Vice Minister Gil: “The commune is our strategic project”
With his usual kindness, the Vice-minister for Europe of the People’s Power Ministry for Foreign Relations, Yván Gil, receives us in his office in Caracas, a few days before the vote at the UN, where Venezuela has obtained a position in the Human Rights Council. A victory that, with anger, imperialism tries to neutralize through the maneuvering of the large agencies of paid humanitarianism in Washington, determined to press the 11 votes of difference that eliminated the candidacy of Costa Rica.
Associate professor of Agraria at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), born in 1972, Gil answers the questions by alternating the use of the first person with that of the plural, more comfortable with the description of the collective processes. On the other hand, in Venezuela, each ministry is preceded by the specification of being a “People’s Power for …” ministry.
What was your journey in the Bolivarian Revolution?
In high school, we were part of the student group that, on February 27 and 28, 1989, took to the streets to protest during El Caracazo, the revolt against the neoliberal package imposed by the International Monetary Fund and whose effects we saw in Europe, in Latin America and see now in Ecuador. Displacement measures always rejected by the people. Since then, I was part of the popular movements, first student, then university and accompanied, with heart and action, the days of the civic-military rebellion of 1992, those of November 27, followed by the action of Chavez on February 4. The days of February 4, 1992 and November were prepared by the revolt of El Caracazo.
What do you remember from the days of El Caracazo, which many have associated with recent protests in Ecuador against the government of Moreno, an IMF succubus?
I remember the popular revolt against neoliberal measures, the passion and expectations of the people, the same anger we see now in Ecuador, repression, fallen or arrested comrades. The years between 1989 and 1998, when Chavez won the presidential elections, was a very interesting period, which saw several phases: the popular struggle in El Caracazo, support for the civic-military rebellion of February 4 and November 27, the campaign for the release of political prisoners who obtained forgiveness not by concession of the government, but by popular pressure. And then the democratic struggle during the electoral campaign against the maneuvers of the National Electoral Council of that time, the victory, the process for the National Constituent Assembly. A road full of lessons to face this new stage of resistance against imperialism.
Despite what they wanted to think about Europe, placing the figure of Chávez as a Latin American “caudillo”, the unpublished documents contained in the book “Hugo Chávez, that’s how it all started” show the deep relationship of Chavismo with the Venezuelan radical left in the years of IV Republic. What is your reading?
As Chavez explained, fortunately he left us a lot of audiovisual memory, a lot of literature, the most intense phase of the Bolivarian process begins when the contradictions of the ruling class arise in 1989 with the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez or when the collapse of the rentier model, whose beginnings were identified in those years. But the process had been incubating for a long time. It goes back to the resistance that led to the expulsion of Marco Pérez Jiménez from power, in 1958, to the working class organized by the Communist Party of Venezuela, which at that time had hegemony in the unions, in the students, in the workers, to that great popular support, to those aspirations later betrayed by the Democratic Action party. And then, again, the cycle of armed struggle, repressed and massacred by the governments of the time, those were very hard years for the Bolivarian process.
It must be considered that Bolívar was the great unifying element, the great catalyst for revolutionary unity in Venezuela. For this reason, we are now seeing an avalanche of articles, which appeared mostly in Spain, to attack his figure: to destroy the element of unity, which Bolívar has always represented
The main effort declared in this phase is to build a productive economy. Given his experience in the field of food sovereignty, how do you see this passage and what theories guide it?
Venezuela has a 100-year history of oil-based rentier economy. We are a country whose wealth has not been predominantly the product of labor, but of oil, which is not produced. Scientific socialism is, without a doubt, the economic theory that resonates most in Venezuela because it explains the mechanisms of production and appropriation of wealth from work. Our main challenge today is to apply scientific socialism at the economic-productive level. Specifically, we can turn to the studies of Alí Rodríguez Araque, who reflected a lot on the possibility of building socialism in a country that has lived on oil revenues and has produced a certain related culture.
According to Chávez’s idea, socialist ownership of the means of production can coexist with other forms of ownership, but the fact is that the idea of socialism, despite having been so demonized after the fall of the Soviet Union, it is now given as an example in Venezuelan society. This is a great achievement of the Bolivarian Revolution. We had to put socialism into practice in this way and not through the dictatorship of the proletariat, but we must remember the words of Chavez when he said: “We are not a democratic revolution, but a revolutionary democracy”.
One of the most used elements in the war propaganda against Venezuela is inflation and prices out of control. Having to deactivate the attacks of a bourgeoisie that has not been outlawed, doesn’t it run the risk of minimizing the path to socialism?
For many years, in Venezuela, the great economic disruption has been determined by a very predominant external factor. If we wanted to quantify the influence of internal and external factors that act through different sabotages in the functioning of our economy, we should say that external influences are undoubtedly of great importance, and that the internal situation has to do with the characteristic of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie.
In every part of the world, the bourgeoisie does its job: it accumulates capital through the mechanism well explained by Marx, appropriating human labor and transforming it into capital. In Venezuela, on the other hand, the bourgeoisie, from the 1950s to the present, has been set up on the basis of oil revenues, in the historic battle for the appropriation of oil revenues. A process that Chavez explained in many of his interventions.
What can you expect from the First International Congress of the Communes?
