A meeting in Brussels under the title "what is really hapenning in Venezuela" had a turn out of 85 people despite threats from Venezuelan opposition supporters to disrupt it.
A record number of 85 people participated in the last ‘Jeudi du Marxisme’ organised in Brussels on the situation in Venezuela. The ‘Jeudi du Marxisme’ is the monthly open activity of the Brussels branch of the International Marxist Tendency. This time it was organised jointly with the Hands Off Venezuela campaign. Faced with a growing number of questions of activists in the movement about the long tug of war between the violent right and extreme right opposition and the government we decided to invite three speakers at our activity. Ronnie Ramirez a Chilean filmmaker living in Belgium who used to work in Venezuela, Erik Demeester from the Hands Of Venezuela campaign and Luis Vargas of the Venezuelan Christian Workers Youth.
Despite numerous threats of violence at similar activities in Belgium and in the rest of Europe by frenzied oppositionists we decided to publicise this activity as widely as possible. Actually the best defence in this case is full publicity. Hundreds of posters were placarded in the streets and FB messages went viral announcing the activity. Learning from the attempted sabotage of previous meetings in Madrid, London and Germany we also warned everyone well in advance (on our posters and FB messages) that we would not tolerate any sabotage of our meeting. A special group of 20 people was organised to do the stewarding outside and inside the hall. The local Antifa group contacted us to help in case of trouble. The local police was also warned of a possible counter demo. We also added that everyone would be allowed to speak, including oppositionists, on condition they did not tried to sabotage the meeting. This bold attitude delivered results. The participants felt things were under control and they saw we took the security seriously. Despite calls for organising a picket against the event and threats of sabotage on the part of Venezulean oppositionists, nothing happened.
We also had a surprise visit of the Cuban and Venezuelan ambassadors to Belgium.
Erik Demeester, from HOV in Belgium, gave a general perspective of the events in Venezuela. ‘This is a sustained and coordinated attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government and its president. They receive help from the local oligarchy and imperialism. We cannot stay neutral…. At the same time we need to make a critical appraisal of the development of the policy of the government. Concessions to the capitalist class will not quieten them. Within the popular movement there is a growing demand for a radicalisation of the revolution or it will die’. Our unconditionally defence of the revolution against the right wing and imperialist attacks goes hand in hand with critical solidarity.
Ronnie Ramirez analysed the role and the tricks the media use to blacken the revolution. He gave some good examples of the media manipulation and answered the lies and distortions published in the Belgian and international media. He also explained how in Venezuela itself the media are still largely under control of the private sector, i.e. the right wing opposition and how local community based media is building a counterweight to the dominance of the private radio and television.
Last but not least, spoke Luis Vargas from the Venezuelan Catholic Workers Youth (JOC). For many people present it was the first time they could hear someone from the rank and file of the revolutionary workers and youth movement. First of all he defended the revolution and its conquests. He lambasted calmly all the claims of the opposition about the economic crisis. ‘I will not deny the dire social and economic situation but I reject the explanation of the right wing for this crisis’. Then he went on explaining some of the growing contradictions in the movement between the bureaucracy and other rich people in the government and the state and the stubborn attempts of the popular movement to gain control over the process and press its own agenda of radicalisation. ‘The elections for a new constituent assembly are an opportunity for the popular movement but it could also turn out like the past, where self-appointed bureaucrats take over’. As expected most of questions were directed to him. Some oppositionists present also spoke and asked some questions. What struck the participants was the poverty of argument of those people. All their questions were answered. This was the moment when the ambassador of Venezuela stood up and took the defence of the government and the president against all the attacks they have been suffering.
After the meeting many people congratulated us for the activity and continued to discuss until late in the night. This successful activity is giving a new impetus to the solidarity movement in Belgium.