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Venezuela: translating the revolution aims to promote solidarity with Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution by providing translations of interesting and important Venezuelan news articles and opinion pieces. It welcomes genuine discussion and debate on the posted articles.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Socialism and voluntary labour

The following is an article from the Socialist Debate website about the role of voluntary labour in Venezuela's housing construction program, Mision Vivienda, launched in April this year to address the shortage of housing in Venezuela. It discusses the significance of voluntary labour in the transition to socialism.

Welcome socialism

By Neftali Reyes, Debate socialista 

Translated by Owen Richards 

Practice has had the last word: this process is headed for socialism. The facts have already appeared on the social horizon. Reality has outstripped the Byzantine discussions of the philosophical pretenders who deny our socialism. They have their refutation from within the bowels of life itself.

An historic event has occurred in Venezuela: the oil workers were summoned to Voluntary Collective Labour in Mision Vivienda and arrived en masse. And the number exceeded fifteen thousand.

Voluntary Labour, where the worker goes off to work motivated by altruism, and committed to the society to which they belong and in which they feel wanted, is giving labour a new meaning: it is liberating it, experimenting with it, and prefiguring free labour. It is now done without the compulsion of survival.

Voluntary Labour is the “sharp tool” that must be used to build Socialism. It radiates to all of society the new ethics of the loving relations, and through it the working class leads the revolutionary process.

The massive surge of oil workers to Voluntary Labour means that the conditions for the flourishing of socialism exist in Venezuela.  It’s indicative of the class struggle that socialism unleashes on the old world, against capitalism, a system that hangs on in a thousand ways. It unequivocally indicates that the Socialist battle takes place here in our midst, even though we sometimes misunderstand it.

Without a doubt, the Bolivarian Revolution has created conditions to build socialism as never before in our history. Socialism can arise in Venezuela because it expands and reinforces the state-administered Social Property. This form of property enables the fruits of labour to be the property of society as a whole, constituting itself thus as the basis of the Consciousness of Social Duty.

The workers become more and more aware of their power and their historical role, a role that goes beyond merely making demands; they’re committed to showing the way to the new world. This is the material basis for the advance of the process.

Furthermore, the government, political power, is in the hands of the Revolution, embodied in president Chavez. The call to socialism, to anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism that came down from the high command, unleashed the contradictions that generate movement and make the way toward socialism possible.

After years of struggle, favorable factors converge: Social Property administered by the state; a working class that is conscious of it historical role; Popular Power lead by Chavez – the most important Venezuelan revolutionary of the last hundred years in loving harmony with the masses; the Housing Mission as the auspicious setting for demonstrating the power of voluntary labour.

Centuries of hope, hope in the possibility of greatness, hope that we can defeat the deadening mediocrity, finds its concretion here. We are privileged: socialism is almost within our reach.

There’s no excuse to get lost in shortcuts or to use blunt instruments. We must have faith, break with custom, and follow the example set by the oil workers.

This is Socialism. Now we must pass beyond adversities, deepening socialism, nurturing it and extending it.

The country needed its best sons, and more than fifteen thousand patriots from within the heart of the oil industry stepped forward. The march to Socialism, which is the attempt to build a viable society, needed real action to demonstrate that humanity is able to surpass egoistic behaviour and to wholeheartedly build that other world that the Liberator dreamed of. The oil workers stepped forward and said, “present”.

Now they are the example and the promise, showing the way, they are the evidence that Socialism is more than a utopia; it’s a reality that’s taking shape before our very eyes.

They were called to Voluntary Collective Labour, invited to give of themselves to the Mision Vivienda, they gave themselves to society, to its Revolutionary Government, generously offering their most valuable possession: their labour power. And they came, without asking for explanations, and without hesitating, more than fifteen thousand good souls with a will to commit themselves to the future.

This act, which not by chance passes almost unnoticed, is one of the most important things that have taken place in the Bolivarian Revolution, placing it in a new dimension on the path.

Labour, always appropriated by the ruling classes, acquires with the gesture of these oil workers the condition of being an instrument of liberation, it’s the harbinger of a new world where exploitation - which is nothing but the appropriation of social labour on behalf of a minority - is overcome through the establishment of loving relations for the benefit of all.

What took place in Mision Vivienda with the Voluntary Collective Labour foreshadows the emancipation of labour, when labour will belong to society, to everyone.

The material and social foundations upon which to build a society where “to each according to his ability, to each according to his need” are established. In that world, exploitation, the appropriation of labour, robbery, will no longer be possible. It will no longer make sense. That is True Socialism.

Beyond the will of its protagonists, Mision Vivienda exposes the Revolution’s basic contradiction: the confrontation between capitalism and Socialism.

The capitalists, the anti-social, put a high price on their “collaboration”, they expect payment in cash, and, most harmfully, they do so with an egoistic consciousness.

Voluntary Labour is a socialist tool. It approaches the problem of housing with moral and spiritual vigour. By the end, we will have housing, but more importantly, we will have a conscious mass, a mass able to understand and confront the challenges along the road to Socialism. They will be a symbol of that which we struggle for.  And an active, conscious vanguard will have formed, that has proved its effectiveness, its loyalty to Comandante Chavez, willing to step forward when called upon.

The challenge of the oil workers is great: now they have the responsibility to show the way, to guide the rest of society in the building of Socialism.

Let the gesture that these pioneers made be known throughout the country and around the world. Let their selflessness and their understanding of the historic moment be known.

The spirit of our nation’s heroes, of the Paso de Los Andes, of Carabobo, is embodied in this gesture of the workers. They are a prelude, a good omen of the successes we will have in the coming battles.

May society reward them, returning love for the love that they gave to all of humanity.

[For more information on Mision Vivienda, see: Venezuelanalysis.com]


  1. Voluntary labor is charity, not socialism.

  2. awesome! excess oil creates a rent culture no matter what. pdvsa 's workers have replaced the greed wealth accumulation with the generosity of giving to others. truly amazing. thanks so much for the translations.

  3. Hi hammer, thanks for your comments and support!

    Jsb, I don't think you can compare capitalist charity with the mass mobilisation of workers for voluntary labour in the midst of a revolution.

    We should also recall Che Guevara's 'On creating a new attitude', where he discussed voluntary work as heralding an important step in the Cuban revolution's transition toward socialism.

    Lenin also wrote that voluntary work was "... only a beginning, but it is a beginning of exceptionally great importance. It is the beginning of a revolution that is more difficult, more tangible, more radical and more decisive than the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, for it is a victory over our own conservatism, indiscipline, petty-bourgeois egoism, a victory over the habits left as a heritage to the worker and peasant by accursed capitalism. Only when this victory is consolidated will the new social discipline, socialist discipline, be created; then and only then will a reversion to capitalism become impossible, will communism become really invincible."


  4. http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/jun/19.htm