Venezuela: Recovering our salaries, rebuilding the labor movement and forging a working class party

By Marea Socialista – ISL Venezuela

Workers’ salaries as a bargaining chip

In the first quarter of the year, the government has decided to give strength to the salary issue under the false argumentation of a supposed recovery of the salary. In March of the current year (2022) it decreed an increase which, expressed in percentages and empty figures, is a deceitful measure “in favor” of the workers: 1700% “increase in the minimum wage”. Even with the addition of the food bonus, it is still below the worst parameters of misery in the world, being less than 1 dollar a day.

The policy of the Anti-Blockade Law, the advance towards the implementation of the Special Economic Zones, has for the parties involved in the negotiation an ace up its sleeve to use it with a high exchange value, and it is none other than the value of labor. The government has already done its own thing to be the administrator of this business: it eliminated the value of the minimum wage, it gave scarce and even ridiculous bonuses, it eliminated de facto the social benefits and savings of the workers. In conclusion, it administered a policy that unloaded the entire crisis on the shoulders of the working class. In these terms, cheap labor acquired exchange value in this negotiation.

They prepared the ground to offer companies in which most of the workers were subject to a massive indirect dismissal, dismissing them, first due to an economic contingency and then due to a pandemic, in a condition of zero salary in the street, favoring the conditions for resignations, at absolutely no cost, besides making those who remained active in their jobs precarious at the point of free labor for a long period of time. It reduced the labor mass of the national public administration in a massive way at no cost whatsoever. The bureaucratic functioning of the State is based on unpaid work in public institutions. Who are the players in this negotiation? What interests do they represent? What role do the trade union bureaucracies play? What answers do those of us who do not feel represented by any of these political or trade union variants give?

What interests do the union bureaucracies respond to?

In the last few days we have seen how the “tripartite” (the negotiation space between the government, economic or political employers’ factors and union bureaucracies) has been revived. In this political rearrangement, the so-called Civic Forum, in which the same sector of the union bureaucracy as always participates, sits down to talk with sectors of the government. With lifetime positions in the leaderships of labor associations, unions and federations that until recently put the struggles at the disposal of the pro-Guaidó platform. They were part of the union leg that supported the governmental parallelism, the surrender of national assets to foreign governments, the coup, the interventionism and the imposition of sanctions, which inflicted more instability and suffering to the life of the Venezuelan working class.

On the other hand, the pro-government trade union bureaucracy presents as a great advance and applauds the pyrrhic salary increase. They show a “1700% increase” that does not even cover 8% of the Market Basket as a great advance and a sign of the will of Maduro’s government. They are the same ones who pretend to manipulate the workers by leading them to claim for the anchoring of the petro when that difference is insignificant if we compare it with the existing difference between the new adjustment presented by the government of Nicolás Maduro before the cost of the Market Basket, which is around $900 (referential for the calculation of the minimum wage according to Art 91 CRBV). These are the same people who have been the transmission belt of the whole policy of dispossession of the working class and now they present themselves as the “saviors” of those of us who have endured misery and precariousness.

Those who present themselves as “radicals” in the confrontation with the Maduro government and who respond to the policy of those who proposed armed military and political interference by the United States are not left behind. They are the “Masters of the Valley” and today represent the Venezuelan ultra-right. Sectors headed by María Corina, Ledezma and their allies.

The union leadership, which responds to the political parties of the employers, uses the calls to the wage and labor struggle to tell the workers that to achieve anything they must first overthrow the government and they call to take to the streets in any way as if that were already the case, bouncing from failure to failure. But they are not consistent with the call for the mobilization of the working class, because they depend on the tone of their political bosses, be it “coupism” or negotiation with the government.

For the rank and file workers, what is the approach that we at Marea Socialista are making?

Faced with this political scenario, the workers do not feel represented, not only by the union bureaucracy that is agglutinated in the CSBT, but also in the remains of the Central de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV) or in 100% Sindical, or in the ITV or UNETE, CODESA, central ASI Vzla. or in Coalición Sindical. The unions are kidnapped by this bureaucracy that responds to the employers’ political parties, not at all legitimized by the bases, be it of the government or of the traditional right wing opposition.

For us it is fundamental to denounce loudly the new path of negotiation with the government that they are trying out, which is functional to the maintenance of a political regime that acts against the workers, because at the end of the day the government (of the new rich and ” plugged-in”) has been applying policies that suit the capitalist class. They dispute the power because their main interest is to administer and to be art and part of the plundering. Venezuela is a country for sale in the hands of the trade union bureaucracy, of the military and political establishment that today is rearranging itself according to the interests of the bosses.

The important thing is not to remain in the denouncement. We believe that it is necessary to reunite the forces of the working class. We have shown that we can do it. Despite the imprisonment of workers, overcoming treacherous union leaderships, overcoming the precariousness and the collapse of our families. Independently of the governing leaderships and their union arms, we have been fighting hard against the private and public employers.

