Solidarity Activities

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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Public Meetings

Tuesday 7th December

University College London

Venue: Jeremy Bentham Room, UCL, just next to the UCL library, in the main building

Address: Gower Street – London – WC1E 6BT

Wednesday 8th December at 7pm

Headland House, National Union of Journalists,

308 – 320 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1

Oscar Negrin is the headteacher of the Juan Bautista Alberdi school, which was taken over by the community almost two years ago. The school was ordered to close by the mayor as part of the conspiracy to destabilise the Chavez government in December 2002.

During those first days many schools were taken over by their communities, including “Juan Bautista Alberdi”. Immediately a “Committee in Defence of the children of the school Alberdi” was founded by the students, the parents’ assembly and other representatives of the community. Faced with the bosses’ lockout they decided to take control of their school and restart classes. The Alberdi School became a real educational centre, where there is a growing understanding of how to fight for a more just and dignified world. Today, this school has become the centre of organized development of the community and a symbol of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Come and hear about the heroic struggle of the Venezuelan People! All Welcome! Plenty of time for questions and discussion.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone number: 07956676363.

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The Hands Off Venezuela Campaign will be participants along with many other groups.

If you are interested in going to Caracas or want to help organize for this international event there is a way to participate without having to go to New York.

There is a national hook up phone number (1-760-477-2024 code number 82005 starting at 12:30 p.m. east coast time) which you can call to listen to the meeting and talk and make suggestions. The meeting will be discussing guildlines for those wishing to attend, approve a flyer to publize the event, elect a steering committee and other matters.

If you are a student or youth wanting to get involved call the above phone number or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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This Summer between 15 and 20,000 youth from all over the world will go to Venezuela to take part in the World Festival of Youth and Students.

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Danilo Anderson was investigating those responsible for the 2002 coup d'etat, which saw democratically-elected president Hugo Chávez held hostage for two days while a business-military junta illegally seized power. The coup was reversed only when government supporters rose up and the army rank-and-file rebelled against their high command.

Last week John McDonnell, MP for Hayes & Harlington, condemned the murder as "a further attempt to destabilise the country by those ... who refuse to respect the will of the Venezuelan people". For the full text of his Early Day Motion (number 127, titled "Hands Off Venezuela Campaign") and a list of MPs who've signed it, please see http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=126

Credible evidence of CIA involvement in the 2002 coup has recently emerged. A memo, titled "Venezuela: Conditions Ripening for Coup Attempt", was written by the CIA just five days before the coup. Also the Spanish Foreign Minister has just confirmed that previous Aznar government actually instructed their ambassador in Caracas to support the coup.

Anderson was trained to "follow the money", and had traced millions of dollars from the US government to coup-plotters. The Venezuelan elite are angry that Chávez has been spending state oil profits on health care, education, housing and other social projects. They accuse him of populism and "buying votes" with these projects.

Two spokesmen from the Hands Off Venezuela campaign and a spokesperson from the UK Bolivarian circle condemned the terrorist action carried out by the oligarchs and imperialists. Charley Allan from Hands Off Venezuela pointed out, "In the recent referendum and regional elections, the Venezuelan people clearly showed they still overwhelmingly supported Chávez. However, there are obviously some who refuse to accept this democratic decision and will use violence and terror tactics, like this car-bombing, to try and bully the nation into submission.

"We deplore this crude attempt at intimidation and also the continued funding by the US government of the most rabid, reactionary, right-wing elements in Venezuela, which Danilo Anderson was investigating. He was a brave and honest man, and committed to the Venezuelan people's right to democratic self-determination. We wish to send a solidarity message to Venezuela that they are not alone and that they are an inspiration to all of us fighting to make the world a safer, fairer place."

These are some pictures of the event:


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The R.I. Hands Off Venezuela Campaign announces a discussion and showing of the film "The Bolivarian Revolution - ENTER THE OIL WORKERS"

Wednesday December 15, 2004 at 6:30 p.m.

Knight Memorial Public Library
275 Elmwood Avenue
Providence, R.I.

New Film: "The Bolivarian Revolution ENTER THE

Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter, yet 80% of its population (mainly people of African andIndigenous descent) live in poverty. Since Hugo Chavez was elected to use the oil revenue to eliminate poverty, there have been many attempts by the white elite and their Washington friends to overthrow his government.

In these unique interviews, oil workers – women and men – tell how and why they saved their industry from a CIA-backed coup, how they see their struggle in relation to other working class people in the world, and how they are organizing with the community and the military to "put the oil industry at the service of humanity".

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

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Extraordinary meeting of Chavez with workers in Madrid

“The working class must be the vanguard of the revolution”

By Emilia Lucena, El Militante

It is nearly five o’clock. A shy autumn sun bathes the Prado Avenue on our way to the headquarters of the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) in Madrid. When we arrive there are already more than 300 people queuing to get into the meeting hall. They patiently wait to attend the meeting with Chavez which is scheduled for 7 pm.

