Ricardo Galindez’s tour of Britain kicked off with a big success yesterday. Over 80 people filled the Grand Committee Rooms in the British House of Commons to hear the Venezuelan trade union leader outline the latest developments in the Bolivarian Revolution.
The meeting was sponsored by John McDonnell MP, the honorary President of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign and chaired by Jeremy Dear, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.
John Mc Donnell
John McDonnell opened the meeting by explaining the vital importance of the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign in raising the issue of the Venezuelan revolution throughout the labour movement. In particular, in this general election year, it was essential to put pressure on Labour MPs and through them on the Labour government. “In the past we supported the cause of revolutions that had been crushed by imperialism, now we have a chance of supporting a revolution in the making”, he said.
Ricardo Galindez spoke of his experiences in the fast moving events of the Venezuelan Revolution. He explained the masses, aroused by the election of Hugo Chavez, had faced up to every challenge, including the recent Referendum, to deal a blow to the counter-revolution and the rule of the oligarchy. “On the day of the Referendum, the Opposition suffered a serious blow”, he said. “It was produced by the strength of the masses and introduced profound demoralisation into the ranks of the Opposition. They disappeared from the streets.” However, Ricardo warned that the counter-revolution would never give up. “They continue to conspire and plot. They keep factories closed.” They were behind the recent assassination of the prosecutor investigating the coup organisers.
Ricardo then explained that the recent kidnapping of the FARC representative in Caracas by Colombian special forces in alliance with some Venezuelan military officials was a provocation, behind which lies the hand of Washington.
He went on to explain that the UNT was a growing force. The working class has put its stamp on the revolution and the nationalisation of Venepal was a “turning-point”, so he said. Ricardo welcomed the comments of President Chavez in explaining that the Bolivarian revolution could not remain within the confines of capitalism. Only by taking the socialist road and nationalising the banks, finance houses and major companies can we succeed. He warned, however, that the revolution is not complete. To avoid defeat it must go forward and break the power of the oligarchy by nationalising their property and placing it under workers’ control.
Comrade Galindez ended his speech with the words: “We shall win. We have got to win. We WILL win!”
The next speaker was the Venezuelan Ambassador to London, Alfredo Toro Hardy. He explained that President Chavez was well aware of the fine work of the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign in Britain. “In fact, I spoke to President Chavez a few days ago and he was keen to make a short stop-over visit to Britain to meet with you”, stated Mr Hardy to rapturous applause.
The Venezuelan Ambassador
Alfredo Toro Hardy
The Ambassador outlined the policies of the Chavez government and the grave difficulties Venezuela faced from the aggressive stance of the United States. Hugo Chavez had won 8 different electoral processes in addition to his presidential election in 1998, and yet the hostile media are calling him a dictator!
The model of free-market capitalism that the United States is attempting to impose on Latin America has been a disaster, he said. Latin American indicators are worse in the 1990s than in the 1970s. “The model advocated by President Chavez is rational”, he explained. He ended his speech with the appeal: “We need your help.”
Comrade Manzoor, member of the Pakistani Parliament, and who met President Chavez in Venezuela last year, also addressed the meeting. In his contribution, he drew comparisons between the Bolivarian Revolution and the revolution in Pakistan in 1969. In Pakistan, the revolution under the leadership of Bhutto, went half way, and resulted in the counter-revolution being able to muster its forces and overthrow Bhutto in a military coup. The conclusion he drew was that it is necessary to carry through the socialist revolution to the very end. There was no other road, stated Manzoor.
A lively period of questions and discussion followed from the floor. A collection was also held which raised an excellent £150 for the funds of the campaign. After a brief reply from the Ambassador and Ricardo, Jeremy Dear summed up the meeting and appealed for the Campaign to be raised in every corner of the labour movement. He also expressed his deep appreciation to John McDonnell for his help, which was also heartily appreciated by thunderous applause from the audience.
Once again, the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign has held a successful meeting in the House of Commons. The task now is to take the Campaign to every trade union branch, every trades council, every shop stewards’ meeting and every student union, to build it into a mass movement in defence of the Venezuelan Revolution.