The Productive Workers' Army (EPO: Ejército Productivo Obrero) is a volunteer labour organization that aims to re-start production and empower the grassroots workers' movements in Venezuela.
Mission and Purpose
The central slogan of the EPO is "a non-conventional army for a non-conventional war" . Their central goal is to establish socialism in Venezuela on the basis of democratizing economic production . They aim to do this by beating the economic war against Venezuela by reviving idle state-owned workplaces with the active participation of working class people. Dubbed Productive Workers’ Battles, the EPO aims to revive idle factories by promoting workers’ councils while empowering workers through participatory education and volunteer-work to run their own workplaces.
Origins and Development
The EPO was established in 2016. It traces its roots to the factory occupations of the Indorca, Calderys, and EQUIPETROL factories in the Guyana industrial region. These occupied plants were nationalized by the state but re-activated and operated by the workers themselves. In 2016, workers from these plants were invited to engage in the first Productive Workers’ Battle to re-start production at a fish-processing plant across the country . The EPO led volunteer brigades that took direction from workers’ councils but solicited aid from workers with specialized knowledge across Venezuela. After a series of successful factory re-starts the state began materially supporting these initiatives by appointing lead organizers to head state-owned corporations aiming to re-start production . Under this period the volunteer network of workers striving to re-start production nationally crystallized into the autonomous yet revolutionary EPO.
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
Members were initially drawn from the Indorca, Calderys, and EQUIPETROL factories. The area where they are concentrated is known for long histories of militant unions and radical strikes . Overall the EPO has become a volunteer labour network with dispersed operating areas drawing on participants from public and privately owned factories . The Productive Workers’ Battles organized by the EPO had state funding for a short period of time, however, conflict over participatory organizing tactics caused friction with state funders . The lack of state funding and the COVID-19 pandemic has decisively slowed down EPO organizing.
Specializations, Methods and Tools
The EPO facilitates a network of volunteer machinists and engineers through workers’ councils to revive state-owned factories that have become idle. Working with grassroots workers in councils is part of their concerted strategy to build socialism on the basis of democracy in the economy.
Major Projects and Events
The EPO labels every event of re-starting production at an idle factory as a productive workers’ battle. Through these events, the EPO aims to build self-esteem and self-organization of workers – who once struggled for the nationalization of their factories, yet now were looking at the prospect of their workplaces being abandoned.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
 About us. (2021). Ejército Productivo Obrero. https://ejercitoproductivo.org/index.php/sobre-el-epo/.
 Raquea, Sergio. (2016, March 10). UPSA La Gaviota: La Complementariedad y la Comuna de París. Aporrea. https://www.aporrea.org/trabajadores/a227619.html.
 Pascual Marquina, Cira, Chris Gilbert, Sergio Requena. (2020). Building “Patria”: A Conversation with Sergio Requena. In Cira Pascual Marquina and Chris Gilbert (Eds.), Venezuela The Present as Struggle: Voices from the Bolivarian Revolution (pp.231-237). Monthly Review press. Available at: https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14149.
 Ellner, Steve. (1993). Organized Labor in Venezuela, 1958-1991: Behavior and Concerns in a Democratic Setting. SR Books.
 Martorell Calaf, Josep Maria. (2019). Workers’ Control in Venezuela Faces an Uncertain Future. Venezuelanalysis.com. https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14675.