Occupy! Public Meeting in London

bolivarhall1.jpgAround 60 people gathered at Bolivar Hall in London to watch films and listen to speakers on the subject of factory occupations in Venezuela, and recent factory occupations in Britain.

Hands Off Venezuela Britain organized a meeting last Wednesday night in an effort to inform and inspire the British labour movement about one of the most exciting aspects of the Venezuelan revolution, the factory occupation movement. But unlike other meetings, this event attempted for the first to time to tie together the movement in Venezuela with the recent wave of factory occupations here in Britain. Around 60 people gathered at Bolivar Hall in London to watch films and listen to speakers.

bolivarhall1.jpgThe event began on the subject of Venezuela, with the screening of a new documentary by ViveTV called ‘FRETECO' (Revolutionary Front of Workers in Occupied and Worker-run Factories). The film focuses on how this Venezuelan organization, made up of representatives from over 20 factories, is trying to help workers' control to develop and spread by building links between the different factories in struggle in order to learn from each other’s experiences, and to coordinate the movement on a national level. So far FRETECO is working in the oil, ceramics, steel, aluminium, food, fittings, textiles, and the car industries.

henry1.jpgAfter the film, Henry Suarez, from the Venezuelan Embassy, gave us the background to the Venezuelan revolution, and also described how economic development is changing the demographics of the country, shifting from a rural based population towards an urban based population. He mentioned that the industrial working class has become an increasingly significant factor in the revolution.

francesco1.jpgFrancesco Merli, from Hands Off Venezuela, made the important point that it is the workers themselves who are discussing and planning their own course of action based on their own experiences, and that the fight by these workers for the democratic control and planning of their workplaces is one of the most important parts of the Venezuelan revolution, showing the way forward in the building of socialism in Venezuela. Despite the gains of the movement, Francesco highlighted that in many cases the movement continues to face hostilities from bosses, who often hire thugs to intimidate, or even assassinate workers and trade unionists. There is also the ongoing opposition from the 'Bolivarian bureaucracy' which is seeking to undermine socialism, and restore capitalist relations. They are achieving this by  blocking contracts and raw materials to the occupied factories.

visteon1.jpgThe topics discussed were made all the more relevant, as the audience welcomed to the stage three British workers who recently captured the nation's attention by occupying their Visteon car parts factory in Enfield, north London. They described how hundreds of workers were made redundant with only 6 minutes notice with no pay, despite having made huge profits for the management for decades. Ray Dixon explained that the system has failed us, and that the law doesn't recognize the rights of working people. He called for change, and reinforced the point that by not acting we become part of the problem.

The final speaker was Alberto Einstein Durango from the Latin American community in London. He told us about the work he has been doing in solidarity with the cleaners who were unfairly sacked by the company Mitie. He also revealed his recent victimization for being a trade union activist. A petition was handed around for their campaign.

A packed agenda left little time for discussion unfortunately, but one member of the audience asked whether the Visteon workers think they could have put the factory into production without the management, to which they replied "Yes! definitely!"

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