Successful First Hands off Venezuela meeting in Norwich city centre

Jorge Martin, international secretary of the Hands off Venezuela campaign, spoke in Norwich city centre on the topic Cuba and the Bolivarian Revolution.
Jorge Martin
Jorge Martin

After the PSUV founding congress, the Venezuelan revolution is back on the agenda. This is even more important than ever considering the current world economic turmoil and the uncertainty surrounding Cuba's future since Castro announced he was not standing for president.

With this exciting backdrop, Jorge Martin, international secretary of the Hands off Venezuela campaign, spoke in Norwich city centre on the topic Cuba and the Bolivarian Revolution. We in Norwich considered ourselves extremely fortunate to host Jorge on this topic, as not only is it big news in the labour movement (and the country as a whole), but Jorge has only just returned from Cuba, being there during Castro's announcement.

This, and our recent passing of a motion of affiliation to Hands off Venezuela at UEA, was the perfect backdrop for our first meeting in Norwich city centre. In organising this meeting, we have been working closely with some members of an independent Venezuela solidarity group in Norwich. Our combined efforts drew a crowd of 60, many of whom we had never seen before at meetings.

Norwich Jorge spoke for over 30 minutes, mainly outlining the situation in Cuba: the spirited popular defence of the gains of the revolution, but also the constant undermining of these gains through the loss of its relationship with the USSR, the economic embargo and the relentless pressures of the world market. Jorge explained that in seeking a way out of this crisis, 80-90% of Cubans reject the idea of capitalism. However, the ‘Chinese way', which is really more or less disguised capitalism, holds a certain attractive pull because of its economic boom, amongst a section in the leadership. But Jorge warned against this illusion - China is not a model of socialism, but rather capitalism, and has only been able to achieve such growth because of its enormous size, and nevertheless remains at the whim of the world market, a world market now on the verge of recession.

He finished off his speech in reference to Venezuela, speaking of its rejuvenating effect all over Latin America, and that we ourselves must learn a thing or two from the revolutionary movements in Latin America, as they represent the only possible future for humanity.

Jorge's speech received possibly the warmest response from any meeting we have held here. The discussion lasted another 30 minutes, with contributions and questions on the future leadership of the Latin American left post Castro, the PSUV congress, Cuba's level of democracy in comparison to Britain's, and the recent situation with Colombian and US imperialism.

NorwichOne of the advantages in holding meetings in town is that most of your audience are not students, and have some money to donate! When we hold meetings on campus, even big ones, we often struggle to pay the speaker's expenses. But tonight we were able to not only cover these costs but also pay for the venue, as well as selling a good amount of literature and DVDs.

Following the meeting quite a crowd headed down to the pub to discuss further. There is now the possibility of working closer on the independent Venezuela solidarity group, and to follow up this meeting in town with more in order to build on our contacts. What is certain is that following our successful motion to affiliate UEA students union with Hands off Venezuela, the campaign here will not go away.

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