[News] Venezuela: Fighting the Economic War ‘People to People’

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 29 12:11:10 EDT 2019


https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14707


  Venezuela: Fighting the Economic War ‘People to People’

By FRFI – Revolutionary Communist Group - October 29, 2019
------------------------------------------------------------------------

/As US sanctions attempt to strangle Venezuela, costing over $130bn, 
blocking imports of food and medicine and contributing to the deaths of 
at least 40,000 people; popular power initiatives are fighting back, 
building an alternative to the shortages and inflation inflicted by the 
cruel blockade and economic crisis. One such initiative is Pueblo a 
Pueblo (‘People to People’), linking rural producers to communities in 
the cities, joining up production, distribution and consumption. This 
cuts out the speculators who buy in bulk to sell for sky-high prices, it 
undermines the smugglers who divert food over the border for resale in 
Colombia, it confronts the reliance on imports that so often distorts 
the economies of oil-producing nations. Not simply a farmers’ 
market, Pueblo a Pueblo sets prices and plans production through 
assemblies, organising with communes and cooperatives to ensure 
democratic distribution in working-class barrios in the cities. Food is 
brought directly to organised events where a community meal is served as 
collectives bag up produce for participants to buy at prices 70% cheaper 
than on the market. It is initiatives such as these, often led by women, 
that are challenging the logic of capitalism and combating US sanctions. 
It is exactly this grassroots resistance, this participatory democracy 
in practice, which is suppressed and censored in our capitalist media./

/Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! interviewed Pablo Gimenez, 
collaborator with Pueblo a Pueblo and professor of political economy at 
the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, Caracas./

*FRFI: */What is the work of the /Pueblo a Pueblo/ network? Can you give 
some examples of how you operate locally and nationally?/

*Pablo Gimenez: */Pueblo a Pueblo/ is a popular plan for the production, 
distribution and consumption of food that brings together small and 
medium agricultural producers and connects them directly with urban 
populations using a method of double participation where producers and 
consumers collaborate to set prices in a transparent way. This seeks to 
solve the problems that occur in the chains of distribution, 
commercialisation and supply of agricultural products, displacing 
speculators and influencing the formation of prices. An assembly 
discusses production costs for that week, then the products are moved to 
collection centres from where they are transported to Caracas and other 
cities in the country to organised events for their consumption. We work 
under the slogan: ‘food is not a commodity, but a human right.’ In this 
exchange system nobody subsidies nor deceives; participation, cost 
structures and transparent prices (known and agreed by all parties) 
allow everyone to receive fair remuneration for their work and 
contribution to the scheme, as well as producing the necessary food to 
meet basic needs.

 From 100 hectares of the Carache municipality in Trujillo state, 140 
families work the land to supply 2,500 urban families each week; on 
average each person receives 3kg of produce.

Some items are incorporated into the scheme from the most diverse areas 
of the country. For example, the remote mountain town of Mucuchies in 
Merida produces native potato seeds for cultivation in surrounding areas 
through an alliance with the Integral Producers of the Paramo (Proinpa) 
co-operative. They collaborate with /Pueblo a Pueblo/ through a plan we 
call: ‘Potatoes for life and not for capital’ (previously they had to 
rely on intermediaries who bought their crops at very poor prices and 
sold them on at huge mark ups). The collective control of the production 
cycle from seed to consumption has produced important results. The 
‘Potatoes for life’ plan has energised economic activity in Mucuchies, 
reactivating a social property enterprise that manages potato storage 
sheds in Mérida and the Sisal Fibrovensa sack factory.

On 5 October we completed 201 consecutive days of food production and 
distribution, exceeding the milestone of 2,500 tons of food produced 
since 2015. Recently /Pueblo a Pueblo/ won an award from the Alliance 
for Food Sovereignty of the United States, an occasion that we consider 
conducive to consolidate the formation of international brigades for the 
collection and transfer of seeds to producers in Venezuela, developing 
cooperation networks between peoples in accordance with our principles. 
The USFSA is a network of grassroots organizations that annually awards 
the Food sovereignty award to recognise projects that work for a more 
democratic food system. This award was developed to oppose the World 
Food Prize, which was founded by ‘the father of the Green Revolution’ 
Norman Borlaug [whose practices have been used to undermine food 
sovereignty whilst pushing reliance on big agri-business/]/. USFSA 
specifically recognised our work towards ‘the construction of popular 
power to confront capitalism and imperialism, efforts for transition 
towards a socialist economy, recovery of seed varieties, reduction of 
the use of agrochemicals, organisation in food distribution, and 
strengthening women’s position in leadership.’ This was a big 
achievement for us.

*FRFI: */What has been the impact of the US blockade and imperialist 
aggression? Can you talk about the reality in Venezuela, how shortages 
affect communities, how people survive? How does the work you do 
contribute to resistance?/

*PG:* Sanctions have a grave impact on the country in general, 
especially on households and in particular in the family farming sector. 
For producers the main problems are access to seeds and inputs. However, 
thanks to platforms such as /Pueblo a Pueblo/ that guarantee access to 
seeds to all those who participate in the plan, people are surviving by 
increasing production, guaranteeing their incomes. There is also the 
transport problem, transport has suffered the impacts of increasing 
maintenance costs, lack of spare parts and travel costs. Nevertheless, 
/Pueblo a Pueblo/ continuously strives to overcome these difficulties, 
making huge efforts to guarantee the logistics of transporting produce 
each day. For consumers, there has been a significant fall in purchasing 
power, which means not all the products are bought. This illustrates 
that our distribution must be expanded to new organised communities and 
new organised consumption events, finding other ways of distributing 
food. So we face the problems of planning production and distribution to 
mitigate the effects of sanctions, facing down the multi-dimensional 
warfare confronting Venezuela.

/Pueblo a Pueblo/ is perhaps the greatest experience of self-managed 
socio-productive integration at the national level. We produce and 
resist, developing popular empowerment and contributing to the 
construction of an alternative economy from below, maintaining coherence 
with the principles of the Bolivarian Revolution and the socialist 
project in the 21st century. Ours is not simply a plan for the sale of 
food at prices below market, nor is it a form of food delivery. We are 
instead developing a new way of relating: self-managed socialism, 
producing food and distributing it communally, without intermediaries, 
along a plan organised to meet need. This poses the economic planning of 
the organized people directly against capitalist relations of production.

Our network not only challenges established paradigms of food 
production, but also provides solutions in the midst of an intense 
economic war which particularly affects the working class. The economic 
crisis, the sanctions, the financial and commercial blockade promoted by 
the Trump administration make the /Pueblo a Pueblo/ initiative a truly 
heroic act, outside all [capitalist]//economic rationality. They say 
that crises are opportunities that push people to find the conditions 
for overcoming those same crises. Our people do not give up or waver in 
our struggle, on the contrary we create new conditions in order to 
overcome. Our rebel cry since the beginning of the Bolivarian revolution 
is as true today: ‘Only the people save the people’.

*FRFI: */How best do you think solidarity activists in imperialist 
Britain can best support the people-to-people network and the struggle 
in Venezuela in general?/

*PG:* I believe we must weave a network of international relations 
‘people to people’. A first step could be an international seed brigade 
that brings seeds to Venezuela bypassing the blockade and sanctions, 
another important issue is to continue communicating the reality of what 
is happening in Venezuela, breaking the media blockade and also to think 
of how the Venezuelan experience can strengthen struggles in other 
countries.

/For an account of some of the work of the Pueblo a Pueblo network see 
https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/13862./

-- 
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