Factory closed, factory occupied!
Workers’ management and democratic planning of the economy
The expropriation of Venepal at the beginning of 2005, and its reopening under workers’ cogestión, was an important turning point in the Bolivarian Revolution. The struggle of the workers of Venepal for nationalisation under workers’ control was met with a positive response by the government of Chavez. For the first time legal approval was given to the slogan the workers used in the struggle against the bosses lockout and attempted coup of December 2002: “factory closed, factory occupied”.
The expropriation of Venepal, now Invepal, was followed by that of the Constructora Nacional de Válvulas, now Inveval, and more recently of the Promabasa silos, the Heinz tomato plant, the Cumanacoa sugar mill and others that are being discussed. This, together with the announcement of president Hugo Chavez in July, of a list of 2,700 paralysed and semi-paralysed companies, with the idea that they should be reopened, has encouraged the struggle of the workers and opened an important discussion in the Venezuelan labour movement.
This debate also involves the application of workers’ cogestión and workers’ participation. The experience of [aluminium smelter] ALCASA demonstrates the superiority of workers’ control over the bureaucratic capitalist management of state-owned companies. However, in [state-owned electricity company] CADAFE the workers are faced with the resistance of the managers who attempt to prevent the participation of the workers in decision-making.
The Revolutionary Marxist Current wants to contribute to this debate with the following points:
The massive closure of companies and destruction of jobs is the result of the deep crisis of capitalism in Venezuela, and the parasitical character of the ruling class in our country. Since 1999 nearly 5,000 manufacturing companies have been closed down with the destruction of 100,000 jobs. This is also part of a campaign of economic sabotage against the Bolivarian Revolution.
The recovery of the oil industry by the workers, who managed it under workers’ control, against the sabotage and lockout, showed the capacity of the workers to run the companies without bosses or imposed managers. If we were able to do it in PDVSA, the country’s largest industry, with a very developed technological level, we can also do it in the rest of the economy. Factories can be run without bosses, the bosses have no function without workers.
In these conditions the working class must take into its own hands the recovery of paralysed companies to defend jobs. Factory closed, factory occupied. The workers themselves, organised and coordinated by the UNT in Factory Occupation Teams in every region, must take the initiative, reopen the factories and attempt to restart production. Once the factories are taken over, we must demand from the national government the legalisation of this action, through expropriation, and workers’ management. If the bosses are not prepared to produce, the workers are.
State-owned companies and those nationalised under workers’ control should not be considered the property of the workers in that company, but must be managed in the interests of the Venezuelan working people as a whole. In this sense, the form of property that best reflects this is the nationalisation under democratic workers’ control, not cooperatives or the workers becoming shareholders.
In companies that are already state-owned, in public institutions and services, and in the companies that will be recovered by the workers and expropriated, workers’ control and management are the key to preventing the emergence of a new bureaucracy and in the fight against corruption. Workers in a given industry are the ones who know how to produce in the most efficient way and are best placed to exercise control and accountability.
Workers’ control and management must spread to all state-owned companies and institutions. It cannot be argued that this cannot be implemented in strategic industries. It was precisely the workers who defeated the lockout and sabotage through workers’ control. Workers’ control and management is the best guarantee that these strategic industries are managed to the benefit of the working people of Venezuela and are defended against any attack by the oligarchy and imperialism.
Workers’ control and management must be applied to all aspects of industry and not be limited to secondary matters. The companies’ books must be opened and all information be put in the hands of the workers. In every company there should be a Committees of Workers’ Management elected by the workers’ assemblies and with the right of recall. The workers’ representatives elected to these committees must keep the same wage they had before being elected. Without privileges there is no bureaucracy.
Workers in occupied factories need to coordinate amongst themselves and with the workers in the state-owned industries. Committees of Economic Planning should be set up in every sector of activity and branch of industry. The representatives to these committees should be democratically elected by the workers, with the right of recall and should not have any wage privilege, only the necessary paid time to carry out their duties.
The struggle for the recovery of companies and for workers’ management is part of the struggle against the anarchy of capitalism which condemns the majority of the population to hunger, poverty, unemployment and the informal economy. In order to guarantee the success of this struggle we must fight for the nationalisation of the banking system under workers’ control in order to be able to give cheap credit to the recovered companies. In order to achieve democratic planning of the economy by the workers in the interest of the people, we must also fight for the nationalisation of the country’s monopoly groups which control the distribution of food, telecommunications, manufacturing production, transport, etc. This would lay the basis for a socialist economy, democratically planned by Committees of Economic Planning at local, regional and national level.
The debate opened within the Bolivarian Revolution on workers’ management, factory occupations and socialism of the 21st century, is a debate that goes beyond the borders of Venezuela. The working class of other countries watches with interest this debate and the Venezuelan workers can also learn from the experiences of workers of other countries. The only trustworthy allies of the Venezuelan working class and poor people are the workers and peasants of other countries. Our enemy is the same: capitalism, imperialism and the oligarchy. Our struggle is the same. If the capitalist system is a worldwide system of imperialist domination, the struggle of the workers for socialism can only be international. For this reason the Revolutionary Marxist Current is part of the International Marxist Tendency. In our view the ideas of scientific socialism, of Marxism, are the only ones that can bring the working class to victory.