The Communist Party and the Venezuelan working class in the dilemma of the Bolivarian Revolution

  • 01/07/14 12.16

The current systemic crisis of capitalism coincides with the development of progressive and revolutionary processes, fundamentally anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic ones, particularly in Latin America, whose many inherent contradictions generate expectations in different directions.

One of the common features of such political processes, in addition to their questioning of the U.S. imperialist domination in the region, the demand for national sovereignty and a better distribution of wealth, attributes which themselves make them worthy of support from consequently revolutionary forces, is that their social vanguard has been assumed by radicalized sectors of the petty bourgeoisie and middle class professionals, including an important role of the so-called emerging national bourgeoisie, not monopolistic, interested in taking the reins of economic dynamics in opposition to the strategy of global hegemonic control of the transnational monopolies.

This inter-bourgeois confrontation has a particular definition in Venezuela, with an oil rentier economy, where virtually all the economic and social dynamics revolve around the resources generated by oil exports, activity under state monopoly, so that the various bourgeois factions try to take control directly or indirectly of the state apparatus and the management of oil revenues.

In this context emerged the diversionist approach of the "socialism of the 21st century", more forcefully raised by the leadership of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, followed by the progressive governments of Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, and also assumed by opportunist political currents from other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This historical fact has been the cradle of the revival of several old "theories" and concepts, presented with original and native appearance, labeled as endogenous, but which ultimately involve the denial of class struggle and the revolutionary role of the working class, the rejection of the scientific theory of the proletariat and the need for its organic instrument, the political party founded on the principles of Marxism-Leninism.

Thus, from the leadership of the Venezuelan process, some sectors spread theoretical concepts introduced by social-reformist theoreticians, "postmoderns" and reviewers of Marxism, bringing the "crowds" (Antonio Negri and Paolo Virnoto), “the People” (devoid of a sense of class) and the regional communities to the category of historical subjects of the revolution. The problem with these categories is that they are generic and abstract, not historically specific and therefore lack of specific class content. Speaking of "crowds", for example, juggles or at least distorts the class struggle that takes place not among the many and the few, but between the exploited and the exploiters, regardless of their numerical strength. Moreover, by emphasizing in a superlative way, from the leadership of the revolutionary process and the government, the central role of territorial communities, they skip or even attempt to stop the organizational and socio-political development needed by the working class and other workers, from their workplaces and by industry branches in the dynamics of class struggle for the abolition of capitalist relations of production.

At the same time, the governing bodies of the process spread the negation of dialectical materialism and the disqualification of the operation of the laws of social development (Kohan), trying to give theoretical support to voluntarism and subjectivism, to the detriment of the materialist conception of history. Within this explosion of ideological diversion, anti-communism makes its way easily into the discourse and political practice, on behalf of the socialism of the 21st century, making concessions to bourgeois ideology and the anti-communist blackmail of psychological warfare of imperialism, weakening the political and moral force of the Bolivarian revolution against the plans of the counterrevolution.

This situation is explained to a large extent by the still insufficient quantitative and qualitative strength of the Venezuelan working class, which has so far prevented the working class to play a relevant role during the process of change underwent by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, although there are undoubted increasingly manifestations of a growing political consciousness of the working class and working people of Venezuela, which favours the development of a political line for the defense, consolidation and deepening of the revolutionary changes. Some of these positive expressions are the mass actions in favour of the approval of a revolutionary new Organic Law on Labour and the struggle to advance the establishment of a new model of corporate governance, particularly in those companies owned by the state, under the principle of workers' control with the establishment of the Socialist Councils of Workers, as instruments for the exercise of the collective leadership of the workers in the productive processes, in struggle to dismantle the oppressive capitalist relations of production and destroy the bourgeois state, promoting the formation of a revolutionary consciousness in the working class.

The Socialist Councils of Workers, as conceived by the PCV, will fully comply with its revolutionary class role, to the extent that the workers who assume their construction and development raise their consciousness, from class in itself to class for itself, unlike the "workers' councils" that emerged at the initiative of social reformism in some European countries.

According to the analysis made by the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), the changes in these years in the frame of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution are, up to this point, the result of a social-reformist practice with a patriotic and progressive tendency, with a decisive role from sectors of the petty bourgeoisie. This reality will be transcended only by a new correlation of the popular and revolutionary forces led by the working class, which will ensure the consolidation of national liberation and the creation of the conditions for real progress towards the strategic goal of the seizure of power by the working class and the advance in the construction of socialism.

