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Venezuela: Congress of the Nation Workers’ Union (UNT)

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We reproduce here an edited version of the FLT statement on the recent UNT(1) 2nd Congress held in May.(2) What could have been a major step towards working class independence from Chavez ended in a split between several factions, all competing to be the best Chavistas. Most significant, it is clear that the so-called Trotskyist groups in the UNT are not fighting for political independence from Chavez. This confirms our analysis that the ex-Trotskyists in Venezuela are acting as they are in other countries as the left wing of the popular front in Latin America.

Workers struggle sacrificed to the petrodollar bourgeoisie

Between last May 25-27 at the Army Officer’s Club in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, the second congress of the National Union of Workers (UNT)(3), was held. The UNT is the most important workers union in Venezuela with more than 2000 delegates representing a million or more Venezuelan workers.[i]

The resolutions of the 2nd Congress were of crucial importance for the working class not only of Venezuela, but of all Latin America. It offered the possibility of raising an independent working class program against the bourgeois government of Chavez.(4) Such a program would have been a hard blow against the politics of class collaboration which ‘expropriates’ the anti-imperialist struggle of the Venezuelan masses, strangles the Bolivian and Ecuadorian revolutions, and subordinates workers before the bourgeoisie of the whole continent.

But its resolutions, once more, put the masses at the feet of the exploiters and tied the hands of the Venezuelan and Latin American working class. It was also one more confirmation – if such were needed – of the complete bankruptcy of the fake Trotskyists who are “running a race” to see who can be a better Chavez than Chavez himself. Let’s see what happened in the Congress of the UNT and make some conclusions about the role of the fake Trotskyists organisations in Argentina.

“Ten million votes to re-elect Chavez!”

In the Congress, a minority led by Marcela Maspero, broke from the Congress and left the UNT. This sector, dominated by cadres and leaders of the old Bolivariana Force of the Workers (a failed attempt to build a Chavista central Workers Union), and adherents of Chavismo, refused to allow the election of UNT officers in September, arguing that the main priority was the campaign for “ten million votes for Chavez” to win the presidential election in December.

The leaders of the majority (headed by Orlando Chirinos of the UIT(5) to which both factions of the MST in Argentina belong (6) proposed elections in September, but they put as a condition the first resolution had to be… that the UNT and the workers must guarantee first of any other thing 10 million votes for Chavez. Moreover, these leaders denounce in their press a “provocation” by the minority, who set up the ridiculous argument that most of us, the majority delegates don’t support Chavez”. This they say is “a lie”. (Alternativa Socialista N° 431).(7)

Shamelessly, after urging the workers to vote that their main task is to guarantee the re-election of a bourgeois government, they then urged them to vote that “the UNT is a autonomous union, independent of the government”. What do these fake Trotskyists understand by “an independent” union federation? That “the re-election of president Chavez and the independence of the UNT must be simultaneously supported so as to criticize (Chavez) whenever it is necessary…” (ídem).

Imagine that the left groups were leading the Argentinean CGT (8) in 1973 and had launched a campaign for supporting the Peron-Peron slate. What would every class-conscious worker have said? A betrayal of the proletarian cause!. Exactly! The heroic working class militants of the Cordobazo (9), the Vivorazo (10), Sitrac-Sitram (11), the Villazo (12), would have said exactly what we say about the fake Trotskyists: Servants of the bourgeoisie! Enemies of the proletarian revolution!
 
There is no doubt. Today the fake Trotskyists in Venezuela are the UNT bureaucracy, playing at the same time the role of Stalinism and that of the treacherous union bureaucracies in the other countries of Latin America. Politically they support Chavez, that ally of Kirchner and Repsol.

MAS and PO: working to get ten million “critical” votes… for Chavez

It is impossible to deny that so far, the leaders of the UIT are winning the race to see who is the most “Chavista”. But stepping on their heels are all the other fake Trotskyists, for example the MAS in Argentina and its sister group inside the Venezuelan PRS (the Petare current).

The MAS says it wants to stand “independent worker candidates” but, as the PRS is not legal this “is not possible”. Besides, “most of the workers are politically Chavistas”, and that this cannot be ignored, in so far as “the vote is (something) tactical”. (Socialismo o Barbarie N° 80) (13). For that reason, it ends up calling for a “critical vote”… for Chavez, so that this bourgeois government is re-elected… “critically”.