The struggle against the super-exploitative actions of the transnational Masisa, for example, has been evidence of this. Despite the fact that, due to the complacency of the judicial sector and the labor institutions, without being union representatives, they organize and fight for the reinstatement of workers, in the reinstatement of workers discriminated against for fighting for their living and working conditions “those not required by contingency”, because it is not only that their workers are owed a significant amount, for breach of contractual agreements, They fight to demand respect, they fight for their spaces or tools of defense such as the union and the prevention delegates, that is why the workers’ spokesperson and member of Marea Socialista, Jean Mendoza, who was imprisoned and was released on parole after an intense and numerous national and international workers’ solidarity campaign in which the International Socialist League played a fundamental role, is still being prosecuted. Although he continues to be prosecuted for no other reason than the manipulation of the law against incitement to hatred used against workers who fight for their rights, he continues to struggle and has managed to confront the actions of the management of this company that takes advantage of the prevailing conditions in Venezuela with the consent of the government.

If we want to fight it is necessary to organize ourselves

We have coincided with many men and women in the streets for the demand of a salary that covers the Market Basket, we introduced a Writ of Amparo for the fulfillment of Art. 91 before the TSJ, systematically ignored and recently declared “inadmissible”; we have also converged in the struggle for the freedom of the imprisoned workers, against Memorandum 2792, against the implementation of the Special Economic Zones, against the ill-named Anti-Blockade Law of the ANC, for the defense and recovery of all the labor conquests that have been destroyed, for the rights of working women….

And an important conclusion that we have been able to draw, in the midst of the harshest austerity measures and the consequences of the U.S. economic sanctions, is that the response cannot be individual or partial. The only way for us to have the possibility of recovering our conquests is to organize independently from the base of the workers. We refuse to be the tail wagon of those who, opposing the government of Nicolás Maduro, defend sectors that would implement anti-worker policies similar to those we are suffering today.

That is why we must rebuild ourselves from our own forces. Let us look to others who, like the workers at Masisa, are fighting alone against their employers, while the entire union bureaucracy negotiates privileges and spaces of power using the defense of our rights as a false argument.

May Day: the union bureaucracies do not call for us, they do not represent us.

Neither the sectors that call to march on May 1st for the “freedom of Venezuela”, nor those that will sit down with the government to applaud its pyrrhic and deceitful salary increases, nor those that pretend to sit down to negotiate with the government in a tripartite can call us to mobilize with them. It would be like mobilizing with our executioner.

May Day must show independence, autonomy and the exercise of true workers’ democracy. It is time to know and re-know ourselves and, therefore, we call for a May Day Workers Assembly. It is time to reclaim and occupy union spaces and implement a new union model, it is time to call for the construction of a great party of the working class and design a program that responds to our needs. A party of struggle against those who have made us live in misery.

The party we, workers, need to build

The employers, in the public and private sectors, are organized in superstructures that serve them and give them the strength to carry out their economic plans and implement policies in accordance with their class interests. They have political parties, they have the government, the State, banks, companies, churches, the military, the police… shaping a regime that is sustained on the basis of the oppression of the working class and the popular sectors.

It is precisely us, workers who are not organized, and this disorganization of ours explains to a great extent the situation in which we are cornered, which we will hardly be able to reverse if we do not do something together to articulate and channel all the genuine demands that condense our claims.

This is where we consider that the need to build not only genuine and democratic unions, but also a political party in our image and likeness, cannot be postponed. Because the unions are to defend the workers in the factories and enterprises managed by the employers; but the party is to orient our more global struggles and to dispute the capitalists, military and bureaucrats the control of the machinery of the State that they use against us to subjugate us. Therefore, the class party (not their parties), is a strategic tool, whose mission is to allow us to organize ourselves according to our true interests and objectives as exploited people, with our own workers’ methods and with a well-recognized democracy, among equals, to be able to raise the program of struggle that aims to place us with force in the arena of the dispute for power and in all spheres.

From Marea Socialista we put ourselves at the service of this task and we have been taking steps in that direction. It is a discussion that we want to have with as many workers as possible, in order to carry out this whole process, but at the same time, understanding that all our urgencies are widening as the leaders (government and employers’ opposition) and their international leaders advance in their intentions to continue plundering us.

Let’s fight united for a Minimum Wage Equal to the Market Basket!

And at the same time, in the heat of the mobilization, let us fight…

For the recovery of unions and federations with real spaces of workers’ democracy and participation!

Knowing that besides defending our rights in the workplaces, we have to take back the country and transform society, controlled by the capitalists, military and bureaucrats of the exploiting class. And for that, we also say:

For the construction of a Workers’ Party!