First meeting of Hands Off Venezuela committee in Caracas

On Thursday October 26th, a small but important meeting was held at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV) in Caracas. The aim was to set up a committee that can organise the Hands Off Venezuela campaign within Venezuela itself and coordinate with the international campaign.

On Thursday October 26th, a small but important meeting was held at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV) in Caracas. The aim was to set up a committee that can organise the Hands Off Venezuela campaign within Venezuela itself.

The Hands Off Venezuela campaign, which is now active in more than 30 countries, has from its very beginning been in contact with wide layers of sympathizers and activists within the revolutionary movement in Venezuela. A network of people collaborating with the campaign has existed for some years now and it has been helping with a number of practical and political aspects; sending articles and reports on major events to the international HOV Campaign website, arranging for revolutionary Venezuelan activists to go on speaking tours in other countries, making the achievements of the HOV campaign known within Venezuela, etc.

However, this network has existed on a more or less informal basis. The decision has now been taken to set up the campaign in an organised and official manner. The meeting at the UBV gathered various activists from different sectors of the revolutionary movement; comrades working in the Ministry of Culture, employed in PDVSA (the state-owned oil company), journalists from different media outlets, functionaries of the Alcaldía Mayor, activists in the UNT (National Union of Workers) and comrades from the Revolutionary Marxist Tendency (CMR).

Comrades from the Ezquiel Zamora Peasants' Front, the youth organization Patria Joven and the Ideological Coordinator of the MDD (Movement for Direct Democracy) sent their apologies for not being able to attend, but showed interest in learning more about the campaign and see how they can collaborate.

The meeting was opened by Alessía Candito, an Italian journalist living in Caracas. She introduced the background of the HOV campaign, its achievements throughout the world and its basic aims and methods of work. Alessia explained that the HOV campaign was founded at the time of the bosses' lockout in December 2002, on the initiative of Alan Woods, a British Marxist theoretician, who made an appeal to the international labour movement to defend the Bolivarian revolution against the attacks of imperialism.

Alessia went on to explain the achievements of the campaign, the consistent work of British HOV supporters in the trade unions resulting in the adoption of a solidarity resolution at the TUC congress, the amazing event organized by HOV in Vienna with Chavez speaking about Socialism and Revolution to a meeting of 5000 people, etc. She emphasized the focus of the HOV campaign towards the labour movement and the trade unions as the only way of spreading solidarity on a massive scale and making sure that solidarity is seen as an active commitment to the cause of the revolution.

According to the comrade, the basic aims of setting up a branch of the HOV campaign within Venezuela itself, are on the one hand to strengthen knowledge about the revolutionary process in other countries and on the other hand to make the people of Venezuela aware of the fact that they are not alone in their struggle. She stressed that the second point has a political importance. Many of the supporters of reformist positions use the supposed isolation of the Bolivarian revolution as an argument for more moderate positions. If, on the contrary, the people learn that workers and youth throughout the world see Venezuela as an example of resistance and revolution, this can inspire the revolutionary rank and file to go further and radicalise the revolution.

After her lead-off there was a debate where a number of those present intervened with different questions and opinions. Some doubted the emphasis on the orientation towards the labour movement and a debate took place on the role of the working class within the revolution. These comrades argued that because of the small size of the proletariat and the big proportion of employed in the state sector, the working class cannot play the same role as in other revolutions, and that the campaign therefore should consider this.

These arguments were answered by Jacobo Mora, an ex-leader of the Communist Party and former Vice-Minister of Health in the Bolivarian government. This comrade made clear that history has shown time and again that no revolution can be victorious without the conscious intervention of the working class. He also pointed out that the Venezuelan workers have played a key role in defending the revolution and the Bolivarian government, giving the example of the PDVSA workers at Puerto la Cruz who fought to maintain the refinery going in spite of the bosses' lockout. This and other such actions were what really saved the revolution.

After this discussion, it was agreed that it is crucial to use the HOV campaign to strengthen the ties with the UNT trade union movement and the FRETECO (Movement of occupied factories).

The meeting concluded with a short session on the different tasks of the HOV committee in Caracas. It was agreed to organise a big launch meeting of the campaign on Monday, 20th November with the presence of various revolutionary officials and Alan Woods, the founder of the international campaign.

This meeting will obviously be an important event in the setting up of the campaign, which will be followed up by different press conferences and public meetings that the HOV campaign will organize during the elections. At the end of November, Hands Off Venezuela will organize delegations from Britain, the US, Sweden and other countries to go to Venezuela. This will be an important step in the building of the campaign giving it an internationalist and anti-imperialist character. Taking advantage of the presence of comrades from other countries, the HOV campaign in Caracas will intervene actively in the elections and spread solidarity and make the Venezuelan people aware of the fact that there are thousands of revolutionary fighters throughout the world that are following the events in Venezuela closely and are ready to defend it against the attacks of imperialism.

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