There is chaos. Lope de Vega is a narrow street and more and more people arrive to attend the meeting. The hall stewards are overwhelmed, some of them surprised by the enormous expectation, some ask what is the matter with Chavez and some even ask who Chavez is (one mixes him up with Andalusia president Chaves). The police officers cannot understand and do not know what attitude to adopt. One of them tries to show that he is in charge, and demonstrates the usual arrogant and contemptuous attitude of the police, but nobody pays any notice. They are all either sufficiently happy or enthused with the perspective of meeting Chavez, and are not prepared to fall into any provocations. During the nearly two hour wait, the queue breaks into singing and shouting of slogans in defence of the Venezuelan revolution and its president.

It is nearly 7pm when the doors open, and the human tide is allowed in, in groups of five. We must go through a metal detector. It is just four days since the State Prosecutor investigating those involved in the April 11 coup has died, assassinated in a terrorist attack carried out by the forces of reaction. Nobody complains. We all understand the need to take all necessary security measures. We are aware that the international counter-revolution has set its sights on Chavez.

Slowly the meeting hall fills up. There is the shouting of slogans and the singing of songs. We are shown a video of the revolution. Some singers and musicians go on stage to entertain the people before Chavez’s arrival. Amongst them are the extraordinary Olga Manzano and Quintin Cabrera, but also many others, who do not feature in the commercial music scene, but want to show their solidarity and sympathy for the revolution. Of course, [Spanish singer] Alejandro Sanz, the gusano who said that Chavez should resign because the people of Venezuela were against him, and who has now been shut up by the results of the recall referendum, is not there.

A terrible moment. It is announced that the president will not come. It is half past eight. The audience is stunned. Disillusionment runs through all those present, but it is agreed that the meeting will continue. We want to show our support for the revolution, but the mood has changed from one of enthusiasm to a disheartened one. We wanted to listen to Chavez, the leader of the Venezuelan revolution.

William Lara, the former president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and Member of Parliament, addresses the audience. His speech does not connect. He says that Venezuela is a paradise for investment from Spanish businesses. There is a stunned, and a little bit of an angry silence. These are the same businesses that exploit us day in and day out. These are the same businesses that hire young people and immigrant workers as cheap labour without rights, and demand more flexibility for wages and working conditions! We know they are not going to create wealth in Venezuela, in the same way they do not create wealth for the people here. William Lara continues with his speech and at the end adds, like an afterthought, that this investment will not have the same exploitive character as in the past. The question everybody is asking themselves is: does William Lara really know what employers are? Does he know that their profits come from our exploitation? Does he realize that they will not invest a single cent unless they have a firm guarantee that they will recover their investment tenfold by keeping the majority of the population in poverty? While Lara speaks a rumour makes the rounds: “Chavez is coming”, first it is just in the front rows, then moves throughout the hall. Nobody pays much attention to anything apart from whether Chavez is coming or not. From the stage nothing is said about this, William Lara continues to speak. At the end a powerful voice from the audience says: “Chavez is coming”. There is a spontaneous ovation. The mood is cheerful again. Now the musicians go on stage and we all sing along and clap to the songs. Later we found out what had happened. A group of people, led by Manolo Espinar of the Haydee Santamaria organisationa and JM Municio from El Militante, had gone to the Circulo de Bellas Artes, where Chavez was meeting a group of intellectuals and actors, and explained to him that 1500 workers and youth were waiting for him in the CCOO meeting hall. And they managed to bring him along! When Chavez found out that we were waiting, he did not hesitate: “I am going over there, even if it is just to give a 15 minute greeting”. As he himself said later: “thank you, you have rescued me from the intellectuals to bring me to the workers”.

The hours go by and he still does not arrive. The banners in the hall still speak solidarity from the walls. Amongst them is one from El Militante and the Sindicato de Estudiantes (Spanish Students Union) which reads: “Venepal: nationalization under workers control”.

Nobody leaves. Now and then the news is confirmed: despite the delay, Chavez is coming. We are waiting. Messages of support are read to the meeting. At the beginning two were read from the Alliance of Anti-imperialist Intellectuals and another one from Culture against War. Then they read the one from the Sindicato de Estudiantes, which was interrupted by ovations twice. Then, in between the songs, others are read: from the Communist Party, the Red Current, El Militante, the international Hands Off Venezuela Campaign ... We sing some songs and then The Internationale. The whole room has raised fists as the Internationale comes out of our throats like the shout of revolutionary struggle, solidarity and proletarian internationalism.

At last, at 10:30 pm, after waiting for more than 5 hours, Chavez arrives! The enthusiasm is overwhelming. There is a standing ovation and raised fists as we greet him.

He is standing on stage. He is obviously tired but also moved by the greeting and the enthusiasm overfilling the hall. He apologises for the delay, and starts by reciting a poem by [Spanish revolutionary poet] Garcia Lorca.

