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hov-vzla_reportback.jpgOn 8th May, about 40 people filled the OPSEU union hall in downtown Toronto to listen to a report-back by Fightback editorial board member Camilo Cahis, and Toronto Young New Democrats (TYND) Co-Chair Jennie Ernewein. Both Camilo and Jennie were part of a Hands Off Venezuela/Bolivarian Circle “Louis Riel” delegation to Venezuela. Although the delegation was originally intended to participate in the founding conference of the V International (which has now been postponed until after the September parliamentary elections), the two comrades were able to visit worker-controlled factories, participate in the bi-centennial independence celebrations, talk to ordinary workers and PSUV members, and were invited to attend the congress of the Marxists within the PSUV.

Both Camilo and Jennie reported on their trips to two different worker controlled factories, INAF and INVEVAL. Jennie said, “This is what workers’ power is all about; people taking their lives away from the rich and into their own hands.” She talked about many of the advances that the delegation saw happening within the factories.  One worker at INVEVAL, for instance, had worked there for over 30 years but up until a couple of years ago, had never been able to read or write.  Thanks to Mision Robinson, he had learned to write and was now doing post-secondary studies thanks to Mision Ribas, all while still working at INVEVAL.

Camilo spoke about the revolution’s need to make a clear break with capitalism. The workers of the occupied factories in Venezuela realize the important advances that they have made, but also realize the limitations if these factories are not part of a national plan of production. “The workers know that taking individual factories away from the bosses isn’t enough. Both of the factories that we visited are struggling at the moment because they cannot find enough raw materials to ramp up production. What is needed is to reproduce this kind of workers’ control over the whole of society. The first step towards that is the expropriation of the oligarchy, which still, unfortunately, controls the bulk of the economy.”

The speakers described the situation is Venezuela as a polarized situation between the ruling-class on one side, and the workers and poor on the other. “The rich, despite what you might hear in the corporate media, haven’t lost anything. We saw the wealthy East side of Caracas. It puts Forest Hill and Rosedale [two very wealthy neighbourhoods in Toronto] to shame,” Camilo said. “They are used to having a great deal of power in the economy, and they are using it to sabotage the revolution in anyway they can.”

The two described how the oligarchs create artificial shortages of vital goods, especially food. One family (the owners of Polar) controls 60% of food production and distribution in Venezuela and are capable of manipulating scarcity throughout the country in order to destabilize the government. The media (which is still largely in private hands) creates artificial scares of food shortages in order to cause hoarding and rushes on supermarkets and stores. While the comrades were there, the media had played up fears that there were shortages of bread flour; the previous week, it had been toilet paper.

The comrades also described how the crisis of capitalism and the growing polarization are creating waves in the new PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). 2.5-million Venezuelans registered to vote in internal party elections, which are occurring as part of the on-going formation of the relatively new political party. “Can you imagine getting that number of people involved in any political party in this country? It’s the height of hypocrisy that the corporate media can call Venezuela a ‘dictatorship’ even while the press here gives Stephen Harper a free-pass to shut down parliament,” Camilo said.

The PSUV has become the focal point for Venezuela revolutionaries, and the battle against right-wing careerists and bureaucratic elements has heated up. “They need a party that fights for socialism now,” Jennie said, “and that is what the workers and the poor genuinely want to build.”

vzla-bicentennial_crowds.jpgThe bi-centennial celebrations also took place while the delegation was in Venezuela. Half a million revolutionaries filled the street of Caracas to celebrate their country’s independence and their revolution. Camilo stated how the parade’s military display was particularly impressive and how it signified that this was an armed revolution, where the workers would not be afraid of defending their revolutionary movement.

“There is an opening up of another period of mobilization amongst the workers and poor, and you could clearly see that at the celebrations,” Camilo said. “The height of the day was at the end of the military parade, the soldiers got out of their tanks and embraced the crowd. Workers climbed up on the military vehicles. You got the sense that the army and the people are one. This must worry the imperialists as it removes their time-honoured dependence on the military as a bulwark for reaction and coups.”

The United States government has recently taken over many military bases in Colombia and in the Caribbean, surrounding Venezuela militarily. The threat of an invasion of Venezuela by US imperialism is real. But the mobilization of the people is a warning to Washington and their proxies both in Colombian and in Venezuela.

“President Chávez has said that the best way to defend the revolution is to spread it,” Jennie said, closing her speech, “We have to organize, as socialists, both to spread the message of the Venezuelan revolution here and to learn its lessons and apply them in our struggles in this country.”

“The Venezuelan workers want to eradicate capitalism, and are fighting hard to do so,” Camilo summarized, “They are forging their forces in the PSUV, through factory occupations, and through the demand for the expropriation of the economy, once and for all, from the hands of the elite.”

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