The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Venezuela: Factories Without Bosses

Fourth in a series

Tomas Gorman • 3 August 2005

This question is often asked; does Socialism work? Or is there a place for it in today's world? Many on the right would trumpet the fall of the Soviet Union as the death knell to Socialism/Communism as a working ideology. Some Neo-cons go even further and trumpet the end of the USSR as the end of history. As history consists of different ideological, political and economic power struggles, they herald the dominant USA and its socio-economic and political system as the only system for the world from now to doomsday.

A startling declaration, for the billions of people suffering devastating poverty and murderous imperialism due to this eternal system. Particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America where the effects have been felt most both today and in the past. Yet, it is in Latin America that this "end of history" claim is being shown to be the folly that it is. Countries right across the South American Continent are experiencing an ever-growing socialist trend with various land reform, labour and students movements pushing the collective social consciousness' of the continent further to the left side of the political spectrum. This has resulted in the election of left leaning political leaders, much to the discomfort of the Ultra-Nationalist, Neo-Conservative clique in Washington.

The largest thorn in the side of the US imperialist state is Venezuela and its elected President Hugo Chavez who is using his considerable mandate to reverse the US backed trend of corruption that has blighted the country and to implement sweeping that evenly spread the resources of the oil rich country.

One concrete example of this is the recently nationalized INVEPAL factory complex. INVEPAL is the country's paper making industry that was a privately enterprise until the owners declared the factory bankrupt as an act of economic sabotage by the anti-government bosses. Instead of accepting the massive job loss, the workers formally requested the permission to run the factory as a collective in cooperation with the government. The government agreed and the factory now operates successfully in the socialist model of workers control.

Upon visiting the factory however, I discovered that the factory is much more than just a working example of a socialist industrial unit. The factory unit itself produces paper for the books/stationary used in the government's education and health missions as well as its official stationary. It also produces other products such as paper bags used by shops and pharmacies and larger bags used for agricultural feeds and cements etc.

One of the democratically elected administration staff had arranged for a tour of the factory for me with one of the workers. The first thing that struck me was how orderly the place looked. I still do not know why this should have come as a shock to me. I perhaps had a very wrong subconscious misconception of how a factory without bosses would have looked. I can be forgiven for my surprise at the revelations that followed.

Coming out of one of the factory buildings, I noticed three fire engines and an ambulance situated at a depot. I discovered that these were the property of the factory collective. Not only that, but the firemen and paramedics had stayed after the workers' annex as part of the collective. I was amused to see the old VENEPAL (the name of the factory under private ownership) logo on the sides of the fire engines had been sprayed over with white paint.

A little further and my guide directed me into an extremely large and noisy building that I soon discovered was a gas fuelled electric power station with four huge steam turbines that provide power for the entire factory complex. Again, this was operated by members of the workers' collective within.

The factory, as a socialist model, not only works but works more efficiently. Paper production has increased since the workers annex. The workers are contributing to the success of their collective effort with more energy without the exploitation of a private boss. They have realized their potential in collective effort and this has injected a vitality in them that is allowing them to fulfil it. Moreover, they are also working to fulfil the potential of the factory complex as a whole.

The factory complex lies in app.5,600 hectares of what was mostly private, unproductive land. There are also a number of amenities that were once exclusively for the middle management level of the private factory for example a baseball field and small stadium. There is also a swimming pool and a series of chalet housing with a restaurant. Up until a few months ago these amenities along with other structures in the complex had fallen into a state of great disrepair. Using the profits created by the factory, the collective have began an extensive program of refurbishment, opening the complex up to the workers for their use and welfare. The stadium is open for the workers or their children to use for sports as will the pool in a few weeks time. The chalets and other buildings in the complex are receiving refurbishment to the roofs and air-conditioning and are used by workers permanently based here. The restaurant has been refurbished and has been transformed into a canteen for the workers to enjoy a subsidized lunch in cooler surroundings. A shop has been opened offering a wide range of subsidized goods.

Showing admirable imagination and social consciousness, the factory workers have asked the government to provide agricultural experts to come to the site to develop the remaining 5,000 hectares into productive agricultural land. The government has obliged and sent Venezuelan and Cuban experts to draw up and develop plans to implement irrigation schemes to make the land suitable for crop production, livestock including egg bearing chickens, dairy and beef cows, pigs and buffalos. The experts are not planning to do this on their own. They are training people from local towns to take part in their training schemes and to take responsibility of the land in different collectives and make it productive for them. The schemes are aimed at all ages from schoolchildren to adults.

Despite these obvious benefits, the factory complex is also providing more employment than before to the surrounding area. It employs teams of local people to maintain the factory grounds and carry out various repairs to the infrastructure.

The factory complex may be viewed as a microcosm of a socialist society and not only proving that it does work but is also advancing the concept of socialist cooperation throughout Venezuela and other factories are beginning to take inspiration from this shining example. The once private valve making industry for the national petrol company, PDVSA, is in transition towards workers control. As is the countries textile industry which is now known as INVETEX. All of this is being seen by progressives here in Venezuela, not in negative terms, but as the country's industry reawakening.

INVEPAL is proving here in this coastal area of Venezuela that socialism does work, whilst Venezuela as a nation is beginning to embrace the socialist model as the only model that allows all of mankind the ability and space to develop its potential. Moreover, INVEPAL is proving to be at the arrowhead of revolution here in Venezuela whilst Venezuela proves to be at the arrowhead of radical change in Latin America which, if it follows Venezuela's lead, will surely prove to be the catalyst for radical social change in the world.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

10 August 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Failed Entity
Anthony McIntyre

Towards Justice: Damien Walsh Lecture
Fr Sean Mc Manus

Where Terror Reigns
Fred A Wilcox

Lack of Trust — Or Courage?
Mick Hall

Process of Consulting Loses Sway
David Adams

Unionism Can't Run on Empey
Anthony McIntyre

Another Side to the Surrender
Brian Mór

Provisional Surrender A Sell-Out
Joe Dillon

The Greatest Betrayal of All
Proinsias O'Loinsaigh

Censorship at the Irish Echo
John McDonagh & Brian Mór

Take Ireland Out of the War: Irish Anti War Movement News
Michael Youlton

Venezuela: Factories Without Bosses
Tomas Gorman

1 August 2005

An Open Letter to Gerry Adams
Dolours Price

The Inevitable
Anthony McIntyre

PIRA Statement 'Neither Surprising nor Historic'
32 County Sovereignty Movement

'Provisional IRA Should Disband Completely'
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

A Momentous, Historic, Courageous and Confident Statement
Jimmy Sands

When History Was Made
Brian Mór

Roundup on the IRA Statement
Liam O Ruairc

The Way of the Apache and Lakota
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Strange Bedfellows?
Eamonn McCann

Rewriting the Past to Suit the Present
Mick Hall

Shoot to Kill: Getting Away with State Murder
Eamonn McCann

Parents of the World Unite
Fred A Wilcox



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