Ricardo Galindez’s tour of Britain kicked off with a big success yesterday. Over 80 people filled the Grand Committee Rooms in the British House of Commons to hear the Venezuelan trade union leader outline the latest developments in the Bolivarian Revolution.

The meeting was sponsored by John McDonnell MP, the honorary President of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign and chaired by Jeremy Dear, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.

John Mc Donnell

John McDonnell opened the meeting by explaining the vital importance of the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign in raising the issue of the Venezuelan revolution throughout the labour movement. In particular, in this general election year, it was essential to put pressure on Labour MPs and through them on the Labour government. “In the past we supported the cause of revolutions that had been crushed by imperialism, now we have a chance of supporting a revolution in the making”, he said.

Ricardo Galindez spoke of his experiences in the fast moving events of the Venezuelan Revolution. He explained the masses, aroused by the election of Hugo Chavez, had faced up to every challenge, including the recent Referendum, to deal a blow to the counter-revolution and the rule of the oligarchy. “On the day of the Referendum, the Opposition suffered a serious blow”, he said. “It was produced by the strength of the masses and introduced profound demoralisation into the ranks of the Opposition. They disappeared from the streets.” However, Ricardo warned that the counter-revolution would never give up. “They continue to conspire and plot. They keep factories closed.” They were behind the recent assassination of the prosecutor investigating the coup organisers.

Ricardo then explained that the recent kidnapping of the FARC representative in Caracas by Colombian special forces in alliance with some Venezuelan military officials was a provocation, behind which lies the hand of Washington.

Ricardo Galindez

He went on to explain that the UNT was a growing force. The working class has put its stamp on the revolution and the nationalisation of Venepal was a “turning-point”, so he said. Ricardo welcomed the comments of President Chavez in explaining that the Bolivarian revolution could not remain within the confines of capitalism. Only by taking the socialist road and nationalising the banks, finance houses and major companies can we succeed. He warned, however, that the revolution is not complete. To avoid defeat it must go forward and break the power of the oligarchy by nationalising their property and placing it under workers’ control.

Comrade Galindez ended his speech with the words: “We shall win. We have got to win. We WILL win!”

The next speaker was the Venezuelan Ambassador to London, Alfredo Toro Hardy. He explained that President Chavez was well aware of the fine work of the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign in Britain. “In fact, I spoke to President Chavez a few days ago and he was keen to make a short stop-over visit to Britain to meet with you”, stated Mr Hardy to rapturous applause.

The Venezuelan Ambassador
Alfredo Toro Hardy

The Ambassador outlined the policies of the Chavez government and the grave difficulties Venezuela faced from the aggressive stance of the United States. Hugo Chavez had won 8 different electoral processes in addition to his presidential election in 1998, and yet the hostile media are calling him a dictator!

The model of free-market capitalism that the United States is attempting to impose on Latin America has been a disaster, he said. Latin American indicators are worse in the 1990s than in the 1970s. “The model advocated by President Chavez is rational”, he explained. He ended his speech with the appeal: “We need your help.”

Manzoor Ahmed

Comrade Manzoor, member of the Pakistani Parliament, and who met President Chavez in Venezuela last year, also addressed the meeting. In his contribution, he drew comparisons between the Bolivarian Revolution and the revolution in Pakistan in 1969. In Pakistan, the revolution under the leadership of Bhutto, went half way, and resulted in the counter-revolution being able to muster its forces and overthrow Bhutto in a military coup. The conclusion he drew was that it is necessary to carry through the socialist revolution to the very end. There was no other road, stated Manzoor.

A lively period of questions and discussion followed from the floor. A collection was also held which raised an excellent £150 for the funds of the campaign. After a brief reply from the Ambassador and Ricardo, Jeremy Dear summed up the meeting and appealed for the Campaign to be raised in every corner of the labour movement. He also expressed his deep appreciation to John McDonnell for his help, which was also heartily appreciated by thunderous applause from the audience.

Once again, the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign has held a successful meeting in the House of Commons. The task now is to take the Campaign to every trade union branch, every trades council, every shop stewards’ meeting and every student union, to build it into a mass movement in defence of the Venezuelan Revolution.

