A first-hand account from Caracas on the May Day and in a commune meeting

Peter Lackowski

Caracas, May 1 -- Most of today our delegation was getting to and then attending the rally and so each by Maduro at the end of the march.

Our visit coincided with the conference on housing. We "internationals" were taken to bleachers set up very close to the main stage. They did not want us to actually march because they were super cautious about us so that we did not get into any problem that could be used for negative propaganda. Who knows how by the US government or by the corporate media would propagate?

Thus I have little to report about the competing marches except hearsay.

William went to Altamira where the opposition did not organize march. They, however, delivered speeches. Guaido was not there. Just 3000 people. It was a very weak showing. William could not cite any figure of participants. But, Chavistas turned out far, far more people he said.

Guaido's tricks have made him look like an incompetent fool, even to his own people, but no one expects the USA to back off. What will they do next?

The determination and spirit of the people today made it clear that they won't give in. Maduro spoke a lot about rectification and lessons learned. But the sound system was literally deafening from our seats and it was impossible for me to understand in Spanish or to hear the translation in the earphones. I will try to find the text of his remarks. We have been treated like celebrities by everyone. This in contrast to what happened when William went to Altamira along with a journalist working with a Japanese TV crew. The Altamira crowd made nasty comments about them because they thought they were Chinese, i.e. friendly toward Maduro. There really are two different Venezuelas.

There was a very long musical program while we waited for marchers to get to us and Maduro to speak. There were many songs by Ali Primera, and since I am familiar with most of them I kept hearing up, the songs express so well the class consciousness of these brave people, their compassion, bravery, pride in their revolutionary tradition, their often expressed determination never to accept the old system that treated them as though they were less than human.

Ali Primera had a big role in creating that consciousness, and his picture is on murals all over the city (except Altamira) along with Bolivar and Chavez.

To a commune meeting
May 2 -- This evening we went to Catia, a part of the city that is very poor. We arrived at 7 to a meeting that started at 4. There were spokespeople from three different communes working out a plan to unite the three into one with about 100,000 people. Each commune is made up of a dozen or so communal councils that have united to create the communes. They were talking about the practical problems that they hope to address through this larger governmental unit that they are creating, things like doing a serious study of local wells and springs so they can then get funds to set up a water system. They then talked about how they need a seed bank so they can move ahead with growing food. I was so glad to have brought some honeynut squash seeds along. The blockade has affected this. They were very pleased but later a woman wanted to be sure they were not GMO. (They had earlier decided that they want to do everything ecologically.)

This meeting, run mostly by women, is part of the process of building a participatory democracy based on communes like these, a process that was just getting underway when Sharyl, Aaron and I met with people from community councils, smaller units that were then, in 2014, just starting to form communes. 

This is a country that our government and media are telling us is a dictatorship!

Several times someone mentioned President Maduro with respect, citing policies that he has promoted that disperse decision-making power to these local units. Supreme dictator! In the hour or so at the end of the meeting, no one ever brought up the PSUV or any other party, and it seemed to be understood that while they considered what they were doing was part of a national process they were not following any kind of orders from above, but rather that were deciding for themselves how to govern themselves following the broad outlines in the Law of Communes.

A friend of one of our delegation joined us for dinner tonight. He is a very experienced journalist in town to facilitate the work of a crew from a Japanese TV station. They were at the Guaido rally May 1. He estimated the crowd at 2000 to 3000. He said the large number of people shown in a photo run in the corporate media must have been photoshopped. Just another one of their routine lies.

That's it for tonight. My phone is almost out of power and so am I.

Ali Primera, an important cultural figure, who died in the 1980s, way too young. Following is one of the songs he popularized (not sure if he wrote it or not) is attached — “Cardboard Houses”. It is a beautiful and haunting song.

Here are the lyrics with an English translation so one can get an idea of its power. And also it’s descriptive of how so many people lived in the hills surrounding Caracas, in such devastating poverty. This is why, with all the problems today in Venezuela, the poor know how far they have come, and they don’t want to return to the old ways.

Casa De Carton

How sad the rain sounds
On the cardboard roofs
How sad that my people live
In cardboard houses

The worker is coming down
Almost dragging his feet
From the weight of suffering
Look how much he suffers
Look how much the suffering weighs

Above he leaves his pregnant wife down the hill is the city
He loses himself in its labyrinth
Today is the same as yesterday
In a world without tomorrow

How sad the rain sounds
On the cardboard roofs
How sad that my people live
In the cardboard houses

Children the color of earth
With their same scars
Millions of tapeworms
And that's why
The children live sadly
In cardboard houses

How happy it is that dogs live in
The exploiter’s house
You are not going to believe it
But there are schools for dogs
Where they train them
Not to bite the newspapers
But the Boss!
For many, many years
He’s been biting the worker

How sad the rain sounds
On the cardboard roofs
Hope passes so far away from
The cardboard roofs

Peter Lackowski, retired teacher, resident of Burlington, Vermont, and a friend of Bolivarian Venezuela, is now in Caracas.

May 6, 2019

Your Comment if any