British trade unionists support Sanitarios Maracay - PCS re-affiliates to HOV

A report of HOV fringe meetings at the conference of PCS, the 300,000-strong union of civil servants in Britain, which re-affiliated to Hands Off Venezuela campaign.

pcs_hov_3.jpg On Tuesday 15th May Hands off Venezuela travelled to Brighton to attend the annual PCS conference, the 300,000-strong union of civil servants. HoV is an affiliate of PCS and so was granted a stall within the conference centre.

At lunchtime on the Wednesday HoV held its fringe meeting, which was attended by 40 trade unionists. The meeting was chaired by Rachel Heemskerk, DWP Regional Chair for the East of England. To begin with a short film was shown of the HoV delegation visit to Sanitarios Maracay, a factory under workers' control. The final few minutes of the film produced a remarkable response from those watching, some of whom mentioned later that they were near tears at seeing the solidarity between the workers and the pride on their faces.

Afterwards Rob Sewell spoke on the background of events that led to Chavez being elected in 1998, starting with the Caracazo massacre in 1989. He spoke of the Chavez government's initial endorsement of the ‘third way', an attempt to find a path between capitalism and socialism, and the frustration this caused both for those honest elements of the Bolivarian movement who were trying to implement reform, and the local stooges of US imperialism who recoiled at these modest measures.

Rob continued by explaining the coup of April 2002 as an expression of the irreconcilability of the different class interests of ordinary working people and the local oligarchy. He went on to talk about the development of the revolutionary process since the coup, and especially the recent acceleration in the last 6 months since Chavez was re-elected for the 10th time in 9 years, including the recent nationalisation of parts of the oil industry which were still in the hands of multinationals.

The revolution is not complete however, Rob warned, as the recent attacks on the workers of Sanitarios Maracay illustrate. The revolution cannot stand still, it needs to carry on until its completion or face reaction and counter-attack. This can only be achieved by land reform and the complete nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic workers' control. "Their struggle is our struggle, and our struggle is their struggle" Rob concluded, urging people to sign the petition in solidarity with the workers of Sanitarios Maracay.

pcs_hov.jpg Throughout the week 5 pages of signatures were collected from PCS trade unionists wanting to show their support for the Sanitarios Maracay workers and their campaign for nationalisation, of which a PCS and HoV member has taken responsibility for following up. The collection at the fringe meeting raised £60. There was also £65 worth of material sold to go towards HoV funds, and PCS re-affiliated to Hands Off Venezuela as a union, donating £500 to the campaign.

On Thursday evening, HoV was invited to a Latin America fringe meeting, sharing the platform with the Venezuelan Information Center (UK), Justice for Colombia and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. After excellent contributions from our sister campaigns, Pablo Roldan from HoV led off on the significance of the most recent developments since Chavez was re-elected in December. Pablo recalled Chavez's address to the people on election night, when he said that the vote had not been for Chavez, nor the Venezuelan government. It had been a vote for Socialism. Since then Chavez has campaigned for the formation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the formation of local community councils, run on a democratic basis, as one of his 5 motors for revolutionary change. He has also recommended the reading of Leon Trotsky's ‘The Permanent Revolution' and ‘The Transitional Programme' to all those who are determined to see the revolution defended. As the meeting finished people left with a clear understanding that what is taking place in Venezuela is nothing short of revolutionary change.

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