August 2016        

Venezuela: Class-based unions fight back

Paul Dobson

As in many countries with similar socio-economic-political conditions, elements of the fragmented Venezuelan trade union movement have historically been led away from defending the interests of the working class and have come to defend the interests of the bourgeoisie (both Venezuelan and foreign). Other elements have taken workers’ movements and converted them into yes-men for red-shirted ministers, leaving class-based struggles well behind.
     Such examples of weakness (while not being the norm) have only encouraged reformist, opportunist and corrupt elements from increasing their stake of power in the Bolivarian government, posing a real threat to the entire process of national liberation. The relative strength of such elements is dialectically opposed to genuine socialist advance and the empowerment of the working class.
     The Communist Party of Venezuela is successfully developing a policy of strengthening the class-based sections of the trade unions, increasing the levels of struggle, and combating the ills that have affected this vital sector of revolutionary advance.
     The communist-affiliated National Struggle Front of the Working Class (FNLCT) has representation in most industries, including the crucial oil industry, through the Jesús Faría Movement of Class-Conscious Oil Workers (CCTP-JF), just one of numerous groups within the Unified Federation of Venezuelan Oil Workers (FUTPV), which represents more than 45,000 workers. (Jesús Faría was a communist leader of the Great Oil Strike of 1936, when the Venezuelan peasants and fisherman first began transforming themselves into an organised proletariat.)
     At a recent aggregate meeting of the CCTP-JF, with more than sixty union leaders present, this public statement was issued (translated from Spanish):

To the workers of the Venezuelan oil industry

To the trade unionists who support the Bolivarian process of national liberation . . . receive a fraternal greeting in the name of the Jesús Faría Movement of Class-Conscious Oil Workers, an instrument in the decisive struggle in defence of the economic, social and political interests of those who work at the service of PDVSA [Venezuela’s nationalised oil industry] and in general in our oil industry and related activities.
     Our struggle is part of a wider fight of the working class and trade union movement to advance towards the conquest of power for the working class and working people from the city and the countryside. This struggle has the objectives of achieving the demolition of the bourgeois state, the overcoming of capitalist relations of production, and the construction of a society without oppression or exploitation . . .
     After 20 months of delay, the electoral process of the Unified Federation of Venezuelan Oil Workers (FUTPV) has begun. Our grouping has evaluated the context and circumstances in which these elections are being held and have weighted up the confronting forces. This electoral process should serve to advance the process of accumulation of class-based forces, who are in counter-position to the declassed sectors and tendencies, particularly those who place themselves directly or indirectly at the service of the plans of foreign imperialist powers who are seeking to retake complete control of our natural riches, suppress our national sovereignty, and liquidate the gains achieved by our people . . .
     Without a doubt Venezuela is living a heightened struggle of class interests in the context of a deep crisis of the world’s capitalist system. On one side are the forces in favour of the strategy of neo-colonial domination by the USA and its allies in the European Union, who, with the participation of the great productive and commercialisation monopolies, submit our people to a sustained multifaceted aggression. Also there are the corrupt and opportunist tendencies who, from the state bureaucratic apparatus, attempt to find a “way out” of the crisis of the oil-dependent capitalist model by refounding the same model and favouring the power of Capital. However, on the other hand are our working people, who resist the onslaught of neo-fascism and the inconsistencies of opportunism and corruption; there are the class-conscious, popular, patriotic forces who struggle to save and deepen the revolutionary process . . .
     In this complicated context we will have, on the 30th August, the elections of the federation of unions of oil workers, and this is why our grouping calls on the oil workers and on those who identify themselves with the revolutionary process in the union movement to make all necessary effort to achieve—despite existing differences—the strongest possible unity based on class and anti-imperialist principles. We also call on them to present a truly unifying and revolutionary programme so as to impede the pro-imperialist right from winning over the national direction of the FUPTV but also so as to advance towards the democratisation and transformation of this federation and all oil unionism, to convert it into an authentic instrument at the service of the working class and the forces who are able to lead the struggles of all our working people to use their power to defeat social injustices.
     We call the workers to fight for a FUTPV which genuinely defends and strengthens the rights of the oil workers; which, together with the base trade unions, combats outsourcing and precarious employment, which still exists; which opposes any attempts to reprivatise the industry; which makes sure that the contractual gains are fulfilled; which confronts the anti-worker and corrupt bosses; which struggles for dignified and adequate working conditions in all work areas and centres; which proposes a transformation of PDVSA with the protagonist participation of the workers so as to put it at the service of national sovereignty and social development.
     In summary: we need a democratic and inclusive FUTPV, which acts with independence and autonomy from the private and public bosses. The CCTP-JF, on the eightieth anniversary of the Great Oil Strike of 1936, the first and highest anti-imperialist action taken by the Venezuelan people, led by the oil proletariat, calls on the workers to impede the oil union federation falling into the hands of those who work for US imperialism, the neo-liberal right, and those involved in the guarimbas [violent coup attempt of 2014]. We also propose the goal of placing class-conscious leaders in the national leadership of the FUTPV so as to deeply transform it and make it a real instrument of combat for labour conditions, for clear national liberation and the emancipation of the working class and working people in general.
     For a union movement at the service of the working class and the people!
     Neither fascism nor opportunism, consolidation of national sovereignty, and a deepening of the revolutionary process!

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