Comrades from eleven states across Venezuela, including youth leaders and important factory representatives, gathered over the weekend to attend the sixth congress of the CMR, a congress that highlighted the immense work done over the past year and the important steps forward in building the Marxist tendency within the Venezuelan labour and youth movement.
After an extremely successful opening meeting on Friday (May 15), the sixth congress of the CMR kicked off on Saturday morning in Hall A of the Recursos Humanos building at the SIDOR plant. The fact that the congress was being held in this massive steelworks, recently nationalised as a result of the fierce struggle carried out by the workers there, was highly significant and indicative of the roots that the CMR has within the revolutionary movement. The atmosphere was one of huge enthusiasm, but also of expectation, as the comrades were anxious to see how the congress would develop and what conclusions would be drawn and what decisions would be taken.
From the beginning it was clear that this congress marked a new chapter in the building of the CMR. Beginning with a small core of comrades in December 2003, the CMR has developed into a small but sizeable organization that is present in most parts of Venezuela and has built important points of support in key trade unions, in the Occupied Factories Movement, in the student movement and amongst the ranks of the PSUV and PSUV Youth (J-PSUV).
Throughout the weekend 140 comrades attended the congress. There were comrades from the following 11 states: Caracas (D.F.), Anzoátegui, Monagas, Portuguesa, Miranda, Lara, Vargas, Bolívar, Mérida, Táchira and Zulia. The congress was being held in Ciudad Guayana located in the east of the country, which meant that many comrades, including the delegations from Táchira, Mérida and Zulia, had to travel more than 20 hours by bus to take part.
The composition of the congress also highlighted the base that the CMR has built within the revolutionary movement. There was a large delegation of worker activists from the auto industry of Anzoátegui; not just from Mitsubishi and VIVEX, where our comrades are playing a leading role, but also from the nearby Macusa factory, which was occupied by its workers recently. There was also an important group of workers from INVEVAL, the factory run under workers' control in the state of Miranda. Comrades from PDVSA Monagas and PDVSA Zulía were present as well. Apart from this, workers from the big plants of the basic industries in the state of Bolívar were there. This included workers from the Revolutionary Front of Steel Workers in SIDOR, but also from CVG Ferrominera, Venalum and ALCASA. Apologies were received from workers in the occupied factories of Franelas Gotcha and INAF who were unable to send delegates.
The noticeable working class composition of the congress was supplemented by an equally impressive participation of young students, workers and J-PSUV activists. From Táchira a sizeable group of youth had arrived, including Freddy Acevedo, a well-known young PSUV leader in that state. Among the comrades from Táchira there were also a number of members of the Comando Estudiantil Simón Bolívar who participated in the congress as visitors. From Miranda, Mérida and Caracas, there was a number of regional J-PSUV leaders, who have recently joined the tendency. A delegation of young students from the Bolivarian University in Ciudad Bolívar also participated in the congress.
Apart from this mixture of youth and workers, it is also worth noting the presence of several veteran activists of the revolutionary movement in Venezuela. Some of them have a past in the MIR [Movimiento Izquierda Revolucionario], some in the Venezuelan Communist Party and others in the La Causa R and other left-wing organisations. What all of these comrades have in common is that they remained faithful to the revolutionary cause during the difficult years after the fall of Stalinism and the betrayal of the degenerated leaders of those organisations. This explains why they have found the path into the ranks of the CMR.
Last but not least, international guests and foreigners who are living in Venezuela were also present in the congress. There were comrades present from Brazil, Mexico, Denmark, Great Britain and Spain. Comrades from Colombia who are taking the first steps towards building the IMT in that country could not attend because of security and visa reasons.
Discussion on perspectives
The first session on Saturday was the discussion on World Perspectives, introduced by Jorge Martín, from the secretariat of the IMT. A perspectives document had been prepared before the congress and distributed and discussed in all the branches of the organization. The branches also elected 43 delegates to the congress.
