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Commentary :: Globalization : Human Rights : Labor : Organizing : Politics : Social Welfare
Real independence for the working class
31 Jul 2006
Unofficial trnslation by Working Class Emancipation
Venezuela: Political Declaration of the Youth of the Revolutionary Left (JIR)
A public faction of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (PRS): Real independence for the working class

Those of us who came together for the task of building the PRS did so for the strategic necessity of building a revolutionary party, socialist and internationalist, that would fight to achieve a government of the workers and poor, that is, a party that would fight for workers' socialist revolution. We all agreed on this necessity because despite the fact that the workers and all the poor people of Venezuela had been making heroic strides, this had not led to a truly revolutionary change in the country, because the government was not, nor is it today, carrying out a truly anti-capitalist program, and because we know that it is the working class who can bring the fight against imperialism and capitalist exploitation to its conclusion.

As the JIR we participated in this effort under the firm conviction that for the revolutionary class to achieve its historic mission in the moment of revolutionary opportunity, it is a necessary condition that it has reached the most important level of political independence from all the variations of ruling-class politics. This, for us, is the root of the irreconcilable fight for the working class to believe only in its own power and methods of struggle, as an indispensable condition for the victory of the revolution; that for the working class to know how to clearly separate its interests as an exploited class from those of the bourgeoisie and from any bourgeois program; for it to see through every phrase, promise, and speech to the class interests concealed within. The great challenge for the workers, then, is to articulate a program and strategy of its own, opposed to every bourgeois leadership and program, in order to present itself to all the exploited masses as an alternative, and forge a worker, peasant, and popular alliance to fight to defeat capitalism, under the leadership of the wage workers. This is also the challenge for the revolutionary party: to fight tooth and nail so that more and more layers of the working class understand the importance of not trusting any other program, strategy, or leadership than their very own.

In this fashion, the JIR has been systematically struggling (from within the PRS and publicly) for the PRS to take up the politics of true independence for the working class. However, after important debates over what political position to take in order to advance the struggle for an independent working class strategy, the faction in leadership of the party in its actual process of construction has been applying a program that has diverted it from a consistently revolutionary course toward a dangerous adaptation to the bourgeois nationalist program of Hugo Chávez. The definitive expression of this political orientation is crystallized in the call to get on board with the official government campaign for “ten million votes for Chávez's reelection” in the December 3 presidential elections, which has grave political consequences for the workers' movement and for the type of party that they hope to build. On this point, the JIR has always firmly opposed this political orientation, which would lead the whole projecto of constructing a truly revolutionary party, to which we have brought various political forces, to failure. This public declaration is nothing more than the continuation of this discussion, since we think that this debate should be carried out before the eyes of the vanguard and the workers. The JIR is not willing to abandon the strategy of working class independence upon which the call to build the PRS was based, and from which today a faction is leading a retreat all along the line.

1. The failure to understand a bitter truth: the mass struggles are politically expropriated by Chávez for interests alien to the workers.

For many years, the great masses of workers, peasants, and common people of our country have been waging important struggles against domestic reactionaries and imperialism. The important revolutionary day of April 13, 2002 [the defeat by the masses of the coup engineered by US imperialism against Chávez], and the battles against the lockout-sabotage in the oil industry, roundly defeated the reactionary plots of the national capitalists and their Yankee masters. However, the Venezuelan bourgeoisie is still “alive and kicking” today, going about its business, exploiting the workers, picking succulent profits resulting from deals with their government in certain economic fields. The imperial capitalists too are making out very well, controlling as they do almost all the banks and telecommunications; today they are “partners” with the national government in oil exploitation through the means of the “mixed enterprises” [companies that are jointly owned by the state and capitalist investors], and moreover doors are being opened to them to exploit the natural gas. The flip-side of this coin is that working class, poor, and peasant families continue to suffer low wages, lack of housing, landlessness, unemployment, scarcity of good food and health care, in short, they remain under capitalist exploitation and oppression.