He begins to address the crowd. He talks about the revolution, the oppressed, the oligarchy and imperialism that organized the coup in April 2002, how he thought he was going to be shot dead, and how the soldiers, arms in hand, avoided it. “There, facing the death squad, I though of Che (...) how men die”. He explains how thousands and thousands of workers, the poor, surrounded the Miraflores Palace defending the revolution. “They tried once and failed, and if they tried again they would fail again, because in Venezuela the arms are in the hands of the soldiers, who are part of the people”. He mentions the coup against Allende: “the Chilean revolution failed because it was a peaceful and unarmed revolution. The Bolivarian revolution is peaceful... but armed”. We understand very well what he is talking about. We also know about our own past. The audience begins to shout, fists raised again, “the people, armed, will never be smashed” (“el pueblo armado, jamás será aplastado”).

Now he talks about the money from [state oil company] PDVSA, which is being used for social programs, and he mentions Cuba and the Cuban doctors. There is another standing ovation and shouts of “Chavez, Fidel y el Che”.

He mentions the shipyard workers [fighting for months against the closure of the shipyards]. The whole audience shouts, “The shipyards will not be closed down!” He talks about the democratic revolution in Venezuela, of how the people support the revolution. He talks of the peoples of Latin America. “If Bolivar lived today, he would be a socialist”. He also mentions Marx. Incidentally, on his way in, he stopped to browse at the bookstall of El Militante. He spoke to the comrades. When he saw Alan Woods’ books he said: “Oh, Alan Woods. He is a friend of mine”. We want to give him the books he has chosen as a present, amongst them several by Alan Woods, Ted Grant and Trotsky, but he insists he wants to pay for them. At the end he accepts Alan Woods’ “Bolshevism, the road to revolution” as a gift.

He now talks about the workers and the need for unity. “There is a socialist international and a Christian Democratic international. Why can’t we form a democratic and revolutionary international? Unite all the oppressed peoples, the workers, the indigenous peoples ...”. There is another standing ovation. He develops the idea: “the working class must be the vanguard of the revolution (...) It should not only concern itself with immediate or wage demands, which are necessary and must be fought for, but it must also look beyond, to the transformation of society as a whole”. The enthusiasm is overwhelming. “Long live the working class”, and “the working class has no borders” are slogans which become alive and are shouted by the whole audience as one.

During the speech, standing up, he has been given cups of coffee which he drank. It has been a very packed day. He was at the Complutense University, where the students also received him with enthusiasm, surpassing all expectations. He met with Zapatero, with artists and intellectuals in the Circulo de Bellas Artes, and then at 10:30 pm he met with the workers... The best part of it, he snubbed a meeting with big business. Today the media complain and say this is not acceptable because he snubbed a meeting with 200 “business leaders”. Today, workers understand more who Chavez is and the support he receives from Venezuelan workers.

It is past 11:30 and finally he says goodbye. As he leaves the hall, as when he came in, there is a standing ovation. We are all shouting, “the revolution forward, forward, and those who do not like it, will have to stand it” (“La revolución p’alante, p’alante y al que no le guste que se joda y que se aguante”.)

As always, everywhere he goes, this enthusiasm is also expressed in the desire to get close to him, to greet him personally. Despite the bodyguards and the security measures, when he comes out he is surrounded by a sea of hands showing their solidarity and support for the Venezuelan revolution. He is extremely polite, tactful and educated, and in an impossible attempt, he tries to greet and talk to all those who come close to him. He understands that this show of solidarity reflects the desire of workers to show, through him, to the workers and the oppressed in Venezuela, the hopes that their revolution has raised amongst workers and youth around the world.

Madrid, 23-11-04

See also a picture gallery of the event.

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El corrent marxista internacional El Militante, la Plataforma Bolivariana del País Valencià, el Sindicat d’Estudiants i la Fundación Federico Engels li conviden a l'ACTE DE SOLIDARITAT AMB LA REVOLUCIÓ VENEÇOLANA que es celebrarà el dimecres 1 de desembre, a l’aula A-21 de l’Aulari 1 del campus Blasco Ibáñez.

La entrada al recinte es pot efectuar des de la porta de la Facultat de Psicologia o la porta de fora del Col·legi Major Lluís Vives (Avda. Blasco Ibáñez 23), o be des de l’Avda. Menéndez y Pelayo 14. L’acte començarà a les 18:30.

Comptarem amb les intervencions de Natiana Fernández, de la Plataforma Bolivariana, i d’Ulises Benito, en nom d’El Militante, procedent després a un debat entre els assistents.

Considerem que és d’enorme importància, per als que lluitem per un món digne per a tothom, conèixer i suportar la difícil lluita de tot un poble per fer una revolució i resistir als atacs de l’imperialisme USA i de la reacció interna, derrotada, una vegada més, al referèndum revocatori d’agost i a les eleccions regionals i municipals d’octubre. Animem a tots a venir i a participar.

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ESF meeting on the trade union situation in Venezuela and Colombia

On October 16 the ESF delegates had the chance to get a first hand report on the current situation in Colombia and Venezuela. The Colombia Solidarity Campaign and Hands Off Venezuela, supported by Marxist.com organised a workshop at the European Social Forum to explain the situation of the trade unions in these two Latin American countries. Around 65 campaigners, trade unionists and youth filled an already tiny room. The room was so full that some members of the audience had to sit on the floor!

