May Day in Caracas, 2005
Venezuelan workers defend socialism
By Roberto Jorquera, Caracas
Though no official estimates where given many of the organisers speculated that over one million workers marched through the streets of Caracas in
defence of national soverignty, workers control and for socialism. The rally organised by the UNT (National Union of Workers) was a significant change
in the political terrain of Trade Unionism in Venezuela. For the past fours years there has been seperate May Day commemorations, one organised by the
(CTV) Central Union of Workers which has been opposed to the Chavez reforms and that of the pro Chavez forces now firmly united behind the UNT. One
clear aspect that differentiated the protest was the call by CTV to the government that it should free political prisoners held in Venezuela. By
political prisoners the CTV included its es President that has been jailed for his support of the 2002 military coup and his role in the organisation
of the workers lock out in December of the same year.
Oswald Vera, a National Coordinator for the UNT said,´´The workers of Venezuela have shown that they support socialism and the revolutionary methods
that have been implemented... while the CTV is a symbol of the old unionism which has been demonstrated today has very little support´´. ´´ The
workers of Venezuela have said that that they are prepared to defend the factories and are part of the reserves so as to defend the country against
any foreign intervention´´ said, Vera.
Francisco Torrealba another of the National Coordinators of the UNT said,´´It is clear from todays protest that the UNT firmly represents unity,
workers co management and socialism while the CTV is a bad memory of the past that has stained the union movement for the past 40 years´´.
One of the main themes of the May Day rally was for the UNT to present a document to Chavez so that it be discussed, debated and adopted in the
National Assembly. The document entitled Project for the law of Participation of Workers in the Management of Public and Private Enterprises. Elias
Jaua, Minister for the Popular Economy said that, ´´the cooperative method that has been constructed is a democratic and participatory method that
aims to construct a socialism of the 21st Century.´´We are aiming for equal distribution and so that workers are part of deciding what, how and who
should be producing products... we aim to democratise production and consumption of products in society´´, say Jaua.
But the highlight of the demonstration that ended at Puente Llaguno (where people where killed defending the Chavez government during the coup of
April 11, 2002) was the presence by Hugo Chavez. The march that gathered at 9am was still arriving at the end point at 2pm.Chavez who had has just
returned from Cuba after signing another 49 joint agreements between the two countries launched into a speech that outlined Venezuela´s socialism
that lasted over two hours. The speech was along the same tones as that of Fidel Castro´s speeches during the early years of the Cuban revolution.
Throughout his speech Chavez reiterated what the process that was developing was in Venezuela, that of one that sought to fundamentally transform the
economy, social and political system.
Chavez began by highlighting his recent trip to Cuba that sought further political, economic and social intergration of the two countries.´´Our
models of intergration include liberty and equality... and they are incompatible with the laws of capitalism´´, said Chavez. It was also noted the
steps that had been taken in further developing ABLA (Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America).
In his speech Chavez also payed respect to the martyres of May Day, the workers of Chicago, and sent revolutionary greetings to the people of the
United States. Chavez said,´´Today we are taking back the real tradition of May Day after 40 years of a degenerated unionism represented by the
A new society
But there was no doubt that Chavez also used the speech to highlight the tasks ahead for the revolutionary process and to prepare the mass of workers
for the struggles that will continue to be faced.
´´It is only the beginning of the process, we are just beginning to construct a new state, institutions and a new society... we are just taking the
first few steps in the new economy, in production in property relations and so we must not have any illusions and we must not yet chant that we have
won´´, say Chavez.
Chavez also stressed throughout his speech that more work had to be done to unite the revolutionary forces, in which people responded with chants of
El Pueblo Unido Jamas sera Vencido (The people united will never be defeated). Banners also read, ´´without a revolutionary party there can be no
revolution´´. Chavez used the opportunity to condemn the fighting that had errupted within the MVR between the supporters of Freddy Bernal, Mayor of
Libertador of Caracas and Juan Barreto, Mayor of the Municipality of Caracs. He made a public invitaion for them to all have lunch to discuss their
differences and to come to an agreement. ´´Some of the key issues for the people of Caracas was the problem of rubbish and safe streets´´, said
Chavez. ´´We need unity, unity and more unity if not they should resign and allow the people of Caracas to elect officials that really represent
them´´, said Chavez.
