Last week the European Social Forum was held in Malmö, Sweden. For once Latin America was a main feature. Hands off Venezuela was there with activists from Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, Poland, Russia as well as sympathisers from Slovakia and Hungary.
We had proposed a seminar about building solidarity with Venezuelan revolution. Unfortunately, we had not been included in the program. What was included, on Wednesday 17th, was a screening of the documentary No Volveran - the Venezuelan revolution today presented by one of the directors, Will Roche. The movie was screened at the Cinema Spegeln as part of the ESF cultural program. The screening was just before the opening ceremony. This had the effect that some in audience had to go directly to the ceremony immediately after the film and could not stay for the discussion afterwards. The people that remained listened to Will as he described how he and Melaine McDonald went to Venezuela and got enthused by the revolution. This inspiration was captured on the film in which different revolutionary activists from Venezuela describe how they are fighting for socialism today. One of the main themes of the documentary is the struggle for workers' control as part of the Bolivarian revolution.
We were also able to have a meeting on Thursday 18th about the recent developments in Bolivia and Venezuela. In Bolivia the rightwing has attacked peasants that support Evo Morales and in Venezuela it has recently been discovered that high-ranking officers had plans to kill President Chavez. As soon as it was confirmed that we had a meeting room, at the very last minute, we called our friends from the Bolivian solidarity movement in Sweden and asked if they where able to come to the meeting. We were very pleased when we heard that three speakers from Bolivia where able to speak at the meeting. One of the speakers was Juan Carlos Valderas a psychologist that works with an NGO and education in Bolivia. All of the speakers were in Sweden for the ESF and had time for our meeting. We had also the pleasure to welcome Néstor Francia from Venezuela, a well-known journalist from Venezuela who has been politically active all his live. The speakers described how the oligarchy in Venezuela and Bolivia is acting against any progressive development. One of the speakers was a young woman called Vivianne who is active in Santa Cruz. There, the right wing has organised armed gangs which are harassing leftwing activist and people who support the government.
After the speakers, Martin Lööf from the Swedish HOV coordinating committee spoke about the fact that the oligarchy in both countries has proven that it will not respect the democratic will of the majority. Now it is time for workers and peasant to complete the revolution once and for all. Martin also spoke about the need to face the fascist gangs in Bolivia and how this could not be done just with unarmed groups of peasants like the ones that were massacred in Pando. He explained how President Chavez in Venezuela has warned that an imperialist intervention will be faced with a people in arms. Both Chavez and Evo Morales have spoken about socialism as the way forward. Wojtek Figel from the Polish HOV spoke about how the revolution in Latin America is an inspiration to workers and youth but a nightmare for the establishment. Wojtek was recently interviewed by Polish TV, but the only thing that was screened was when he said that Chavez is listening to the people. Polish TV didn't want to hear when he said that Polish politicians should also listen to the people. There was a lively discussion with Important contributions by members of the audience from Slovakia, Russia, Argentina and other countries.
During the ESF there was an import meeting between Hands Off Venezuela and leading members of the Hungarian Venezuelan Solidarity Association. They had earlier applied to join HOV. This meeting was just to confirm this and discuss eventual details. They will keep their name but will add HOV to it in their publications. This is an important development for the campaign. This is a group that had organised a Venezuela solidarity weekend earlier this year with 200 people in attendance, amongst them international guests. This shows how youth and labour activists are attracted both to Latin America but also to HOV on an international scale.
On Friday 19th in the evening we organised a second meeting on the topic of Bolivia and Venezuela, against the coup threats in both countries. The main speaker was Jorge Martin. This meeting was co-organised with Kvarnby Folkhögskola, a school that is closely related to the Swedish Left Party. We were able to hold the meeting there thanks to help from members of the Left Party and because the school sees us as a campaign that is close to their aims. There were around 60 participants at this meeting, which was remarkable because the meeting was planned during the ESF, was not advertised in all the official programmes and it took place at venue outside the ESF area. The majority of those who attended were people that we had met during the ESF, who saw that we had something to say and wanted to hear more. In the audience there were activist, as well as important members of the labour movement from different countries. A large part of the audience was from Russia and Eastern Europe.
On Saturday we participated in the final demonstration and had a stall at the beginning and the end. We also had a banner in the international block. Many people came to us explaining how pleased they were about the campaign and wanting to know more about it.
During the whole ESF we had a stall in the Latin-American area which HOV activists also helped to run. We wanted to actively help out and work for the benefit of all. We would like to thank the organisers of this area, which was a really good place to be.
We collected names of people interested in HOV from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Russia, France, Greece, Kenya and many more countries. We have spoken with members of different solidarity organisation who work with Cuba, El Salvador, Bolivia and Venezuela and who want more cooperation. One of the few complaints was that we didn't have more time to discuss how we are going to build the campaign in Sweden and to hear more about the activities from HOV in the different countries that the campaign is active in. We sold a lot of material so we now have the resources to organise a second speaking tour. This time it will be an activist from the PSUV youth organisation. We hope that he will be able to visit Spain, Sweden, Finland and Norway. On the 29th of November we will organise the second national HOV conference in Stockholm, Sweden. The main topics will be Venezuela after the local elections, Bolivia today and Cuba 50 years since the revolution.
The activists of the HOV from different countries were very pleased to meet each other and to see how we are having an impact with our work. This ESF was an important development for the campaign that will strengthen the work of HOV in Sweden and internationally.