Historic May Day March in Caracas. The working class shows its strength on the streets

“Socialism advances, capitalism retreats!” “Workers’ councils now!”, “For a decent wage!”, “Oil workers demand a decent contract!”, “Co-management is revolution”. These were some of the slogans which show the class struggle, militant and revolutionary mood of the enormous workers’ demonstration on May Day in Caracas. Hundreds of thousands of workers from all over the country assembled in the Avenida Nueva Granada, where La Bandera coach station is situated, to march to Avenida Urdaneta. This May Day celebration was marked by an upbeat mood in the working class, with the recent victories at Venepal (now Invepal), CNV (now Inveval), Arichuna, and the growing mobilisation in companies such as ALCASA [aluminium plant], CADAFE [electricity company], etc. This enormous mobilisation reveals how the working class is firmly entering the scene, in order to play its historical role in the building of socialism.

The CTV: another defeat for bosses “trade unionism”

The weakened, bureaucratic and corrupt CTV had also called for a rally near Plaza Morelos. Although it was supposed to start much earlier than the UNT march (8am), at mid-morning their rally had no more than a few hundred people. Even one of their speakers who was trying to rouse the meagre attendance, nearly choked when he referred to the rally as being “massive”.

This rally, made up mainly of the old Accion Democratica trade union bureaucracy and a few elements from Bandera Roja, was a clear confirmation of which is the real union of the Venezuelan workers. It was another crushing and humiliating defeat for bosses’ “trade unionism”.

Class struggle militant slogans

The UNT May Day march was marked by a clear class struggle and militant character, with an openly socialist element. The slogans summed up the main economic and political demands of our class, together with others in defence of the Bolivarian Revolution and against imperialist intervention. In many instances the demands also contained criticism of, or warnings to the Bolivarian government, always presented in a comradely manner. Groups of oil workers openly criticised the recently signed collective bargaining agreement for the sector, while many unions were demanding fair and decent wages.

The heavy battalions of the class came proudly from Bolivar State, defending the process of co-management (which contains strong elements of workers’ control) which is being implemented in CVG ALCASA. The Bolivar delegations of the FBT [Bolivarian Workers’ Front] and the UNT had very advanced slogans, such as one banner which read “Socialism advances, capitalism retreats”. The comrades from the health sector also came with important slogans about the workers’ participation in the control of the health services. This is an important debate which is taking place amongst health workers in different parts of the country, including in the capital, and is being pushed by the CMR comrades in Antimano, in the El Algodonal Hospital. Also interesting were banners of the comrades from the Revolutionary Tupamaro Movement (MRT) calling for the formation of Workers’ Councils.

The comrades from the Aragua UNT were also present, defending and explaining the countless struggles they are involved in in that state, such as the workers of Snacks, Nestle, Sergettca, Mediterranea Alimentos, Pintuven, amongst others. Also present were the Bolivarian Hotel Workers’ Union from the Metropolitan Area with slogans demanding workers’ participation in the tourist industry, workers from the fisheries, and also a group of workers from the National Philharmonic Orchestra, for the first time, who have just organised their union SUMTRAFOFN.

Chavez’s speech

The gigantic march finished in the Carmelitas corner of the Avenida Urdante, where there was a stage with a massive banner which read “Without Co-management there is no Revolution!”. With massive enthusiasm, although we also wanted to hear the leaders of our class, the closing speech was given by president Chavez, surrounded by several workers’ leaders from the UNT and the Minister of Labour. Chavez congratulated the workers for the enormous strength shown in the march and the recovery of the revolutionary meaning of International Workers’ Day. “The opposition for many years damaged the revolutionary significance of January 23rd with AD-led marches, and that was when one of greatest betrayals to the Venezuelan working class was carried out (...) The revolutionary spirit of May 1st, which was distorted for 40 years by the 4th republic oligarchy, has been recovered by the strength of the Venezuelan working class”. He also reminded us of the figure of Daniel de Leon, a Venezuelan working class activist who fought for the class and for socialism. “This individual founded a number of organisations and unions in different cities and was, without doubt, a faithful follower of the ideas of Simon Bolivar the Liberator, who furthermore gave his life for the cause of the world working class”, he said.

Regarding the economic model that he wants to push forward he underlined that “the socialist economy must be efficient, not only from the financial point of view, but also from the point of view of creating a new relationship between those who are part of the companies and those in the communities; this is the basis of the new Bolivarian co-management”. In this sense he announced that very soon Invetex will be created in order to revive the Venezuelan textile industry. Unlike the cases of Invepal and Inveval, the textile project that is being proposed aims at including a former capitalist from the textile sector and implementing co-management between the capitalists and the workers. There has been talk that companies which receive credits to restart production must grant participation to the workers. “With these cooperative type projects we are proposing a change towards the inclusion of employees in the planning of the company, so that they participate in the decisions of the highest authorities in each company”, said president Chavez.As he has done in his recent speeches, he concentrated on underlining the failure of all attempts to build a “capitalism with a human face”, a “Third Way”, and defended his idea of building a “socialism of the 21st Century”. He celebrated the recent measures in favour of the workers, like the expropriation of the CNV, which has now become Inveval, an advanced model of co-management with strong elements of workers’ control. On this struggle and the victory won by the comrades, he said “we recovered the Venezuelan Endogenous Valve Industry thanks to the effort of many fellow Venezuelans who will start to work in a new company which will be at the service of all”.

Although there are illusions in this type of “mixed economy” model, the experience of our class shows clearly that in general, co-management between capitalists and workers has been used to increase the level of exploitation of our class and increases the contradictions between the interests of the bosses and the interests of our class, which are opposites to each other and cannot be reconciled. This we will analyse more in detail in further articles, but it is worth mentioning the experience of the Venepal workers when they first occupied the factory (before being expropriated) and they tried a co-management model along these lines. The class antagonisms finally led the bosses to declare a fraudulent bankruptcy and made the workers redundant without paying them anything. There are no reasons to believe that the Invetex experiment would work out differently.

Great interest for the ideas of genuine Marxist socialism

It has now become a regular feature that dozens of comrades from the Revolutionary Marxist Current were present at the march selling our paper El Topo Obrero [The Workers’ Mole] and distributing the leaflet “How to build 21st century socialism”. We also had a stall with our publications at the end of the march near the stage.

It was interesting to see the enormous interest in our material. Our paper was received with enthusiasm, and we sold more than 250 copies of our latest May Day special issue. There was also a lot of interest in our latest Political Education Brochure “Introduction to Socialism”, the second edition of “Marxists and the Venezuelan revolution” and the latest issue of our magazine El Militante which includes the document “Perspectives for the Venezuelan Revolution”.

While many other leaflets were left on the floor, ours was taken with a lot of interest and groups of workers asked for bundles to take back to their comrades. We raised some 600,000 bolivars through the sales of material, which is yet another step in building healthy finances depending only on the support of our class brothers and sisters.

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