Hundreds of thousands workers came out onto the streets of Caracas for Mayday demonstrations. The streets were a sea of red T-shirts. This demonstrates that the regime headed by Hugo Chavez can still count on an enormous mobilising power with its ability to attract workers and wider sections of society.
The atmosphere was terrific. This was an inspiring and uplifting march with demonstrators dancing to the rhythm of the salsa and drum bands. As someone commented: "This is good for the soul."
The main slogans on the demonstration were directed against imperialism, Bush and their flunkeys in Latin America. The demands of the marchers called for the unity of the oppressed people in Latin America. The members of the CWI in Venezuela marched in a joint delegation with the health care workers and with our comrades of the Sirtrasalud trade union in the Simon Bolivar hospital in Caracas.
The sun was beating down on the demonstrators but nothing was to be allowed to interfere with the unshakeable desire of the workers for a free and dignified life in this country, with their readiness to take control of society. The Mayday demonstration was a positive march in defence of workers rights, in defence of liberty, socialism and against imperialism.
It is important to explain the content of the Mayday march because the CTV, the Confederation of Venezuelan workers, had also called for a demonstration on the first of May. The CTV is the old trade union confederation, a pro-bosses and pro-imperialist trade union confederation responsible, in part, for the bosses lock-out between December 2002 and January 2003. The central slogan on this march was a call "for the respect of the right to life". A very laudable cause but we have to point out that those primarily responsible for the absence of this right are the Venezuelan employers who have driven the majority of the population in poverty and who are now very cynically attempting to use the issue of security and crime as the central pillar of the pro-imperialist opposition campaign.
It was sufficient to look at the social composition of this alternative Mayday march to be sure of the class content of the demonstration. The "trade union" bureaucracy of the old CTV were joined by the students of the central university in Caracas, who come from more affluent families and who look forward to their entrance into the professional "classes". This demonstration expressed the fear of some sections of the middle class that they might lose their privileges in society.
Unfortunately these type of confused situations can flourish because of the contradictory character of the development of the Venezuelan revolutionary process. Part of the leadership and indeed part of the Venezuelan government is consciously supporting measures against the working class, measures which confuse wider layers of the working class as to what is really happening in Venezuela.
One example of this is what is happening with the cooperative movement. The cooperatives are being used by the private sector and by the government as a tool to deregulate the labour market. "This is pure neo-liberalism. It should not be possible to create cooperatives to destroy the trade unions" as Orlando Chirino, national coordinator of the UNT, the new trade union confederation supportive of the Chavez government, says.
Sadly the employers in this country are still at liberty to continue their violation of workers’ rights. When workers mobilise against these practices they are being accused by the new bureaucracy of being counter revolutionaries and people who play the game of the opposition. This happens because the workers want to stop the bosses who are the worst conspirators in the country.
One cannot deny the obvious. About one million workers are locked in a struggle today with the Venezuelan employers who are unscrupulously attacking their most basic rights. Add to that the struggle in the countryside. The poor peasantry are struggling against the big landholders who in turn started to use death squads against the leaders of the land movement. Everyone knows this and still the landowners can continue to negotiate with the government with total impunity.
The workers are locked into a confrontation with the pro-coup employers and the bureaucrats of the fourth republic who have taken up places inside the government. The latter use their positions to play ball with their old allies amongst the ruling class.
This is why the workers have come out in their hundreds of thousands on May Day this year. They will lead the struggle for genuine socialism.