Venezuela: Against the anti-union program of Chávez

Defend union independence

April 09, 2007

In speeches given over the past months, Chávez has sharply attacked the autonomy of the trade unions with respect to the government and the State. “The trade unions should not be autonomous ... that has to be done away with†, he stated. This hostile rhetoric comes about at the same time Chávez calls for the construction of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and is directed against the proposal of trade-union autonomy made by various union leaders, among them those belonging to the Class Conscious, United, Revolutionary Autonomous Current (C-CURA, UNT) who’s principal reference is Orlando Chirino. Chávez even went so far as to call them “counterrevolutionary†and “social-traitors†, in an outright offensive against the trade-union organizations with the aim of subordinating them to the government’s program.

It must be stressed that one of the most important social and political dynamics in Venezuela at present exists within the important sectors of the workers’ movement. This has been demonstrated especially since mid-2006 in the “anti-bureaucracy rebellion†at the Second Congress of the National Workers’ Union (UNT), in the rejection of the old bureaucratic leadership in the unions as well as important struggles for salary increases and improvements in working conditions which even when not appearing on the front page of the bourgeois or state newspapers, represent a significant process of reorganization. An emblematic example has been the struggle of the Sanatarios Maracay factory workers who have cast aside the old union leaders and for four months have maintained the occupation and production in the factory under worker management while demanding expropriation without compensation by the government. In the midst of this struggle, the C-CURA was created and brought together the best elements of this important vanguard.

This, even as its leaders have failed to carry out a program of national coordination for struggles from the rank-and-file. Neither have they fought for a national assembly to vote on a unified plan of struggle and to advance the struggles and unity of the workers. Worse, they have failed to resolutely and openly denounce Chávez’s responsibility for the workers’ situation and even decided this January to enter the PSUV as a trade-union current.

Nevertheless, the birth of these tendencies has been particularly worrisome to the government and the “Fifth Republic†bureaucrats which have sought at all costs to take control of the UNT and the rest of the unions and have even encouraged the division and weakening of the federation. Unable to control the unions as they please, they now openly attack their autonomy. As we see it, each of these policies of the government aims to better control the workers’ movement and to limit its struggles in the interest of “national development†with the transnationals and “nationalist†business leaders. At present, together with the fallacy of “going beyond demands†and the “Labor Councils†, Chávez seeks to draw the workers into an organic relationship with the government in order to suffocate and marginalize any militant and class-conscious tendencies which might arise within the workers’ movement. This is central part of Chávez’s program, who left no room for doubt in the first meeting of the PSUV organizers when he stated that the unions should not be autonomous, not even from the government. The aim is to combat the class independence of the workers’ movement so that its struggles do not hinder “socialism with business leaders†.

For a national campaign in defense of trade-union autonomy
Given the anti-union policies of the government, the broadest unity among workers and class-conscious and militant leaders is essential for the defense of the trade-union organizations and for their autonomy and independence from the bosses, the government and the State. The trade-union current C-CURA owes the workers’ movement a massive national campaign, advancing the struggle for these demands until their fulfillment. The fight for the autonomy of the trade unions is an essential part of the realization of a struggle for the true nationalization without compensation and under worker management of the oil and natural gas and the expropriation under worker and consumer control without any payment whatsoever of all private enterprise on the way to the expropriation all large businesses, the (anti-spam-(anti-spam-(anti-spam-(anti-spam-(anti-spam-(anti-spam-Bank)))))) and the strategic industries such as the steel production, a profound agrarian revolution, true urban structural reform in order to solve the housing problem which affects millions of workers and poor people, the reduction of the workday to end unemployment and for a minimum salary equal to the cost of living. The workers of Sidor have been carrying out various actions for the nationalization of the company while the Chávez government has called for negotiations with the transnational’s owner, Paolo Rocca instead of responding to the fundamental demands of the workers. The nationalization of Sidor cannot depend on the government’s negotiations with the Roccas nor with the Argentine government. The workers must fight for it, without compensation and under their own management. It is clear that to achieve these demands, the fight for political independence of all trade union organizations is essential. After eight years in office, it is clear why Chávez has continually guaranteed the property and profits of the capitalists-this is the essence of “socialism with business leaders†.

Therefore, we consider it to be a serious political error on the part of C-CURA’s leadership who voted a few months back to enter the PSUV as this runs in direct opposition to the struggle for trade-union autonomy. Recently, comrade Orlando Chirino, together with other principal leaders has been justifying the resolution of C-CURA to enter the PSUV and discuss there its program and to point out that the PSUV is not a party of the workers but rather one of business owners and bourgeois politicians. We have never shared this program, as we have repeated expressed publicly. As Chirino himself recognized on April 10 on Apporea.org, this option is exhausted now that Chávez has redoubled his attack against union autonomy from the government and the State. In a demonstration of this, the corrupt bureaucrat Osvaldo Versa was asked to speak in the name of the workers’ movement at the opening rally of the PSUV. For these reasons, we propose the creation of a determined campaign in the C-CURA unions for the absolute autonomy of the trade-union organization from the bosses, the government and the State. This would, above all, mean the rejection of every type of disciplining by the government and the reversal of the C-CURA vote to participate in the formation of the PSUV.

A truly class-based political line for the autonomy of the trade unions as we have proposed, linked to a transitional program can only lead to the struggle for a workers’ political instrument. The fight for the autonomy of the unions with respect to the State, the bosses and the government and the fight for a workers’ and peoples’ program will create the basis for which to open the discussion among broad sectors of the workers on the political instrument necessary for the developing class struggle. We maintain that an independent workers’ party which would raise a truly anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and revolutionary program with the aim of leading the exploited millions is of the utmost necessity.

(*) Translation by Robert Kaplan

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- 1 See “Declaraciones del presidente Chávez alejan posibilidad de que sectores sindicales clasistas y revolucionarios vayan al PSUV†, Orlando Chirino at Aporrea.org - 04/10/07.