HOV supporters in Germany have been quite busy in the last few weeks. Yet this is not the end but only the beginning of our solidarity campaign.

In cooperation with the Venezuelan Consul General in Frankfurt, we organised two public meetings with Dr. Luis Britto Garcia, writer and media expert who spoke on the revolutionary process in Venezuela and the role of the media. Although the two meetings in mid-February - in Wiesbaden and Cologne - were organised at a short notice, they attracted some 20 visitors each who were very keen to listen and ask questions on the current events in Venezuela.

Cologne HOV meetings

On Thursday, 10th and on Monday, 14th February the first 2 of in total 3 meetings on Venezuela and her Bolivarian Revolution were held in Cologne. The Cologne branch of ['solid] - the socialist youth and the Young Socialist University Group Cologne, who both have been supporting the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign for almost a year now, have organised the series which is based on three films about revolutionary Venezuela - "Venezuela - Another Way is Possible", "The Revolution will not be televised" and "Venezuela from below". The last event will take place approximately in early April.

Each of the movies conveys a clear impression of what is really taking place inside the country, how the fronts between the working class, the small peasants and the urban poor on the one side and the oligarchy, national private media, finance capital and world imperialism on the other side are set and how the struggle for Venezuela's future is about to proceed. In addition to the movie "Venezuela - Another Way is Possible", which has been presented on Thursday and which provides a detailed account of the origins of the Bolivarian process,  we invited Hans-Gerd Öfinger, a journalist, trade-unionist and editor of the German marxist journal Der Funke, to speak on the perspectives of the revolution.

A socialist revolution or no successful revolution at all

The revolutionary process in Venezuela finds itself in a critical stage. Historical developments cannot come to a standstill. The Venezuelan masses urge for a solution of their enormous social problems, for satisfaction of their needs and therefore pressurize the government of Hugo Chavez to go forward in their interests. But any improvement of the living standards of the masses questions the political, economic and social position of the oligarchy. The Venezuelan bourgeoisie, which is bound to imperialism by thousands of economic and political bonds, will not tolerate any loss of influence or fundamental change in the distribution of the national income and will continue to respond with sabotage, terrorism and military coups d'êtat to the construction of a society in the interest of the people by the Venezuelan working class and the Chavez government. As long as the economic instruments of the oligarchy, the banks, the big media corporations, the industry and the major parts of the national land, remain in the hands of reaction and private capitalists, all achievements of the Bolivarian movement are in immediate danger and any progressive development of Venezuela and the whole of Latin America in the name of the workers, peasants and the youth will not be possible.

Hans-Gerd Öfinger explained that, in this context, our attention has to be focussed on the decisive battles in Venezuela - the struggle of the workers for control of production and political decisions. With the nationalisation of Venepal, a key paper and packages manufacturer in Venezuela, under workers control in January 2005 in response to the demands of the workers, which have been firmly supported internationally by the Hands Off Venezuela campaign, and the decision of the former company owners to close down production, an example is given. Venepal shows how to take the revolution forward is relevant to all those spheres of the national economy which are essential for the Venezuelan people and which are used by the right wing opposition to systematically disrupt the movement. The model of Venepal now has to be extended, and the new left wing trade-union confederation, UNT, which has the potential power to achieve this goal, needs our international solidarity. Hans-Gerd Öfinger remarked that the Venezuelan counter-revolution has her allies, not only within the Bush administration, but also among European capitalists and ruling classes. Even though a direct intervention by US-Imperialism might not be on the order of today and even though the Opposition appears to be in a "crisis" with loss of social backing and public presence, we must not think that now there will be a gradual development and that the ruling class will ever give up peacefully and quietly. This assumption was nurtured by a recent statement made by a liberal MP in Germany who had strongly criticised President Chavez´ left wing speech delivered at the WSF where he referred to socialism. This German Liberal had referred to Venezuela as the coming "source" of a Latin American fire, thus demonstrating und justifying plans for further aggression against the Chavez government. Hans-Gerd hammered home the need to show concrete solidarity with the revolutionaries in Venezuela on all levels - in schools, universities, workplaces and trade-unions.

