We are witnessing the resurgence of the repressive and anti-worker character of the Nicolás Maduro´s government, while more and more information appears showing his intentions to advance towards the privatization of PDVSA and becomes part of the dollarization of the economy. Along with the progress of the turning over of the country´s main industry to oil transnationals, the authoritative leadership of the Maduro-Military-Bureaucracy-PSUV government lashes out virulently against any hint of labor protest throughout the country, making use of state security forces such as SEBIN, DGCIM, FAES and the National Guard.
Recently and almost in parallel, we heard of the arrests of two union leaders of the El Palito refinery, in Carabobo state, Marcos Sabariego and Gil Mujica, while Ramón Gómez, secretary general of the Astate Employees Union, was arrested in Cumana, Sucre, along with workers Carlos Ochoa and Cesar Morales, who were attacked at the doors of the government building, where they sought to record a document. While in Caracas, the secretary general of the Social Security Workers’ Union (FOGADE), William Prieto, was denied access to his workplace. Also, recently, in Puerto Ordaz, workers at were arrested at the Complejo Siderúrgico Nacional S.A. (formerly SIDETUR) for placing a sign with the slogan “decent wages”.
This contrasts with president Maduro´s “self-critical” messages calling for more criticism and demanding that institutions and services work, because when criticism and protests happen, they are often repressed and labor activists who participate in them are arrested.
If the government is repressing, it is not only because of the change in its nature, having long abandoned the ideals of the revolution and changed them because of greed and the desire for power, but also because they are nervous about the indignation of the working class. They are paranoid about the possibility of more and greater struggles being unleashed, and they want to prevent any germ from rising, since they are afraid of the strength of the Venezuelan workers being unleashed.
The suffocating situation experienced by the Venezuelan population and workers in particular, as a result of the brutal austerity that has been applied by the national government, which includes the destruction of wages, the elimination of social benefits and retiree bonuses, as well as the de facto elimination of collective bargaining, among many other attacks, has continued to generate responses by broad sectors of the working class. Although they are still partial and organically weak, as well as in their mobilizing capacity, they have been faced with an intensification of repression as a state policy.
It doesn’t matter whether the teachers or the oil workers are raising their voice, there is political, labor and police persecution for everyone. The methods range from throwing urine and feces at protesters, like what teachers suffered in the center of the capital at the beginning of the year, to a manager physically attacing a worker as reported by the delegate of prevention at FOGADE, William Guzmán, to direct police action, which is increasingly used to imprison union leaders and workers.
It is a context that reflects how “Madurismo” has been forging a regime so pro-business and authoritarian that it could arouse the envy of the most ruinous and hateful neoliberal governments in the world, whose recipes in many aspects have been clearly and maliciously outdone by everything that has been implemented in Venezuela.
The Working-Class Response is Incipient Thus Far, But Shows Signs of Progress in its Disposition to Resist
2019 had a fairly “quiet” closure for the government from the point of view of labor struggles and this is not accidental if we consider that, among other issues, it was the year of Juan Guaidó’s appearance on the political scene. His figure, in combination with the role of a large number of labor union leaders that catered to him and his interventionist policy, unfortunately channeled the genuine interests of the workers, which had been rising in the last half of 2018 around wage demands and struggles. Thus, by endorsing Guaidó, the union leaderships aligned with the parties of the traditional right, led to a process in which, as the image of the self-proclaimed “President of Venezuela” eroded, part of the disposition to mobilize of those who had remained in the streets, fundamentally demanding a salary at the value of the basic basket, lowered.
The other side of the coin is the labor union bureaucracies that act as instruments of the government’s pro-employer actions, corrupt and long removed from the working class, practically attached to the state apparatus, whose role is to curb, deceive, deliver, betray and fill their pockets at the expense of workers. This category includes the leadership of the CBST and its subsidiaries, managed by the government.
However, as 2020 begins, beyond the weaknesses of the labor movement, agitation and activities are beginning to sprout again, have already put the government on alert and are a very important sign for those who do not abandon the idea of finding a working-class and people´s solution to the serious crisis we are suffering. The teachers´ protest has been maintained and strives to convene as many teachers as possible to engage in their struggle, for which it will be fundamental, from our position, to develop it from the rank-and-file and to attract parents who suffer equally the total destruction of their children’s education.
