Jorge Martin: Can you tell us who you are and why you came to Britain?
I am Ruben Dario Linares Silva, member of the National Coordination of the UNT [National Workers Union] and vice-president of the United Transport Federation in Venezuela. I am in England thanks to an invitation from the RMT to attend their congress and so that I can have personal contact with trade unionists and explain the revolutionary process in Venezuela: what is the situation of the workers, what do we want, what do we hope for.
You should know that the workers of Venezuela and the people as a whole are participating in a process of change, we have been deeply affected by capitalism which is the cause of all the evils inflicted on our peoples, and now we are on the way towards socialism. US imperialism with Bush and the State Department will not be able to impose their will on us. We will defend ourselves as we have done so far, with all the legal weapons in our hands, like the constitution, looking for support from world public opinion, but if they at any time invade us we will respond in the same way, a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. They should not think that if they try to invade Venezuela they will be able to leave unharmed, the answer would be much worse than the one Iraq is giving to the Empire right now.
JM What can you tell us about the experiences of workers’ participation in the management of publicly owned companies and of the nationalisation under workers’ control of companies that went bankrupt?
RL We are refounding the whole of the trade union movement, building it anew. What we are raising is co-management both in the state owned and in the private sector. In the private sector, let’s be clear, when a company owner tries to close it down we say: “any factory that is closed should be taken over” and we discuss the possibility of reopening it with the help of the state in order to guarantee jobs and also production so that the country goes forward. We are also raising the issue of co-management in the private sector. If a private company receives a loan from the state, we raise the need for co-management, so that we can guarantee jobs and better production. And in the state owned sector we are clearly saying that all state owned basic industries should be under co-management. Co-management from the point of view of the workers is something very simple: we want power and participation in the management of the companies, in order to create new jobs, guarantee that the wealth reaches the people and that corruption is rooted out.
We must say it clearly, during the stoppage and sabotage of December 2002 and January 2003, there was workers’ control in the two most important state owned companies. In the [oil company] PDVSA there was workers’ control. It was us, the workers, who restarted production in the company after the managers had left, and we did so without managers. In the case of [electricity generator and supplier] CADAFE the workers guaranteed the supply of electricity throughout the stoppage/sabotage. It was the workers who did it; there was real workers’ control. This is what we want with co-management. We have all the rights, to elect the managers, look into the accounts, to make proposals; the workers have all the rights. This is what we are demanding in an audacious way and we think this is the way forward.
JM Hugo Chavez has said that within the limits of capitalism the problems of misery suffered by the Venezuelan people cannot be solved and that we must go towards socialism, how to you see this from the point of view of the UNT?
RL The way is socialism. This is the way that we must discuss all the different opinions on socialism, and how in Venezuela we are going to implement it according to our reality. We are in complete agreement with what the president said. Through debates and discussions we will reach a definition of what we need in order to implement socialism in Venezuela.
JM What are the main threats facing the Bolivarian Revolution right now?
RL The Empire has many problems. We have told the US that we have a trade relationship with them: we sell them oil and they buy it at whatever price is fixed by the market. But the US government has always believed that Latin America is their backyard where they can do whatever they want and as they please: install governments, remove presidents, grab all of our natural resources and take them to their country, add value to them and then sell them back to us at 50 or 100 times their original price, to exploit us … With very few exceptions, the natural wealth of our countries belong to the country as long as they are underground, but from the moment they come to the surface they become US owned, because of capitalist aggression.
JM I also wanted to ask you, what do you think of the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign and other solidarity campaigns that have been organised internationally to defend the Bolivarian revolution? What would you say to these activists?
RL Please continue your work. We cannot deal with the mass media on our own. The main news agencies in the world are in the private sector. They do not like what is happening in Venezuela and therefore they do not tell the truth. The only chance we have of getting the truth out is through the alternative media, and also through the Hands Off Venezuela campaign and other bodies that are organising support and telling people in Europe what is really happening in Venezuela.
JM What would be your message to British workers?
RL The main thing is that the struggle against privatisation here in England must be conducted in a radical way. The people must be made to understand and feel the problem. Only with the support of the people can we stop privatisation. English people should be aware that these famous policies of privatisation, that carry the trade mark of Thatcher, are being defeated in Latin America. In Venezuela there are no more privatisations and the other countries are also resisting them. In Peru we stopped the privatisation of electricity. In the case of Bolivia, the Aymara, Quechua and Guarani Indigenous people, which represent 82% of the population, are fighting for the renationalisation of industries against the private sector. In Argentina it has been proven that the capitalist system and its highest expression, this aberration called privatisation, are starving the people. And this is the case in the whole of Latin America. In Mexico we have the example of the electricity workers who are confronting [president] Fox, almost in a violent way one could say, to prevent privatisation.
JM Is there anything else you would like to add?
RL Yes, I would like to make a personal comment. Those of us who have always been left-wing in Latin America and in Venezuela, we recognise the role of Hugo Chavez. Cuba resisted for 40 years on her own, and with Hugo Chavez the revolution has become a Latin American revolution. It is still in its infancy, but it will bear fruit. Many of us who are over 50 years of age, we always dreamt of being able to confront the Empire in a successful way, and we thought we would never see it. Now, for many, the very fact that we are confronting it with success means that we must continue fighting on, in order to achieve the best for our peoples in Latin America. Paraphrasing Che Guevara I would say: “let those who are born know and let those who are yet to be born know, that the workers of the world are on struggle, and we struggle to win, not to be defeated”. This is what I think lies in the future: we will work hard to achieve these aims.