Jeremy Dear speaking at the meeting

The meeting started with a contribution from Jeremy Dear. The NUJ General Secretary gave an account of the situation for trade unionists based on his own experience as a member of a TUC delegation to Colombia. The audience was terrified when they listened to all the security measures that trade union activists are forced to observe. He pointed out that the trade union and peasant leaders are currently slaughtered and tortured by the army and the paramilitaries because they are in the forefront of the struggle against privatisation. Jeremy Dear compared the Colombian conditions with the Venezuelan situation for trade unionists and he highlighted the freedom that trade unions enjoy in Venezuela. He closed his contribution appealing to the audience to campaign for the defence of the Venezuelan revolution and in defence of the Colombian trade union activity against US imperialism.

After the NUJ General Secretary spoke, Jorge Martin (Hands Off Venezuela International Secretary) explained the origins of the Venezuelan UNT in relation to the defeat of the bosses lock-out at the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003. He also said that in spite of the fact that the labour movement in Venezuela has not led the revolution, the workers played a very important role in the defeat of the lock-out and they even installed workers’ control in some PDVSA (state oil company) plants and occupied factories as a measure to protect production against the bosses’ sabotage. On the links between the Chavez government and the UNT he pointed out that there is a healthy and friendly relation between trade union and government. However, the UNT is completely autonomous from the government. In fact the UNT has openly expressed disagreement with some measures taken by the government.

Dave Raby, recently arrived from Caracas after finishing a seminar at the Venezuelan Bolivarian University, also contributed to the discussion. Dave Raby analysed the origins of the Venezuelan Revolution. He explained how the conscious action of the Venezuelan masses has changed the whole country. Mr Raby stated: “What is happening in Venezuela is the beginning of a revolutionary breakthrough”. He gave a full account of the “Misiones” (social programmes on healthcare, housing, etc.) and how the actual implementation is due to the autonomous organisations in the communities. He also talked about how the economic treaties sponsored by the Venezuelan government seek to oppose the US backed treaties like the FTAA.

Gonzalo Gomez from Aporrea.org (the main left-wing political website in Venezuela) began his contribution by talking about the “reciprocal solidarity” between Venezuela and the peoples of Europe and other advanced countries. He expressed the Venezuelan people’s rejection of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He linked the attacks launched by the US on Iraq with the active intervention of the US administration in Venezuela to plot against the revolution. In his contribution he also stressed the need to push for the alternative media. He stated, “We cannot rely on the bosses media”. He said that the media should be linked to the community and the labour movement. Gonzalo Gomez also hailed the process whereby the CTV (the tool of the oligarchy within the trade union movement) is being replaced by the UNT, the new and anti-capitalist trade union. One of the main concerns of the Aporrea.org editor was the bureaucratisation of the movement and the state apparatus in Venezuela. In order to stop this bureaucratisation the process which has been called “revolution within the revolution” was badly needed. He also said that the Venezuelan government was a popular government but not a government of the workers and the people yet because the bosses were still sacking workers. However, he denied that the Chavez government was a bosses’ government and he enthusiastically supported all the progressive measures implemented by the government and the favourable conditions for the class struggle in Venezuela.

Andy Higginbottom introduced the Killer-Cola campaign. This campaign is the actual implementation of an international appeal launched by SINALTRAINAL (food and beverages processing workers’ union in Venezuela) to raise awareness of the awful situation of the Colombian activists and to expose the Coca-Cola corporation for its involvement in the assassination of a long list of their workers and shop stewards actively involved in the union. He also linked the struggle against imperialism in Colombia with the Bolivarian Revolution. A victory for the Venezuelan Revolution will be a step forward in the struggle against imperialism and its puppets in Colombia. After his speech a very interesting question and answer session took place.

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ESF meeting on Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolution

“We have to learn the lessons of past solidarity campaigns”

Yesterday, October 17, In Defence of Marxism and the Hands Off Venezuela campaign organised a meeting on Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolution at the European Social Forum in London. Despite the fact that this important workshop had been relegated to an early Sunday morning, nearly 70 people turned up to hear Alan Woods, editor of Marxist.com, and Jorge Martin, on behalf of the Hands off Venezuela Campaign, speak on the events in Venezuela. The room was packed with young people and trade unionists from all over the world.

Before dealing with the actual subject, Jorge Martin started his speech with a reference to the organisation of this year’s European Social Forum. Not enough attention had been paid to the subject of Venezuela, which is now one of the most important developments in the whole world. It is a real pity that no seminar could be organised as this meant that no simultaneous translation was available.

Having said that, Jorge turned to the reason behind the setting up of the Hands off Venezuela Campaign. The campaign had been started mainly to counter the vicious media blockade on the subject of Venezuela. On really significant events like the Bolivarian Revolution there is a wall of silence on the part of the Western media. Even worse, when they do refer to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, he is nearly always portrayed as an authoritarian former army general, not as a democratically elected president who has won in seven different electoral processes. Jorge Martin recalled a striking anecdote on the media lies. He was on his way to Caracas in an Air France airplane. Reading the Spanish daily El Pais, he read about Caracas being paralysed by a massive strike involving all important sectors of the economy, including the cancellation of all international flights. However, Jorge was flying precisely to Caracas and everything was perfectly normal there!

