Interview with leaders of the Movement of Settlers: Iraida Morocoima and Juan Carlos Rodríguez, of Pioneers Camp; and Hernán Vargas and Nélida Cordero, of the Movement of United Residential Workers for Venezuela.
The assessment of the movement on that milestone, which is the popular mobilization of December 9, 2015, three days after the defeat in parliamentary elections, has been quite clear. In addition, they have incorporated very valuable elements of analysis, related, for example, to the topic of the leadership of Nicolás Maduro or the way in which the contradictions within Chavismo are expressed. I suggest you go deeper into an accounting of these years, but emphasizing the issue of housing.
Juan Carlos Rodríguez :
There is something about December 9 that must also be analyzed, and that is, they blamed the people (for the defeat). The leadership blames the people, because it says that the people are ungrateful, after everything that has been given … And that criminalization we have only partially overcome.
Why do I say this? Because when this critical economic situation occurs, due to the fall in oil prices, everything that was the policy that was executed through popular power begins, as it were, to diminish, the entire amount of resources destined for popular policies, in all areas, not only for the housing issue.
At least in our case, in the housing sector, financing was reduced, the amount of materials, and that was like progressively paralyzing everything that had been running through popular organization.
There is a dilemma that is still valid. One does not suggest that alliances not be made with the private sector, but the transfer of production means to the organized people must be maintained. If at that time we had had a policy of transfer to the people’s power of the means of production, if we had promoted during 2016, 2017 and 2018 communal production, today we would be in another condition to face the situation in which we are.
What can not be is that when there is excess, abundance, it is then that the forms of organization and communal production are financed and promoted, and in the moments of difficulty, that is what is sacrificed. There was a political decision made and the result is that the capacity of communal production is greatly diminished.
We also have to assume our responsibility, from the popular movement, because already at that time we were talking about what is necessary to organize to produce, and on our part there has been a difficulty in organizing communal production.
As for the projects we had been running as Settlers, there came a point where practically none received materials or resources, they were maintained by the will of the people to do. These are projects that would have been completed two, three years ago. They are still running, and increasingly difficult to finish, because the conditions are increasingly complex.
Then, how are other possibilities opening in economic terms, to overcome the rentier economy, and how are the forms of organization and communal production to continue being strengthened. That for us can not be a dilemma. These last ones are what we should strengthen, so that later on the new forms of political management proposed by Comandante Chávez may emerge as a historical project, as a strategic horizon.
As a movement we propose the need for a State policy aimed at strengthening processes of communal and people’s production and organization. We continue to defend self-management. In these three years, we have not achieved that self-management as a program of State policy on housing. There is experience, but it does not exist as a program.
Hernán Vargas :
In this period of the Bolivarian revolution there is a crisis in the logic of capital circulation, which is partly due to the fall in oil prices, a situation that the United States uses to redouble its attacks against us. Internally, this has been expressed as a very strong dispute of common meanings on how to deal with this crisis situation.
In addition, at this time the contradictions between our symbolic universe, our political discourse about the revolution, and the way in which the material reproduces in revolution begin to be very evident. We realize that the rules of the game, in terms of material reproduction, have not changed much in all these years.
Gaps were opened, possibilities. The self-management policy that we have fought for, which is very close to the communal, rural policy, which has been pushed in different places, to recover land, the means of production, are rather incipient, very contrary to what has kept happening.
One sometimes sees that some colleagues in the same chavismo are surprised because we give Empresas Polar money to produce, when that has always been the rule of the game.l
I think there are people here who, objectively, never believed in Chávez, and who saw in this crisis situation the possibility of saying, just as they said that Chávez maybe made a mistake by placing Nicolás, well, that Chávez was wrong on economics.
What is the most serious [part] of all this? The offensive of US imperialism has been aimed at breaking with the life chances of Chavismo, because it understands that it is not possible to defeat it if people still have liveable conditions. What is self-management? In very general terms, the communes making from things what we need to live, from the basics: you appropriate the mechanisms of production and reproduction of life to be able to guarantee that things happen. But there are those who believe that the solution is to continue running along the wrinkle of rentier logic: to circulate capital, the more money there is in the street, the better, through the remittance, through the parallel dollar, etc. Those same people do the math and they conclude that instead of supporting those who have occupied land and are considering producing by self-management to provide housing for the 50 or 200 families that are there, it is more lucrative to give that money to the Real Estate Chamber of Commerce or some other private one, and if it does not benefit me directly, at least I allow money to circulate, and that’s the logic of how this economy works, so they bet on that side.
