martes, mayo 03, 2005
Michael Lebowitz on the Mayday march and "cogestion"
I thought people would be interested in a brief update on developments in Venezuela.
I marched for several hours today in the May Day march with workers from Alcasa, the state aluminum company, and other workers from state companies in the state of Bolivar. Well, 'march' is not quite an accurate way to describe the stop-start pattern of our progress. In fact, far better to describe it as a street party, which occasionally lurched forward when streams of marchers coming from other streets lessened: infectious dance music blared from the sound truck leading us, and dancing was occurring throughout the crowd--- most impressively from two older women and a man (occasionally joined by others) in front, who periodically shared the microphone to lead us in chants. The main chant, which everyone happily shouted, was 'Without co-management, you cannot have a revolution!' (Occasionally, the variant--- 'without a revolution, you cannot have co-management'.) And then back to the music. The theme was echoed everywhere on the banners; one big one banner that I seemed either to be behind or to being hit on the head with was-- 'co-management and production: all power to the workers'.
This was a happy crowd. And, the slogan was not a demand but an assertion--- because the workers in Alcasa have begun a process of co-management (which, to distinguish from the German use of the term, might better be called self-management or worker management); they have begun organising production themselves and electing their shop directors. What the workers in Alcasa have begun now will be a model for the workers in the other state industries (held by the CVG, the development corporation of Guyana) in Bolivar. And, this process is not only occurring in Bolivar--- co-management is the model which is being followed in Cadafe and Cadela, two state electricity distribution firms. And, the term is also being used to describe the process in two closed private firms which were recently taken over by the state to be run jointly by the state and worker cooperatives. In fact, the main slogans for the march itself, organised by UNT (the new trade union federation) were 'Co-management is revolution' and 'Venezuelan workers are building Bolivarian socialism.' These were the same themes that came out of the several-day workers' table on co-management that was part of the 3rd international solidarity meeting two weeks ago in the city of Valencia.
None of this could have been predicted six months ago. And, the speed with which the concepts of co-management and socialism have spread here testifies to the life and energy of this revolution. We have moved quite quickly from social programmes (with money circulating but without new production of goods) to a push for endogenous economic development (stressing co-operatives and agriculture but without sectors likely to accumulate) to the creation and expansion of state sectors and the focus on co-management. True, it's not entirely clear what either socialism or co-management mean here yet. But what the crowds out for this May Day march believe (if faces are any indication) is that both are 'good'; and that, you will recognise, means a lot.
After four hours on this march/party, my companera and I recognised that we were several hours away yet from the place where the march was to end. So, we decided to walk home (which was on the way) and use the opportunity to watch the rest on TV. When we got back at about 2:30, we could see the flood of red shirts on TV cheering the speakers and singers. The crowd was immense. (I haven't seen estimates yet but my guess would be a few hundred thousand.) Then Chavez arrived. He listened to a number of speakers from UNT, and then began to speak about the need to create new models, to borrow but not copy, to build co-management and socialism of the 21st Century. These are becoming familiar themes. But, there was a new issue posed--- the question of introduction of co-management in private firms. This is not Chavez's initiative--- it is a question being pushed by UNT and forms the basis of a bill which will be debated in the National Assembly. This, too, was part of our discussions in Valencia, and it is something to watch closely because the form it takes (our North American group at the workers table stressed the importance of opening the books of the companies to the workers) is likely to mean an encroachment on capital.
PS. There also was a demonstration by the CTV, the old labour federation that backed the coup and the subsequent bosses lockout. A good indication of what the CTV has come to was revealed the day before when they indicated that they were expecting 40,000 participants and indicated that their main demands would be to free political prisoners (in particular, their former leader Carlos Ortega, a coup leader) and to deal with unemployment (which, they stressed, would need economic growth-- something requiring negotiations between government, workers and industrialists). From my window, before we headed for the UNT march, I could see the street where the CTV people were assembled. Didn't look like much more than a thousand but maybe more came (not many more, though, if the careful phrasing on El Universal's website is any indication).
Michael A. Lebowitz
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Currently based in Venezuela.
Now, I would like to comment one thing on the Michael Lebowitz description: the size factor.
In my own blog I have a picture furnished by the very own MinCi, as official as it is. When you know the area you know that it is impossible to make fit there more than 50 000 people. Not bad already, in particular for a march in "time fo peace" and sponsored by the government.
I have been in enough marches for the last three years that I know pretty much the difference between a 10 000 and a 1 000 000 march. And I have walked most of Caracas main avenues except the ones from downtown which have been barred for the opposition.
In other words I am much more interested in reading about the view of comanagement from Michael than from his "size" evalaution which in my opinion can only rest credibility to the rest of his interesting observations. That is, let's get over the size factor of 2004, right now any pro Chavez march, inasmuch as it will be tiny, will be bigger than any anti Chavez march. Times have changed and marches serve now other purposes. The one of May 1 this year was made for TV for promotion of Chavez outside, not at all for inside consumption. Details that one should be aware in today's Venezuela.
Best luck and I wish a healthy and quality competition between us so as to be able to link your site in mine.
Well, no single photo can show all of the participants in the march; some will always be on the periphery, and further, people were coming and going throughout the day, so any measurement taken at a single point in time must necessarily underestimate the total. That said, 50,000 was the estimate I gave in my Mayday article, while emphasizing that it was really just a wild guess.
But as you said, the precise size of the march isn't really the point. I don't understand what you mean by saying the march was "for promotion of Chavez outside, not for inside consumption." Who are you referring to as "outside" and who as "inside"?
To clarify. Previous marches were organized to project Chavez inside Venezuela. Thus the permanent competition between Chavez and the opposition as to whom would get the biggest march. This is all over since August 15 for reasons that I will not insult your intelligence by repeating them.
Now, I was surprised at first by the effort made this time to have a march which might have been even bigger than the one on May 1 2004 which was rated as a fiasco. But then again, with the international offensive of Chavez, he needed the photo op to promote his agenda of co-gestion, etc... Cetainly the effort was good for in-country promotion, but the real target was the foreign press and leftist movements.
the biggest venue to hold a rally in downtown Caracas is Avenida Bolivar. If it is packed with 3 people by square meter you can sum up to 200 000 people. Only the oppositon came close to fill up the Bolivar avenue, and that was in Ocotober 2003. All Chavez rallies failed to reach the bottom of the Bolivar Avenue (as seen on TV, but not on VTV which only shows the stage).
In other words, one must distinguish the actual march and the final rally, the march having usually more people attending it overall. The rally is more boring and requires really dedicated supporters. The site where May 1 rally took place cannot contain more than 10 to 20 000 people. I invite you to walk both areas and see for yourself.
Note, this does not mean to detract or add to the success of May first march, just to bring things into perspective. After all the May 1 oppo march was not half of the pro Chavez march. I just do not like when people make up numbers :-)
Again I don't quite understand you -- if the May 2004 march was "rated as a fiasco", it shouldn't have been at all difficult to hold a march that was "even bigger". Or does the "fiasco" refer to something besides numbers?
As for who it was targeted at - leftist movements, maybe so (though at least in the U.S., Venezuela is still off the radar screen for the majority of progressives.) But international media? Except for the Cuban press, I didn't see major international media covering it, and wouldn't expect to, since it didn't really herald anything new and unexpected with international impacts. From my perspective, at least, it seemed to have a lot more coverage and impact within Venezuela (even if it had much less impact than previous marches).
Re the numbers, if you're trying to count who was still there at 5 pm, then yes, I'm sure it was quite a lot smaller. Few people are going to stay at a demo for eight hours, especially since it started raining around 3 or 4 pm...
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