Reports on May Day,
Report 1: An Estimated One Million March as Venezuelan Workers Express Support for Socialism
This article was first
posted on the Internet on May 2, 2005. It has been edited for style purposes for
Labor Standard, and some editorial
notes have been added in brackets. See also the accompanying report by Louise
Auerhahn, a trade unionist from
Though no official estimates were
given, many of the organizers agreed that over one million workers marched
through the streets of
Oswald Vera, one of the national coordinators of the UNT, said, “The workers of Venezuela have shown that they support socialism and the revolutionary methods that have been implemented…while the CTV is a symbol of the old unionism, which has been demonstrated today to have very little support.”
Vera continued: “The workers of
Francisco Torrealba, another of the UNT national coordinators, said, ”It is clear from today’s protest that the UNT firmly represents unity, workers co-management, and socialism, while the CTV is a bad memory of the past that has stained the union movement for the past 40 years.”
One of the main themes of the May Day rally was for the UNT to present a document to Chávez, so that it will be discussed, debated, and adopted in the National Assembly. The document is entitled “Project for the Law of Participation of Workers in the Management of Public and Private Enterprises.” Elias Jaua, head of the Ministry for the Popular Economy, said that “the cooperative method that has been constructed is a democratic and participatory method that aims to construct a socialism of the 21st century.” He added: “We are aiming for equal distribution and for the workers to be part of deciding what, how, and who should be producing products…we aim to democratize production and consumption of products in society.”
But the highlight of the
demonstration, which ended at Puente Llaguno (where people were killed
defending the Chávez government during the coup of April 11, 2002) was the
presence of Hugo Chávez. The march, which gathered at 9 am, was still arriving
at the end point at 2 pm. Chávez had just returned from Cuba after signing
another 49 joint agreements between the two countries. He launched into a
speech that outlined
Throughout his speech Chávez repeatedly
stated what the process is that is developing in
Chávez began by highlighting his just
concluded trip to
He also noted the steps that had been taken to further develop the ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America) [which stands in opposition to the U.S.-government-backed “ALCA,” Spanish initials for Free Trade Area of the Americas, known in English as the FTAA].
In his speech Chávez also paid respect to the martyrs of May Day, the workers of Chicago [the Haymarket martyrs who were hung in 1886 in the aftermath of the first May Day, when mass workers’ demonstrations demanded the eight-hour day], and he sent revolutionary greetings to the people of the United States. Chávez said, “Today we are taking back the real tradition of May Day after 40 years of a degenerated unionism represented by the CTV.”
A New Society
But there was no doubt that Chávez also used the speech to highlight the tasks ahead for the revolutionary process and to prepare the mass of workers for the struggles they will continue to face.
“It is only the beginning of the process. We are just beginning to construct a new state, new institutions, and a new society… we are just taking the first few steps in the new economy, in production, in property relations, and so we must not have any illusions, and we must not yet chant that we have won,” said Chávez.
Chávez also stressed throughout his speech that more work had to be done to unite the revolutionary forces, to which people responded with chants of “El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido” (The people united will never be defeated). Banners also read, “Without a revolutionary party there can be no revolution.”)
Chávez used the opportunity to
condemn the fighting that had erupted within the MVR [Spanish initials for
Movement for the
Much of his speech was dedicated to the theme of building a new society and explaining what that meant. In that framework Chávez said, “In the process of building a new society we must be critical of ourselves and must work toward what Che defined as the building of a new human being in society. Chávez commented that it was necessary to lead by example, so as to construct a new society and win more people to the revolutionary cause. “The aim must be to gain 10 million votes in the next presidential elections that are to be held in December 2006,” said Chávez. In terms of encouraging people to further develop a revolutionary consciousness Chávez used the example of [the Argentinian] Che Guevara. “Che was more than just a martyr, more than just a heroic guerrilla fighter; he was also a Minister in the Cuban revolutionary government and developed many ideas on how to build the new socialist society… we must study and learn from his thoughts,” said Chávez.
“We are a country that has
resources [enough] so that every Venezuelan can live in dignity…and we will be
in a position within a few years to start to send Venezuelan doctors to parts
of the underdeveloped world, as
Chávez also noted that
Capitalism Not the Answer
“The capitalist system does not
allow us to implement our constitution or the political, economic, or social
project that we want,” said Chávez. He made it clear that capitalism was not
the answer to the problems facing
He also made it clear that there was no third road. “We need to march for a new socialism of the 21st century…so that we can build a new political and social socialist system.” We are in a transitional situation, which has taken affect since 1998 [when Chávez was first elected president of Venezuela] and needs to be continuously planned…To construct socialism, we need to break capitalist economic laws…the traditional economic orthodoxy is not compatible with a revolutionary economy,” said Chávez.
He went on to say that the process
that was being implemented in
In his conclusion Chávez said that “we need to break all the chains of the past that have held us back.”
2: A Tale of Two
by Louise Auerhahn
author of this report is a trade unionist from
Report 3. The Revolution Advances
by Michael A. Lebowitz
The following report was posted to a Marxist discussion list on May 1, 2005.
The report has been edited slightly for style purposes by Labor Standard. The second postscript was posted on the following day, May 2.
