Solidarity Brigade to Caracas

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The workers taking power, and the revolucionary students

Hi all, this hopefully follows on from my previous email...unfortunately, with so much going on, and the overwhelming desire not to miss any moment of the revolution, its hard to keep up the diary as often as id like, but hopefully this will take it forward...

The workers taking power, revolucionary students

Thursday July 28 (Continued) - returning from the mountains (if your going to miss an occupation, a beautiful trip through the Andes is not a bad way to do it!), we entered the offices of the UNT (Naitonal Union of WOrkers), the new revolutionary union that has quickly superceded the old conservative union structures.

The offices are spartan, with a huge banner proclaiming support for the revolution and workers control.
Immediately we are inspired by a very different type of unionism outlined by Benito - a unionism far removed from any limitation to ¨merely bread and butter worker issues¨ - instead we deal with the rich, integrated cake of the revolution. Benito is in the teachers union, and explains the revolutionising of education...

...from the Simonsitos that promote care and education and challenge violence in pre'school, and care for children all day. Before Chavez, parents could only leave children at school EITHER in mon or arvo, which made it extremely difficult if you were working. And there were few pre'school places ' that has all changed.

...through to the Bolivarian schools for 6-13 year olds, promoting overall education, from 8am-4pm, and like Simonsitos, IS COMPLETELY FREE AND EVERY MEAL IS FREE (this program is called free food for all). Activities are broad, such as watching over a plantation and how it develops, a range of recreation and activities.

....through to high school, where previously would by division b-w education gained by those going to uni (a broader world edcuation) and those going to work. Now united for a rounded education, every person getting understnading of the world...and more creativity, emphasis on out of class room teaching. Part of this is Endogenous development - learning to use what is in the community for greatest dvelopment for the people.

There are more staying at school now, and its not considered an insitution but part of the community

And all that is BEFORE the missions, which in brief are....
* Mission Robinson 1 and 2 ' giving literacy, especially for the aged, using the Cuban method of young teaching the elderly illiterate. Around Oct, Venezuela will be declared ILLITERACY FREE!
* Mission RIvas ' for those who were excluded from, or who left early from, high school education ' so all have this fundamental education.
* Mission Sucre ' helping to get tens of thousands into university.

At this poin in time, APPROXIMATELY HALF THE POPULATION OF VENEZUELA IS INVOLVED IN SOME FORM OF STUDY - schools, unis, tech colelges, pre'school, missions, etc ' probably the HIGHEST in the world!
THis is the base of the Bolivarian revolution, that is changing society fundamentally. Of course, it is ALL totally free.

Soon it was on to Hugo, the regional president of the UNT, who described how Venezuela is a govt of the working people, with the UNT involved in drafting laws and so on (compare that to Australia!). The UNT leadership is a much more youthful leadership.

Another union leader told us how they want their resources to be used not jut for Venezuelans, but for across the world. ....

Then it was off to see in practice the effects of the situation for workers....

Packing a dozen of us into a taxi meant for 8, we drive to a construction site at the foot of the Andes, a massiv eoperation building several sporting complexes, for the upcoming Andes games and Latin America wide COPA football cup.....we were greeted by worker delegates and rank and file workers who outlined the gains in occupational heatlh and safety, wage rises of some 60%, and the weekly workplace meetings they engaged in to involve everyone in decisions. We couldn{t help but think how we never generally have such a possibility as this in Australia.....

THen late in the arvo we are dropped at Merida{s Plaza Bolivar, where we swap stories with Left groups campaigning in the upcoming council elections, then off to dinner to celebrate the first day of the brigade in Merida plus the brithday of COmandante Presidente Hugo Rafael CHavez Frias.

But revolution doesn{t even escape us when Aaron and i slip into a late night web cafe....the guy running it is a chavista, and is eager to tell us of the fantastic state TV, and the new Latin AMerica wide television network Telesur, which is set to challenge the CNN and Co control of America Latina. We have a great political exchange before bed! Viva

Friday July 29 ' Youth and students, the future of Venezuela
While we{ve had some amazing days, this would have to have been the most stuffed with revolutionary ideas and passion, as we end up engaging in discussion and ideas with some 15-20 student and youth revolutionary organisations, until after 8pm at night!

The range of groups we hear from reflects the flowering of ideas and organisation throughout the revolution. In the morning we meet at the offices of the Frente Fransisco de Miranda (FFM), a place decked out with beautiful banners, posters and murals, from Che to CHavez, Bolivar, Marx and many more Venezuelan and Latin American reovlutionary heroes. Socialist, communist, libertarian, barrio'organising, social missions, and many more activists slip in and out of the offices, and recount to us their ideas and devleopment.

There are plenty of differences and divisions, but overall there is great camaraderie, and all are united behind the revolution and its undisputed leader in Chavez. However, most have criticisms of the government as a whole, and many of the parties including Chavez party the MVR, for bureaucracy and corruption, a feeling that many are simply joining behind CHavez to get positions, not to further the revolutionary process.

We finish in the FFM offices with a very moving sessions from the young FFM activists themselves, who give us one of the most powerful chants ive ever heard about che, chavez, revolution, bolivar and fighting imperialism....before giving us all gifts of posters, books and more, while 3 of us (including me!) were lucky enough to win a beautiful chavez t'shirt....this sort of giving is very common in the revolution, everyone wants to give you a little, or is eager to tell you their story. It is a teary moment for some of us as the FFM give an official gift to our translator Fred, getting him to read a quote from a book on Mission Milagro (where 20000 venezuelans have travelled to cuba for important surgery), which is about a man who couldnt see his childr, nor the sun rise or set, until he went to cuba as part of the mission - now his sight is restored. THIS is the revolution, it is humanity.

The afternoon took us to Uni of the Andes, again a site full of inspiring murals and activity, with the meetings going deep into the night, the constant coming and going of student and youth revolutionaries reflecting a fluid revolution. We heard from youth who had assassination attempts on them, while others told of those who were killed near where we met.....another clear theme of the revolution is that it is built on a solid base of struggle, its not something completely new.

That night we are fried ' dead tired, brains frazzled, completely drained....but i think i speak fror all the brigadistas when i say we wouldn{t have missed it for anything (except maybe an Australian revolution!)

One of the youth leaders told of a quote they had during the times of repression ¨They say youth are the future, but they kill us in the present¨. Now we can say. these people ARE the future, and they are killing the barbarous capitalist world in the present! All power to them!

revolutionary love to all
Paul

PS - tomorrow, Sunday, is our day off, and hopefully we will hit the highs of the Andes in the teleferico, the highest in the world!

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