Workers at Diana Industries have welcomed the appointment of a new company manager this week, claiming victory in their fight to prevent the “imposition” of businessman David Mendoza as head of the worker-run company.
Nationalised in 2008, production at Diana Industries is organised by workers through assemblies and a Socialist Workers’ Council. The company produces cooking oil, margarine, soap and other products, 80% of which are destined for state-run distribution networks.
On 23 July, food minister Felix Osorio appointed Mendoza as head of Diana Industries, a move which workers rejected as the “imposition … [of] someone who can’t understand how to run a workers’ factory and respect collective power”.
The Food Ministry then attempted to weaken collective resistance to Mendoza’s appointment, including freezing workers’ bank accounts earlier this week in an apparent attempt to disrupt factory production.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has not publicly commented on the conflict. However on Tuesday it was reported that Maduro had revoked Mendoza’s designation as manager of Diana Industries, instead appointing former army brigadier Dester Rodriguez.
On Thursday Rodriguez met with workers’ assemblies in different departments of Diana Industries, where he offered a more cooperative approach toward the company’s worker control model.
“Consider me as one more worker. I have an open door policy…I’ve come to learn from the experience at Diana,” he told workers, according to Aporrea.org.
The dismissal of Mendoza and appointment of Rodriguez does not fully meet Diana workers’ demands, who sought for the new company head to be chosen from amongst their own ranks rather than being chosen by the government.
Nevertheless, workers have claimed victory in their struggle to block the imposition of Mendoza, and Aporrea.org reports that so far the workforce is “very content” with Rodriguez.
“The most important thing about this achievement is the willingness that Gen. Rodriguez has shown to learn about and respect the mechanisms of participation and decision-making that we workers have gained as part of worker control,” argued Hector Mieres, a factory worker and member of the Socialist Workers’ Council at Diana Industries.
Further, the bank accounts of Diana workers have now been unfrozen, signaling the de-escalation of harassment of Diana workers by the Food Ministry.
“With this decision [to dismiss Mendoza] it’s been demonstrated that through the mobilisation and struggle of the workers, victories can be won against mistreatment, maneuvers and lies,” declared Mieres.
“This opens the path to continue advancing in gains for the workers, deepening worker control with more democracy and participation for our class, and to continue the legacy of our comandante [Hugo Chavez],” the Socialist Workers’ Council member added.