week, Leeds University played host to In Defence of Marxism
editor Alan Woods, speaking on the subject of the Venezuelan
revolution and the impact of the recent regional and municipal
elections. Organised by the International Affairs Forum, whose
previous speakers include such well-known establishment figures as Hillary
Benn and Geoff Hoon, the meeting drew a large and lively crowd (over
50 were in attendance).
The bulk of Alan’s talk comprised a broad historical overview of the
revolution. Alan explained how Chavez came to power on a radical
democratic programme. This programme’s limited reforms (including land
redistribution and raising the oil price to pay for social programmes)
enraged US imperialism and the local bourgeoisie (the ‘oligarchy’) to
the point where they organised a coup d’etat to remove the president
by force in 2002. This coup was only defeated by the Venezuelan masses, who
mobilised in force to defeat it. Next, the bosses of the state oil
company tried to sabotage production, which the workers thwarted by
occupying the refineries and running them without the bosses!
However, despite the enormous gains of the revolution, and the
undoubted courage of the Venezuelan masses, Alan explained that the
revolution faces a great danger. Much of the economy remains in
private hands, and its private owners are doing all they can to
sabotage it, creating shortages of basic necessities such as food.
Alan concluded that the only solution was the complete expropriation
of all Venezuelan industry under workers’ control and management,
leading to a planned socialist economy.
There was time for questions at the end, sparking a lively debate. One
contributor questioned Alan about Chavez’s moves against certain
sections of the private media which had been involved in the coup.
Alan responded that it was imperative that the revolutionary movement
move against counterrevolutionary elements that threatened to destroy
it, and pointed out that the media in question had been actively
involved in the undemocratic attempts to bring down the government.
Another member of the audience questioned whether a Marxist such as
Alan should support Chavez, who is not a Marxist, and comes under
pressure from both the left and the right. Alan pointed out that the
Venezuelan masses support Chavez hugely, and so in order to win their
support, it is important to make socialist demands on Chavez and use
these to rally people, rather than simply attacking him in an abstract
Many of Alan’s warnings were confirmed by a left-wing Venezuelan in
the audience, who noted that the revolution had not been completed,
and that parades and speeches weren’t solving the basic problems of
Alan finished with an appeal to build Hands off Venezuela, and several
people left contact details after the meeting. We went for a drink and
chat with a number of people there, who were greatly impressed with
our ideas, and were willing to learn more. All-in-all, this was a
successful meeting, and we look forward to building the campaign in