The Bolivarian Revolution is then approaching to a crossroads and a historical dilemma whose outcome will be determined by the correlation of class forces operating inside: or to consolidate a process of progressive reforms that preserve the foundations of the capitalist system or to move towards a transition dismantling the bourgeois state apparatus and replacing the current dominance of capitalist relations of production.

Causes of inadequate leadership of the working class in the current Venezuelan process

Venezuelan working class has not had, historically and in general terms, a high numerical, mainly due to the traditional mono-exporting and monoproducer model of our national economy and the characteristics of industrial backwardness of our country, the result of the dependent status and the role assigned to our country in the framework of the international division of labour under the leadership of imperialism, as almost exclusive producer and exporter of raw materials, specifically crude oil.

While between the 60's and 70's of the 20th century there were some important industrial conglomerates, mainly state-owned enterprises as the Corporación Venezolana de Guayana (CVG), in the 80's the effect of the implementation of neoliberal policies began a rapid de-industrialization of the country. This trend was stopped after 1999 when the government of President Chávez broke with the neoliberal policy, but internal and external factors have prevented the activation of a sustained process of re-industrialization of the country.

While the weakness of the production has led to a relative numerical decline of the industrial proletariat (for example, the number of workers employed in manufacturing has fallen over 20% since 1990), this does not mean an absolute decrease of the working class, since there has been an increase in the labour force employed in other sectors, particularly in construction, trade and public services, including telecommunications and electricity.

However, workers in manufacturing are still very important from a qualitative point of view, despite the significant reduction in their ranks they have suffered. Their number is now below the 500 thousand, or 4 percent of the total active labour force in the country. Among them, the metallurgical industrial complex concentrated in Guyana.

Indeed there has been a process of decline of the industrial structure due to the unilateral closure of companies by their owners, either for political or economic reasons linked to the residual effects of the neoliberal policies that favoured the trends towards concentration and centralization of capital. Between 1996 and 2007, the total number of industrial manufacturing companies fell by nearly 40%, a reduction which particularly affected small and medium enterprises.

As for the Venezuelan oil proletariat, it has not historically recorded large numbers of members, although in the first five decades of the 20th century, period of establishment and consolidation of the oil economy, it was the largest, most organized and combative component of all our working class. Later, it experienced a decline and debilitation resulting from the emergence of the use of new technologies and the profusion of outsourcing and subcontracting mechanisms on labour relations, as well as the pernicious and divisive influence of the corrupt currents of pro-imperialist social-democracy which dominated the oil trade unions for many years.

Today, with the intensification of the activities in the Orinoco Belt and the recent nationalization of the services linked to primary activities such as transportation, drilling and general services, among others, the state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) has increased its staff to one hundred thousand workers, including the bloated administrative payroll and the social services that the Bolivarian government has assigned to the national oil corporation

Regarding the subjective aspects that define the hitherto insufficient revolutionary role of our working class, we can note the traditional organic division of the Venezuelan labour movement, its weak organization and the dominance of reformist and bureaucratic tendencies within its leadership, although there have always been very active and militant tendencies claiming classism within our labour movement, with outstanding participation of the communist militants.

The struggle against reformism and opportunism in the Venezuelan labour movement

The confrontation in Venezuela between class-oriented and reformist trade unionism and their organic groupings is not outside the universal historical struggle to win over the working masses, either to fight to break the chains of capitalist exploitation and gain the full social liberation, or to meekly accept the modern wage-slavery and condemn all humanity to the oppression exercised by the capital.

It is well known that the organic and political division of trade unionism has its origins in the very history of international labour movement, from the moment when the class enemy suceeded in developing the reformist and opportunist trends within the movement and they acted strongly within the same. Thus, with the division of the Second International in 1914, the contemporary bourgeois social-democarcy, the bearer of class collaboration, was born,.

