Venezuela: Five planks in building socialism, workers’ councils and the role of the working class

This is the English translation of an article by Luis Primo, a leading figure in the UNT, in which he looks at the tasks facing the Venezuelan working class. He stresses the fundamental role of the working class in leading society in the struggle for socialism.

This is the English translation of an article by Luis Primo, a leading figure in the UNT, in which he looks at the tasks facing the Venezuelan working class. He stresses the fundamental role of the working class in leading society in the struggle for socialism.

What are the immediate tasks of the UNT?

There are four very important elements in the most recent speeches and actions of President Chavez. The first one is the united party: the USPV (PSUV). The Revolutionary Marxist Current, agrees with the building of a Party to lead the Bolivarian Revolution. It is an important step forward in dismantling the "electoral" Parties, who conceive party organisation as an end in itself and not as a means to developing the political consciousness of the workers and the people in a way which would allow for the expropriation of the capitalists and the transformation of capitalist society into a socialist society, along with emancipation of humanity from all capitalist burdens. The other reason is that the United Socialist Party of Venezuela would provide the workers and the people a wider platform for discussion about the need to build socialism.

The construction of the USPV (PSUV) must be carried out by the rank and file, who should choose the natural workers and community leaders of this Party. This does not mean at all that this measure alone would guarantee control over the bureaucracy. That danger will always exist and only a participatory democracy within the organisation itself would solve the problem bureaucracy and corruption.

Nationalisation and the building of socialism

The second point proposed by President Chavez concerns the nationalisation of strategic industries and companies such as CANTV and others, which is a correct decision, but what is also required is the participation of the workers and the whole of society in the social control and the management of these nationalised companies, otherwise we would be promoting some kind of State capitalism where only a small sector of the techno-bureaucracy would control and benefit from these industries and companies. The president proposed the nationalisation of everything that has been privatised, which means that SIDOR and other companies should also be nationalised under workers' control. This should also apply those companies that have either been closed, are in crisis or have been occupied by the workers, such as Sanitarios Maracay, Transportes Caroní, SelFex and others. Another question the government has not dealt with yet and, but needs to raise, is the nationalisation of the banks, which is fundamental for the development of our country and for the building of socialism.

The third point proposed by Chavez has to do with the development of the Communal Councils as an element of authentic popular participation in deciding the needs of the community, but also in the building of a new revolutionary State.

The fourth point, which we consider to be very important, concerns the wage levels of the public officials. This is not only about eliminating poverty, but also about the need for equality throughout society. It is not a question of putting a limit on the wages of public officials, but of reviewing wage differentials throughout Venezuelan society and come up with a progressive proposal that would resolve our present inequality. This is not a problem that can be resolved at the stroke of a pen. However, history shows us that the Labour movement, the Paris Commune for example, in the past has come up with measures such as:

1) No public official to receive a wage higher than that of a skilled worker.

2) Election of all public officials.

3) Right of recall of all public officials.

On the development of Communal Councils, the Ministry of Labour has also suggested the creation of Workers' Councils. These Workers' Councils must become a tool to break with the capitalist mode of production and establish a socialist one where workers' democracy and participation play the central role. The Workers' Councils must become organs of workers' decision-making power on the most important issues facing society. This in essence is the New Revolutionary State. These Workers' Councils must organise every factory and company, on a local, provincial and national level, and, in conjunction with the Communal Councils, become the structures of the New Socialist State.

Here, as in the case of the Communal Councils, we should take measures to avoid the Workers' Councils from falling under the influence of the State, since they would become easy prey of the bureaucracy. The workers must exercise political and productive control in each and every one of the Workers' Councils. These should have already been set up in those companies that have been abandoned or that are running at half their productive capacity. A census already exists of more than 700 companies that have been closed and these should be looked at by the workers with a view to occupying them. The UNT has a fundamental role to play in the organisation of the occupation of these companies and in the development of the Workers' Councils.

Workers' Councils and Workers' Control

What the Minister of Labour stated is correct: workers' control must be set up in the food industry, especially when we consider that the number of plants in this industry fell by 12.21% between 2001 and 2005. But this workers' control must spread to all the other industries as well. The basic strategic line must be one of workers' and popular management and this must be implemented by rank and file of the unions and the workers. The Workers' Councils must have five main tasks:

1) Control the hierarchical organisation of labour and create a new democratic and participatory structure;

2) Exercise control over the division of labour, at company level and in different sections of the economy;

3) Control the finances, accounting systems and investments of the companies;

4) Control over lays-offs and closures.

5) Control the decision-making structures of the company.

6) Control over income so as to be able to use a part of the surplus for the provision of services within the community.

President Chavez has said that to move towards socialism it is necessary to dismantle the current State, which he defined as bourgeois, and to create a State that he describes as Communal, because it should be based on organs of direct democracy such as the Communal Councils. The Workers' Councils are precisely the instrument that can initiate the dismantling of the old bourgeois apparatus. The building of "XXI century socialism" passes though the transformation of the social relations of capitalist production; that is, the relations of production, power, domination and the spiritual relations, which are permeated through and through by the social division of labour. By transforming these relations, the workers and the people, the popular classes, can decide their social destiny and make use of the means of production, power, distribution and communication, creating new collective and supportive social relations. For this to happen a new model must be built for the management of production, based on democracy, participation and solidarity; a new revolutionary State and, last but not least important, we need to create a new human being, a new everyday life which would reproduce the new socialist and collective values. These aspects are all dialectically integrated.

The role of the working class is fundamental. Without it no revolution is possible. This is neither wild pessimism nor fatalism towards other revolutionary layers of society. It is a socio-historical reality. The working class is the only class capable of liberating the other layers of society and of destroying the capitalist system. At the same time it removes itself as a class as it definitively abolishes the division of society into social classes and emancipates people from alienation, building finallyu just one race: the human race.

The tasks of the UNT

The UNT at this moment in time could become the fundamental element in the creation of the USPV (PSUV), the development of Workers' Councils and the struggle for the expropriation of the capitalists and the construction of the revolutionary State. The Revolutionary Marxist Current makes the following several proposals:

1) The UNT must put itself at the forefront of the struggle of Sanitarios Maracay and other abandoned or occupied factories and launch a national campaign for the nationalisation of these under workers' control.

2) Convene a national conference - encouraging the participation of all currents within the UNT - to discuss the proposals of the working class for the building of socialism and to organise a concrete plan to nationalise every company that has been closed or is in crisis, and also to develop the Workers' Councils.

3) Organise, together with other groups - such as the workers in the occupied factories organised under FRETECO or the peasants of the Ezequiel Zamora Peasants' Front - a National Day of Action for the occupation of factories and land in order to pushy forward expropriation and workers' and popular power.

What the UNT is facing is not an electoral problem, but how to lead the working class struggles in transforming society and building socialism. Partial struggles are important as long as they are subordinated to the general struggle for socialism. An element in the building of socialism is precisely control over the management of private and public companies and nationalisation under workers' control of the banks and the big monopolies of the country. That would allow the working class to raise their political consciousness and to start building a new socialist model of production and a new revolutionary State. This is how socialism is to be built. The leaders of the UNT must not see the union as an end in itself, as a machine to be controlled. The UNT is the organised workers and its leaders must be bold and look at the possibilities within the revolutionary process. They must understand that we can transform Venezuelan and Latin American society. All that is required is a collective effort by the working class and the understanding of its leaders.

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