The Organic Law of Communes, one of the two laws approved as of Monday, consists of 65 articles relating to the establishment and organization of communes in the country, as well as the formation of Communal Parliament which opposition figures fear will one day displace the National Assembly.
Venezuela’s opposition, which takes over 41% of the National Assembly on January 5th, has expressed strong opposition to the new laws and has called them “unconstitutional.” Organic laws are laws that serve as the normative framework for other laws and require the approval of two-thirds of the National Assembly.
The five laws that make up the package under discussion are: The Organic Law of Popular Power, the Organic Law of Popular and Public Planning (both of which were first discussed on 16 December 2009), the Organic Law of Communes, the Organic Law of Social Auditing (both of which were first discussed on 22 June this year) and the Organic Law for the Development and Promotion of the Communal Economy. Together the laws promote decentralization of power, collective property, self government, and the Government Federal Council as the planning organization.
After much discussion on both Thursday and Friday, the Organic Law of Communes and the Organic Law of Social Auditing were passed. All five laws are expected to be passed this week.
PSUV assemblymen Mario Isea on Monday affirmed that the laws in question are designed to help overcome economic inequalities found in different parts of the country by promoting popular participation and development lead by local communities.
“Who would fear such a thing?” asked Isea on the state TV channel Monday morning. “Those who hoard wealth, power, those who have always lived in opulence at the expense of the work done by the majority,” affirmed Isea.
According to Assemblyman Ulises Daal, the Organic Law of the Communes passed on Friday is the result of the systematization of 2,474 public surveys as well as open debates in which over 61,850 communal council spokespersons participated.
In a piece entitled, Another Victory for the People, Venezuela’s Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current affirmed that the passing of the new laws, “represents a strategic advance in the consolidation of People’s Power, which has been the fundamental pillar in the deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution that today marches towards socialism.”
According to opposition assemblywoman Pastora Medina, the Humanist & Ecologist Block along with Podemos voted against the Law of the Communes because they considered the law to be, “divorced from the Constitution,” and that it, “creates a new communal state that promotes anarchy.”
Article 10 of the Law of Communes outlines the process required for establishing a commune: 1) common citizens, communal council representatives and/or social movements in a given region express their formal interest in establishing a commune by putting it in writing to the Ministry of Communes; 2) a Promotional Commission made up of volunteers works with communal councils and other public spaces to inform the entire community of the proposed commune; 3) an election takes place to elect the spokespeople of the Commune, and these prepare a Founding Letter of the Commune; 4) a vote takes place in which all the citizens residing in the commune’s territory have the right to vote, and a simple majority approves or denies the establishment of the commune. As long as over 15% of voters participate in step 4, the election is legally binding.
As reported in Venezuelan daily El Nacional, the Organic Law of Communes defines these social structures as, “local entities made up of several communities that share the same characteristics and interests, with a regimen in which the means of production are socialized property and with an endogenous and sustainable development model.”
Each commune will have Founding Letter (norms defined by the community), a Bank of the Commune, a Development Plan of the Commune and a Council for Planning of the Commune. Local and regional government is to submit to ‘People’s Power”, governing in as much as is required to implement the will of the people as expressed in communes. Nationally, all communes will be represented in a national Communal Parliament.
Ismael Garcia, spokesperson for Alianza Democrática (Democratic Alliance), a member of the opposition coalition Mesa de Unidad (Table of Unity), denounced the Laws of People’s Power as “grave threats to the future of democracy and the Constitution of Venezuela.” Speaking to Venezuelan daily El Universal on Friday, Garcia also suggested that the Venezuelan people oppose People’s Power and communes since both ideas were included in the 2007 constitutional reform that was defeated at the election booth.
According to Garcia, this Communal Parliament will serve only to convert the National Assembly into a legislative body that exists to ratify and pass laws that were debated within the Communal Parliament.
The Organic Law of Social Auditing, also approved last week, puts the auditing of both public and private entities into the hands of organized communities.
The law, according to PSUV assemblyman Oresteres Leal Briceño, is “an instrument created by the National Assembly so as to consolidate a culture of social control as an action mechanism of vigilance, supervision, follow-up and control of public, private and community affairs that impact the public good.”
According to National Assembly Press, the law stipulates, for example, that educational programs be designed so that students at all levels of public education be trained in the doctrine of the Liberator Simón Bolívar as well as “socialist principles related to social auditing”. Auditing in all aspects of social life is to be exercised “individually, collectively and organically” and participation in such audits is to be done “freely and voluntarily under organization structures defined by the community itself.”
Garcia, cited above, denounced the “ideological context in which this social control [law] is inserted.” The new social auditing, according to Garcia, is to be “guided, among other things, by the principles of a ‘socialist ethic’ and a ‘revolutionary morale’.” He also expressed concern that the ambiguity behind the term “public good” might mean that any private businesses could face community-organized audits.