The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), founded in 1945 as the international center that expresses the genuine interests and objectives of the workers of the world, was divided a few years after its creation as a result of a conspiracy orchestrated by U.S. imperialism. In recent years, the right wing of the trade union movement at a global level, responding to the global strategy of domination of transnational capital, decided to unite in a single center, founded in November 2006, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), resulting from the merger of the social-democrat ICFTU and the social-christian WCL. In America, they united the Inter-American Regional Labor Organization (ORIT), continental ICFTU affiliate, and the Latin American Central of Workers (CLAT), a continental CMT affiliate, in the Confederation of Workers of the Americas (CSA). In Venezuela, the right-wing trade union confederations, CTV, CGR and CODESA - the last two almost extinct – joined the ITUC and the CSA.

Meanwhile, the Unity Confederation of Workers of Venezuela (CUTV) has been a member of the WFTU since the 60's. For decades, this confederation, even relatively weak in the organic sphere, was a class-oriented reference in the struggles of the Venezuelan workers, particularly in the 80's and 90's, when denouncing and fighting against the neoliberal policies of labour flexibility, removal of social security and company privatizations, being the counterpart of the pro-imperialist bosses and the CTV, which since the 60's became a trade union instrument in the service of the Venezuelan oligarchy and their governments.

The beginning of the Bolivarian revolutionary process, with the election of President Chávez and the adoption of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, intensified the class struggle but also created conditions for the displacement of the hegemony exercised by the CTV union and the search of trade union unity, from the regrouping of the very diverse occupational factors supporting the revolutionary process. The National Union of Workers (UNETE), linked to the WFTU and which supports the revolutionary process from a position of class independence, is born under these dynamics.

Despite the progress meant by the anti-neoliberal and anti-imperialist process developing in Venezuela, despite the existence of the UNETE, the Venezuelan labour and trade union movement still faces the historic tendency of the bourgeoisie and the state to submit it to their guardianship and subordination. In addition to the openly counterrevolutionary trade union currents, there are other currents that, while touting a position in favour of the revolutionary process, have a reformist and opportunist vision and practice, choosing an employer-oriented and officialist trade unionism, and advocate the division of UNETE and the formation of another trade union confederation, bureaucratically constructed from areas of the state power. This situation complicates the struggle of the workers against the public and private employers, even when from various levels of the political power there is a tendency to assume an openly anti-union position, or in any case, contrary to the independent existence of the workers' organizatons.

For PCV, the need to defend and strengthen the autonomy and independence of the labour and trade union movement, as well as all the mass organizations, against the employers, the State and the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties becomes the first priority for the class-conscious workers, both from the unions and the activity of the prevention delegates (representatives of the workers to defend the health and safety at work) and the Socialist Councils of Workers, which arise as a result of the constitutional premise of participatory democracy and as tools that claim the exercise of worker's control in processes of the production, administration and distribution of goods and services from every workplace and in the various branches of production.

This need is highlighted by the fact that a widespread tendency to place all social organizations under the subordination of the national government and other bodies of state power is developing. The issue is particularly serious in the case of working class organizations: as the petty bourgeoisie has the hegemony in the leadership of the process and the national government, it is intended that the workers decline their class independence, indispensable to demand their rights and claim their individual and collective economic, social and political interests, which are basically the same of the popular majority of the towns and countryside and, at the same time, are contrary to the interests of the sectors that basically exert much of the political power. This situation is generating continuous and increasing conflicts.

So, the struggle to move towards programmatic and organizational unity of the workers' movement is part of the struggle to transform Venezuelan trade unionism, rearming it with the principles that should guide the liberating action of our class, essentially defeating reformism within itself and serving, in its different struggles and achievements, to the formation of class consciousness and the rise of the proletariat to the condition of ruling class, in strategic alliance with other classes and strata which also exploited and oppressed.

As stated by the 13th Extraordinary Congress of the PCV (March 2007): “... among the most significant tasks of the party of the revolution is designing a policy capable of conquering the trade union movement to clean it up, to eradicate the enormous incubated vices which result of the tremendous perversion of reformism, the practices developed by the company unions, and the effects of patronage, to definitely break with their fragmentation, to become a frontline force in building a new society.”

The existance and strengthening of the party of the working class is necessary in the frame of the Venezuelan political process

Those from the Bolivarian process who believe that the working class is not the subject of history of social revolution, either because of the ignorance of the theory of scientific socialism or because they consider that their class interests are under threat, conclude that the working class must not organize itself independently, as a class. Therefore, they disdain and question the validity of the revolutionary party of the working class, trying to discredit the Communist Party of Venezuela, trying to make it invisible, pushing for its liquidation.

