This article first appeared in ‘Socialismo Revolucionario’, paper of the CWI in Venezuela. It reports on a workers’ demonstration, held at the beginning of February, in Caracas, which demanded nationalisation of some key industries.
Workers in strategic industries demonstrate against corruption and bureaucracy
Between 5,000 and 6,000 workers from companies such as CANTV, Electricidad de Caracas and Sidor took part in a demonstration, in early February, to signal to the National Assembly and to the Vice-President of Venezuela, workers are still treated outrageously by employers, all over the country. This is one of the contradictions we see in the revolutionary process developing in Venezuela.
Workers on the demonstration shouted slogans like, “For socialism and down with capitalism!”, and slogans against corruption and bureaucracy. The most important fact about this demonstration was that it brought together factory workers who have clear principles. They know from experience the bosses will not improve the living conditions of the working class: it will take mass protests, like this, and an escalation of class struggle, calling for nationalisation of industries, under workers’ control.
The protesting workers took a position against ‘statisation’. This is the current mode of nationalisation, where ownership simply passes into the hands of the state, without any democratic participation or control by the working class.
The February demonstration went from the Plaza Morelos to the National Assembly and the office of the Vice-President, a distance of about 3.5 km. A delegation was elected to hand over a document at the Vice President’s office, listing demands and detailing abuses of workers’ rights. The delegation consisted of, among others, Orlando Chirino and Stalin Perez of the C-Cura current in the UNT [the main trade union federation in Venezuela], Agustin Prieto of CANTV [the telecommunications company] and two members of parliament, Siguaraya and Angel Navas. Some protesters asked, why were no ‘ordinary’ workers allowed to be part of the delegation?
After speaking to the commission of the National Assembly, Orlando Chirino spoke to the crowd, to present the results of the meeting. He reported a new meeting with the Minister of Labour and Popular Power was agreed. Orlando Chirino also said the delegation demanded new nationalisations of companies like CANTV, Electricidad de Caracas and SIDOR. Workers at the SIDOR company demand nationalisation because the level of exploitation they face is such that 70% of the workforce is employed by subcontractors who do not conform to any labour laws.
The results of the delegation’s meeting with Vice President’s office did not meet the expectations of the protesting workers because it only resulted in yet more meetings with ministers, without any concrete conclusions.
Workers must go on offensive
The trade union leaders use the masses, and sometimes mobilise them, to further their individual interests. Workers need to break with these opportunist policies and go on the offensive. As producers of society’s wealth, the working class of Venezuela needs to take over the running of society.
The situation in Venezuela means class struggle needs to developed, as well as the fight for the democratisation of the trade unions. This was the attitude of many members of the delegation to the National Assembly. However, we do not believe, as some do, this struggle will be won by demanding laws which conform to the interests of the middle class and the rich in Venezuela.
Three Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Venezuela), supporters, Mario, Olifrank, and Jose, participated in the February protest to show support for the workers. They sold the CWI paper on the demonstration and had important discussions with workers from Inveval (a company nationalised by the state under ‘co-management’) and from BIV (a financial institution owned by the state).
Today, more than ever, we need to develop the struggle for workers’ rights in Venezuela. Socialismo Revolucionario started a campaign on this issue. A fight for workers’ rights needs to be an integral part of the struggle of the Venezuelan working class. This is just one aspect of building a party and political leadership of the working class.