Venezuela: Interview with PSUV Organizer at SIDOR

Chavez has called for the setting up of PSUV branches in the workplaces, known in Venezuela as “patrullas obreras” (workers’ patrols). At the massive SIDOR steelworks in Ciudad Guayana this has been taken up and already over 500 workers have signed up, with over 20 branches formed that will soon become 50. Here we publish an interview with one of the PSUV organisers at the plant.

On August 24, following directives of Hugo Chávez, the leaders of the PSUV Socialist Workers’ Front (the party's trade union front), called for the setting up of PSUV party branches in workplaces, which are now known in Venezuela as “patrullas obreras” (workers’ patrols). Before this, workers at the big SIDOR steelworks in Ciudad Guayana had already begun to do the preparatory work for building PSUV branches in the factory. This is a very important development that can have huge consequences for the development of the PSUV as a party and for the revolution itself. We interviewed José López Padrino, one of the main organisers of the PSUV at SIDOR, who is also a member of the FRTS (Revolutionary Front of Sidor Workers).

When did you begin to stress the idea of building PSUV workers' patrols at SIDOR?

José López Padrino: We began by taking up an idea that President Chávez had raised when he expressed the need for the setting up of PSUV patrols in state-owned companies. What we did was to take up his words as a strategic line. Exactly on June 28, PSUV members of the FRTS began to actively organise a process for registering PSUV militants in the areas of SIDOR which we are most familiar with. In the space of two weeks we had 502 workers registered as PSUV members, which is just the initial number.

So you began the plan on June 28. Does this mean that you had the idea of creating PSUV branches in the factory long before that date?

José López Padrino: Yes, long before that. We developed the idea long before June. We held a number of meetings of PSUV members who are active in the FRTS and we set up a promoting committee; we saw the need for the workers’ patrols so that the PSUV could have a presence in the plant. We were reassured when President Chávez launched the call for the setting up of PSUV workers' patrols in every factory.

Could you please tell us how these patrols were set up?

José López Padrino: Once we began to develop the registration, we entered the 502 registered workers into a database. At that time we thought we would use the normal format by forming Territorial patrols, with a minimum of 20 and maximum of 30 workers in each. The first patrol was built on that model, but once we heard the news of the official approval of the workers' patrols, we gathered the comrades again and decided to change to the new format. In fact, we have already officially established 7 workers patrols at SIDOR. These are distributed throughout the different parts of the factory, such as EPS Tubos, Administrative building 2, at Gate three, Planta de Pellas, and in TAVCSA.

What role do you see for the PSUV workers' patrols and the establishment of workers' control inside the company?

José López Padrino: At this time we are working with the patrols via weekly assemblies; a minimum of one assembly per week, maximum of two. In these assemblies we are debating and learning so that the patrols can play this role. Of course, this will come after the setting up of the 21 patrols that we are planning to build, although we think that we can build many more patrols, because each active patrol in turn creates new patrols through a multiplying effect and because these patrols are able to contact other comrades registered as PSUV militants, be they contracted or sub-contracted SIDOR workers. These comrades will thus activate even more patrols. So I can almost assure you that the 21 patrols which organise the 502 registered workers, could grow to a total of 50 patrols inside SIDOR.

With this layer of active comrades and with the development of cadre training and ideological education, we are preparing the ground for the workers to face up to the challenge of workers' control. The workers of SIDOR already have the technical skills; the worker knows what he is doing, knows the production process and, with the political-ideological training as well as management know-how and the knowledge of finances, will be able to make workers’ control a reality.

Do you think that the building of workers’ patrols will benefit the PSUV as a party, give it more publicity and transform it into a workers' party?

José López Padrino: Yes, it will benefit the PSUV enormously. It is the activation of the masses of the people and of the workers in one organisation. The workers are anxious to participate. They want to be taken into account. While we were developing this work, many worker comrades approached us and said they wanted to join. This surprised me quite lot, because the workers came voluntarily, they wanted to participate. This means the activation of a mass party. When the masses enter into workers' politics, this means that the party will be powerful. A party with the mass of workers sleeping and without political activity will be extremely weakened.

José López PadrinoJosé López Padrino What do you think should be the relation between PSUV militants and those who defend the Bolivarian Revolution, but are either in another party or are unorganised?

José López Padrino: During this work we have had the following experience; some workers who are not in the PSUV – but who identify themselves with the process led by President Chávez – have said to us that they wanted to join. But they told us, that as the official process for signing up for PSUV membership is over and as the patrols are for PSUV members only, they thought they could not participate. We told them that they could come along anyway and participate in the PSUV patrols and all the ideological educational work. These workers understood our explanation and said that they genuinely wanted to work with us. We are open, and this goes for all the SIDOR patrols, to the participation of all revolutionary workers.

President Chávez and other party leaders have made the call for a PSUV congress to be held this year. How do you see the role of the workers' patrols in the preparatory process leading up to this congress? And what role and what policies should the patrols advance at the congress itself?

José López Padrino: A party without the masses is dead. The patrols represent the awakening of the working masses inside the PSUV, and of course, the workers will demand representation on the leading bodies of the PSUV. This is something important and necessary if we are to deal with the bureaucracy that is building up inside the party. The bureaucracy is not looking down at the ranks. It is not looking towards the people, to the workers, but is only looking out for its own personal interests. It is the duty of the workers to go into the PSUV and remove this bureaucracy, so that the Bolivarian Revolution can be carried out to the end, as President Chávez has stressed on more than one occasion.

What do you think are the main challenges the revolution faces in putting an end to the counterrevolution and carrying through the socialist revolution?

José López Padrino: Once the working masses are organised and politically active, drastic decisions must be taken. One of them should be for the state to take control of the banks. For as long as the oligarchy holds the ownership of the means of production in its hands, socialism cannot be built. If this power is kept intact, a giant obstacle will remain in place and we will be unable to deal with the problems. The process will be too long and painful and the people will end up impatient and demoralised. If the people are really to receive the benefits of socialism, a whole series of drastic decisions must be taken and this must be done as soon as possible.