Then he posed the question of the Bolivarian Revolution. Since there has been no fundamental economic transformation, why do we say that the events in Venezuela are of a revolutionary character? The main reason is the massive political awareness in the country. Contrary to most Western “democracies”, there is no apathy at all among the Venezuelan people. Everybody has an opinion on the political situation, either from the right or from the left. But above all, in the last years there has been massive participation of ordinary people and the poorer sections in society in politics. The recent recall referendum is proof of this. In other countries the participation level is always quite low, with only 40 or 50 percent of the people bothering to vote. Why would they vote if all politicians tell them the same things? In Venezuela, on the other hand, more than 90 percent of the people turn up to vote. This is because people can see that it does make a difference who is in power. After the election of Hugo Chavez huge literacy campaigns have been conducted. For the first time poor people have access to basic medical health care, and there has been significant land reform, etc. In short, after the 1998 election there has been a mass politicization. For the first time ordinary working people have a sense of dignity and now feel as real human beings. This is one of the most striking features when you travel to Venezuela and talk to people, Jorge said. They can see something has changed for the better and they want to maintain and extend these achievements. Precisely because of all the progressive reforms, Chavez has been able to maintain his support among a majority of the Venezuelan people. Not only one time, but in seven electoral contests! Compare that to the West, where one government after another is voted out of office.

That is, of course, not to the liking of the so-called “Democratic Opposition”. They could not even stand his initially moderate reforms, and obviously could stand even less the subsequent more radical reforms. Hence their various attempts at overthrowing Chavez’s government by terrorist means, lock-outs and a coup. One criticism you can make of Chavez, Jorge told the audience, is not that he is authoritarian, but rather too lenient with the coup organisers. Those who pulled down a statue of Colombus on Columbus Day (October 12) were put in jail, but most of the organisers of the coup are still free and have been able to flee the country. Some are on trial now, two years after the coup, but Pedro Carmona has only been put under house arrest. As a result, he fled to Miami and is now organising the opposition. Carlos Andres Pérez, now living in the Dominican Republic, said that the only way to remove Chavez is by violent means. These kinds of scoundrels are still free and have been able to organise the terrorist campaign of last year.

Jorge Martin then spoke on the trade union situation in Venezuela. The old CTV union has more than ever been discredited since its open support for the coup. Most of the workers have joined the new UNT, and what is more, they have done this on a radical program. The UNT is now the real trade union in Venezuela and its program includes workers’ control over the economy. This led Jorge to elaborate on this point. During last year’s lock-out there have been experiences of workers’ control. This was not in a small textile company, but in the oil industry, one of the biggest industries in the world! The oil company in Venezuela is indeed highly technological (with most processes being run by computer and satellite systems). The workers refused to take part in the lock-out of the bosses and were able to run the whole industry without the bosses. This proves that if workers can run such a complex industry then they can run anything. On that point, Jorge also mentioned the case of the Venepal workers and the need for solidarity.

There is also the issue of the struggle between Venezuela and the United States. The US was interfering directly in Venezuela during the 2002 coup. They cannot tolerate a government that is an example to workers all over the world, especially the masses in their backyard, Mexico and Latin America. But Venezuela has some good trump cards, one of which is oil. Chavez has already threatened to cut off the oil supplies to the US if they interfere in their internal affairs. That would be an enormous blow, since Venezuela is the third biggest oil supplier to the US.

“So what is the next step then?” Jorge asked. The oligarchy is demoralised and demobilised after they lost the referendum. The balance of forces is extremely favourable to the revolution. In the Bolivarian movements there have been numerous debates about the need for a revolution in the revolution, about the fight against bureaucracy. However, the state is still the same old state, with the same bureaucracy at the head of it. Jorge said you cannot take over a capitalist state and make it serve the interests of the people. Besides, some sections of the economy are still in private hands, most importantly the bank sector. Today two Spanish banks control the banking sector in Venezuela. The distribution of food and beverages is done privately, which enabled the opposition to paralyse the country during the lock-out by disrupting the supplies.

Jorge continued by saying that some important battles have been won, but that this is a war over control of the economy. There are opposing class interests involved, and these have not been solved yet. Jorge used the analogy used by 19th century peasant war leader Ezequiel Zamora. In the course of the Federal War against the landed oligarchy, Zamora correctly said that “we must confiscate the property of the rich, since with it they make war against the people, we must leave them just with their shirts”.

By way of conclusion, Jorge said we are living in very exciting times. To his knowledge there is no precedent of a successful military coup being defeated by the mass movement of working people once it has already been installed. This gives hope for the future – something can be done. Also, it is foolish to moderate your viewpoints for fear of provoking the enemy. The opposition and US imperialism have already been provoked, as the coup proves. The excuse often used by workers’ leaders that you can’t have a radical program that “scares away” the voters has been proved utterly wrong. In Venezuela there have been seven elections, and each of then have been won by the left-wing government.

