Young men and young women workers in Venezuela. A look at their vision

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Foto: Jesús A. Rendón
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In November of last year, I received a Bulletin containing a Report prepared by the JOC Venezuela (Venezuela Young Christian Workers, or YCW), entitled: "Analysis of the reality of the Venezuelan working youth, within the framework of the working class and the Worker Movement, in the present Venezuelan situation". After reading it, and I recommend everyone to go through it, I decided to highlight some aspects, and this is what this note is about.


Before proceeding it is opportune to make a minimum presentation of the YCW. This young workers’ movement has the following characteristics: worker, young, Christian, mass, international and autonomy. In its declaration of principles, it establishes that "it has as its starting point the personal and collective situations that young workers live on a daily basis and the contradictions that exist in society." And consequently, its objective is that "all young workers should discover the deepest meaning of their lives; live in accordance with their personal and collective dignity; assume the responsibility for finding solutions to their situations at the local, national and international levels." The YCW Venezuela is part of the International Young Christian Workers (IYCW), with an international experience of almost a century.


It is very important today that an organization like the YCW Venezuela, faithful to its history, continue to promote its actions, based on an analysis focusing on class interests (workers) and with its own perspective, i.e. a vision of young workers themselves on their situation in their country. I highlight this quality, since it is more common to find people or entities that speak on behalf of the working youth, as well as media or political actors that extract elements from the discourse of these subjects with bias to manipulate a specific reality.


The accuracy of this analysis is such that, even though more than six months have gone by, the central elements it presents are still validated by reality, and unfortunately some of the signs described may have grown more serious.


Young people consider that "today, ‘Chavism’ is the expression of a bureaucratic elite that gave a direction to the Venezuelan revolution in the opposite direction to the assumptions underlying Chavism. This is a political fact that arises, despite the warning of the ‘change of course’ that President Chávez gave before his death. This situation generates a crisis, which is expressed in a degeneration of the state as well as social confrontation, within which young people are a priority target.


The YCW activists in Venezuela believe that the working youth are facing a degradation of their living and working conditions, and they mention the following facts at the workplaces: impact on their salaries, dismissals, unemployment; fraudulent closures of companies and businesses to evade the payment of social benefits, lower cost of production, speculation business, etc.; violations of labor laws with the complicity of labor inspectorates and their inspectors; the cost of living and inflation that eats up the salary, workers resigning from fixed jobs which no longer enables them to survive). They speak of what they call "a state of war" in relation to living conditions, which highlights the difficulties to develop a daily routine (poor transportation, deficiency of public services, citizens’ insecurity, among others.)


The YCW Venezuela divided into four blocks the reactions and actions of workers with respect to this reality:


Regarding the workers, it is affirmed that they participate in the mobilizations summoned by the government and that they fundamentally promote the defense of sovereignty in the face of imperial interference and the rejection of the dominant business elites in the country. Those who are mobilized are mainly workers in the public sector (in many cases coerced), and on a smaller scale those who work in the private sector or in the informal economy. Finally, they identify that there is a sector of the working class that understands that their interests are not represented in the political confrontation.


Workers in Venezuela are also organized to defend their rights and resist. On the other hand, there are mobilizations to denounce, to ask the State to provide them defense and protection against the violation of rights and, ultimately, the taking of companies.


The working youth reacted in different ways. First, in particular in 2017, by joining the “guarimbas”. Second, by opposing the Government Plan "Chamba Juvenil". Third, by showing fear, especially about losing their jobs. Another reaction is to immerse yourself in informality or crime. Finally, we find emigration as an alternative to the disenchantment experienced by young workers.


Regarding workers’ unions in Venezuela, they affirm that first of all we identify the "Unions of government actions" that only follow the lines and strategies of the national government, criticize very little, are part of the BSWC (Bolivarian Socialist Workers' Central) who has leaders in the government ministerial cabinet. Its biggest claim is to ask for salary increases periodically. We also find the unions "that support the opposition and are part of the plan of international discrediting of the Venezuelan government, directed internally by the MUD." Finally, they confirm that there are "Unions and grassroots groups that do not belong to any federation. They act to face bosses' attacks, but in isolated actions. They disseminate their analyses, denunciations and proposals for the advancement of the working class. They form, in their diversity, an embryonic tendency of rebirth of the Worker Movement." Some Communal Councils and Communes are incorporated in it.


The document ends with some key orientations for the youth movement, of which we highlight:


  • In the discussion the activists must be attentive to discover the thinking of young people with whom they relate, instead of convincing them to assume a certain political position. They should guide the dialogue more in terms of what is experienced and how the situation is lived out; they should provide guidance so that the contacts can discover for themselves the cause of their problem.


  • Identify the policies addressed to working youth by the different social actors (government, entrepreneurs, market, etc.) unmasking their specific class interests. Take position in front of these, considering and defending the perspective of political and organizational autonomy.


  • In the daily dynamics of social struggle, maintain a position of protection in relation to young people, adults and political organizations, as a security mechanism in a state of potential war.


  • In informal work, incorporate into our workers' struggle demands related to the working conditions that workers, particularly young people, experience in the different informality scenarios. In particular, initiatives to resist unemployment.


  • Discover and promote worker’s support bodies where workers can appeal. It implies links with some workers’ organizations at the grassroots. Strive for the unity of autonomous worker and organizational expressions.


  • Promote the values of rebellion and dignity of the working youth, within the framework of the class interests to which it belongs. Discover the values of youth: unity, solidarity, creativity and inventiveness, which are values of the working-class condition.


Young people who are in contact with the YCW Venezuela are part of the social, community, working-class and political organizations aiming to promote practices that solve problems or part of the problems. In these organizations there are multiple experiences that break the prevailing liberal logic of conceiving and practicing democracy to address solutions.


(Collaborated with the translation: Angel Machuca, Orlando Machado y Françoise Denayer.)


- Jesús A. Rondón. @jxrondon


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