Solidarity Activities

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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 We are very delighted to publish this report on Jorge Martin's speaking tour in Ireland. The author is a young Republican Socialist based in Belfast with a long experience in anti-imperialist solidarity such as the "Boycott Coca-Cola" campaign and the movement against the imperialist war on Iraq.


"How many people are you expecting to attend this evening?" Jorge enquires of me over a cup of coffee in Belfast’s An Culturlann and to be honest, I wasn’t sure how to answer his question. Despite a flurry of promotional activity during the previous week, it was difficult to predict how many people would break a growing pattern of political apathy in West Belfast and actually bother to turn up to the event.

To compound my concerns, I had just heard that Sinn Fein had organised a protest to highlight what they see as a "Crisis of Democracy" meaning a lot of their activists would miss the film and the debate that I hoped would follow. I cursed the irony of this eventuality.

As the political pressure was heaping upon them, Provisional Sinn Fein planned a protest against an attack on the bourgeois democratic system that the "Venezuela Bolivariana, people & struggle in the fourth World War" film so clearly illustrates as corrupt and undemocratic. Alas, I thought, it was an opportunity missed.ireland2.JPG

At ten to seven, there was only myself, Jorge and another guy who had volunteered to take some photos and I had secretly resigned myself to the event’s failure. Then as luck would have it, a small group of people arrived at the theatre looking a little lost and after some investigating downstairs, I had found a large group of people looking for the room in which the event was taking place. After directing the crowd upstairs, I was bouyed to see more and more people arriving until there was a crowd of around 45 people sitting in the row of the small arena, a handsome number at an event of this kind.

The promotional activity had paid off, it seems. During the week running up to the event, myself and some kind volunteers had spent a couple of days plastering up around 200 posters around the working class areas of West Belfast. A fortune was spent on text messages, emails were sent to thousands of recipients and every newspaper with a wide readership had been hit with a torrent of daily press releases on the event.ireland1.JPG

When Jorge arrived in Belfast, he didn’t really have much time to “enjoy” the cold weather as he was giving an interview on a Belfast community radio show as well as an interview to a journalist who writes for the Andersonstown News (a tabloid sensationalist type local paper but with a wide readership none the less). Now he had settled down to give a good sized and well represented audience an introduction to the film.

The feelings in the arena were tangible during the emotive scenes in the film. The audience were noticebaly moved by the scenes of the Venezuelan people showing the power of collective action in the face of often brutal repression and the applause at the end indicated how well the film’s contents were recieved.

The potential debate however was somewhat unfulfilled. The large numbers attending perhaps intimidated some audience members from enquiring on the subject. Jorge however gave a clear and lengthy summary of some of the more up to date events in the revolution as well as elaboration on some of the important points in the film and as is generally the case in these matters, futher debate carried on in the pub long after the film ended.

Next stop Derry, and after meeting some comrades, Jorge and myself set off for BBC Radio Foyle where Jorge was afforded a brief interview with the afternoon talk show DJ Mark Patterson where the night event was plugged and the revolution was given a brief summary.

The Derry event was held in Sandino’s Bar which is seen as a bar visited by progressive and leftwing people as evidenced by the name. Despite a lower turnout than the Belfast event (some 20-25 people), the film sparked a greater degree of debate. The audience contained a good representation of the city’s left wing, including the SWP, SEA as well as the IRSP and some People’s Democracy members.

The scenes of state violence used to quell the Caracas riots in 1989 mirrored that of the scenes of Derry’s Bloody Sunday and this was picked up by the audience who then drew further parallelles between the Venezuelan Bolivarian process and the Irish class struggle.

The third and last event took place in Strabane, a large border town some 20 miles from Derry, but due to unforeseen difficulties, the venue of the event had to be changed, but the local IRSP comrades gently provided their offices to host the meeting. The audience was made up of young Socialist comrades who despite their young age, took to the film’s message of the collective power of the people. Some debate took place after the event and I was heartened to see some of the young comrades avail themselves of some of the literature provided by Jorge Martin.