Jorge explained the depth of the present crisis of capitalism, while at the same stressing that there is no such thing as a final crisis of capitalism, "unless the working class takes power, capitalism will survive the present crisis, at the expense of the workers". He underlined how this is a classical crisis of overproduction which has already had a deep impact on the consciousness of millions of ordinary working class people around the world. There have already been a number of general strikes, in Greece, in Italy and in France, and we are also witnessing fierce defensive struggles, including factory occupations. The period we have entered is one of revolution and counter-revolution, sharpening of the class struggle, wars and conflicts all over the world. It is a period that will transform the traditional mass organisations of the labour movement, parties and trade unions, and open up many opportunities for the ideas of revolutionary Marxism, on condition that we are able to build a cadre organisation firmly rooted in the working class. There were many interventions in this session, dealing with a wide range of issues, including the situation in the US, Colombia, the permanent revolution, etc.
Following this there was a report of the international work of the International Marxist Tendency and its advances over the last year, with particular attention to the development of our work on the American continent, where we have gone from having a small group of comrades in Mexico ten years ago to having comrades in the US, Canada, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador, Peru Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, as well as sympathisers and supporters in a few other countries.
The report was followed by a very enthusiastic collection which raised the extraordinary figure of BsF 10,000 (US$4,650 approx), more than double the figure raised at the previous congress, showing that the CMR is being built on the best revolutionary traditions of sacrifice of the working class.
In the afternoon there was a discussion on the Venezuelan revolution and its perspectives, led off by Leonardo Badell. He stressed that the Bolivarian revolution, despite having achieved many social improvements, has not yet been completed. The economy remains a capitalist economy and the state remains, in the main, the old capitalist state of the IV Republic, as shown by the examples of the sabotage of the workers at Inveval, the killing of Mitsubishi workers, and many others. Unless these obstacles are overcome, the revolution faces the danger of being overthrown. Venezuela is being hit hard by the world economic crisis and this is putting an end to the illusion that one could have "petro-socialism", that social progress could be paid by oil revenue without having to deal with the question of the ownership of the productive forces. The oligarchy is presently in a weak state, after their defeat in the constitutional amendment referendum. Even when its main leader Rosales was under threat of prosecution on corruption charges and had fled the country, the opposition could not mobilise any significant numbers on the streets. The main danger to the revolution comes from within, the danger of the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy and all those reformist sections of the leadership of the Bolivarian movement who do not believe in the ability of the working class and the revolutionary people to move forward towards socialism, a goal which they do not really share. It is the working class which needs to take the initiative and put itself at the head of the revolution, expropriating the land, banks and main industries under workers' control and organising a new state based on the workers' councils and the communal councils.
A lively debate opened up with many comrades speaking from different parts of the country. The common thread in all the interventions was the growing frustration and impatience of the revolutionary masses, and particularly the working class, with all the talk about socialism is not followed up with action. Comrades from Inveval, PDVSA and Mitsubishi described the struggle of the workers, refuting the mantra of the reformists that "the working class has no consciousness to advance to socialism" or even that there is no working class at all in Venezuela.
Organisational report and tasks
The organisational report was delivered by comrade Pablo Cormenzana who explained both the advances made in the past year and the challenges facing the CMR. Pablo summed up the activities and initiatives taken by the CMR over the last year. Just after the last CMR congress in June 2008, the comrades organized a spectacular speaking tour with Alan Woods holding public meetings in 10 states of the country, reaching a total of 4,500 people attending the meetings. Then in September, young comrades of the CMR made a large-scale intervention in the founding congress of the J-PSUV, where they presented a special programmatic document and sold it among the 1300 youth delegates. This intervention was followed up in March 2009 with a Gathering of Young Marxists, which took place in Vivex, the occupied auto-parts factory in Barcelona, where 85 youth from all over Venezuela took part.
CMR trade-union conference with around 70 activists from the Venezuelan labour movement. This strengthened the position of the CMR in the different trade unions and workplaces throughout Venezuela. Thus we were able to organise regional meetings along the same lines with the oil workers in Zulia and with the SIDOR workers in Bolivar.In November the comrades organized a successful
Pablo also explained the enormous authority gained by the CMR through its work within the movement of occupied factories. FRETECO [Revolutionary Front of Occupied Factories] has been a vital tool in this respect. Starting with INVEVAL, we have been able to connect with workers in other occupied factories and build branches of the organization in plants such as INAF, Gotcha and in VIVEX, a factory occupied in November which produces windscreens for the car-industry.
