Letter from HOV joint presidents

As was mentioned at the HOV 3rd national conference , joint presidents John McDonnell and Jeremy Dear have written to all unions that support our campaign to appeal for unity within the solidarity movement. Here is their complete letter.

Wednesday November 7 2007

Dear sisters and brothers,

As joint presidents of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign, we are writing about some concerns that we have regarding the solidarity movement in Britain. Above all, we are concerned about the current relationship between HOV and the Venezuela Information Centre.

This concern has deepened recently given the embarrassing clash of meetings at this year's TUC conference and the confusion and harm to solidarity work that this has caused.

Our campaign was established in 2002 after the coup against President Chávez with the aim of mobilising solidarity for Venezuela's peaceful and democratic revolution. With few resources, we have managed to raise the profile of Venezuela in the trade unions, in Parliament and among activists and young people.

Our successful work was instrumental in a motion, sponsored by Natfhe, being passed at the TUC in September 2005. Hugo Chávez has publicly thanked HOV both in Venezuela and on his visit to London. Prior to this visit, Chávez spoke at a rally of 5,000 supporters organised by the HOV campaign in Vienna.

We discovered in early 2005 that another Venezuela solidarity organisation - the Venezuela Information Centre - was being set up. Although we welcomed this new group as an ally in the defence of Venezuela, we were alarmed to hear that VIC had organised a solidarity conference on the same day as our 2005 national conference, which we had invited them to speak at. We wrote to VIC urging cooperation in the future but unfortunately we received no reply.

In the lead-up to the 2006 TUC conference, we wrote to VIC proposing "an urgent meeting between HOV and VIC, and anyone else interested in the solidarity work, to see how we can best work together." Once again we heard nothing.

We were shocked to discover shortly afterwards at the Labour Party conference that there was a further clash of meetings between HOV and VIC. When we heard about this clash, we wrote to VIC offering to cancel our meeting in favour of a joint meeting but were informed that this was not possible.

Further embarrassment was caused by the clash of meetings at this year's TUC. And another clash was only averted at this year's Labour Party conference when, after receiving no reply from VIC about a joint solidarity meeting, we decided to cancel our meeting.

This situation cannot continue and we would like your help in resolving this state of affairs. We need cooperation to prevent needless competition, duplication and rivalry.

We wish VIC well in its solidarity work and we are willing to take whatever measures are necessary to secure a meaningful collaboration - after all, some 14 national trade unions are official supporters of both HOV and VIC. We appeal to these unions to intervene and create some ground rules acceptable to all.

For example, we believe that joint meetings should be held at the TUC and Labour Party conferences, as well as at national trade union conferences. To have two separate campaigns holding competing events at these occasions is simply counterproductive.

The TUC and national unions have sponsored successful Latin American meetings, where all the solidarity organisations have been invited, have had stalls and have been asked to supply speakers. Why cannot the solidarity work on Venezuela be organised on similar lines by other parts of the labour movement, especially at the Labour Party conference?

To secure this end, we are writing to you and the general secretaries of all trade unions that support both organisations to intercede and call a meeting to resolve these difficulties and lay the framework for fruitful solidarity in the future.

If you would like to discuss this matter in more detail, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Yours in solidarity,

John McDonnell MP - (020) 8569-0010 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jeremy Dear - (020) 7843-3709 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.