People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 02

January 13, 2013





Venezuela Hosts Energy Workers’ World Congress


Swadesh Dev Roye


THIS time there was an added attraction for the participants to the world congress of energy workers: Venezuela was the venue of the congress and, moreover, the timing was significant, as the event was taking place just after the re-election of Higo Chavez as the president of the country.


The report of the secretariat of Trade Unions International (Energy) [TUI-(E)] to the congress started with greetings to the people of Venezuela: “First of all we extend our warm fraternal greetings to the people of Venezuela for voting Comrade Hugo Chavez again to the presidency of Venezuela, the great country of people’s successful struggle against imperialist machinations and the disastrous doctrine of neo-liberalism. At the same time we also congratulate Comrade Chavez for his grand success in successively winning the confidence of the toiling people of Venezuela in the Presidential elections.”


The report continued to say, “The victory of Chavez in the elections is not merely over his conservative ‘united’ opposition candidate but it is a victory of alternative path of people oriented economic development policies and rejection of finance capital driven neo-liberalism.”




The congress took place on November 29-30, 2012 and was hosted jointly by the Petroleum and the Electricity Workers’ Federations of Venezuela at Caracas. Incidentally, the last congress was held at Mexico in the year 2007. Representing all the continents, more than a hundred delegates from around 30 countries participated in the congress. All segments of energy, namely, oil and natural gas, coal, electricity, water and petrochemical were represented in the congress. The counties of Latin America and Caribbean apart, the presence of India, China, South Africa, France, Romania, Greece, Sudan and Algeria was worth noting. Representing the Petroleum & Gas Workers’ Federation of India and the Electricity Employees’ Federation of India, a nine-member delegation from India attended the congress, led by Swadesh Dev Roye.


In addition to the delegates, a large number of energy sector workers of Venezuela also attended the inaugural session of the congress. Angel Navas, general secretary of the Electricity Workers’ Federation of Venezuela (FETRAELEC), delivered the welcome address. The congress was inaugurated with the presidential speech delivered by Swadesh Dev Roye.


The presidential speech dealt at length the hegemonic design of imperialism led by the US administration in the energy-rich countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America focusing the global energy centre --- the Middle East and the Central Asian region. It reminded the delegates that the energy sector trade union movement has a very important task to undertake vigorous campaigns to expose the whole dirty and dangerous game of imperialist forces in the oil and natural gas producing countries and unmask the dictatorial puppet rulers of those counties.


Two important points underlined in this regard were as below:

(1) Liberating the people of the Arab world from the direct or indirect clutches of the imperialist forces and installation of genuine popular rule of democracy in the African and Middle East countries shall go a long way in the fight against imperialism.


(2) In this regard the specific experience of the struggle of the people of Latin America confirms that anti-imperialist struggles under the leadership of working class wedded to the doctrine of class struggle is the only way the Anglo-American imperialist powers can be driven out of the Arab region.


The president noted, “Our TUI (Energy) will have to play role in articulating before the people this political-organisational point and mobilising the working class in this struggle. Anti-imperialist struggle, energy factor and movement for democracy in Arab world are certainly correlated.”




A comprehensive political organisational report was presented to the congress on behalf of the TUI (Energy) secretariat. On crude oil and natural gas, the report dealt with the established reserve and production scenarios as also with the profile of countries in terms of consumption, export and import. The actual game behind the US aggression in regard to the oil and natural gas rich countries was thus captured in the report, “In the matter of consumption, United States is way ahead of the rest of the nation states. United States, with just 4.5 per cent of the world's population, consumes 25 per cent of the world's petroleum every year. Today the USA imports 19.5 million barrels of crude oil per day which works out to 51 per cent of its total crude oil need. According to Energy Information Administration the USA will import 64 per cent of its crude oil requirement or in absolute terms 25.8 million barrels per day by 2020. The crossing of the 50 per cent threshold in US importation of foreign oil; US oil production had fallen 39 per cent below its 1970 peak. US reliance on foreign oil imports could increase to almost two-thirds of its total gasoline and heating oil consumption by 2020.”


