By Oona Swann
Venezuela is still in the grip of a general strike/lockout - a strike organised by the bosses. The oil industry is most affected, whose management are the promoters of the "strike", along with CTV (union federation). It was the President, Chavez' attempts to replace these managers which led to a first coup attempt against him in April this year. Then, the shooting at an anti-Chavez demonstration led to bosses' leader Carmona seizing power, at the head of a section of the armed forces. Within hours pro-Chavez supporters had taken to the streets and forced Carmona to step down.
In almost an identical repeat of the April events, a gunman opened fire at an opposition rally in December. Immediately there were calls for the military to step in and take over. On 10 December, pro-Chavez forces surrounded the TV stations. On 7 December, a peace march brought 2 million out in support of the government. And workers at a Pepsi-Cola plant in Aragua, Venezuela, have taken it over against the wishes of management in order to not join the national strike.
The government has sent troops to take over the oil installations and there are reports that oil workers in some parts of the country are working. But the strike has slowed oil production and the economy in general.
Venezuela is the world's fourth largest oil producer and its oil industry is critical to its economy. Chavez is in favour of state-ownership/control in the oil industry, the redistribution of oil income, and the use of revenues from this resource to build economic independence. Since 1974, the oil industry has been moving in the opposite direction.
The administration of the oil industry is in the hands of anti-Chavez forces, making it possible for them to go on strike in order to promote privatization.
Because of the level of mobilisation, a top-only coup is not a realistic prospect - a military take-over would split the armed forces and lead to open civil war. The leadership of the CTV and the oil workers union is virulently anti-Chavez , but to an extent he has played into their hands, by dictatorial intervention into the union. If Venezuelan society splits down the middle, it will be tragedy if the the most powerful section of the working class, the oil workers, are forced into the camp of the bosses.