Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hands off Venezuela conference

I went to the second conference of the Hands of Venezuela campaign today, which was attended by over 200+ people. What struck me was the number of young people there (yeah and I felt old!). Speakers included Jeremy Dear, Diana Raby, Alan Woods who all spoke about the historical and current situation in Venezuela and especially so with elections impending in early December 2006. Solidarity and unity with the Bolivarian revolution was expressed. Jeremy Dear discussed the importance of trade union support and spoke about attending the National Workers Union (UNT) conference. There has been redistribution of land, healthcare, education and so on. The ongoing revolution in Venezuela is having a global impact.

But what kind of revolution is it? There was brief discussion about the state of the revolution and what stage it is at (lots of theory, chaps, on Lenin, Trotsky and Trotsky’s theory on permanent revolution).

The situation in Mexico and the recent events in Oaxaca were discussed (an emergency resolution was passed). A documentary called Solidarity was shown which showed done globally by the Hands off Venezuela campaign (I can’t find a link for it but it is worth buying it as it is only 10mins long and good to show at TU meetings etc.). Also another documentary was advertised called 5 Factories.

Student leader Ronny Pante spoke along with activist Francisco Rivero. There were questions about the role of women in the revolution. There’s the film by Global Women’s Strike called Journey with the Revolution. Educational opportunities have improved for women and training women in a trade. Third of ministers are women. Women also are 70% of the military reserve. Women are integral to the revolution. There is that quote from Chavez regarding women: “Capitalism is sexist, socialism cannot be sexist. Only women have the commitment, the passion and the love needed to make the revolution; to be motor, cutting edge and fire of the revolution.”
I wish there was more of a discussion on women and there was a woman from Venezuela who spoke briefly but in general terms about Venezuela.

John McDonnell spoke of the bloody record of US imperialism in Guatemala, Brazil, El Salvador, Chile and so on… He spoke about the need to support and protect the revolution as there is the potential threat (and we shouldn’t be complacent).

During the day there were resolutions passed pretty much unanimously but one which was a sticking point was whether to support John McDonnell as leader campaign. Some comrades felt that the HoV campaign shouldn’t take a position. I believe that we had to take a position and to show to the people of Venezuela that the Labour Party has committed socialists in the ranks who are opposed to Blair and New Labour. We have to make that perfectly clear and especially since John McDonnell is joint vice president of the HoV and has an impeccable record. It is perfectly reasonable for a campaign like HoV to take a position over this.

It was a long day and I was knackered. I saw David Broder and he asked questions around workers control and expropriation. I had a chat with Liam to see who could get their report on the blog first and it will be interesting to see how he sums the day up as he had a different position over the McDonnell campaign than me.

Btw: Congratulations to Liam for getting elected onto the HoV steering committee