Britain: Amicus North West Regional Council affiliates to Hands Off Venezuela Campaign

The Amicus North West Regional Council decided to affiliate to the Hands Off Venezuela (HOV) campaign at its February monthly meeting. Great interest was shown for what is happening in Venezuela and a generous donation was made to HOV.

At this month’s meeting of the Amicus North West Regional Council there was an international item on the agenda: the Venezuelan Revolution. Espe Espigares, a member of Amicus and also of the HOV Steering Committee was invited to speak on the subject.

Espe introduced the discussion by reporting on the support that the campaign had built up in many unions, including Amicus. At last year’s Amicus national conference a motion was passed overwhelmingly in defence of the Venezuelan Revolution and supporting the HOV campaign. Since that time many branches of Amicus have affiliated to the campaign. The campaign had also succeeded in promoting motion 92 at the TUC conference, which was passed unanimously in support of the revolutionary process and the building of links with the UNT, the first time a trade union confederation in the west had done so.

“The revolution has been attacked from every possible angle”, explained Espe. “After the 2002coup, the opposition tried a bosses’ lock-out, then the recall referendum and then the boycott of the elections last December, all with the full support of US imperialism. Chavez and his policies have been endorsed in eleven elections over the last 7 years. Despite this, Chavez has been continually described as a dictator and Venezuela has been placed on the ‘Axis of Evil’ list by the US government.”

She went on to explain about the so-called “evil policies” of Chavez and his revolutionary government, including:

- The abolition of illiteracy;

- One million children have been brought into the education system;

- 657 new schools have been built;

- 8 new universities have been established;

- 36,000 additional teachers have been hired;

- 2.2 million hectares (5.5 million acres) have been distributed to 116,000 landless families organised into co-ops;

- The Bolivarian constitution guarantees the public ownership of Venezuelan oil and the distribution of wealth to all its citizens.

“These are a few of the policies that the government and the revolution have implemented. In the eyes of imperialism these are ‘evil’ but for Venezuelans they mean a tremendous improvement in their living conditions. Of course there is still a lot of work to do as in Venezuela 80% live in poverty, but for the majority of people, these policies are without doubt a step in the right direction.”

If we compare Britain, supposedly the 4th biggest economy in the world, things are moving in the opposite direction with workers’ rights under attack, manufacturing industry being destroyed and privatisation of public services: “Today’s Guardian informs us that the NHS gas bill went up by 50% between November 2003 and November 2004, and the bills for ordinary consumers by 25%, hitting the poor the hardest. This shows how concerned our government is about the sick and vulnerable in this country. At the same time, Venezuela, supposedly a ‘third world’ country, is providing cheap fuel to poor neighbourhoods in the US so they can keep warm in the cold winter.”

All this clearly captured the imagination of the members of the regional council, who came back with lots of questions about what was going on in Venezuela. Members commented about the inspiring results in several general elections in Latin America where left-wing candidates had been elected, such as Evo Morales in Bolivia. They also wanted to know more about the movement for workers’ control and the occupation of factories. One delegate correctly pointed out that although the media focuses on the figure of Chavez, it is the revolution of the Venezuelan people.

“Imperialists would rather pocket oil profits themselves than see them reinvested in social programmes to help the most needy people in society”, said Espe.

The other reason for such a bitter opposition is that Venezuela is showing that there can be an alternative to capitalism. Latin America is a continent very rich in natural resources. And yet the people live in absolute misery because of the private profit system of capitalism. Venezuela is showing that there is an alternative to the ruthless system that puts profits before people. If the Venezuelan Revolution is successful, it will spread like wildfire, and that is what the imperialists want to prevent at all costs. “One of the best ways of helping the Venezuelan Revolution is to fight to improve our working conditions here”, stated Espe.

After the discussion, the Regional Council decided to affiliate to the HOV campaign. And one of the delegates proposed that on top of the affiliation fee, a further donation be made to the campaign of £500 pounds and this was endorsed by the rest of the members of the Council. They also agreed to help spread the message of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign by publicising it on the union’s website and by recommending that union branches also affiliate to the campaign.

The regional Council was thanked for their generous support: “We are very pleased that Amicus is helping the campaign and we can guarantee that every penny you have donated will be well spent”, stated Espe. Regional Council members replied by saying: “ We are proud to do so!”

PS: The Regional Council had also organised a women’s’ weekend school where HOV was also invited to speak, which again was very successful.

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