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The supporters of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign are going to start the New Year in the same way as they finished 2004 – by raising the profile of the Venezuelan Revolution. In December 2004 Hands Off Venezuela supporters in London organised a speaking tour for Oscar Negrin, who is the head teacher of a school in Caracas occupied by the pupils and the community as a response to the bosses’ lockout of December 2002.Ricardo Galindez

In February Hands Off Venezuela supporters are hosting the Venezuelan trade unionist and Marxist, Ricardo Galindez. This comrade, originally from Barquisimeto, has been the editor of the socialist journal El Topo Obrero for more than 20 years. He has participated in the revolutionary process since the very beginning. His involvement in left-wing politics cost him the hatred of the bosses in the state of Lara and a bullet in his chest that almost killed him. That was not the only time that the bosses’ thugs picked on him. He was also on the front line during the creation of the UNT. From the very first moment he pushed for resolutions outlining the anti-capitalist nature and militant approach of the new Venezuelan trade union. In February labour movement activists and youth in London, Cambridge and Dublin will have the chance to hear a first hand report of what is going on in Venezuela at the moment. Hands Off Venezuela is aiming to extend solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution across the left. Galindez is going to meet students, trade union activists, progressive MPs and anti-war activists during the 10 days he will be spending in Britain and Ireland.

This is a very interesting moment for the Venezuelan Revolution. On the one hand occupied factories like Venepal are raising the question "who runs the country?" and demonstrating to everybody that bosses are not necessary to run society. Galindez is a leading figure in the solidarity committee with the Venepal workers. On the other hand, Chavez is accelerating the process of land reform. This process of speeding up the land reform has been stirred up by the intervention at “El Charcote”. This is a cattle ranch owned by the British company Vestey Group Ltd. This intervention is the first in a chain of 15 landed estate interventions in the state of Cojedes alone. This measure attacks the interests of the Venezuelan oligarchy, which has continually plotted against the Venezuelan Revolution head on. All of us will have the chance to discuss all these issues with Ricardo Galindez, and find out what more can be done to support the Venezuelan revolution.

Do not miss Ricardo Galindez speaking in Parliament!

Wednesday 2nd February, 7.30 pm
Grand Committee room, House of Commons
(St. Stephen's entrance).
Nearest tube station: Westminster.
Other speakers: John McDonnell MP and Mick Rix
Chair: Jeremy Dear

Check www.handsoffvenezuela.org (right column) to find out details of other meetings in London, Cambridge and Dublin.

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The youth make up one of the most progressive, radical, and dynamic forces of society. Continuously they are the catalystic forces for social transformation and progress. The future of every country is shaped by the united efforts of its young people, making them one of the main targets of capitalist globalization and the ideological offensive of imperialism.

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Oscar Negrin
Oscar Negrin
Oscar Negrin, elected leader of the Juan Bautista Alberdi school in Caracas, during his short visit to the UK, went on a short speaking tour for the Hands Off Venezuela campaign. In a three-day trip at the beginning of December he spoke to trade union meetings and met with some Labour MPs. Despite being organised at short notice people were willing to fit us in, in some cases adapting their schedules to do so. This shows the growing awareness and support at all levels for the campaign and the revolutionary process in Venezuela.

On the first day of the visit we were able to meet with leading leftwing Labour MP, John McDonnell. John has been a keen supporter of the process in Venezuela from the very beginning. Oscar explained the processes that are unfolding in Venezuela, describing the mood that now exists on the ground and touching on some recent developments in the revolutionary process such as the Venepal occupation. He also described the trade union situation in Venezuela where there has been a flooding of workers out of the CTV unions following the ongoing betrayal of the leadership which came to a head in 2002 at the time of the coup, and then again in the form of a bosses' lockout. Oscar and John discussed the importance of the new union federation, the UNT, which was created by workers and trade union activists following these events and now organises the vast majority of workers.

John recognised the degenerate nature of the CTV, noting however that it is still formally recognised by the British TUC. He said that in his opinion this is the biggest task of the campaign in Britain over the next period, to explain the real situation in Venezuela and convince the British labour movement to back the UNT instead of the CTV. He also told us that he is organising a delegation of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs to Venezuela in the first half of next year and that this would help build trade union support in the future since the Campaign Group is closely linked with the parliamentary groups of many of the leading unions and would be able to report their findings to them. Oscar was invited to address the Socialist Campaign Group parliamentary caucus the following day; the meeting went well with offers of support and advice.

Two public meetings were organised as part of the visit. The first was organised by the UCL (University College London) Social Forum, the subject was "radical perspectives and teaching". British classroom assistant, Alex Higgins, described his experience of the British teaching system saying that it is not centred enough on learning and the needs of the child but instead is bogged down by bureaucracy and government targets. He described the experiments that he has tried in his teaching to engage more with the children.

Oscar spoke about the situation in his school in Venezuela. He described the actions of the former headmistress who, like the rest of the opposition, used her position to try to topple the democratically elected regime. The school was closed for the duration of the bosses' lockout in December 2002-January 2003, however even after this was defeated the headmistress refused to re-open the school saying: "it will not reopen until Chavez is removed from the Presidency."

