Volume 3, Number 9
27 November 2005
E-Mail Newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party
2) Hunger Striker's Son Demands Human Rights Intervention
3) Republican Socialist Youth Movement Statement
4) IRSP Press Statement 15th November 2005
5) Urgent Solidarity: Spanish Communists Begin Hunger Strike
6) O'Hara Family Solidarity Statement
7) No to the Farce Trials Against the Spanish Communists!
8) From the Newspapers
10) Marxism and the Venezuelan Revolution: A Book Review
11) What's On
This edition of The Plough deals in the main with affairs outside of
Ireland. This is not because there are not enough issues of concern in
Ireland. On the contrary there are many issues of concern to working
class activists not least the current situation concerning Irish
Ferries and their attempt to import cheap labour onto the ferries and
smash Irish trade unionism. However Irish republicans are also
internationalist in outlook and do see the fellow worker in other
countries as our comrades. In this edition the son of Michael Devine,
one of three INLA hunger strikers, adds his voice of solidarity with
political activists facing trial in France. There is also a statement
from the RSYM condemning the murder of a Russian anti-fascist.
These statements by our younger comrades contrasts favourably with the
actions of Ogra Sinn Fein, who in a blatant piece of political
opportunism have produced a recruiting poster for their organisation
featuring the 10 dead hunger strikers from 1981 with the slogan "10
good reasons to join Ogra Sinn Fein". Needless to say neither the
Republican Socialist Movement nor the families of the three dead INLA
hunger strikers were consulted on the issue of their image for party
recruiting purposes. We call on Ogra Sinn Fein to withdraw the posters
Other issues covered concern chemical weapons including mustard gas
dumped around the shores of the USA with unknown consequences for
future generations. We also carry a damming indictment of ASDA–WalMart
whose sharp practices now come to West Belfast. We also carry a
critical but sympathetic review of Alan Woods' book on the Venezuelan
HUNGER STRIKER'S SON DEMANDS HUMAN RIGHTS INTERVENTION
The son of a Derry INLA hunger striker, Micky Og Devine, has added his
voice for the release of the nine political activists who have been on
hunger strike for the last three weeks whilst awaiting trial in
France. On November 16th the trial commenced in a Paris court room
against activists of PCE (r) [Communist Party of Spain reconstituted]
an underground political party and GRAPO [First of October
Anti-Fascist Revolutionary Group] and SRI [International Red Aid].
The French state aided and commanded by the Franco's Spanish Civil
Guard is collaborating in a so-called 'anti-terrorist campaign'.
In a statement released on behalf of the Devine Family, Micky Og
Devine, has called on human rights organisations to "bear witness" the
unfolding events, requesting them to "step into the arena before
deaths occur due to high levels of brutality and systematic torture"
by French & Spanish State authorities. In the statement he also called
for an "immediate cessation of the continuing 'Show Trials' against
the political activists".
"I and countless others around the world have been following this
latest round of injustice which has been simmering over the past
number of years in both French and Spanish goals. In the last few
years the Spanish state has illegalized dozens of social-political and
cultural organisations of the left which all are non-armed, under the
anti-terrorist laws. Basically it's erasing out of the equation all
those politically opposed to the establishment.
"The Spanish authorities have been attempting to link PCE (r) and
GRAPO as one sole organisation for the last 25 years without success.
Now they are seeking assistance from neighboring France for it to
arrange new laws that will permit, or to achieve their agenda.
"Isolation, torture and abuse have been relentless ever since their
capture and imprisonment. They will try anything to break them down.
I would call on those who monitor human rights violations to bear
witness to what has been developing both in France and in the Spanish
state, step into the issues involved here before deaths occur due to
high levels of brutality and systematic torture. Greater solidarity is
needed at this time for those incarcerated.
"We are now in the era of mass pacification, where anyone who attempts
to stand up against injustice and oppression, protests or struggles
politically against the establishments rule, are likely to be silenced
and that is clearly a matter of fact.
"We don't need new laws or further regulations to justify internment
by state forces without trial, torture and even murder. The state is
already carrying these activities out without hesitation or hindrance.
And this is not an isolated occurrence against political activists in
France, in the Spanish State, or in the hellholes of Turkey as it is
an unwritten policy alive and well in the occupied six counties.
"I am reminded of the miscarriage of justice victim, Tyrone man John
Brady, a republican activist who has been held in goal since his
detention back in June 2004 with not a single charge against him. That
was until trumped up charges appeared in September 2005 concerning the
murder of a British soldier in 2002, the case itself is remarkably
similar to that of Derry republican Seamus Doherty, now freed
following widespread protests by his family, friends and neighbours
against a host of false charges.
