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Commentary :: Organizing
The Marxists in the World Youth Festival
24 Sep 2005
Bolivarian Revolution
("The Revolution has brought the masses to their feet, it has organised
them and given them confidence to advance. In turn, the masses want
to press forward, confront and defeat the counter-revolution. They
are increasingly hostile to the Bolivarian bureaucracy that is trying
to hold the movement back."
---------------------
("The revolution is advancing rapidly and all sorts of contradictions
are opening up. Hugo Chavez is moving sharply to the left, but is
meeting fierce resistance from the bureaucracy and the pro-bourgeois
elements who occupy key positions in the Movement.")
=================================================================

The Marxists in the World Youth Festival
Friday, 23 September 2005
http://www.marxist.com/marxists-world-youth-festival230905.htm

The following article has been put together on the basis of a number
of reports written by comrades who participated in the World Youth
Festival in Caracas this August. It deals mainly with the
organisational side of the intervention of the International Marxist
Tendency and draws a balance sheet of this.

In August, as readers of Marxist.com will now be well aware, some
20,000 youth from five continents travelled to Venezuela to attend
the XVI World Festival of Youth and Students. In the past, the
Festival, which was completely dominated and controlled by the
Stalinists, was a bureaucratic affair, without any genuine
revolutionary content. But this time there was a big difference to
the past. This time the Festival took place against the background of
a developing revolution. This was the decisive factor.

Reflecting this change, for the first time in the history of the
Festival, the International Marxist Tendency intervened in a decisive
way. On previous occasions (Korea, Cuba, Algeria) we had made only a
minimal intervention with small forces. This was qualitatively
different. Our tendency made by far the most significant
intervention, leaving all other tendencies in the shade. Our comrades
were always present. Our propaganda was circulated to everybody
present. And for the first time ever we had one of our leading
comrades – Alan Woods – playing a major role in the Festival itself.

This was an historical conquest of the Marxist tendency. For the
first time in the history of this Festival, a well-known Trotskyist
leader was invited to speak. We do not know how this happened. We can
only surmise. But one thing is clear: the Stalinist organisers did
not do this out of the goodness of their hearts, but were conditioned
by pressures from outside. This is an indication of the growing
authority and influence our international tendency is getting, above
all in Venezuela and Cuba, but also in many other countries. We are
increasingly being seen as a viable force.

The intervention of Alan Woods had an even greater impact than
in any of his earlier visits, including last year when he had the
conversation with Chavez. Many people commented on it, and it is
having important repercussions at different levels. We should recall
that in the visit when Alan spoke with Chavez, the President made
favourable references to the editor of Marxist.com on several
occasions. But these were made before relatively small private
meetings of about a 100 people, mainly foreigners. On this occasion
we are talking about a big meeting of several thousands of
revolutionary activists. That same night, Alan was seen by millions
of people on television on a panel of not more than seven or eight
people selected from the Festival, together with the President.

The difference between our intervention and that of all the other
groups was enormous. For most of the official Young Communists from
Europe the Festival began and ended with the procession that took six
hours to pass along the Paseo de los Próceres on the first day. After
that they seemed far more interested in going to the beach than
attending the political sessions. There was even a fight within the
Spanish YCL delegation.

This is a fitting comment on the political degeneration of Stalinism.
In the old days the Stalinists were at least a caricature of
Leninism, and a caricature bears some resemblance to the original.
But now they have lost any point of resemblance to Bolshevism and
have degenerated into just one more reformist tendency. They lack the
organisational capacity and the discipline that used to characterize
the old Stalinists. This was all too evident in the appalling
disorganisation at all levels. Only the intervention of the
Venezuelan authorities and teams of enthusiastic young Bolivarian
volunteers saved the Festival from an ignominious collapse.

