In your opinion, what is the most important task for Marxists in Venezuela?
William Sanabria: As we have explained previously, the revolutionary process is characterised by the lack of a subjective factor in the sense of a revolutionary organisation rooted in the mass movement. This is related to the historical failures of the traditional left in Venezuela, but also to the weakness of the left today. This is especially true for the people who were leading the UNT.
This is why our main goal must be to build a revolutionary organisation that can win over the Bolivarian movement to the concept of a socialist revolution. Whether we succeed in this or not will determine the fate of the revolution.
In the last months, we have concentrated on building our organisation and on training a core of cadres able to play a leading role in the movement. Political homogeneity, based on collective, democratic discussion and political education, is the most important condition for successful political work.
Yonie Moreno: Revolutionary activists are today subjected to pressures from all sides. There is a tendency to get involved in innumerable rank and file groups and circles. Our task is to give these groups a Marxist perspective, in order to be able to carry the revolution to an end. This makes us so different from other groups.
One of the most important initiatives of the CMR in the last two years was the creation of FRETECO, the Revolutionary Front of Workers in Occupied Factories and Factories under Workers' Control. What can you tell us about this?
Yonie Moreno: Ever since the founding of the CMR, we have been explaining that the revolution can only be victorious if the working class takes the lead in the process, if it is able to organise itself, to develop methods of struggle of its own, which enable it to build a new, socialist society. A key element in this is the movement of factory occupations and more generally the struggle for workers' control and management. We played an important role at the struggle of the workers of Venepal, the first factory that was expropriated. Furthermore, we were the first to raise the demand for nationalisation under workers' control. In the campaign for the expropriation of Inveval, we were able to gain our first real foothold in the movement.
William Sanabria: During this struggle the leading activists of the factory collective decided to create a cell of the CMR in the factory. The core of the group was composed of six comrades. From the very beginning they were subjected to enormous pressures. Apart from the political activities as members of the CMR they were responsible for restarting the factory. In order to be able to lead the enterprise they had to educate themselves and gain new qualifications. They had to find new firms which would supply the factory with raw materials and intermediate products. In addition, they had to struggle with the constant sabotage on the part of the state bureaucracy and the state oil company PDVSA, the main purchaser of Inveval's products. And from outside the factory, everything was being done to split the workforce.
The advice of our comrades was that it was necessary to break through this isolation in order to be able to survive as an occupied factory. First, it was necessary to create a factory council, which is open to all workers and which decides upon the most important issues. In this way, as many workers as possible could be involved in the running of the factory. Second, it was important to convince the workers to join the CMR. Today we have 16 comrades at Inveval, with weekly political education to which all workers of the factory are invited. On average 30-35 workers attend these meetings, ie. about half of the workforce.
The future of Inveval will depend on the fate of the revolution. It cannot survive as an island of socialism amid a capitalist economy. The growth of the movement and the linking up with other occupied factories is the key for our survival. This is why we have taken the initiative to set up the FRETECO. Inveval soon became a point of reference for other workers and whole workforces that struggled under similar conditions. The comrades of the CMR were regularly invited to share their experiences with other workers of other factories or explain their ideas to UNT branches. There is also a left wing in the government which supports this project. The example of Inveval has been cited several times, among others by Chávez, as a model for a future socialist factory. We want to use this platform to root the idea of factory occupations, workers' control etc. in the revolutionary movement.
Yonie Moreno: It is clear, however, that FRETECO can only be successful if we are able to create cells of the CMR in the occupied factories. The results of this orientation are quite promising, as the example of the INAF factory shows, where we have recently set up a cell. By the way, these comrades come from a Christian background. Apart from using the Marxist classics for their propaganda, they also read the Bible. These workers have an insatiable thirst for theory, starting with the philosophical principles of Marxism.
William Sanabria: Today FRETECO co-ordinates a number of factories all over the country, such as the refuse procesing plant in Merida, Invepal, the tomato factory CAIGUA etc. Since our last conference we have also worked closely with the "Workers Control Collective", which is rooted in the large factories of heavy industry in the state of Bolívar. As the trade unions in this region are controlled by the right wing bureaucracy, these comrades are not organised in a union. It is also interesting to note that this group not only came in contact with us through our work in FRETECO, but also through the work of our comrades in the local student movement as well as through our theoretical material.
The media often paint the picture of students who are opposed to Chávez and the revolution. What do you think about this?
William Sanabria: Just as in so many other respects, there has been a lot of conscious disinformation. The majority of students support the revolutionary process. This was also shown by the student demonstrations ahead of the referendum, where the Bolivarian student organisations were able to mobilise many more students than the opposition. In the student movement, we stress the idea of unity with the workers movement. Our main slogan in this area is the creation of a youth organisation of the Socialist United Party (PSUV). We have already organised two national conferences of the "Young Marxists in the PSUV", which were both very well attended. Especially in the state of Bolívar, many leading activists in the student movement are members of the CMR. A particularly positive role is being played by our comrades in the student movement in the oil rich region of Maturin, who succeeded in organising a left united front at the university and smash the right wing opposition there in the university elections.
You mentioned the founding of the PSUV. What is the position of the CMR in relation to this project?
William Sanabria: We were the first to understand the meaning of this initiative of Chávez. All other groups of the organised left were thrown into deep internal crisis when confronted with this question. The best example is certainly the current of the clasistas (C-CURA) who split over this issue. We were the first to intervene in the first conference with an independent programme, distributing leaflets and articles from our journal. We participated in the creation of a series of Socialist Battalions, the rank and file organisation of the PSUV. In six instances our comrades were elected spokesperson of such groups. In addition, we also set up one of these Socialist Batallions at Inveval.
