On July 26, over 2000 workers marched to the National Assembly in Caracas in support of increased workers’ control. Handing over a document with over 45,000 signatures, the workers demanded that the legislative body approve the Special Law for Socialist Worker Councils and begin an immediate discussion of a “new and revolutionary” Organic Work Law (LOT). Both demands were submitted under article 240 of the Venezuelan constitution, which allows the people the right to legislate.
“These are two legal instruments that the workers are demanding. They are essential to advancing the process of accumulating the forces which will allow the workers to fulfil their protagonastic role in the construction of a new society,” said Douglas Gomez, of the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV).
Convened by the Workers’ Control Movement, the workers’ socialist councils, the National Workers’ Union (UNETE), the Workers’ Class Current and hundreds of unions throughout the country, the march was hailed as a success by workers and organisers alike.
“We want the workers to be the driving force behind the control of production in factories, so that products aren’t sold at speculative prices on the street, this will be achieved through worker control and the collective contract,” said Felix Martinez, General Secretary of the MMC (New Generations of Mitsubishi Motors Workers) in Anzoátegui.
Fernando Soto Rojas, president of the National Assembly, has promised a swift response to the workers demands, which include the release of a schedule for public debate of the two laws prior to parliamentary recess on the 15th of August.
Socialist Workers’ Councils
The Special Law for Socialist Workers’ Councils was originally presented to the national assembly in 2007 by the Venezuelan Communist Party and supported by President Chavez. The president petitioned Venezuelan workers to organise as a "revolutionary force" within the workplace, as well as within the community.
Although socialist worker’s councils were created, they only became legally recognised following sustained worker mobilisation and the approval of the Organic Law of Popular Power, passed in December 2010.
Independent of unions, the councils are organisations of popular power that allow the workers to participate in productive, administrative and management processes in their places of work. Through the Special Law of Socialist Workers’ Councils, the councils will become a legal mechanism through which the workers can play a “protagonistic role” in dismantling “exploitative” capitalist relations and advance the project of workers’ control.
The legislation also proposes to consolidate the councils from a legal perspective in order to strengthen their position against “counterrevolutionary” efforts to undermine the workers’ control movement.
Regional meetings of socialist workers’ councils were held in February this year, and the first national meeting of the councils was also convened in May.
A “Revolutionary” Work Law
The marchers also demanded the immediate discussion of a new and revolutionary work law to replace existing legislation. Proposals to completely overhaul the nation’s Organic Work Law were initially put forward in 2003 but have been held up in the Venezuelan National Assembly.
According to spokespeople within the workers’ movement, the new legislation should guarantee job security and the collective and individual rights of workers. It should also establish the legal framework for worker “democratic, participative and collective management”.
“The workers are the motor of historical change and societal transformation, for this reason, a new and revolutionary law in accordance with the constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is necessary,” explained Rosso Grimau, spokesperson for the Socialist Workers’ Councils.
Workers have vowed to maintain a state of “permanent mobilisation” in order to overcome opposition to the long-awaited laws and a delegation will be sent to the National Assembly on the 9th of August to ensure that the National Electoral Committee has received the demands, as well as to receive details of the schedule for public debate on the two laws.