The most remarkable work has been carried out by the comrades of the CMR in the Mitsubishi factory in Barcelona, Anzoátegui state. The occupation of that factory lasted for more than two months and included the unsuccessful attempt on the part of the PoliAnzoategui to evict the workers from the plant on January 29, which resulted in the killing of two workers. In the end the comrades reached an agreement with the bosses, under heavy pressure from the Ministry of Labour. While this agreement does represent a partial victory for the workers who won several of their demands, the comrades stressed that this was only a ceasefire in a war against the multinational capitalists.
Apart from this, the comrades have dedicated a lot of time to the publication and distribution of Marxist books and literature. In the Caracas Book Fair in November 2008, the comrades achieved a new record, selling material worth 13,500 Bs.F. Also the latest book by Alan Woods, "Reformism or Revolution - Reply to Heinz Dietrich", has sold over 1500 copies in Venezuela and has been recommended publicly by president Chávez on several occasions. The comrades took advantage of this congress to launch the new book by Pablo Cormenzana "La batalla de Inveval" (The Battle of Inveval), which describes in detail the history of the occupation and expropriation of this factory which is run under workers' control and draws the most important lessons of this struggle.
These are just some highlights that give a flavour of the work carried out by the CMR. Apart from that, each local branch gave a short report, giving more details about the daily work.
Commissions on PSUV, Trade Union movement, Finances and Paper
Sunday was dedicated to commissions on different aspects of the work. In one of them a balance-sheet of the first year since the founding congress of the PSUV was drawn up by comrade Euler Calzadilla. He also outlined the intervention of the Marxists in the party and in its youth organization. This commission was particularly important, since there are plans for a new party congress in September. The CMR will make every effort to guarantee that this congress has a genuinely free and open discussion about the tasks facing the Venezuelan revolution, where the comrades will put forward a revolutionary Marxist point of view.
In the commission on the paper of the CMR, Leonardo Badell explained how El Militante has grown from a bi-monthly with a print run of 1,000 copies, to a monthly with a print run of 5,000 copies. This gives us a much bigger audience on a national scale. He also emphasized the need for worker correspondents in every factory of the country.
The other two commissions also gave a good insight into the work of the CMR, dealing with the finances and with the work in the trade-union movement. The commission on the trade union movement was particularly lively, bringing together the experiences of workers in struggle around the country and showing in practice how the Venezuelan working class is in fact in the vanguard of the world working class from the point of view of its level of consciousness. What is missing in reality is a proper leadership, as all the factions of the leadership of the UNT are involved in personal disputes. As Félix Martínez stressed, the rank and file workers want unity on the basis of a programme of struggle. The commission discussed the forthcoming Latin American Meeting of Workers-Recovered Factories, and also agreed to use this as a focal point for the discussion within the Venezuelan trade union movement about unity in the struggle for socialism.
On Sunday afternoon the congress came to an end. Before the closing remarks by the international visitors, one of the organizers of the congress paid tribute to the collaboration of the FRTS (Revolutionary Front of Steelworkers in Sidor) whose help was crucial in the organization of this congress in SIDOR. The comrade handed two Marxist books as presents to the comrades of the FRTS who were extremely enthusiastic about the congress and congratulated us on the successful work carried out over the recent period and pledged to build a cell of the CMR in the factory. Also a collection in support of the Vivex workers was held, raising more than BsF 1100 (US$480).
Afterwards, Juan Ignacio Ramos from Spain and Jorge Martin from the IS of the IMT gave some closing remarks. Juan Ignacio Ramos said that he had spent two weeks in Venezuela, but that the place where he felt that the revolutionary ferment could be felt most sharply was exactly in this congress. "In this congress you cannot feel the mood of the ministries nor of the bureaucratic functionaries, but the real revolutionary aspirations of the exploited masses."
Jorge Martín reminded everybody about the modest beginnings of the CMR in 2003 and about the long road from that point to these huge congress settings of 2009. However, this is only the beginning. The CMR, as part of the IMT, is still struggling to spread its core of cadres and to gather within its ranks the best elements of the vanguard of the revolutionary movement. Only with a strong Revolutionary Marxist Current within the PSUV and the trade unions will the working class be able to complete the revolution decisively by expropriating the economic power of the bourgeoisie, the bankers and the landlords.
After these two closing speeches, the congress ended with a moving rendition of the Internationale, the anthem of the world proletariat.