Alan Woods speaks

After Jorge Martin’s speech, the floor was given to Alan Woods. He started with the same observation that we live in very exciting times. Fifteen years ago the capitalists were euphoric because, so they claimed, “Socialism has been proven not to work”. They were talking about the end of socialism and communism, and some even dared to talk about the end of history. No change was possible in the best of possible worlds. But they merely proved to be utopians. Now there is instability in the whole of Latin America, Africa is in a horrible state, etc.

But Venezuela shows that change is possible. Contrary to all the lies of the media, Hugo Chavez is not a dictator but an extremely popular president. The recall referendum once again proved that the majority of the Venezuelan people are standing behind their president. A recall referendum is in fact a very democratic mechanism, and Alan could think of several other leaders who would greatly benefit from the application of this mechanism! That is, George Bush, but also Tony Blair. The latter defied public opinion by lying over the motives for going to war in Iraq. The British people clearly said they didn’t want this war, and yet there is no way of removing Tony Blair from power.

Alan Woods then went on to explain why the Bolivarian Revolution is indeed a revolution, contrary to what some left groups claim. Paraphrasing Leon Trotsky, he said: “The essence of a revolution is the direct intervention of the masses in the political life of the nation.” Millions of ordinary Venezuelan people began to move and started to take matters into their own hands. The indignation of the masses, who had suffered under 40 years of oppression and misery, was expressed in a peculiar way after the left-wing 1992 coup in the figure of Hugo Chavez. In 1998 he won the elections with an absolute majority. Eight years later, Chavez received 60 percent of the votes. How many governments in the world can claim this?

After vividly describing the anger and mood of the masses, he firmly warned that the revolution has not been completed. The basic position of Marxists towards the Venezuelan revolution is to support it completely against foreign intervention. That is what Hands Off Venezuela is trying to do. But there is more to it. It is not possible to make half a revolution. What the referendum campaign has shown is that Venezuelan society is extremely polarised between right and left. The counterrevolutionaries are regrouping their forces and are preparing for a new offensive once the conditions are more favourable (most likely the 2006 elections). As long as the oligarchy continues to maintain its hold on important sections of the economy, it will continue to act as an agent of US imperialism, sabotaging and undermining the Bolivarian revolution. That is why the property of the counterrevolutionaries should be expropriated and the power of the landowners should be broken. Alan made an analogy with the American revolution, which took drastic measures against the landowners. Just as the American revolutionaries, the Venezuelan revolution should deal blows to the big landowners.

The speech ended with an appeal. Not everything is fine and the revolution has not finished. Battles have been won, but not the war. The important point to stress is that everybody is able to do something. Alan appealed to the public saying that they can make a difference. Trade unionists can discuss the situation in their branches and pass resolutions recognising the new UNT trade union, other people can counter the numerous media lies. Above all, it is important to coordinate the different initiatives and set up Hands off Venezuela committees.

Ramon Samblas then opened the meeting for questions and contributions from the audience. Somebody from the audience made the point that the solidarity campaign for Chile started after the 1973 coup and that it is better to start organising while the revolution is going on. “We have to learn the lessons of past solidarity campaigns. All of them have failed because they started too late.” He also said it was a real shame that Venezuela had not been discussed at a big session at the European Social Forum. Other contributions came among others from a young Norwegian trade unionist and Henry Suarez, professor of History at Caracas Central University.

The general conclusion of the meeting was that we must defend the Bolivarian Revolution unconditionally. However, it is also necessary to deepen the political analysis of the Venezuelan revolution and the way forward. Only by learning the lessons of past defeats can we guarantee victory this time.

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John McDonnell

The left wing Labour Member of Parliament John McDonnell has tabled an Early Day Motion condemning the murder of Danilo Anderson, the Venezuelan prosecutor investigating the April 2002 military coup against president Chavez (see Prosecutor investigating anti-Chavez coup killed in terrorist attack). John McDonnell has been a vocal supporter and collaborator of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign from the very beginning (see Successful Hands Off Venezuela meeting at Portcullis House (London, UK)). The motion comes after another motion also moved by John McDonnell on November 17th (EDM 854), which also condemned US interference in Venezuela and its efforts to remove the democratically elected president Hugo Chavez. On the House of Commons web site you can see the full text of the November 17 th motion and the list of thirty-two MPs who signed: EDM 854

The current EDM condemning the murder of Danilo Anderson is still open. This means that MPs can still add their name to it (at the moment of writing, 7 have done so). The motion (EDM 127) reads:


That this House condemns the murder by a car bomb of Danilo Anderson, the leading prosecutor investigating the coup attempt in 2002 against President Chavez of Venezuela; expresses its concern that this crime is a further attempt to destabilise the country by those elements in Venezuela and elsewhere who refuse to respect the will of the Venezuelan people expressed in the referendum in August which gave overwhelming support to President Chavez; and congratulates the Hands Off Venezuela campaign for the work it is undertaking to support the people of Venezuela.

You can check whether your MP has signed or not (http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=126), and then ask them to do so if they have not already.

