Venezuela: in defense of class independence in and from “Trabajadores en Lucha”

In early June of the current year, the coordinating space of workers and unions, Trabajadores en Lucha (Workers in Struggle), emerged as a necessity before the serious situation of the Venezuelan workers, as a consequence of the policies against the working people of the government led by Nicolas Maduro, as a necessary response in a panorama that shows the lack of alternatives of struggle that genuinely represent the interests of the working class.

In the initial event that founded the space, those of us who took part and assumed the coming challenges to consolidate Trabajadores en Lucha, agreed on a declaration that gave form to the main points we agree on. It is important to highlight that many of those who are part of this new articulation used to be part of the Intersectorial of Workers of Venezuela (ITV); an organisation we had to abandon because most of its union sectors chose to go astray and follow Juan Guaido, squandering the strength that was being won on the streets and throwing it away. The document contains the values that the different member organizations raised, in which the issues of union autonomy and class independence are fundamental. In Trabajadores en Lucha, we reached several agreements on class independence that define on what terms we will intervene in the constant processes of struggle that take place in this crisis that are ongoing in the working class movement. Anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism and the rejection of any kind of interference are principles that are clearly marked in the initial declaration and encourage us to build a pole opposed to those union and political sectors that respond to the interests of the leaderships of the current polarization, led by Maduro and Guaido, while some are even farther to the right than the latter, like those represented by María Corina Machado or Antonio Ledezma, as well as those who respond to the government and act as an instrument of its austerity policies.

A promising beginning and a subsequent “agreement” with a simple explication

Since the first meetings of Trabajadores en Lucha, we agreed on a minimum plan of struggle with the proposal organizing forums about Memo 2792, supporting different actions at the Supreme Court to promote the legal appeal for the fulfilment of Art. 91 of the National Constitution, protests in front of different institutions to demand the annulment of Memo 2792, among others. This plan was partially fulfilled with two or three concentrations in front of the Ministries of Planning and Labour, demanding the annulment of the memorandum, specially knowing, on one hand, its importance as an instrument applied by the State and the private sector; and on the other, the ignorance about it that prevails in the working class. This helped us to gain relevance for workers and also as an exercise to practice what we aspired to do.

We then agreed to organize a mobilization from Plaza Miranda in downtown Caracas to the vice presidency of the Republic, where some organizations were taken by surprise when we discovered that this was a joint activity with the Union Coalition, a union and political space that is deeply linked to María Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma. This mobilization marked a tipping point for Trabajadores en Lucha, which began running out of steam to continue on the streets with an orientation of its own. This was crossed by the debates around how to conceive the “unity of action”, with which politics to build it so it does not contradict what was agreed in the foundational document. Apparently this was solved as a result of those debates.

It was clear that the agreement Trabajadores en Lucha had been thrown into responded to the fact that some organizations were putting more effort into establishing a relationship with the so-called Union Coalition in spite of the space we are sharing, and though they try to justify it by affirming that each organization can do what they want, the mistaken vision of those who acted in this manner was eventually evidenced, putting Trabajadores en Lucha as we originally imagined it at risk.

The article of a leader of the Socialist and Liberty Party (PSL) and the mistakes of other sectors of the union leadership (E. Sanchez)

An article signed by a leader of the PSL in mid-September, published by different media outlets, revealed the policy of that organization, which is part of Trabajadores en Lucha. This policy becomes real when one of its comrades proposed in a meeting that the unions of the Union Coalition become part of Trabajadores en Lucha.

The article (II) reveals what this common space was previously manifesting and which. Like in the ITV, the main agreements are ignored while class autonomy is at risk of disappearing. It seems that it is not just a mistake by the comrades but their policy. As we previously said, we believe that the debate of unity of action was resolved with Trabajadores en Lucha, but the author revises it in his text to criticise what, according to him, is a mistake by some groups: placing the governments and parties of the bourgeois opposition at the same political level.

When it comes to us, we do not place the government at the same level as the traditional right-wing opposition, at least in respect to the main and direct responsibility of the application of the anti-workers measures, but we raise the slogan “Neither bureaucracy nor capital”, because behind that right-wing opposition, with which certain union leaders are aligned, lay the interests of the big economic groups, the transnational corporations and imperialism, whose intervention they demand. The government as such is applying a brutal austerity package that must be confronted with the necessary determination of a clearly anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-bureaucratic left. And it is our enemy, as id Guaidó, María Corina Machado or Antonio Ledezma and everything they represent. The latter, despite not being part of the current government, are part of a policy of the international powers; they mutilate and destroy rights of the workers across the world, which is expressed in Guaido´s “Plan Pais”, but more violently by the bosses of the Union Coalition that openly ask for military intervention in Venezuela. Their union spokespeople propose the dollarization of the economy and vindicate the coup d’etat of 2002. What “militant autonomy” does the PSL offer members of the union coalition? How are those levels of more or less autonomy explained? If the policy is unity with the union coalition, then the rupture with the Intersectorial cannot be explained: leaving those who accompany the union struggle for the interests of Guaido, for those who stick to the harshest right wing, only because in the end they are also in opposition to the government. The responsibility of the government is undisputed when it comes to our disgraces and unity of action is raised around clear slogans. The union coalition proposed the creation of a wage scale in dollars, which openly goes against the political functions of its leaders, which are committed to sectors of financial capital, while clashing with the tactic of articulating the wage struggles around the demand for the application of Art. 91 of the CRBV. It is more obvious then, that the comrades of the PSL actually support dollarization, which implies the loss of sovereignty and the barbarity that submission to the dollar implies as a pattern in the world economy.