The intervention of our tendency was in striking contrast to the
chaotic inefficiency of the official Festival organisers. The number
of comrades who participated actively in the Festival was more than
fifty. It was not possible for all the Venezuelan comrades to
participate, for reasons of work or because they live far from
Caracas. The comrades worked very well as a disciplined team, holding
regular daily meetings to plan the intervention. One thing was very
noticeable: despite the fact that they came from different countries
and did not know each other, despite the language problem, all worked
with exactly the same methods.

A disciplined team

Comrades from the following countries were present (apart from
Venezuela): Spain, Italy, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, Britain,
Belgium, Russia and the USA. The comrades in Venezuela produced a
total of about 80,000 printed leaflets in Spanish and English,
including 20,000 declarations of the international Marxist tendency
in Spanish, and another 8,000 in English, 20,000 manifestos of the
JSR (Revolutionary Socialist Youth), 15,000 leaflets of the Spanish
Students Union, campaign, and thousands of other leaflets advertising
our meetings. We also produced a thousand posters advertising the
Revolutionary Socialist Youth (JSR). In addition to this Hands off
Venezuela produced 10,000 leaflets.

During the Festival we sold a very large amount of Marxist books,
pamphlets and documents to a value of over eleven million bolivars
(about 5000 euros) – a huge amount of money for Venezuela. The
best-selling document was the Spanish translation of The Marxists and
the Venezuelan Revolution, by Alan Woods, and the best-selling book
was The Communist Manifesto. The paper of the CMR (El Topo Obrero)
sold well, as did our Venezuelan theoretical journal, El Militante.
On the first day, during the inauguration and the procession, we
practically sold out of the copies of El Topo Obrero that we had
brought.

There was a thirst for ideas in many of the youth. Apart from a very
few isolated cases of the odd Stalinist fanatic who, on seeing a book
by Trotsky, ran away cursing, there was absolutely no difficulty in
selling the works of Trotsky. There were no rows or altercations. One
person came to ask whether there were any books by Stalin, and was
told, “no, only Trotsky”, and he smiled and just walked away. In
fact, the greatest interest was in books by Trotsky.

In addition to the actual visitors to the Festival, thousands of
Venezuelans passed through it, stopping to discuss and buy
literature. We also made many contacts from these. One logistical
problem was the fact that the activities of the Festival were spread
out between a number of different centres. We were the only
organisation to have stalls selling literature in every one of the
centres. There were other stands, of course, but none could compete
with ours. No one else had such a huge display of books by Marx,
Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.

These were prominently displayed on our stalls in the Parque Central
and Fuerte Tiuna. We even managed to set up a stall in Ciudad-Miranda
where we were staying and in the stadium (Poliedro) where Chavez
delivered his closing speech. It was an impressive display, including
books, pamphlets, papers and tens of thousands of leaflets explaining
our ideas. We explained the importance of getting organised on an
international scale. This idea impressed the people with whom we
discussed. And it was concretely backed up by the presence of the
Venezuelan comrades together with comrades from many other countries.
“So you don’t speak Spanish! OK, here is a comrade who speaks
English, or German or Italian or Russian!”

This was genuine internationalism at work. Our comrades were inspired
by the idea: we really are working together as an International. Not
even the inevitable problem of language prevented us from working
together in complete harmony. All the comrades, whether they were
from Sweden, from Austria or from Mexico, had the same ideas and
methods. This might appear obvious, something we should take for
granted. But when you saw it in practice in an intervention of this
kind, with all the problems we could have had... The fact is that all
the pieces fitted together perfectly.

We got a very large number of contacts. If we include the two public
meetings we held after the Festival, we collected more than 350 names
and addresses, of which we calculate that at least 30 percent will
end up as useful, in the sense that they will become active
supporters. Of these, about 60 percent were Venezuelans and the
remainder from other countries.

The contacts from outside Venezuela numbered about 150 from 37
different countries. Among these are people from: Colombia, USA,
Ecuador, Chile, India, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Argentina, Puerto
Rico, Greece, Guatemala, Australia, Mexico, France, Brazil, Canada,
Uruguay, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Switzerland, Peru,
Costa Rica, Cuba, Austria, Bangladesh, Denmark, Haiti, Honduras,
Iceland, Israel, Portugal, Czechoslovakia, Slovakia and Vietnam.
There was a group in Paraguay that uses the same symbol as the
Venezuelan Revolutionary Socialist Youth, which is very close to us
and a group fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico, as well as
a very good group from Los Angeles.

