Venezuela’s Co-Managed Inveval: Surviving in a Sea of Capitalism
By: Kiraz Janicke – Venezuelanalysis.com
Friday, Jul 27, 2007
Venezuela´s Bolivarian Revolution and in particular its experiments with workers co-management and in some instances workers control, is at the cutting edge of the global movement against capitalism. With the bosses’ lockout in 2002-2003, 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 some1200 factories have been taken over and occupied after being shut down. In 2005 the Chavez government initiated a series of decrees to allow for expropriation of industry and workers’ co-management in the interests of ‘public utility.’ On July 24 I was able to visit Inveval, a valve manufacturing company that has been under workers 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 workers control, the challenges they face as well as the broader question of how workers are strategizing to transform Venezuelan society in the struggle for ‘Socialism in the 21st Century’.
Whilst showing us around the factory Francisco Pinero, Inveval’s treasurer, explained that although Inveval is legally constituted as a cooperative with 51% owned by the state and 49% owned by the workers, “real power lies with the workers assembly.” Rather than supervisors, the workers at Inveval elect, through a workers assembly, recallable ‘coordinators of production,’ for a period of one year.
“Everyone here gets paid exactly the same, whether they work in administration, political formation, security or keeping the grounds clean,” another worker, Marino Mora added.
“We want the state to own 100%, but for the factory to be under workers control, for workers to control all production and administration. This is how we see the new productive model; we don’t want to create new capitalists here,” Pinero made clear.
This contrasts sharply with the experience of Invepal, (a Venezuelan paper company) where a workers’ 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 factory.
“Initially we never had in mind workers control, we were just struggling for our jobs,” Pinero added.
However, he said, the formation of the workers’ assembly in the factory developed organically, “We were members of the union [Sintrametal – formerly aligned to the old corrupt CTV], however, when we wanted to take over the factory we asked the union for legal help, but they didn’t help us. Because the union didn’t help us we began to form assemblies, and through that process began to negotiate with the Minister [of Labor, then Maria Christina Iglesias], who helped us a lot.”
“We 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.”
Read it here.