HOV fringe meeting at this year’s TUC in Brighton was very
successful, despite the great competition from other fringe meetings at the
Rob Sewell led off with an impassioned speech on the revolutionary
developments in Venezuela that left nobody in any doubt of the progress that
has been accomplished over the past decade. Rob spoke about the contrasting
fortunes of Blair and Chavez since their respective elections in 1997 and 1998
and how the popularity of one nose-dived while the other rocketed. The last
election saw Chavez claim 7.3 million votes (63%), which was due to the
dramatic and positive achievements of the revolution.
Rob gave some anecdotes of young people racing around
Caracas on Election Day, thrilled to be part of the occasion. "People were
being woken up at 2:00 in the morning to participate on election day; people
were queuing and voting and young people were holding 10 fingers, to represent
the 10 million votes they were willing Chavez to win." "It was the most
enthusiastic election campaign which reflected the revolutionary situation in
Venezuela today", he said.
Rob pointed out that it has only been after his rise to
power, that Chavez awoke to the only "real" alternative of socialism. "It was
only through concrete, material events that Chavez realised that socialism was
the way forward." This led Chavez to declare that the last election was not a
"vote for Chavez, but a vote for Socialism".
Alan McLean, the vice president of the FBU, who spoke next,
stated that events like those happening in Venezuela were ones that he had been
"striving for [his] whole life". Alan acknowledged that the only way to protect
the gains of the Venezuelan revolution was to help spread solidarity. Why should it not be possible to have the
same things going on in this country that are taking place over there?" said
Alan. "We should be sending delegations so that people can really see what is
going on in Venezuela". Alan finished by saying that it was a duty to keep
Venezuela "in the public eye" for as long as it takes, to achieve socialist the
goal that it set itself.
John McDonnell congratulated those "far-sighted" enough to
have identified what was taking place in Venezuela and the potential for this
democratic revolution to turn into a socialist revolution. At this moment, the
revolution is empowering millions of Venezuelans of all ages. John was adamant
that in order to correctly analyse the events in Venezuela, it was necessary not to be frightened by terminology such as "Revolution" and "Socialism". The
whole movement in Britain needed to embrace the changes in Latin America. On
the same note, John felt it was high time that a dialogue was started between
the different Venezuela solidarity organisations, and that in the future joint
fringe meetings should be held at the various union conferences around the
country. He joked that Jeremy Dear would be "more than happy" to stand down
from the national body, if it meant unifying the work of the other campaigns.
John also said that he would do all he could to force
acknowledgment of the Venezuelan Revolution by the British government. "We must
do our best to inform central government of the great changes that are
happening in Venezuela and to dispel the myths from the press about Chavez."
In the lively question session that followed, people asked
how to counter the day-to-day arguments of those that called Venezuela a
dictatorship. The panel answered that Chavez’ election results, where he has
won every election he has ever taken part in (they amount to a dozen), speaks
for itself. They also added that the right to constant participation in
elections is not the mark of a dictatorship, for prime ministers in this
country enjoy this freedom too, though none could ever boast such popularity as
The overarching message of the meeting was that the
best possible way to show solidarity with the people of Venezuela is to
continue fighting for a socialist transformation in our own country.