In workplaces and the streets we will defend our rights

The Venezuelan left-wing labor federation CUTV, affiliated to the World Federation of Trade Unions, issued a response to a statement of the CBST, the government-aligned union federation.
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Recently a communiqué of the so-called Central Bolivariana Socialista de Trabajadores (CBST) [Bolivarian Socialist Workers Center] was issued, where they confirm their support for the policies of the Government –which they plainly justify– and they accuse those of us who demonstrate against their policies as “paid counterrevolutionaries” and make threats of violence in the streets.

From the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CUTV) [United Center of the Workers of Venezuela] and the Frente Nacional de Lucha de la Clase Trabajadora (FNLCT) [National Front of Struggle of the Working Class], in view of the claims of the above-mentioned communiqué and the gravity of the events, and the facts on the ground, we have decided to speak out in order to give a clear answer, calling on all the forces of the workers’ movement to support and join this statement, even though we understand that the best response is to increase and strengthen the united struggle of the working class in defense of its rights.

Capitalism in the world and in Venezuela. Double-talk, double standards.

The authors  of the CBST pamphlet, as the present PSUV leadership is accustomed to do, present in the first place an apparently ‘leftist’ discourse affirming that “the neoliberal model that dominates the world and Venezuela” is in crisis focusing its hopes on an imaginary ‘multipolar world’ as the salvation of the people. That is to say that these false ‘leftists’ of the trade union elite of the CBST do not see the crisis of the world capitalist system but a crisis of ‘neoliberal hegemony’. But it turns out that the capitalist system, in its current imperialist phase, is in a deep crisis and the internal contradictions sharpen, generating conflicts and wars (such as the war in Russia and Ukraine) and widening the gap of social inequalities all over the planet.

For us, the existence of the capitalist mode of production and distribution (determined by the capital-labor contradiction) is the origin of all the injustices and calamities experienced by the working class and the peoples of the world and, for sure, no reformist solution led by timid ‘progressive’ governments that puts themselves at the service of the system, will be able to overcome the conditions of exploitation and oppression suffered by millions of men and women of our nations.

Under its accommodating approach, the CBST does not rationally conceive of the class struggle nor of the transforming role of the working class, the only social class capable of making a true revolution in alliance with the poor peasants and the popular sectors in general, a revolution that has never occurred in Venezuela. Incidentally, it is striking that the leadership of the CBST questions neoliberalism in the rest of the world, but it is an accomplice of the neoliberal adjustment program applied by the current Venezuelan government.

The CBST bureaucracy does not explain the real causes of the crisis in Venezuela.

They do not say that the origin of the crisis lies in the fact that we have never ceased to be a dependent capitalist economy and that the oil rentier economy collapsed because it has not been overcome, despite the rhetorical speeches. The imperialist coercive measures (the criminal sanctions) were not the origin of the current crisis, but rather exacerbated the structural crisis of a mono-exporting and mono-industrial economy, with traditional and new parasitic bourgeoisies fed by oil income, which has been irresponsibly squandered, without any sovereign industrial development plan.

Between 1999 and 2014 the income received from oil exports was 960,589 million dollars, an average of 56,500 million dollars annually for 17 years What was done with that huge sum?

From 2003 to 2013 more than 300 billion dollars were directly allocated to the private sector. Through massive fraud with imports and the remittance of profits abroad, private, bourgeois sectors increased their assets deposited abroad by more than 110 billion dollars in the same period of time. This is not counting the great resources appropriated by the corrupt officials installed in different sectors of the Venezuelan State: the genesis of the mafias of the nouveau riche and the misnamed ‘revolutionary bourgeoisie’. That is to say, a huge amount of foreign currency has been lost to the Venezuelan nation, without any investment plan for the development of the productive forces, nor to assure the people the satisfaction of the most important needs of food, health, education, salaries, decent jobs, social security, quality public services, making Venezuela a highly vulnerable nation.

Venezuela has not won its sovereignty from the international financial system. The foreign debt grew by 200% in 20 years, from US $49 billion in 1999 to US $154 billion in 2018.

During the government of Nicolas Maduro, debt commitments reached 55% of the country’s oil export revenues in 2015 and in the period from 2013 to 2017, this government paid some 109 billion dollars in foreign debt. In other words, while the working people were being asked to make sacrifices, the government boasted of ‘punctually’ making exorbitant debt payments to the international financial system. Thus, disinvestment in the oil industry and in the basic companies of Guayana, among other productive entities of the State, has its origin in the full transfer of oil income to the national and international private sector, through direct and indirect means, without any consideration for the nation or the Venezuelan people, a situation that was later exacerbated by the drop in oil revenues.

A neoliberal adjustment program is the government’s response to the crisis: more poverty, inequalities, injustices.

