On Thursday 7th February, having recently returned from a speaking tour of Latin
America, Darrall Cozens visited Leeds University to share his experiences with more
than 20 students and “Hands off Venezuela!” activists.
Darrall began by explaining
the conditions which have defined every revolution in history: the ruling class
becomes divided and enters into crisis, unable to see a way forward; the middle
class goes through a state of ferment; and finally the workers and the poor enter
the political arena, determined to change their conditions. He went on to describe
how for the past 9 years Venezuelan workers have struggled tirelessly to take their
destinies into their own hands, seeing in Chavez the embodiment of their ambitions.
Despite this Darrall noted how millions of Chavez supporters and PSUV members had
simply stayed at home during the constitutional referendum. On the one hand he
pointed to the existence of a “Fifth Column” in the Bolivarian movement – a
bureaucracy which pays lip-service to “Socialism of the 21st Century” whilst
actively sabotaging the “Si” campaign by removing any political content from it –
and the abstention of thousands of workers who have become demoralised by the
economic sabotage of the capitalists and landlords.
Following the talk was a discussion which was marked by a high political level and a
focus on what we, as socialists, can do to participate in the revolutionary process.
One student, who had recently travelled to Bolivia, spoke about her experience
talking to miners. She described how entire generations died in their twenties and
thirties, under the rock face, for the profits of a few multinational companies. As
a western tourist she explained how the only charity she could offer was to buy the
workers dynamite so that they could continue to mine the rocks, whilst their health
deteriorated under intolerable conditions.
Everyone present agreed that the only way
to support the Venezuelan Revolution was to struggle for a revolutionary
transformation of British society, and so the discussion proceeded along the lines
of how we could build the revolutionary party in Britain, which would be capable of
leading such a struggle – whether we ought to set ourselves up as a sect, or whether
we ought to orient ourselves to the existing labour movement organisations (the
Labour Party, the trade unions etc.).
The discussion continued for a long time after the meeting had ended, with a number
of eager students asking how they could join and get involved in Hands off
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