Much of his speech was dedicated to the theme of building a new society and explaining what that meant. In that framework Chavez ssaid, ´´In the
process of building a new society we must be critical of ourselfs and must work towards what Che defined as the building of a new human being in
society. Chavez commented that it was necessary to lead by example so us to construct a new society and win more people to the revolutionary cause.
´´The aim must be to gain 10 million votes at the next Presidential elections that are to be held in December 2006´´, said Chavez. In terms of
encouraging people to further develop a revolutionary consciousness Chavez used the example of Che. ´´Che was more than just a martyre, more than
just a heroic guerrilla fighter, he was also a Minister in the Cuban government and developed many ideas on how to build the new socialist society...
we must study and learn from his thoughts´´., said Chavez.
´´We are a country that has resources so that every Venezuelan can live in dignity... and we will be in a position within a few years to start to
send Venezuelan doctors to parts of the underdeveloped world as Cuba has done for decades´´,said Chavez. Chavez also noted that Cuba had just
approved scholorships for up to 10,000 Venezuelan doctors to study in Cuba.
Capitalism not the answer
´´The Capitalist system does not allow us to implement our constitution or the political, economic or social project that we want´´, said Chavez.
Chavez made it clear that capitalism was not the answer to the problems facing Venezuela, Latin America or the world. He also made it clear that there
was no third road. ´´We need to march for a new socialism of the 21st century... so that we can build a new political and social socialist
system´´. ´´We are in a transitional situation which has taken affect since 1998 and needs to be continuosely planned´´, said Chavez.´´To
construct socialism we need to break capitalist economic laws... the traditional economic orthodoxy is not compatible with a revolutionary economy,
Chavez said that the process that was being implemented in Venzuela was that of a revolutionary democracy that aims to redefine socialism in the 21st
century. As part of this project Chavez explained the process of workers co management that was being introduced in factories across the country. He
used the example of the the workers at the INVEPAL (Venezuelan Industry for Pulp and Paper Production) factory in Maracy.´´INVEPAL is now a factory
that strives to build socialism´´, said Chavez. The workers at the factory now are part of the management community and decide how, what and when
things are produced so that it helps to further develop the factory and the local and national economy. As part of this process to increase production
Chavez invited all industries in Veenzuela that where not functioning at 100% to work with the government to increase production. Chavez said, ´´We
invite all industry to be part of the new society...we will help every industry to expand production and will provide the funding to do so, however
the only condition is that workers be allowed to be part of the management´´. Chavez also said if industry was not being used or had been abandoned
then the government would move to expropriate them. The aim said Chavez was to, ´´move from a revolutionary democracy to socialism this year... and
that it was critical for political parties to be consolidated in this process´´.
In his conclusion Chavez said that,´´ we need to break all the chains of the past that have held us back´´.
May Day 2005 in Caracas: the revolution advances
by Michael a. Lebowitz
I thought people would be interested in a brief update on developments in Venezuela.
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.
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
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
fax: (58-212) 573-7724
Mayday in Venezuela: A Tale of Two Marches
BY Louise Auerhahn
[Note: This is really a photo essay. You can see the article with photos at ]http://bbugs.blogspot.com.]
In Venezuela, political change has brought about a split in the labor movement: between the old-guard labor confederation CTV, which in recent years
has poured most of its energy into trying to depose popular leftist President Hugo Chávez, and the new confederation UNT, formed two years ago by a
diverse collection of unions who supported Chávez or simply were tired of the CTV’s political games and cozy relationships with employers.
On May 1st, International Workers’ Day an important holiday in Venezuela both the CTV and the UNT called for massive marches in Caracas,
Venezuela’s capital. I went to both, to see for myself the differences between them. The contrast was striking.
Both marches had designated as gathering places spots near a station of Caracas’ excellent metro system (Bellas Artes for the CTV, and La Bandera
for the UNT). Metro rides, normally quite cheap, were free that day in celebration of International Workers’ Day (and to make it easier to go to the
I arrived at the CTV march about 8:30, and at first thought I had come to the wrong place. There was an enormous sound system blaring soft rock in
Spanish and English, but nothing that looked like a concentration of people. I walked around a bit before I realized that yes, this was it. At that
point there were a hundred people there max, dwarfed by thecrowds emerging from the metro and by the frickin’ huge sound system. There were a few
folks in CTV shirts, a few in CODESA (another, much smaller union confederation) that’s how I could be sure that this was the march.
