Interview: Stalin Perez Borges: “A Referendum is Necessary so the Working People Can Approve the New Labour Law”

We conducted this interview in order to convey the opinion of Stalin Perez Borges, national coordinator of Marea Socialista [Socialist Tide] in relation to the creation of the new labour law and unity within the union movement.

Marea Socialista: How are you Stalin? We would like to know your opinion about the progress of the creation of the new Organic Labour Law.

Stalin Peres Borges: Informing or misleading through what comes out in the media and through what one of the members of the presidential commission for the writing of the law [is something to worry about]. Today [26 March 2012] there’s a headline that reads, “Let’s make a fresh start with loans”, but when you look at the information you realise that it’s just one interpretation made by a journalist with that media, of the declarations made by the presidential commission on Wednesday.  While the draft for the law isn’t released, as we’ve been proposing, speculations and worries will thrive. The opposition legislators take advantage of this and spread doubts and discord, such as Alfonso Marquina, Alfredo Ramos, and Andres Velasquez are doing.

For these reasons and for others, we, Marea Socialista – we’ve had a public position for a long time. Just as we are conducting workshops and debates with workers from different unions and companies, we’ve also made our position known to President Chavez on two occasions.

The first time, we suggested the urgency of making the draft law public, owing to the enormous number of proposals already in existence, because this would help to focus and sharpen the discussion. It would also be useful to be able to correct mistakes and gaps that any draft can have. All this would allow the content of the law to be improved, so that it can be presented on May Day, the international day of the working class.

At the same time we also urged him to reflect, within the framework and constitutional character of the revolutionary process, on the possibility of a national referendum which formalises the approval, by the working class of the country, of the new Organic Work Law. This would guarantee that the law comes out with the support of the majority of working people, a mechanism which would become an obstacle, would prevent [the creation] of the work law regulations which would limit or put conditions on the achievements made by the law, already voted on by the working people.

The aim of these two requests to President Chavez was also to establish a process of mobilisation and more active participation.  The presenting of proposals – which is what has been done up until now – doesn’t guarantee real working class participation in the outlining of the law. According to our point of view, what’s important for the revolutionary process is the law, but also the real active participation of the workers.

MS: We’re seeing that it’s still difficult to manage unity in the trade union movement.

SPB: We’re very united, but we know that unity isn’t conquered by decree, or manoeuvres. We believe in a deep democratic process implemented by the bases [grassroots] and in the deep protagonistic debate of the workers and their legitimate leaders. In that sense, in the heart of the UNETE we have been proposing for months the need to make a bridge towards the experience of the new central [committee of the UNETE]. Unfortunately we haven’t been listened to, and like that we are seeing the sectarian evolution of some sectors within the UNETE. This is why we have given freedom to act to the union leaders of Marea Socialista so that union organisations can decide who they want to be incorporated into the central.  In this way, for example, leaders of our current are active in the new central, and there are other very important people who are still in the UNETE.

But this situation isn’t sustainable in the long term if we really try for unity. That’s why we are proposing the creation of something to work both the centrals, and that includes those unions who aren’t active in either of them. Something that has an action plan that addresses all the needs of the workers. Among those needs, the debt that the process has with public workers and the seven year delay of their master agreement, also the fight for a collective petroleum convention, health workers, and the situation in Sidor [steel plant]. As well as some other struggle measures such as confronting the criminalisation of those fighting for workers’ rights. For example, the case of our comrade Jose Melendez, leader of the Sidor workers, judicially pursued by order of the company board.

On the other hand, it’s a real contradiction that we all march together on 1 May and later we go on with each group doing its own thing. It goes against logic that we all say we are in favour of the labour law, that we have proposals and that we continue discrediting each other. While the new central believes itself to be the father of the new creation of the labour law, the UNETE, or rather the PCV is presenting another project in the wrong moment, to dispute that creation. We aren’t in agreement with sectarianism or exclusion. Unity is constructed from the bases and by respecting all identities.

MS: Anything else you’d like to add?

SPB: Look, I think if President Chavez listens to the voices of the workers he’ll see that these proposals are the most correct ones to unleash a real process of unity and mobilisation of the working class.  Only in this way can the working people give the revolutionary process another boost. And I think with awareness of cause.  Since January I’ve been touring the country. I’ve carried out meetings, debates, and workshops with workers in Bolivar, Táchira, Zulia, Falcon, and Anzoategui states and in Caracas and other states. Leaders and workers of basic industries, petroleum, food, energy, mining, cars factories, electronics, transport, and organised women and youth and other sectors have participated in these debates.  We have also carried out workshops with some federations of the UNETE, and as well with some unions of the new central, and many others who aren’t in either. We have proposed this policy that I just mentioned and that we are asking Chavez for. And it has been received and resolutions in favour of it have been voted for.  And I’m talking about a very representative field of states and sectors and more than 100 unions that have participated in these activities.

That’s why we insist on public consultation with democratic and decisive power. One, that the draft of the law is presented so that the debate can be organised and socialised. Two, that the law be decided by the working people in a national referendum, and three, advance in the creation of a union intermediary to push for unity from the bases and the foundation, through a constitutional process, of a new union model and class organisation that assures the destruction of the old model of capitalist production.  

Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com