Venezuelan workers march for increased participation and rights in their workplaces

[This article reports on several leftist unions that are impatient with the pace of economic and social transformation in Venezuela, and are trying to pressure the government to give workers greater control of their workplaces. They correctly state that the Venezuelan government represents “socialized capital” (state capitalism).  Several things must be added to this analysis in order to understand the nature of the Venezuelan state and economy: Venezuela is fully integrated into the imperialist world economy, regardless of whether its oil industry is nationalized; the government’s nationalizations of industry and land have been limited since they are aimed at creating a mixed state/private economic system; and perhaps most importantly, the important role that Chavez plays in promoting a purported “Bolivarian road to socialism” (in fact, a blend of nationalism and social democracy) and restricting the more radical people’s movements that brought him to power in the 1990s and have sustained his regime since then.–Frontlines ed]

In October 2009, Mitsubishi workers protest firings of 307 workers and the collusion of the Labour Ministry with the company. These protests followed a series of long strikes, factory occupations and the killings of two workers.

Venezuela Analysis, November 11,2010

Mérida–Thousands of Venezuelan workers took to the streets of Caracas on Tuesday, November 9th, demanding greater participation in their country’s nascent socialist economy. Carrying banners that read, “Neither Capital nor Bureaucrats – More Socialism and More Revolution,” thousands of workers, union representatives, members of leftist political parties and other popular organizations took their demands to the Ministry of Communes and Social Protection, the National Assembly and the offices of the Vice Presidency.

Venezuela’s National Workers’ Union (UNETE), the organizers of the demonstration, called for the immediate passing of a new and radical labor law, the resolution of pending collective labor contracts, and the empowerment of workers within their unions, especially at worksites that now belong to the network of recently nationalized industries.

A Revolutionary Labor Law

Marcela Maspero, UNETE’s National Coordinator, led demonstrators in their demands for a new and revolutionary labor law. This new law, according to Maspero, “is a vital tool for the Venezuelan working class to overcome longstanding and ongoing exploitation at the workplace.” Continue reading

Book Review–Dancing with Dynamite: The Future of Latin America’s Social Movements

[“Dancing with Dynamite” takes a look at the some recent experiences  of democratic grassroots movements within the Latin American social-democratic countries that are aligned with or friendly to the Venezuelan government and ALBA. How workers and peasant movements, indigenous groups, and revolutionary organizations relate to this experience as it continues to develop will be important for internationalists to know and understand.–ed.]

12 October 2010

Kari Lydersen, In These Times

Reviewed: Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America by Benjamin Dangl, (October, 2010: AK Press).

What happens after you win?

That is, as fearless grassroots social movements have brought leftist, pro-worker parties to power in one after another Latin American country during the past decade, how do these movements maintain true democracy and commitment to the rights of the marginalized once faced with the challenge of a neoliberal global economy?

After the wave of worker factory takeovers following its economic collapse a decade ago, such questions played out on smaller scales in Argentina. Taking cooperative control of the factories was only the first step; the workers had to actually run them competitively in a capitalist economy. Similarly, after movements of union members, indigenous activists and other previously marginalized people bring leaders like Bolivian Evo Morales and Venezuelan Hugo Chavez to power, how do they make sure their struggles aren’t declawed and co-opted by the new government?

In his captivating book Dancing with Dynamite, Ben Dangl explores the complicated choreography between unfettered popular struggle and the state institutions that are necessary to a functioning civil society—yet by nature are forces of moderation, compromise and cooperation.

Using a very literal metaphor, Dangl invokes Bolivian miners to describe the “dynamite” of uncompromising popular struggle. The miners and displaced former miners who played a major role in bringing current president Evo Morales to power are part of a movement forged through intense repression and violence, followed by perhaps even more insidious economic suffocation. Continue reading