The Workers International League interviewed Miguel Campos, an activist with FRETECO in Venezuela while he was in St. Louis, MO for the National Rank and File Conference held there the weekend of November 4th and 5th.
Presidential elections are coming up in Venezuela on December 3rd. What importance do these elections have for the Venezuelan working class?
The elections mark a decisive point for the Bolivarian revolutionary process. The Oligarchy is banking on Rosales, but he has no chance of winning elections. The oligarchy will probably denounce the elections if they even stay in the race to the end. Rosales is linked to big land-owning ranchers and paramilitaries. The pro-Chavez and anti-Rosales slogan “Another Bush is Possible” gets a good echo.
Anything can happen on election day. The only thing that we can rule out as impossible is that the imperialists and the oligarchy will peacefully and graciously accept the election results. The oligarchy and imperialism are making their calculations. We must also gauge the correlation of revolutionary forces. Under the current circumstances, the situation is still extremely favorable to the revolution, but there is a widespread feeling that after Chavez wins in December, things must change.
There is a huge gap between the masses’ expectations and the realities of bureaucracy and corruption in the state. The very worst elements have been purged from the bureaucracy, but it is still a bourgeois state machine. There is a continuous and ever-sharper struggle within state, but at the moment, the reformists are stronger.
If fundamental change doesn't take place after December, there is the danger of ultra-leftism in the vanguard and apathy in the masses. We must therefore increase our own influence on the process. Chavez must base himself on the mass organizations or the revolution can go down to defeat. The process is so deep, however, that not even a bad turn after December would not necessarily end things. The whip of counterrevolution can push the masses forward, as it has in the past. Chavez could possibly nationalize important parts of the economy. But we cannot simply wait for this. The working class must make an independent intervention. Venezuela is a chaotic country, with roughly 50 percent of people working in the informal economy, and this has an effect on the working class. This is why a revolutionary working class organization is so important
What is the role of FRETECO in this process?
Unfortunately, the National Union of Workers (UNT) is at present paralyzed by sectarianism and splits. Here’s an example: during a recent dispute involving several Coca-Cola plants, elements of the more reformist wing of the UNT mobilized former Coca Cola workers and blockaded the gates of the distribution depots. But they did so in a bureaucratic way, without trying to involve active workers. In response, the supposedly more radical wing of the UNT, which controls the unions at these plants denounced the occupation! This is an example of the kind of paralyzation that can set in in the real world as a result of the fruitless internal struggle for power and positions within the UNT.
This is why we formed FRETECO, so that we could give a concrete answer to workers in struggle and particularly those involved in factories that have been expropriated. Unfortunately all wings of the UNT leadership have been absent from this struggle, which we think is crucial for the future of the Venezuelan revolution. We are working to link up all those workers in struggle and in factories that have been nationalized and / or are being run under workers’ control. We need this kind of national coordination in order to complete the revolution, which means the nationalization under workers’ democratic control of the main levers of the economy.
FRETECO’s recent national conference had roughly 90 people present, it was a historic meeting. The National Peasant Front “Ezequiel Zamora” linked their struggle to that of FRETECO. Sanitarios-Maracay [A factory that makes ceramic bathroom fixtures] asked FRETECO for political education There are sectarians within the Bolivarian movement who tell workers not to fight for the expropriation of factories since the Chavez government is a bourgeois government. But more and more workers are rejecting this and are coming to FRETECO for more information and to link up the struggles.
The UNT has been described as a new kind of trade union. What role do you think the UNT should be playing in the Bolivarian Revolution?
For UNT to play a real role in the revolution, it can't simply be a better, more democratic version of the old anti-democratic Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV). In many ways, it must be a combination of a traditional trade union, popular / workers’ assembly, and political party. It must organize and link up the Venezuelan working class on a national level, placing them at the forefront of both economic and political struggles. But this is a closed book to the reformists and sectarian leaders, despite the instinctive strivings of the workers.
You see, when the UNT was first formed, the traditional “progressive” leaders from the trade union movement became the leaders. But the reformists among them think that socialism is not necessary, that things will improve by gradually reforming the capitalist system. And the ultra-lefts among them denounce Chavez as a bourgeois, think masses are not politically educated enough to carry through the revolution, and believe expropriations are off the agenda. This is the danger of a formalistic approach to a living and contradictory revolution. The result of the reformist and sectarian leadership is the near-total paralysis of UNT. But Venezuelan workers will eventually figure out that the methods and perspectives of both those wings are wrong.
A popular slogan for the presidential elections is: “10 million Votes for Socialism”. I see you have a slightly different take on this.
Yes – we say “10 million Reasons to Expropriate the Capitalists” instead of “10 million votes for Socialism” because there is so much confusion as to what is meant by “socialism” in Venezuela. Every wing in the movement has a different definition, everyone uses the word! For example, for the reformists, “socialism” means respect for private property, gradual change etc. They try and inject their class perspective into the debate in order to avoid a real discussion as to what socialism really is. It is our duty to fight for the reelection of Chavez while at the same time explaining what genuine socialism is.
Stay tuned for a transcript and audio stream of Campos’ speech to the National Rank and File Conference held recently in St. Louis,MO, in which he explains the development of the movement towards factory occupations and workers’ control in Venezuela.
Miguel Campos of FRETECO