Venezuela: For a united and revolutionary UNT prepared to struggle for socialism

The recent congress of the UNT in Venezuela broke up into two hostile camps. If this is allowed to develop into a fully-fledged split it would represent a major blow to the Venezuelan working class. This must not be allowed to happen. Things are changing with every passing minute and hopefully the damage may be undone. In the meantime we are publishing this declaration of the Marxist Revolutionary Current.

Declaration by the Marxist Revolutionary Current (CMR) following the 2ndUNT Congress

The 2nd congress of the UNT was held on May 25 - 27. Initial problems over the accreditation of delegates delayed the start of the congress until the morning of the 26th. The delegates, numbering between 2,000 and 3,000, looked forward to the start of the congress with enormous enthusiasm: this congress would represent a huge step forward, endowing the movement with a programme, an action plan and a leadership to carry forward the struggle for socialism in Venezuela, and prepare it to fight for the 10 million votes for Chavez.

The tasks of the 2nd congress and the struggle for socialism

For a united and revolutionary UNT prepared to struggle for socialismThis congress should have served to clarify, in the minds of the entire working class, the tasks and programme of the UNT within the Bolivarian Revolution. Debates have opened up within the Venezuelan workers' movement which should have been at the centre of discussion at the congress: the debates about socialism and workers' control, and the control and participation of the working class in the running of the economy.

One of the congress's fundamental tasks should have been to clarify the role of the working class in the struggle for socialism. The working class, as the vanguard of the Venezuelan and world revolution, bears a historic responsibility for the emancipation of humanity. It must therefore be the motor force for completing the Bolivarian Revolution and achieving socialism: placing itself at the head of the struggles of all the oppressed masses and providing a concrete context for the proposal for creating ‘Socialism in the 21st Century' - that is, the kind of socialism President Chavez has recognised is the only possible kind: nationalisation of the economy under democratic control with the participation of the working class; the abolition of the bourgeois state and its replacement by a workers' state. The working class is the only class capable of carrying through these tasks in the face of not just obstruction and sabotage by the capitalists and imperialists, but also by sections of the ‘Bolivarian' bureaucracy and the reformists who try to obstruct and undermine the revolution from within.

For this reason, it was necessary for this congress, in which the vanguard of the Venezuelan working class was gathered, to discuss a strategy by which the working class could take the revolution forward to socialism. The CMR repeatedly put forward the fundamental point that the UNT should concentrate its efforts principally in advancing and spreading the expropriation of companies and the struggle for workers' control at a national level, and the formation of broad-based, co-ordinated action committees.

This should be one of the UNT's main tasks. Putting forward the demand for expropriation of companies calls into question the ‘sacred' right of private property, the basis of capitalist exploitation, and places on the agenda the need for the revolutionary expropriation of private property under workers' control. This, alongside the abolition of the bourgeois state and the creation of a revolutionary workers' state, would be a mortal blow against Venezuelan capitalism and provide a model for the socialist revolution on a world scale.

For this reason, it was necessary for this congress to prepare for the Battle of Santa Ines Mark II, where undoubtedly the campaign of sabotage against the Revolution by the oligarchy and imperialism will again be to the fore. As we stated in our declaration to congress:

"The battle to re-elect the President is inseparable from the struggle to resolve the grave problems that the workers and the vast majority of the population continue to suffer, and from the need to build socialism under the direct democratic participation of the workers. The working class and its main organisation, the UNT, must place itself at the head of the Battle of Santa Ines Mark II announced by the President, with a plan of action and a class programme, democratically debated and agreed by the workers in a National Workers' Assembly".

However, the entire debate at congress centred around the issue of the leadership elections, and this was what caused the division. Orlando Chirinos's group ended the congress on the Saturday inside the Círculo Militar, while the tendencies of Marcela Maspero, the FBT, Autonomía Sindical and that of Franklin Rondon ended it outside the building.

Why is the UNT divided?

The division in the workers' movement favours only our class enemies and the counter-revolution. Many are asking themselves how we can reverse this situation and create the basis for unity in the revolutionary Bolivarian trade union movement.