On the other hand, the PO in Argentina tries to hide it is for “the critical” vote for Chavez. Thus, while it says that voting in the congress of the UNT for “the re-election of Chavez as an strategic policy shows that, despite the differences, the Workers Central Union is under the influence of bourgeois nationalism”, it ends up agreeing with the MAS, in that the vote “is tactical”. Moreover it declares: “it is not a question of our preference for one or another candidate, this is (merely) a tactical issue. It cannot become the main subject matter of a strategic campaign” (Prensa Obrera N° 950, June 15, 2006).(14)

At the end of the day, MAS and PO’s positions could be summarised in a single slogan: “For ten million critical votes… for Chavez”.

PTS: “Spoil your ballot”… sit on the fence, do not face Chavez even in the election

The PTS and its sister group in Venezuela –also a member of the PRS –criticizes those who call for a vote for Chavez as giving in to “bourgeois nationalism”. They prefer to “raise a workers and socialist perspective” by asking people to be very bold, and… spoil their votes.

But the spoiled vote has nothing to do with class politics in the context of bourgeois elections. Moreover, most of the pro-imperialist and pro-coup bourgeois opposition parties and groups will be campaigning for abstention or a blank vote in December elections. The PTS itself already called for a vote for Chavez in the August 2004 referendum; now in order not to appear as openly “Chavista”, it has decided to go for a blank vote. This formula has overall the “virtue” of letting them avoid a confrontation with Chavez. They also reneg on the obligation of telling workers “do not vote for him because he is a bourgeois”.

The politics of class independence in the Venezuelan elections

First we have to expose the deception of “tactical voting” used by the fake Trotskyists. They use this to justify setting up popular fronts or to support “progressive” bourgeois candidates. For revolutionaries, tactics in bourgeois elections are like all tactics, revolutionary tactics. They have to advance the proletarian principles and strategy: in the first place, the elementary principle of class independence. That is to say, it is possible to vote tactically for a workers party or workers candidate, but never for a bourgeois party or candidate.

Second, it is pure deception to call for a ‘tactical vote’ because “there are no conditions” that allow for independent worker candidates in Venezuela, when the UNT exists, a union federation with great authority among the workers! Here was a congress with 2000 worker delegates, one of them could have been chosen as candidate for president. Here is a workers organization which has all the authority to make a campaign for 10 million votes for a UNT worker president and a vice-president from the poor peasants. Such a campaign would have opened the road to a workers and peasants’ government able to break completely with imperialism, solve the land problem and meet the needs of the workers and the exploited people! No doubt that if this resolution had been passed by a show of hands in the congress of workers delegates of the UNT, no legal obstacle could have prevented that campaign for a workers candidacy from going ahead!

An independent working class program

Such a class campaign that raised with clarity a program and an independent workers strategy would had aroused the enormous enthusiasm of the Venezuelan, the Latin America and the United States working class:

· Not even a drop of Venezuelan oil to the US exploiters, slave-traffickers of Latin American immigrants!

· No oil to massacre our Iraqi brothers and sisters, and the workers and exploited from New Orleans!

· For the complete re-nationalization, without compensation and under workers control of oil, and the rest of privatized companies!

· Expropriation without compensation of all the large estates and land for distribution among the poor farmers!

· For decent jobs and living wages for all, with the sliding scale of wages and working hours!

· Minimum wage set at the level of the family shopping basket and indexed according to inflation!

· Down with all the antistrike laws!

· Free quality public Health and Education, on the basis of the expropriation of the private schools and hospitals, the repudiation of the external debt and the application of progressive taxes on the “31 families” (15) and the monopolies!

· A class campaign for a program that calls on the workers and the exploited to vote for a presidential candidate of the UNT, that is, not to vote for Chavez!
Who can doubt that this would galvanize the embattled Bolivian working class that has begun to resist Morales repressive government! It would also inspire the Argentinean working class that refuses to accept the miserable wages and work conditions imposed on them by the union bureaucracy. It would motivate the US working class which today begins to wake up only to be told by the WSF to kneel at the feet of the Democratic Party of Clinton and the Kennedys, so praised by Chavez!

None of the currents of the UNT or of the left in Venezuela want a class program

The ex-Trotskyists that lead the UNT know well that this is possible. But they want to avoid it at all costs. They have demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate, that they are the faithful subjects of Chavez; self-confessed reformists whose role is to prevent any move towards class independence by the workers, and to make the latter subservient to the “progressive” bourgeois and the “patriotic” military.

We are not then dealing with “a tactical” problem, but one of principles: because what these currents say to the working class is that the liberation of the workers will not be the work of the workers themselves, but of bourgeois leaders like Chávez.

The ex-Trotskyists supporting Chavez are the same tendencies that in Brazil called for a vote for the popular front of Lula-Alencar, and who are now supporting the class collaborationist government in Bolivia. They are the “theoreticians” who preach the need to create “worker parties based on the unions”. But then where they lead a union federation as the UNT in Venezuela, they refuse to put up a workers candidate for the presidential elections!

