On February 19, 2020, President Nicolás Maduro decreed an energy emergency and a state of exception in the country’s hydrocarbon industry, which led to the creation of the General Staff of the Workers’ Productive Councils (CPTT). Manuel Páez, who belongs to the presidential commission of the CPTT for the hydrocarbon sector, in an interview with Últimas Noticias, explained that there are “71 colleagues who were assigned (by the president and the working class itself) the task of directing the transformation of the industry… presenting a new management model, which is basically collective management.”
Páez indicated that “the socialist management model consists of collective management of work units… A spokesperson is elected for each process in each area, and the spokespersons elect a representative who reports to the general staff in each work unit.”
CPTT and unions
On the difference between unions and CPTT, Páez said that the function of the former is “purely vindictive, to defend a collective contract, the Organic Law of Labor, Workers and Workers, or the LOPCYMAT (Organic Law of Prevention, Conditions and Environment Work Environment, enacted on July 26, 2005 in Official Gazette 38,236). However, the CPTT empower the social process of work, so that through their functions distribution, production, marketing, administration, and operating decisions” of the industry are improved.
“It is the empowerment itself of the working class in decision making about production processes,” he emphasized.
These functions are “codified by the Constitutional Law of the CPTT, approved by the National Constituent Assembly (in 2017),” said Páez, while the functions of the unions “are codified in national and international legal bodies and agreements.”
As one of the achievements of the CPTT, Páez notes that “today, thanks to a recovery plan presented by the workers (of PDVSA), fuel, oils, and lubricants for the country’s automotive fleet are being produced.” He added that it is “the best demonstration that the industry has undergone a structural change, thanks to the tireless work of the working class—first agent of change.”
“Today we can proudly say that we have achieved the goal of 1,450,000 barrels [barrels of oil produced per day],” he added. “Perhaps for some that goal is nothing, because before [in 2014] we produced three million, but we must take into account the price of crude oil; that for more than four years world production fell and the oil-producing countries did not even have the capacity to store and were insuring the wells; being in the middle of a pandemic and a quarantine, and even so, we managed to overcome difficulties and trace a clean path for another million barrels and continue to grow steadily… that is our main letter of introduction,” said Páez. In addition, Venezuela suffered under the brutality of the US and European economic blockade of PDVSA.
He warned that “only with the commitment, work, and tenacity of the working class can we get out of this difficulty” imposed, not only by the situation of the blockade, but by the very structure of the industry, inherited from the energy transnationals since before the so-called nationalization of oil in 1976.
Another achievement of the CPTT is the domestic manufacture of subway rails, despite the boycott of the companies that were supposed to supply them to the country.
Páez also mentioned how, following the electrical sabotage of March 2019, it took “40 days to recover and stabilize the system… and less than a month ago a similar sabotage occurred. In four hours, that working class that learned from the previous sabotage and generated procedure manuals.” This allowed for the prompt restoration of electrical services throughout the territory. “That is the commitment of the working class, because… it is not the minister or the manager who knows the production process,” but the workers, said Páez.
“Today we can say that SIDOR (publicly owned steel company Siderurgica del Orinoco), which transnationals dismantled,” Páez continued, “is producing the necessary steel for parts and pieces, and recovery plans are being designed with the working class.”
Páez recalled that cement factories imported their sacks, and could not market their production. “The working class carried out the necessary tests, and today those sacks are produced nationally,” Páez said. The same working class that “is presenting a water pump to the Ministry of Science that works without electricity… A pendulum, the way oil pumpjacks work.”
Páez recounted how PDVSA “is already producing its own bolts and screws” and INTEVEP [PDVSA subsidiary Venezuelan Institute Of Oil Technology] is producing bakelite for spare parts for the pumps being restored at the El Palito refinery in Carabobo state.