At this point there were almost no women, other than the vendors hawking flags, t-shirts, noisemakers, and various paraphernalia. One thing though:
people say (and I’ve seen in photos) that the supporters in opposition marches are largely light-skinned or white. I didn’t see that here.
Ethnically speaking, folks looked about as mixed as a typical Venezuelan crowd.
A bit later, several busloads of people arrived, beginning with a large group of folks in red caps with white union shirts. After that the gender
balance became more even.
The music continued. People stood around and talked in small groups.
Finally, one of the march leaders ascended the stage and began speaking. Shouting into the mike, he announced, “We are here showing our presence!
Comrades from Codesa, from CGT (the two smaller confederations), from the autonomous unions, and of course from the Confederation of Workers of
Venezuela (CTV). Today we are in the streets of Caracas and all Venezuela!”
He continued in this vein for some time, touching on the CTV’s claims of lack of union rights and their complaint before the ILO, and repeatedly
mentioning Carlos Ortega as a political prisoner.
Carlos Ortega is the ex-president of the CTV (through they still refer to him as their president), who played a leading role in the 2002 coup and then
in the oil industry stoppage of December 2003. After the oil stoppage the courts ordered him arrested on charges of, basically, economic sabotage,
incitement to lawbreaking, and treason; he fled the country and was granted asylum in Costa Rica. Costa Rica revoked his asylum when he continued
advocating for Chavez’s overthrow, and he returned to Venezuela under a false name. In February police captured him while gambling in a bingo hall
in Caracas; he currently faces various charges, and remains in prison while the trial proceeds as the judge declared him a flight risk (gee, ya
Anyway, to the CTV leadership he is a political prisoner, symbol of persecution directed against top union leadership, and his name was frequently
invoked, along with the distribution of posters with a photo of his face.
He also made a point several times of saluting the board of directors of the CTV for their presence, and later on saluted “the journalists and the
media” (major media in Venezuela is notoriously anti-Chavez). And, in what seemed to be one of the marches’ themes, he repeated, “Today we are
demonstrating as a massive concentration of workers to say to the President: enough already!” (¡Ya basta!)
All the while he was up on stage giving a loud, vituperative speech (trading off with another man), there was practically no cheering or response from
the crowd. Indeed, noone much seemed to be listening. I hear one women say under her breath, “Let’s march already!”
Eventually another leader came up to speak, beginning with “Welcome to the working women!”, for which she received scattered cheers. She proceeded
to welcome members of various unions and workplaces, thenlaunched into, “Yes, we will protest! We’re telling the President that we want a just
salary!” and so forth. The latter was the CTV’s most publicized theme for this march: the insufficiency of the 26% increase in the minimum wage,
which Chavez recently announced would go into effect today, Mayday.
By 10:15 there were maybe 400 people present, on the sidewalk and in the adjoining section of the street. One woman dressed as a skeleton was putting
on a show for the various press photographers, who at that point didn’t have much else to photograph. I took a few shots too.
About this time, the main speaker seemingly lost interest in exhorting the crowd and began to give interviews to the press, surrounded by a bevy of
I was losing interest too, and I didn’t want to miss the other march altogether, so I headed for the metro.
I stepped out of the metro into a sea of red: the color worn by Chavez supporters. Thousands upon thousands of people surrounded the station, most
wearing red shirts or caps from various unions and organizations, or the red, yellow, blue of Venezuela’s flag. Here I had trouble figuring out
which direction the march was to go, too, but for a different reason; it was so crowded I could barely get through.
I made it to the street, where folks were lined up waiting to march, and crossed to the less-packed opposite side. In addition to the many banners of
unions from all over the country, I saw some advocating socialism, and one union banner that had added the slogan “Yankee go home.” Bush and
company are not real well liked here.
The atmosphere was celebratory, with various groups playing music, and all seeming excited and comradely. I ran into Joseph, a middle-aged steelworker
who I had met on Wednesday. He lives in Puerto Ordaz, quite a distance from Caracas, and works in the steel plant Sidor. But he had come to the
capital for Wednesday’s health and safety march and we here again for today’s, having spent all night on a bus and arrived at 5 am.