As fiery as the speeches of president Chávez might be against capitalism, and for “empowering the poor”, nothing could hide this reality that the workers suffer daily in their firms, factories, and in every workplace, or in the poor communities, the barrios, and which the peasants suffer, still landless today. No amunt of government propaganda about how “now Venezuela belongs to everyone” can hide that despite the social programs like the “missions” [campaigns for popular education and public works financed by high oil prices and aid from Cuba], today just as yesterday the same ones as always benefit the most from “economic growth” and the high price of oil: the capitalists and the state bureaucrats.

The working class, the peasants, and the poor gave their all in the battle against reaction. However, the important blows that they struck aginst the bourgeoisie and imperialism were politically expropriated by the government for its own interests. Isn't that what happened after every defeat of the right wing? After the coup was beaten back, Chávez sent the workers home, asked for forgiveness, and the government began a “national dialogue” with the coup-plotters. After the lockout [a fraudulent “strike” initiated by the pro-imperialist oil bosses in league with US imperialism] was defeated, the government sat down at a “table of negotiation and reconciliation” with those same coup plotters, while for the people who had smashed the plans of the imperialist bourgeoisie in the streets and the workplaces, the government reserved the role of a simple spectator. It was the ministers, the Chavista deputies, and the president himself, who “administered” the victories of the working people.

As a result of this political expropriation, the bosses, landlords, and bankers, national and foreign, held on to their companies and interests intact, while the exploited masses had to settle for the social policies of the Missions. It's that beyond the speeches and high-sounding phrases, we know that Chávez's economic program intends to develop a strong national bourgeoisie (“like Brazil's”, he himself says), along with the development of the state industries, and counts on foreign investment to drive this development: the whole policy of accords with the bosses, business conferences, creditors, and mixed enterprises is going in this direction. Venezuela's entry into Mercosur [a Latin American free trade pact], which is presented as a question of popular sovereignty, is actually the complete opposite, since those who are behind the trade pact are the big transnationals and the imperialists along with the big local bourgeoisie, who stand to gain from this new treaty. And we workers know all too well what “foreign investment” and a “strong national bourgeoisie” mean!

The JIR has insistently pointed out the bourgeois nationalist character of the government, and the leading faction of the PRS says that it agrees with this. But the comrades have only a formalistic understanding of this definition. It's one thing to promote the broadest unity in action to defeat the attacks of the reactionaries and of imperialism, as in the coup attempts of the past, but this never means to subordinate ourselves to Chávez (even less so when the right wing is demoralized as it is now), but instead to carry out a strategy of the leadership and interests of the government, to open the way to a social revolution. This means that we must truly understand that the interests of the Chávez government are contrary to those of the working class and poor people. Therefore, our program must hinge on the class perspective: working class and socialist, that can be nothing other than the political independence of the workers. However, the program that the PRS is applying concretely is leading it in another direction. It does not make every effort to unmask the lie that the strategy upheld by Chávez will solve the problems of the workers and the poor, and therefore it does not try to show that such a strategy prevents its struggle from taking an independent course. We, on the other hand, believe that it is essential that we carry out a revolutionary program that promotes the mobilization and organization of the masses independently and free from the auspices of Chavismo.

2. The masses' confidence in Chávez: an excuse for not fighting to the end for an independent working class program.

However, we are witnessing the fact that the working people have faith in this political leadership that promotes plitics that run contrary to their interests. It's just this confidence in Chávez that has allowed him to administer the victories of the mass movement, it is this confidence that constitutes a grat obstacle in the way of the workers, peasants, and poor people moving forward in the mobilization and the struggle, independently and without the intervention of interests other than their own demands. The majority of the working class and the people still believe that Chávez is on their side in the struggle against capitalist exploitation, automatically identifying their interests with the government's program.

