Successful conclusion to the Hands Off Venezuela speaking tour in Italy

Jorge Martin's speaking tour of Italy came to a close last week with visits to Calabria, Sicily and Rome. All in all this was a very successful speaking tour, with some 1150 people participating in 20 meetings. (May 18, 2004)
See also in Spanish Termina con éxito la gira de la Campaña Manos Fuera de Venezuela en Italia 
And in Italian Ottima chiusura della campagna "Giù le mani dal Venezuela" in Italia

The last leg of the “Hands off Venezuela Campaign” tour of Italy took us to Calabria, Sicily and Rome. On Tuesday May 11, some 40 people, mainly students from UNICAL, attended a meeting in Cosenza organised by the local supporters of the Marxist paper FalceMartello.

The debate, again, centred on the question of violence and non-violence. A student asked whether giving arms to the people would not be dangerous in the sense of creating chaos and generalised violence. Jorge Martín pointed out that the question was not just to give out arms to every single person, but rather to create workers’ and peoples’ militias organised and controlled by democratic revolutionary assemblies in every factory and workers neighbourhood.

Meeting in the PRC headquarters in Caserta (May 8, 2004)

There was also a question about whether the workers would be really able to run industry on their own, or whether they would still need managers and technicians. The reply was that, yes, workers are perfectly capable of running industry, as had actually been shown by the oil workers during the sabotage of the oil industry on the part of the counter-revolutionaries. Furthermore, PDVSA, the oil company, is highly developed from a technological point of view, with many processes run through computer and satellite systems. In any case, engineers and technicians would still be needed, but amongst them, many are prepared to collaborate with the workers, and others would also be used, but instead of following instructions from private management, they would be following the instructions of a democratic workers’ management.

As soon as we had arrived in Cosenza we got the news that the Caserta provincial congress of the metal workers union, FIOM, had unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Venezuelan workers, recognising the putschist character of the CTV leaders and therefore calling for relations to be established with the newly formed trade union federation UNT. They also called for this resolution to be discussed at higher levels of the union, starting with the forthcoming regional FIOM congress in Campania.

After Calabria the campaign crossed over to Sicily on Wednesday May12. There we had an afternoon meeting in Messina with some 40 people present. The meeting had been organised by the provincial federation of the Party of Communist Refoundation (PRC) and they had invited some other speakers as well.

Speaking after Jorge Martin was a university professor from the Milan State University called Pompeiano, who proved once more that a university degree is no guarantee of knowledge. He basically said that Chavez was a populist, and that all populist experiments in Latin America had ended up in bloody dictatorships (!!!). He added that Chavez had interfered with the independence of the judiciary and this was a proof of his undemocratic tendencies. He also warned that the “paramilitary training of children in the schools” (!!??) and the fact that military barracks were open to the people and the army were carrying out social projects in the communities were signs of a “militarisation of society” (maybe professor Pompeiano preferred a model in which the army was used to repress the unarmed people!).

After this, even the chair of the event, Federico Martino, a professor at the Messina University and long time Communist Party member, felt the need to say that “democracy” in abstract does not mean anything and that the ruling class has proven many times in history that when their interests are threatened they do not hesitate to resort to fascism as was the case in Europe in the 1930s.

Jorge Martin speaking at the Meeting in Cosenza (May 11, 2004)

Next to speak was EuroMP for the PRC Giuseppe Di Lello, who had been part of a delegation of the European Parliament to Venezuela. He said that the problem was not that there was no democracy in Venezuela, but rather that there was impunity for the crimes committed by the undemocratic opposition, particularly during the April 2002 coup. He described an article in a financial paper controlled by the opposition which discussed whether “assassinating a president can be legitimate in certain circumstances”! The conclusion he drew from his experience was that all the accusations of the opposition about lack of democracy and attacks on the freedom of the press were false, and that the revolution had to be radicalised in order to defend itself against this anti-democratic opposition. Di Lello adhered to the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign and signed the appeal.

Jorge Martín in his conclusions also replied to the “argument” about the so-called interference of Chávez with the independence of the judiciary, explaining that in Venezuela the overwhelming majority of the judges were reactionary, and that the Supreme Court of Justice had even ruled that there had been no coup in April 2002, but merely a “power vacuum”. We would like to thank the Messina PRC for organising the meeting and also for their donation.

After the meeting we rushed to Catania where the Marx-Engels Circle of the PRC had invited us to speak as a part of a seminar they had organised on Imperialism. Forty people crowded a small room at the “Nievsky” (a local left wing bar) to hear Jorge Martin explain the situation in Venezuela. The meeting was followed by a fundraising dinner.

On the last day of the campaign we went to Rome where the provincial federation of the PRC had organised a meeting. Also here 40 people took part in the meeting which had as speakers Jorge Martin for the Hands off Venezuela Campaign, Marco Consolo, from the International Department of the PRC and Mario Mella from Rome Bolivarian Circle. There was a lively debate, again on the question of non-violence, and whether the revolution had to be radicalised or not.

Marco Consolo argued that the point was not so much about arming the people (as Chavez himself has said) but rather about disarming the reactionaries. He also warned against the danger of revolutionaries from abroad trying to determine the line of the revolution and wanting to make it move forward too fast. He said that every revolution has its own rhythms and these should not be artificially accelerated.

Jorge Martin replied that the need to radicalise the revolution in the direction of nationalisation of the economy under workers’ control was not something which had been raised by revolutionaries outside Venezuela, but was contained in the founding programme of the National Workers’ Union (UNT). That is, the workers themselves in Venezuela were advancing a clear anti-capitalist programme as the only way to fight imperialism. Jorge added that the main problem facing the revolution was not so much the artificial speeding up of the rhythm of the revolution, but rather the feeling of the masses that the revolution was preceding too slowly. Also in Rome we were interviewed by Radio Citta’ Aperta.

During the trip we also had a meeting with Pino Rea, who is the president of the Tuscany Journalists’ Union (FNSI). He had produced an excellent report for the national journalists’ union on the situation of the media in Venezuela called “Class struggle in the editorial offices”, which can be read in their website ( In the report, he argued that the real conflict was not so much about freedom of the media, but rather about the right to information, as the whole of the private media in Venezuela is dominated by the opposition.

The full audio of the excellent Bologna meeting can now be found on-line at: together with an interview with Jorge Martin on the arrest of the Colombian paramilitaries in Venezuela:

All in all this was a very successful speaking tour, with some 1150 people participating in 20 meetings. More than 4,600 euros were raised, but more money is still coming in, and some 300 copies of El Topo Obrero, the paper of the Venezuelan Revolutionary Marxist Current, were sold, together with more than 1000 copies of the “Hands off Venezuela” document produced by the campaign in Italy. The meeting has also set the basis for work within the unions, particularly the metal workers’ union, FIOM, to discuss the recognition of the UNT as the legitimate representative of the Venezuelan workers, instead of the un-elected bureaucracy of the old dying CTV.

May 18, 2004

See the Spanish and Italian versions.