"In order to fulfill their pursuit the imperialist states are going to
do anything they can to silence any voices of resistance by locking
them up in isolation, torturing them, denying them basic rights, such
as communication with one another as political prisoners or defence of
themselves. That's why the nine communist, anti-fascist and prisoner
solidarity activists that the state wanted to put away in order to
diminish any political opposition in the region (France or Spain), had
to carry out a hunger strike.
"A scene, only too familiar to that of my own family and that of other
families of former political prisoners as we draw near to the 25
anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike.
"This may be seen by some as an isolated issue however you can be sure
that other states are watching very closely at these unfolding
developments just as many did whilst my father and his comrades and
our class fought back against British imperialism during 1981 hunger
strike. It is now policy of the imperialist states to hunt political
activists that can be seen as a threat for any involvement in the
building of a successful working class resistance movement.
"On behalf of myself and the Devine family, I would like to offer our
heartfelt support and solidarity in your struggle, and the strength to
stand against continuing oppression and unremitting brutality. You are
not alone in at this time, the whole world is watching!"
Stop The Show Trials!
Stop The Torture!
Micky Og Devine
REPUBLICAN SOCIALIST YOUTH MOVEMENT STATEMENT ON MURDER OF RUSSIAN
The Republican Socialist Youth Movement condemns unreservedly the
savage murder of twenty year old Russian anti-fascist Timur Kacharava
by Russian Nazis on the evening of November 13. Timur and a friend
were standing in the street when they were set upon by a Nazi gang,
Timur died after being stabbed multiple times in the neck. His friend
survived the attack but is still in hospital, despite being stabbed
Timur was active in the Russian punk community, playing lead guitarist
for the band 'Sandinista!', he was active in the anarchist circles and
was involved in active confrontation with Nazis on the streets as well
as the Food Not Bombs project.
We call upon all anti-fascists and leftists both at home and abroad to
maintain vigilance and to unite and organise in opposition to fascism
which ultimately must be smashed through a broad campaign headed by
the working class.
IRSP PRESS STATEMENT 15TH NOVEMBER 2005
The IRSP in Belfast condemn death threats that have been issued
The IRSP in Belfast condemn death threats that have been issued
through the PSNI/RUC to a number of our party activists in East Belfast.
Party spokesperson Paul Little said, "The issue of state sponsored
murder and British security force collusion has long been recognised
as a core part of British security policy in Ireland. It has been used
with some effect against republicans of all strands, the IRSP view
with concern that Britain still is employing these tactics in the new
millennium, transferring a few British troops out of Castlereagh
hardly constitutes justice where you have members of the British Army
conspiring with others to murder Irish republicans post-Good Friday
The IRSP are cautioning anyone who received death threats that they
have little choice only to take them seriously given the past history
of collusion between sections of Ulster loyalism and British forces.
URGENT SOLIDARITY: SPANISH COMMUNISTS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE
What follows is the translated text announcing the beginning of an
indefinite hunger strike by Spanish Communists on October 28th 2005,
all of whom are currently imprisoned and awaiting political 'show
trials' in Paris France.
Solidarity protests are already underway in France and others are now
being planned in a number of other countries.
Please forward this information text as a gesture of international
solidarity and where possible create similar solidarity information
pickets or protests.
It is vital at this time, in this current climate of fear and
increased oppression that political prisoners in France, Spain, Turkey
and Ireland are not left isolated in the face of injustice, further
isolation, torture and the risk of certain death.
Stop The Brutality!
Political Status Now!
Freedom For All Political Prisoners!
Eighteen days of indefinite hunger strike & Political Show Trials
On October 28th the political prisoners of SRI (International Red Aid)
and GRAPO (First of October Anti-Fascist Revolutionary Group) and the
PCE(r) (Spanish Communist Party reconstituted) currently jailed in
France began an indefinite hunger strike for the respect and for the
right to have a judicial defence who are now facing a political show
trial that starts on November 16th. The trial will last for nine days
until mid December and the prisoners won't stop the strike until it is
recognised the international right to a fair judicial defence.
They are denied any form of information or vital documents regarding
what they are being put on trial for. The information received to
date is only in French. Their communication is restricted from the
outside and with their lawyers and their most recent visitors have
been refused admittance. This is clearly a political show trial.