A statement showing the top 30 crude oil producing countries, incorporated in the report, provided important data depicting the new emerging world geopolitics of crude oil situation. A recent related development noted in the report is that according to latest OPEC data, at the beginning of 2011 highest proved oil reserves including non-conventional oil deposits are in Venezuela (20 per cent of total global reserves). President Chavez said at a BBC News night programme, “we have oil for 200 years.” Regarding oil price he said, “50 dollars a barrel – that’s a fair price, not a high price.” It is for the entire world to see that such a bold declaration on crude oil price stability countering the volatile price situation has come from none other than Hugo Chavez, the pro-people progressive minded president of Venezuela, only after the country has been freed from the hegemony of USA.


Emergence of new players and new centres of crude oil refining hubs has also been focused in the report. “A new strategy has of late emerged under which refining hubs are established based on totally imported crude oil and products are entirely exported. The game behind such design is exploitation of cheap labour market of the countries concerned […] China and Saudi Arabia have come together to build a gigantic oil refinery at a reported cost of $8.5 billion jointly by Chinese oil company – SINOPEC and Saudi oil giant ARAMCO with former’s share holding of 37.5 per cent and latter’s 62.5 per cent to be operational by 2014. Again Egypt is building its ever largest oil refinery with investment from China. And the latest is China’s agreement with Nigeria to construct three gasoline refineries in Nigeria at an investment of $23 billion.”




The oil industry in Venezuela under Chavez has witnessed huge changes in policy perspective. Some such new policy measures can be traced in the following observation from the report:


“Under the policy formulated by President Chavez, the authority of the government in the oil industry of the country was established first by reducing the stake of private oil companies operating in the country. And ultimately by enacting the Hydrocarbon Act 2006, full government control was established in the vast proven oil and gas reserves in the country. This is clearly a step switching over from private sector control to state control. Incidentally prior to the new arrangement, “Venezuela was a US oil colony.” Chavez strongly denounced the previous deals as a part of drive to attract more investment into the country’s oil industry..… which gave foreign oil companies too much and the government too little.”


Yet another welcome departure from pre-Chavez period and bold steps by President Chavez was diversified oil export to a great extent from US to China, India, Japan and other nations resulting in what a Venezuelan minister said, “we are not subject to the problems of the US and European economies, nor to the devaluation of the dollar.”


Moreover, under Chavez, Venezuela has established a shining example by spending money earned from oil revenue truly for the economic development of the country and the people. According to statistics supplied by UN agencies, “Venezuela has made tremendous strides since Chavez first came to power in 1999. Unemployment dropped from 14.5 per cent in the total labour force in 1999 to 7.6 per cent in 2009. The gross domestic product per capital rose from $4,104 in 199 to $10,801 in 2011. In 1999 more than 23 per cent of the population was living below poverty line. In 2011, the ratio decreased substantially to 8.5 per cent. Infant mortality rates have also been significantly lower.” And most importantly the UN data declared, “Venezuela has the least unequal society in Latin America.” 


Apart from oil and natural gas the report also contained data based analytical formulation on the other segments of energy, i.e., coal mines, electric power subdivided into thermal power, nuclear power, hydropower and other renewable energy. 




In this regard, the secretariat report noted that the challenges before the trade union movement in the energy sector have features that are common to the energy sector as a whole as well as various segment specific features. The major sources of energy --- oil and natural gas, coal and electricity --- are afflicted with ills of different dimensions. While the oil and natural gas sector is the victim of imperialist hegemonic design, the coal sector has almost been grabbed by private giant MNCs, and the electricity (generation, transmission and distribution) has reached to the height of anarchy due to privatisation, restructuring and total departure from people orientation to private profit orientation.


The consequence of the disastrous privatisation of coalmines and that too in the major countries of established reserves with dangerous degree of monopolistic concentration is a big challenge before the trade union movement in this segment of energy sector. The ‘quick buck’ philosophy of private monopolies has created human, environmental and sustainability problems for the coalmines.


The challenges in the electricity sector are most widespread and literally global. In the matter of access and affordability, the situation is rather deceitful and worsening. The USA itself is a glaring example as to how restructuring and privatisation has become one of the causes of plunging the US people into repeated darkness. The people in general and workers of the industry both are victims of neo-liberal policies in power sector. Therefore the trade union movement in this sector must join hands with the common public and unleash long drawn united movements.   