Meeting at the UCL
It was as a result of this that the community, with the school pupils at the forefront, decided to take over the running of the school. The conditions that they found in the school were horrific, no proper toilets, no running water and a lack of basic teaching materials; the school building itself was a run-down wreck. The community set about renovating the school building, getting hold of new teaching materials and setting up proper classes for the children. After some problems with the old school leaders trying to retake control of the running of the school they have now been given the backing of the education minister who publicly promised them support on the weekly Hola Presidente television programme.

Oscar went on to explain the locally based initiatives that they are taking, all under discussion and control of the community. These tie in with the initiatives (missions) that have been launched by the Chavez government in the education system. These include attempts to increase the number of poor children going on to further education at university, encouraging and extending adult education and trying to eradicate illiteracy.

The second public meeting organised by Hands Off Venezuela took place in the National Union of Journalists' headquarters where a sizeable audience came to hear Oscar speak and a lively discussion followed.

There was great energy and optimism in all the speeches of Oscar Negrin, both in the public and private meetings which we had. This expresses the mood of the Venezuelan people who are in the process of getting off their knees and taking over the running of their local communities and society as a whole for the first time.

During the visit we also had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of four trade unions, NATFHE, the university and college lecturers' union, the NUJ, journalists' union and two railworkers' unions ASLEF and the RMT.

At NATFHE, we talked at length with the International Officer, Paul Bennett. Oscar explained recent developments in the Venezuelan situation including the events surrounding the recall referendum and the assassination of leading Chavez supporter Danilo Anderson which is an indication of how desperate the opposition is to reassert control by hook or by crook. He touched on the situation at his school and talked about the new initiatives that the government was taking in education. Paul congratulated Oscar on the work that the school has done and said that it is an excellent example of the Bolivarian revolution in practise. We also met briefly with the General Secretary and President who said they were tied up with other business but nonetheless are very supportive.

Oscar with Jeremy
Jeremy Dear and Oscar Negrin
In our meeting with NUJ General Secretary, Jeremy Dear, Oscar explained the role of the new media in Venezuela where the government has done a lot to open up the mass media to the people including establishing community television projects and subsidising the publication of local papers on news, culture and current affairs; this is part of the flowering of culture and discussion that is taking place in Venezuelan society at the current time as people try to understand the events taking place around them and find a way forward. Jeremy Dear has been an active supporter of the campaign from its inception and has promised to take it forward among the trade union leaderships with the aim of organising a delegation of trade union leaders who could see the revolutionary process at first hand.

At ASLEF we had a tour of the building, meeting with various union workers and discussing the situation in Venezuela, and among them Justice for Columbia who have offices in the building.

In the afternoon we addressed the RMT Executive Committee. Oscar explained the recent history of Venezuela up to the current time, going through the inspiring movements of the workers and peasants that have time and again stepped in to save the regime at the decisive moment. There was great interest in the situation; we overran our time for questions because there were so many. RMT General Secretary Bob Crow promised support for the campaign; he was keen to look at organising an RMT delegation to Venezuela and expressed a strong interest in getting Venezuelan transport workers to speak at the union's AGM.

The results of this trip are very promising. Both the rank and file and those at the highest level of the British labour movement have an interest in what is going on in Venezuela. There is therefore good potential for the campaign to go forward. This visit has helped raise the profile of the events in Venezuela in the movement and among a layer of student activists and lays good foundations for the campaign of solidarity in the future.

December 15, 2004

See also a picture gallery of the speaking tour

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The first will be on Saturday the 11th at 8 pm at the Lemp Arts Center at 3301 Lemp Ave. near the A-B brewery, where we will be showing the film "Venezuela Bolivariana" alongside a show by the band Softer Than Yesterday. There is a $2 cover charge since this is on a band night.

On Saturday the 18th at 11 am at the U-City public library, 6701 Delmar, we will be showing "Venezuela Bolivariana" and having a discussion afterwards about the most recent events in Venezuela and the work of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign internationally. This is a free event.

The Hands Off Venezuela campaign is an international campaign formed to build solidarity with the working people and poor of Venezuela who have been fighting against the "neo-liberal" economic policies of Washington D.C. and Wall Street and for radical social and economic reform. Alongside this the HoV campaign demands that the US keep its "hands off" Venezuela, with the decades-long military intervention in Colombia showing what this brings.

The HoV campaign is currently circulating a petition in support of the workers of Venepal paper mill, who despite the bosses' fclosure of this massive facility have continued to keep it in operation while calling for its nationalization under workers' control. These petitions go a long way to help bolster and encourage the working people of Venezuela, so please come and help support the campaign!

For more information contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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