It is wrong to think that the unity of the rank-and-file of the struggles necessarily means unity with the union leaderships that point in many fundamental aspects towards an opposite direction to ours and to the historical interests of the working class. And that does not deny that there may be agreements in some struggles, but with each sector in its place. The reality of the Venezuelan union and workers´ movement in this historical moment is undeniable and its reconstruction will demand long processes of struggle and mobilization that lead to the emergence of new leaderships that express the new trends that emerge from it. It does not mean that this has to paralyse us, on the contrary, it is why we organize in spaces like those we militate and debating how Marea Socialista can be strengthened and developed. But sharing a supposed unity of action with sectors of the right and extreme right, no matter the terrain, with apparatuses that own media and resources of great reach, means diluting ourselves and contributing to the strategy of the political parties of the right in our country.

The debate about the organization of a national plenary of Trabajadores en Lucha

For quite some time we have been insisting on the proposal of the realization of a national plenary of Trabajadores en Lucha, mainly for two reasons: the first reason is to be able to transcend in the debate beyond the team that meets regularly in Caracas and try to involve the comrades from the provinces and others who participated in the first meeting and who for various reasons cannot regularly attend the meetings. And the second reason is to try to return to a spirit that, based on the agreements of the initial document and a reading of the national political situation, will help us return to the concrete activities with strength and clarity about our role in the workers´ movement.

This was a debate in progress in which we were focusing on how to develop the agenda, but our current problem responds to the nature of that plenary, because there are sectors that have the idea of incorporating the union coalition and unions that were in the ITV and that at the time left to follow Guaidó. This means proposing the end of Trabajadores en Lucha and joining those who, from the union movement, are against Maduro, regardless of who they respond to or what their interests are, ignoring the main agreements and becoming part of a policy of a definitive defeat of working people in general. It means accepting interventionism, raising an anti-government position together with the bosses’ opposition, adapting to the slogans of the right and leaving anti-capitalism for the speeches.

This is the real debate. What is at stake is the fate of a space that we want to take care of and that can act as a pole of attraction with its own personality, capable of being a different combative and sincere path for the workers. The struggle for wages, to recover benefits, against Memorandum 2792, against the criminalization of protest and against the hunger regime imposed by Maduro, imply a battle that is defined in the class struggle, without opportunism, without possibilism and understanding that, despite the correlation of forces not currently favouring us, the crisis is also incinerating the different political leaderships that try to present themselves as saviours, but deflate by not offering truly democratic solutions or that can lead to the solution of the great problems of the people.

Neither the CBST nor the Union Coalition have a plan of class independence and genuine fidelity to the needs and interests of the working class. They do not present a path towards the recovery of the rights that have been violently taken away from us; their leaderships are the direct agents of the different faces of the power, enemies of the working class. And to be able to better relate to their rank-and-file, we must do the opposite of what the comrades of the PSL and those who support them in Trabajadores en Lucha are doing, since we can be part of the possible mobilization and protests with our slogans and our proposals, and tell the rank-and-file what these bureaucratic leaders actually are and what their shared responsibility is, in the fact that they are not union leaderships with class criteria. On the contrary, they all support the bosses, both public and private.

We want to have this discussion in a national plenary with the comrades that so far have not been part of this debate, but we want a plenary of Trabajadores en Lucha, not with the Union Coalition or with the former ITV members. We will continue defending class independence and proposing campaigns that help the articulation of workers’ struggles. That is why we will insist on the promotion of the appeal for the fulfilment of Art. 91 of the CRBV, we will continue with the workshops on Memo 2792, as well as continue insisting that every activity we discuss in the meetings must be carried by everyone, to fulfil and give them a character of greater agitation and presence everywhere. The struggle for wages is still the main axis that marks the demands of workers everywhere and is closely linked to the lay-offs and the criminalization of protest by the government. Let’s mobilize for the recovery of this essential right with our slogans, both in our own activities and in those that take place where we can intervene as Trabajadores en Lucha.

Marea Socialista

I. II.