The speaker made an important point in his address at the Belfast event. "The Venezuelan Revolution is having a positive effect in Cuba in that it is giving renewed heart and encouragement after forty plus years of isolation." During a time when radical politics is on the decline here in Ireland it has also given me and others like me hope that there is still a place and role for a true democracy of the people.

The Venezuelan Revolution of the people’s conscienceness is today’s reference to all progressive people’s struggles throughout the world and I hope to use it as such when I debate with other brothers and sisters about the future direction of the class struggle in Ireland. I also hope some of the others who watched the film during Jorge’s short visit do the same. Just for that reason, Jorge's visit has been extremely useful and I look forward to working with him and the Hands Off Venezuela comrades in the future.

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The following is a transcript from a talk given by Venezuelan trade unionist Ricardo Galindez at the East Anglia Social Forum during his recent tour of Britain.


I will start from the very beginnings of 2003 and what happened then. The events that took place at the end of 2002 and 2003 were preceded by the coup that took place at the beginning of 2002. The political factions and the bosses that had been removed from power with the election of Hugo Chavez did not stop their attempts to plot the overthrow of Chavez. Even shortly after the victory of the masses against the coup d'état, the bosses and the oligarchy started plotting against the democratic government and promoted some marches against the government. At the end of 2002 the imperialists and the local oligarchy tried to carry out sabotage in the oil industry in order to block the economy and try to push the people against the Venezuelan government itself.

The ruling class in Venezuela did not understand that the defeat that they suffered on the 11th of April 2002 was just a show of strength of the working classes in Venezuela, because the masses identified themselves with the ongoing revolutionary process. Maybe it’s not what everyone expected, but it is the very beginning of something bigger.

While on the 11th April people came out onto the streets to defend their democratic civil rights, in December of the same year we could see how the people as well as the working class tried to defend the revolution.

We could see how the bosses were paying workers to stay at home in order to carry out sabotage against the Venezuelan economy, we could see the answer of the working class in various cities and towns around Venezuela that continued to carry out their working activity in order to defeat this sabotage that was being carried out by the oligarchy and the imperialists.

We could see how in the countryside on the massive land estates and in some sectors of industry and also in the oil industry the workers were producing under workers’ control. There were no bosses at all. In a wide range of industry, such as the sugar producing industry and also the most important of all, the oil industry, we could see how the workers were producing under their own control. There was the example of the oil refinery in Puerto la Cruz where the workers took it over and were carrying out economic activity themselves. In El Palito there was also workers’ control and in the other refinery the workers maintained production for two months with no bosses and strict discipline in the company.

Once the lock out was defeated in the oil industry, the bosses decided to extend the lockout to education. As soon as the parents and the pupils saw that the schools had been closed, they decided to reopen them, sometimes occupying the schools, asking the government to send teachers to the schools and sometimes when they didn’t have teachers the parents provided lessons to the pupils.

Meanwhile the imperialists and the local oligarchy did not give up their attempt to create chaos. They called demonstrations and marches which were answered by the Bolivarian movement with bigger marches, bigger demonstrations.

Let’s say that if the opposition were taking out on the streets ten thousand, the Bolivarians were taking out one hundred thousand, and if they took out onto the streets one hundred thousand we took out three hundred thousand – always outnumbering them.

Then the local and the mainstream media, all the newspapers, all the TV channels started a campaign to call for a presidential recall referendum. This referendum was defeated. What happened was that, when they saw that by illegal means they could not force the government out, they decided to take the legal road. They decided to start again their campaign for a recall referendum. What happened was that the electoral commission of Venezuela gave up and said okay you can have the referendum.

The point is that it is true that this referendum was not well received among the masses and people were quite angry. When President Chavez said now is the time to unite forces and defeat the referendum, well, we did it and defeated this process.

