The working class must go on the offensive!
Against the bosses' lock-out, workers' control of the factories!
Once again the Venezuelan bourgeoisie is trying to put an end to the revolutionary process which has opened up in Venezuela. After the failure of the coup on April 13, a new coup is being openly and shamelessly prepared by the oligarchy with the backing of US imperialism. They have now called for an indefinite bosses' lock out until Chavez and his government resign.
Lies of the bourgeois media
As is always the case, the capitalists internationally lie in order to defend their interests and disorient the workers. The mass media are once and again insisting that there has been a "call for a general strike against Chavez's government". Nothing could be further from the truth.
In Venezuela there is no a general strike. And there have been no general strikes since the election of Chavez. What we have is a bosses' lock out supported by the petty bourgeoisie and the most corrupt and mafia-like sections of the trade union bureaucracy which is now leading the CTV (Venezuelan Trade Union Confederation). This section of the CTV already gave their support to the coup on April 11 which tried to install Pedro Carmona, the head of the employers' organisation, as the head of state. The coup failed, we must not forget, because the mass of the workers and other sections of the oppressed in Venezuela were opposed to it and mobilised on the streets to defeat it. Therefore the so-called general strike is nothing more than a bosses' lock out.
We should not forget that the strike is a weapon of the workers against the employers and the government. In Venezuela the workers have not called the strike and are not participating in it, but rather it is the employers and the small shop owners who are participating. Obviously, if the bourgeois media insist on using the word 'strike' this is not because they do not understand the meaning of the word, but rather it is because they wish to prevent active solidarity on the part of the international labour movement with the Venezuelan working class and the oppressed.
They are also lying when they talk about the massive following of the "strike". The news we have received from comrades in Venezuela in different regions in the country and from different web sites which support the revolution (like Aporrea and Antiescualidos), is that really the lock out is having very uneven effects. There have even been cases of employers who pull down the shutters in order to give the impression of no activity, but in the meantime they force the workers to work behind closed doors. While most big supermarkets have closed their doors as well as the small shops in the richest areas of the cities, in the working class and poor neighbourhoods shops are open as normal.
The current situation
Once more the ruling class is preparing a coup by trying to create a situation of chaos, lack of food supplies and a breakdown of law and order, with the aim of feeding into the frenzy of the middle class.
This is not a new tactic for the ruling class. They used it in the past in a number of countries (for instance in Chile) and they also used it on April 11, when they shot on the demonstration called by the Bolivarian movement, pretending the shots were coming from the other side, in order to fabricate a "justification" for the intervention of the Army, which had already prepared the coup.
Now they have sent out their followers shouting "war, war" trying to provoke a situation of panic and chaos on the streets of the main cities and also outside the PdVSA oil refineries (the country's state-owned oil company).
It seems clear that the Army is divided. In the last few days Chavez has removed some pro-coup officers, but even so it is not ruled out that a section of the current Army command, who up until now seemed loyal to the government, could attempt a new coup (we must remember that Pinochet also pretended to be loyal to the Allende government). In any case it seems clear that a majority of the soldiers support the revolutionary process and if faced with a bold movement of the working class it is not likely that they would follow the pro-coup officers, as already happened on April 13.
The workers fight back
It is among the workers that the fight-back against the coup is being organised. A number of national unions have already expressed their active opposition to the bosses' lock out. Hundreds of local and regional trade unions do not recognise the current reactionary leadership of the CTV, led by the pro-coup Carlos Ortega. But it is necessary to take a further step forward towards the organisation of a genuine revolutionary trade union movement, a rank and file based CTV, with a revolutionary perspective, that represents, and bases itself on, the best militant traditions of the CTV. This is necessary to co-ordinate and organise the trade union movement, and to make it clear to the working class in Venezuela, Latin America and the rest of the world, that the genuine trade union movement in Venezuela is not represented by Carlos Ortega and his gang of reactionary bureaucrats.
We must understand that the only allies of the revolutionary process in Venezuela are the workers and the oppressed from all over the world. This is why the ruling class and the reformists internationally are spreading the idea that the trade union movement, through the CTV, is supporting the coup, thus creating enormous confusion among worker and trade union activists in Europe. It is therefore very important that Venezuelan trade unionists appeal directly to the organised labour movement in the rest of the world to ask for their active support.
El Militante <http://www.elmilitante.org/> is ready to support such an initiative, an international solidarity campaign with the real Venezuelan trade union movement which is fighting against reaction. A few examples of this are:
the president of the Caracas Transport Workers' Union had a meeting with vice-president Rangel to guarantee the normal functioning of the underground system and the bus routes. "We are not supporting the stoppage, and we will not join it. We are against this active strike and we will reply with active work" (http://www.aporrea.org).
