ON JULY 9, over 400 people from all over the country met at the Teatro
Imperial in Caracas in a political rally whose main purpose was to issue a
public call for the formation of a mass workers party that can fight for the
socialist revolution in Venezuela.
In a country whose population is close to 24 million, this may seem
inconsequential. But those who called for the event and the bulk of those in
attendance constitute the sector with the most political weight in the
leadership of the National Union of Workers (UNT).
The UNT is the new confederation of unions that has advanced at a rapid pace
in securing the support of growing sectors of workers after the failed bosses’
lockout in the oil industry at the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003. Already,
the UNT counts in its ranks more than 1 million members who have rejected the
old confederation, the CTV, which they consider corrupt, pro-coup and
The July 9 event was called by a coalition of six militant organizations,
among them the Opción de Izquierda Revolucionaria (OIR, whose membership
includes Orlando Chirino, national coordinator of the UNT), Opción Clasista de
Trabajadores (which groups together workers from the all-important oil
industry), and the Student Collective ACTIVATE (from the Central University of
The event was attended by leaders and union activists from broad sectors of
the Venezuelan economy. Various groups of workers drove for more than nine hours
to attend event. Attendees represented the oil sector, aluminium and steel, the
automobile and power industries, municipal employees, education and other
President Hugo Chávez recently described himself as a socialist, which led to
a surge of interest among large sectors of the population who want discuss and
to understand what socialism is. The importance of the July 9 event lies in the
fact that while Chávez speaks in general terms about the “socialism of the 21st
century,” the leftist leaders who organized the conference emphasize that it is
the power of the working class which will be able to provide substance for
As Orlando Chirino explained to the crowd, “The fundamental banners of the
[program that is required] are anti-imperialism; internationalist solidarity;
support for all the struggles of the workers and the popular movements; the
defense of the rights of the oppressed minorities; the struggle for political
power and the destruction of the capitalist state...and furthermore, that it set
forth as a goal the construction of socialism on a democratic basis, under a
government of workers and the people.”
Among those invited to the event was Carlos Lanz, director of the aluminium
processing plant ALCASA, which is one of the most successful examples of
co-management (cogestión)--in which workers elect their managers and meet with
the surrounding community to discuss the priorities for investment in their
Three days later, there was an organizing meeting of union leaders in
preparation for the First National Encounter on Revolutionary Co-management and
Endogenous Development with Workers and Social Control--which will take place at
the beginning of September.
These working-class leaders emphasized that cogestión has nothing in common
with social democratic co-management--that what they pursue is workers’ control
of the workplace.
Since the 2002 coup brought the masses of workers and the marginalized into
political activism, the social and political dynamics of Venezuela have become
increasingly fluid. Every day, thousands upon thousands of people are engaged in
activity and demonstrations of all stripes, from the development of alternative
news media, to the “social missions” in education and health, to the Bolivarian
Circles and the popular assemblies.
On July 11, about 5,000 peasants brought together by the Peasant Front
Ezequiel Zamora went to Caracas to demand that the government take action
against those responsible for the more than 130 murders of peasants by hired
assassins (frequently right-wing Colombian paramilitaries known as sicarios)
working for cattle ranchers and large landowners connected to Venezuela’s
Two days later, women’s rights activists demonstrated in front of the
National Assembly demanding the decriminalization of abortion.
Now that the masses have burst actively into the political scene, the call
issued at the July 9 event for the formation of a mass revolutionary workers
party that can lead the Venezuelan working class to take state power is
ORLANDO CHIRINO is the national coordinator of the National Union of Workers
(UNT) in Venezuela. He is a longtime militant and Trotskyist and a member of
Revolutionary Left Option (OIR).
Several interviews with Chirino were collected and published in June as the
pamphlet Orlando Chirino... Responde. Here, we print an excerpt from one
interview, in which Chirino responds to a question about the current political
situation in which high oil prices have supported the Chávez government’s social
programs and forced the anti-Chávez opposition to keep its head down.
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THE QUESTION that we should ask ourselves is: What will happen when oil
prices stabilize? What will happen when the bourgeoisie, well positioned because
of the favorable agreements that the government offered them, again turns the
screws? What is going to happen when a new cycle in the imperialist-capitalist
crisis makes the transnationals, the IMF and the World Bank demand new
concessions from countries, governments and businesses around the world?
Therefore, I think that [Chávez’s] project has a short lifespan. I’m not
talking in terms of years, but rather as a historic project of a way out of the
crisis and misery that capitalism offers. That model doesn’t provide a way out,
and today, there isn’t the space nor is there a sector of the capitalist class
that wants a decisive confrontation with imperialism.
There is the root of our strategic differences with what, until now, Chávez
has been proposing. The only social class that has the interest to take the
struggle to its conclusion is the working class, because they have nothing to
lose, and they have a world to gain.
Encouraging a project based on the supposed “social function” of capital is
neither new nor, sadly, is it socialism. Socialism is the elimination of private
property, on which is based a system of exploitation of man by man. Fortunately,
workers are rapidly grasping this reality, and I am fully
confident--certain--that they are not going to stop at the threshold of peaceful
coexistence between exploiters and exploited. Rather, they are going to want to
go much further.
Therefore, it’s indispensable to count on tools capitalism gives us [i.e.,
like experiences of workers’ management in factories] so that the working class
is able to offer a real alternative, with a program of social revolution, to
satisfy the needs of people today and in the future in their totality...
The revolution in our country will not end with the defeat of the local
ruling class. In fact, we will have only overcome one obstacle, but the battle
will continue, side by side with the rest of the world’s people, until the
defeat of world imperialism. We will not be able to attain socialism if the
capitalist system continues to rule at a world level.