Surgentes member added that another priority is to bring together the popular struggles that are taking place throughout the country, in defence of public services or against mining projects, for example. “While the bureaucracy disparages popular mobilisation, in some cases even labelling it as counter-revolutionary, we believe we have to find these struggles and join them in solidarity,” he said.
The conference kicked off with an overall presentation of the document by Ángel Álvarez, member of the Leftist Cultural Front. This was followed by interventions by three guests from Venezuelan popular movements: Miguel Mora (Encuentro de Lucha Popular), Anacaona Marín (Fuerza Patriótica Alexis Vive) and Gerardo Rojas (Voces Urgentes).
The need to build links and unify the popular movement was a common thread in all presentations.
Miguel Mora, from Encuentro de Lucha Popular, a platform that looks to group grassroots outfits throughout the country, insisted on this idea while giving a warning call: the role of powers like China and Russia is based on their own interests, which do not necessarily coincide with those of the Venezuelan people.
“President Maduro, look no further. Look towards popular movements, which are the bastion from which to build the Bolivarian Revolution, the Chavista and socialist revolution,” Mora told Tatuy TV/Venezuelanalysis.
For her part, Anacaona Marín from the Fuerza Patriótica Alexis Vive, the main engine behind El Panal Commune in the 23 de Enero barrio, saluted this and all efforts to build unity amidst the popular sectors in the current context, and reminded the public that “the best way to say things is to do them, embracing Chávez and our proposal to do politics from the territory.”
El Panal Commune is one of the most advanced popular power experiences in Venezuela, and talking to Tatuy TV/Venezuelanalysis, Marín insisted that “There is an effort from our commune to re-evaluate ourselves as communards, as transformative subjects, and to understand that Chávez’s ‘commune or nothing!’, more than a slogan, should be practice in the territory.”
The third speaker was Gerardo Rojas, from the Voces Urgentes collective, who started with a call for self-criticism among popular movements. “Were we struggling for power or for (oil) rent?” was one of the reflections he called for. Likewise, he warned that the transfer of services and jurisdiction, one of the central demands of organised popular power, risks being a mechanism for the state to shed responsibilities in times of crisis.
Along the same lines of earlier interventions, Rojas stressed the importance of building and demonstrating that there is an alternative, raising banners such as the defence of social property: “We need to build power, have our own plans and autonomy.”
Speaking to Tatuy TV/Venezuelanalysis, he also stressed that “The challenge before Venezuelan popular movements is to fight for Chávez’s legacy from a concrete practice, with projects that defend social property, participatory and protagonist democracy, self-government, and with an ability to have an influence both locally and nationally.”
“It’s up to us to build on those ideas and practices, and to continue moving towards the construction of socialism,” he concluded.
The ongoing coup attempt, be it the continued version that started on January 23rd or the one-off failed escalations, had the consequence of waking up Chavismo, forcing it to close ranks in the face of another opposition stab at taking power, with the anti-democratic character that has come to mark them, and in the face of a threat of foreign intervention.
But it also had the effect, part instinct but also pushed from above, to restrain and postpone the necessary debates about the direction of the Bolivarian Revolution. The blackmail arguing that “this is not the right moment” to question privatisations or the closure of spaces for popular protagonism is built on a false dilemma. Popular movements have no doubt whatsoever that US imperialism is the historical enemy, and that their role will determine whether the current onslaught is defeated, and under which conditions that will happen.
Both the document and the conference rejected any vanguardist pretences. Rather, they are a building block in the strength-gathering process of this popular, leftist Chavismo, which needs to grow as a historical subject to increase its political influence. Beyond building with the goal of talking to the government, the challenge is to build an alternative, in the territory and in the commune, to go back to Chávez’s socialist horizon.