Around then our section of the march got going, so Joseph and I walked together. As we went he kept stopping to clean up trash in the street, picking
up glass bottles and putting them to one side. It wasn’t really going to make a dent in the enormous amount of litter, but hey, it’s a start.
To my surprise, José suddenly pulled a spray can out of his bag and started painting slogans on a nearby wall. He described graffiti as an important
means of communication because the media lies so much, and mentioned that early this morning (after the bus’s 5 am arrival) he had painted 20 or so
slogans around the area.
While he worked, the march kept passing by. One woman stopped and pointed out an error in his slogan; he thanked her and corrected it.
Leaving the freshly sprayed slogans, we kept walking. As we crossed over a bridge we could see the march spread out behind us, with no end insight.
Impossible to capture in photos, though I tried. How many people? Difficult to say for one thing, I never saw them all at once. I’d put it in the
tens of thousands, perhaps fifty thousand, with probably more overall since folks came and went throughout the day. But don’t take my word for
At any rate, it was certainly an impressively large gathering of people. The caveat here is that not all these folks were union members, nor workers
responding purely to the call of the UNT; they responded to Chavez’s call. The strength of the UNT itself remains to be seen.
One of the chief focuses of the UNT for today’s march was “cogestion”, worker co-management of factories and other workplaces. The idea has
really just begun to take hold in Venezuela, principally in the recently nationalized paper factory Invepal, in the state electric company Cadafe, and
in aluminum plant Alcasa. But the UNT aspires to much more. Backed by the support of the crowds, they put forward to the National Assembly a draft for
a Law of Worker Comanagement by which the government would propone comanagement in state-owned enterprises and encourage it in private companies.
Comanagement is seen as a vital element of the participatory democracy that is the highlight of Chavez’s movement. However, there are also
considerable debates over the comanagement concept and concerns over whether it will just lead to further weakening of unions or more exploitation . .
. but that’s a story for another time.
Another theme woven through the march was national sovereignty and anti-imperialism, aimed largely at the United States. Not, mind you, at the people
of the U.S. everyone I met was welcoming, several even thanked me for being there. But the sentiment against Bush, as well as Rice, was fierce.
What impressed me is the relatively small amount of organization itseems to have taken; the UNT announced the march publicly less than a week in
advance, whereas the US peace movement typically spends months recruiting for a march this size. Of course, it helps enormously to have the government
backing you up. But folks here also seem much likelier to spontaneously heed the call to go out into the streets.
As we continued on, people gathered on bridges or leaned out of their windows to watch, from modern apartments and from barrios on the hillsides.
After several hours, we arrived at the end of the rally, where organizers had set up a huge stage from which spoke a long list of speakers,
interrupted by frequent applause. They hailed from both unions and governments, with the highlight, of course, being President Chavez, whose speech
from the rally was broadcast live on his weekly television show “Hello President”.
I tried to go find the CTV march at their designated ending point, the National Assembly (Venezuela’s Congress), where they were to deliver a
proposal to reform Social Security among other points. But it was deserted. In the next day’s papers, I read that the march had taken about half an
hour to arrive at the National Assembly, rallied for another half-hour, and then dispersed around 12:30. After failing to find it I returned to the
metro, passing near the UNT rally on my way 4 pm and still going strong, under the banner of “Cogestión es revolución”: worker co-management
Chavez Affirms Venezuela is Heading Towards Socialism of 21st Century
Gregory Wilpert – Venezuelanalysis.com
Caracas, Venezuela, May 1, 2005—“It is impossible that we will achieve our goals with capitalism, nor is it possible to find an intermediate
path… I invite all of Venezuela to march on the path of socialism of the new century. We must construct a new socialism of the 21st century,” said
Chavez his speech at the end of the traditional May 1st workers’ day march.
Chavez had just returned from Cuba earlier that day, where his government and that of Cuba signed 49 cooperation agreements. In allusion to his visit,
Chavez said that the Cuban revolution “vibrates to the same rhythm” as Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution and that the changes have just barely
begun. He pointed out, though, that his government does not intend to copy the Cuban model of socialism.