Even if they were not happy with that, they decided that they had to do it because that was a historical moment for the Venezuelan masses. For the first time in history the Venezuelan people were going to organise an electoral process under their control and through popular organisations like the Electoral Battle Units and other popular organisations

1,200,000 people organised themselves. Students and workers organised in these UBEs, Electoral Battle Units. Well, of course, the workers and students in the neighbourhoods organised themselves. They set up the structures to canvass in order to win this recall referendum.

The victory in this recall referendum for the ‘NO’ option against the recall of Hugo Chavez was the beginning of a new period in the Venezuelan revolution. Let’s say that the oligarchy could not cope with a defeat and they did lose lots of support from the middle classes. They suffered the disbandment of their own forces and suddenly their own leaders no longer appeared on TV and in the newspapers, and did not show up in public life.

After the success of the recall referendum the regional council elections took place and the Opposition, the oligarchy, was limited to holding on to just two states. Now the struggle of the Opposition is based in the state of Zulia, a region on the border with Colombia, an area very rich in oil. Even the governor of this state, once he saw the results, started to shift his position towards President Chavez!

Defeat was terrible for them. The umbrella group, that they had organised all the opposition parties under, has been disbanded. After the defeat, Mendoza, the governor of the state of Carabobo, disappeared from public life after the defeat.

The more astute sections of the bourgeoisie started to approach President Chavez in order to appear more polite towards him. They began to moderate their opposition to Chavez. As the saying goes, if you cannot beat them, join them until you have enough forces to defeat them. This is the policy of imperialism and the local bourgeoisie in Venezuela today.

After the great defeat suffered in the eighties the labour movement had started to recover in the nineties. At the beginning of the nineties the workers decided to set up a new trade union federation outside of the CTV. It was in 2002 that they finally decided to abandon the CTV and set up a new Venezuelan trade union federation. It is true that in the beginning they had many problems to overcome, however they are overcoming these and now they are back at the same level of organisation as before.

Due to the lockout that took place at the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003, there were many companies that were closed down. What is true is that most of these companies closed down due to imperialist sabotage of the economy, and after the defeat of the lockout these companies remained closed.

At that time many workers decided to reopen the factories, occupy them and run them by themselves and they demanded that the government nationalise these factories under workers’ controls as well as many other factories.

This movement was the beginning of the victory that was to take place at Venepal. With regards to Venepal this company was closed down in 2003, then the government helped the bosses to reopen it. Later on they closed down the factory again, and the second victory of the Venepal workers was when the government decided to nationalise the company under workers’ control.

It is not clear what form of workers’ control this company is going to adopt. Whether it is going to be a co-op, direct control of the workers or a shared control of the company by workers and the state. However, what is true is that the plan the government is going to undertake is the plan elaborated by the workers in the company. The decision of the government to take this company over is a massive victory.

It is true that the government has not expressed a will to nationalise all companies. They say that this is not going to be the main trend, but they also say that the Venepal example is going to be the model for other companies that have closed down and have not reopened yet. The Venepal experience also boosts the confidence of the workers in Venezuela because they can see the possibility of working for a company where the boss is not a coup plotter.

All these measures, the nationalisation, the war against the big landed estates, the latifundia, the process of land reform and also the deepening of the revolution, the “Into the neighbourhoods” social programme, on health care in the poorest neighbourhoods, are all having an effect. For instance, they have announced the building of six hundred hospitals across the country. All of this is a major victory, a step forward for the movement.

These are the questions that concern imperialism, that concern the Venezuelan opposition. We should remember that the US has been suffering from the Cuba syndrome since 1961. At that time, in 1961, the revolution that initially was based on many democratic demands was later forced to go beyond the confines of capitalism. It was forced to take socialist measures.

This is what the imperialists are worried about. And this brings us to the latest Rodrigo Granda [FARC Foreign minister] case. He is a Colombian citizen who came to Venezuela and naturalised himself as Venezuelan. He had both nationalities, Colombian and Venezuelan.

