On May 28th, close to 200 people attended a very successful conference on Cuba and Venezuela, entitled "Cuba after Fidel, Venezuela at the Crossroads." Hands off Venezuela Montreal and the Bolivarian Society of Quebec, in collaboration with the International Marxist Tendency and Gauche Socialiste, organized the event.
Invited to speak were Celia Hart, Cuban Trotskyist, scientist, lecturer, and author; Jorge Martin, international secretary of Hands Off Venezuela; and Pierre Mouterde, Québec Solidaire member and author of works on Latin American and Quebec social movements.
Notably among those attending were the Consul General of Cuba Sergio Vélez Camhi, Venezuelan Consul General Elio Vitriago, Venezuelan First Consul Adolfo Figueroa, and Bolivian Consul General Walter Estenssoro, as well as Amir Khadir, co-spokeperson of the left-wing party, Québec Solidaire.
Ricardo Astudillo from the Quebec Bolivarian Society introduced the meeting and James Cockcroft chaired it. In his introduction, Cockcoft underlined the importance of the presentation of Leon Trotsky’s book The Revolution Betrayed at this year’s Havana Book Fair.
This was the first major event in Montreal since Fidel’s illness, discussing the political and social implications of what is currently happening in Cuba. Celia Hart led the discussion, as she is an active participant in the Cuban Revolution. In her presentation, Hart highlighted the fact that the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions were mutually dependent and fed on each other, their relationship was different than the one that existed between the Soviet Union and its satellites. For instance, Cuba sends doctors to Venezuela while Venezuela provides Cuba with inexpensive oil, and a revolutionary spirit is shared between both countries. Cubans bring lessons of their revolution to Venezuela and vice versa.
As the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions are interlinked, the perspective put forward by Jorge Martin was crucial for this discussion to be complete. Despite the enormous gains made by the Venezuelan revolution, Jorge Martin emphasized that the revolution is still in danger. Recently, the US Navy has reformed the 4th fleet (which was disbanded in 1951) which is going to be patrolling the Caribbean and coasts of Latin America. This is combined with a noisy campaign to add Venezuela to the list of countries that the US accuses of "sponsoring or harbouring" terrorists. Meanwhile, in Venezuela, the oligarchy uses their control of key parts of the economy to organise a concerted campaign of sabotage, particularly of the food distribution chain. Jorge Martín explained how there is a bureaucracy within the Bolivarian movement which is standing in the way of the completion of Venezuela’s revolution. Venezuela is at a crossroads, and the only way to move forward is to nationalize the economy, get rid of the capitalist state apparatus, and to set up a genuine revolutionary party capable of resolutely carrying the revolution through to its conclusion. "You cannot make half a revolution anymore than you can half cross the street," Martin said. "If you remain in the middle, you’ll be crushed by oncoming traffic."
Also speaking was Pierre Mouterde who announced that Quebec Solidaire would be sending a delegation to Ecuador and Venezuela to learn from the revolutionary movement in those countries.
After the speakers there was a lively debate with questions ranging from the situation in Cuba, to Colombia, Ecuador, May 68, etc. During the debate the meeting agreed with an ovation to send greetings to the Cuban Five who are jailed in US prisons, and who have also read Trotsky’s books sent by the F Engels Foundation, as Celia explained.
The audience, a mixture of young students, veteran activists and Latin American revolutionaries was clearly enthusiastic, not only about the unfolding revolution in Latin America but seeing that also as the prelude for revolutionary events worldwide.
The meeting ended with a round of applause for the organisers and particularly for the excellent translation job done by Emerson Xavier da Silva, from the SBQ.
The event has inspired closer collaboration between Hands Off Venezuela Montreal and the Bolivarian Society of Quebec. We look forward to future work toward common goals. We would also like to thank all these organizations for their supports: Alliance de la Fonction Publique du Canada-Quebec (AFPC-Quebec), QPIRG-Concordia, L’Association Générale étudiante du Cégep du Vieux Montréal (AGECVM), Association Facultaire Étudiante de Sciences Humaines de l’Université du Québec à Montréal (AFESH-UQAM).