Therefore their only weapon left open to them has been to embark on a
Today is the eighteen day (November 18th 2005) of the hunger strike.
We must remind ourselves that they are political prisoners who already
lack vitalities after having been imprisoned for over twenty years and
having suffered torture and isolation as well as other hunger strikes.
By what little news we receive from the inside, we know that Josefina
García Aranburu has had to end her part in the hunger strike as she is
suffering serious health problems. As a supplement measure, she
refuses prison food and she has decided not to leave her cell. We are
also aware of the physical complications that Maria Angeles Ruiz Villa
is suffering. Another three prisoners Fernando Hierro Chomón (24 years
in jail), Xaquin Garrido (23 years in jail) and Marcos Martín Ponce,
have already felt serious health problems. 430 hours of hunger on the
bodies that have already been ill-treated are already affecting them.
And the protest continues.
On Wednesday 16th they will be moved to the 'Palace of Justice' with
already three weeks of hunger strike on their backs. In previous
trials, (the Paris 7 in 2003) several of these communist militants
were assaulted and beaten in transport, so the treat is more than
real. Let's not allow the silence. Solidarity is not just a weapon
to condemn but also of tenderness and of human and political dignity.
There is a solidarity picket on Wednesday 16th of November in Paris
outside the court room. At the moment it has been confirmed the
presence of the Barcelona, Galiza, Madrid and Rome SRI, as well as the
SRI in France. In France itself they count with the support of DHKC
and TAYAD. They have also received the unconditional support of the
IRSP and of the republican socialist prisoners in Ireland.
O'HARA FAMILY SOLIDARITY STATEMENT
The family of 1981 INLA Hunger Striker Patsy O'Hara have expressed
their concern at the ongoing hunger strike taken in protest by several
political activists in the Fresnes Prison, France by issuing a direct
statement to those involved.
"We the family of Irish Republican Socialist Hunger Strike Martyr
Patsy O'Hara who died in Long Kesh on 21st May 1981 send heartfelt
solidarity wishes to the POW's on Hunger Strike in Fresnes Prison and
their families. We are deeply saddened that once again Political
Prisoners are forced to Fast to the death in an attempt to achieve
justice and humanitarian treatment from the French Government that has
incarcerated them in the first place. We wonder if this will be the
benchmark of a new form of Internment to be adopted by all the EU
countries, especially France, Spain, Germany and England who have an
atrocious record of human rights abuse, especially when it comes to
Prisoners. We call for an end to the Solitary Confinements, End to the
Torture and degradation, End to the show Trial and a return to Justice."
NO TO THE FARCE TRIALS AGAINST THE SPANISH COMMUNISTS!
International Red Aid
November 14th 2005
On November 16th in Paris started a new trial against militants of the
PCE(r) (Spanish Communist Party reconstituted) and GRAPO (First of
October Anti-Fascist Revolutionary Group).
Almost simultaneously there will also be another trial in the National
Audience in Madrid against more members of the PCE(r) and GRAPO as
well as members of the SRI (International Red Aid).
There also continues the criminalisation of anyone who will oppose
resistance against the exploitation, oppression and militarism of the
monopolists and the imperialists.
Such repression has had a special impact on our party for its relevant
role at the vanguard of the Anti-Fascist Resistance Movement within
the Spanish state and as a reference for all those that are struggling
These trials have been preceded for more than three years of
in-communication and no possibility of defence for these political
prisoners. There has been a permanent harassment against the moral and
political integrity of these communist and anti-fascists, constant
humiliations and beatings. There should be no surprise when looking at
such cruelty, as both the French and Spanish state defend the
interests of the oppressive ruling class when there is the slightest
hint of struggle, especially when facing a party, the PCE(r), that has
spent more than 30 years defending the present and future interests of
the workers, orienting the working class in its struggle against the
rotten capitalist system and for socialism. It has always condemned
the permanence of fascism in this state in spite of the "Reform",
walking at the front of workers demonstrations against it, at the same
that it defends and supports the legitimacy of armed struggle means
used by the Anti-Fascist Resistance Movement.
Within these three decades, our militants have been harassed,
arrested, tortured, imprisoned and murdered. This has been, as it
couldn't be otherwise, when talking about class enemies, the treatment
that the fascist Spanish regime has dispensed upon our party as it is
doing now their French accomplices.
These governments will try to disguise their state terrorism when
talking about "dialogue and negation", however the facts will clash
with their words as we see in every performance of the state when
dealing with the fair demands of industrial workers, miners,
immigrants, fishermen, and other workers and as we can confirm with
the permanence of the anti-terrorist laws and the political repression
dictated by Aznar's party with the active support of the PSOE leading
to farce trials as the ones which have now taken place.