For the fourth year in a row Venezuelans held separate May Day demonstrations through their country’s capital of Caracas. Both the old union
federation CTV, which is allied with the opposition, and the newer union federation, the UNT, which allied with the Chavez government, had organized
their own May Day marches. Local news organizations did not make estimates of the relative crowd sizes, but the CTV demonstration ended long before
the pro-Chavez march did, as Chavez held a speech that lasted over two hours. Both marches ended without incident.
Aside from Chavez’s endorsement of socialism, another major element in his speech was his government’s support for worker co-management both in
public and private enterprises. Chavez announced that the leaders of the UNT had recently submitted a law proposal to him, which would require
businesses to include worker representatives in the management of the company if they receive financial support from the state. “With these
cooperativist projects we are proposing a change towards the inclusion of employees in business’ planning, so that these may participate in the
decisions of the top authorities in each organization,” said Chavez to the cheering crowd. Chavez also reminded his supporters of the recent
expropriation and co-management plan of a valve factory, now named Inveval.
The opposition march, organized by the Venezuelan Confederation of Workers (CTV), had as its main demands the “guaranteeing of the right to labor
stability and non-discrimination,” said Manuel Cova, the organization’s General Secretary. He also added that the CTV would call for a general
amnesty for opposition leaders who are currently being held for having participated in the April 2002 coup attempt or the December 2002 to January
2003 shutdown of the oil industry, such as the CTV’s president Carlos Ortega.
Francisco Torrealba, who is the national coordinator of the National Union of Venezuelan Workers (UNT), which is the new Chavez-sympathetic labor
federation, said that the UNT wants to “support and deepen the processes that are being managed in the country.” He also added that the UNT was
the larger of the two union federations in the country because it truly reflects the interests of Venezuelan workers. However, the UNT must continue
to struggle so that the working class might have a greater degree of participation in the formulation of the government’s policies.
Marcela Maspero, one of the members of the UNT’s executive committee, said that the government and the workers must watch out that private
enterprises don’t suddenly raise prices because of the 26% increase in the minimum wage that Chavez had decreed for May 1st. The new minimum wage
was raised to 405,000 bolivars, which is about $188 at the official exchange rate.
Chavez Criticizes City Mayors
During his May Day speech, Chavez sent a strong message to the Greater Caracas Mayor, Juan Barreto, and to the Caracas District Mayor, Freddy Bernal,
saying that the two of them had to put aside their differences and get to work, such as making sure that the city's garbage is collected. "Internal
differences are debated internally because one should not give ammunition to one's opponents so that they might rejoice," said Chavez in reference
to a recent party conflict over internal elections for the candidates in the upcoming local elections. Chavez added that if they cannot unite, then
they should resign.
Chavez said that Bernal and Barreto had their respective supporters shout at each other in the city center while General Baduel, the commander of
Venezuela's army, was giving a speech. Last week members of Chavez's party, the MVR, demonstrated in front of the Caracas district mayor's office,
charging Mayor Freddy Bernal of having participated in fraud so that his candidates would win the nominations for the local elections. The conflict
broadened when Greater Caracas Mayor Juan Berreto criticized Bernal, saying that party members were not being dealt with honestly because candidates
had already been picked for some of the posts, before there even was an internal party election. Apparently many more candidates were elected in this
internal election than there were spots on the ballot for them, as the MVR party had agreed to reserve some of the nominations for its coalition
Chavez Frias supports co-management experiences in transition to Socialism
By Patrick J. O'Donoghue www.vheadline.com
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias says he fully supports the co management of Venezuelan workers.
Addressing a May Day rally in Caracas, Chavez Frias says the experience is novel and is one way of getting Venezuelan workers more involved in the
The idea has become a leading objective of the pro-government National Workers Union (UNT) and it now has the President's backing.
"We are full transition towards New Century Socialism for a new Venezuela." The Socialist economy, the President told supporters, must be efficient
not only in the financial field but in the mode of creating new work relations between the members of a company and communities ..."that is the basis
of a new co-management."
To achieve the objective, patience and courage is needed and the President evokes Venezuela's Founding Father, Simon Bolivar.
The new State, Chavez Frias, insists, must be built on revolutionary democracy and in any co-management, the State will contribute capital but the
company must make a commitment to include workers in management.
The President insists that the owner will not lose this business but obtains benefits maintaining and recovering it. The President has praised the
cooperative movement in Venezuela as molding the Vuelvan Caras employment program.