Tuesday, December 19, 2006

[PICS] Photo Gallery (Sanitarios Maracay)

Dear all,
Click on the pic below for a link to a photo gallery about the visit of the HOV delegation to Sanitarios Maracay on the 1st of December. Enjoy!

More photo galleries coming soon.

All the best!

Espe Espigares (unfortunately, back in London now!)

[VIDEO] Sanitarios Maracay demo

Here´s a new video from the HOV team in Caracas. They covered the demonstration of Sanitarios Maracay workers for nationalisation under workers control on December 14th (see reports by William Sanabria and Rob Sewell).

The delegation had visited Sanitarios before (see the video they produced), a couple of reports of the visit to Sanitarios Maracay by the delegation were published earlier in the blog, by Shane and Rob

for more information on the occupation of Sanitarios Maracay read a statement of the trade union leadership, their decision to form a factory committee, a report of the demo in Maracay, and a report of the mass workers meeting that elected the factory committee.

there is an international appeal for support for their struggle

Will and Mel in Caracas

Thursday, December 14, 2006

[VIDEO] Entrevista con Luis Primo (Interview with Luis Primo)

Una entrevista con Luis Primo de la UNT / FRETECO / CMR. Luis habla sobre las fabricas ocupadas, el control obrero, Sanitarios Maracay, las elecciones del 3 de diciembre, la democracia obrera y la democracia burgesa, la economia, el estado, y el camino a seguir despes de las elecciones.

English transcript / subtitles coming soon!


John P.

Hands Off Venezuela visit to the Cotisa Housing Project

Hands Off Venezuela visit to the Cotisa Housing Project.
Wednesday 13th December 2006

Hands Off Venezuela went to Cotisa, a poor neighbourhood in the hills of Caracas, which was devastated by a flood 23 years ago. The then government of Luis Herrera Campins supplied tiny metal shelters that were supposed to serve as temporary protection for 120 homeless families. Almost three decades later, those families – now extended into two generations – were still living in the squalid makeshift shelters.

old housing

Now, under the new Chavez government, oil money is being used to fund a new housing project that is transforming the living conditions for these families.

New housing

We met Miriam Sanchez, the Project Manager from the Municipal Mayor’s Office, who explained that the 10-month old project truly fosters community participation. The resident families take part in weekly committee meetings, where plans and ideas are discussed and approved. The community itself is hired to build the 2 story, 2 bath, 3 bedroom houses, which creates employment as well.

Miriam Sanchez

We spoke to a Mother with one of her teenaged sons who told us about her experiences.
“I can tell you it's been a marvellous change, because we used to live in tiny trailers. Look how big my son is. It's the first time he has ever lived in a decent home. Here we have space.” She said how she once lived in a nice home but that the family had bad luck and her father died when she was very young. She introduced us to her small grandson and said that he was born in the trailer too but by the time he started walking, he lived in their new spacious home. “It's marvellous. What good work president Chavez has done for poor people. And, we hope things continue moving ahead for us and for others as well.”

Mother with new housing

New housing

We also spoke to Mr Jesus Rengito, who is in charge of security on the new estate.
“If we don't have liberty, we have nothing. We want all the peoples of the world to focus on the reality of our revolution. The revolution is beautiful, but we need to build it. We're building it step by step. We have a guide who is Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias, but we have to have the ideas regarding our revolution and to learn what Socialism of the 21st century is, so that it can lead the people who are living in darkness to come out of their backwardness and to take the message to the most remote corners of our country.”


Miriam finished by telling us that in the past ten months, 50 percent of the families had already been re-housed, and resources have been approved to carry out projects in 32 other areas of Caracas next year.


In Britain, the last Tory government sold 1.6 million council houses and flats to tenants at discount prices in what amounted to the biggest privatization of all, raising more than £7bn. Little money found its way back into improving remaining properties. The government was keen to hive off the remaining 3.2 million in England to housing associations and developers.
Under New Labour, 750,000 council homes have now gone to associations and social housing companies. This has led many to believe that council housing in Britain is facing a slow death.

So the messages from the people of Caracas for us to learn from their revolutionary process, are indeed, very appropriate.

Melanie, for the HOV delegation, Caracas

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More on Election Day in Caracas

Election Day in Caracas went by in a whir of activity, reports, discussions, neighborhoods visited, fireworks and rain. Since then, we’ve had a chance to sit back and discuss the day’s events and come to some general conclusions.

One thing I think needs to be highlighted is just how passionate and determined the Bolivarian masses are. Their enthusiasm and energy isn’t the naïve passion of a first revolutionary awakening – it is much more gritty, down to earth, and conscious. It is clear that the revolution has come a long ways since it first really took off way back in 1989. Revolutions are a process, and the extended nature of the Bolivarian Revolution is proof of that. But revolutions cannot last forever – as we have explained time and again, you cannot make half a revolution. Despite the passionate outpouring of support for Chavez in the last few days, it is clear that things have to change drastically – and soon.