Yonie Moreno: This work will most probably become increasingly important in the months ahead. We expect heated discussions when it comes to pick the candidates for the upcoming elections of governors and mayors. The importance of the PSUV lies primarily in the fact that this new party is a forum in which the struggle between the revolutionary and reformist tendencies in the Bolivarian movement can unfold. And this struggle is bound to intensify now that the referendum has been defeated.
However the CMR still is a minor factor. What is your approach to other groups and organisations in the revolutionary movement?
Yonie Moreno: We have a very close relationship with the revolutionary peasant's organisation Ezequiel Zamorra (FNCEZ), which fights for the expropriation of large land holdings, that has grown to a mass movement with a large potential for mobilsation. The FNCEZ regularly invites the CMR and the FRETECO to take part in their initiatives. The best example is the united front project "Oligarchs tremble" against the destabilisation and putschist attempts of the right wing opposition. Our main orientation is towards the workers' movement. We put forward the idea that the workers' movement and its revolutionary organisations must take the lead in this process. While doing this we address ourselves to the activists of all tendencies. We saw the formation of the UNT as an important expression of the political awakening of the Venezuelan proletariat. Unfortunately, the UNT is in a deep crisis today. The leaders of the various tendencies in the UNT, who can't give the proletariat any perspective, are responsible for this. This is also true for the leadership of the left-wing CCURA, whose most prominent members are Orlando Chirino and Stalin Perez. In the last months Chirino split with Stalin and openly put himself in the same side of the barricade as the counter-revolution, even going as far as saying that the defeat of the referendum was a "victory for the workers and the people". The leadership of the CCURA repeatedly attacked us in the past, especially in the struggle around the occupation of the Sanitarios Maracay factory. The great difference between us lies in the question of the occupied factories and worker's control. In contrast, they centre their activities in purely trade union economic struggle, with no reference to the general revolutionary situation that exists in the country.
Speaking of Sanitarios Maracay, what can you tell us about this struggle?
Yonie Moreno: Comrade Wanderci, from the Marxist Left in Brazil, and myself, participated actively in this struggle. Maybe you've heard of the "Petrocasa", the prefabricated house made from PVC shells. The first factory making these was opened in Venezuela, with the assistance of Brazilian comrades from Cipla, the occupied PVC factory in Joinville, Brazil. Another such factory is supposed to open in Cuba as well. Meanwhile, Cipla was stormed by the Brazilian police and the leading comrades are persecuted by the Lula government. Why am I saying this? Despite of massive mobilisations in Maracay and Caracas, the isolation of Sanitarios couldn't be broken. By not giving any public orders to them, the bureaucracy succeeded in demoralising the workers that were occupying the factory and producing under workers' control. In addition, Sanitarios Maracay was left isolated in Maracay and in the province. The leaders of the CCURA only acted under pressure from the workers. In fact, the first time Chirino went to the factory was to introduce a capitalist "investor", a friend of the owner, to the work force. As the option of going from one private owner to another was rejected by the workers, then C-CURA half-heartedly supported the workers, while still saying that Sanitarios was an individual case and refusing to spread the movement of factory occupations. An occupied firm in isolation can only be an interim solution. A strong political leadership is needed in the factory to withstand the pressure of the capitalist environment, a thing we couldn't achieve in Sanitarios. Either you see the control over production, and then over the factory itself, as a strategy for the working class to take power - or you do not. The leadership of the UNT, unfortunately, didn't share this point of view. The workers of Sanitarios fought heroically - however, as it turned out, the question of the leadership can't be answered easily, from one day to the other.
A final word...
William Sanabria: We've laid the basis for the assembly of a strong revolutionary Marxist tendency in the last years. 2008 is going to be an important year for us, since we could make a breakthrough. We differ from the rest of the left movement in Venezuela as far as the methods of building up our organisation is concerned, how serious we are in building our own apparatus, how we finance ourselves, and how important the production of Marxist theory is to us. These traditions are totally missing in the Venezuelan left movement. We are going to release a book by Alan Woods, a polemic against the reformist ideologies of Heinz Dieterich, which have some influence on the Bolivarian movement, particularly on its leading layers. This book is already creating large interest and will be widely read in the revolutionary movement. To improve the distribution of Marxist literature, we're going to open an office of our Frederic Engels Foundation in Caracas. Through the purchase of own printing facilities, we have improven the production of theoretical material significantly. All this will help us to make big advances in building up a strong marxist tendency.
Yonie Moreno: The discussions after the failure of the constitutional referendum showed that this was a healthy shock. Before that, the majority of the activists believed that everything was going fine and the building of a revolutionary tendency, with a clear strategy of how the working class can take power, was seen as secondary. The gradual path to socialism has experienced its first defeat. Some, mostly in the state apparatus, used this to move ahead with the idea of the "national conciliation", the "reduction of speed", the cancellation of measures such as price controls and so on. The rank and file activists see things completely differently now. The extent of sabotage on the part of the bureaucracy was amazing. This completely confirmed our perspective that the outcome of the class struggle within the Bolivarian movement will decide the fate of the revolution. Many had to learn this the hard way. We are getting a lot of positive response. The race against time continues.
Thank you very much for the interview.
Source: Der Funke