Workers at Diana Industries have welcomed the appointment of a new company manager, claiming victory in their fight to prevent the “imposition” of businessperson David Mendoza as head of the worker-run company.
Nationalised in 2008, production at Diana Industries is organised by workers through assemblies and a Socialist Workers’ Council. The company produces cooking oil, margarine, soap and other products, 80% of which are destined for state-run distribution networks.
On July 23, food minister Felix Osorio appointed Mendoza as head of Diana Industries. Workers rejected the move as an “imposition … [of] someone who can’t understand how to run a workers’ factory and respect collective power”.
The food ministry then tried to weaken collective resistance to Mendoza’s appointment. This included freezing workers’ bank accounts in an apparent bid to disrupt factory production.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has not publicly commented on the conflict. However, on August 13, it was reported that Maduro had revoked Mendoza’s designation as manager of Diana Industries. Instead, Maduro appointed former army brigadier Dester Rodriguez.
On August 15, Rodriguez met workers’ assemblies in different departments of Diana Industries, where he offered a more cooperative approach toward the company’s worker control model.
“Consider me as one more worker,” he told workers, Aporrea.org reported. “I have an open-door policy … I’ve come to learn from the experience at Diana.”
The dismissal of Mendoza and appointment of Rodriguez does not fully meet Diana workers’ demands. They wanted the new company head to be chosen from among their own ranks, rather than by the government.
Nevertheless, workers claimed victory in their struggle to block Mendoza's appointment. Aporrea.org reported that so far, the workforce was “very content” with Rodriguez.
Hector Mieres, a Diana Industries factory worker and member of the Socialist Workers’ Council, said: “The most important thing about this achievement is the willingness that General Rodriguez has shown to learn about and respect the mechanisms of participation and decision-making that we workers have gained as part of worker control.”
Further, the bank accounts of Diana workers were unfrozen, signaling the de-escalation of harassment of Diana workers by the food ministry.
“With this decision [to dismiss Mendoza] it’s been demonstrated that through the mobilisation and struggle of the workers, victories can be won against mistreatment, manoeuvers and lies,” Mieres said.
“This opens the path to continue advancing in gains for the workers, deepening worker control with more democracy and participation for our class, and to continue the legacy of our comandante [late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez].”
[Reprinted from Venezuela Analysis.]