Mass campaign and threat of general strike sees persecuted workers’ leader released

On 3 March, Ruben Gonzalez, a working class fighter who had been sentenced to 7 years in prison for the “crime” of leading a strike in his workplace, was released.

This was a concession which followed national mobilisation by workers and various social, political and human rights organisations. There was a huge rejection of the repressive action taken against Ruben, including the threat of a general strike. It is down to this great opposition that he has been freed.

Despite greeting this decision with joy, we strongly object to the restrictions placed on Ruben Gonzalez’s release. He will have to be present before a tribunal every 15 days and is forbidden from leaving the country. This means that he has still not been really aquitted of the crimes of which they accused him.

The call for a march against the criminalisation of protest thus remains in place for 11 March. We support this call, but clearly argue that it should be a march led by workers ion struggle, not by bureaucrats and opportunist politicians, who want to take advantage of the issue of the criminalisation of protest, in order to regain political ground lost among workers and the poor.

We salute comrade Rubén González and celebrate his liberty, not as a final victory, but as a step forward in the struggle. His release is an important encouragement to continue fighting until the more than 125 workers leaders being penalised and the more than 2,500 popular and social leaders who have faced criminalisation.

The struggle continues!

We publish below a declaration by Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Venezuela) shortly before the release of Ruben Gonzalez was announced

For a general strike for the freedom of Rubén González, and for the right to trade union freedom, strikes and protests!

Johan Rivas, Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Venezuela)

On Wednesday 2 March, both political and trade union blocs, pro and anti government, demonstrated in different parts of Caracas in rejection of the condemnation of Rubén González to more than 7 years in prison.

The trade union bloc identified as anti-government, which comprises of left organisations, such as that led by Orlando Chirino, and leaders of the CTV and opposition, gathered at Fiscalía General de la Republica. They protested together with human rights’ organisations and independent groups of the revolutionary left, to demand that the decision to criminalise comrade Gonzalez be reversed.

In front of the media, various trade union leaders gave declarations rejecting the decision. Among the declarations, that of Orlando Chirino pledged that the Movement of Labour Solidarity, which he co-ordinates, would send a delegation to Guyana city to demand that the unions who support Rubén González’s cause plan a national demonstration. He also stated, “that the objective of the march is to build for a general strike of 2 hours to demand the freedom of Rubén González”.

Protest is not a crime - it’s a right!

In another part of the city, the leaders of UNETE, the pro-government trade union federation, demonstrated in the same manner, making a declaration to the national media, stating “this is an anti-worker decision… it confirms the bosses’ character of the judicial institutions of the country which have come to criminalise the struggle of the working class..” “this decision suggests that the government, when it makes a decision of this type, decides against the working class and its legitimate right to protest…”.

In the same declaration, the leaders of UNETE called, without providing a definite date, for a general strike of half a day in Public Administration nationally to demand the reversal of the condemnation of Gonzalez, and his immediate release

For more than 2 years, different independent left organisations (as well as unions and human rights groups) and many of us who have supported the Chavez government and the Bolivarian revolution, have denounced the moves to the right of the regime and the criminalisation of protest. In this struggle until now, we have noticed the absence of the leaders who now want to “suck oxygen” from the case of Rubén González

These leaders jumped to the head of the protests demanding justice for Ruben Gonzalez in a totally opportunist manner, after maintaining silence about the situation, not only that of Ruben, but of the more than 30 union leaders assassinated and more than 200 being prosecuted for leading workers’ protests.

However, further on from this situation, which should be discussed widely by workers and their organisations, the unity of action of the working class, regardless of political alignment, is of huge importance. Now, it is the objective conditions and the heat of the struggle that will build genuine class unity and permit the long delayed rebuilding of the Venezuelan working class movement, along with a political alternative of the working class in opposition to the current polarisation. Despite that which divides the neo-liberal capitalists from the nationalists, they are all going in the same direction, as the Ruben Gonzales case has shown.

Socialismo Revolucionario supports the call for a general strike for his liberation, but also that of Sabino Romero and other criminalised leaders.

We support and will participate in the march at Guyana. But we call on all those who defend the ideas of revolutionary and democratic socialism to participate with our own slogans and politics, and fight to take this opportunity to break with the alienating poliarisation which prevails. The interests of the working class should come first, before those of groups or parties. It is the working class which much lead the way, and we as revolutionary socialists must work together (despite some differences between various groups) to push for a radicalisation of the Venezuelan process towards genuine socialism.

We await the dates for a general strike and national march, and we call on all left organisations to form a broad united front to fight for democratic workers’ rights and for revolutionary democratic socialism in Venezuela.

We demand:

A general strike for the freedom of Rubén González and respect for the rights of unions and the right to protest!

For a people’s justice system, controlled by committees of workers and the poor!

Committee for a workers' International publications

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