During the past few months, the debate within the National Committee of the UNT has centred around whether or not there should be elections, and whether or not there should be a congress to set a date for these elections. It is clear that it is necessary to democratically elect a national leadership to decide on the policies needed by the working class. The national leadership had not been elected either by a congress or by the rank and file. It had been agreed from above without reference to the rank and file.

But, in our opinion, one of the main problems the UNT has suffered during the last two years has been that it has failed to carry through the policy of struggle agreed at its founding congress. It has ignored basic issues such as the struggle for factory occupation and workers' control of state industries.

There is a bureaucratic section of the national committee that has done nothing to build the UNT, failed to attend meetings, and which only finally reappeared on the scene when the congress was announced. Another section, which has indeed contributed to building the UNT, has not, however, proved capable of leading and organising the worker's struggle on the central issues of expropriation and workers' control. If the class-conscious section of the leadership had made a serious call and put forward a concrete action plan, we would now be speaking of a movement of hundreds of expropriated companies under workers' control, thereby giving a powerful impulse to the struggle for socialism and the democratic planning of society. This was not because of the lack of elections, since the problem on the National Committee is not about elections but about the absence of a conscious revolutionary policy.

The argument over elections diverted attention away from the question of how to fight for socialism

For the CMR, the debate over the congress and the elections was not the main priority facing the Venezuelan working class. Quite the contrary, we said that centring the debate on these issues meant leaving aside much more important issues: how we respond to the offensives against our class from the capitalists and the bureaucracy; how we press forward the nationalisation of industry under workers' control; how we take control of factories that are abandoned or in dispute; how we organise the struggles in such a way that victory is assured; how we prepare to defend ourselves, through our own independent class organisations, against imperialist threats; how we form workers' militias; and, finally, how we take the Bolivarian Revolution to its conclusion and build socialism.

The National Committee should have put into practice a programme such as the one we propose above. This programme is no more than a reaffirmation of that approved by an overwhelming majority at the founding congress in August 2003. The vast majority of workers and activists in the UNT are in favour of workers' control and of expropriations. Why did no one on the National Committee propose a plan for occupations and seizures of factories throughout the country? Why did no one on the National Committee take the initiative of proposing a united mobilisation of the whole Venezuelan working class against the laws of the IV Republic and replacing them with socialist legislation, and against proposals by some Bolivarian leaders to restrict the right to strike? What was to stop these initiatives being taken by the National Committee? Unfortunately not one leader has put forward a revolutionary policy on the National Committee during these past two years.

A number of things separate Marcela Maspero's tendency, that of the leaders of Orlando's tendency, and the FBT. But, unfortunately, they have all proved incapable of organising against the capitalist system at either a national or regional level.

Marcela, Orlando and the leadership of the FBT have, unfortunately, concentrated solely on the debate over the elections and have not taken on board the central task: that is to say, place the Venezuelan working class at the head of this revolution to carry it forward to socialism. If they had called on the workers to put into practice the President's call of: ‘a closed factory is an expropriated factory', encouraged the development of "cogestion" and workers' control, put themselves at the head of these struggles, organised the power of the rank and file through the Community Councils and the Electoral Battle Units, transforming them into embryonic forms of workers' power, the days of Venezuelan capitalism would be numbered and the UNT would be tremendously strengthened, with its leadership stronger and more united than ever.

A struggle against reformism and ultra-leftism within the UNT is necessary

Now both factions are making accusations against each other over what happened at the congress, dividing and confusing the workers' movement even more. Workers must be vigilant, because there are groups inside the UNT that are trying to deepen the divisions between Orlando Chirinos, Marcela Maspero and the FBT, egging on the disagreements and throwing more fuel on the fire. The rank and file are in the main class-conscious, united and revolutionary. However, there are reformist and ultra-left factions within the UNT who do not want this for the union. They seek to destroy the UNT as a centralised, united movement encompassing the entire working class.

