Venezuelan Communists push workers councils

The Communist Party of Venezuela (CPV) is about to introduce a proposal that the National Assembly establish workers councils and include them under the new “Organic Law for Citizen Participation and People’s Power.” At a Caracas news conference on Jan. 15, Pedro Eusse, the party’s labor secretary, declared the purpose of the initiative to be the insertion of “working-class power” into the process of building socialism.

The proposal coincides with a major national campaign under way to launch a network of 50,000 community councils. It also comes at a time when the CPV is redefining its own political role — even whether it should continue to exist — following President Hugo Chavez’s call Dec. 15 for a single “party of the revolution” provisionally designated as the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

The development of workers councils fits within Venezuela’s current campaign to expand “participatory democracy,” the prime element of that project being the movement for community councils. Under the leadership of Assembly delegate David Velasquez, the National Assembly passed an enabling law for community councils on April 9, 2006. Velasquez, a CPV leader, is now shepherding the community councils into existence as head of the Ministry for People’s Participation and Social Development.

Eusse described for reporters the necessity for creating means by which the working class “can achieve progressively higher levels of consciousness that, as protagonists of people’s power, they are the class that leads the revolutionary process.”

The new councils will “assume political and economic functions for carrying out peoples’ power in workplaces and in industrial areas,” he said. Although they will not duplicate the work of labor unions, “they will share responsibilities, engage in mutual support, and above all shape class consciousness. They will promote workers’ unity, of both men and women, and protect social, economic, cultural and political rights.”

The workers councils will take on important responsibilities, including:

• “Managing information on the administration, finances and production output of private, public and worker-operated companies, also those already or about to be expropriated.”

• Organization of labor collectives that operate all such enterprises, private companies excepted.

• Formation of worker groups focusing on technical, cultural, political and ideological matters.

• Development of leadership skills essential for processes of production and oversight.

• Promotion of working-class involvement in the politics of the revolution, particularly issues “relating to defense of the homeland and the people’s democratic victories.”

• Coordination and cooperation with community councils and other “instruments of people’s power.”

• Monitoring, with labor unions, to assure that worker and union rights are respected.

While the National Assembly is deliberating on the proposal, the CPV will be promoting workers councils in workplaces, both private and public, throughout Venezuela. They will be seeking support from all social and political forces within the Bolivarian process.

In a recent interview, David Velasquez discussed the role community councils will assume in Venezuela, a description that applies equally to workers councils. “We must transform the old apparatus of the state,” he said, adding, “This office will begin to study how we transfer functions, resources and components to community power.” He distinguished between traditional “constitutional” power and a new “constituent power” that will enable Venezuelans, via “participation as protagonists,” to build “people’s power.”

Along with pushing for workers councils, the CPV is in the midst of assessing Chavez’s proposal for a unified socialist party. Spokespersons say the decision will be informed by ideas such as working-class centrality in the revolutionary process, leadership that is collective and unified, putting the revolution into the hands of one party, and, above all, commitment to building socialism.

The CPV was scheduled to hold a seminar on ideology on Feb. 3. Community-level party groups will meet Feb. 18, followed by conferences of regional committees on Feb. 25. The party will make its final decisions on its future role at a special national party congress March 3-4.

atwhit @ megalink.net