The motion correctly points to elements within the country and also elsewhere as responsible for the murder of Danilo Anderson. This is quite correct. In fact over the last few months there has been a consistent campaign in Miami , by opposition elements, openly calling for Chavez and other prominent figures of the revolutionary movement to be killed. The latest, but not the only, example of this was that of known TV presenter and prominent oppositionist Orlando Urdaneta. In an interview on Miami ’s Channel 22 TV station on October 25th, he said that “the way out of all of this is for this character [Chavez] to be eliminated”. The interviewer asked how Chavez could be “eliminated” and Urdaneta specified: “easy, just one person with a rifle with a scope”. In order not to leave any room for doubt he added: “if people are waiting for someone to give the order, I am giving it right now”. These people, Venezuelan and Cuban reactionary oppositionists, are free to openly call for terrorist activities while in Miami protected by US visas. This, like the case of the Miami Five (see The Cuban “Miami Five”: Jailed in the US for fighting terrorism) shows the hypocrisy of the US administration and their so-called “war on terror”.

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In Austria some 30 people attended the picket at the embassy. Given the heavy rainstorm this was quite a good turnout. There were trade unionists, Young Socialists (Youth of the SPÖ), supporters of Der Funke, who are coordinating the HOV in Austria, as well as activists from Cuban and other Latin American solidarity committees. The gathering shouted anti-imperialist slogans and held placards that expressed their opposition to US interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela. They explained that the US government, after its support for the Carmona coup in April 2002, has no moral authority to give lessons on democracy to the Venezuelan government and people. They presented a copy of the appeal and our statement to a representative of the embassy (the Encargada de Negocios) and they received a very friendly welcome. You can see photos of the events here.

The Austrian Marxists of “Der Funke” eagerly took up the appeal of the “Hands off Venezuela” campaign right from when it was launched and started to organise a series of activities in solidarity with the movement of our brothers and sisters in Venezuela. They sent us the following report.

“During the bosses lockout in 2002/2003 in Venezuela (the so-called oil workers’ strike) we moved a resolution at the national congress of the Socialist Youth, condemning this counterrevolutionary act and calling for international solidarity. The more then 200 delegates at the congress unanimously voted in favour of the resolution. Ever since then the revolutionary process in Venezuela has regularly been covered in our publications.

In January of this year we finally succeeded in organising a speaking-tour with Herman Albrecht of the “Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria”. At seven meetings in five cities Herman explained the situation of the movement especially highlighting the occupied factories.

Taking up the “Hands off Venezuela” appeal of the “In Defence of Marxism” website we launched the initiative in branches, meetings or conferences of working-class organisations - in the Socialist Youth, Trade Unions and Social Democratic Party. So we are making sure that the call to stop imperialist intervention is widely heard in the movement. Many ordinary workers and youth, but also shop stewards and high-ranking party and TU officials, decided so to help the campaign by signing the appeal. In several organisations comrades called for more information, so we are going to organise discussions, film nights etc., on the situation in Venezuela.

As part of this ongoing campaign comrades from various YS and TU branches in Vienna gathered at the embassy of the Bolivarian Republic to loudly express their protest against imperialist manoeuvres and to show their solidarity with the revolutionary movement. Miriam Garcia de Perez, Deputy Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic, joined the gathering for a moment, stating that the government is willing to take up the fight for its national sovereignty and expressed her gratitude for this international campaign. Her “tropical greetings” went especially to the 30 people in Vienna who despite an icy winter rain showed up to the gathering and stayed for more then one hour on the street in front of the embassy.

History shows that without a conscious Marxist leadership the revolution will fail, as our enemies are prepared to use any mistake of the movement to regain control over the situation. As conscious internationalists and revolutionaries we are well aware that the further deepening of the revolution in Venezuela would become an example for the working-class on a worldwide level. As Gustavo Adolfo Marquez Marin, the Ambassador of Venezuela in Austria put it: “Our country is in the eye of the hurricane.” All decent humans want to see an end to this hurricane of misery, wars and barbarism on a worldwide scale. Let us start from Venezuela!” - Editorial Board Der Funke, March 25 2004

In Italy a delegation from HOV, coordinated by FalceMartello visited the Venezuelan Consulate in Milan. The Consul (Antonieta Arcaya Smith) is very much in support of Chavez. She expressed her interest in the "Hands off Venezuela" campaign, especially after they mentioned the fact that last Sunday Chavez dedicated 20 minutes in his Alo Presidente TV programme explaining what the campaign was about and who was organising it. They asked for her support for the campaign, and particularly for a speaking tour they are planning at the end of April. She said there would be no problem in advertising our meeting through the consulate. In the conversation they had with the Consul she expressed great satisfaction at receiving such acts of solidarity. In the next few days our comrades will go to the embassy in Rome and to the consulate in Naples. They are also in touch with Bolivarian circles in Florence and Rome. They are very keen to organise something with us. This is all part of the build up for their solidarity campaign which will consist of a speaking tour at the end of April and all the comrades are very enthusiastic.

