On Friday the December 1, the Venezuelan chapter of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign organized a public meeting to discuss international solidarity with the revolution and the perspectives for the elections on Sunday the December 3.
The meeting was held in the hall of the Chilean community in Caracas and was attended by more than 60 people, who were eager to get an international perspective on the elections and enjoyed the presence of the British, American and Swedish comrades of the Hands Off Venezuela Electoral Delegation . Present in the audience were also a number of activists from the Chilean Socialist Party, from the Columbian peasants movement, from Brazil and of course from the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela.
In this spirit of internationalism Patrick Larsen, a Danish comrade of Hands Off Venezuela and the International Marxist Tendency living in Caracas, opened up the meeting. He stressed that the widespread popularity of president Chavez, especially among the youth in many countries throughout the world must be seen in a broader context. It must be seen as a sign of a revolutionary ferment, of the desire of millions for socialist policies. This explains the mortal hatred of imperialism towards the Bolivarian revolution exactly because of the example it sets.
The impressive two-million strong revolutionary demonstration on Sunday was a direct response to the demonstration of the opposition on Saturday. However, Patrick warned that one should not think that everything will go smoothly now and that no resistance on the part of the oligarchy will take place. On the contrary, it is important to emphasise that imperialism and the national oligarchy are unwilling to accept six more years under a Chavez government. They will do anything in their power to prevent this.
Patrick thought that it was possible that they will try some sort of manoeuvre to claim that the victory of Chavez have been fraudulent, start sabotage, "guarimbas", media distortions, etc. He emphasized that the revolutionaries must be ready to organize a massive response to any such counter-revolutionary plans. In this sense, the recently formed alliance "Oligarchas temblad!" (Oligarchs tremble!), between various left organizations in the Bolivarian movement (including the peasant front, FENEZ and the movement of occupied factories, FRETECO), is a most important step forward.
After this speech, the next speaker was Esperanza Espigares from the British Hands Off Venezuela campaign. Esperanza explained how the International HoV delegation had been almost one week in Venezuela now, and experienced the revolution on a day-to-day basis. The most impressive experience was however a visit that the comrades made to the occupied factory Sanitarios Maracay. She stressed that this was a concrete example of how socialism must be organised; a democratic structure organized from below with the main decisions being worked out in the workers' assembly, etc. According to Esperanza the revolutionary process could not stop in the middle of the road - it must be carried through to the end, if the opportunity to change society along socialist lines is not to be lost.
Esperanza was followed by John Peterson from the US Hands Off Venezuela campaign. John outlined some of the activities of HoV in the United States, organizing solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution within the belly of the beast. He explained that there are many people who are not aware of the fact that in the US, workers are very exploited and work under miserable conditions. This is especially the case for millions of Latin American immigrant workers who are being attacked with vicious anti-immigrant laws.
John also explained how US workers actually have impressive revolutionary traditions. They were the first to invent the traditions of sit-down strikes and factory occupations. Methods of struggle that are now being used by workers in Venezuela. John ended his speech saying that the revolution has spread to more and more countries in Latin America, the latest example being Mexico. But revolutions do not respect borders, and the mighty revolutionary events in Latin America will have an impact in the US and can prepare new major class battles.
After these three speeches a number of interventions from the floor were made, both from Venezuelans praising internationalism as well as comments on the perspectives for the revolution. Luis Primo, a leader of the UNT, gave a detailed explanation of the significance of the struggle of the workers at Sanitarios Maracay. Another Chilean veteran workers' leader gave a passionate intervention about his concrete experience during the Chilean revolution of 1970-73 and the lessons that can be drawn for the present situation in Venezuela.
All in all, the meeting was a great success that served to unite a number of activists around a common discussion and perspective before Sundays' elections.