In this respect the Theses on the Party of the Revolution, issued by the 13th Extraordinary Congress of the PCV, held in March 2007, at a time when our party was proposed to integrate the nascent United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), a party with a multi-class character, integration that would lead to its liquidation, reads as follows:

In referring to the participation and involvement of the masses, we must make a special emphasis on organic effort for us to meet the working class and other sectors of workers. If we consider eradicate capitalism, we must become the political organization, the genuine interpreter of the interests of the social class which, by its position in the socioeconomic structure, is not only the most directly affected by capitalist exploitation and, therefore, objectively more interested in the suppression of wage slavery, but also the one that, by achieving this ultimate goal, frees the rest of society of the exploitation regime because, devoid as it is of the means of production, does not want to conquer them for the exploitation of other classes.

Afterwards, the document follows: “... the party of the revolution must be in its content, its politics, its composition, its ideology, the interests that it embodies, the party of the working class and all working people. Of course, this party would also accept members of other classes and strata of society, but on condition that they assume as its own the interests representd by the party, which would be the interests of the working class, if we want to be consistent with the programmatic objective of strategic nature that we pursue, socialism.”

The precise definition of the class content of the party of revolution is a historical necessity, and is not at odds with the anti-imperialist character of the Bolivarian Revolution today. This phase of our revolution demands, in effect, a broad alliance of classes around the objectives of national liberation. Taking advantage of all the contradictions and differences that may exist between sectors of the large and petty bourgeoisie, on the one hand and imperialism on the other, is one of the primary tasks of the anti-imperialist alliance, but this alliance should not occur within the party of the revolution, especially when we recognize that the course of this revolution aims to socialism.”

The party of socialist revolution can not fulfill its historic purpose if it is shaped under a multi-class concept that ultimately subordinates all classes, social strata and sectors of popular character to the interests of dominant economic bloc within the respective organization. The limitations of this type of party are well known in our history: the revolutionary character of the party is diluted, the anticapitalist interests of the working people are subordinated to the interests of capital based on rearrangements, concessions and handouts, the class struggle as a mechanism of transformation is substituted by class conciliation in order to stabilize the system, the revolution is replaced by the reform, the historical horizon of socialism and communism, with which only the working class is organically linked, blurs.

Thus, our party fixed position and made contributions to the debate then open around the character of the party needed by the Venezuelan revolution. In this 13th Extraordinary Congress, the PCV reaffirmed its status as the revolutionary party of the working class, based on the scientific theory of Marxism-Leninism, as assumed from its founding in 1931 and, using this theoretical and methodological tool, designed a political line based on the need to resolve the main contradiction of the historical moment, between the hegemonic interests of imperialism and the Venezuelan nation and the fundamental and irreconcilable contradiction present in capitalist society between capital and labour . Hence the need for the working class, with his party and its revolutionary ideology, to take the forefront in the struggle for national liberation and socialism in the communist perspective.

A dialectical political line: anti-imperialist alliance and the need for a correlation of forces under the leadership of the working class

Based on the characterization that our party makes about the Venezuelan revolutionary process, particularly in its current stage, we have proposed the need to establish a Wide Anti-imperialist and Patriotic Front, involving the whole political and social factors that coincide in the need to confront and defeat imperialist domination and conquer our full national liberation

Precisely for this reason, simultaneously we advocate the creation of a Popular Revolutionary Bloc (BPR), necessarily confined to those who propose the complete abolition of the system of capitalist exploitation and, therefore, can not include absolutely any faction of the bourgeoisie or any organization that expresses their interests

The communists struggle for the Popular Revolutionary Bloc to be led by the working class, so that in the context of heightened class struggle, it can consistently assume the social and political battle against the domination of capital and the establishment of a revolutionary popular-democratic state that opens the way towards the building of genuine socialism with the working class acting as the vanguard. Building a Popular Revolutionary Bloc is of crucial importance for the working class in its struggle for power, as stated comrade Antonio Gramsci in 1926, consistent with the Leninist thought and with a full relevance for the Venezuelan communists today: “The proletariat can become dominant and ruling class to the extent that it manages to create a system of class alliances that can mobilize most working people against capitalism and the bourgeois state.

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