Venezuela brigades

Workers in Venezuela are demonstrating what is possible when workers and communities take over the means of production.

Faced with a company shutdown and mass sacking, workers at the former Brahma beer factory in Barquisimeto, Lara state, occupied the factory in 2013. Today, the company is owned by the community, run by workers and geared towards meeting the need of local farmers and residents.

The Agricultural Social Production Unit (UPSA) Caquetios, located in Cabudare, in Palavecino municipality, Lara state, is run by the Brazilian Movement of Rural Landless Workers (MST). A campesino organisation, the MST shares similar objectives to those of former president Hugo Chavez and the pro-poor Bolivarian Revolution he led – in particular, land collectivisation as the best way to grow food and put an end to rural inequality.

In 2006, the MST was invited to Venezuela to take over a 40-hectare estate as part of Chavez’s attempt to transform Venezuela’s countryside. Since then, the group has been joined by several Venezuelan farmers, with both groups learning new experiences from each other.

Having spent our first few days in Caracas, we travelled to Higurote, the capital of Brion municipality, in Miranda state, which is part of the coastal region known as Barlovento – a centre of African culture in Venezuela. 

Travelling past El Calvario Park, just a few blocks from the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, we see a familiar image: an outline of late former president Hugo Chavez’s eyes, painted across several stairs.

This image can be seen all over Caracas. The government of President Nicholas Maduro has converted it into a recognisable trademark, much like the iconic image of Che Guevara that is splashed across T-shirts, flags and walls the world over.

Flying into Caracas, the plane was full of middle class Venezuelans travelling home from Miami. On board, no one spoke to the passenger next to them for fear of finding out they were on the opposite side of the political divide.

In highly polarised Venezuela, these things are best left unsaid.

Many things have been said about Venezuela, its leaders and its people; namely, the ability of its process to survive the historical challenges of the growing economic crisis and attacks from the political opposition.

Now is the time to stand in solidarity with Venezuela and really get to know its people and process.

The 15th solidarity brigade from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) joined a long tradition of international brigades to visit Venezuela since 1998, and enjoyed a packed itinerary during its visit from December 2 to 13.

Trade unionists from more than 30 countries met in Caracas for the Third Union Encounter of Our Americas also expressed their support for Venezuela and willingness to mobilise to stop any possible aggression.

“In the face of any attempt by Colombia or any other country, to obstruct the revolution [in Venezuela], the working class will come out bravely to defend the process and the country”, said Marcela Maspero, a national coordinator of National Union of Workers (UNT) in Venezuela.

May Day in Caracas, Venezuela, was “deeply inspiring”, Adrian Evans, deputy state secretary of the WA Maritime Union of Australia, told a meeting of 40 people in Fremantle on June 16. Evans travelled to Venezuela as part of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network’s 2010 May Day brigade.

“I love May Day in Fremantle”, he said. “But, I can tell you, being with one-and-a-half million workers was incredible.”

Venezuelan trade unionist and community educator Alexis Adarfio Marin visited Australia last month, informing many audiences of the radical changes being carried out by Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution.

Adarfio was a guest of the Search Foundation, which hosted a range of international guest speakers at its Australian Left Renewal Conference in Sydney over May 29-30.

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