In the early morning of Sunday, 11th October, around 20 people attended a workshop presented by the Société Bolivarienne du Québec/Hands Off Venezuela. “The Bolivarian Revolution: The truth and the myth” was one of many workshops which were presented by many social organizations during the five days of the Forum Social Québécois in Montreal from the 8th to the 12th of October.

The presentation, given by comrade Ricardo, started with the historical background of the Venezuelan Revolution. In 1989, the army opened fire and killed between 275 to 3000 Venezuelans who took to the street in response to the austerity measures by the government of Carlos Andréz Pérez. This bloody event, known as the Caracazo, marked a turning point in the history of Venezuela. A section of the army who were dissatisfied that they were ordered to kill their own people attempted a coup in 1992. The coup failed but from this emerged Hugo Chávez who immediately became the figure whom the poor masses of Venezuela saw as their genuine leader. In 1998, Chávez won the presidential election and since then, the movement has won more than ten democratic elections.

Ricardo then proceeded to talk about the social missions that were implemented and have brought millions of people out of poverty and misery. The one unique feature of the missions is that they are being organized by the communities themselves, thereby bypassing the bureaucracy that is the inheritance of the previous government. This is not free of danger though. With the economic crisis affecting Venezuela, the government, still resting on the market economy, has been forced to cut many of these popular social missions.

At the end of the presentation, the floor was opened for discussion. One member of the audience asked about Chávez’s support of undemocratic regimes like Iran and terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. A healthy debate then ensued where one of the HOV members pointed out that the Bolivarian revolution is not homogenous and that there isn’t full agreement on all of the government’s actions. Some revolutionaries believe that the stance that the Venezuelan government has taken, especially towards the revolution in Iran, will ultimately hurt the revolution in Venezuela and can endanger international solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution from other revolutionaries abroad (see Solidarity with the movement of the Iranian masses – Statement of the Revolutionary Marxist Current in Venezuela). Indeed there is nothing progressive at all with Hamas and Hezbollah; if the Palestinian and Lebanese masses offer a significant amount of support to these groups now, it is only because there is an absence of a revolutionary alternative and leadership in these countries.

One of the HOV members present reminded the audience that the revolution is far from finished. The economy is still in the hands of the capitalists who are actively sabotaging the economy in order to undermine the revolution. The majority of the media is still in the hands of the oligarchy that spews lies and slanders to strangle the revolution. The state is still filled with bureaucratic and corrupt elements that are inherited from the old 4th Republic, who actively sabotage the revolution from within. The threat of counter-revolution is real, and the revolution has to move forward: expropriate the oligarchy, and dismantle the old state and build a new form of state based on the communal councils and factory committees.

Women fighting for workers’ control

Following the morning workshop on the Bolivarian revolution, the SBQ/HOV organized a documentary screening about the struggle of the women workers from the Brukman factory in Argentina who took over their factory and run it under workers’ control. The screening of “The Women of Brukman” was attended by around 15-20 people, with special guest Isaac Isitan, the producer of the documentary.

“The Women of Brukman” tells a story how the workers in the Brukman garment factory took over their factory after the owners abandoned them in 2001 after the major economic collapse in Argentina. The bosses left the workers without pay and compensation, forcing the workers to run the factory themselves. This courageous story of the women in Brukman has become a national point of reference for the factory occupation movement in Argentina.