Our trust, as always, can only be put on our class, the working class,
and on all those democrats and anti-fascist, in their resistance
against oppression, and in the strength of their organised struggle to
achieving their fair economical and political demands that today we
need. Therefore we make a call to all those, especially the workers,
to show their active support for these communists and anti-fascists
who are to be tried in France and Spain and to organise support
pickets against the long sentences which they are going to be received.
Amnesty For All Political Prisoners!
For Full Political Status!
Join The Resistance!
PCE(r) November 7th 2005
FROM THE NEWSPAPERS
US Weapons of Mass Destruction
The US Army now admits in reports never before released that it
secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard gas agent into
the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines and
rockets and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste either tossed
overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels.
These weapons of mass destruction virtually ring the USA, concealed
off the coasts of at least 11 states: six on the East Coast,
including New Jersey and Maryland, two on the Gulf Coast, and in
California, Hawaii and Alaska. Few, if any, state officials have been
informed of their existence.
The chemical agents could pose a hazard for generations. The Army has
examined only a few of its 26 dump zones, and none in 30 years.
The Army can't say exactly where all the weapons were dumped from
World War II to 1970. Army records are sketchy, missing or were
More dump sites probably exist. The Army hasn't reviewed records from
the World War I era, when ocean dumping of chemical weapons was common.
November 10, 2005
Viet Cong Advice for Iraqi Resistance
by Aaron Glantz
HANOI, Nov 10 - Is Iraq another Vietnam? Tran Dac Loi should know. The
Secretary-General of the Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation grew
up in Hanoi dodging bombs dropped by the United States Air Force,
while his father fought in the successful guerilla war in the
country's central highlands. Three decades later, Tran, now an
important figure in the ideological wing of Vietnam's communist
government, has some basic advice for the Iraqi resistance.
"Our struggle was well organised. We had an address and official
contacts, but with Iraq you never know who the resistance is and what
their objectives are," Tran said in an IPS interview.
"Sure, the fighters all want the Americans out, but there's no
unifying political programme," Tran said, pointing to what he sees as
a serious flaw with the Iraqi resistance.
In Iraq, the insurgency's appeal flows primarily from the pain of the
occupation. Much of its support comes from regular Iraqis who have
relatives who have been killed or imprisoned by U.S. forces and they
want to get even. "This kind of resistance leads nowhere," he said.
"Resistance has to have a clear objective. Ours was independence and
socialism; not reaction but revolution."
Some of the occupation's opponents in Iraq do have developed
organisations, complete with spokespersons and ideological programmes.
But, Tran says, because all of them are built on ethnic or religious
lines, they'll never succeed in their objectives. The movement of
Muqtada Sadr, for example, appeals primarily to poor people in the
country's numerous Shi'ite slums. It provides services in poor Shi'ite
neighbourhoods, while advocating an Islamic state. Such a plan of
action has helped Sadr amass millions of supporters, but has also
caused him to be unable to attract a following outside his core base.
According to Tran, the same can be said of Sunni fundamentalists. The
hardline Association of Muslim Scholars may have spokespersons who
appear regularly on the Arab satellite channels, but their appeal is
limited even within the country. Tran thinks that the lack of a
pan-ethnic political programme can cause minority groups to ally with
the occupier in order to ensure that their cultural rights are
protected. In Iraq, this has caused the Kurds, and their more than
100,000 'peshmerga' guerillas, to side with the U.S. "The absence of a
clear political programme is in the interest of the U.S.," Tran said.
"Then, they can go above you and pretend like they're solving the
problems between you, when really they're lording over you."
While the occupying forces took care to ban the secularist Ba'ath
Party--which continues to function through independent cells within
Iraq and through exiles in Syria and Jordan--it has not been able to
earn the trust of minority groups. It is a classic case of divide and
rule. Indeed, from the start of the occupation, the U.S. government
actively encouraged the Iraqi people to organise themselves along
sectarian lines. The U.S. administration even hired a company,
Research Triangle Institute (RTI), and charged it with selecting local
governments, based solely on the ethnic make-up in each of Iraq's
regions. In March 2003, RTI was awarded a contract worth 466 million
US dollars to create 180 local and provincial governments in Iraq and
obtain wide public participation in a new political process but
irregularities were pointed out by government auditors.
