The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) is organising a 2008 May Day solidarity brigade to Venezuela for trade unionists and all other people interested in seeing first-hand the unfolding revolution in that country.
Over the last eight years, the people of Venezuela, led by George W. Bush's arch-enemy President Hugo Chavez, have taken over numerous workplaces, established hundreds of free, universal education, health and welfare programs, taken big strides forward in women's and indigenous rights, set up a myriad of community-controlled media and, through the establishment of thousands of "communal councils", begun to organise their neighbourhoods to exercise democratic control of their lives and society. The Bolivarian revolution is a vibrant, constantly developing example of people's power in action.
The solidarity brigade will start on April 28 and end on May 6. The itinerary will include: meetings with various workers' organisations, and women's, youth and indigenous groups; visits to social missions (which organise health care, education, cultural development and other programs at the grassroots level); discussions with government and social organisation representatives, including the communal councils, and visits to occupied factories, community media and other grassroots organisations.
This brigade will have a special focus on workers' control in the emerging new economy in Venezuela, and participants will be able to join the massive May Day rally and celebrations in the capital, Caracas, on May 1. The brigade will spend time in both Caracas and in regional areas so that participants can witness the revolutionary processes in both urban and rural settings.
In the last three years, the AVSN has organised seven solidarity brigades to Venezuela, involving around 150 participants. These study/solidarity tours are exciting and inspiring experiences, and invaluable for better understanding Venezuela's creation of a new "socialism of the 21st century".
According to John Cleary, former Electrical Trades Union organiser and the AVSN's trade union coordinator: "Any Australian worker who has a chance to visit Venezuela should grab the opportunity with both hands. The Bolivarian revolution offers a genuine alternative to a world in which the market rules and profits always come before people. It is inspiring people in Latin America and beyond to believe that 'another world is possible'.
"Being part of a brigade makes it possible to meet the workers who are reshaping their workplaces in this new environment. Many are involved in the democratic renewal of their unions, after many years of corrupt leadership. Others are creating cooperatives, with government support, to reopen and operate idle factories closed by bosses. The energy and enthusiasm for change that is benefitting workers in Venezuela is truly inspiring."
Accommodation, transport and English translation in Venezuela will be organised for brigade participants, and the AVSN can help book participants' travel to and from Australia. The total cost of participating in the brigade, including return international airfares, is around A$5500.
The deadline for registering for the May Day 2008 brigade, including payment of the $500 registration fee, is March 30. If you are interested in being part of the brigade, phone Lara Pullin on 0439 601 277 or John Cleary on 0407 500 839, or email <email@example.com>. Brigade registration forms and more information, including accounts of previous brigades, are available at: <http://www.venezuelasolidarity.org>.
For people interested in participating in a brigade to Venezuela, but who cannot join the May Day group, the AVSN is organising another brigade in November-December 2008. Please contact AVSN at <firstname.lastname@example.org> if you would like to receive more information about the end-of-year brigade.
[Lisa Macdonald is a member of the AVSN national coordinating committee and participated in the December 2006 solidarity brigade.]