Venezuela: Co-management in a sea of capitalism


Richard Moore

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Venezuela: Co-management in a sea of capitalism

Kiraz Janicke, Caracas
3 August 2007

Venezuela¹s Bolivarian revolution, and in particular its experiments with 
workers¹ co-management and in some instances workers¹ control, is at the cutting
edge of the global movement against capitalism. With the bosses¹ lockout in 
2002-03, which shut down much of the Venezuelan economy for a period of two 
months, hundreds of factories were closed down and workers turned out onto the 
streets to fend for themselves.

However, workers have stepped up to the challenge and it is estimated that some 
1200 factories have been taken over and occupied after being shut down. In 2005 
the government of President Hugo Chavez initiated a series of decrees to allow 
for expropriation of industry and workers¹ co-management in the interests of 
³public utility².

On July 24 I was able to visit Inveval ‹ a valve manufacturing company that has 
been under workers¹ control since April 2005 ‹ with a delegation from the 
International Miranda Center, to talk to the workers and find out more about 
their struggle, their history, their experience of workers¹ control and the 
challenges they face, as well as the broader question of how workers are 
strategising to transform Venezuelan society in the struggle for ³socialism in 
the 21st century².

While showing us around the factory, Francisco Pinero, Inveval¹s treasurer, 
explained that although Inveval is legally constituted as a cooperative with 51%
owned by the state and 49% owned by the workers, ³real power lies with the 
workers¹ assembly². Rather than supervisors, the workers at Inveval elect, 
through a workers¹ assembly, recallable ³coordinators of production², for a 
period of one year.

³Everyone here gets paid exactly the same, whether they work in administration, 
political formation, security or keeping the grounds clean², another worker, 
Marino Mora added.

³We want the state to own 100%, but for the factory to be under workers¹ control
‹ for workers to control all production and administration. This is how we see 
the new productive model; we don¹t want to create new capitalists here², Pinero 
made clear.

This contrasts sharply with the experience of Invepal (a Venezuelan paper 
company) where a workers¹ cooperative became private owners of 49% of the 
company, and began to contract out the work to casual workers, becoming bosses 
themselves in the process and reproducing capitalist relations within the 

³Initially we never had in mind workers¹ control, we were just struggling for 
our jobs², Pinero added. However, he said the formation of the workers¹ assembly
in the factory developed organically. ³We were members of the union [Sintrametal
‹ formerly aligned to the old corrupt union federation CTV], however, when we 
wanted to take over the factory we asked the union for legal help, but they 
didn¹t help us. Because the union didn¹t help us we began to form assemblies, 
and through that process began to negotiate with the minister [of labour, then 
Maria Christina Iglesias], who helped us a lot.

³We spent two years picketing at the gates before we decided to take it over. 
Through this process we developed political maturity very fast, not just through
our own personal struggle, but the broader political struggles of the 
constituent assembly and the recall referendum.²

When quizzed on their relationship with the National Union of Workers (UNT) and 
how they viewed the project of unifying the working class within the revolution,
Rolando Aguilar said, ³We want to see a UNT with a different kind of organising,
rather than leaders from the top, we want participatory discussion and 
spokespeople elected from the factory floor. We don¹t want things imposed on 

³The only union leaders that ever came to visit us were Orlando Chirinos and 
Marcela Maspero, but often they divide the workers¹ movement², Mora added.

³Workers have to take over productive spaces. That way we can pressure those 
that only want reforms, because we don¹t just want reforms², Pinero asserted.

In 2006, the workers at Inveval initiated FRETECO (The Revolutionary Workers 
Front of Co-managed and Occupied Factories) and held a national congress in 
October with representatives from 10 factories to discuss and debate their 
experiences and challenges as well as strategies of how the workers¹ movement 
can increase the take over of industry and implement authentic workers¹ control.
On June 30, FRETECO held a meeting with representatives of 20 factories to 
discuss a unified proposal of statutes for implementing workers¹ control.