As Trotsky said, whoever gives even the slightest political support to a bourgeois government, renounces its revolutionary overthrow by the masses. That is, they renounce the workers’, socialist revolution. These servants of Chavez have deserted the proletarian revolution.

International Coordination Secretariat of the Leninist Trotskyist Fraction

Notes

(1) Workers National Union

(2) This statement first appeared in the paper of the Argentine group Workers Democracy.

(3) The UNT was born of the rank and file revolt against the pro-coup, pro-imperialist CTV, the old Workers Central of Venezuela, with a notoriously corrupt and bureaucratic leadership affiliated to Accion Democratica, once the most important bourgeois party, and totally subservient to the establishment.

(4) We say that Chavez is a ‘Bonapartist’ leader of a bourgeois state with a bourgeois constitution, balancing between imperialism, the national bourgeoisie and the working masses. Despite Chavez ‘left’ persona, the Venezuela state defends bourgeois property and ‘nationalised’ property remains that of the bourgeois state. Nevertheless we support Chavez in a united front against imperialism, arguing that only a revolutionary workers movement is capable of defeating imperialism and the Venezuelan national bourgeoisie.

(5) The UIT is one of the international fractions that came out of the Morenoist LIT-CI after the Argentinean MST split the MAS. The UIT was until recently the international organization of the MST and its “sister” groups.

(6) The MST now has split in two irreconcilable fractions, the fraction”2” (led by Pedro Soranz) has just taken control of the UIT, expelling the fraction “1”.

(7) Socialist Alternative.

(8) CGT: Central General de Trabajadores, or Workers Central Union federation. In 1973 it was led by the Peronist bureaucracy (and most of the second half of the 20th century). In 1973 the Peronist Party made the then president (also a Peronist, but of a somewhat left-leaning wing) resign, so that there could be new elections, and to allow General Peron to run for his third presidency. His wife Isabelita Peron ran as vice-president.

(9) Cordobazo: On May 29, 1969, and as a part of the worldwide revolutionary wave that was sweeping almost every country in Latin America and most of the world, there was a semi-insurrection in Cordoba, Argentina’s second city, and a main industrial center at the time. Having been preceded by very combative and persistent student revolts in several Universites all over the country, the Cordobazo began as a protest against the elimination of the so-called ‘English Saturday’ (any time over the half day was paid as time-and-a-half – 50% more) and ended with the defeat of the police that had been called to repress the demonstrations and marches that the workers the owners of Cordoba had made for two or three days. The police had to quit the city and the army was called to replace it. It is important to remember that in 1969, there was a military dictatorship in charge of the government. The Cordobazo opened way to a revolutionary period in Argentina and Latin America that came to an end with the bloody dictatorships of Videla and Co. in Argentina, Pinochet in Chile, etc.

(10) The Vivorazo was another semi-insurrection some time after the Cordobazo, that put Rosario (the third largest Argentinean city, also a main industrial center and the second port of the country) in the hands of the workers for a time.

(11) Sitrac and Sitram were two factory unions (initially set-up as “yellow” unions by the bosses and the bourgeois government to divide and defeat the auto-workers who were affiliated to the SMATA, or Autoworkers United Union). But they shot themselves in the foot. The young workers of the two most important factories in Cordoba –FIAT Materfer, that manufactured electric motors and electric train wagons, and FIAT Concord, that manufactured big electric motors for power stations, dams, etc.- in 1970 defeated the “yellow” bureaucracy in each factory, united the two unions, creating the SITRAC-SITRAM Union, and immediately called for a “working-class nationwide congress of the rank and file, with mandated delegates of every workplace in the country” to vote a working-class program to find a breakthrough for the crisis-ridden Argentina. The two congresses that were held under the name of “Classism”, convened hundreds of militant delegates. “Classism” as a phenomenon was very important, because up to that time, and from the late forties, the previous generations of workers had been mainly Peronist. Unfortunately most the ‘classist’ vanguard that it created were recruited to the various guerrilla currents inspired in Cuban ‘guerrillasim’ (including fake-Trotskyist ones). There were other centrist currents too, as well as left-Peronists, Stalinists, etc. All of them did their utmost to frustrate the opportunity for the workers to take the country in their hands.

