Hobart Resistance organiser Mel Barnes took part in the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network brigade to Venezuela in December, to see the revolutionary process for herself. The brigade was timed to coincide with the presidential election in which President Hugo Chavez won another landslide victory as people voted to deepen the Bolivarian revolution.
Every day on the brigade we visited two or three places, such as a grassroots social project (known as missions) or a factory that is being run by its workers. One of the best places we visited was the Bolivarian University, which is located in the former offices of oil executives. It was great to see lavish offices being turned over to become a university that thousands of students now study at for free. Anyone who has finished high school can get a tertiary education. All their subjects — such as eco-agriculture and architecture and so on — have an emphasis on social responsibility. From day one, everything they study is put into practice as they work on projects in their own neighbourhoods.
Community media is flourishing — we visited a couple of community television and radio stations that have been given equipment and licences by the government. The community is right behind these projects.
One of the most inspiring experiences was seeing the presidential elections take place. We toured electoral booths through Caracas and in the poorer areas. We spoke to a lot of people about what they thought of the revolution and how it had changed their lives. One man told us that for the first time in his life he had money in his bank account and he didn't have to worry about the cost of sending his children to school. That night when it was announced that Chavez had been re-elected as president there was a massive street party.
The difference in Venezuela is that everyone talks about politics wherever you go, even in shops and on street corners. People are so enthusiastic and really participate in what's happening. In the markets, between music stalls on one side and clothes stalls on the other, there are people selling copies of Venezuela's revolutionary Bolivarian constitution, introduced during Chavez's first term in office, and the latest laws.
It was really inspiring seeing so many different parts of Venezuelan society during the brigade and getting the chance to talk to so many people about their own experiences. People who are interested in the process should hook up with one of the brigades the AVSN is organising in 2007. I'd also encourage everyone to get involved in the AVSN's activities here in Australia, in order to build solidarity with the revolution in the face of unremitting US opposition, as well as to spread the revolution's example to encourage people to fight for real change here.
[Visit the website of the AVSN at <http://www.venezuelasolidarity.org>.]