In the United States the Venezuelan Deputy Consul General in San Francisco, Jose Egidio Rodriguez met with one of the coordinators of the HOV, for a meeting. Our statements on Venezuela, solidarity signatures and a copy of the US Socialist Appeal were handed to him. The discussion centred on the international HOV solidarity with the Revolution. He expressed our support for the right of the Venezuelan people to defend themselves against US intervention. The conversations also covered such issues as the trade unions in the USA, the events in Spain, Healthcare, our tendency's (In Defence of Marxism) history, the Socialist Parties, the Communist Parties, the upcoming election for President, and even a brief chat about baseball! The Deputy Consul General thanked us for our support. Supporters of the HOV in other parts of the USA are considering visiting their local Venezuelan Consulates/Embassies.

Across the Ocean from San Francisco, in Australia, supporters of the HOV visited the Venezuelan Embassy in Canberra and were received very cordially by the Ambassador who was very supportive of any effort to build a solidarity campaign.

In Mexico the supporters of the Militante journal, together with CEDEP (Committees in Defence of State Education) and CoTDeSi (Workers’ Committee in Defence of the Trade Union) went to the Venezuelan Embassy to express their solidarity with the Venezuelan workers and with the revolutionary process. They expressed their concern at US interference in the process and condemned US imperialism’s manoeuvres in backing attempts to undermine the authority of the CEN (National Electoral Council) in Venezuela. The comrades read out the statements of Militante, Cedep and Cotdesi. A delegation was received by the comrade Ambassador, Lino Martínez Salazar, a man with a long history of struggle in defence of workers’ rights in Venezuela. A resolution calling on US imperialism to keep its hands off Venezuela, signed by 354 youth, lecturers and workers, in various colleges and unions was handed to the Ambassador. Another resolution voted by 140 rank and file activists of the PRD at a conference held on March 21-22 was also handed in. A copy of the Mexican edition of Alan Woods’ book, Bolsehvism, the road to revolution, was given to the Ambassador. The event was rounded off with the chanting of several anti-imperialist slogans and the singing of the Internationale. For a more complete account of the event see the report at:

México: La campaña Manos Fuera de Venezuela avanza

where you will also find photos of the events.

In Belgium the ‘Hands off Venezuela’ campaign has been contacted by Venezuelans in the Netherlands. They have a website dedicated to defending the Bolivarian Revolution in the Netherlands, on which they publish material from In Defence of Marxism in Dutch. They are very grateful for our support for the revolutionary process in Venezuela. The supporters of Vonk, who are coordinating the HOV in Belgium, will be talking to the Venezuelan Ambassador tomorrow.

In Britain, the following day, on Wednesday March 24, a meeting was held in the House of Commons to speak out against the smoke screen that the mass media has created to obscure the issue of the Venezuelan revolution. The meeting, organised by left Labour MP John McDonnell – who is a supporter of the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign – was used to publicise and explain the Early Day Motion (EDM 854) being introduced into Parliament.

EDM 854

That this House condemns the interference of the United States of America in the internal democratic affairs of the Republic of Venezuela and in particular its covert attempts to secure the removal of President Chavez, whose government has used the country's considerable oil reserves to launch a programme to tackle poverty, including specific measures targeted at women, such as the constitutional recognition of unwaged housework as economically productive, entitling housewives to social security benefits, the prioritisation of single mothers and indigenous people for land distribution, the guaranteeing of food for pregnant women and nursing mothers, and the significant increase in access to education and decent housing for the poor.

An Early Day Motion is a motion with no fixed date for debate. In reality, it is a device used to draw attention to a particular issue and to elicit support by inviting other MPs to add their signatures to it. Most are never actually debated. So far 20 MPs have added their names to this motion. EDM 854 puts a heavy emphasis on the position of women in Venezuela – which is indeed a very important question – at least partly because it was originally put forward by a group called Global Women’s strike.

Pablo Sanchez addressed the meeting on behalf of the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign. The audience consisting of around 30 people showed a great deal of interest in developing a campaign in Britain to support the revolutionary movement in Venezuela.

Alan Simpson MP (Labour), Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs agreed to sponsor the campaign and to canvass for further support in Parliament. This is an important step in building support in the British labour movement for the revolutionary process in Venezuela and against the intrigues of US imperialism.

In a further development, this weekend the national conference of the National Union of Journalists – whose General Secretary, Jeremy Dear, is a sponsor of the campaign – will discuss a motion to support the new Venezuelan trade union, the UNT.

Also, the AMICUS London General Industries Sector Conference 2004 passed a resolution presented by Espe Espigares, a delegate from Branch 974, condemning US interference in Venezuela. The text of the resolution reads as follows:

“This conference deplores the intents of the United States to intervene in the internal life of Venezuela. Two attempts have been made to overthrow the democratically elected government of Hugo Chavez and behind these attempts has been the hand of the CIA. Conference pledges its support to the revolutionary movement of the Venezuelan people in their struggle for socialist equality and justice. Furthermore, Conference pledges support to the 'Hands off Venezuela' campaign which seeks to promote the awareness of what is happening in Venezuela.”

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