Most people are in the holiday mood at the moment - I am told that politics fizzles to nothing in the latter half of December. But come the middle of January, things will start to heat up, and fast.

In the chavista barrio of San Agustin

On election day, the mood in the barrios contrasted like night and day with the mood in the better-off neighborhoods. As can be seen in the videos we uploaded (more video and images to come in the coming days!), the mood was joyous, militant, and determined. The counter-revolution was defeated not only at the polls (in the largest margin of victory for the revolutionary process since it began), but on the streets, which teemed with millions of people celebrating yet ready for action.

A voting line in an opposition neighborhood

The crowds waiting to vote in Sarria, a chavista barrio

When the CNE made the initial announcement, showing that Chavez had an overwhelming lead, the most raw, explosive, I’d say, even primordial celebration broke out. Drenched to the bone with rain and cold, hundreds of thousands jumped up and down, clenched and waved their fists, hugged, kissed, danced, and cried, while fireworks went off above us. The relief, exaltation, and pure joy was something to behold.

We were able to stand just 50 feet from Chavez when he delivered his victory speech (as at a festival rock concert, we slowly winded our way through the crowd until we were just in front of the “Balcony of the Victorious People”). We’ll have some more video up soon which will hopefully give you a feel for how energetic it all was.

The Crowds at Miraflores Before Chavez' Victory Was Announced

You can read the transcript of his speech online, and it is a speech rich with interesting facts, general observations, and loosly-outlined plans, but what you can’t glean from the typed-up version is the reaction of the crowd to Chavez’ words. I’ll highlight just a few points, which I think reflect the mood of the revolutionary masses.

• Chavez opened his speech by saying, “Long Live the Socialist Revolution!” This was met with rapturous applause. He also said that the elections were not an ending point, but a starting point, and this is clearly what the masses expect. When he told the assembled masses that they had not re-elected him, but had in reality re-elected themselves, they responded with an incredible roar. This was truly how the Bolivarian masses saw these elections: as a referendum on the path towards socialism and their own participation in the running of society.

• When Chavez started talking about how Venezuela needs to reach out to its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors, the crowd started chanting “Cuba! Cuba! Cuba!” When he mentioned Brazil and Argentina, they chanted: “Cuba! Cuba! Cuba!” When he finally got to Cuba, dedicating the victory to the anniversary of the Granma landing 50 years ago, and to Fidel Castro, the crowd went wild.

• The hundreds of thousands gathered to hear his speech also responded feverishly to his call to fight bureaucracy and corruption to the death. Much has changed in Venezuela since Chavez first came to power, but much of the corruption and bureaucratic syphilis of the 4th Republic remains and is gaining strength in the new 5th Republic. The masses want decisive action taken against these parasites.

• At one point Chavez said that what the revolution was fighting for was “Equality, equality, equality!” The crowd screamed it’s heart out in approbation. They have clearly voted for a genuine project of socialism, not for cosmetic changes and tinkering with the system. The various misiones have alleviated the worst aspects of decades of neglect, but society is still far from equal, and the majority of Venezuelans are clear that this vast gap between rich and poor must be narrowed quickly.

• When Chavez said a few words reaching out to those that voted against him, the crowd actually booed. In the days since the elections, there has been much talk of reconciliation among the reformist sectors of the bureaucracy, who know the pressure in January will be tremendous. They are already moving to check that pressure and to confuse the movement with dangerous words about “national unity” – i.e. blurring the sharply delineated class lines in Venezuela, and ultimately, subordinating the interests of the working class to the interests of the oligarchy and imperialism. Based on the reaction of the crowd, the Bolivarian masses will fight these kinds of moves tooth and nail.

• The masses’ hatred of imperialism is overwhelming. They are enraged at the actions of imperialism around the world, and in Latin America in particular. How many millions have died as a direct or indirect result? The crowd’s enthusiasm for Chavez’ words about sovereignty and respect for Venezuela reflect the nationalism of a colonial nation, enslaved for centuries by foreign powers, feeling for the first time the potential to really break those chains. At the same time, everyone in the crowd was extremely friendly to me and made it clear that they oppose imperialism, not the working and poor people of the U.S., Canada, Europe, etc.

Outside Miraflores After Chavez' Victory Speech

There are many tasks faced by the revolution come January. For example, what to do about the National Assembly and other similar bodies, which are elected on the old model of bourgeois, representative democracy, as opposed to direct, participatory democracy? Real democracy – workers’ democracy – must be based on universal, direct election of all officials, with the right of immediate recall. These officials must not earn more than the average wage of a skilled worker, and all tasks must be rotated regularly so as to combat bureaucratic routinism, and so that everyone can learn how to run society. Real workers’ democracy would mean the linking up of democratically-elected workers’, peasants’, neighborhood, and soldiers’ assemblies on a local, regional, and national level, in order to democratically plan the running of the economy and society as a whole. The example of Sanitarios Maracay, as the embryo of genuine workers’ democracy, cannot be underestimated. This is just one of the many fundamental problems that must be dealt with decisively in the coming period.

