The reality of the Venezuelan teachers union is not different from that of
workers in general. With a salary of between 7 and 9 dollars a month, the education
sector is in a profound crisis. This reality has caused an important part of
the educators staff to become outraged and mobilize, even if in an incipient
way, for their salary and contractual demands and in defense of education.
It is the Teachers That Subsidize Public Education
Nicolás Maduro´s government has developed an anti-worker policy and the teachers union does not escape that reality. Venezuelan public education is currently being subsidized by teachers as they maintain schools open despite working for a “salary” that barely covers transportation cosrs to move to and from work.
In other words, while the national public education budget is almost absolutely at the discretion of the high bureaucracy of the Ministry of Education, in the schools classes are taught with teachers in the utmost precariousness, without the necessary pedagogical resources and with deep problems in school infrastructure.
Indirect, Massive and Unjustified
On top of these conditions we must add the persecution and harassment to which rebellious teachers are subjected. The supposed “massive resignation” because of the “lack of vocation and professional ethics” as they falsely argue from the heights of power, must be considered what it really is: indirect, massive and unjustified lay-offs. Today teachers are pushed to lumpenproletarization inside and outside the country and are being replaced by personnel who are “trained” in government programs, “graduating” in record time and acting as an army of strikebreakers.
It should be noted that all this happens in the framework of the de facto elimination of social benefits through monetary reconversion and the elimination of five zeros from the national currency in August 2018. Our so-called “future salary” accumulated during years of service has been stolen.
Federations, Unions and Parties are Responsible for the Teachers´ Situation
The actions of federations and unions are total and absolute treason. For decades, the union bureaucracy tied into their leading positions has negotiated educators´ conditions behind their backs. They abandoned the union praxis and left no space for participation and exchange between them and the rank-and-file.
The mobilizations and protests that have taken place in the last year and a half have emanated from rank-and-file teachers accompanied by some members of regional sectionals. Federation presidents and trade union general secretaries have strongly opposed the self-convened protest of the teachers´ base. This is how the educators staff is being beaten by two hands: that of the government and that of the federations and unions that have given ample evidence of being sold to the highest bidder. However, the protests have entered with considerable force, given the conditions that the country is currently going through.
The delegitimization of Maduro´s government and the absence of a class based political leadership to offer teachers and workers in general an independent and autonomous alternative, in addition to the total and absolute disarticulation and bureaucratization of the unions with their fossilized leaders, create a dangerous cocktail. So we see the parties of the traditional right trying to position themselves with our mobilization through the union arm of their interventionist policy. They are the same parties that hide behind the Lima Group and governments that have been exposed as repressors and violators of the most elementary rights, such as Piñera in Chile, Duque in Colombia and Moreno in Ecuador.
Among this fauna of bureaucrats and traitors, we cannot leave out the leadership of the national union tied to the government, which has become a mediocre left campist that serves as the executive arm of the policy against the workers that Maduro implements systematically and permanently. We disregard them as well as representatives of Venezuelan teachers.
We Also Fight Against the Imposition of Monolithic Thinking in Schools
It is obvious that an authoritarian and totalitarian government responds with maximum brutality to the protests. However, it is necessary to denounce to national and international public opinion the way in which monolithic thinking is trying to be imposed on Venezuelan schools.
Teachers´ classroom autonomy is methodically violated, imposing “school orientations” that disrupt the normal and regular development of education and the promotion of critical thinking. The imposition that we become carriers of all the false ideology that is imposed from the ruling party and the Ministry of Education is a reality that we live day by day. There are few directors, supervisors and even “trusted staff” who work in schools as thought police and are dedicated to persecuting, harassing and blackmailing teachers who raise their voices or carry out activities outside the “order” that they have established, to the point of forcing them to leave the schools.
Just as serious is the de facto prohibition of student organization. In middle education, student centers were eliminated and the Bolivarian Student Organizations (OBE) directed by the Youth of the PSUV are the only ones allowed to enter educational centers. Thus, in rigged “elections”, they choose two students per classroom to capture for the youth of the ruling party, giving them privileges over their classmates. They are the same boys and girls who attend government events in which the government propagates their acceptance among young people. How sad that the “most prominent” are educated with fascist methods.
The administered militancy of UBCH, some students of the OBE, Community Councils, members of the CLAP, executives, supervisors and pro-government teachers, led by the PSUV heads their charge against any vestige of protest or promotion of critical thinking in Venezuelan educational centers.
That is why deplorable events occur such as armed groups shooting in the air at our teachers mobilization on September 16, or the youths called “express teachers” having been taken to confront us in the same mobilization or, threats against grassroots union leaders who are in this struggle. The propaganda is that the “organized people” reject the teachers protest for being “a maneuver of Donald Trump to destabilize the Venezuelan government”. Nothing is further from reality. The beating and robbing of teachers in the middle of the peaceful protest held on January 15, Teacher’s Day in Venezuela, and the throwing urine and excrement at them while chanting slogans in favor of the Maduro government, is more than graphic.
Union Organization in Diversity
The movement that arises in the context of the teaching conflict is based on the concrete reality that Venezuelan teachers educate with hunger as a transversal axis, with the permanent feeling of deprivation of the most elementary things.
The space is very wide, diverse, heterogeneous. Within it, different political positions are expressed. But there are two main elements of coincidence: the determination to demand that the salary we earn allow us to live with our needs for food, goods, services, health, intellectuals, recreation, footwear and clothing being covered with our income in the framework of respect of our labor and contractual rights and the exercise of the teaching profession; and the other element is the defense of a quality education with the promotion of critical thinking.
Trying to impose the matrix of opinion that everyone who mobilizes is attached to the parties that gravitate around the figure of Guaidó or of interventionists like Julio Borges, Antonio Ledezma or María Corina Machado, besides reductionist, ignores the reality that touches the stomach of teachers and students in this country. It is as reductionist as those who intend to impose the opinion that everything that does not attend the mobilizations is pro-government.
The challenge is great, to organize the educators’ base and mobilize in the framework of an authoritarian, repressive, corrupt, mafia, neoliberal, and anti-labor government with fascist elements; and of a traditional interventionist and also corrupt and openly neo-liberal right wing that relies not only on the interference of the United States, but also on governments that today have repressed, imprisoned, murdered and tortured their mobilized population against the strong austerity that world capitalism imposes.
Our call is to organize and mobilize from the base.
No to the anti-worker and hunger mongering policy of Nicolás Maduro´s government!
Aristóbulo Isturiz, out of the Ministry of Education!
The federation leaders that act behind the backs of teachers must go!
No to the parties that intend to use our needs as a platform for interference and imperialist policies!
In defense of quality education and the promotion of critical thinking!
For the recovery of our salaries, contractual and social benefits!
Member of Marea Socialista and the International Socialist League
Teacher and Alternative Media Communicator at Aporrea.org