As a communist, Tran suggests a programme in Iraq similar to Vietnam's
revolution which was based on a single political party, aimed at
throwing out the aggressor, defending the unity of the country and the
country's economic and political sovereignty. The particular ideology,
he said, is not the key. More important is something everyone can
believe in, regardless of religion or ethnic background, said Tran,
who, among other things, coordinates the country's delegations to the
annual World Social Forum, usually held at Porto Alegre in Brazil.
Iraq, he said, needs a unifying political figure like Ho Chi Minh.
"You need a political figure who can introduce a long-term objective
that's in the basic interest of the majority of the people." Tran
doesn't think any of Iraq's current crop of political leaders fits
this mould. Moreover, he says the fighters' regular killings of
innocent civilians are sickening and counterproductive. "They behave
more like random rebelling groups," he says. "When we fought, we only
fought against the ones who fought us. Civilians were never our targets."
Given the Iraqi resistance's bloody tactics and lack of a unified
political programme, Tran doubts it will be successful in forcing the
Americans out--at least in the short term. He compares the Iraqi
resistance to the many aborted attempts to end French colonisation of
Vietnam before World War II that were led by small groups of the
educated elite. "They were all patriots but they were all suppressed
because they could not appeal to the masses."
[IPS reporter Aaron Glantz is author of the book, "How America Lost
Iraq" (Tarcher/Penguin). Ngoc Nguyen also contributed to this report.]
We received the following article from a reader.
I thought this attached article might be of interest given the
opening of ASDA at the West-Link centre in Belfast. Jim)
Asda Wal-Mart: Cutting Costs at any Cost
by Joe Zacune
Wal-Mart is the world's largest retail company and is more familiar in
the UK as the supermarket chain Asda. Wal-Mart has built a global
empire of supermarket stores on an image of 'always low prices'. This
obsession with prices has led to poverty wages, ever-worsening
sweatshop conditions and the destruction of local businesses and
communities. These policies are well known but now new evidence has
emerged on how Asda senior management are planning to deliberately
"chip away" at workers' rights and working conditions in the UK.
War on Want has seen a leaked document titled "Warehouse Chip Away
Strategy 2005" that outlines how Asda senior management are planning
to drastically undermine labour standards. Asda management plan to
breach these rights despite openly acknowledging the risks of trade
union opposition and health and safety violations.
Work breaks are to be cut, grievance mechanisms removed and health and
safety conditions weakened. The document also proposes removing the
right to take individual grievances to external arbitrators. Asda
management plans to include "single man loading" despite the fact that
their own "risk assessment says 2 men (are) required for loading".
Line managers are advised to "lead by example, not taking all the
breaks that hourly paid colleagues get" in order to "take credence
away from breaks".
Of the ten richest people in the world, four are members of the Walton
family, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune. Wal-Mart documents released in
April 2005 reveal that the company's CEO Lee Scott was paid over $17.5
million in total during 2004.
Not content to pay its employees wages that are on average 20% lower
than the industry standard, Wal-Mart seeks to cut costs through the
routine violation of workers' rights. Wal-Mart requires that labour
costs be kept to less than 8% of each store's sales. In addition,
managers must reduce the labour costs at their stores by 0.2% each
year. This drives managers to stretch their workforce to cover chronic
staff shortages, and to break the law by employing children and
undocumented migrant workers.
One internal audit of 25,000 employees in 128 Wal-Mart stores in the
USA found 1,371 violations of child labour laws, including minors
working too late, too many hours a day and during school hours. It
also found 60,000 instances where workers were forced to work through
breaks, and 16,000 where they worked through meal times. Wal-Mart's
model is fast becoming the industry standard, as other firms slash
employee wages and benefits in an attempt to compete with the retail
Wal-Mart is vehemently anti-union. Its anti-union policy is a central
part of its obsession with minimising costs. Wal-Mart provides
managers with its infamous 'Manager's Toolbox to Remaining Union Free'
that states: "Staying union free is a full time commitment. Unless
union prevention is a goal equal to other goals and objectives in the
organization, management will not devote the necessary day in, day out
attention and effort." If there is any evidence of moves towards
unionisation, managers are ordered to phone the Wal-Mart Union Hotline
In the UK too, workers at Asda have come up against Wal-Mart's
anti-union culture. Following Wal-Mart's 1999 take-over of Asda, the
company has sought to restrict the role of general union GMB. After
four years of negotiations, a new agreement between Asda and the GMB
came into effect in 2004, which does not provide for collective
bargaining. In the words of GMB senior manager Harry Donaldson, "We
believe that, since the take-over, Wal-Mart has tried to stifle union
activity at Asda." Managers at a unionised Asda distribution depot
offered workers a new terms and conditions package which included a
10% pay increase and the requirement that workers give up collective
bargaining representation by the GMB. When workers rejected the
proposal, Asda withdrew the 10% pay increase.
