Three solidarity activists who recently returned from Venezuela addressed a meeting organised by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign on February 13.
Independent journalist Joe Montero, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union teacher Helen Whooley and Latin America Solidarity Network activist Lucho Riquelme were part of an Australian delegation to the World Meeting Against Imperialism, which was held in Caracas in late January.
The three also visited communities in three states at the invitation of grassroots organisation Bolivar & Zamora Revolutionary Current.
Montero said 400 international delegates attended the World Meeting, but many were unable to due to the economic blockade imposed on Venezuela by the United States and its allies.
Whooley said the blockade aims to "cripple the economy". It has forced the people of Venezuela to "organise at the grassroots" to meet their needs.
She said 48,000 community councils and 3000 communes have been created for this purpose. Moreover, 3 million houses have been built and there is a 4 million-strong civilian militia.
Montero talked about the delegation's visits to several agricultural communes. Montero said he was struck by the "passion, determination and belief" of the people they met, who see themselves as building "the foundations of a new socialist society".
The communes are producing food for their members and to help feed the cities. They are developing worm farms for fertiliser and reforesting part of their land, he explained.
They are also building houses and schools, and running hospitals.
Riquelme spoke of how people are building a new society from below, while resisting US imperialism. He said the people support the government, despite its problems, against US attempts to overthrow it.
Montero spoke about the problems created by the blockade. For example, the government is unable to import spare parts from Germany for power stations and there is a lack of water pumps and backup generators, he said.
Montero said the solidarity movement in Australia had raised $10,000 last year, which was handed over to community organisations in Venezuela.
The meeting endorsed a statement to build “a campaign to force the Australian government to withdraw from the United States instigated sanctions against Venezuela" and recognise Nicolas Maduro as president of Venezuela.