The implementation of the CPTT “is a correct state policy in response to the situation of the blockade and the coercive measures,” said Páez. “The workers are the ones who know the productive processes… It is not the manager, the director, or the president of the company who knows them, but the worker with the heat of the hammer, the wrench, the plant and the pump, who truly know how to optimize them.”
He said that the CPTTs are not merely President Maduro’s policy to face the blockade that is undermining the national economy, but “a political response to the situation in a country that deserves transformation and change in the management model.” The oil industry continues to employ “a management model that obeys the transnationals, designed by those companies at the time, and the industry has a debt,” Páez continued. “The revolutionary government has a debt to the Venezuelan people, so that there is a transformation of the industry, and that it be by and for the people.”
“It should not be just a slogan—’PDVSA now belongs to the people,'” said Páez. “It should transcend. And for that, the management model and the philosophy of how it was designed must be changed… The hydrocarbon industry must truly be at the service of the country and not at the service of transnational interests, as it continues to be.”
“We have recovered our industry with effort… with Venezuelan effort,” Páez said, explaining that it is the “effort of those men and women who get up and leave their homes every day under very precarious economic and working conditions… Despite these conditions—the blockade and the coercive measures—we are uplifting the industry.”
He explained that the achievements of restoring and boosting the industry, now bearing fruit after a couple of years of management by the CPTTs—which will be two years old on February 19—was achieved precisely because the working class is being listened to.
“When the national government begins to believe in its working class, phenomena such as those that are happening in [Venezuela’s region of] Guayana arise,” said Páez. “Some essential enterprises were very deteriorated, and the impact generated by the electrical sabotage ended up killing their productive processes. Yet today, they are gradually recovering their productivity, along with the quality of life of those workers who every day exert great efforts to restore its industry.”
He pointed out that “for four years, maybe five” the oil workers have been carrying out “a root-cause diagnosis of what the hydrocarbon industry suffered,” and for this reason “we can see how Pequiven [publicly owned Petrochemical Venezuela] in the next quarter of 2022, will have close to 80% of its capacity in some important plants.” Páez noted the importance of petrochemicals for the development of Venezuela’s industrial and agricultural sectors.
Páez noted that the recovery experienced by the country “is not an improvisation” and that the workers, grouped in study centers and in production committees, trained with the Jesús Rivero Bolivarian University of Workers (UBT). Páez also highlighted the role of the Bolivarian National Militia for logistics and security training, and emphasized the joint effort to “combine a national production plan not only for fuels and lubricants, but also for spare parts.”
“It consists of intertwining the iron, aluminum, steel, electricity, cement, construction, and hydrocarbon sectors,” Páez said, “that cut across the country’s economy, to achieve reverse engineering through the Fábrica de Fabricas and resolve what the blockade has caused.”
He recalled that the Fábrica de Fábricas is “that wonderful complex that Comandante Chávez left us in Anaco [Anzoategui state].”
Páez praised how the UBT, the Fábrica de Fábricas, the united productive sectors, the consensual effort of the working class, and the recognition of that contribution by the national government, create the dialectic that is permitting Venezuela to overcome its current difficulties. At the same time these converging forces are laying the groundwork for a profound transformation that will strengthen the productive apparatus of the country, and render it more effective against future aggression.
He pointed out the importance of reverse engineering that makes it possible to recognize the bottlenecks, and to produce domestically, through the ingenuity and experience of the workers, elements that allow Venezuela to “overcome the difficulty, generating spare parts that clearly will provide a true technological sovereignty.”
Páez explained that “one of the most significant pieces that have been made are subway rails, which were [originally] made by a French company, which is actually suing the Venezuelan state, alleging that they have to be paid for the construction of those rails (despite not providing them for timely replacement).” In this case, Venezuelan engineering and domestic manufacturing have permitted the repair and recovery of the transport system critical to the capital Caracas.
