The youth make up one of the most progressive, radical, and dynamic forces of society. Continuously they are the catalystic forces for social transformation and progress. The future of every country is shaped by the united efforts of its young people, making them one of the main targets of capitalist globalization and the ideological offensive of imperialism.

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Oscar Negrin
Oscar Negrin
Oscar Negrin, elected leader of the Juan Bautista Alberdi school in Caracas, during his short visit to the UK, went on a short speaking tour for the Hands Off Venezuela campaign. In a three-day trip at the beginning of December he spoke to trade union meetings and met with some Labour MPs. Despite being organised at short notice people were willing to fit us in, in some cases adapting their schedules to do so. This shows the growing awareness and support at all levels for the campaign and the revolutionary process in Venezuela.

On the first day of the visit we were able to meet with leading leftwing Labour MP, John McDonnell. John has been a keen supporter of the process in Venezuela from the very beginning. Oscar explained the processes that are unfolding in Venezuela, describing the mood that now exists on the ground and touching on some recent developments in the revolutionary process such as the Venepal occupation. He also described the trade union situation in Venezuela where there has been a flooding of workers out of the CTV unions following the ongoing betrayal of the leadership which came to a head in 2002 at the time of the coup, and then again in the form of a bosses' lockout. Oscar and John discussed the importance of the new union federation, the UNT, which was created by workers and trade union activists following these events and now organises the vast majority of workers.

John recognised the degenerate nature of the CTV, noting however that it is still formally recognised by the British TUC. He said that in his opinion this is the biggest task of the campaign in Britain over the next period, to explain the real situation in Venezuela and convince the British labour movement to back the UNT instead of the CTV. He also told us that he is organising a delegation of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs to Venezuela in the first half of next year and that this would help build trade union support in the future since the Campaign Group is closely linked with the parliamentary groups of many of the leading unions and would be able to report their findings to them. Oscar was invited to address the Socialist Campaign Group parliamentary caucus the following day; the meeting went well with offers of support and advice.

Two public meetings were organised as part of the visit. The first was organised by the UCL (University College London) Social Forum, the subject was "radical perspectives and teaching". British classroom assistant, Alex Higgins, described his experience of the British teaching system saying that it is not centred enough on learning and the needs of the child but instead is bogged down by bureaucracy and government targets. He described the experiments that he has tried in his teaching to engage more with the children.

Oscar spoke about the situation in his school in Venezuela. He described the actions of the former headmistress who, like the rest of the opposition, used her position to try to topple the democratically elected regime. The school was closed for the duration of the bosses' lockout in December 2002-January 2003, however even after this was defeated the headmistress refused to re-open the school saying: "it will not reopen until Chavez is removed from the Presidency."

Meeting at the UCL
It was as a result of this that the community, with the school pupils at the forefront, decided to take over the running of the school. The conditions that they found in the school were horrific, no proper toilets, no running water and a lack of basic teaching materials; the school building itself was a run-down wreck. The community set about renovating the school building, getting hold of new teaching materials and setting up proper classes for the children. After some problems with the old school leaders trying to retake control of the running of the school they have now been given the backing of the education minister who publicly promised them support on the weekly Hola Presidente television programme.

Oscar went on to explain the locally based initiatives that they are taking, all under discussion and control of the community. These tie in with the initiatives (missions) that have been launched by the Chavez government in the education system. These include attempts to increase the number of poor children going on to further education at university, encouraging and extending adult education and trying to eradicate illiteracy.

The second public meeting organised by Hands Off Venezuela took place in the National Union of Journalists' headquarters where a sizeable audience came to hear Oscar speak and a lively discussion followed.

There was great energy and optimism in all the speeches of Oscar Negrin, both in the public and private meetings which we had. This expresses the mood of the Venezuelan people who are in the process of getting off their knees and taking over the running of their local communities and society as a whole for the first time.

During the visit we also had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of four trade unions, NATFHE, the university and college lecturers' union, the NUJ, journalists' union and two railworkers' unions ASLEF and the RMT.

At NATFHE, we talked at length with the International Officer, Paul Bennett. Oscar explained recent developments in the Venezuelan situation including the events surrounding the recall referendum and the assassination of leading Chavez supporter Danilo Anderson which is an indication of how desperate the opposition is to reassert control by hook or by crook. He touched on the situation at his school and talked about the new initiatives that the government was taking in education. Paul congratulated Oscar on the work that the school has done and said that it is an excellent example of the Bolivarian revolution in practise. We also met briefly with the General Secretary and President who said they were tied up with other business but nonetheless are very supportive.

