Readers of Marxist.com will be aware of the fact that a few weeks ago President Chavez of Venezuela dedicated 20 minutes of his “Alo Presidente” TV programme to our web site and ourHands off Venezuela campaign. Last Sunday evening we were once again on this programme, but this time there were five comrades of the international Marxist tendency on the show. This shows the growing role of the Marxist tendency in the process of the Venezuelan revolution and the international solidarity movement Hands off Venezuela.
Alan Woods, editor of Marxist.com, Manzoor Ahmed, the Marxist MP from Pakistan, Miriam Municio, the general secretary of the Spanish Students’ Union, Jordi Rosich of the editorial board of El Militante, and Jorge Martin, the Latin America correspondent of Marxist.com were on the panel. There were more than a hundred people present, and Manzoor and Alan Woods were placed in the front row, in a prominent position immediately opposite the President.
In the course of the week, Alan had spoken at packed meetings of workers, trade unionists and activists of the Bolivarian Movement and was received enthusiastically. In addition, he was received by President Chavez for a private audience that lasted well over an hour – a most unusual occurrence. We will carry further information about this next week but for now we will concentrate on the Alo Presidente programme.
The latest edition of “Alo Presidente” was broadcast in Caracas on Sunday 18 of April 2004 in the Salon Ayucucho of the Palace of Miraflores. President Chavez began by recalling the revolutionary traditions of the Venezuelan people. Citing the heroic period of the struggle for Independence, he quoted a phrase well known to the readers of Marxist.com: “He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it.” He got the phrase from Alan Woods’ book Bolshevism – the Road to Revolution, a fact that was confirmed when he turned to the editor of Marxist.com in front of the TV cameras and said: “Alan, I am reading your book.”
He urged the people of Venezuela to derive strength and inspiration from their revolutionary past. “Let us work together,” he said, “let us work hard, all together, to defeat the threats that come from all sides […] to conquer what is our own, nationally and throughout Latin America […] to construct a new economic system that goes beyond savage capitalism, an economic model that satisfies the needs of the majority, an economy at the service of man, and not man at the service of the economy, a social economy. […] Let us continue working for a new society that includes everybody and excludes nobody: a society of equals, with liberty and equality, because we have always said that liberty without equality is meaningless, it is worthless.”
Today the Venezuelan Revolution is threatened by internal and external enemies. The constant conspiracies of the Venezuelan oligarchy are backed, encouraged, financed and organised by Washington. Thus, the question of international solidarity with the Venezuelan Revolution is a matter of life and death. Hugo Chavez emphasised this when he greeted the large numbers of international delegates present in the studio, who had participated in the II World Rally in Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution.
During the programme Chavez talked a lot about capitalism, the working class and internationalism. He also said, "this revolution unless it is also about social and economic change cannot win." This is no accident. It reflects the growing polarization to the right and left and the fact that the most advanced elements are looking for a way out. They want to carry the revolution through to the end and finish the power of the oligarchy once and for all. And they are very open to the ideas of Marxism.
It is clear that the Venezuelan revolution is advancing and is approaching a critical point. Not long ago, Chavez made a speech in which he said: “Every fisherman, student, every member of the people, must learn how to use a rifle.” This idea was repeated in the course of the programme, when Chavez was asked for help by a group of agricultural workers who have occupied some abandoned land. He told them, "You have to take power there" and he added "we will help you get electricity and water and machinery" and "you must arm yourselves to defend the place… we will give you arms permits and we will send some soldiers to help defend you."
It is in this atmosphere that our ideas are getting a wide echo among the masses. Our ideas correspond to the needs of the masses at this precise moment in time. Thus our ideas are connecting with the revolutionary aspirations of the masses. In the programme, President Chavez introduced the editor of Marxist.com with these words:
“Also here is Alan Woods, a writer and intellectual from Great Britain, although he prefers us to say Wales. He has presented us with some books, and one of them I presented here a few weeks ago, called Reason in Revolt – and a very good book it is.”
Just before the programme they showed an interview with Alan Woods and half way through the programme was interrupted to show a video about the solidarity meeting in which the editor of Marxist.com was again shown explaining that the main role in defeating the coup was the direct intervention of the masses. In the course of the programme, Hugo Chavez mentioned Alan at least three times. He said he is reading Bolshevism - the Road to Revolution and he again mentioned Reason in Revolt, which he warmly recommended. President Chavez has given his personal support to the publishing of the Venezuelan edition of Reason in Revolt.
Comrades Miriam and Manzoor spoke in the course of the programme, as the following extracts show:
President Chavez: “We also have with us Miriam Municio of the Spanish students union. Miriam, how are you? Are you from Madrid?
Miriam Municio: “I am.”
President Chavez: How are things? What do you think of the change of government over there?
Miriam Municio: “Very good, of course. This was the biggest mobilisation of the workers and youth against the reactionary government of Aznar, which wanted to reconquer Latin America – and it was this that led to the change of government. That shows that the movement is not only in Latin America and Venezuela. I would first like to send greetings from the revolutionary youth of Spain, represented by the Marxist tendency El Militante and the Spanish Students Union that I represent here. We send militant revolutionary greetings to this revolution. Know that the workers and youth of Spain need to know all that is going on here and we will do all in our power to answer the lies and distortions of the bourgeois mass media. [...] We will tell them how the workers have occupied the factories and are organising workers’ control and that things are changing substantially.
