Grafitos del Orinoco: building and defending workers’ control

The Bolivarian Revolution has suffered from the beginning from the economic sabotage of the employers. Workers, following Chavez’s call, have responded by occupying some of these factories and running them under workers’ control. This is one of the conquests of the revolution that workers will be defending on September 26. Here is a short account of one such experience of workers’ control.
Grafitos del OrinocoEight months ago no one could imagine that the small factory of Grafitos del Orinoco in the south of Venezuela could become an example of workers’ control for the workers of Guayana and Venezuela. This Swiss-owned company processed anthracite and produced liquid graphite and graphite drill bits for SIDOR, one of the largest steel mills in the continent. In October 2009 a conflict started when the owners said the company was bankrupt and refused to pay wages and other benefits to the workers.
The union, Sintra Grafitos del Orinoco, led by Henry Escalona, William Ravelo and Cesar Barreto, amongst others, decided to occupy the premises and thus started an 8-month long struggle. Finally the government of president Chávez decided to expropriate the factory and put it under joint state-workers’ control. From the very beginning the idea was to re-establish the company on a new basis, allowing the workers to run the factory. All important decisions would be put to the workers’ assembly. A factory council has been created, with elected representatives from all the different workshops and areas of work in order to manage production and administration of the company, much in the same way that Russian workers did during the revolution.
Grafitos del Orinoco is an example of how workers can manage factories. Since it was expropriated we have recovered 80% of productive capacity, linking our operations with SIDOR, Orinoco Iron and Venelum. We have paid workers the 8 months wages that they were owed, as well as food bonuses and school materials for their children. This is all thanks to workers’ management, without having had to ask for credit from the state or private banks. The account books of the company have been opened so that everyone can see how the capitalist owners were running the factory, making obscene profits out of the exploitation and humiliation of the workers.
The future of Grafitos del Orinoco will be written by the workers themselves. Part of building socialism is the ownership of the means of production by the workers themselves, so that the Bolivarian revolution, led by commander president Hugo Chavez can succeed and become a beacon of hope for all the exploited of the world.
(This article was published in the National Assembly elections issue of the HOV Newsletter)

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