In central Caracas, more than 300 people packed into the Great Hall of the Caracas Hilton to hear about the international defence of the Venezuelan Revolution. The meeting, organized by the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign, brought together representatives from a whole host of countries eager to listen and to debate the burning issue of international solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution.
The first speaker to address the gathering was Rob Sewell of the British of Hands Off Venezuela campaign. Rob, who is part of an HOV delegation to the World Social Forum, outlined the context in which the Venezuelan Revolution was taking place. “Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union there has been an international ideological campaign by the representatives of imperialism to discredit socialism, revolution, or any idea of challenging capitalism. The struggles unfolding in Latin America, and especially those in Venezuela, have falsified this propaganda…. Today, the leader of the Revolution, Hugo Chavez, is raising the banner of socialism, not only for Venezuela, not for Latin America, but the whole world”, stated Rob.
The speaker went on to explain that neither the oligarchy nor the imperialists would ever be reconciled to the Venezuelan Revolution. This was particularly so with American imperialism, which was attempting to dominate the globe. The Venezuelan Revolution was an inspiration to the downtrodden masses of Latin America and the world, which was the reason behind the attempts of imperialism to crush the Revolution. The question of international solidarity with Venezuela was vital. That was the reason why the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign was launched in 2002 after the failed coup to remove President Chavez. The campaign has now spread to over 30 countries.
Rob explained that over the last three years the campaign had been successfully taken to the British trade union and Labour movement. Resolutions defending the Venezuelan Revolution had been taken to trade union branches which and then submitted to national conferences of the unions. He quoted the example of Amicus, which has 1.3 million members, when the HOV sponsored resolution to the union’s national conference got the support of 97% of the delegates. The same was true of other trade unions, resulting in a resolution passed unanimously at the national Trades Union Congress, which has an affiliated membership of some seven million members.
Rob ended his contribution with an appeal to build the international solidarity campaign. “The Venezuelan cause is our cause. Victory to the Bolivarian Revolution! Victory to socialism!”
The next speaker was Charley Allen also from Hands Off Venezuela. He spoke about the importance of organizing the campaign and provided the example of the work in Britain. “Following the coup and lockout, a key struggle was over the recall referendum in August 2004”, stated Charley. “Its affects in London were tremendous. We organized a weeklong campaign during the referendum culminating in a demonstration outside the US embassy. Other campaigns came to join in and build solidarity, such as Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba and Argentina. It was an outstanding moment and showed how events in Venezuela can help build the solidarity movement in other countries.”
Charley then went on to explain how the use of films and music had been used to build support and could be methods used elsewhere to build up solidarity work. “We urge you, when you return home”, stated Charley, “to establish campaigns like Hands Off Venezuela or similar organizations to help build the international solidarity work. With our joint efforts, we can make a difference.”
The other speakers on the platform included Andy Higginbottom from the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, who spoke about the situation in Colombia and the urgent need to challenge the multinationals. Andy explained in particular the success of the campaign to boycott Coca Cola. Andy was followed by a Colombian trade unionist who spoke about the murder of his fellow trade unionists by the paramilitaries. He called for the establishment of international tribunals on different continents which would lay charges against different multinational corporations. He went on to urge solidarity with Venezuela and the struggles of workers throughout Latin America.
Jessica Crocker from the Bolivia Solidarity Campaign spoke about the development of their campaign which was set up in October 2003. The catalyst for the campaign was the revolutionary movement in Bolivia for the nationalization of hydro-carbons. She was followed by Dan Lewenstein from the Indo-american refugee and migrant organization who had just arrived from La Paz, after attending the Presidential inauguration of Evo Morales. He graphically described the tremendous mood in Bolivia with the election of Morales together with the hopes of the masses for the future. The election in Bolivia clearly opens up a new radical front within the continent of Latin America.
After a lively discussion, many delegates filled in the address sheet for further information and a number of people approached the organizers at the end to find out how they could best help organize the campaign. The meeting was a great success and a tremendous beginning for HOV at the World Social Forum.