Monday, April 7, 2008

Worker Integration in Venezuela - Labour Policy Headed in Two Different Directions - Part 1

With the recent complications in Venezuela regarding the conflict with the SIDOR workers, the situation in the country is becoming critical to the future of the Revolution. Without jumping to conclusions in condeming the state, the governments blunder in response to the SIDOR struggle is either a result of a lack of communcation between officials, ministers, and President Chavez, or a misunderstanding of the seriousness of the situation because of distortions by the reactionary media in Venezuela, which is closely aligned with Ternium-Techint, the private transnational owner of SIDOR. Nevertheless, Chavez's government has been sending vague mixed messages in stating its position with SUTISS(Iron and Steel Workers' Union), and needs to categorically declare itself in solidarity with its workers immediately by nationalizing SIDOR and expelling Ternium from the country, or its credibility as a "workers' governement", as Chavez claims, will be seriously questioned. Meanwhile, Venezuela's people, and more specifically in this case, its workers, are upholding an unyielding revolutionary line in their anit-capitalist, anti-imperialist demand for the nationalization of SIDOR. But while this potentially disheartening government mistake is unfolding, exciting socialist processes involving genuine workers integration are taking place in other parts of the country.

One example of this is the recent announcement that the dairy factory Lacteos Los Andes in the state of Merida, is now a socialist workplace of social property which will redistribute some of its revenues for various social programs. The government also announced the creation of the National Fund Foundation for Dairy Production(Fonaprole in its spanish acronym) which will finance and subsidize the purchase of machinery, equipments, and resources, and completely cover the entire cost of artificial insemination for the dairy industry. The initiative is an investment in relation to PDVAL(Productor y Distribuidora Venezolana de Alimentos), the agency for National Food Production and Distribution, which was launched earlier this year, in its mission to attain "soberania alimentaria", food sovereignty. President Chavez said these steps are being taken in order to guarantee the "complete food sovereignty that our nation badly needs to end the sabotage that the large monopolies hold over the consumption of food."

The redistribution of revenues from Lacteos Los Andes is to be reinvested into the building of University campuses, to food donations, and to social care for children and seniors amongst other things, as proposed by President Chavez.

In terms of workers' conditions, a human resources official from Lacteos Los Andes told factory workers that stability was assured along with the collective agreements, in expressing his guarantees of workers' rights. For their part, the workers claimed that this transformation to a national factory of social production is a positive change which will permit the necessary distribution of dairy products in communities throughout the country. One worker said that "the workers are very proud because today a real revolutionary process is being consolidated; they feel proud because they are protagonists of a new change."

While speaking with workers at Los Andes, President Chavez suggessted to them the possibility of starting work sooner after lunch in order to leave work earlier in the afternoon. Venezuela is also in the process of implementing a six hour work day. He also said "the revenues of this factory will not be for one person, or ten people...the revenues will be to pay fair salaries to all of you....after you are paid, after the materials for the factory and the milk producers are paid, will the money go to Chavez? No, to the people...and a percentage of that revenue can be used, for example to set up a university campus right here in this area, of for care for children, or for food packages, thats social labour, thats one of the differences between capitalism, it produces good things, milk, food, cars, etc., but, the profits of the capitalists make the rich get of the main differences is that the profits are not for one person, in a foreign bank account, and often there is flight capital that leaves the country, thats the big difference between capitalism which makes profits for a minority, and socialism which is for the majority, wealth distribuited amongst everyone in a better way." He explains this surrounded by a group of enthusiastic workers outside while touring the factory.

This is just one example of a huge national process going on throughout Venezuela, which many workers are obviously passionate about. Unfortunately, for the time being, the current conflict with the SIDOR workers has cast an unfriendly shadow on an otherwise beautiful progression of workers' integration as the motor of the Bolivarian Revolution. Because of this, Chavez's government has a lot to answer to in order to reaffrim its solidarity with the Venezuelan working class. I will analyze the SIDOR conflict more closely soon in a second part to this article. But the Revolution was made by the people and has been open, honest, and blunt since the beginning, and will continue to do so. Rather than turn on their President and government, the people will maintain the pressure and moral criticism until their leaders correct themselves. To overcome their differences, they must unite rather than divide.

Solidarity with Venezuela's workers, Bolivarian Circles, and popular power!
No to the Institutionalization of the Revolution!

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