As revolutionaries we know that the policies of Chávez will not answer the great demands of the country's working masses, as he hasn't done in almost eight years in power. We know that, far from carrying out the fight against capitalist exploitation to the end, he has guaranteed, and continues to guarantee, that the Venezuelan and foreign bosses keep their profits and investments untouched. We know that the labor legislation and wage increases are no more than policies that resolve, to a miniscule degree, a fraction of the problems of some sectors of the working class, and at best apply to only 37 percent of the workforce. In short, we know that the political confidence that the working masses bestow on Chávez leads them to the dead end of reform within capitalism: either defeat at the hands of reaction or the resignation to the belief that capitalism can not be transcended.

For this reason we differ profoundly with the majority faction that leads the PRS, since they use this faith that the workers have in Chávez as an excuse not to fight for a truly independent working class strategy, with which the workers and peasants could free themselves from these illusions in the most radical and definitive way. We say that this confidence is the point of departure from which to spell out the program with which to open a dialog with the workers, the program that will drive the struggle to arm ever more layers of the working class with an independent strategy, instead of lining up with the majority faction of the PRS, which actually mimics the leadership of Chávez and drags the workers along behind him.

We need to prepare the workers politically, unmasking and denuncing the politics of Chávez, explaining to the masses how, regardless of his “Socialism for the 21st century” rhetoric and his social policies with the Missions, he does not defend the historic interests of the workers and all the exploited, but on the contrary is strngthening his ties with the bosses and the transnational corporations.

We consider the most urgent task to be the fight for the working class to trust only its own forces, methods of struggle, and organizations, and thus to carry out an independent working class political program of open struggle against capitalism. With such a program it will have to oppose the government, given its conciliatory policies which leave untouched the interests of the bosses who the workers have been fighting. We insist that it is possible to open a dialog with the workers from the position we have gained as revolutionaries leading the front lines of the fight against the attacks of imperialism and home-grown reaction against Chávez's government, as well as in the defensive and anti-bureaucratic struggles of the workers. With this kind of politics and with the example of concrete struggles, we can show that in order to confront imperialism and the bourgeoisie, we don't need to politically support the government, because even when we had defended the government along with workers and poor people against the coup-plotting pro-imperialist reaction (and we will do it again if similar situation arise), we know that having a politics of independence for the working class is the necessary condition for consistently fighting against capitalism and imperialism.

Commonly, the excuse that the comrades of the majority factions of the PRS present for not carrying forward a true fight to unmask the Chávez government before the eyes of the workers, is that one needs to “accompany the masses through their own experiences”.Who could ever be against that? The question is, do we “accompany” the masses to forge, in the womb of the workers vanguard, sectors that draw the line against chavismo and take up a independent working class perspective, or do we “accompany” them to go on feeding their faith in Chávez, speaking only about “the bureaucracy” and “corruption”, and questioning “in a positive light”, once in a long while, some policy or other, without touching Chávez's politics and leadership in its entirety. To accompany the masses, in a revolutionary sense, means to intervene in the workers' movement and its struggles with a systematic, public, and sharp program of revolutionary demands and denunciations of the government and of Chávez, so that before the eyes of the workers and through their own experience of struggle, the pro-capitalist character of the one who now leads them will be unmasked. The comrades [in the leadership of the PRS] have roundly refused to promote this program.

3. Politics that don't lead the anti-bureaucratic strugggle or the real class independence of the UNT [National Workers Union, Venezuela's leading union federation] to their ultimate conclusions.

Precisely because of the situation we have described, today important defensive and anti-bureaucratic struggles, and important reorganization processes, are developing in the womb of the workers' movement. The PRS is very well positioned here, as the foundation and development of the Classist, Unitary, Revolutionary, and Autonomous Current (C-CURA) [a radical current in the UNT] demonstrates, which unites in its heart the most honest and dedicated working class fighters. This process found its highest expression in the anti-bureaucratic revolt that raged at the second congress of the UNT, which ended, as we all know, in the split of the union federation led by the government-supported bureaucrats. It was, and continues to be, fundamentally important to make the most of this political placement: to succeed in drawing more layers of the workers toward the adoption of an independent politics and programs for action that, starting with the immediate demands and motive forces of every struggle, lead toward questioning the government, programs which allow the development of the relationship of forces within every struggle toward confrontation with the bosses, the union bureaucracy, the government, the regime, and the State.