The first event was attented by about 25 people and the discussion following the speech lasted for more than an hour until well after 11 p.m. One of the guests present compared the situation in Venezuela with the events during the "Kapp-Putsch" in Germany. In 1920, after the biggest revolutionary tides of 1918/1919, parts of the German ruling class together with loyal right-wing elements among the German military high command tried to cleanse the country from the last still existing soviets and forms of workers' power, which had been installed by workers and soldiers during the 1918 revolution, and replace them with a brutal military dictatorship. To fight back against this military coup, probably the biggest general strike in German labour history was proclaimed, which eventually turned into a revolutionary uprising and put power in the hands of the workers in some areas such as the Ruhr. In fact, this strike was even lead by ADGB (union federation) leader Carl Legien, a former supporter  of the reformist right wing of the SPD and of revisionist Eduard Bernstein. In the cause of the events, he was pushed to go further than he actually intended to. The German revolution of 1920 finally suffered a terrible defeat as the Social Democracy tried to "mediate" and "reconcile" between the classes and seeked a compromise with the right wing and the leaders of the coup. When they succeeded in convincing the workers to give back their arms, the bloodbath started as reactionary soldiers and fascist elements killed hundreds of worker activists in the Ruhr. .

"The Process has to be radicalised."

On Monday, 14th February, the second meeting in Cologne took place with again with more than 20 people attending, including Cesar Méndez, Venezuelan Consul General in Frankfurt (Germany). The classic film "The Revolution will not be televised" gave a direct insight into the counter-revolutionary actions of April, 11th 2002 and magnificently conveyed the spirit of a people that spontaineously rises up against a criminal coup.

Dr. Luis Britto Gárcia, scientist and writer whose latest publication focusses on the Venezuelan media, spoke on the disgraceful role of the big private media corporations within the revolutionary process. The Venezuelan oligarchy uses her monopoly of information and culture, as is the fact with the control of the industry, to spread lies and misinformation about the Chavez government and to inhibit any form of cultural development of the people. Especially the private media show the parasitic character of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie which is completely incapable of playing any sort of "progressive" role, but instead only serves her own interest in profits and the greed of imperialism.

Dr. Luis Britto Gárcia remarked that Venezuela shows the way how to break the chains of neoliberalism and monopolies. During the Bolivarian Revolution, many forms of alternative media have been created by the people itself. But he also stressed that the problems of Venezuela have not yet been solved, the decisive battles have not yet been won, but just begun. The example of Venepal shows how a solution has to look like. To answer the question of perspectives for the Bolivarian movement in the words of Dr. Luis Britto Gárcia: "The process has to be radicalised."

Hands off Venezuela, Mr. Bush!

HOV supporters in Wiesbaden, Mainz and Frankfurt used the demos against the recent visit by US President Bush in the area to get the HOV campaign known locally and nationally. On February 22, an after-work demo with some 1000 participants took place in the city of Wiesbaden where GW Bush was to visit US Army soldiers on the following day. On this occasion, Hans-Gerd Öfinger, an organiser of the demo and a local union activist, linked the opposition to Bush with the question of Venezuela, pointing out that the Bush administration had supported and organised the coup in 2002 and would continue to do their utmost to bring down Chávez and stop the revolutionary process.

This reference to Venezuela also found an echo in the local press which quoted from the speech. Hundreds of leaflets were distributed and many signatures collected on the spot. Another public meeting on Venezuela in Wiesbaden is scheduled for March 9 and will take in a left wing Turkish workers club.
On February 23, we had a stall at the big national anti Bush demo in Mainz where Bush met chancellor Schröder on the same day. Again, many leaflets were distributed and signatures collected. One of the signers was Tobias Pflüger, a Euro MP and prominent anti-militarist  who had been elected on the PDS slate.

Earlier last month, an HOV representative had also been invited to speak at the regional conference of in Bavaria. In Frankfurt, HOV activists continue to meet on a monthly basis.
2005 will be a busy year for HOV activists in Germany as we are planning interventions in big rallies and festivals as well as a series of discussion meetings. Of course, we never forget our tasks in Germany itself but always link the issue of the Venezuelan revolution to the burning problems facing us at home.

