Venezuela: Workers’ Councils Law

Venezuelan Communist Party & Trade Unions Ask President to Pass Workers’ Councils Law

Caracas, December 15th 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s Communist Party  (PCV) and trade unions have asked the country’s president Nicolas Maduro to approve a law for workers’ control before January 5th, when new rightwing legislators will take majority control over the Venezuelan National Assembly.

“We are asking president Maduro to immediately pass this special law, because we know that the new National Assembly, will oppose this new (legal) instrument,” said Communist Party leader, Pedro Eusse, who was elected as deputy legislator for the state of Portuguesa on December 6th.

“They have already come forward with the threat to rescind the Labor Law because FEDECAMARAS (Venezuela’s largest business federation) has ordered them to, and that’s who financed their campaign,” Eusse explained.

The legislation for workers control – officially known as the Law for Workers’ Councils –  was initially submitted to the country’s National Assembly in 2007 but it has since been caught up in debate and blocked by bureaucratic obstacles.

While workers’ councils currently exist and are recognised as legitimate organisational bodies in laws such as the Law for Work and Workers (LOTTT), they still have no legislative base outlining their exact functions, competences or authority.

In 2013 workers organisations came together to discuss further proposals for the draft law based on their “last five years of experience” – in particular those of Guayana, Venezuela’s Southeastern industrial heartland, which have experimented to varying degrees with workers’ control.

The legislation currently contains 17 different articles and would set the stage for bringing key areas of the economy under workers control; including the planning of national production in conjunction with the government and using workers’ councils to audit the use of resources. The PCV has described the law as transcendental in the “transition” from capitalism to socialism in Venezuela.

Passing the bill under the auspices of the presidential enabling law – which allows the executive to approve legislation in pre-determined areas by presidential decree for a limited time – would permit the president to bypass parliamentary approval.

Maduro currently holds enabling powers that were granted to him by the National Assembly in March 2015 to shield the country from US aggression, after US president Barack Obama signed an executive order designating Venezuela as an “extraordinary threat” to US national security.

But in order to back the PCV’s proposal, Maduro would have to argue that the Law for Workers’ Councils falls under the rubric of countering imperialism from the North before the enabling period expires this month.

Nonetheless, on May Day 2012 Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, set a precedent for such a move when he passed the Law for Work and Workers (LOTTT) using the enabling powers.

While the law was hailed as both far-reaching and progressive, it has still not been fully implemented despite the time lapse – coming up against many institutional obstacles which could also prove problematic for the fledgling Law for Workers’ Councils.

Although Maduro has yet to respond to the PCV’s request, last week he passed a string of laws aimed at protecting citizens and workers from any conservative legislation brought before congress by the incoming rightwing legislators, including bringing the state media channel ANTV under workers’ ownership.

The recently elected congresspeople for the MUD coalition (Roundtable of Democratic Unity) have already pledged their backing for eliminating key legislation brought in by the Bolivarian revolution, including the LOTTT and the Law of Fair Prices which regulates the selling cost of basic goods.

The majority win for the rightwing opposition has set off a string of protests and street mobilisations against the potential rollback of current legislation – including a march against the privatisation of state telecommunications company CANTV earlier today and a huge march against repealing the LOTTT last week in Aragua.

“The working class will not allow it,” commented Eusse.

“We will make the weight of the entire working class felt in the streets, in the Assembly, but we will not allow them to take away what we have fought for,” he added.

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