It is a strategic economic but tangible project. We have already shown that it can be done. In Venezuela there are more than 3,000 productive communes, some already very developed. One of the most successful is that of El Maizal, an agricultural commune in which they managed to control the entire production, distribution and consumption process by creating a new wealth model based on fair distribution, in which there is an alternative currency .
Is it true that the proposal of two chambers will come from the National Constituent Assembly, one of which would be the communal parliament?
In 2007 we lost the constitutional referendum for very little about a proposal that contained great advances in communal affairs and in the definition of socialism, now the National Constituent Assembly has the power to resume and debate those contents, and for this reason it is so scary for the bourgeoisie.
From the countries of the European Union come strong attacks at political, diplomatic and economic level, the big European banks block the gold of Venezuela How does the Bolivarian Government act?
We must always consider that the international conflict is not between countries, but a class conflict, a clash of interests. We face a dominant class that carries a model that is antagonistic to ours, we are aware of it and we are not afraid of it. With Europe, the relationship is difficult because, despite its internal contradictions and with US imperialism, it represents a class that does not feel identified with the Bolivarian Revolution, and it is not clear why it should do so.
However, even in this context, we believe that they are making a big mistake by giving in to American pressure and opposing the Bolivarian Revolution at the expense of their own interests. An attitude that will bring more harm than good. Meanwhile, as there are about one million Europeans living in Venezuela, there are large European investments that could coexist perfectly with the Bolivarian Revolution and have not been hampered, to the point that no major European multinational has left. However, even if it is very weak, there is still a space for interaction, and the international scenario is not static.
What is your reading of the international stage?
Even if the policy of the European Union is increasingly similar to that of the United States, there are strong conflicts within them, starting with the tariff issue, which lead to a clash at the imperialist pole. An inevitable shock due to the economic crisis, the arrival of the recession, the issue of brexit.
We want to maintain good relations with this Europe. Let’s see what decisions they make. Every day their internal policy becomes more complicated, we hope they can get out of the trap of taking as their own the policy imposed by the United States that prevents them from having an independent position with respect to Latin America, and specifically towards Venezuela. Otherwise, their attitude will become a boomerang. We are directing our economic relations towards other important poles, such as Russia, China, Turkey, which are raw buyers, represent an important economic and technological force and do not have the imperialist vision of the European Union.
But isn’t Turkey an ally to drive with caution?
But it is an ally of the Bolivarian Revolution and will continue to be: because our policy is to promote peaceful and negotiated relations among all the actors of the Middle East scenario, working to resolve their conflicts through dialogue, even in the complex situation of the Middle East. Interestingly, a recent Trump statement stands out: he said that the presence of the United States in the Middle East has created chaos, which is true. Certainly, in the case of relations between Turkey and Syria, the departure of the United States would favor a reorganization of the context and the possibility that the citizens of those countries resolve the conflicts by discussing, from the causes that generated this situation, the chaos caused by the war in Iraq, chaos being a strategy sought by the United States.
And with respect to Italy? The Italians who made their fortune in Venezuela have great weight in the sanctioning policies against the Bolivarian Government.
European immigration has highly contributed to our national development, especially the Italian who has mixed a lot with the Venezuelan people. However, there are also class interests that determine political alliances. That immigration, which has developed its economic apparatus based on rules that existed before and that refer to the appropriation of oil revenues, defends that model because it defends its own class interests: it is a fact, we cannot deny it, but it serves to frame why much of the Italian and European immigration is linked to the right. Instead, another part has adapted to the new model, which remains a source of wealth and only requires respect for the laws and a fair redistribution of wealth. We are in a transition phase and it is logical that this class defends its interests, but the Bolivarian Revolution does not have a frontal conflict with the private economic sector, on the contrary. The numbers speak for themselves: the greatest growth in the private sector in the entire history of Venezuela occurred between 2004 and 2012.
Capital flight has also reached stratospheric levels. How is it solved?
It is certainly a debate to do. But, in the meantime, it is necessary that European immigration means that, even from the point of view of private enterprise and law, the conditions in terms of commercial freedom and possibilities of market growth are much more advantageous than those existing in their countries of origin. We are victims of a powerful media campaign, but true entrepreneurs know that painted reality is false. We certainly have problems, but we are equally sure that cooperatives, family businesses, small businesses, could work very well in Venezuela, and we constantly invite them to come.
Since the last congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and then since the meetings that emerged from the Sao Paulo Forum, a proposal for a new internationalism aimed at popular movements has been developed. What is the idea regarding Europe?
We are working to connect solidarity movements, but based on the fact that a class struggle that requires class solidarity is under its way in Venezuela. We have said it in all debates with the European movements: what we ask is not the defense of a government, but a clear position in the historical clash between two models in which we are clearly positioned in a field opposed to capitalism. Structural changes are needed in capitalist countries and mobilizations that require unity, project and perspective, and that is what we seek to promote despite the complexity and fragmentation that exists in popular movements in Europe.
Looking at the results obtained in the campaign to defend Palestine, Cuba, I think we can succeed in the development of the Sao Paulo Forum. Today, right-wing policies bring such an obvious attack, almost a war without quarter for the poor and the living conditions of the popular sectors.
We are convinced that Venezuela is a great stimulus towards the unity of popular movements, both in Latin America and in Europe. Although we know that we cannot compete with a media freak that is shaping public opinion in Europe for its benefit, we must try to build an independent news production center that narrates the people’s struggle against capitalism.