The situation among the workers is favorable, not only for bringing the struggle against the bureaucracy to its logical end, but also to explain to the workers how it can be that the bureaucracy, that they so hate and reject, is useful to the government and is supported by Chávez, this leader who they trust so much. But at the conference on June 23, after the second UNT congress, the union leaders of the PRS voted for the resolution “for the origional leadership of the UNT to lead the federation until the elections”. That is to say, with the argument of “preserving the unity of the UNT”, the PRS accepts that the the pro-government bureaucracy, such as Marcela Máspero, Franklin Rondón, Osvaldo Vera and Francisco Torrealba should once again lead the UNT, the same group that the advanced workers rejected at the last congress. How is it possible to wipe out the bureaucracy of the federation and the constituent unions with this kind of politics? In this way important opportunities were lost to help the workers understand that bureaucrats like Marcela Máspero are nothing more than a transmission belt from the interests of the Chávez government to the workers, interests which are against their own.

In this same meeting, our union-leader comrades, against the accusation of the bureaucrats that they were a part of “Chavismo without Chávez”, replied that “in any event we are for chavismo without bosses or bureaucrats”. How is it possible for the leaders of the PRS to call themselves chavistas, when chavismo is synonymous with a bourgeois-nationalist project contrary to the historic interests of the workers? We consider that declarations of this type render meaningless any formal statement that we make about the independence of our class against the government and its program. In the congress to launch the C-CURA on February 17 and 18 of this year, the comrades pushed for a vote in support of the re-election of Chávez, and at the second congress [of the UNT] they initiated and supported the same resolution, expressing a “full and unqualified support” for the election of Chávez. What kind of independence is this for the working class that we are fighting for within the UNT? From our point of view, all of this politics goes directly against the workers' anti-bureaucratic struggle as well as against the imperative necessity of freeing workers from the chavista bureaucracy and from their confidence in Chávez.

4 The refusal to raise an independent workers' candidacy for the presidential elections. Following the government's official policy of [getting] 10 million votes.

We consider that the political capital conquered in the UNT and in the trade union current C-CURA could have been used to take on an independent workers' policy for the next presidential elections, by promoting an alternative class politics, expressed in a workers' candidacy, which would be capable of confronting the government's class collaboration policy. We debated about this inside the PRS. This would be "novel" for the majority of the workers; however, this policy permitted us to explain that the workers must have their own program, strategy and leadership to struggle for their interests and those of all the exploited masses, opposing this class option not only to the proposals of the reactionaries, but also to the class- collaborationist project of Chávez. After the position of the PRS leaders, this permitted us to have a revolutionary and class- conscious debate with the workers, a debate that explained the importance of having their own voice and strategy (and not giving political supports to choices that are alien to the interests of the exploited), the importance of increasing their organization and struggle by the big fundamental demands of the exploited masses and that would explain therefore the need to build a strong revolutionary workers' party.

We maintain that there is a powerful need to raise this independent workers' candidacy, with a clear program of anti-capitalist struggle and for the expropriation of the "Venezuelan and foreign thieves," so that the enterprises, banks and lands pass into the hands of the working-class majorities and the economy is planned in accordance with the needs of the exploited through a direct government of the workers and the poor, a government whose organs should be the means of struggle and direct democracy with which the mass movement is equipped. With a workers' candidacy that would raise a program like this, we could have advanced greatly in the task of explaining to the workers the need to have their own working-class perspective and strategy, to lead the struggle against capitalism to the end!

