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Opposing Imperialism in Latin America : Venezuela’s Unions Launch New Initiative – report back by Adrian Weir

“A movement that aims to contribute to the revival of anti-imperialist struggles of workers against the neo-liberal project of globalization.”

Adrian Weir reports back on a new internationalist platform by trade unions in Venezuela.

Perhaps anticipating its overwhelming success at the 6 December parliamentary elections, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has launched what it sees as a major international initiative to generate solidarity with the left in Venezuela, Latin America and more widely across the globe.

On 12 and 13 November an on-line conference and rally, with a global reach, was held to launch the Anti-Imperialist Working Class Platform.

Two meetings had preceded this event, both organised from Caracas; the First International Meeting in Solidarity with the Government and People of Venezuela (August 2019) and the World Meeting against Imperialism (January 2020).

The organisations convening the conference were the Vice Presidency of the Working Class of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (VCO-PSUV) and the Bolivarian Socialist Central of the Workers of City, Countryside & Fishing (CBST-CCP), in other words the governing socialist party founded by Hugo Chávez and the leftist trade union confederation allied with the PSUV.

Aims of the Platform

I was reminded of seeming similarities between this launch and the inaugural World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2001. In Brazil, Porto Alegre was the city of the Workers’ Party, key players in the Forum, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Caracas is of course the city of the PSUV and of Chávez and Maduro. This unstated reference to a previous generation was alluded to in the preparatory documentation: “We are a movement that aims to contribute to the revival of anti-imperialist struggles of workers against the neo-liberal project of globalization …”

A revival maybe but clearly more hard edged with a determined identification with workers and the working class and clearly lining up imperialism in the cross hairs.

Also set out in the preparatory documentation are some very grand, and probably over ambitious, structures to bring the global anti-imperialist forces into a single organising unit while maintaining the autonomy of the participating organisations.

The papers circulated in advance of the conference concluded with this mobilising slogan:

We fight for the sovereignty and integrity of the territories of peoples and nations in the creation of a world of solidarity and social justice!

We are fighting for a productive and liberating working culture to live together in solidarity!

The Conference

Across the two days some 200 participants were on the call in each session. The sessions being a combination of plenaries, with keynote addresses, and workshops. Attendees ranged from representatives of local social movements from around the globe to national political parties and trade unions including representatives from at least one of the global unions, Paddy Crumlin, President of the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

The closing plenary was addressed by Nicolás Maduro. He expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. He argued that digital campaigning was our essential tool but we should beware of an invisible oligarchy controlling much of the world’s media, including social media. In closing the conference he said that all participants constituted a powerful movement and called for a permanent anti-imperialist initiative.

The Final Communique

The text of the communique is very clearly about defending Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua in the face of blockade and other regime change measures initiated by the US. Much of the content will be familiar to activists in the trade union and Latin America solidarity movements:

The pandemic has been the trigger of the global crisis of neoliberal capitalism; all the great capitalist powers are going into economic recession this year and there is uncertainty for the years to come. The worst is the increase in unemployment, in the precariousness of employment and informality that will affect large sections of the working class. Figures show how serious this is: 2,000 million workers are in the informal sector (61% of the workforce); 480 million people of the global workforce are underemployed and more than 3,300 million workers do not have an adequate income or job security (ILO, 2019) and, as a result of the pandemic, 590 million jobs are expected to be lost in the world, with Latin America being the region most affected (ILO, 2020).

In spite of the human catastrophe caused by capitalism and further aggravated by the pandemic, the mass protests and rebellions continued in 2020. Thus, protests in the U.S. over the death of George Floyd on May 25 of this year at the hands of the white and racist police of Minneapolis, protests that were massive, became a worldwide phenomenon. What began with outrage over Floyd’s death, morphed into anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles, leading both to the destruction of many of the most precious symbols of European and US colonialist domination and to the formation of anti-racist and anti-colonial mass movements like the BLM (Black Lives Matter).

Also, in the midst of the pandemic, a series of significant and unique struggles developed. For example, the struggle of globalized digital delivery platforms’ workers against the precariousness of labour, in Latin America, Europe and Australia. Another significant struggle in Europe has been that of migrants, closely linked to the struggle of so-called “undocumented” workers.

But it is in our Latin America, the main theatre of the imperialist offensive to maintain its global hegemony, where, despite the neoliberal restoration processes promoted by the United States, fundamental struggles took place. The heroic resistance of the working class and indigenous people of Bolivia against the dictatorship, despite violent repression, brought about the overwhelming victory of Luis Arce. Likewise, the awesome result in the plebiscite of Chile thanks to the tireless popular mobilization of the people to send Pinochet’s constitution to the dump of history, a still not concluded process that took a hard battle since 2019.

Further in the “Plan of Struggle” these action points, among others, were agreed:

  • To campaign against free trade agreements that serve the interests of multinationals, break the sovereignty of nations and destroy the economic livelihood of small producers and peasants.
  • Promote struggles against illegitimate, illegal, odious and unsustainable debts that make the sovereignty of nations vulnerable.

The Platform declared:

We define ourselves as an anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal movement, whose fundamental mission is to achieve the articulation of the struggles and solidarity of the workers and peoples of the world. We propose to strengthen strategic alliances with world trade union organizations, trade union federations, workers’ organizations, social movements and political parties, whose unity is determined anti-imperialist struggles.

However, it must remain an open question if the organisations of the working class in Britain are sufficiently moved by this new initiative – it is vital such initiatives do not substitute or duplicate the Platform for the work of the Latin America solidarity organisations we are used to working with, in this case, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, and, by extension, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, Justice for Colombia and Brazil Solidarity Initiative. Similarly, on campaigning against inequitable free trade agreements and global debt they must not substitute or duplicate the Platform for the work of, for example, War on Want.

Nonetheless it is clear that in the face of a clear and present danger from the US the PSUV and its allies in the CBST are right in seeking to mobilise the forces of the left on a global basis in defence of Venezuelan sovereignty and against US sanctions. If the Anti-Imperialist Working Class Platform is the correct vehicle for such a mobilisation only time will tell, but our solidarity with Venezuela’s workers and other progressive and socialist movements across Latin America will remain as vital as ever.

  • Adrian Weir is a member of the Labour Party’s National Policy Forum – International Policy Commission
  • Further information at: https://pcoaworld.org

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