These factions, owing to their lack of support, behave in an underhand way, operating behind the scenes and hiding their real motives. They behave bureaucratically, pitting the workers and the leadership against each other. It was these factions who were responsible for the lamentable events at congress, which ended in physical violence and brought about these serious divisions.

The reformists want the UNT to ally itself with the reformist wings within the government, the state apparatus and the bourgeoisie - which want to put a brake on the revolution - thereby turning the UNT into an appendix of the bureaucratic wings which threaten the Bolivarian Revolution and wish to hold back the working class.

The ultra-lefts want to split the UNT away from the Bolivarian movement because they consider President Chavez to be an obstacle in the way of the advance towards socialism. They put the interests of their own sectarian groups before those of the working class as a whole.

The UNT rank and file, Marcela Maspero, Orlando Chirinos, and the leaders of the FBT, the Autonomia Sindical, etc., must not allow the manoeuvres of these two factions to lead to a split within the Venezuelan working class, which would only be to the benefit of the enemies of socialism and the revolution.

It must be emphasised that the majority of delegates walked out of the congress when the confrontations began on Saturday morning. According to figures published in a leaflet by the national leadership of C-CURA, the Class Tendency of Orlando Chirinos, there were 297 delegates in a meeting held outside the conference hall, and 700 inside the hall itself. This means that over 1,000 delegates - that is, the overwhelming majority - walked out of the conference and refused to adopt either one or other position.

The unity of the UNT can only be re-built in the struggle

For a national conference in the next few weeks to prepare the struggle for the 10 million votes and for socialism!

The unity of the UNT is fundamental to carrying the Bolivarian Revolution to its completion, and the establishment of socialism. Without unity, the working class will be paralysed. It will be unable to take advantage of its strength and potential, and a system based on the exploitation of man by man will remain in place.

It is not possible to re-establish its unity on the basis of a discussion over elections. It can only be done on the basis of a struggle against the bosses, against imperialism and against bureaucracy. This is the only way to unite the delegates of both factions and, above all, those delegates - the majority - who walked out of the congress.

The CMR calls on Comrades Orlando Chirinos, Marcela Maspero and the leaders of the FBT, the Autonomia Sindical, etc., to place themselves at the head of a workers' struggle against capitalism in Venezuela, fighting for the 10 million votes and for socialism. The class-conscious section has a particular responsibility, for it had a clear majority at the beginning of the congress. It must take the initiative and issue a call for unity on this basis.

For this reason, we propose that in the next few weeks a national conference for unity in the UNT be called in which all sections are allowed to participate, and with the following agenda:

1) Discussion of a plan of action for both state and industry on how the UNT will participate in the Battle of Santa Ines 2. Organising Electoral Battle Units around the demands for socialism in every workshop, factory and company, to unite workers with the wider community. While fighting for Chavez's re-election, to put into motion the struggle for the expropriation of the capitalist class, placing control of the nation's wealth into the hands of the working class.

2) Discussion of a plan of factory occupations and the mobilisations of the entire working class to take control of the country's productive forces from the capitalists. To demand of the Bolivarian Government that this mobilisation go hand in hand with the nationalisation of industry, banking and the monopolies under democratic workers' control, laying the foundations for a nationalised, planned economy under the control of the workers, peasants and other oppressed sections of society.

3) Discussion of a timetable for united mobilisations of the entire working class for the abolition of those social and labour laws of the IV Republic which still remain in place - all created in order to exploit the workers and other dispossessed sections of society for the benefit of the oligarchy and the state bureaucracy. These must be replaced with socialist legislation that acts in the interests of the working class and the poor. At the same time, to modify and adapt those laws passed during the Bolivarian Revolution which are no longer in tune with President Chavez's present position, nor with the struggle for socialism.

4) That this meeting elect a provisional national leadership on the basis of proportional representation of all tendencies. That this leadership set a date for the election by the rank and file.

Finally, we call upon all delegates and activists of the UNT who agree with this programme to discuss it in their trade unions and draw up resolutions calling for unity around it, and to send these to the old National Committee.

Caracas, May 30, 2006

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