However, Venezuela¹s recovered factories, despite having the support of the 
Chavez government, are in essence faced with the same problem of the recovered 
factories in Argentina: how to survive in a sea of capitalist economic 
relations, how to ensure supply of raw materials, and how to ensure a buyer for 
the finished product.

Inveval is having particular difficulties obtaining the raw materials to 
manufacture valves. The workers at Inveval told us that when the original owner 
of Inveval (then called CNV), Andres Sosa Pietri (a former president of 
Venezuelan state owned oil company PDVSA), extended a bosses¹ lockout and closed
the company down in December 2002, he also closed down the ³sister company², a 
foundry that provided Inveval with the materials needed for producing valves. 
The workers in Inveval tried to encourage the workers in the foundry to take it 
over as well, but they decided to accept a payout from the boss instead and the 
foundry has remained closed ever since. Inveval is currently trying to negotiate
a deal with the government to either buy out or expropriate the foundry.

Although, the workers at Inveval could source raw materials from other countries
such as Mexico, Argentina or China, endogenous development regulations require 
them to prioritise sourcing raw materials from within Venezuela, and as yet they
have not been able to find a source.

Therefore, the main area of work at Inveval involves the repair and maintenance 
of existing valves for PDVSA, with the company running at only 10% capacity and 
surviving from government loans, a situation that is obviously unsustainable. 
With the factory being completely unprofitable, the workers told us a two-month 
deadline had been set to find a source for raw materials, though this could be 
extended through a process of negotiations with the government.

Additionally, the workers at Inveval told us they were having difficulties with 
PDVSA, with whom they are contracted to supply valves. When the workers took 
over in 2005, after rehabilitating the factory, they started production using 
remaining raw materials to fill previously existing contractual obligations with
PDVSA, but as yet PDVSA has not complied with its side of the deal and the 
finished valves have been sitting on the factory floor for the past eight 

The workers at Inveval told us that during an April meeting between Chavez, 
Inveval and Veneval (the body responsible for contracting valve supply in 
PDVSA), the president of Veneval claimed that Inveval did not produce any 
valves. The president of Inveval said that was ³rubbish² and that they had 
valves ready to supply PDVSA. Chavez ordered the president of Veneval to visit 
Inveval in April to see if there were valves. Since then, the workers said, 
PDVSA agreed to take the valves, however they are still waiting for them to be 
picked up and PDVSA has started to order valves of different sizes that it knows
Inveval is unable to produce and is now claiming again that Inveval is unable to
fill the orders.

The workers contend that corrupt sectors in PDVSA would much rather deal with 
private companies, where they can make deals and make money. Moro declared, ³The
bidding process for PDVSA allows for corruption. They should get rid of the 
bidding process and just get valves from us because we are a state company and 
they are a state company.²

³There are definitely sectors of PDVSA that are opposed to workers¹ control and 
to the example of Inveval², Moro added.

Despite these difficulties, the workers at Inveval are keeping themselves busy, 
as well as carrying out community projects such as working with the local mental
asylum. The factory, which was in excellent condition when we visited, provides 
space for [high school and university education programs] Mission Ribas and 
Mission Sucre, and the communal councils also use the factory as a meeting 

All of the workers also participate in two hours of technical and 
socio-political classes each day, as well as attending classes after 4pm at 
Mission Ribas and Mission Sucre. Members of the local community also participate
in the classes.

Inveval also regularly hosts political forums and visits from student groups, 
international delegations and delegations of workers from other occupied 

The workers at Inveval also view the political discussions about socialism at a 
national level as extremely important and believe it is necessary to insert 
themselves into the debate, ³We can do this through the PSUV [the United 
Socialist Party of Venezuela currently under formation]², Pinero said.

³This process [the Bolivarian revolution] has helped us, now there is Barrio 
Adentro and free diagnostic centres and we pay nothing, employment is increasing
and everyone is studying, if you¹re not studying it¹s because you don¹t want to,
not for lack of opportunity.²

³President Chavez has helped us 100%. Previously we were just exploited, now we 
are included ‹ the president [of Inveval ‹ Jorge Paredes] is meeting in 
Miraflores today², he concluded.

[Reprinted from <>.]

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