But internally they answered us that "it would be terribly stupid even to think about putting forward a workers' candidate"! The comrades of the PRS majority consider that it is stupid for the working class to have its own candidates and its own working-class politics! Because of this they took no initiative that could guarantee legal representation of their own choice, not only by exhausting all the possibilities to legalize the PRS, nor even forming an "electors' group" at the national level, a means by which the law permits candidacies to be presented. On the contrary, almost at the same time that Hugo Chávez launched the campaign for the "10 million votes," from the Avenida Bolívar at the beginning of the year, the comrades were internally proposing joining this official policy. Before the internal debate developed in the PRS and any decision was taken, the majority took the lead in supporting the reelection of Chávez by launching C-CURA, which ratified this in the magazine Opción Socialista Nº 5, by saying that "the legitimation of the UNT leadership . . . will give more credibility and authority to the leaders of the [UNT] federation to invite their affiliates and all the workers to vote for President Chávez." The most eminent union leaders of the PRS also publicly expressed the same policy. It was not a problem with time, nor that there were real, concrete conditions preventing the promotion of an independent workers' candidacy, but rather a firm political decision to join the official campaign for the "10 million votes." The comrades who lead the PRS should have considered it "stupid" that the workers would support a ruling-party candidacy of a bourgeois nationalist project.
The internal debate that developed inside the PRS had few possibilities of changing this political orientation that was already public in the unions and the workers' federation. Thus, unfortunately, the broad majority sector that leads the PRS, instead of developing a genuinely revolutionary and independent politics and instead of an intransigent struggle, decided by "majority consensus" to join the campaign for the "10 million votes for the reelection of President Chávez," having only the open and frontal opposition of a minority represented by the Juventud de Izquierda Revolucionaria, which always considered that this policy, instead of helping the workers to free themselves from the political influence of chavismo, reinforced trust in Chávez, that is, in a bourgeois project.

The PRS majority openly supported the official politics of the government by emphasizing that "we do not hesitate for a single second in expressing that we will make our best efforts to contribute so that we 10 million or more Venezuelan men and women will burst the ballot boxes with votes for the reelection of President Chávez," as the official declaration recently published on the PRS web page and distributed by the Aporrea web page, says. The comrades consider that by adding the PRS to the campaign for "10 million for a socialist Venezuela, without bosses, bureaucrats or corrupt officials," the PRS now has independent politics and the workers are being helped to move forward. Exactly in "the different perspective," with which the comrades say they will support Chávez is truly where it is the most dangerous, since this is just reinforcing the myth among the workers that Chávez is really for a "government without bosses or bureaucrats," and for "socialism." We consider that this position taken by the comrades means a true political disaster that liquidates a real independent workers' politics and strengthens confidence and the idea among workers that they will be able to achieve their fundamental demands from the hand of bourgeois nationalism.

Apparently the comrades have forgotten everything and learned nothing, since their politics leads to the fact that amidst significant struggles that the workers are carrying out against the bureaucracy and against exploitation by the bosses, the sector that is supposed to be the vanguard, far from starting from there to help them advance to clearly anti-capitalist and anti-government positions, calls on them to vote for the leader and chief of the government that has politically expropriated their victories against the reactionaries and that continues to deepen the negotiations with Venezuelan and imperialist capitalists: a complete political disaster from the revolutionary working-class point of view! To lead the PRS to follow this policy is only an expression of a complete accommodation to the bourgeois nationalism of our country. We have maintained and we continue to maintain that with the politics that we have proposed, it was and is possible to advance toward revolutionary regroupment of the vanguard on the condition that it fights with a class politics that politically confronts the project of Chàvez. It is the only way to forge a workers', revolutionary and socialist alternative, that we believe ought to be the way to build the PRS.

Why is Chávez asking for 10 million votes? The comrades have not stopped, even for a second, to reflect on and consider the consequences of their politics. In truth, Chávez is asking for the vote of the workers to move forward in his plan of negotiations with the businessmen, to make concessions to the big transnational corporations, finally to progress in his plan to conciliate those who have always been the exploiters. For this reason, we maintain that, with the absence of an independent workers' candidacy, for which the majority leadership is responsible, we ought to propose to the workers that they void their ballots or leave them blank. The workers clearly are not going to vote for reactionary candidates, since they repudiated reaction a while ago, but to call on them to vote for Chávez in these presidential elections does not contribute to the workers' "winning" and defeating reaction and imperialism, but rather to strengthening a policy of conciliation with them, which is what the government has been doing in spite of the interests of the workers, the peasants and the poor. Why should we call on the workers to vote to strengthen that plan?

