[Venezuelanalysis.com's Kiraz Janicke reports on a two day conference on Worker's
Management: Theory and Practice, as part of a program, "Human Development and
Transformative Praxis," run by Canadian Marxist academic Michael Lebowitz at the
Center in Caracas.]
A worker at the worker-controlled Inveval factory, an hour east of Caracas in the satellite town of Carrizal, state of Miranda. January 2006. Credit: Gustavo Marcano.
Without Workers Management There Can Be No Socialism
Over the weekend of October 26 to 27, several hundred people attended a two day conference on Worker's Management: Theory and Practice, as part of a program, "Human Development and Transformative Praxis," run by Canadian Marxist academic Michael Lebowitz at the International Miranda Center in Caracas. The first day addressed the theory and historical experience of worker's control and attempts to build socialism, with presentations by Pablo Levin, the Director of the Center for Planning and Development at the University of Buenos Aires, British Marxist economist Patrick Devine (the author of Democracy and Economic Planning), Michael Lebowitz, and sociologist Carlos Lanz Rodriguez, a former guerrilla and now president of CVG-ALCASA the state owned co-managed aluminum factory. The second day of the conference focused on the various practical experiences of worker occupied factories in Latin America. Speakers included, Carlos Quininir (Zanon) and Jose Abelli (FACTA), from the recovered factory movement in Argentina, Serge Goulart from the Occupied Factory Movement in Brazil, as well as spokespeople from various examples of state owned companies under workers control or workers co-management and worker run cooperatives in Venezuela, including the Tachira Textile Cooperative, Inveval - an expropriated valve manufacturing company under workers control, ALCASA, and Cemento Andino in Trujillo, one of the most recent examples of workers control in Venezuela.
During his opening presentation Lebowitz said, "On May Day 2005 I marched with workers in Caracas and the slogan workers were chanting at the time was, ‘Without co-management there is no revolution!'"
"Indeed, the main slogan of that march organized by the UNT [National Union of Workers] was "Co-management is revolution and Venezuelan workers are building Bolivarian socialism."
From its beginning, the UNT, which came together in December 2002 when the old corrupt Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV) supported the bosses lockout and sabotage of the oil industry and has functioned essentially as an alliance of trade unions and union leaders and is characterized by internal divisions.
Despite the million strong May Day march in 2005, the UNT was unable to organize a united May Day demonstration in 2006 and at its second congress shortly thereafter, in the context of simmering factional divisions, fractured over the question of whether to hold elections or wait until after the presidential elections in 2006 in order to focus on supporting Hugo Chavez's campaign for presidency.
Since then the UNT has remained divided and although union leaders Orlando Chirino from the Current for Revolutionary Class Unity and Autonomy (C-CURA), and Marcela Maspero, of the Collective of Workers in Revolution (CRT), the two principal currents involved in the split, agreed in July to organize elections within the UNT before the end of this year, this has still not occurred. Although the UNT continues to organize on a regional level, it does not function as a united union federation and at the national level, it could be argued, its existence is nominal only.
Problems of Worker Management
As Lebowitz pointed out, we don't hear much talk of co-management or workers control coming from the UNT anymore. "We don't have masses of workers saying, ‘without worker management there is no socialism' or ‘that you cannot build socialism without worker management.'" Nevertheless, Lebowitz argued, "I think we have to recognize the essential truth of this proposition"
Framing the discussion, Lebowitz said it is useful to look at the different dimensions of what President Chavez has called "the elementary triangle of socialism," - units of social property, social production organized by workers, and production for the needs of communities. "You can't separate these in socialism" he argued. Capitalism is based on a different triangle he said; private property, exploitation of labor, and production for profit.
Lebowitz then drew on the lessons of the experience of worker self-management in the former Yugoslavia. He pointed out that although the enterprises were state owned and were viewed as social property, they functioned in the market and were driven by one thing, self interest of the workers in an individual enterprise; there was no concept of solidarity, that is, production for the needs of communities.
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