Saturday, December 2, 2006

Sanitarios Maracay Revolutionary spearhead!


today was a very important day for our delegation, as we got to visit the factory of Sanitarios Maracay, which is occupied and run democratically under workers control.

There is much to report about this, my report can not capture all the aspects and details we were witness to, however I will try to present the general picture of the situation in the factory.

As well there should be video coming online at some point (it may be a short while since we are all very busy preparing for the election, and video work requires quite a lot of work and time. The results will be well worth it, as the footage is the real documentation of a living breathing revolutionary process that could change history)

Sanitarios Maracay, is about an hours drive from Caracas, so to be on time we had to mobilize quite early in the morning. This was made a bit more difficult by the fact that the opposition had been shooting off fireworks and fire crackers starting late the night before and early into the morning (5:30-6am). While there are many Venezuelans using fireworks during normal hours for the Christmas season, which is a very big holiday here. The people we spoke to in the morning said that the fireworks in the early morning were not normal, as well this same tactic was used during the days preceding the referendum. the opposition is completely unwilling to observe democratic methods, the have constantly resorted to dirty tricks. Whether caring out a joint US government coup or pathetically shooting off fire crackers so to steal a night’s rest, these people are intolerant of the will of the people. The best thing that the revolution can do at this point is to take away the social power the opposition, the capitalists hold!

After a drive through the truly beautiful Venezuelan landscape, we arrived at one of many industrial centers in Maracay. The road into the industrial park is met with banners with slogans dealing with workers control “control obrero”, and some spray painting by the workers on some of the walls reading: Workers Turf!

The workers immediately received us and had us quickly exit the bus and enter the grounds of the factory. We were brought into the mess hall and given a briefing of the plan for the tour.

The tour of the rather large facilities, which is encompassed in four separate building divided by intersecting streets, lasted slightly longer than two hours, and was quiet thorough, we thank the workers for their time and efforts in educating us on the process involved in the factory.

The first stop of the tour was very telling of the weight of the situation. This was the beginning of the production process: the raw materials needed to produce the ceramics made there.

The were about 15 or so various powers needed in the production of the ceramics depending on the use of the material. The supplies of the most universal powers were all nearing exhaustion, these are the powders needed to produce any product. As well several other powders that are required in all products were running very low, the workers, however improvised with some materials which could up until a certain point be reused. Unfired pieces that fail to meet quality standards are broken up and put back into the supply of raw material. “When the boss left” we were told, “he left us like this” by the worker giving the tour as he pointed to a nearly empty powder stall. The problem of raw materials in exacerbated since some of the more important powders come from Spain, and the suppliers have so far not been willing to send any more, most likely as a means to end the self run production of the workers. While new suppliers are being sought out there is a pressing need for the factory to be nationalized and keep in good repair and stocked up on all the necessary materials for production.

The worker showing us the factory then brought us to the Silica powder stall, he explained that this power was a carcinogen, and eight to ten years of unprotected exposure can cause cancer. Before the workers formed a union about two years ago (UNT affiliated) the boss had no safety masks for the workers, and the workers were left to the dangers of the carcinogens. Once the union formed the a health committee was set up and at once made demands for more health and safety materials. The workers however had to constantly push for all these necessary items.

In a bit of cleaver working class humor, the kindness of the bosses was on display for all to see. a bit of the old conditions were purposely left untouched, the only drinking facility in the powder storage, chemical testing and mixing building was one small water cooler (that was in disrepair) top off by only one cup ( in the same area as the silica powder!) meant to be used by all 800 workers!

Despite the cruel and inhuman treatment of the workers by the boss, the workers spared no effort to make us feel comfortable and safe at the factory. Several times I saw workers move chains and hooks that we could of run into, and in a huge display of their generosity, the workers, who are on a food rationing system, shared their lunch time meal with us, taking only half a portion of food! The generosity of the workers contrasts heavily with the “generosity” of the bosses!

To this most kind and warm offering of a basic need, one that the workers are running low on and a local food drive has been set up, the International HOV delegates all made a donation to the worker’s fighting fund that provides food for them and their families. We raised over 400,000 Bolivars.

In addition to the workers fighting for their own safety, the expressed their concerns for the local community which is effected by the dust from the factory. the workers plan to research a method of filtering the factory so no dust get blown into the surrounding areas, which house other working facilities and one kindergarten.

We continued to tour the entire process, the molding room, the machine shop, the plaster cast room, the plaster mixers, the chemical testing, the waster filtration system, the design room, areas for processing raw materials, and the giant building filling kiln/oven where the workers gave us a brief lesson in dialectics! They explained the process of heating and cooling, which involves a intentional gradual drop in temperature, which if not used “would cause the material to sharply change, causing a break”.

We saw the entire process of producing sanitary items, toilets, sinks etc, all of which are much needed in this country were millions of people still lack basic housing essentials. This factory provides a use full item that raises the living conditions of real people. I don’t think I need to sell anyone on the need of good working pluming! But this is a great example of the different interests present in society. The workers by occupying the factory are not only saving their jobs and lively hoods of their families, but the living conditions of millions of people. The hostel in which I am lodging in has a sink of the same design which I saw at the factory yesterday. The workers are more than justified in their demand that the factory be nationalized.

We were very fortunate to be able to address the workers of the factory and express of solidarity with them at the end of the trip. Several international HOV delegates involved in workers struggles in their respective countries, got to speak to a general gathering of the hundreds of workers present that day.

The speeches of these delegates should be available soon, hopefully in video format.

I could report more but it is now late and we must wake up early for the election, which will be of a huge importance.

More to come….

In Solidarity

Shane Jones from Caracas

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