“We are an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and revolutionary organization. We represent young workers and the children of workers, not the children of the rich. In Spain as in Venezuela there are rich and poor. And of course we have much more in common with the Venezuelan people than we have with vultures like Aznar, or businessmen like Botin and the others. [...]
“I would like to tell you, President Chavez, that if we were able to mobilise hundreds of thousands, bringing the youth of Spain onto the streets against the reactionary government of Aznar, who wanted to end public education, public health, the rights of the workers, enormously increasing casual labour, and against the invasion of Iraq, we will also commit ourselves to mobilise the youth against the aggression of US imperialism against Venezuela.”
Presidente Chávez: “Many thanks, Miriam. Miriam is a young revolutionary fighter from that Spain we love.
Later in the programme he enthusiastically greeted Zapatero’s announcement of the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, at which point the whole audience stood up and applauded loudly.
Turning to Manzoor Ahmed, who he introduced as the editor of The Struggle, a member of the Pakistan National Assembly and president of the Hands off Venezuela campaign in Pakistan. Manzoor mentioned the list of over 50 signatures of Pakistani members of parliament he had delivered to Chavez and the latter replied:
“I had the honour to receive that letter – I don’t know whether the lads have got it to hand – but it is a very substantial group of leaders and parliamentarians who are supporting the people of Venezuela, and I thank them very much.”
Manzoor: “Yes, this campaign has passed beyond the borders of Pakistan and has now been spread to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and in all the South East of Asia we will be holding demonstrations of solidarity […] The question is why do the workers of such far-flung places send these messages? It is because the workers of the world have understood that this revolution does not belong solely to the people of Venezuela. It is a revolution that inspires revolutionaries all over the world. The people of Pakistan and all South Asia understand that this revolution is also their revolution.”
Later on, the president made an explicit reference to the Hands off Venezuela campaign. “We need a lot of struggle and a lot of consciousness. That is why the kind of meeting we are having here in Caracas is so important for the future of America and the future of the whole world, and when I speak of America, I am also speaking of course of the people of the United States of North America, and the people of Canada, who are also people of the Americas, of the continent, and are our brothers. We send them all our best regards, our hope for a world of equality and justice.”
Turning to the TV cameras Chavez held up the original signatures of the 52 Pakistani MPs on camera and everybody could see the heading Hands off Venezuela campaign. Then clearly and slowly he read out the address of the website:
“Well, we have also had some visitors from the United States, and they are here with us. I have here a document and I would like to show it to you: the Hands off Venezuela campaign. Here it is, signed by a whole group – these are the original signatures. They are not fakes! [a reference to the signatures of the opposition in the recent referendum campaign] Don’t remind me of that business. I don’t even want to hear about it! But these are not the signatures of dead people. They are originals not fakes. They are all members of parliament from Pakistan and mass leaders of hundreds of thousands of people.
“These are fighters – Marxists and non-Marxists – but all are revolutionaries. The campaign is co-ordinated and led by the web page: www.marxist.com. That is the website through which thisHands off Venezuela campaign is being advanced. Hands off Venezuela! Many thanks to all you fighters of the world who are backing this campaign for the freedom not only of Venezuela but of the whole world.”
We can see from this incident alone that the work of the Marxist tendency in Venezuela is attracting a lot of attention. Comrade Alan Woods has been interviewed on several TV and radio stations, and we are getting coverage in all the main web sites in Venezuela. Two examples are the following.
On the Aporrea web site you will see: http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=15858 where there is a report in Spanish and photographs of Alan speaking (See English translation in yesterday’s website.) This is only one of a series of rank and file meetings that the editor of Marxist.com has addressed during the course of the last week.
This is a small report of Alo Presidente on April 18th, where they only mention by name one of the guests and that is Alan Woods!
Another widely read English language Venezuelan news site (www.vheadline.com) has published the El Topo Obrero interview with Alan Woods, which you can see at: http://www.vheadline.com/readnews.asp?id=17757.
This means millions of people in Venezuela have now heard of our tendency and have heard our ideas. Immediately after this we put up a clear link in Spanish at the top of the In Defence of Marxism web site home page to the Hands off Venezuela campaign and the Revolutionary Marxist Current in Venezuela. There is no doubt that many people in Venezuela will be looking up our web site after this TV show and we have already received phone calls from people – including important trade union leaders of the oil workers, congratulating us on our intervention.
Everywhere the revolutionary message of Marxism is getting an enthusiastic response, and we will be publishing further details and photos next week. We appeal to our readers and friends to discuss the developments in Venezuela and raise this question in the workers’ movement internationally. The recent comments in the Colombian senate indicate that the threat of foreign intervention is very real. The voice of the world working class movement must be heard loud and clear: Hands off Venezuela! Carry the Revolution out to the end!
Caracas, April 19, 2004