The Orinoco Steel Workers' Union issued a statement explaining that "4,000 workers have gone to work today… We do not accept the strike agreed to by the tops of FEDECAMARAS [employers' organisation] and the CTV, we do not recognise them as leaders of the Venezuelan workers… we need to reclaim the CTV as an instrument of struggle and make it serve the interests of the workers in the country".
The National College of Journalists in Caracas has denounced the owners of the media for closing down their printing presses, and have made an appeal to journalists to "organise permanent mass meetings in their places of work".
The Amazonian Indian People's Organisation, representing 19 different ethnic groups in a press statement denounced the "pro-coup strike" and ratified its "full support for the revolutionary process".
We also have reports that PdVSA oil workers are going to the refineries despite the boycott and sabotage on the part of the company's directors and admin staff. This is an extract of a letter sent by a PdVSA worker to the Popular Revolutionary Assembly (Aporrea): "with these actions it becomes clear that some managers, chief supervisors, area managers and supervisors, still think that the PdVSA belongs to them and that they can do with it as they please, and they forget that the majority shareholders are the people. Then they will be surprised if the people move against these gentlemen. In my opinion this is like a toothache: you get your tooth extracted and you will no longer have the pain".
But the most important thing to stress is that sections of the movement are already drawing very advanced conclusions from what is happening, particularly about the need to take the initiative.
For instance the Postal Workers assembly has sent a letter to Chavez in which they not only reaffirm the support of the workers for the revolutionary process but also, most importantly, they raise the need to take control of the process into their own hands: "…today we find in ourselves the strength and the spirit of the Constitution, and your own messages and speeches which invite us to be the main protagonists of the building of our own future, through our participation and by exercising people's power (…) thus, we ask you, as part of this people's power, to allow us to continue with the election of the managers in IPOSTEL by the workers' assemblies, so that the workers can control and check those we elect so that they will defend the interests of the workers(…) this is all for now, we are convinced of your agreement with the participation of the working masses in the deepening and strengthening of the revolutionary process, with the leading role in the hands of the working people…" (http://www.antiescualidos.com).
The Aporrea web page also reported how "in the early hours of today, Tuesday, the workers in the town of Aragua took control of the factories with the support of their families. The Pepsi-Cola plant was taken over by its workers in a bold action… the bosses will not be able to continue to manipulate and play with the proud workers of Venezuela".
These examples of participation and initiative on the part of the labour movement are still isolated instances. However, it is clear that if the working class wishes to put an end once and for all to the danger of a new coup, the enormous strength of the movement must be directed towards a clear and concrete aim: the political and economic expropriation of the ruling class.
In order to fight against the bosses' lock out there is no other way than the workers taking over the factories and organising production under workers' control. They need to organise mass meetings to democratically choose their representatives, who must be elected and with the right to recall at any time. These representatives should co-ordinate and plan all the different sectors of production according to the needs of the majority of society. In order to guarantee the necessary economic resources of these factories they should also expropriate the banks, without compensation and under workers control, in order to prevent the flight of capital and recover the billions of dollars which have already left the country.
The workers at PdVSA should follow the example of their class brothers and sisters at IPOSTEL, organising production and directly electing supervisors and managers under their own control.
The landless peasants support the Bolivarian process, but they cannot just stand idle while they are killed by the landlords' hired thugs every time they try to implement the Land Reform Law. An urgent priority for the revolutionary movement is to immediately nationalise the latifundia under workers' control, planning agricultural production according to the needs of the majority of the population. This would be the only way to guarantee the supply of agricultural goods to the cities.
The reactionary forces are coming out on the streets to create chaos, and they are even organising armed detachments against the revolutionaries. The reply must be clear. Armed workers' militias should be organised to give an answer to these attacks and guarantee the peace and tranquillity of workers and their families. These militias, which must be under the control of the workers' assemblies, should make an appeal to the soldiers to form revolutionary committees in the barracks and to link these up with the workers, in order to get rid of the pro-coup officers and guarantee normal life in the barracks.
The only alternative for the labour movement, if it wants to avoid being smashed by reaction, is to put the factories, the land and the banks under the control of workers, peasants and the oppressed.
The working class and the oppressed in Venezuela are the ones that make the economy work. The bosses can close the factories, but if the workers open them up again and make them work, they will prove in practice what we all know: it is the working class with its labour that makes the economy work. It is the only class that generates wealth.
It is time to act! The revolutionary movement must seize the initiative. The workers must take their future into their own hands, building a new society where unemployment, misery and hunger will be just nightmares from the past. This will be a socialist society where the means of production will be run in the interest of the majority of the population. This new society will clear the way for millions of oppressed people in Latin America and the rest of the world.
In this process of revolution, as Marx said, the workers have nothing to lose but their chains, and they have a world to win.