Britain: Hands of Venezuela in the Midlands

On Saturday November 19th a solidarity meeting with Venezuela was held in Birmingham at the Friends Meeting House. The meeting was organised jointly by UNISON and Venezuela Solidarity UK. On Saturday November 19th a solidarity meeting with Venezuela was held in Birmingham at the Friends Meeting House. The meeting was organised jointly by UNISON and Venezuela Solidarity UK.

The meeting began with a showing of the excellent film by an Irish TV crew “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” For those who have not seen it, it is well worth watching as it deals with the events surrounding the attempted coup against President Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian government in April 2002.

Of particular importance in the film is the role played by the top brass of the military and the representatives of big business in Pedro Carmona, Head of Fedecamaras, the Venezuelan CBI. They staged a coup against an elected government, dissolved the national assembly, suspended the Supreme Court, removed civil rights – and declared it a triumph for democracy! They had, however, not reckoned with the backbone of the Bolivarian revolution, the workers, unemployed, house wives, the dispossessed masses, who flooded onto the streets in their hundreds of thousands to defend Chavez and the gains of the revolution. The actions of the masses had an electrifying effect on the lower and middle ranks of the armed forces who threw their weight behind Chavez after learning that they had been duped by their senior officers and the private media who controlled all means of communication after the state channels had been seized and put off air. 47 hours after the start of the coup Chavez was back in power, the coup leaders were under arrest or has fled, and revolution had received a received a warning to consolidate and go forward to complete the tasks of removing political and economic power from the hands of the oligarchy.

The film set the scene for the opening of the discussion by Darrall Cozens, Midlands representative of HoV. He detailed the social situation of the masses of Venezuelans up to Chavez becoming president in 1998, including the Caracazo of 1989 and the failed coup of 1992. The constitution of 1999 guaranteed among other things that the natural resources of the country would belong to all of the people and would not be privatised. He outlined the three major attempts of the oligarchy, with the help of US Imperialism, to thwart the revolution – the attempted coup, the lockout in the oil industry in December 2002/January 2003 and the recall referendum of August 2004. All of these had been defeated by the mass support that the revolution enjoys. Darrall quoted Chavez remarks from a meeting in Paris in October 2005 where Chavez had been asked how he had managed to survive the coup attempt. In reply the President had said that he had relied on the support of the revolutionary masses and had quoted Trotsky when he said that the revolution sometimes need the whip of the counter-revolution to drive the process forward. The process however was not yet over.

The next speaker was Luis Morillo Baez, who for many years had been the President of the Aragua State Chapter of the CUTV (Venezuelan Communist Workers Confederation) which will probably merge with the UNT in 2006. Through an interesting and innovative computer link up called Skype, members of the audience were able to put questions to Luis who is still in Venezuela. Luis concentrated on the development of the government’s social programme through the Misiones and gave details of how these programmes were transforming the daily lives of the masses of ordinary people in the country. He also outlined the continuing land reform and the development of differing forms of workers control that were being developed in the companies that had been taken out of private hands. He also raised the prospect of the development of a different form of “direct democracy” that could bypass the traditional party representative system. This issue raises some interesting questions on whether it is possible to carry out the tasks of the revolution without the need for a political party to guide the process.

After a lively question and answer session the meeting ended with Darrall Cozens drawing together some of the threads of the discussion. He said that despite the tremendous gains that had been made and the need for trade unionists and socialists to defend those gains, the main levers of economic power still remained in the hands of the oligarchy. They will bide their time as at this moment they do not have the social base to stage a reaction. The words of Pat Robertson, the US televangelist, however, must be taken seriously. He has called for the assassination of Chavez as the only way to halt the revolution. US Imperialism and the Venezuelan oligarchy are biding their time. Unless the process of the revolution is completed there will always exist the danger of the bloodbath of the counter revolution.

The task of trade unionists and socialists in the UK was to publicise what is happening in Venezuela given the lies and distortions of the British press; build concrete links with the UNT; defend the gains of the revolution and participate in the debate that Chavez has called for on the nature of Socialism in the 21st century; affiliate to the HoV campaign; send delegates to the HoV conference on December 3rd in London and finally, when holiday plans are being discussed, give serious consideration to going to Venezuela to learn from what is happening, participate in the process and contribute to the discussion. The revolution there has brought millions of people into political life for the first time. There is a thirst for ideas, to share experiences. The fate of the revolution is not only in the hands of the masses of Venezuelans but is also in the hands of trade unionists and socialists all over the world. If we want to avoid a defeat such as in Chile in 1973, it is our duty to take part in these historical events.

After the meeting 12 copies of the ABC of the Venezuelan revolution were sold and comrades present expressed interest in the December conference. The thirst for information about Venezuela was reflected in the fact that participants had come from as far away as Aberystwyth and Blackburn to attend the meeting. Meetings like this should be held in all parts of the country to build support for the revolution.

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