Chavez’s Socialist Worker Militias Swell to 150,000 in Venezuela

By Matt Cover | February 4, 2010 | 6:27 PM EST

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (AP Photo)

 ( – Venezuela’s socialist worker militias have grown to nearly 150,000 members since their formation in 2009. Organized by President Hugo Chavez in May 2009, the “workers’ militias” are intended to allow Chavez’s political party to assert control over key economic sectors.  

According to a Jan. 29 report in the Venezuelan El Universal newspaper -- translated by BBC Worldwide Monitoring – the ranks of Chavez’s workers militias have swelled to around 150,000 members, most of whom work in “strategic” economic sectors, such as oil, electricity, transportation, and “basic companies.”
Orlando Castillo, with the Socialist Workers Front, a Chavez-allied group, was quoted by El Universal as saying that the purpose of the militias was to use the labor troops to “defend the people,” adding that “there need to be many more” troops.
“There need to be many more,” he said, “because they represent the idea of the integrated worker who is capable of producing and also of defending the people.”
The workers’ militias are an ideological remnant of the Communist coup d’etat in Russia 1917, whose leaders Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky created the groups and used them to overthrow the Czarist government, eventually turning them into units of the Red Army.

Vladimir Lenin, the Marxist leaader who helped establish the Soviet Union, which lasted in Russia from 1917 to 1991

 In Venezuela today the militias are made up of individual workers who are armed with guns and trained to ensure that their respective companies comply with the agenda of the ruling United Socialist Party.  

“With rifles there beside them, in case anybody makes a mistake with us,” Chavez is quoted as saying at a May 2009 socialist transformation workshop where he announced the militias’ creation.
So-called socialist patrols are also growing, with an estimated 20,000 separate patrols totaling 300,000 Venezuelans. Each patrol has an average of 15 members. Castillo said the patrols are “forging the party [United Socialist Party] in the middle of the workers [movement].”
Like the militias, these socialist patrols are intended to allow the ruling socialist government to exert greater control over key industries. However, they also operate in Venezuela’s shrinking private sector companies.
The purpose of both is “production control,” according to socialist leader Castillo, allowing members of the ruling party to wield greater influence in economic decisions.
Chavez’s government plans for companies to have a socialist triumvirate of sorts, comprised of socialist patrols, workers’ councils and labor unions.