Two successful Hands Off Venezuela meetings were organised this week in France by the Marxist journal La Riposte, which has been supporting the campaign since the very beginning.
The first meeting took place on Tuesday, November 2nd in the headquarters of the French Communist Party 10th District in Paris. Some 56 people packed the meeting room, to the point where some had to sit in the staircase. Jorge Martin from the Hands Off Venezuela campaign explained the situation in Venezuela after the defeat of the reactionary opposition in the recent regional and council elections and the August 15th recall referendum. These two electoral defeats, he explained, clearly destroyed the myth propagated by the opposition and repeated by the international media, that Chavez was widely unpopular and that the majority of the people were against him. The balance of forces was now even more favourable to the revolution and this should be used to complete the revolution by putting the economy firmly in the hands of working people. Martin explained how Chavez had explicitly said that “within the framework of capitalism the problems of poverty, inequality and oppression cannot be solved”.
A lively debate followed Jorge’s introduction. A veteran comrade from the Nanterre section of the PCF spoke. He had been to Venezuela recently and explained his experiences, including giving revolutionary solidarity greetings to a rally of poor peasants fighting for land reform and the extremely enthusiastic response he got from them. Other comrades spoke, including a leading CGT trade unionist from the Paris building workers union, and a number of comrades from Latin America who were also present. Also amongst the audience were a number of Arab intellectuals and journalists covering the meeting for some of the Arab media (including one of the most important Arab language newspapers, Al Quds).
The meeting in Toulouse took place on Thursday, November 4th, at the University of Toulouse-Mirail. Nearly 120 people participated in this excellent meeting which was the third successful meeting organised by La Riposte at this university campus in the last year. Again, Jorge Martin, after explaining the current situation in Venezuela, described some of the debates that are taking place within the revolutionary movement and which are vital for the victorious completion of the Bolivarian revolution. These are mainly centred on the question of how to fight against bureaucrats and careerists within the movement itself and how to deal with the question of the economy.
In the debate, one Venezuelan person argued that the movement led by Chavez was not a genuine revolution since the most important leaders of the left in the 60s and 70s were now with the opposition, and that it was a Manichaeist view to argue that in Venezuela the struggle was between Chavez and the poor on one side and the oligarchy on the other. Jorge replied that those historical leaders of the left who were now in the opposition (Petkoff, Marti, Melo and others) had in fact betrayed everything they had claimed to be fighting for in their revolutionary years. In fact Petkoff had already been a Minister in the Caldera government in the 1990s when he was in charge of privatisations. Jorge added that this was not a new phenomenon and that we had also seen the main guerrilla commander of El Salvador’s FMLN turn into an adviser to Uribe’s right wing pro-imperialist government in Colombia. He explained how despite the betrayal of many of the leaders of the Left, the overwhelming majority of the revolutionary rank and file activists from the past were now active in the Bolivarian revolution. As for the charge of Manichaeism, Jorge explained how the facts show that in the poor working class areas of Caracas, support for Chavez in elections stands at 70 to 80%, while in the rich and middle class areas of the East of Caracas support for the opposition was also 70 to 80%, thus clearly showing the class divisions between Bolivarians and oppositionists.
Amongst the audience there were a number of Venezuelans and students from other Latin American countries. Also present were some CGT trade unionists from the aerospace industry around Toulouse who had come to listen to the meeting. One of the main points of the meetings was the appeal to organise some concrete and long lasting solidarity work with the Venezuelan revolution. At the end of the meeting a group of Venezuelan and French comrades agreed to set up the Toulouse Bolivarian Circle to continue with this work. It was agreed that one of the tasks of the Bolivarian Circle would be to raise the issue of recognition for the new Venezuelan trade union, UNT, within the CGT metal workers federation, which the aerospace trade unionists present belong to.
November 5, 2004
- Hands Off Venezuela! Website of the International solidarity Campaign in defence of the Venezuelan Revolution