He was not living in underground conditions; he was living with his family under his own name. He was recently kidnapped by Venezuelan police that had been bribed beforehand by the Colombian authorities. The imperialists have thus staged a stunt “against terrorism” and so forth.

The Venezuelan opposition recently tried to gather its forces once again and launched another march that took place on January 23. The aim was to heat things up but they were not successful. The march was a complete failure. As if this were not bad enough for the opposition, the government called another march where hundreds of thousands of people turned out in the streets.

The government gave only four or five days’ notice to call this demonstration. This shows that, as opposed to the forces of reaction, of the opposition, that are completely demoralised and demobilises, the Venezuelan people support the process of strengthening democracy and deepening the revolution. They are very active and have the ability to mobilise themselves.

It’s true that the opposition has been defeated more than once and is demoralise. However, the imperialists have not given up. They are staging more actions against the Venezuelan revolution. The imperialists are active and are looking for the easiest way to create trouble. Yes, the imperialists are active, but we are also active! We are pushing for things like nationalisation, land reform, the deepening of the social programmes and trying to sort out all the problems we have and to carry on.

I believe that from the point of view of all the people who are involved in the trade unions, the only way to achieve victory for the Venezuelan revolution is to go beyond the confines of capitalism and to install socialism in Venezuela.

Questions and answers

Question: “I was just wondering, it was very interesting to hear about the occupied factories. Are the occupied factories in Venezuela in much contact with the occupied factories in Argentina? I didn’t realise it had been happening in other countries as well.”

Answer: Today there is no such communication between factories occupied in Argentina and those occupied in Venezuela. However, two years ago when the process was alive and the workers started to occupy the factories, a delegation of Argentinean workers was invited by the secretary of labour in Venezuela to come over to visit the occupied factories.

At that time, when we had some activities, they exchanged experiences, and at the end of this visit the ministry of labour drafted a plan based on the Argentinean experience and now they are going to use this to carry out all the necessary action for the reopening of Venezuelan factories. Even now that we have achieved the nationalisation of Venepal, we should invite workers from Argentinean factories to go over to Venezuela to share more experiences.

Q: How does the organisation operate at grass roots level, because there are so many people involved? I’m interested in how they communicate. I’m not entirely clear how much the policy such as land reform is driven by the government and how much by the mass movement making the government do it.

A: Right now it is true that the government is leading the process, however we can see that from below there is a force. There is a mass of people that is pushing to have its demands heard, the demands of the community on the government. There are also land committees, grass roots organisations, that try to implement land reform not only in the countryside but also in the cities. There are also community labour groups that have managed to get works approved for new socially useful buildings and things of this kind, that are going to be controlled by the community.

Q: You mentioned workers’ control. I’m interested in this. We read it in the papers that the paper industry is coming under workers’ control. It is clear that this is far deeper than the nationalisation we have seen here in Britain. But it does not involve the whole economy. So how does it actually work? If you work in a factory that is run under workers’ control what would that mean for me in terms of how I influence what goes on?

A: Right now in Venezuela they already have experience of workers’ control in the sugar refineries. The company that the government nationalised was handed over to the workers and also to the cane sugar workers, the ones who carry the cane sugar. The company has been working well. The workers elect their own representatives to the board of administration of the company. But at the same time they also organise their own trade union. Now, this company, in spite of all the problems, is the most productive company in Venezuela. Then, there is the example of the workers in the old state owned oil company in 2002-2003. Those workers through meetings in the factories decided what to produce, how to produce it and when to produce it.

The oil workers had the support of the armed forces and the community was also there offering them support. They had the power to decide on production, distribution, supply and so forth. How could they go back to a so-called ‘normal situation’ where the workers are given orders?

The Venepal workers elaborated a project, in the form of a book with 200 to 300 pages. In this book the workers explain every little detail concerning production, from the machines, to the sheets, everything is in there, even the tea machine. And that was when the company was first closed, when the government pumped some money into the company the first time in 2001.

