Monday, August 21, 2006

It's All Gone Wrong

I just saw this on the Alliance for Workers' Liberty site:
The Venezuelan National Guard has repressed a group of striking workers belonging to the UNT in Carabobo state, according to reports on the Aporrea website.

Workers at Alfarería Internacional (International Pottery) had their three-week-old strike broken up on 10 August by the National Guard. Two days before, seven members of the union’s executive were arrested.

Workers are members of the Unión de Trabajadores Procesadores de la Arcilla, Similares y Conexos del Estado Carabobo (Utpasca), part of the National Union of Workers (UNT), the new independent union federation in Venezuela.

The company had introduced 30 scabs to try to break the strike.

Although information is sketchy, it is at least clear that the Venezuelan military has used force to back employers against unionised and militant workers. The UNT in Carabobo is calling for solidarity.

Perhaps Chávez should heed the warning of his hero Simón Bolívar – damned is the soldier that uses force against the people.

If this is true, it is a worrying development.

Richard Gott, author of the excellent Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution, said the following during an interview published on the Venezuela Information Centre: "[Chavez is] not particularly interested in trade unions themselves becoming a significant force." Uh oh.

Gonzalo Gomez, editor of the left-wing Aporrea website, has voiced concern about the potential obstacles to the revolutionary process in Venezuela before. According to the Hands Off Venezuela campaign, "He also said that the Venezuelan government was a popular government but not a government of the workers and the people yet because the bosses were still sacking workers." Does anything more need to be said?

Unfortunately, yes. Too many people overlook the fact that the movement in Venezuela is bigger than Chavez, however impressive and welcome his government's record. The UNT has a far more radical track-record, for instance over demands for factory occupations and workers' control. It is the duty of all Socialists to support them, even when it is inconvenient.

Edit: It seems there is a precedent for this anti-union business. The Venezuelan vice-minister for energy, also the president of a private electricity company, is preparing to break a strike with scab labour - the Chavez government is allegedly content to suppress industrial disputes in the run-up to the presidential election.

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