Report from the Hands Off Venezuela Jorge Martin West Coast Tour - Part 2

On May 9th-10th, Hands Off Venezuela held a two-day Western Canada Conference in Vancouver, BC. About 70 different people attended the sessions over the 2 days.

Western Canada HOV Conference

On May 9th-10th, Hands Off Venezuela held a two-day Western Canada Conference in Vancouver, BC. The event was opened Friday night by Tim Louis, HOV Canada's Honorary President. Louis, a former Vancouver City counselor and well-respected activist in the local left community, discussed the gains that the revolution has made for the working people of Venezuela and how we can take inspiration from this to do the same here in Canada. Next Jorge Martin, the International Secretary of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign spoke about the current state of the revolution and its future. Lively discussion followed as audience members drew attention to similarities between the struggle in Venezuela and events in Canada.

Western Canada HOV Conference The conference kicked off the following day with a screening of the documentary No Volveran. Made during the 2006 presidential elections, this film explores through interviews with Venezuelans what the revolution means to them and includes a visit to a factory operating under workers' control. After a short break, participants re-convened for a panel discussion on Labour and the Solidarity Movement with speakers Jim Sinclair, president of the BC Federation of Labour, and Kevin Bell, an activist with the Retail Wholesale Union. Sinclair addressed what Canadian workers could do to support their sisters and brothers in Venezuela and the revolution - bring the lessons of the Venezuelan revolution to the Canadian labour movement. And Bell addressed concrete ways in which we could do this, focusing on the example of the recent factory occupations in Ontario and Quebec and calling for militant action by labour activists. During the discussion, strategies to promote Venezuela at the upcoming BC Federation of Labour Convention were discussed, especially after the Vancouver and District Labour Council has just passed a resolution to endorse HOV.

The second panel discussion, and final event of the conference, was on the topic Socialism of the Twenty-first Century. Speakers Alex Grant, the Co-ordinator of HOV Canada and editor of Fightback magazine, Ian Beeching, an activist with Vancouver Socialist Forum and Antonio Ortiz from the Vancouver Bolivarian Society, discussed what exactly "Twenty-first Century Socialism" means. Beeching drew parallels between the socialism of this century with socialism of centuries past pointing out their similarities but cautioning that we need to learn from both the successes and failures of the past, especially in regards to bureaucratization. Grant focused on the necessity for the Venezuelan revolution to move forward and listen to the workers, poor and peasantry who wish to eradicate capitalism and not be derailed by the bureaucracy. And Ortiz discussed the differences between working for socialist revolution in Canada as opposed to Venezuela. Discussion was very animated as audience members further explored what socialism is and how it can be achieved. This discussion ended the conference on an upbeat note as people left feeling inspired and energetic.

Overall the conference was a great success and brought together activists from various groups and traditions. About 70 different people attended the sessions over the 2 days. The example of the Venezuelan revolution is an incredibly inspiring one that brings with it the realization that a socialist revolution can happen in our country too. The HOV Western Canada Conference created an opportunity for dialogue about just how to do this which in turn created the inspiration to motivate participants to make it actually happen.

HOV Canada wished a fond farewell to Jorge Martin, who left for a number of speaking dates in the USA. Luckily, he will be back in Canada May 28th and 29th, speaking in Montreal with Cuban revolutionary Celia Hart. Details to follow.

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