Step up solidarity with the Venezuelan Revolution now and join the Hands Off Venezuela campaign! Long live the Venezuelan and world Revolution! Forward to Socialism!

By Thomas Gamstätter, secretary of Cologne Hands Off Venezuela.

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This August, Caracas, Venezuela will be home to the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students, a festival of politics, art, and culture. The meeting will be held from the 7th to the 15th and will be a convergence of young students and workers from across the globe, united behind the slogan "For peace and solidarity, we struggle against war and imperialism!"

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Around forty people representing twenty organizations attended the most recent Philippines-Venezuela solidarity activity on February 18 and launched the Philippines-Venezuela Solidarity Association. Jose Clavijo, the Charge d' Affaires of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was a guest speaker and the documentary "Venezuela Bolivariana: People and Struggle" was shown. The event was organised by the socialist labor centre the BMP and co-hosted with the Women and Gender Institute at the Miriam College Campus.

Organisations represented included: Partido ng Manggagawa, Kalayaan, Sanlakas, Freedom from Debt Coalition, RCPD, Philippine-Iraq Solidarity, Philippine-Cuba Solidarity and Friendship Association, Peace Camp, BMP and several of its local unions, members of WAGI, students and teachers from Miriam College. Gigi Francisco of WAGI  and Sonny Melencio, Vice-Chairperson of BMP, opened the meeting.

The film, an inspiring introduction to the Bolivarian revolution led by President Hugo Chavez, was described as "stunning" and "inspiring" by the participants. The discussion included comparisons with the People's Power uprisings in the Philippines and how in the Philippines, unlike in Venezuela, the momentum of these mass upsurges had been contained. There were also comments about the need for the Philippine left to study and learn from the unfolding revolution in Venezuela.

Workers at the meeting were interested in how workers in Venezuela were responding to company closures and lockouts by taking over the factories and placing them under workers control, with the support of the Chavez government. Participants also discussed the recent initiatives to set up workers militias or people's defense units, indicating the deepening of the revolution as people were armed.

There was also a tremendous interest about the health and the education "missions" of the revolution. Attempts by Venezuela and Cuba to set up the Bolivarian Alternatives for the Americas (ALBA), as an alternative economic bloc of Latin American countries opposed to the imperialist backed Free Trade Area for the Americas, was also reported on.

The meeting noted the ongoing threat to the revolution posed by the US, as well as the more recent ratcheting up of the anti-Chavez statements by the US government and the campaign in the US media against Hugo Chavez.

When volunteers were called for to set up a coordinating committee several hands shot up as leaders of mass organizations and networks, solidarity campaigns and activists with already heavy workloads, making a commitment to supporting the solidarity campaign.

The main aims of the Philippine-Venezuela Solidarity Association will be to disseminate information and be on alert to launch protest actions in defense of the Bolivarian revolution.

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The dates for the WFSY have changed. Please take note of the new ones. We are enclosing a part of the text sent by the Venezuelan National Preparatory Committee announcing the new dates for the festival:

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As mentioned in the report on the meeting in Parliament the Venezuelan Ambassador to London, Alfredo Toro Hardy, has given his support to the Hands Off Venezuela campaign. We provide a link here to a video of Mr. Hardy speaking as well as a transcript of his speech in Parliament.

The video can be found here. We reproduce the transcript below.

-- Grand Committee Room, Houses of Parliament, 2nd February 2005

Alfredo Toro Hardy (Ambassador to London of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela): Thank you very much, it's a great pleasure to be here tonight. I would like to express the gratitude of President Chávez for this movement, this network that has been so active, in which you have group of MPs, that under the leadership of Mr John McDonnell have been able to put down several motions in favour of the Venezuelan government. As well we have a group of authorities from British Unions, and of course we have a grassroots movement, Hands Off Venezuela, which has been tremendously active in promoting solidarity towards the Venezuelan government.

President Chávez is well aware of this effort, and as a matter of fact I spoke with him a few days ago and he mentioned that he would like to pass through Britain in a trip he must make to India at the beginning of March, to get in touch with you all and to personally convey his gratitude for this effort. Of course, this hasn't yet been scheduled but we are looking forward to it and we really hope he will be able to make a short stop-over here in London to meet you all.