The current national crisis has its fundamental origin in the collapse of dependent capitalism and the model of oil rentier accumulation, amid the government’s administration at the service of the parasitic capitalists and corrupt mafias. This crisis is then aggravated by the aggressions committed by the imperialist governments of the U.S. and Europe against the Venezuelan nation, not because there is a revolution here or anything like that, but because the interests of the gringo and European monopolies are in play and are in competition with Russian and Chinese capital.

But when the crisis rears its head and worsens, hitting the working people hard, what is the response of Nicolás Maduro’s government? The same as that of all bourgeois governments: a neo-liberal adjustment plan (very similar to that of the second government of Carlos Andres Perez and the second government of Caldera), started in 2018 with the cynical title of “Program for Recovery, Growth and Economic Prosperity”:

  1. Privatization of public enterprises (after their bankruptcy).
  2. Deregulation of the economy: dismantling of all controls on prices, costs, and profits (freedom of action for unscrupulous traders), promotion of a savage free market.
  3. The increased use of a regressive and anti-popular tax system: tax exemptions for the big bourgeoisie (above all to stimulate imports and attract parasitic investments), increase of consumption taxes (VAT, taxes on foreign currency payments, tolls everywhere).
  4. Aggressive reduction of public spending (deteriorating public services and downgrading of the personnel who work for the State).
  5. Destruction of the value of earnings and imposition of labor deregulation: severe reduction and freezing of salaries and pensions; pulverization of social benefits, bankruptcy of savings banks  , the pension fund of PDVSA [the State oil company] was looted); dismantling of collective bargaining agreements (memorandum-circular 2792 of the Ministry of Labor and ONAPRE, the Government Office of Budget Memorandum-circular 2792); suppression of trade union rights and the right to strike; massive, open and simulated dismissals with the agreement and complicity of the Ministry of Labor; (fraudulent application of 148 of the LOTTT [Labor Code], among other forms); fraud in labor relations became generalized: subcontracting, outsourcing, individualization and commodification of labor; dismantling of health and safety protections in the workplace; increased authoritarianism and abuse by employers against worker’s job security; with the authorities’ consent and acceptance; among many other situations that make the quality of life of workers (active and retired) and their families more precarious and deteriorated as never before.

To give us an idea of the process of real wage destruction in our country: real wages in our country: in May 2012, the minimum income of a worker (minimum wage plus food basket) represented 153% of the food basket and by June 2022 it represents only 7.10% of the food basket.

We also have the de facto dollarisation, cynically promoted by the Maduro government as an ‘escape valve’ in the face of hyperinflation, but which increases the helplessness of the great mass of workers and pensioners who receive salaries and pensions in bolivars, while goods are generally priced in dollars. From the perspective of political economy, the only merchandise that is not paid in dollars is the commodity of labor power.

They try to justify the anti-worker labor policy  with the illegal imperialist sanctions, but at the same time we see how the government protects and pampers the parasitic capitalists of the State and the ‘entrepreneurs’ of taverns, casinos, gigantic and luxurious supermarkets and delivery services with unprotected workers, where neither the LOTTT nor the LOPCYMAT [Workplace health and safety law] are applied and where they are overexploited and their labor power is abused with impunity among a workforce mostly comprised of young people.

And while workers who work for the Government are having a significant part of their salaries confiscated with the application of the criminal directives of ONAPRE to cut benefits condemning them to lives in misery, high-ranking state officials drive around in imported state-of-the-art vans and are converted into tycoons who now live in mansions and have unimaginable properties. It is not at all difficult to know what interests these bureaucrats are now defending. All of this is justified and defended by the CBST communiqué.

Anti-democratic and authoritarian practices accompany anti-worker and anti-popular policies.

As always happens when neo-liberal adjustment policies are applied, the Government increases anti-democratic and authoritarian measures, typical of any reactionary bourgeois State, with the aim of crushing any hint of workers’ and popular resistance to policies that deepen injustices and inequities. They want to have workingmen and women without rights who are content with such a situation. To this end, they increasingly exercise repression, harassment, layoffs, blackmail, criminalisation, and prosecution of those who dare to protest, denounce, confront, and expose that the whole discourse of the supposed ‘revolution’, ‘workers’ government’, ‘Bolivarian socialism, is a pure and simple fraud.

This explains why the President of the Republic, in a pathetic speech, calls for the imprisonment of anyone who marches in protest of the low salaries and ONAPRE’s directives [wage and benefit cuts]. And the president of Siderurgica del Orinoco (SIDOR) threatens to fire, suspend, and send to prison the steel workers who were forced to carry out a work stoppage to demand compliance with the salary increase promised by the president of the company himself, and to reject that hundreds of “unrequired” workers have been downgraded with wage and benefit cuts and subjected to misery and total defenselessness, a situation also suffered by those who work in the rest of the basic companies in Guayana.