Wal-Mart's ability to slash prices at its retail stores is based on
its power to drive down wages and working conditions at the factories
which produce its products. As the largest retail corporation in the
world, Wal-Mart has immense power over suppliers and uses this to
dictate everything from prices to precise delivery schedules.
Wal-Mart is leading the race to the bottom by relentlessly squeezing
cost efficiencies out of the supply chain. Wal-Mart frequently
requires its suppliers to open their books for Wal-Mart inspection and
tells them exactly where to cut costs. When national labour or
environmental standards create a barrier to cost cutting, suppliers
are encouraged to relocate to a labour market that will enable them to
produce at the low price Wal-Mart requires.
Even where wages are rock-bottom, Wal-Mart insists that its suppliers
drive prices ever lower. Qin, a factory worker in China, explains: "In
four years they haven't increased the salary." Isabel Reyes, a
garment worker in Honduras, tells the same story: "There is always an
acceleration... the goals are always increasing, but the pay stays the
In August 2002, Asda sparked a banana retail price war with lasting
effects on the banana industry and banana workers worldwide. Asda
specifically targeted key items such as milk and bananas as part of
its strategy to brand itself as Britain's low-price supermarket. In
the end, consumer prices were lowered by 25%. Asda's exclusive deal
with Del Monte, contracted at what industry experts describe as a
"ridiculously low price", means that it is supplied with bananas grown
and harvested under the worst labour and environmental conditions in
Independent growers in countries with adequate worker and
environmental protection, such as Costa Rica, can no longer sell to
Asda and other British supermarkets without making a loss.
War on Want is encouraging Asda employees in the UK to contact GMB if
they wish to find out about their rights or start a union. More
generally we are calling on the UK government to support a binding
framework of corporate accountability to regulate the activities of
corporations such as Wal-Mart.
In the global economy huge multinationals are only accountable to
their shareholders. If we are concerned about workers' rights
throughout the world, corporations like Wal-mart need to be reined in
and unions need to be strengthened.
For more information and to join War on Want's campaign to rein in
global corporations go to: http://www.waronwant.org/asda or email
MARXISM AND THE VENEZUELAN REVOLUTION: A BOOK REVIEW
SOCIALIST VOICE: Marxist Perspectives for the Workers' Movement #56
November 11, 2005
Alan Woods. The Venezuela Revolution: A Marxist Perspective London:
Wellred Books (http://wellred.marxist.com/), 2005.
Reviewed by John Riddell
TORONTO, CANADA - Can a small Marxist current hope to influence the
course of events in times of a revolutionary uprising, or are they
condemned to an existence of sideline critics, never to influence the
broader working class movement?
A new book by British Marxist Alan Woods puts that question to the
test in a most challenging way -- in the midst of the unfolding
Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. The Venezuelan Revolution: A
Marxist Perspective consists of 14 articles written by Woods between
the failed pro-imperialist coup of April 2002 and the Bolivarians'
turn to socialism in early 2005. Published earlier this year, the book
has much to teach us about the role of Marxists in a revolutionary
Many revolutionary-minded groups or parties in the world have been
skeptical and standoffish toward Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution. It
confounds their self-conceived truths: much of the Bolivarian
leadership came unexpectedly from the officer corps; the Bolivarian
program was not openly socialist in its beginning stages; its course
of action corresponded to no one's blueprint. President Hugo Chávez
was pegged by most of them as a radical bourgeois figure.
By contrast, the current led by Alan Woods, the International Marxist
Tendency (IMT) (www.marxist.com), grasped the importance of the
Venezuelan uprising soon after the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998. It
has devoted considerable resources to building an international
solidarity campaign, Hands Off Venezuela (www.handsoffvenezuela.org).
The IMT understood early that Marxists in Venezuela should support the
Bolivarian movement and be part of it, rather than stand back and
criticize it from the sidelines. They have worked with energy and some
success to influence the Bolivarians, gaining favorable mentions from
Expropriate capitalist property
Alan Woods' main point, reflected in each of his articles, is that the
Venezuelan revolution cannot stop half way, leaving the U.S.- backed
right-wing oligarchy in control of decisive sectors of the economy and
state apparatus. "The counterrevolutionary forces are not reconciled
to defeat," Woods states. "They are increasingly desperate ...
determined and violent."
