Successful 4th National Conference for HOV Britain

Hands Off Venezuela Britain held its 4th annual conference on Saturday November 22nd at Birckbeck College, London.

Hands Off Venezuela Britain held its 4th annual conference on Saturday November 22nd at Birckbeck College, London. The opening address was given by Darrall Cozens, who stressed that the aims of the campaign have always to support the reforms of the Bolivarian revolution and to counteract the lies and distortions of the media. Sunday's elections were very important, he added, and with the global economic crisis and falling oil prices pointing towards a difficult future, a strong performance in these elections was vital.

John McDonnell MP speaking at HOV Britain conference 2008

HOV joint president and NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear spoke next. The Venezuelan process was reminiscent of a famous pamphlet on Nicaragua published in the 1980s entitled "The threat of a good example", on why that country had become the target for US intervention. Venezuela has not become a paradise overnight, he continued, but we should celebrate its achievements such as free education, poverty being halved and illiteracy eradicated. Jeremy also stressed the importance of Sunday’s elections, with a rising threat to the revolution from both inside and outside. There is no appeasing irreconcilable interests and solidarity is essential.

Venezuelan ambassador to London Samuel Moncada was next to speak. He pointed out that this was the first time in Venezuela's history that a constitution exists that has been approved by popular vote, and this constitution has redesigned the distribution of power from elites to the masses. There is a new self-esteem, dignity and respect in the country and the masses are still challenging the government, and the government is not teaching the masses but learning from them. Ambassador Moncada also spoke of the problem of corruption. The challenge is to confront and overcome our own failures, he said. Some Chavista candidates turn out to be corrupt and, as he pointed out, this is not a revolution of saints, but the drive to confront corruption is sincere. On the election of Barack Obama he pointed out that as nice as the man may seem, he is still head of an empire - we must extend our hands, preparing for the worst but expecting the best.

Labour MP and HOV Joint President John McDonnell spoke next. Our role in defending Venezuela is crucial in this period of financial turmoil as Venezuela will not be immune. He talked of the legacy of poverty in Venezuela and that the Chávez administration being the first to tackle it and to transfer power to the grass roots. Still, it takes time to turn things around in the face of destabilisation from the US-backed opposition. We have a responsibility to counter propaganda and to defend this revolution from attack, he concluded.

Successful 4th National Conference for HOV Britain

FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack was next to speak. He told us of the strong tradition of internationalism at the FBU, adding that after being told for 30 years that the state should be far removed from the market, suddenly there is a wave of nationalisation. But nationalisation of losses, with future privatisation of profit. Now we need an alternative. This is why Venezuela is so important to working people in Britain. Venezuela workers are discussing how to organise society, which is a world away from what is happening in Britain. He ended by saying that the media will not tell the truth about Venezuela, so we must.

The final speaker was Jesús Pino, from the Revolutionary Front of Steel Workers at SIDOR, the nationalised steel company. Jesús spoke of the enormous interest in the process of change in Venezuela. He is from the Orinoco steel works, one of the largest steel companies in Venezuela, nationalised this year. The company had been privatised in 1997, after which conditions for the workers deteriorated, with many fatalities. However, steel workers have a militant tradition, as was shown when the multinational owner refused to meet workers demands in 2007. In March 2008, the National Guard attacked workers, ordered to do so by the then Minister of Labour, who was promptly fired. The Vice-President was appointed mediate in negotiations, but when the multinational refused to budge, President Chávez decided to nationalise. The nationalised company had to be productive, but also had to be a socialist company - how? This involves workers’ control of management and distribution of resources. There had not been much experience of worker control in large companies, so they set up the revolutionary front of steel workers, with the aim of overthrowing the capitalist structures still within the company. He ended by saying the only way to face the upcoming crisis is with the unity of all workers in a revolutionary trade union.

There then followed three fascinating and productive workshops on Socialism of the 21st Century, Workers' Control, and Latin American Solidarity, after which the conference was wrapped up by HOV founder Alan Woods and Jesús Pino who urged the unity of working people and to continue the struggle to defend the Bolivarian revolution.


The HOV conference also passed the following resolution in solidarity with Venezuela and voted a new Steering Committee for the campaign.

Hands Off Venezuela National Conference 2008 resolution

This conference recognises the important advances made by the Bolivarian revolution, particularly in the fields of spreading free health care and education to the whole of the population. This conference also notes that the economic policies implemented in Venezuela (nationalisation of strategic industries, public ownership of national resources, defence of workers rights, social spending, etc) go against the economic policies implemented by capitalist governments around the world.
This conference also notes that president Chavez has opened the debate about socialism in the 21st century, a debate that we welcome and which is relevant not only to Venezuela. but worldwide.
We also note that the Bolivarian revolution is still in danger from continued attacks from the Venezuelan oligarchy and imperialism. Examples of this are the re-formation of the US's IV Fleet and the recently uncovered coup plot in Venezuela.
We finally note that the Bolivarian revolution is part of a wider movement of the people of Latin America against imperialist domination
We therefore resolve to:

  • send revolutionary greetings and wish success to the PSUV in the local and regional elections of November 23rd
  • pledge our support to the Bolivarian revolution, and fight against the lies and distortions in the media.
  • to spread truthful information about the Bolivarian revolution in Britain to workers, students, youth, solidarity activists and the population in general.
  • to take up the debate about socialism in the 21st Century into the movement in Britain.
  • to continue organising solidarity with the revolutionary struggle of the people of Venezuela and Latin America as well as to struggle against the multinationals and European imperialist interests, and to coordinate our actions with those of other Latin American solidarity campaigns.

passed unanimously, London, November 22nd


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