(12) Villazo, a semi-insurrection in Villa Constitucion, one of the industrial towns that form the industrial belt running from Buenos Aires City (with its Great Buenos Aires Area) up to Rosario City, some 400km of factories, steelworks, oil refineries, ports, etc., along the coast of the rivers Parana and Plate. The Villazo was the last and most important semi-insurrection of the industrial workers taking a city and a series of big factories in their hands, before the military coup that put Videla and Co. in power. It was brutally repressed, in spite of the support and sympathy from the Argentine workers and students, thanks to the union bureaucracy leaving it isolated, and the left vacillating and capitulating to the pressure of the Stalinists, the Peronist bureaucracy, etc. The centrists in those years did not want to be labeled “guerrillas”, so they never raised slogans about self-defense, workers’ armed militia, etc., tending to raise mostly economic (unionist) slogans plus abstract socialist propaganda.

(13) Socialism or Barbarism

(14) Workers Press.

(15) “31 families”. Name for the richest group of Venezuelan families. They were closely intertwined with imperialist interests for centuries. Most of their members do not even live in Venezuela.

 
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Appendix

Unite! Organiser enthusiastic about Chavez and Morales

Auckland Unite organiser Mike Treen recently returned from a visit to Venezuela and Boliva. He spoke in Auckland to a meeting organised by GPJA. Treen was ethusiastic about Chavez. “He is ahead of the workers and is leading the revolution”. The same with Morales in Bolivia. “The revolution will not happen without Morales”. This is the Australian Green Left position.

In reponse to a question from a CWG comrade who stressed the need for the working class to be armed and politically independent of Chavez and Morales, Treen rejected the need for the independence of workers from Chavez and Morales. Despite the splits in the UNT recent congress, Treen said it was good that they all supported the re-election of Chavez.

A Socialist Workers speaker at the meeting spoke of a ‘sort of dual power’ in Venezuela. If this term is being used in the Leninist sense, this can only mean that the SWO thinks that Chavez represents the workers in the state, rather than representing the bourgeois in containing and suppressing the workers revolution.

Whatever their apparent differences, both Treen and the SWO speaker substitute Chavez and his political machine for the working class. This confirms our view that Unite and SWO, who have combined to form the Worker’s Charter in NZ, are following the Australian Green Left closely as a cheerleader for the Boliviarian Revolution and left wing of the popular front in Latin America. (see article above).

From Class Struggle 67 June/July 2006

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Written by raved

January 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Supersize my Pay, Supersize my Party

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Matt McCarten’ s Unite Workers Union has got off to a good start in building a union base for a new workers party. This project took a leap ahead with its Supersize my Pay campaign.

Unites campaign to recruit young casualised fast-food workers has met with some success. Recruiting, organising and introducing active campaigns like the Supersize My Pay campaign is a good start.

Attacking youth rates is way overdue. But the call for a minimum wage of $12 an hour is too small. Even the NZCTU leadership can endorse these demands. They do not reflect the real needs of workers for higher wages, and are a compromise with the labour bureaucracy of the CTU to embarrass the Labour led government.

This strategy betrays the left bureaucrat’s credo that a revived labour movement can push the Labour Party to the left. This is has been the politics of Matt McCarten since his early days as a union organiser and Labour Party insider. It remained his objective as a leader of the Alliance from 1980 to 2003. These demands are not strong enough to expose the clapped out labour bureaucrats or the Labour government who pay give lip service and stall for money, but to build a base in the unions for the new reformist workers party that will emerge from the Workers’ Charter before the next election.

The irony is that even though McCarten’s strategy is a rightward break from the Alliance the rump of the Alliance voted for the Workers Charter at its annual conference after an address from John Minto. Does this mean that the Alliance now has two programs, or that its vote was indicative of a cooperative attitude to WC or what? It seems that the rump of the Alliance now recognises that McCarten has stolen a march on them so there is a sheepish shuffle back to acknowledging the only viable Green Left kiwi franchise in town.

From Class Struggle 64 Nov 05/Jan 06

Written by raved

January 6, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Open Letter to UNITE! on Unions Against Racism

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Dear Class Struggle comrades,

I thought I’d bring you up to date with some of the events in my West Auckland local of Unite! Community Union. Unite! was founded as a union for beneficiaries and low-income earners. In recent times Unite! has been controlled by Matt McCarten, and has been divided into two sections, a Community union for beneficiaries and some low-income earners, and a ‘workers’ union for employees as diverse as English language teachers, chefs, and hotel staff.

Our local is opposed to the expansion of Unite! into these new areas, because it has involved poaching members from other unions, a practice which is always counter-productive, and which is giving Unite! a bad reputation in the union movement. We are also concerned at the recent attempts of Unite! organiser and McCarten ally Mike Treen to bring prison guards into the union. We see prison guards as no better than cops, and we don’t think they belong in the workers’ movement.

