The economic crisis in Venezuela has hit the country’s productive apparatus particularly hard. An already import-dependent economy saw its goods and services production decimated in recent years.
In 2016, in the midst of the crisis, a group of workers from three worker-controlled factories in Venezuela’s eastern industrial heartland decided to get together and, through voluntary work, bring factories up and running again. This initiative would be the first in what came to be called “productive battles” while the group expanded to become known as the “Productive Workers’ Army.”
In the three years since they have engaged in 14 productive battles, wherein groups of workers go to state-owned factories (and in some cases communes and institutions) for a week to reactivate the production capabilities. One particularly significant battle took place in Venezuela’s largest oil refining complex in Amuay, Falcon State, while another very symbolic one took place recently in El Maizal Commune, Lara and Portuguesa States.
The Productive Workers' Army recently had a new visual identity designed by collective creative platform Utopix. (Productive Workers' Army)
Paraphrasing the workers themselves, they do not repair machines, they repair consciences. The Productive Workers’ Army is a living practice of Chávez’s legacy, demonstrating the power of the organized working class.
Venezuela’s official political discourse is increasingly turning towards generating private (foreign) investment, which is presented as the only fix for Venezuela’s hardships. By contrast, experiences such as the Productive Workers’ Army contribute to show, through example, that voluntary work and a collective will go a long way towards creating solutions for the present while upholding the socialist horizon.
A map of the "productive battles" undertaken so far. (Productive Workers' Army / Utopix)