Solidarity Activities

Hands off Venezuela – Easter Marches in Germany

The traditional Easter Marches of the peace movement took place over the past week in Germany. Demonstrators met and called for the withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan, for Germany’s exit from NATO, and against the Agenda 2010. There were 12 speakers at the demonstration in Wiesbaden, one of which was Hans-Gerd Öffinger, vice regional Chairman of the trade union Ver.di, and editor of the Marxist journal Der Dunke who spoke on the situation in Venezuela.

The German Marxists of Der Funke participated in the events in Wiesbaden and Frankfurt with a bookstall selling Marxist literature and collecting signatures for the Hands off Venezuela Campaign.

Hans-Gerd Öffinger spoke at the demonstration in Wiesbaden about US imperialism in Iraq and how the Bush administration is following the dictates of the oil industry. A lot of his speech was devoted to the situation in Venezuela, one of the world’s major exporters of oil, and consequently an important country for the interests of US imperialism. US imperialism has interfered directly in Iraq and they have also been interfering in a more indirect manner in Venezuela and have thus far been involved in organizing two attempted coup d’etats against President Chavez. This explains the assertions from the Bush administration that President Hugo Chavez supports guerillas and terrorists in Colombia and explains the interference of US imperialism in the country as a possible excuse for further intervention. The assertion that Chavez supports terrorists is a complete lie and fabrication – like the fairy tale of the danger of the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

The working class must struggle against imperialism everywhere. The methods of imperialism can also be seen in Germany. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Agenda 2010 can be seen as “declaration of war against the German people” and must fought against, as we must struggle against imperialism in Iraq and Venezuela. Policies like the Agenda 2010 show that the foreign policy is the continuation of the policy at home.

Hans-Gerd Öffinger’s speech was well received and found an echo in the press, getting mention in the largest local paper. This is not an accident but reflects the growing mood of anger among the working class and youth against imperialism the world over.

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Successful Hands Off Venezuela meetings in France

Two successful Hands Off Venezuela meetings were organised this week in France by the Marxist journal La Riposte, which has been supporting the campaign since the very beginning.

Meeting in Paris

The first meeting took place on Tuesday, November 2nd in the headquarters of the French Communist Party 10th District in Paris. Some 56 people packed the meeting room, to the point where some had to sit in the staircase. Jorge Martin from the Hands Off Venezuela campaign explained the situation in Venezuela after the defeat of the reactionary opposition in the recent regional and council elections and the August 15th recall referendum. These two electoral defeats, he explained, clearly destroyed the myth propagated by the opposition and repeated by the international media, that Chavez was widely unpopular and that the majority of the people were against him. The balance of forces was now even more favourable to the revolution and this should be used to complete the revolution by putting the economy firmly in the hands of working people. Martin explained how Chavez had explicitly said that “within the framework of capitalism the problems of poverty, inequality and oppression cannot be solved”.

A lively debate followed Jorge’s introduction. A veteran comrade from the Nanterre section of the PCF spoke. He had been to Venezuela recently and explained his experiences, including giving revolutionary solidarity greetings to a rally of poor peasants fighting for land reform and the extremely enthusiastic response he got from them. Other comrades spoke, including a leading CGT trade unionist from the Paris building workers union, and a number of comrades from Latin America who were also present. Also amongst the audience were a number of Arab intellectuals and journalists covering the meeting for some of the Arab media (including one of the most important Arab language newspapers, Al Quds).

The meeting in Toulouse took place on Thursday, November 4th, at the University of Toulouse-Mirail. Nearly 120 people participated in this excellent meeting which was the third successful meeting organised by La Riposte at this university campus in the last year. Again, Jorge Martin, after explaining the current situation in Venezuela, described some of the debates that are taking place within the revolutionary movement and which are vital for the victorious completion of the Bolivarian revolution. These are mainly centred on the question of how to fight against bureaucrats and careerists within the movement itself and how to deal with the question of the economy.

Meeting in Toulouse-Mirail

In the debate, one Venezuelan person argued that the movement led by Chavez was not a genuine revolution since the most important leaders of the left in the 60s and 70s were now with the opposition, and that it was a Manichaeist view to argue that in Venezuela the struggle was between Chavez and the poor on one side and the oligarchy on the other. Jorge replied that those historical leaders of the left who were now in the opposition (Petkoff, Marti, Melo and others) had in fact betrayed everything they had claimed to be fighting for in their revolutionary years. In fact Petkoff had already been a Minister in the Caldera government in the 1990s when he was in charge of privatisations. Jorge added that this was not a new phenomenon and that we had also seen the main guerrilla commander of El Salvador’s FMLN turn into an adviser to Uribe’s right wing pro-imperialist government in Colombia. He explained how despite the betrayal of many of the leaders of the Left, the overwhelming majority of the revolutionary rank and file activists from the past were now active in the Bolivarian revolution. As for the charge of Manichaeism, Jorge explained how the facts show that in the poor working class areas of Caracas, support for Chavez in elections stands at 70 to 80%, while in the rich and middle class areas of the East of Caracas support for the opposition was also 70 to 80%, thus clearly showing the class divisions between Bolivarians and oppositionists.

Amongst the audience there were a number of Venezuelans and students from other Latin American countries. Also present were some CGT trade unionists from the aerospace industry around Toulouse who had come to listen to the meeting. One of the main points of the meetings was the appeal to organise some concrete and long lasting solidarity work with the Venezuelan revolution. At the end of the meeting a group of Venezuelan and French comrades agreed to set up the Toulouse Bolivarian Circle to continue with this work. It was agreed that one of the tasks of the Bolivarian Circle would be to raise the issue of recognition for the new Venezuelan trade union, UNT, within the CGT metal workers federation, which the aerospace trade unionists present belong to.

November 5, 2004

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Recent HOV Activities in Germany

Support the Workers´ Movement in Venezuela

Supporters of Hands off Venezuela and "Der Funke" have stepped up their activites in solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution in the last few days.

In Nürnberg, we had a stall at a left wing book fair last weekend and collected signatures for the Venepal workers there. A discussion meeting was held on Saturday night to inform about the background of recent events in Venezuela and tell the audience about the need to support workers´ struggles as a driving force in the process. In his introduction, Hans-Gerd Öfinger outlined the development of the new militant union federation UNT and appealed to trade unionists present to build direct links with the UNT on all levels and fight for the recognition of the UNT as the sole legitimate representation of the Venezuelan labour movement.

He also stressed the need to support the occupation of the Venepal factory and the call for nationalisation under workers´ control. A successful struggle of the Venepal workers could be a breakthrough for the whole labour movement and the overall revolutionary process. Anybody who wishes to carry out solidarity work with the revolution should recognise the importance of the organised labour movement in this context.

Trade unionists present agreed to raise the question of the UNT in their local organisations, putting pressure upon the German union apparatus to fully support this new militant union.

A few days later, the petition for the Venepal workers was signed at a meeting of the media and paper workers´ section in ver.di (Germany´s biggest union) in the Hessen region. The signatures include shop stewards from paper and packageing factories as well as full time union employees.

Last Tuesday, comrades in Frankfurt organised a successful HOV solidarity meeting at the local university of applied sciences. 38 students came along to watch the legendary documentary film on the 2002 coup and a slide show by an HOV activist who had recently visited Venezuela. The Venepal petition was signed and 20 Euros were collected for the Venepal funds.

By our correspondent


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