The contrast is striking. As Australia’s state and federal governments continue their bloody-minded corporatisation and privatisation of our few remaining public assets, the revolutionary government of Venezuela is bringing important industries and sectors into public ownership and control.
In both countries, public opinion is clear: public ownership benefits most people, and society as a whole, by sharing the profits of production and exerting public control over the decisions made by large enterprises. The difference is that in Venezuela, under the leadership of socialist President Hugo Chavez, the Bolivarian revolution is empowering working people and the poor majority to win that control.
Over the past two years, the Bolivarian government has nationalised a wide variety of industries that are key to achieving domestic food sovereignty and economic diversification. They range from supermarkets to steel and aluminium factories, glass, paper and textile firms, agricultural companies and large housing complexes.
More importantly, the workers in some of these industries have begun to take control of and run the enterprises, backed by Chavez and revolutionary unions and communities. For them, workers’ control is central to achieving “21st century socialism” in Venezuela.
In October and November, Venezuelan workers have held large rallies to demand the immediate passage of a radical new labour law tabled in parliament. The law would give legal recognition to workers’ councils, reduces the working day from eight to six hours, allows paid time for workers’ councils and political education, and abolishes the “subcontracted worker” category to force all employers to give workers their benefits.
The new law also places decision-making authority over all things productive, political, administrative and socio-cultural into the hands of workers’ councils in any and all public, private and mixed-capital workplaces.
Australians have an opportunity to observe first-hand the remarkable changes underway in Venezuela’s “peoples’ power” revolution during the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) May Day 2011 solidarity brigade to Venezuela.
The brigade will run from April 25 to May 4. It will include visits to worker-run factories and cooperatives, and meetings with trade union and community management representatives in a variety of sectors and regions.
The brigadistas will also observe Venezuela’s grassroots democracy in action, with visits to the social missions, communal councils and communes. They will meet and speak with community activists involved in a wide variety of campaigns and sectors. A highlight will be taking part in the huge May Day rally in Caracas on May 1.
This is the 12th solidarity brigade organised by AVSN. Participants’ reports from previous brigades are available at http://www.venezuelasolidarity.org
Brigade registration deadline is February 28. For a registration form or more information, email