The emblematic case of the rails, Páez said, “is breaking the paradigms of onerous contracts” with which the state was handcuffed to make it dependent and submissive. “All the parasitic bourgeoisie that benefited from those contracts, who have lived from the oil income and the resources of the Venezuelan people, it makes them sting” that Venezuela is sovereign, said Páez.
Organization and training are key
Regarding the organizational capacity of the working class, Páez highlighted the importance of training, not only ideological but productive, and the exchange of knowledge to benefit society in the midst of adversity. “An entire training process is being systematized that allows education to become widespread,” said Páez, “which consists of knowledge applied beyond the academic; that is, of the years of experience that today prove to be much more valuable than degrees from large foreign universities.”
“Since the UBT Jesús Rivero is not academic, nor does it take place in the classroom, but rather is based on practice, everyone learns from everyone, which generates continuous and permanent collective knowledge,” said Páez.
“That class never stops learning and never stops advancing,” Páez explained.
Years of fighting
“The transformation processes have their times… we have been fighting for years for the transformation of the state so that it is a social state, of justice and of law,” Páez said. He recalled how “a serious political crisis, of moral values and of the country’s values, generated an uprising that managed to destroy an era of fictitious democracy,” giving rise to the government of President Chávez in 1998, who had to face military and economic attacks from the beginning, in addition to the failed oil industry coup in 2002.
The national oil industry continues to suffer “the consequences of 2002,” commented Páez. “More than $20 billion were lost… We have been a besieged industry.”
He highlighted how “since President Obama took off his mask and said that Venezuela was an unusual [and extraordinary] threat, the framework was created for an open blockade. At the time it was a sneaky blockade.” In this regard, Páez referred to that milestone whereby the economic siege on Venezuela was overtly expressed, issued by the US administration on March 9, 2015. The fragility of the national oil industry was subsequently revealed, exacerbated by its dependence on transnationals for its operation in all sectors.
“This crisis revealed that there is a structure within our industry that obeys transnational interests,” said Páez, noting how “it is no coincidence that the president of PDVSA for 11 years (Rafael Rámirez) walks freely around the world without even an investigation (by the US).” Ramírez was at the head of the company when graft allegedly occurred which, to a great extent, the last three administrations of the White House have used to justified the blockade against the primary national industry.
“It is incoherent that the United States points to the state oil company with accusations that are sometimes embarrassing to repeat, and that whoever was in charge is not responsible for anything,” noted Páez. “That means that Rafael Ramírez was a CIA agent all his life, and he was a fifth columnist… This is not new, we have always had traitors in our revolutionary processes throughout the world. The important thing is not to repeat that mistake. Identify the enemy in time, and do as little damage as possible.”
Páez explained that during “the management of Rafael Ramírez, of Eulogio del Pino, or Nelson Martínez, the policy was the same, there was no change.”
He pointed out that “with the arrival of the Minister of Petroleum Tareck El Aissami, a different dynamic has been instilled in the hydrocarbon industry, generating real results with it.”
For Páez, the working class “understands that the state can only be transformed with unity, organization, and superior training,” to overcome the difficulties, “and it is doing so.” He assured that current events constitute “a living example that contradictions generate dialectical solutions” because “the organization of the class is generating awareness of the seizure of power.” Páez cited the case of Bolívar state as an example, where the organization of the workers was imposed electorally.
There are “more than two million workers involved in the National System of Production and Fair Exchange of Goods and Services,” to break dependency by mainstreaming processes with the interconnection of the entire national productive apparatus, subjected to dismemberment by blockades and economic siege, said Páez.
“In Guayana [Bolivar state] alone there are 80,000 workers, and in the hydrocarbon industry 80,000 or 90,000 are involved in the production processes, and we have been generating class consciousness with the political dynamics that allow us to understand that we are still going through a class struggle,” said Páez.
Featured image: PDVSA oil worker in a Venezuelan refinery. Photo: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/REUTERS.
(Últimas Noticias) by Victor Castellanos, with Orinoco Tribune content
Translation: Orinoco Tribune