[OPE-L] May Day 2005 in Caracas: the revolution advances

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Sun May 01 2005 - 22:50:57 EDT

        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 Bolivar. 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, the variant--- '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 was-- '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 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
organising 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
Guyana) in Bolivar. And, this process is not only occurring in Bolivar---
co-management is the model which is being followed in Cadafe and Cadela,
two state electricity distribution firms. And, the term is also being used
to describe the process in two closed private firms which were recently
taken over by the state to be run jointly by the state and worker
cooperatives. In fact, the main slogans for the march itself, organised by
UNT (the new trade union federation) were 'Co-management is revolution' and
'Venezuelan workers are building Bolivarian socialism.' These were the same
themes that came out of the several-day workers' table on co-management
that was part of the 3rd international solidarity meeting two weeks ago in
the city of Valencia.
        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 programmes (with money circulating but without new
production of goods) to a push for endogenous economic development
(stressing co-operatives 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 recognise, means a lot.
        After four hours on this march/party, my companera and I recognised 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 Chavez 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 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
Chavez'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 Valencia, and it is something to watch
closely because the form it takes (our North American group at the workers
table stressed the importance of opening the books of the companies to the
workers) is likely to mean an encroachment on capital.
        in solidarity,
PS. There also was a demonstration by the CTV, the old labour 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).
Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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