In a similar situation are health workers who, after risking their lives in the fight against the pandemic, are victims of widespread harassment and of widespread employer-police/military harassment, being accused of theft of medicines and supplies without any investigation, with outrageous acts against the physical and moral integrity of personnel in hospitals and comprehensive diagnostic centers.

We have also seen how dozens of workers, including union leaders, have been prosecuted and sent to prison for months and even years without due process for defending labor rights, for making claims or denouncing acts of corruption, or used as scapegoats to protect real criminals.

It is clear, that the intention to intimidate the working class is evident when a wage earner is treated as a dangerous criminal or even worse, as a terrorist. a salaried worker who has confronted his public or private employer and finds that the entire criminal police machinery of the State rushes against him to destroy him morally, if not physically.

An instrument conceived for the abominable criminalization of the workers and the people is the unconstitutional “law against hatred” repeatedly used for such purposes.

Now we are faced with the aggressive and threatening communiqué from the CBST leadership, where they promise a “fulminating combat plan,” but not against the bosses who violate the rights of the workers, nor against the corrupt bureaucrats, nor against the anti-worker policies, not even against those who against the enablers of imperialist interference such as Guide and his clique who are free and talking wit the government..

No, the CBST’s “fulminating combat plan” will be against the workers who dare to protest.

But as is the custom of those who abuse their power, a threat is preceded by a demonisation to try to justify the attack. They say that the salaried and retired workers and retirees who protest for our rights we are all in the pay and at the service of powerful enemies of the government and that we are also organised in “armed gangs”. We really do not know if any of those who go out to protest are financed by someone but what we can affirm is that we are not financed by anyone, just as the hundreds of other protestors are not financed by anyone, just as the hundreds of thousands and millions of downgraded workers are not financed, but laid off, with miserable salaries, mistreated by the bosses and the government.  Nor are they armed people, because what they receive in wages is not enough to feed themselves, much less to buy weapons. What is very clear is that the protests, energetic but peaceful, against the plundering of our labor and human rights, are all legitimate and necessary, backed by Article 68 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to public demonstration, in a peaceful and unarmed manner.

We denounce that violence against those who protest has begun, but it is not carried out by CBST union leaders or workers convinced that the government must be defended, no, it is carried out by groups of armed motorists, paid by the government, who calls them “colectivos”, but who are really mercenary bands organized to intimidate and attack citizens who are working people and who demand respect for their rights, they do not attack rich people or criminals. The civilian repressors, paid by the governmental leadership and sponsored by the pro-neoliberal union bureaucracy, act outside the Constitution and are a threat to the citizenry.

To justify its “fulminating combat plan”, the CBST also says that the protesters are resurrecting the “extinct CTV” but it turns out that it was the government, through the Ministry of Labor, who “resuscitated” the CTV and other trade union centres of the opposition right wing, through their “tripartite dialogues”, dialogues endorsed by the ILO. Such tripartite mechanisms, set up by the government with the support of the imperialist centres, give a strong role to Fedecamaras [opposition employers federation] and the leaderships of certain trade unions . It is no accident that they exclude the CUTV and non-confederate grassroots organisations, to legitimise neoliberal policies that assure the capitalists maximum profit at the lowest cost, sacrificing the rights and dignity of the working class.

For this reason, the leadership of the employers, of the government and the [compliant] trade unionists need to isolate and destroy the non-controllable trade union organizations opposed to the neoliberal plan. The aristocracy of the CBST

is not mistaken in its fascist-like  communiqué: they are an odious trade union elite, distant and disconnected from the reality suffered by the working class.

Our response: to fight united without allowing ourselves to be intimidated or manipulated.

In the face of this situation, it is necessary to respond with the broadest unity of action of all workers, activists, and retirees, affected and threatened by the massive violations of the Constitution committed by the national government regarding human, civil, social, labor, and political rights. State terrorism against the working people must be confronted with the collective and united courage of millions of men and women who, regardless of their political sympathies, need to enforce their violated rights and fight for a better life. For this reason, we also appeal to the solidarity of international class-conscious trade unionism.

The false polarization (Chavismo-Opposition) only serves to manipulate and divide the working people; the real division that exists in Venezuelan society (as in all capitalist societies) is between bosses and workers, between the bourgeoisie and the working class, between exploiters and the exploited, between the oppressors and the oppressed, between those at the top enjoying power and those of us at the bottom trampled by the powerful. It is clear, and becoming more and more clear, that the State and the present government are not on the side of the exploited and oppressed, but on the side of the exploiters and oppressors.

United we will be invincible!

Whoever governs, we will defend our rights!

Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CUTV)

Frente Nacional de Lucha de la Clase Trabajadora (FNLCT)

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