Venezuelan working people must expropriate capitalist property and lay
the basis for socialism, he argues. "Either the greatest of victories
or the most terrible of defeats." (Pages 110, 133)
This basic premise of Marxism, confirmed at each stage of the
Venezuelan struggle, has won an increasing hearing among the
Bolivarians. Chávez now ridicules the notion that Venezuela can find
liberation within capitalism.
Learning from Chávez
Another key lesson is not stated explicitly, and may be unintended.
Woods articles show how Marxists can learn from a living revolution.
In the opening chapters, written from London and Buenos Aires just
after the 2002 coup attempt, Woods is close to dismissive of
Bolivarian leader Hugo Chávez. At that time, Woods wrote that Chávez
is "inclined to be inconsistent" and has "often displayed indecision."
He "temporized and attempted to conciliate the counter-
revolutionaries" which was "a fatal mistake." (Pages 16, 20, 43)
The book then breaks off: there is a gap of 16 months before the next
Then, in April 2004, Woods attended an international conference in
Caracas in which Chávez, displaying his characteristic cordial
generosity, set out to forge a link with Woods, one of the most
prominent international solidarity activists. Woods learned that
Chávez was not only keenly interested in Marxism but was familiar with
the British Marxist's own writings. "He told me he was not a Marxist
because he had not read enough Marxist books," Woods commented. "But
he is reading them now." (Page 62)
The next part of the book is a treasure: two slashing polemics against
sectarian attitudes toward the Venezuelan movement.
"For the sectarian mentality, a revolution must conform to a pre-
established scheme," Woods writes. The sectarian "establishes an ideal
norm and rejects anything ... that does not conform."
Woods ridicules those who would build the revolutionary party by
proclamation. "Three men and ... a drunken parrot gather in a café in
Caracas and proclaim the Revolutionary Party." And if the masses do
not join, the sectarian says, "Well, that's their problem." (Pages 65,
83) These ideas are not new, but coming to us from the battlefields of
a living revolution, they ring with great authority.
In the pages that follow, Woods writes with warm respect of Chávez,
"the man who inspired this magnificent movement and provided it with a
leadership and a banner." (Page 162)
Nevertheless, the Marxism advanced in Alan Woods' book remains
CUBA: The Venezuelan Revolution condemns U.S. attacks on Cuba, but not
a word can be found in this book of Cuba's role in the Venezuelan
revolution. Yet Cuba's revolutionary leaders have had a much stronger
influence on Venezuela's Bolivarians than all the smaller Marxist
currents put together.
The political alliance of Hugo Chávez with the Cuban Marxists began a
few months after Chávez was released from prison in 1994, when he went
to Cuba for discussions with Fidel Castro. Since Chávez' first
election to president in 1998, Cuba has contributed tens of thousands
of volunteers to deliver health, educational, and recreational
services to Venezuelan working people. The two governments have a
close diplomatic, economic, and political alliance. The book's silence
on this important alliance creates a highly misleading picture of the
Bolvarian revolutionary process. It raises a crucial question: does
the author view Cuba's role in Venezuela as positive or negative?
ANTI-MPERIALIST ALLIANCE: And what about ALBA? The Bolivarian
Agreement for the Americas (ALBA) is the Venezuelan government's
proposal for non-exploitative economic cooperation among Latin
American countries. It was advanced in 2003 as an alternative to
imperialist-directed "Free Trade of the Americas" fraud. Cuba endorsed
ALBA in its December 2004 treaty with Venezuela.
ALBA's appeal and relevance was made astonishingly clear at the recent
summit meeting in Argentina of political leaders of the Americas. The
imperialist "free trade" proposition was proclaimed dead on arrival by
the masses who rallied there and, not coincidentally, gave Chávez a
Woods does not mention ALBA. Does he perhaps have it in mind when he
warns Venezuela against relying on "friendly relations" with
Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba. (Page 119) The international, anti-
imperialist dimension of the Venezuelan revolution is simply
disregarded throughout the book
DEMOCRATIC TASKS: Woods does not take up the ongoing democratic tasks
of the Venezuelan process. Such struggles as that of Venezuela's
people of color for equality; that of women pressing into political
life and demanding their rights; that of workers in the "informal
sector" striving for a secure livelihood; that of the oppressed
indigenous peoples to which the Bolivarians have given such close
attention -- all are neglected. Nor does Woods acknowledge Chávez's
role as a defender of the world's ecology against capitalist
Woods also fails to give clear support to the struggles of peasants
who wish to divide up the great estates, arguing instead that the
estates should operate as collective farms. (Page 172)
All these questions are crucial to forging the revolutionary alliance
necessary to overturning capitalism in Venezuela. By omitting them,
the book displays a limited understanding of the complex dynamics of
the Venezuelan revolution.
