In Paris, Chavez speaks of the revolution and salutes the work of “Hands Off Venezuela!”

A report on the Speech Chavez gave recently in Paris. Asked by the local mayor what was the “secret” behind his political success and resilience, Chavez explained that his power emanates from the mass movement, of the involvement of the mass of the people in the struggle for change. During his speech he also praised the work of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign and underlined the need for such international solidarity.

The recent visit to France by Hugo Chavez will undoubtedly have served to open a breach in the wall of silence and distortion – not to speak of outright lies – which the media in France has tried to build around the Bolivarian revolution.

On Wednesday 19th October, Chavez spoke to a packed audience in the City Hall of the 11th arrondissement of Paris. He had been invited by the local Mayor, Georges Sarre. Naturally enough, once a figure such as Chavez begins to arouse enthusiasm and support from youth and workers, he begins to attract attention and “friendship” from all kinds of individuals who have nothing in common with the ideas and aspirations of the revolutionary masses in Venezuela. Sarre is a typical example of this particular breed of opportunist. In his youth, he was a trade unionist in the postal service. He joined the French Socialist Party, where, in the 1970s and early 1980s, he was one of the leaders of the left-wing CERES tendency. Even at that time, Sarre’s left-wing demagogy was tinged with French nationalism. Sarre then broke with the Socialist Party, alongside Jean-Pierre Chevènement, to form a small national-chauvinist republican party.

This was the discredited turncoat who, in his introductory remarks, asked Chavez if he could reveal the “formula” for his political success. “After all, Monsieur le President,” he said, “you are in power!” Then Chavez began what was to be a most remarkable speech, and which must have sent shivers down the spine of Sarre and of other hangers-on of the same ilk.

“A mass movement, organised and conscious”

“There is not really a formula”, said Chavez, “but I can give you an explanation for the successes of the Bolivarian revolution”. These were the result, said Chavez of a mass movement, of the involvement of the mass of the people in the struggle for change. It was the awakening of the mass of the people, of the poor, the oppressed, of workers, peasants and youth, which had brought about the changes underway in Venezuelan society.

Chavez explained that after his election in 1998, he was almost powerless. “I was the President, and yet I found myself isolated.” He explained that powerful forces were ranged against him, and how most of the generals were hostile: “Do not forget that over 100 generals participated in the coup d’Etat in April 2002.” The High Court, the judges, the state bureaucracy, the directors of PDVSA, the capitalists, big landowners, the “middle classes”, the press, the Church, and the most powerful world leaders were all in opposition.

“So how was this isolation and this hostility to our programme of social reform, finally overcome?” he asked. “And here I come to the question posed by George Sarre. These difficulties, George, were surmounted by placing our confidence in constituent power.”

Hugo Chavez is a very effective speaker, but he has his own particular style, and sometimes a rather unusual vocabulary. As a formula, “constituent power” must have had a rather appealing ring in the ear of one such as Sarre. But then Chavez went on to explain what he meant by that term: “We must place our confidence in the constituent power, that is to say, in the mass movement of the poor and exploited sections of society, in the organised and conscious mobilisation of the people.”

In the course of his speech, Chavez explained the main stages of the Venezuelan revolution. He went into some detail concerning the events of 11th and 12th April 2002, at the time of the coup d’Etat.

“We must never lose faith in the revolutionary power of the people,” he said. “But I must confess that I myself did lose this faith at one time. After the coup d’Etat, I was taken away, and held in captivity. I was convinced that I was going to die very soon. I knew that the order had been given that I was not to be still alive the day after the coup. A group of individuals arrived. They were the men who had been hired to kill me. This was organised by Washington. American submarines were in the waters just off the Venezuelan coast. I felt for a moment that all was lost, that any hope of change in Venezuela has been lost, and that I would now be killed having accomplished nothing.”

“But this state of mind did not last for long. Sometimes a small incident is enough to bring back hope. When the killers arrived in that place, a poor man who was there, perhaps a fisherman, spoke out, and I heard him. “If you kill Chavez, he said, you will have to kill us all.” Shortly afterwards, an army lieutenant informed Chavez of the revolutionary events in Caracas, of the split in the army under mass pressure of how the putschistes had been overthrown.

Chavez also gave details of the campaign of economic sabotage waged against the revolution in at the end of 2002. “But as Leon Trotsky explained”, he said, “revolution often moves forward under the whip of counter-revolution, and so it was in Venezuela.”

One small incident related by Chavez was particularly significant. During the referendum campaign, he went into the streets of Caracas, in order to get an idea of the mood of the people. “I thought I was well disguised, but many people recognised me. A woman approached me and, gripping me firmly by the arm, said, ‘Come with me, Chavez, come and see how we live’.”

Chavez told of how he was led into a poor and crowded slum, where a thin broth was being cooked over bits of wood, for lack of gas or coal. “Can you see how we live?” asked the woman. “But I’ll tell you something. We will support you to the last, even if we have nothing left, even if we have to burn our beds for fuel, even if we have to eat stones! Don’t fail us, Chavez, don’t fail us!”

This, at bottom, is the secret “formula” which explains how Chavez has the power, which so excites the jealousy of avid onlookers like Sarre. It is the unbreakable desire for revolutionary change on the part of the oppressed, and their determination to struggle “to the last” in order to achieve it.

Venezuela will wage a “100 years war” of liberation if necessary

Chavez then dealt with the danger of military intervention by US imperialism against the Venezuelan revolution. “I am a military man”, he said, “and therefore I know a thing or two about arms and warfare. But we want peace. Our aim is to carry out a peaceful and democratic revolutionary process. But we know that plans have been laid to attack Venezuela by the Bush administration. They have even made an estimation of how much the operation would cost. We want peace, I repeat, but if we are attacked, well then, my friends, it will mean war – a 100 years war if necessary – because Venezuela will fight to defend itself, and it will win.”

Chavez gave a number of reasons which made him hopeful that US imperialism would not be able invade Venezuela. Apart from the fact that great numbers of US troops were tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, Chavez said, “millions of US citizens would oppose the war,” especially among the poorest sections of American society. “There is a lot of poverty in the USA. In fact, we have received many appeals for financial aid from Civil Rights and Humanitarian projects in the USA.I spoke at a meeting in the Bronx. These people have no proper health care, no jobs. They understand what we are trying to do in Venezuela, and they support us.”

Chavez thanks the “Hands off Venezuela!” campaign

The following day, Chavez spoke at a press conference. A typically idiotic journalist from the right-wing French magazine “L’Express” asked Chavez if it was “enough for foreign statesmen to make an anti-American or an anti-British speech to be chosen as a friend of Hugo Chavez?” Chavez replied that this question was “an insult to human intelligence”.

A few questions later, a representative of the French Marxist journal and website La Riposte (www.lariposte.com) asked Hugo Chavez about his attitude to threats from the US government. The La Riposte organisation has been leading the international campaign “Hands Off Venezuela!” (Pas touche au Venezuela !) in France. The President replied by saying that before answering this question, he would like to thank Pas touche au Venezuela! for the work it had carried out in support of the Venezuelan revolution, and underlined the vital importance of international solidarity of this kind. He applauded, and the audience, which included a number of supporters of the campaign and of the Bolivarian movement, joined in with him.

The work of La Riposte and of the many communist and trade unionist activists, together with that of the Bolivarian Circles which exist in different parts of France, had undoubtedly had an impact. To follow up on this latest visit to France by the Venezuelan President, La Riposte is organising a new series of meetings and discussions to explain about the events in Venezuela, in Paris, Toulouse, Grenoble, Bordeaux, Bayonne and elsewhere.

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