That is one of the dramas, which we tend to handle very quietly, but I think it is a moment to raise it with force for discussion, because they have quietly defeated us in the battle of common sense. In these years they defeated us when they imposed on us the idea that it was preferable that prices were high as long as the products were obtained and we could all buy them without queues. The same with exchange control.
Reinaldo Iturriza :
Or that you have to privatize companies because it was clearly demonstrated that we are not capable of producing
Hernán Vargas :
Of course, that is another idea that has been imposed on us: the people can’t do it, they don’t do it efficiently, they do it slowly, we have to pay them, instead the private [sector] can bring in money. Which is also a myth, because in practice it is not certain that money will come in.
The most serious thing is that the strategy of the empire is just to suffocate us. And if our metabolism is rentier, they are suffocating it. We can not continue running along that wrinkle because there they’ve already caught us. In such a context, self-management is a policy of necessity, social control and self-management become a necessity.
Also, it has to do with learning from the problems of this time. You have to learn to build an alternative block that can fight. Not in vain can the Commune El Maizal now guarantee production, because it has made the effort to guarantee it. Not in vain can we continue to maintain mobilization and strength, precisely because we have dedicated ourselves to accumulating it.
All this time we thought that socialism was going to be built when we were in the best conditions, in the times of plenty. One sees it in retrospect, and what Chávez proposed, the need to transform the rentier logic and build another productive matrix, was practically impossible, because they said: why are you going to produce all this if it is cheaper to buy it? That logic was like unbeatable. At this moment, what Chávez proposed is a real need.
Now, it’s a dispute. We propose: it is a necessity to produce goods for use, both housing and the food we need to be able to live. But there are other people who tell you: if that is what I sell in the market, they are so many dollars, and at this moment it is preferable, because that way we have more money and buy more boxes. The dilemma is clear. And if we do not start to assume that we have to build a block to fight that, with that common sense they will continue to defeat us.
Iraida Morocoima :
I want to make clear that people can always do. We have always been able. We can produce. In the case of Settlers, we produce homes, buildings. The Venezuela Great Housing Mission has been a success, true, but a success thanks to the Venezuelan people who build the houses and produce the city.
But there is also the bureaucracy, which does not know how to produce anything, what it knows is to live on income. And that is what tells us: you can’t, it is not possible.
Our Government, our President have to be convinced of the need for a self-managed policy, so that people can organize themselves and see how to do it. The bureaucracy usually treats us as if we were incapable or as if we were in a wheelchair: you can, but you remain in the chair, you build and produce what you are going to produce, but I will have someone to push your chair.
Here there are camps that have not been able to finish building because the rebar is missing, we do not have the cement. And we had to look for other alternatives. This is how we are building. The people do not stop, for nothing in the world have we stopped building houses. You go anywhere and people tell you: give it to me, I’ll do it. There is no one who will tell you: no, it won’t be possible.
What is required here is a government that rules with the people. That we get Nicolás out of his bubble and start ruling with the people. Because it’s that Nicolas’ loyalists are us; the ones who are not going to betray Nicolás are us. And we will not betray him because it would be like betraying Chavez, and betraying Chavez is betraying a people who can, that is, ourselves.
What we need is trust. Because they ask us for trust and we trust. They tell us to move forward and we move forward. With everything and that, it seems that they do not want to trust us. We march every day of the world we have to, because we march to go to the neighborhood, we march to make the queues. What else are they going to ask us? What more demonstration are we going to make?
The people can not be told that they can not, because all the good things about the revolution have been built by the people.
The bureaucracy is very clever dividing the people. It teaches us to believe that they give us a television and then we have to pay homage. Those are the things that we have to change. They have broken us a lot. Not having confidence in the people, always putting in doubt the things that the people do, that has generated some people, some organizations are squared with the highest bidder. How long will they put us in that competition? That is unacceptable, and in this situation of war much more so.
And in this situation of war, is the solution private enterprise? We do not question the President when he trusts the private ones, but his obligation is to trust the people. And the only way to build peace is through self-management.
I think this interview is very good because the time has come to deepen these issues, to assimilate the message of Chávez, who was like a prophet who could look to the future. And if we do not review it and we do not study it, we will not be able to overcome the obstacles we find along the way.
Translated by JRE/EF