As part of their visit to Britain in May 2010 to attend the Hands Off Venezuela conference, Venezuelan revolutionaries Katy Jaimes and Elias Chacón also spoke at fringe meetings at the conferences of the Public Commercial and Services Union in Brighton and the Communication Workers Union in Bournemouth.
At PCS conference a motion had been submitted by the DEFRA Marine Fisheries Agency branch to disaffiliate from Hands Off Venezuela, on the grounds of alleged “increasing attacks on trade union activities in Venezuela”, amongst others. The movers of the resolution argued that “President Chavez was very anti-union, corrupt and undemocratic.”
Hands Off Venezuela supporters in the PCS distributed a leaflet countering these unfounded claims and explaining the advances for workers that the Bolivarian revolution has meant. During the debate, Rob Williams, representing the union’s NEC opposed disaffiliation from Hands Off Venezuela, “because we strongly support trade union rights in Venezuela, as well as Iran and all over the world.” He called on the union to “support the Venezuelan people against the demands of the world’s bankers and multinationals - support their socialist transformation.” The motion was overwhelmingly defeated.
Interestingly, a separate motion had been moved to PCS conference in support for Chavez’s call for a V International, even though this was not finally discussed.
Just after this session there was a Hands Off Venezuela fringe meeting attended by about 20 delegates who listened to Katy Jaimes and Elias Chacón, both active in the Socialist United Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and asked many questions which had been raised during the debate. This shows the importance of the work of the campaign in countering the lies and disinformation of the media regarding what is really happening in Venezuela.
At the end of the meeting Katy Jaimes asked the delegates present a question. “We’ve just read in the papers about the massive cuts proposed by the new Conservative-Liberal government”, she said. “Remember that the Venezuelan revolution started with the 1989 Caracazo uprising against the austerity package of Carlos Andres Perez,” she added, and asked the audience: “What are you going to do about it? Are you going to allow it to go through?” This showed in a clear way that the Venezuelan revolution can serve as an inspiration for the struggle of workers elsewhere.
We would like to thank PCS for organizing the fringe meeting.
At the CWU conference in Bournemouth Katy and Elias were able to address around 30 CWU delegates who attended the lunch time fringe meeting.
Katy gave a short overview of the main achievements of the revolution while Elías concentrated on the development of the workers’ movement and the struggle for workers’ control and the occupied factories. The mood was very attentive andenthusiastic as the delegates heard about workers occupying factories and running them under workers’ control, as well as about the renationalization of privatized companies and the debate about how to get to socialism. In everybody’s minds was the threat of the new government to privatise Royal Mail.
We hope that these meetings have served to inject a bit of the revolutionary spirit of the Venezuelan working people into the British trade union movement and we thank the different CWU branches who sponsored the meeting.