The Communal State in Venezuela

The particular character if what Hugo Chávez called the Bolivarian process lies in the understanding that social transformation can be constructed from two directions, “from above” and “from below.” Bolivarianism—or Chavismo—includes among its participants both traditional organizations and new autonomous groups; it encompasses both state- centric and anti-systemic currents. The process thus differs from traditional Leninist or social democratic approaches, both of which see the state as the central agent of change; it differs as well from movement-based approaches that conceive of no role whatsoever for the state in a process of revolutionary change.

The current transformation in Venezuela is thus the product of a tension between constituent and constituted power, with the principal agent of change being the con- stituent. Constituent power is the legitimate collective creative capacity of human beings expressed in move- ments and in the organized social base to create some- thing new without having to derive it from something previously existing. In the Bolivarian process, the con- stituted power—the state and its institutions—accompa- nies the organized population; it must be the facilitator of bottom-up processes, so that the constituent power can bring forward the steps needed to transform society.

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