On the other hand, the oil workers have been staging actions in several states, among them Zulia and Carabobo, where they have discussed in assemblies and concentrations the bad conditions to which they are subjected in their daily work, the wage problem, the destruction of their and their families´ health care service and even how to recover the industry. They also unanimously rejected the use of trade unionists as government squads, the most strident case being that of Wills Rangel, president of the Unitary Federation of Petroleum Workers of Venezuela (FUTPV).
We speak then of the fact that despite not having a trade union center that is up to the task of the historical moment, of all the destructuring that labor has suffered as a category, of the existence of a quite unfavorable correlation of forces and of living in the flesh the authoritarian action of the bureaucratic-military-police framework, even so, there are clear signs of a resistance of great importance, both due to its sectorial location and the content that has been marking its development. The river sounds and may bring stones, as the popular saying goes.
It is Urgent to Convene Unitary Actions Against the Government´s Repressive Offensive
It is necessary for those who suffer from the great attacks of this unbearable situation to agree on the basis of organizing unitary actions of defense and combative response. It is imperative that we propose in the midst of a panorama that clearly demands the emergence of a fighting factor that poses to the government from the demand of fundamental rights and because the integrity of those who interpret the deepest feeling of an immense majority of Venezuelans who do not give up on having a decent life be respected.
We cannot afford to definitely normalize that employers, whether public or private, use police forces to fire workers and interfere with their union activities. We cannot accept soldiers arriving in uniform in the middle of an assembly and arresting our comrades as if they were vile criminals or murderers. We workers are not responsible for the great economic, social and cultural collapse of our contemporary history. Those responsible and co-responsible are at the heights of power and from there they carry out the perverse game in agreement, regardless of their elite disputes, in which the crisis is paid by the population as a whole. That is why each leadership is at the service of its imperialist sponsor, some mainly of the Chinese and Russians; others (and at the same time both “poles”) of the Americans and Europeans, all with the clear intention of continuing to deliver the nation´s natural resources to all those great capitals and profit while Venezuelans plunge into misery. The fact of denouncing and categorically opposing imperialist interventionism and those who sponsor it does not weaken in the least our position of condemning the anti-worker character of the current government.
The call we make from Marea Socialista is for all the workers of the country to articulate efforts to organize ourselves, in principle, to stop the government´s persecutory and repressive wave, knowing that we can only trust ourselves, so the criterion of absolute class independence is vital to achieve such a task. The oil workers are giving valuable examples that invite us to take the initiative in order to find together the best way to stand up to the oppressor.
Let us not self-proclaim unity fronts and make every concrete action possible for whatever is necessary, starting with the repudiation of detentions and the demand for the release of all detained for carrying out workers´ and their unions´ demands. Everyone is free to act from their point of view, but let’s not let the convergence for specific fighting objectives be torpedoed by the attempt to confiscate and manipulate those struggles at the service of interests other than those of the workers.
From Marea Socialista we prepare to start (again). Let’s not waste time.
No to the military and police repression against union activity and the struggles of the working class! Repressive forces out of our of workplaces! Release of all workers arrested for making demands!
Respect for the assemblies of workers and union offices! We must assert the right to assembly and protest!
Full respect for labor and union rights as established by the Constitution and the LOTTT! We must defend our labor, union, democratic and human rights together as workers!
We must denounce the abuses before the world´s working class! Let us unveil the true character of the anti-workers government that is hidden under the guise of a false socialism and applies the worst of austerity packs against the people!
Repeal and de-application of the 2792 anti-worker Memorandum! We must defend the right to collective conventions and their compliance!
Recovery and restitution of the value of our social benefits, taken away by the monetary reconversion, salary recovery and hyperinflation!
No more hunger wages, “zero salary” and free or semi-slave labor! For living wages that start at a minimum corresponding to the cost of the basic basket! (Art. 91 CRBV).
No to massive indirect layoffs and immigration pressure, because of miserable wages and coercion!
Recovery of companies and institutions for work to get rid of corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency!
Democratization of the labor union movement! The traitorous union bureaucracies must go! For the recovery of union autonomy!
For a grassroots, combative, autonomous and democratic labor movement!
Marea Socialista National Coordination Team
February 4, 2020