Venezuela fringe meeting at Trades Union Congress

The Hands Off Venezuela fringe meeting at this year's TUC in Brighton was very successful, reports Patrick MacDonald

The Hands Off Venezuela fringe meeting at this year's TUC in Brighton was very successful, despite the great competition from other fringe meetings at the same time.

tuc-hov-meet-sep-2007-c.gif Rob Sewell led off with an impassioned speech on the revolutionary developments in Venezuela that left nobody in any doubt of the progress that has been accomplished over the past decade. Rob spoke about the contrasting fortunes of Blair and Chavez since their respective elections in 1997 and 1998 and how the popularity of one nose-dived while the other rocketed. The last election saw Chavez claim 7.3 million votes (63%), which was due to the dramatic and positive achievements of the revolution. 

Rob gave some anecdotes of young people racing around Caracas on Election Day, thrilled to be part of the occasion. "People were being woken up at 2:00 in the morning to participate on election day; people were queuing and voting and young people were holding 10 fingers, to represent the 10 million votes they were willing Chavez to win." "It was the most enthusiastic election campaign which reflected the revolutionary situation in Venezuela today", he said. 

Rob pointed out that it has only been after his rise to power, that Chavez awoke to the only "real" alternative of socialism. "It was only through concrete, material events that Chavez realised that socialism was the way forward." This led Chavez to declare that the last election was not a "vote for Chavez, but a vote for Socialism". 

Alan McLean, the vice president of the FBU, who spoke next, stated that events like those happening in Venezuela were ones that he had been "striving for [his] whole life". Alan acknowledged that the only way to protect the gains of the Venezuelan revolution was to help spread solidarity. Why should it not be possible to have the same things going on in this country that are taking place over there?" said Alan. "We should be sending delegations so that people can really see what is going on in Venezuela". Alan finished by saying that it was a duty to keep Venezuela "in the public eye" for as long as it takes, to achieve socialist the goal that it set itself.  

John McDonnell congratulated those "far-sighted" enough to have identified what was taking place in Venezuela and the potential for this democratic revolution to turn into a socialist revolution. At this moment, the revolution is empowering millions of Venezuelans of all ages. John was adamant that in order to correctly analyse the events in Venezuela, it was necessary mot be to frightened by terminology such as "Revolution" and "Socialism". The whole movement in Britain needed to embrace the changes in Latin America. On the same note, John felt it was high time that a dialogue was started between the different Venezuela solidarity organisations, and that in the future joint fringe meetings should be held at the various union conferences around the country. He joked that Jeremy Dear would be "more than happy" to stand down from the national body, if it meant unifying the work of the other campaigns. 

John also said that he would do all he could to force acknowledgment of the Venezuelan Revolution by the British government. "We must do our best to inform central government of the great changes that are happening in Venezuela and to dispel the myths from the press about Chavez." 

In the lively question session that followed, people asked how to counter the day-to-day arguments of those that called Venezuela a dictatorship. The panel answered that Chavez' election results, where he has won every election he has ever taken part in (they amount to a dozen), speaks for itself. They also added that the right to constant participation in elections is not the mark of a dictatorship, for prime ministers in this country enjoy this freedom too, though none could ever boast such popularity as Chavez. 

The overarching message of the meeting was that the best possible way to show solidarity with the people of Venezuela is to continue fighting for a socialist transformation in our own country.

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