NATIONALIZING CAPITALIST PROPERTY: Woods presents the need to
nationalize capitalist property in a purely administrative way. "For
the immediate expropriation of the property of the imperialists and
the Venezuelan bourgeoisie.... An emergency decree to this effect must
be put to the National Assembly," Woods wrote soon after the failed
coup in 2002. (Page 17)
But working-class nationalization -- as opposed to a capitalist
transfer of formal ownership -- can only be carried out by a mass
movement of working people who have become convinced through
experience that there is no alternative and who are ready to assume
management responsibility. Provided the workers are not forced into
premature action, they must prepare for the challenge of managing
production. Otherwise, for example, their expropriation of foreign-
owned companies may lead to their immediate shutdown for lack of raw
materials, technical inputs, and customers.
There is a sameness in The Venezuelan Revolution: the articles span
three years but advocate an identical course of action -- immediate
expropriation -- at every turn. The book displays no sense of tactics,
no sense of when to advance, when to pause, when to sound out the
enemy's willingness to compromise, when to form alliances.
On all these points, The Venezuelan Revolution fails to convey key
lessons of the Bolshevik-led revolution in Russia, lessons that are
well understood by Cuba's revolutionary leadership.
Woods sees in Venezuela a dichotomy between two currents: on the one
hand, petty-bourgeois revolutionary democracy, led by Chávez; and on
the other, Marxism, represented in his view above all by the IMT's own
Revolutionary Marxist Current. (Page 93)
But on the key challenges facing the Venezuela revolution, the record
of the Chávez leadership is stronger than the course proposed by The
Venezuelan Revolution. The Bolivarians' course has led not to defeat,
as Woods warned, but to victory after victory.
Toward a revolutionary party
Judging by this book alone, the political line of Alan Woods and the
International Marxist Tendency is inflexible, one-sided, and veers off
course. Yet the IMT, as Chávez himself has acknowledged, has made an
undeniable contribution to the broader Bolviarian movement of which it
Surely there is a lesson here for all of us in the splintered and
fragmented international socialist movement.
The revolutionary party for which we strive will be built through
living processes like those we see in Venezuela today or in Cuba
before it. Under the impact of an upsurge of struggles, new leadership
forces will converge with the best forces in existing currents to form
a unified movement. All existing currents will be challenged to
subordinate their prized separateness to a broader purpose.
It is to the credit of Alan Woods that he and his current have been
able to travel at least a part of that road together with Venezuela's
Saturday, 17 December
The Dublin IRSP annual fundraiser for current POWs' dependents which
will take place on the 17th December at 8.30 in Saints and Sinners
Public House Dublin. Guest speaker Eddie McGarrigle of Teach Na Failte.
Saturday, 3 December - Tuesday, 6 December
Belfast Shell to Sea
Upcoming events - Please support the Belfast Shell to Sea Activities
Saturday 3rd December, 11.30pm
White Line picket at the junction of the bottom of the Whiterock Road
and the Falls Road. We'll try to raise money to support the campaign
and again raise awareness of the case.
Tuesday 6th December, 7pm
Micheál Ó Seighin will be launching an art exhbition in the Cultúrlann
on the Falls Road, featuring the work of Tadhg McGrath - a member of
the Shell to Sea campaign in Dublin. This will be an informal
gathering but it will be an opportunity for people to meet Micheál and
his wife Caitlín and to find out more about what's been going on. This
event is open to all.
Information on the exhibition is available on Indymedia..
US delays response to wife's seventh visa request
Olga Salanueva is married to René González, one of the Miami Five. She
and her daughter, Ivette, have been denied access to the United States
to visit René for the past five years.
Olga and Ivette will be in Ireland in early December for a series of
meetings with Irish politicians and human rights activists, at which
Olga will give an account of the recent developments in the case and
seek support for her five-year campaign to be allowed to visit her
husband. It is hoped to combine this event with the showing of a film
on the Miami Five.
(from SOCIALIST VOICE, a monthly publication of the Communist Party of
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