Mr Galindez just made a very interesting approach to the problems being faced by the government internally. Perhaps I could talk a little bit about the problems being faced externally. And essentially I would like to refer to the problems that the Venezuelan government has vis-à-vis the Bush administration in the United States. Essentially I would say there are three areas in which differences emerge: political differences, economic differences and two different perspectives on foreign policy.

As for the political differences, I would say that President Chávez' government has been making a tremendous effort in order to empower the majority of the population that traditionally have been excluded. In order to do so, he has promoted a participatory model of democracy in which people have to act, in which people have to defend, people have to be vigilant of the political process. And as a result of that, since his election in 1998, he has promoted all of this. In any case there have been eight electoral processes in which people have been involved participatorily. In all those eight elections, in addition to the one that President Chávez won in 1998, President Chávez himself, his policies or his candidates, have won.

Notwithstanding that fact, the United States keeps insisting that we don't have a true democracy in Venezuela. The reason maybe lies in the fact that in the concept of American democracy there is a clear distinction between what they scornfully call "mass democracy" and what they call "liberal democracy". For them, there is an anti-majoritarian view of politics that goes against this kind of participatory democracy that we tend to promote in Venezuela. And in essence, what they clearly fail to understand is that throughout history - and again, I must say that for them the essence of democracy is the protection of minority - what they fail to understand is precisely that Venezuela, throughout its history, has had governments of the minorities, for the minorities, and by the minorities; and with the exclusion of the majority. And that is precisely what we are trying to correct. This difference is a fundamental difference which is very difficult to overcome.

But there is also the economic element. From an economic point of view, the United States tries to impose a market economy like in America, and they tried to impose the Washington Consensus within the region, which of course implies a decalogue of principles like trade liberalisation, privatisation, fiscal reform, and so on and so forth. But the fact is that within the application of these policies the results have been quite clear. Latin America is probably the only region, or certainly the only region in the world, whose economic indicators in the '90s were much worse than they were in the '70s. According to the Latin American Commission of the United Nations, Latin America's GDP decreased by almost 2% between 1997 and 2003. During that same period the number of people living in poverty in the region was essentially increased, as a matter of fact we have twenty million more poor people in 2003 than we had in 1997. So this whole concept of trying to promote this American concept, this market economy concept, of trying to promote economic growth through a market economy with a final end of generating a "trickle-down" that someday, sometime, someplace will generate social justice, is clearly not working in Latin America.

What President Chávez proposes is just the opposite: emphasising the human being, emphasising education, health-care, social and civic consciousness, new political parties, social capital. That is, trying to promote a more human society and a much more productive citizen. At the end of the day, instead of a "trickle-down" it's a sort of a "trickle-up", in which a much more conscious and prepared citizen will be able to produce prosperity.

There is also the main difference from the point of view of foreign policy. The United States promotes unilateralism, unipolarity, prevention of international laws, and of course a tight control of Latin America within the context of the Free Trade Area of the Americas; whereas Venezuela with President Chávez' government proposes co-operative multi-lateralism, multi-polarity, international law, and of course a Latin America as independent as possible, within the context of a Free Trade Area of Latin America.

Of course, this last point is perhaps the most sensitive for the Americans because they would like to see us as a part of their economy. But the example of Mexico speaks for itself. Mexico is a bordering country to the United States, which has a very powerful ethnic lobby within the United States. And notwithstanding that reality, Mexico is in a very difficult position as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico had to relinquish some fundamental sectors of its economy in order to integrate itself to the United States, among them agriculture. Those sectors have been totally swept off, and notwithstanding that fact, Mexico is cornered because it's incapable of competing with the Chinese products within the American market. If that happens to Mexico, what may happen to the rest of Latin America? Hence, President Chávez' emphasis on creating our own model of Latin American integration. It's not only about jobs, but it's rational.

There are some fundamental differences, but at the end of the day, we need the solidarity of all of you. It is fundamental because we are facing a tremendous campaign which every day is felt, through the mass media, the declarations of Washington authorities, and through many governments which are close allies with Washington. We need your solidarity and we are very grateful for it. Thank you very much.

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