We are alarmed by the way that unemployed and other beneficiaries are now being marginalised through the whole of Unite! We insist that Unite! was formed in the first place to organise and unite low-paid workers, unemployed workers and beneficiaries – in fact, we would argue that Unite! has no other reason to exist.

Our local is standing candidates in the upcoming Unite! national executive elections – we hope to join with leftists from other parts of the union to highlight the errors of the union leadership and increase the weight of the opposition on the national executive.

Our branch suffers from chronic poverty, so that even getting members to meetings is difficult. We have no full-timers, our secretary is an honorary secretary only, none of our members has been a union delegate in the past, and until recently we have not been constituted as a local.

We find it difficult to get out propaganda and we have little or no capacity to ‘help’ people who are just going to pay a fee and not be active members – hence we don’t get fees, and we have the bare number needed to form a local. Our five leading members have been relying mainly on a benefit, and one has been ‘Jobs Jolted’ onto an AMES course far below his intellectual capacity and education. Another is a PhD student and thus on a limited income.

We were very pleased, then, when we were recently recognised as a local, and received our first refunds from union headquarters. We now need to elect a treasurer along with a president, vice-president and secretary.

Despite our money woes, we have been very active so far this year. We made a special point of attending this year’s May Day demonstration, because we believe that beneficiaries and low income earners have to be recognised as an important part of the workers’ movement. The weather on May the first was bad, and the official demonstration was called off without authorisation by union officials belonging to the May Day Committee. An alternative march to the nearby US consulate to oppose the war on Iraq was proposed by some of our members and despite the heavy rain part of the rally marched there and listened to speakers from a variety of workers’ organisations.

Several of us participated in the recent Global Peace and Justice Auckland demonstration against the war and the phoney handover of power in Iraq. One of our members spoke to the demonstration, noting that our local arose out of the anti-war movement, and emphasising our solidarity with the unemployed workers of Iraq. Some of our members have attempted to investigate a ‘Work Track’ centre in New Lynn, a major working class area of West Auckland. We are concerned about the way that under the ‘Jobs Jolt’ the organisations running various compulsory courses have the right to ask WINZ to cut the benefits of beneficiaries who break course rules.

After observing work track courses ‘from the inside’ we believe that the providers of the courses must be creaming it off – they provide so little in the way of services, despite the generous contracts WINZ gives them!

We issued a press statement condemning the Budget for doing nothing for beneficiaries. We are being vigilant about the possibility that the special benefit may be cut – at present many of those able to get the special benefit rely on it as a top-up, to get them a socially acceptable standard of living.

Our branch decided to participate as strongly as it could in Unite’s attempt to unionise Burger King – four members of our group attended the initial briefing and five members participated with varying success. We deemed the Burger King drive a useful exercise, and it was very educational to see how the union access clause of the Employment Relations Act operated.

An important event in the life of our group took place on May the 8th, when Warren Duffy represented us at the big anti-racism march called in Christchurch by Asians tired of harrassment and assaults. We raised the $300 for Warren Duffy to represent us at the demonstration, and he was able to repay us by making some personal links with left-wing Unite! members in other parts of the country. A new anti-racism march will take place in Wellington on October the 23rd, in response to the desecration of Jewish graves, immigration laws that humiliate Pacific Islanders, the Maori-bashing encouraged by politicians like Don Brash, and the activities of the neo-nazi National Front.

I am hoping that our local will be able to send members to this march, and that we will not be alone in representing the labour movement.

It is clear that racism is on the rise in Aotearoa because of the gaps in class consciousness created by the defeats of the union movement and atomisation of the working class in the 80s and 90s. The building of a strong union movement is the best long-term antidote to both the National Party and the National Front, but a strong union movement can only be built on an internationalist basis.

Sadly, our union movement is lacking in internationalism. Even some of our best unions cross the line – witness the Service and Food Workers Union’s recent press release attacking the importing of foreign workers by an understaffed Sealords factory in Timaru, a press release issued in the same week as an appeal for international solidarity with a sacked union member!

Then we have Maritime Union of New Zealand, which mixes a good position on the war in Iraq with the economic nationalist campaign for cabotage. Don’t get me started on the Amalgamated Workers Union, which helps the cops sniff out ‘illegal’ workers on Auckland’s building sites. We can’t oppose racism if our movement espouses racist policies. We should be uniting with workers of all races and nations, not with cops and prison screws!

I urge comrades in other unions to send representatives to Wellington on October the 23rd.

Best Wishes,

Unite! rank and filer

From Class Struggle 57 August-September 2004


Written by raved

January 6, 2010 at 9:21 pm