Solidarity activists head to Venezuela

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) will be organising its eighth solidarity brigade to Venezuela later this year to coincide with the elections for governors and mayors on November 23. Roberto Jorquera is one of the organisers of the AVSN brigade and a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party. James Crafti interviewed him for Direct Action about the solidarity brigades and why they have become such an important part of building solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution.

What has been the work of AVSN since it was established?

The election of Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela in December 1998 received little attention from progressive activists in Australia and around the world. It was not until the defeat of the April 2002 US-backed military coup and the Chavez government taking control of the state oil company PDVSA in early 2003 that leftists in Australia began to seriously follow developments in Venezuela.

Soon after these developments, people from various left-wing political organisations in Australia and independent Latin America solidarity activists discussed the need to understand and give solidarity to the Venezuelan revolution. It was these developments that set the basis for the establishment of the AVSN. Since its formation, the AVSN has worked closely with the Venezuelan charge d’affairs in Australia and has developed a network of supporters.

Why organise a solidarity brigade?

Since its formation, the AVSN has organised a variety of public forums, conferences, film screenings and tours of Venezuelan political activists to help promote an understanding of the Venezuelan revolutionary process. AVSN members also felt it important to not only study the process from afar but to also witness the process first hand. So it was decided to organise the first solidarity brigade to Venezuela to coincide with the International Federation of Youth and Students Festival in Venezuela in August 2005. Since the first AVSN brigade to Venezuela, more than 150 activists from Australia and other First World countries have participated in the solidarity brigades organised by the AVSN. The brigades have generally centered around major political events in Venezuela such as the presidential elections of December 2006, the World Social Forum and May Day celebrations.

The brigades have been a key way in which solidarity activists can personally experience the revolutionary process in Venezuela. They have provided an opportunity for activists to discuss with participants in the revolutionary process, ranging from grassroots community organisations and union activists to government representatives. The knowledge and experience that Australian solidarity activists have gained from the brigades has been critical in helping the solidarity movement publicise the revolution’s aims and achievements back here in Australia.

What events will solidarity brigade participants be involved in?

This year’s brigade will be centred around the November 23 elections for governors and mayors. As has been the case with many of the previous brigades, this one will last for about 10 days. Apart from participating in many of the events leading up to the elections, the brigade will visit some of the social programs such as Barrio Adentro (neighborhood health clinics), education missions and communal councils. We will also be organising discussions with a variety of political parties such as the United Socialist Party and the Communist Party. Participants will also travel outside of the capital Caracas and observe some of the experiences in workers’ control and meet with workers who have been part of the campaign to nationalise key industries such as steel. The main goal of the brigade is for activists to gain a real knowledge of the unfolding revolutionary process in Venezuela so as to be able to contribute to the solidarity movement in Australia.

Venezuela has become an example of what is possible if the major economic resources are placed under the ownership and control of a working people’s government. This opens the way to providing high quality free and accessible education and health care to all citizens. Venezuela is heading in the opposite direction to Australia, where pro-business governments continue to cut public services and to sell off public assets. Venezuela shows that a country that socialises its key industries can much more easily provide for the needs of the population. Being part of the solidarity brigades to Venezuela can provide some direct experience that a better world is possible and is being built in Venezuela.

[If you would like more information about the November and future brigades to Venezuela please email AVSN on info[at]venezuelasolidarity[dot]org or phone Roberto on 0425 289 394 or Lara on 0439 601 277.]