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Venezuela: Moves towards unity and democratisation of the workers’ movement

By Stalin Perez Borges

July 14, 2008 -- In recent elections in the Sindicato Nacional Fuerza Magisterial (Sinafum -- National Union of Teachers' Force), which groups an important section of teachers, a slate headed by Orlando Pérez, a supporter of the proposal that Sinafum remain affiliated to the Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT, National Union of Workers), won by a wide margin. Elections have been announced for October 1 in the Federación Nacional de Trabajadores del Sector Empleados Públicos (Fentrasep, National Federation of Public Sector Workers), to which more than 90% of public servants are members. The national coordination of the UNT has set dates in September for the holding of a new congress and elections. These is all extraordinary news for Venezuela’s workers, as well as deepening the Venezuelan revolutionary process.

A path towards the unity of the workers’ movement has opened up and the process of democratisation of union organisations has been strengthened. Unity and the exercising of democracy, which had been hampered and blocked by the bureaucratic sectors aligned with the Fuerza Socialista Bolivariana de los Trabajadores, (Bolivarian Socialist Force of Workers, FSBT), a current that for more than 15 months headed by the minister of labour, causing terrible damage to the unity of the workers, union freedom and the revolutionary process. The product of sickening behaviour against the UNT, today there are hundreds of parallel unions that exist in workplaces, leading to an extreme weakening of the strength of workers in defence of their interests and the struggles that our class has to wage against the bosses.

The UNT in process of reconstruction

Over the last two weeks the different currents within the UNT -- with the exception of the FSBT and the current around Franklin Rondón, known as ``Alfredo Maneiro’’ -- have agreed to once again get the national coordination of the federation functioning. The national coordinators in favour of the UNT, representatives of the different currents Colectivos Trabajadores en Revolución (Workers in Revolution Collective, CTR), Corriente Clasista Unitaria Revolucionaria y Autonoma (Classist, Unitary, Revolutionary and Autonomous Current, CCURA), Corriente Cruz Villegas (Cruz Villegas Current), Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide), Fuerza Bolivariana del Magisterio (Bolivarian Force of Teachers), y Trabajadores por la Patria (Workers for the Homeland), along with representatives of different sectoral and regional federations that wanted to participate, have been meeting once a week and will be the team that discusses the problems facing workers and their organisations. At the same time, commissions have been entrusted with the registration of affiliated union organisations and the holding of the congress in September, which will name an electoral commission to stage elections to be held in the first weeks of 2009 and where the workers’ program in the stage of the transition to socialism will be discussed.

It is very important that the UNT has once again begun to function, with the deep political and methodological differences that the different leaders, aligned with the currents, being put to one side in order to reconstruct the UNT. Today there are many factors and necessities that are at play that have made this situation possible. Nevertheless, what stands out is the position of the comrades from the Cruz Villegas current (the Communist Party of Venezuela’s trade union current), who have played an important role in insisting on the necessity of unity and who, together with Marea Socialista, we have been able to get everyone (CCURA, CTR) to sit down together with the other groups and comrades.

The delegates from the different currents in the UNT who participated in the recent conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva, in the midst of the fraternity which prevailed this time, discussed and exchanged opinions in order to achieve a commitment towards unity and the holding elections within the UNT. We have to recognise that those who today are at the head of the ministry of labour have facilitated the coming together of the different currents that have been at loggerheads with each other. Another thing that has been key for this has been the events that have been held every Tuesday in the Centro Internacional Miranda, where forums to discuss the fundamental problems facing workers and their organisations have been held and where all the currents have been invited to give presentations and participate, including the FSBT and the Alfredo Maneiro currents.

New stage

There are many tasks pending for the UNT in this current conjuncture and in the new stage that has opened up. Right now a discussion has opened between the different leaders, and union and political currents, in relation to what position to take regarding the announcement of a strategic alliance between the government and large business owners made by President Hugo Chavez on June 11. A discussion that has even occupied space in the opinion columns of Ultimas Noticias, Diario Vea and on television.

Nevertheless, there are many other discussions to take up and which are currently on the agenda. These include how to put an end to parallel unions; how to defend the autonomy of our organisations and union freedom; how to defend our wages; how to win a reduction in the workday; what to do about workers’ councils; what to do in order to implement workers’ control; how to fight to make sure that the new integral social security law functions; what proposals to take to the National Assembly regarding the new labour law and what to raise in the workers’ program of transition towards socialism.

The unity of the workers, the democratisation and legitimisation of our organisations and the functioning of the UNT are instruments for deepening the revolution in order to combat corruption and the bureaucracy, and those, together with the bosses and imperialism, who want us to return to the division and intolerance of the past. We hope that we have learnt that lesson. Unity, unity, unity, only in this way can we conquer the spaces that belong to the workers. A space the size and strength of a socialist revolution.

[Stalin Perez Borges is a national coordinator of the UNT and member of the Marea Socialista current. Visit]

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