A government decision to dismiss Elias Sayago from his post as worker-president at the state aluminium company, CVG Alcasa, has been met with widespread rejection from workers and social movements alike.
As president of the worker-controlled factory since May 2010, Sayago enjoyed substantial support from employees, who have qualified the move as an “attack” against their workers’ control project at the plant.
The news was made public in an unexpected announcement on Saturday by Vice-president Elias Jaua, who revealed that Sayago would be replaced by Angel Marcano immediately.
Making the announcement just two days after President Chavez left the country to undergo an abdominal operation in Cuba, Jaua also disclosed government plans to invest over US$90 million in the company in a bid to increase production.
Alcasa came under workers' control in 2009 after employees fought to keep the factory open when its owners left. Considered vital for the development of workers’ control within the revolution, the company forms part of Socialist Plan Guayana, a government project aimed at shifting the predominant “mode of production” towards a socialist orientation.
On hearing the news, workers quickly organised in defence of their president, calling an assembly at the factory and issuing a statement strongly rejecting the government’s “disastrous” decision. In a letter published by Venezuelan alternative news site Aporrea, workers charged the government with trying to implement a policy which favours the Venezuelan oligarchy and vowed to oppose the attempts to replace Sayago.
“We have decided to call on the people of Guayana, its organisations, communal councils, nuclei and collectives to fight against and defeat this disastrous strategy” reads the statement.
Alcasa employees have also accused the upper echelons of the government of engineering a “coup” to replace Sayago with Marcano, who they view as a reformist and a favourite of Bolivar state governor, Rangel Gomez. According to the workers, Marcano was also one of the leaders of a lockout at the factory last year, which saw the state company closed for 34 days in an attempt to remove Sayago from his post.
“It’s a state coup against workers’ control,” said Denny Sucre, a member of the Workers Socialist Front at the factory. “That group, the M-21 and the FBT (Bolivarian Workers Front), union branches connected to Governor Rangel Gomez’s political group, have failed throughout the past two years, even though they used every trick in the book to destroy Elio Sayago’s management”.
Sucre’s comments echo other criticisms, with various worker collectives adding their voices to the protest throughout yesterday and today. Despite the news however, workers are adamant that the battle is not lost.
“This is a battle that we all have to fight… (we must) build unity for the struggle, which will only become meaningful with the conscious and democratic participation of the workers in the taking of their decisions, this is the only way to save Socialist Plan Guayana,” said workers from the Socialist Tide collective within Chavez’s United Socialist Party (PSUV).
In a press conference yesterday morning, Sayago confirmed that he had not been informed of the decision to dismiss him prior to it being announced on state television.
“I had not been previously notified, as I still haven’t. As such, I will keep working until I receive official information,” he said.
Citing Marcano’s role in the lockout, Sayago went on to describe the new president’s appointment as a “contradiction in terms”.
“It is my responsibility to alert you all that this is not a person taking control in Alcasa, but rather a political and economic group…a group that for practically two years has tried to obstruct efforts to consolidate workers’ control, they used violence and sowed terror in the industry,” explained Sayago.
The Venezuelan Communist Party has also opposed the move and is expected to release an official statement shortly.