At that time they won a right, it was a kind of shared control of the company. There was a machine that was needed to produce power, to produce electricity. This machine broke down, so they called a technician from Germany where the machine had been originally produced. Well the workers decided to fix the machine without asking the management and now this machine is still there producing more power than before. It shows the enormous potential of the workers.

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The meeting of the Hands off Venezuela campaign held in the offices of the AT&GWU in Dublin was the biggest meeting on Latin America ever hosted there. These were the words of the brothers and sisters of LASC (Latin American Solidarity Centre). 115 people attended the meeting to hear Ricardo Galindez speak.

Richard Gott, former Latin American correspondent for The Guardian, was present at the meeting and explained the events that have unfolded since the very first electoral victory of Hugo Chavez. He pointed out that even then a strategy to oust him was being prepared. The British journalist said he had been to Venezuela and that he had witnessed the development of the social programmes known as “misiones”, and explained how beneficial they were for the ordinary working people.

Mick McCaughan, the author of The Battle for Venezuela, was also at the meeting. He briefly spoke about the position of the Venezuelan revolutionary process in the context of the general struggle taking place across the whole of Latin America, where important struggles and movements have been developing in countries like Bolivia, Peru and Argentina amongst others.

Ricardo Galindez explained just how important the revolution in Venezuela is. The ability of the Venezuelan masses to mobilise and organise themselves has been demonstrated through the formation of the Bolivarian Circles, UBEs (Electoral Battle Units), the social programmes, and the creation of new trade unions and the UNT itself. What this shows is that the revolutionary process is on the ascent.

Galindez stressed the need to develop solidarity with the revolution because international solidarity can be a powerful weapon in the struggle against US imperialism and the transnational corporations that are attempting to isolate the revolution.

He also explained that the leadership of Hugo Chavez has been evolving. Chavez began his presidency on the basis of democratic demands and by standing against “neo-liberal capitalism”, and has now moved to an anti-imperialist position. He recently pointed out that the root cause of the problems of the Venezuelan people was capitalism, and that the only solution to these problems was the establishment of a socialist society – a genuine socialist society.

An anti-globalisation activist also took the platform and gave a first hand report of her experiences at the World Social Forum where Chavez met with activists and trade unionists from all over the world.

The interest in what is happening in Venezuela was so big that even after the meeting was officially over the discussion continued. At the end of the meeting a number of those present came up to the speakers to carry on the debate. They asked further questions about the revolutionary process in Venezuela and wanted to know a lot more about what is really happening.

This short trip to Ireland showed that the Irish workers have a keen interest in what is happening in Venezuela. Links with important trade unions were forged and the ground has been laid for future solidarity activities in Ireland.

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Ricardo Galindez’s trip to Ireland over the weekend was a big success. Ricardo was a delegate to the founding conference of the Venezuelan UNT, a union that was built in opposition to the completely bureaucratised CTV that has gone over to the reactionary oligarchy in Venezuela. He is currently an official of the union and trade union adviser. The trip was part of Galindez’s speaking tour to build international solidarity with the Venezuelan Revolution.

During his 36 hour-long visit comrade Galindez met with some Latin American Solidarity Centre (LASC) activists, who organised the Dublin part of Ricardo’s tour.

On the evening of February 5, Galindez, along with LASC and Hands Off Venezuela activists, visited Jack O’Connor, President of the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU). During the two-hour meeting with O’Connor Galindez outlined the current situation in Venezuela. He analysed the revolutionary process and the situation the Venezuelan labour movement is facing. He explained that the workers are leaving the empty shell of the discredited CTV in droves and are moving into the UNT.

The CTV was closely associated with the bosses who were behind the 2002 coup attempt to overthrow Chavez. It is openly supporting the forces of imperialism rather than the interests of the Venezuelan workers. On this basis Ricardo explained the importance of recognising the UNT as the legitimate Trade Union Confederation in Venezuela.