Bourgeois stability and "normality" which have become evident with greater force in this last period, have become apparent not only through negotiations with the businessmen, but also through policies that avoid workers' conflicts and discipline the most discontented sectors. We have noticed, haven't we, in our own experience how a type of "Holy Alliance" has been formed against workers' struggles and a "united front," where there are not only the bosses but also the state institutions, which has its greatest expression in the anti-worker policy of "zero conflict" supported by Chávez? Have the comrades who are calling for seeking the "10 million" forgotten this? Were not the deputies of Chávez those who approved a Penal Code that criminalizes the seizures of lands and buildings? Weren't the chavista deputies those who proposed punishing the strikes by workers in basic and strategic enterprises with prison? Doesn't Chávez support laws that contemplate prison for the peasants who seize lands outside of the government's negotiations with the landowners? It is in order to continue that course that they are asking us for the 10 million, it is in order to discipline the workers' movements and the poor peasants who may become radicalized!

5. The adaptation to chavismo dilutes the political content of the PRS

We categorically consider that the comrades of the majority faction who are part of the official government campaign have debauched the Declaration of Principles and the Foundational Document on the basis of which the call to build the PRS was issued. We defend these guidelines and we will continue to fight to hold on to the central tenets of “political independence from the government” and the struggle for a government of the workers and the poor people, since it is not written there that we should lead the PRS to a politics of adaptation to chavismo, much less into the campaign for votes for Chávez's bourgeois nationalism.
We categorically consider that all this dilutes the political content of the PRS. They key to revolutionary politics in these times consists of securing the class independence of a working class organization, small as it may be, with which the masses, when they are confronted by the government, will know they have found the political instrument necessary for the offensive against capitalism and against the class-collaboration politics of Chávez. For the PRS to incorporate itself into the official 10 million votes for Chávez's reelection campaign is to lead the masses into a trap, to push them into the arms of their class enemy. The comrades forget that the misfortune of the national political process is rooted precisely in the lack of a working class socialist opposition that struggles with Chávez for the leadership of the working class. This is the point from which one must begin in order to formulate a revolutionary working class program, because the refusal to take up this preparatory struggle leads inevitably, when the crucial moments arrive, to a lack of a solid base of cadres and militants, political experience, theory, and program which allows for decisive action.

For us, the strategic problem we face in this epoch of the predominance of reformist tendencies among the masses is what steps to take to sort out the the workers who demonstrate the best combativeness and bravery in the class struggle, so that they can consciously assume the task of building a revolutionary workers party. For this reason we think that it is necessary to build a revolutionary workers party endowed with a marxist program which allows the working class to transform itself under the leadership of the most exploited and oppressed, building up and spreading the democratic organizations of struggle that the workers make in the mobilized masses make themselves. For this a permanent organization of the most politically advanced layers of the working class and the revolutionary intelligentsia is indispensable in order to confront the reformist and conciliatory tendencies, who are an obstacle to the defeat of the class enemy.

Faithful to this struggle, the JIR is always extending this important debate, over what program we must adopt in relation to the national government, the working class movement, and the upcoming presidential elections. Our positions have been clearly stated in the internal documents and in our press, En Clave Obrera. We are partisans of honest and open debate, without slander or defamation, since we think that clarity, political and theoretical precision, and therefore political honesty, are the elements which make a revolutionary tendency invincible. On this basis, at the national plenary of January 2007 we will officially declare ourselves “the public fraction of the PRS: for real independence for the working class”, and from this perspective we will continue to debate internally and publicly, before the working class and combative youth.

July 2006
See also:
http://www.jir-prs.org/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/labor_action/

This work is in the public domain
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