[Marxism] May Day 2005 in Caracas: the revolution advances

michael a. lebowitz mlebowit at sfu.ca
Sun May 1 20:50:57 MDT 2005

	I thought people would be interested in a brief update on developments in 
	I marched for several hours today in the May Day march with workers from 
Alcasa, the state aluminum company, and other workers from state companies 
in the state of Bolivar. Well, 'march' is not quite an accurate way to 
describe the stop-start pattern of our progress. In fact, far better to 
describe it as a street party, which occasionally lurched forward when 
streams of marchers coming from other streets lessened: infectious dance 
music blared from the sound truck leading us, and dancing was occurring 
throughout the crowd--- most impressively from two older women and a man 
(occasionally joined by others) in front, who periodically shared the 
microphone to lead us in chants.  The main chant, which everyone happily 
shouted, was 'Without co-management, you cannot have a revolution!' 
(Occasionally, the variant--- 'without a revolution, you cannot have 
co-management'.) And then back to the music. The theme was echoed 
everywhere on the banners; one big one banner that I seemed either to be 
behind or to being hit on the head with was-- 'co-management and 
production: all power to the workers'.
	This was a happy crowd. And, the slogan was not a demand but an 
assertion--- because the workers in Alcasa have begun a process of 
co-management (which, to distinguish from the German use of the term, might 
better be called self-management or worker management); they have begun 
organising production themselves and electing their shop directors. What 
the workers in Alcasa have begun now will be a model for the workers in the 
other state industries (held by the CVG, the development corporation of 
Guyana) in Bolivar. And, this process is not only occurring in Bolivar--- 
co-management is the model which is being followed in Cadafe and Cadela, 
two state electricity distribution firms. And, the term is also being used 
to describe the process in two closed private firms which were recently 
taken over by the state to be run jointly by the state and worker 
cooperatives. In fact, the main slogans for the march itself, organised by 
UNT (the new trade union federation) were 'Co-management is revolution' and 
'Venezuelan workers are building Bolivarian socialism.' These were the same 
themes that came out of the several-day workers' table on co-management 
that was part of the 3rd international solidarity meeting two weeks ago in 
the city of Valencia.
	None of this could have been predicted six months ago. And, the speed with 
which the concepts of co-management and socialism have spread here 
testifies to the life and energy of this revolution. We have moved quite 
quickly from social programmes (with money circulating but without new 
production of goods) to a push for endogenous economic development 
(stressing co-operatives and agriculture but without sectors likely to 
accumulate) to the creation and expansion of state sectors and the focus on 
co-management. True, it's not entirely clear what either socialism or 
co-management mean here yet. But what the crowds out for this May Day march 
believe (if faces are any indication) is that both are 'good'; and that, 
you will recognise, means a lot.
	After four hours on this march/party, my companera and I recognised that 
we were several hours away yet from the place where the march was to end. 
So, we decided to walk home (which was on the way) and use the opportunity 
to watch the rest on TV. When we got back at about 2:30, we could see the 
flood of red shirts on TV cheering the speakers and singers. The crowd was 
immense. (I haven't seen estimates yet but my guess would be a few hundred 
thousand.) Then Chavez arrived. He listened to a number of speakers from 
UNT, and then began to speak about the need to create new models, to borrow 
but not copy, to build co-management and socialism of the 21st Century. 
These are becoming familiar themes. But, there was a new issue posed--- the 
question of introduction of co-management in private firms. This is not 
Chavez's initiative--- it is a question being pushed by UNT and forms the 
basis of a bill which will be debated in the National Assembly. This, too, 
was part of our discussions in Valencia, and it is something to watch 
closely because the form it takes (our North American group at the workers 
table stressed the importance of opening the books of the companies to the 
workers) is likely to mean an encroachment on capital.
	in solidarity,
PS. There also was a demonstration by the CTV, the old labour federation 
that backed the coup and the subsequent bosses lockout.  A good indication 
of what the CTV has come to was revealed the day before when they indicated 
that they were expecting 40,000 participants and indicated that their main 
demands would be to free political prisoners (in particular, their former 
leader Carlos Ortega, a coup leader) and to deal with unemployment (which, 
they stressed, would need economic growth-- something requiring 
negotiations between government, workers and industrialists). From my 
window, before we headed for the UNT march, I could see the street where 
the CTV people were assembled. Didn't look like much more than a thousand 
but maybe more came (not many more, though, if the careful phrasing on El 
Universal's website is any indication).
Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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