Common to entire energy sector is the menacing contractisation of employment which has become most exploitative labour practice manifested internationally. This atrocious development must be fought with top priority all over the world. It is not merely a matter of fighting the exploitation of a section of workers, but must be perceived as a huge danger to the trade union movement itself. This attack of capital must be understood ideologically and must be fought as a class battle.




A discussion by delegates followed the presentation of the report; it was remarkable for several reasons. Since the delegates were from all the segments of energy, the deliberations presented a composite picture of the overall energy scenario in the world. The continent specific content of the debate was the other attention-grabbing feature. The interventions by delegates from the Latin American countries were much stimulating because of their rich experience of the fight against US stranglehold over their countries, against the onslaught of neo-liberalism, and a resolute expression to continue the fight for people oriented alternative to the neo-liberal economic path driven by finance capital.  


From the formulation in the report under the caption “Lesson from the Fight of Latin American People against US Imperialism” and from a summary of the speeches of the delegates of the continent, the following substance can be drawn: In the face of intense neo-liberal exploitation, Latin American countries have witnessed vast increase in political mobilisation of the working class. Under the pressure of the mass movement, discredited governments in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina were compelled to resign. Government initiative to privatise public services and natural resources were squarely defeated across the region by grassroots movements. Many more popular movements were successfully conducted against withdrawal of the state from its most basic social duties pertaining to the everyday life, such as, housing, nutrition, childcare, education and other productive work. 


Under the pressure of mass movement; the US’s discredited puppet parties have been repeatedly defeated in electoral battles in one after another Latin American countries and today the US control over these countries has almost demolished. According to an editorial of New York Times, 300 million people out of the 365 million people in Latin America have come under the rule of Leftist or Left-oriented governments. The working class of the world as well as Latin America in general and Venezuela in particular shall have to learn the right lesson from the latest victory of Hugo Chavez in the presidential election of Venezuela.  


Delegates from the Arab region narrated the sordid state of affairs in the energy industries plagued by techno-economic-political domination of private MNCs and the pathetic plight of the workers of the industry in the countries under the regimes subservient to US imperialist powers. Just as the people of these countries are denied fundamental rights, including an unhindered right to elect a government of their choice, the working class too is denied of free and unfettered trade union rights. However, as the magnitude of multifarious exploitation of workers is increasing, the anger of the exploited workers too is heightening and the dimension of its manifestations is also widening. Fight to free the Arab countries from the clutches of imperialist powers effectively under the leadership of democratic forces led by the working class is the task before the toiling people of the region.


A highlight of the deliberations at the congress was the increasing struggles of workers in energy sector against the onslaught of privatisation and against attack on rights of workers. The intensity of the struggles is certainly not uniform, but they are certainly continuing and intensifying --- right from the capitalist outposts and epic centres of the current capitalist crisis to the countries of developing economies pursuing neo-liberal policies. As noted in the report, “The entire Europe, the United States of America and the countries of Asia and Africa are reverberating with Strikes and militant street demonstrations as well as different other forms of struggles participated by millions and millions of worker to protest against brazen attack on rights and livelihood of toiling masses by the governments of the respective countries under the dictates of imperialist agencies in their pursuit to protect the profit of the crisis ridden capitalist class.”




The political-organisational tasks adopted by the congress are as below:


(a) To conduct continuous worldwide agitations and propaganda against the hegemonic onslaught of imperialist powers centring round the energy sector.


(b) To expose and defeat the machinations of different vested interests in regard to crude oil pricing.


(c) To strongly oppose contractisation and casualisation of employment and outsourcing of jobs; to organise all categories of non-regular workers into trade unions.


(d) To establish continent-wise regional centres and also unleash segment-wise activities, while strengthening the central functioning of the TUI (Energy), in accordance with the democratic principles of organisation.


The congress unanimously elected a new secretariat with Martin Esparza of Mexico as president, Simon Mofokeng of South Africa as general secretary and Aldemir De Carvalho Caetano of Brazil as assistant general secretary. One of the elected five vice-presidents from different regions was Prasanta Nandi Chowdhury who is general secretary of the Electricity Employees’ Federation of India (CITU).