Along with the question of the state (including the question of the military and the arming of the people), there remains the key question of the economy - the economic expropriation of capitalism. The economy is still capitalist. Genuine socialism simply cannot arise out of the current economic set up. My impression is that the imperialists will risk some of their capital by investing in Venezuela, work to buy off even more of the closet escualidos currently parading around as Bolivarians, and try and link prosperity with foreign investment, with the idea that expropriations would mean the end of the boom. In this way they will try to stave off expropriations of the key industries, the banks, the media, and the latifundios, and will also strengthen their control over the state apparatus, an apparatus designed by and for the interests of the capitalist class.

In my opinion, imperialism has clearly decided to take the “Bill Clinton” approach as opposed to the “GW Bush” approach to deal with the “problem” of the Bolivarian Revolution. They cannot make a frontal assault, so they will opt to derail and wear out the revolution over time, waiting until the time is right to pounce. Their quick recognition of Chavez’ victory is only an attempt to “kill the revolution with kindness”, since killing it with open blows has not worked so far. They will sow confusion, discontent, and work to pick off the most advanced sectors one by one.

The masses have waited patiently for fundamental change to come. They have waited until after the referendum, until after the mid-term elections of last year, and now until these Presidential elections. They have had enough of dilly-dallying! A clear example is needed, a clear point of support for Chavez to lean on in his battle against the 5th column that surrounds him and threatens to suck the life out of the revolution. This example can only be found in the labor movement, in the movement of factory occupations and workers’ control, which can and must serve as the lever to push the revolution to the next level.

The revolution’s enemies are powerful, and there is little time left for further mistakes and half measures. By all accounts, a decisive settling of accounts will take place sooner rather than later. The movement still sorely lacks a broad-based and far-sighted revolutionary leadership. But this can be built in the heat of the struggle – people learn quickly in a revolutionary situation – but there is not all the time in the world.

The entire planet must keep its eyes firmly focused on events in Venezuela. What happens in Venezuela in the coming months can change the entire course of human history. I can’t encourage everyone enough to get involved with the International Hands Off Venezuela Campaign. Contact us at www.handsoffvenezuela.org.

Stay tuned for more pics, video, and updates in the coming days!

Friday, December 8, 2006

[VIDEO] Venezuelan Election Report 1, Polling Station Tour

Venezuela recently saw Hugo Chavez re-elected in a landslide victory, with a 62 percent majority. The Hands Off Venezuela delegation tours some of the polling stations to learn more about the electoral process, the technology used, and interviews an international observer from Belgium, who oversaw the historical event.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

HOV delegation in discussion on socialist economy

The international Hands Off Venezuela Delegation to Venezuela that spanned from November 28th to December 5th has officially ended. But, for those staying behind, the work continues of course!

Our media blitz here has been extensive. From a full-page article in one of the main Caracas newspapers “Ultimas Noticias” to interviews and guest appearances broadcast on Venezuela TV, Catia TV, Vive TV and National Assembly TV which aired from within the heart of the Venezuelan Parliament.

After our first appearance on a current affairs show on Vive, we were asked back to speak as part of a discussion group on the program ‘Y eso con que se come?’. Recorded just two days after Chavez said “61% of people didn’t vote for me, they voted for socialism” in his victory re-election speech, the show was on the subject of the economy – but not just the general economy – the socialist economy. The host asked Espe Espigares about what she thought about all of the social changes taking place in Venezuela and who she thought was benefiting. She responded by saying how important the misiones are, but that she thought a lot more still needed to be done. She pointed out that Chavez has now clearly called for socialism of the 21st Century but that socialism is not about handing out a few crumbs to the people. Its about taking over the commanding heights of the economy. She quoted Chavez who had just two nights before said, “There is nothing to fear about socialism.” to a sea of thousands of cheering Bolivarian all dressed in red.

The host then asked John Peterson from the US delegation what his opinion was about the subject of workers control. He responded by pointing out that it was about nationalization with democratic workers control because workers aren´t interested in defending their work places and factories if they were owned by the boss whose interests are completely at odds with those of the workers. Campesinos won’t defend the land if it is owned by the big landowners and landlords. He used the example of Sanitarios Maracay, a factory occupied and run by the workers as a small scale illustration of how the economy should be run in a socialist state. Assemblies of workers, campesinos, popular and local assemblies organized nationally to run the

Our message of solidarity and support of the Bolivarian Revolution aired on radio as well with long interviews on National Radio and community stations like Radio Negro Primero. We were even stopped on the streets several times by well-wishers and people who had recognized us from the television. Two different people also said that Chavez said in a press conference that he had heard that there was a Hands Off Venezuela delegation here and would like to meet us.

So, our message was put out there loud and clear - we want Venezuelans who are making progressive change in their society to know that there is world-wide interest in events happening here and that there is an international will to guard and to learn from the process taking place in Venezuela and to take it back to Europe and North America!