Caracas, Venezuela, 14 March 2006 – The Revolutionary Workers Front of Occupied and Co-managed Companies held its first march today. One of the representatives of the Front, Luisana Ramirez, said they want, “to unite the workers of all companies, to search for more worker control and more government appropriation.”
Less than 100 people started the march at the occupied textile factory Sel-Fex in the La Bandera area of Caracas. Workers from several occupied and worker-managed companies were involved.
The marchers went to the Venezuelan National Assembly to present a list of demands. These included the government take-over of all occupied factories such as Sel-Fex to allow for worker management.
The Revolutionary Workers Front of Occupied and Co-managed Companies was formed on February 25. The decision to form the front was taken by a meeting of all Venezuelan factories either occupied or under a form of workers’ control.
The future of the Bolivarian Revolution is Socialism, the Front’s manifesto says. The document says this socialism can be made by government take-overs of basic Venezuelan industry and banks under workers’ control.
The manifesto of the Front highlights how Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said nearly 800 factories were suitable for expropriation and workers’ control in July 2005. The vast majority of these, “are still in the hands of unproductive capitalists,” the manifesto says.
The Front is committed to help Chavez win December’s presidential elections because he supports workers control, the manifesto says. The document continues by saying to end capitalism in Venezuela, “One man alone cannot drive the revolution. Chavez needs the help of the working class.”
Ramirez said the front was created because those who want more workers’ control felt the government and the UNT, the pro-government trade union federation, are not doing enough to make it happen.
Ramirez said the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Industry have people inside them opposed to the expansion of workers’ control who frustrate it. These people are often left over from the pre-Chavez governments, Ramirez said.
The UNT is supportive of worker control, “but in my opinion the UNT has problems organising and making decisions because of internal divisions,” said Ramirez. The Front representative said this meant the UNT, “has not done enough to push for workers control.”
The march today was very small Ramirez recognised. The Front representative said, “We are only 20 days old. This is a first small step.” The Front will go out into the country, use the media, organize in the street and the unions to make a mass movement, Ramirez said.
Ramirez said, “We are on this march to strengthen the struggle for the whole country.” The marchers wanted the government to take its claims of inclusive democracy seriously and make, “‘the parliament of the street’ a reality.”
At the beginning of the march there was a counter-demonstration by a group of 15 Sel-Fex workers. They came into the occupied factory shouting, “We don’t want workers control. You don’t represent us.”
Ingrid Mireya D’Amico, a Sel-Fex employee, said those who wanted the government to take over the factory to allow for workers control were a minority. The majority wanted to end the workers occupation and start work again with the private owner.
A Sel-Fex trade unionist Candidas Sufonte said the factory had not properly paid their benefits for months. The factory stopped production in August 2005 and did not compensate the workers as they were contracted to.
Sufonte admitted those who want workers control at Sel-Fex are only 20% of the overall workforce but a majority in the Sel-Fex union. Sufonte said because the Sel-Fex factory stopped production it could be appropriated according to Venezuelan law.
D’Amico said a new investor in the company had said they would pay the workers some of their back wages and reopen the factory if they ended the occupation. The majority of the workers trusted this more than the government, D’Amico said.
Both sides angrily said the others were liars. Three Police arrived after someone called them saying they were disturbing the march. They asked the counter demonstration to respect the march. All of the Sel-Fex workers, both for and against workers control, told the Police to leave. Eventually the march left without further problems.