I thought people would be
interested in a brief update on developments in
I marched for several hours today in the May Day march with workers from Alcasa, the state aluminum company, and other workers from state companies in the state of Bolívar. Well, “march” is not quite an accurate way to describe the stop-start pattern of our progress. In fact, far better to describe it as a street party, which occasionally lurched forward when streams of marchers coming from other streets lessened: infectious dance music blared from the sound truck leading us, and dancing was occurring throughout the crowd—most impressively from two older women and a man (occasionally joined by others) in front, who periodically shared the microphone to lead us in chants. The main chant, which everyone happily shouted, was “Without co-management, you cannot have a revolution!” (Occasionally, a variant [was chanted]—“Without a revolution, you cannot have co-management.”) And then back to the music. The theme was echoed everywhere on the banners; one big one banner that I seemed either to be behind or to being hit on the head with said, “Co-management and Production—All Power to the Workers.”
This was a happy crowd. And, the slogan was not a demand but an assertion—because the workers in Alcasa have already begun a process of co-management (which, to distinguish from the German use of the term, might better be called self-management or worker management); they have begun organizing production themselves and electing their shop directors. What the workers in Alcasa have begun now will be a model for the workers in the other state industries (held by the CVG, the development corporation of
None of this could have been predicted six months ago. And the speed with which the concepts of co-management and socialism have spread here testifies to the life and energy of this revolution. We have moved quite quickly from social programs (with money circulating but without new production of goods) to a push for endogenous economic development (stressing cooperatives and agriculture but without sectors likely to accumulate) to the creation and expansion of state sectors and the focus on co-management. True, it’s not entirely clear what either socialism or co-management mean here yet. But what the crowds out for this May Day march believe (if faces are any indication) is that both are “good.” And that, you will recognize, means a lot.
After four hours on this march/party, my companera and I recognized that we were several hours away yet from the place where the march was to end. So we decided to walk home (which was on the way) and use the opportunity to watch the rest on TV. When we got back at about 2:30, we could see the flood of red shirts on TV cheering the speakers and singers. The crowd was immense. (I haven’t seen estimates yet, but my guess would be a few hundred thousand.) Then Chávez arrived. He listened to a number of speakers from UNT, and then began to speak about the need to create new models, to borrow but not copy, to build co-management and a socialism of the 21st century.
These are becoming familiar themes.
But, there was a new issue posed—the question of introduction of co-management
in private firms. This is not Chávez’s initiative—it is a question being pushed
by UNT and forms the basis of a bill which will be debated in the National
Assembly. This, too, was part of our discussions in
P.S. There also was a demonstration by the CTV, the old labor federation that backed the coup and the subsequent bosses’ lockout. A good indication of what the CTV has come to was revealed the day before when they indicated that they were expecting 40,000 participants and indicated that their main demands would be to free political prisoners (in particular, their former leader Carlos Ortega, a coup leader) and to deal with unemployment (which, they stressed, would need economic growth—something requiring negotiations between government, workers, and industrialists). From my window, before we headed for the UNT march, I could see the street where the CTV people were assembled. Didn’t look like much more than a thousand, but maybe more came (not many more, though, if the careful phrasing on El Universal’s website is any indication).
Thanks so much to Fred Fuentes for alerting us here on Marxmail to the link containing the declarations from the Workers’ Table at the Solidarity Encounter.
I am delighted to see a translation (and will regularly check this site now). As I think the material is extremely important for all Marxists, socialists, revolutionaries (however we define ourselves), I reprint them below—both to make them available here on this list and also to correct something lost in the translation of the English-speakers’ statement as a way of introducing here what I think is an important point.
The first point in our statement would read better as: “We agree with the idea that without workers' co-management, there is no revolution. However, we believe that if workers' co-management is by itself, without dealing with the problems of poverty, unemployment, and exclusion, there also can be no revolution.' I stress this because I proposed the wording for this first point; and it was consistent with one of the main elements in my own presentation to the Table—the potential for a lack of solidarity in co-management (as occurred in Yugoslavia) and for the specter of co-management for an aristocracy of labor in a Venezuela characterized by 80% poverty and an informal sector composing 50% of the working class.
Conclusions from Roundtable No. 3 “The Role of Workers in the Management of Companies”
In view of the important contributions presented during roundtable No. 3, entitled “The Role of Workers in the Management of Companies,” within the framework of the activities of the Third Global Encounter of Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution, held in the city of Valencia during April 14–15, 2005, the following proposals have been collected, which synthesize a general consensus:
· to advance in the conformation of the new social structure.
· to advance in the construction of the new democratic model of popular participation.
· to accelerate the construction of the new productive model, as a way toward the creation of the new economic system. In the current political conjuncture this is an urgency, in the face of the threat of imperialist aggression.
NOTHING AND NOBODY WILL STOP THE VICTORIOUS MARCH OF THE BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION!
Declaration from the English Speaking Guests at the Third Encounter of Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution
We agree upon the idea that without workers co-management there is no revolution. Nevertheless, we think that workers co-management as an end in itself in the fight against poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion will not lead to a revolution.
We felt inspired from listening to the debates of the last two days, because we saw what a discussion within a winning movement is like. We were impressed by the open and democratic atmosphere, the level of the debate, and the respect given to all points of view that were expounded.
We endorse the idea whereby, as a means to expand workers co-management to include the private sector, new laws are adopted that anticipate transparency in production and financial operation; that is to say, to make the books of the company made available to workers.
This Encounter has constituted a reaffirmation that the workers have the capacity and creativity to run their workplaces. Here, we have been witnesses to the increasing role of the union movement within the framework of the Bolivarian Revolution, in assuming the key social and political challenges of “Socialism in the XXI century” and in advancing the organizations in defense of the revolution in the workplace (the centers of production).
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