Oscar with Jeremy
Jeremy Dear and Oscar Negrin
In our meeting with NUJ General Secretary, Jeremy Dear, Oscar explained the role of the new media in Venezuela where the government has done a lot to open up the mass media to the people including establishing community television projects and subsidising the publication of local papers on news, culture and current affairs; this is part of the flowering of culture and discussion that is taking place in Venezuelan society at the current time as people try to understand the events taking place around them and find a way forward. Jeremy Dear has been an active supporter of the campaign from its inception and has promised to take it forward among the trade union leaderships with the aim of organising a delegation of trade union leaders who could see the revolutionary process at first hand.

At ASLEF we had a tour of the building, meeting with various union workers and discussing the situation in Venezuela, and among them Justice for Columbia who have offices in the building.

In the afternoon we addressed the RMT Executive Committee. Oscar explained the recent history of Venezuela up to the current time, going through the inspiring movements of the workers and peasants that have time and again stepped in to save the regime at the decisive moment. There was great interest in the situation; we overran our time for questions because there were so many. RMT General Secretary Bob Crow promised support for the campaign; he was keen to look at organising an RMT delegation to Venezuela and expressed a strong interest in getting Venezuelan transport workers to speak at the union's AGM.

The results of this trip are very promising. Both the rank and file and those at the highest level of the British labour movement have an interest in what is going on in Venezuela. There is therefore good potential for the campaign to go forward. This visit has helped raise the profile of the events in Venezuela in the movement and among a layer of student activists and lays good foundations for the campaign of solidarity in the future.

December 15, 2004

See also a picture gallery of the speaking tour

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The first will be on Saturday the 11th at 8 pm at the Lemp Arts Center at 3301 Lemp Ave. near the A-B brewery, where we will be showing the film "Venezuela Bolivariana" alongside a show by the band Softer Than Yesterday. There is a $2 cover charge since this is on a band night.

On Saturday the 18th at 11 am at the U-City public library, 6701 Delmar, we will be showing "Venezuela Bolivariana" and having a discussion afterwards about the most recent events in Venezuela and the work of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign internationally. This is a free event.

The Hands Off Venezuela campaign is an international campaign formed to build solidarity with the working people and poor of Venezuela who have been fighting against the "neo-liberal" economic policies of Washington D.C. and Wall Street and for radical social and economic reform. Alongside this the HoV campaign demands that the US keep its "hands off" Venezuela, with the decades-long military intervention in Colombia showing what this brings.

The HoV campaign is currently circulating a petition in support of the workers of Venepal paper mill, who despite the bosses' fclosure of this massive facility have continued to keep it in operation while calling for its nationalization under workers' control. These petitions go a long way to help bolster and encourage the working people of Venezuela, so please come and help support the campaign!

For more information contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Public Meetings

Tuesday 7th December

University College London

Venue: Jeremy Bentham Room, UCL, just next to the UCL library, in the main building

Address: Gower Street – London – WC1E 6BT

Wednesday 8th December at 7pm

Headland House, National Union of Journalists,

308 – 320 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1

Oscar Negrin is the headteacher of the Juan Bautista Alberdi school, which was taken over by the community almost two years ago. The school was ordered to close by the mayor as part of the conspiracy to destabilise the Chavez government in December 2002.

During those first days many schools were taken over by their communities, including “Juan Bautista Alberdi”. Immediately a “Committee in Defence of the children of the school Alberdi” was founded by the students, the parents’ assembly and other representatives of the community. Faced with the bosses’ lockout they decided to take control of their school and restart classes. The Alberdi School became a real educational centre, where there is a growing understanding of how to fight for a more just and dignified world. Today, this school has become the centre of organized development of the community and a symbol of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Come and hear about the heroic struggle of the Venezuelan People! All Welcome! Plenty of time for questions and discussion.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone number: 07956676363.

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The Hands Off Venezuela Campaign will be participants along with many other groups.

If you are interested in going to Caracas or want to help organize for this international event there is a way to participate without having to go to New York.

There is a national hook up phone number (1-760-477-2024 code number 82005 starting at 12:30 p.m. east coast time) which you can call to listen to the meeting and talk and make suggestions. The meeting will be discussing guildlines for those wishing to attend, approve a flyer to publize the event, elect a steering committee and other matters.

If you are a student or youth wanting to get involved call the above phone number or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Solidarity Messages
Here you can find various messages of solidarity.

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