O’Connor was also invited to visit Venezuela together with other trade union leaders so that they could see for themselves what is really happening in the country and see first hand the massive campaign of slander and lies which is being mounted against the Venezuelan revolution and the democratic and anti-capitalist movement represented by the UNT.

O’Connor was also asked to invite Venezuelan trade unionists to address the leaders and the rank and file of the Irish trade union movement. The two trade unionists expressed the importance and necessity of developing solidarity with Venezuela and weakening the positions of US imperialism and the transnational corporations that are seek to destroy the revolution. They also expressed the importance of strengthening workers’ struggles in different countries in order to defeat the common enemy.

O’Connor praised Galindez’s visit and promised to address the different bodies of the union with regards to Venezuela and analyse what exactly the SIPTU could do to defend trade union rights. He expressed his full support for the Venezuelan people and the referendum victory on August 15, 2004.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to take the opportunity you have offered to me to speak on the historic developments in my country, which are today the most dynamic on the Latin American continent.

The Venezuelan people have stood up against a past of miseries and humiliations. We have said, “Enough is enough” and have started to lay down the basis of a new country. This is why the old national oligarchy, financed by dollars from the CIA and the Pentagon and supported by the mere puppets like the Colombian government or Blair in United Kingdom, have united in a “holy crusade” to rescue the “holy land”.

We have taken the first few steps, headed by the government of President Chavez, and we conquered a consciousness of political dignity and also healthcare and education services, things that in the past only existed in our dreams. Although this is little compared to what we deserve and what we can achieve, the oligarchy believes that we do not deserve these things. This is why the oligarchy, with the help of their great economic power and the intrusive dollars of US imperialism, have organised coup d’etats, marches, economic sabotage and propaganda campaigns to manipulate the situation.

However, all this power has not been enough to stop us. We have defeated them in every battle, and have consolidated our victories by taking measures to strengthen state control over our main industry. We have organised popular battalions through the Bolivarian Circles and UBEs (Electoral Battle Units). The working class itself has built its own organisations like the National Union of Workers (UNT), which has become the main trade union federation of our country.

In our thirst for justice we demanded the nationalisation of certain companies. As a result of this struggle the Chavez government has heard our demands and has nationalised the Venepal group and granted resources to run the company under the co-management of the workers and the state. This means that the doors are opened to the rescue of thousands of workplaces ignored by “Golpista” bosses.

We are here today not only to tell you about the results of our efforts but also to recognise that those results would not have been possible without the participation and militant solidarity of thousands of workers, intellectuals, members of parliament from many countries, students, democratic activists and revolutionary militants from all over the world.

We are here today and tomorrow we will be in other cities in Ireland and the UK in order to let you know that the days ahead are going to be even more difficult. The assassination of more than one hundred brothers and sisters, amongst them the prosecutor Danilo Anderson, and the provocation known as the “Granda Case” launched by US imperialism through the puppet Alvaro Uribe Vélez, clearly show this. It is very important that the militant solidarity with our revolutionary process is strengthened. President Hugo Chavez has described this process as a revolutionary, anti-imperialist process which is against capitalism. He has also recently said that the only way out of the crisis created by capitalism is socialism - true socialism. Socialism is the system where the workers have power and decisions made at all levels are the result of a democratic discussion of the oppressed and exploited people through their grassroots organizations. The leadership of these organizations would not be privileged and would be democratically elected. The people who elected them would be able to recall them at any time. These leaders would live as the workers live, ensuring that they always think as working people.

Comrades, the Venezuelan Revolution is a living process that requires your conscious solidarity. To give your solidarity is like planting the tree of life which tomorrow will bear fruit. This fruit can be used to carry out your own future revolution, the terms of which will be decided by the workers and the people of your country. This will be a struggle against an enemy already weakened by our victory.

I invite you to strengthen the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign by spreading the branches across the United Kingdom and Ireland and bring the campaign firmly into the consciousness of those that live here.

Ricardo Galíndez

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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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