As for Venezuela, the result was even better. We obtained addresses
from 18 out of the total of 23 states of the country. There were
contacts from: Caracas, Lara (Barquisimeto), Carabobo, Sucre
(Cumaná), Miranda, Guárico, Zulia, Monagas, Anzoátegui, Mérida, Nueva
Esparta, Falcón, Táchira, Yaracuy, Portuguesa, Aragua, Bolívar and
Vargas. Of these addresses, those in Caracas have already been
followed up, and a number of meetings on Marxism have been held, with
dozens of new contacts, including a number of workers’ leaders. We
are now organising visits to the provinces to continue the follow-up.

Leftward move

The Revolution has brought the masses to their feet, it has organised
them and given them confidence to advance. In turn, the masses want
to press forward, confront and defeat the counter-revolution. They
are increasingly hostile to the Bolivarian bureaucracy that is trying
to hold the movement back. When you speak to ordinary people –
workers, unemployed youth, poor people in the shanty-towns, street
vendors, taxi drivers – you immediately see the psychological impact
of the Revolution. There is a kind of pride in the achievements made,
and even where (as is often the case) they say that their fundamental
conditions have not changed, they express a burning confidence in the
future and a fierce loyalty to the President.

The revolution is advancing rapidly and all sorts of contradictions
are opening up. Hugo Chavez is moving sharply to the left, but is
meeting fierce resistance from the bureaucracy and the pro-bourgeois
elements who occupy key positions in the Movement. The Venezuelan
Stalinists are not very numerous but play a pernicious role, in
effect trying to halt the revolution. They cling to the old
discredited Stalinist-Menshevik “theory” of two stages, which
relegates the perspective of socialism to a dim and distant future.
When they talk about “socialism of the 21st century” what they really
mean is the socialism of the 31st century.

All the time the reformists are pushing the idea: "this is not
exactly a revolution, but a process", or a variation on the same
theme: "it is not a revolution because the masses have not yet
reached the socialist level of consciousness", or the old Stalinist
line that "this is a bourgeois-democratic revolution". But in fact,
this is a revolution in the classical sense that Trotsky explained in
his History of the Russian Revolution: a situation in which the
masses move to take control of their lives and begin to participate
actively in politics. Nobody who has been to Venezuela can doubt that
this is the case.

The arguments of the reformists and Stalinists are in sharp contrast
to the position publicly defended by Chavez, who seems determined to
press on. His speeches over the period of the Festival were more
radical than ever, quoting Marx, Rosa Luxemburg and Trotsky. He now
says that it is a question of socialism or barbarism on a world
scale. Chavez’s perspectives are not limited to the frontiers of
Venezuela. He calls not only for a struggle against imperialism but
also for the overthrow of capitalism on a world scale. He used the
Festival to call for its organising bureau to be moved to Caracas and
for the creation of an anti-imperialist publishing house to publish
“all kinds of anti-imperialist books” (including Marxist books). The
all-Latin American TV channel which he has promoted, Telesur, is
already broadcasting to the whole world, including the USA.

Chavez is increasingly differentiating himself from the right wing,
the social democrats, the Stalinists and ATTAC (in reality, the same
tendency). One of the high points of the Festival, as you might
imagine, was the debate opened by President Chavez on the question of
"socialism of the XXI century". Here we saw proof of the growing
ideological contradiction that lies at the heart of the Bolivarian
Revolution. During this debate, the ex-Marxist Heinz Dietrich put
forward a completely pessimistic perspective, signifying the
abandonment of socialism.

Dietrich’s speech confirmed his complete repudiation of the socialist
perspective. He advised the Bolivarian government to stick to
capitalism (“developmental capitalism”, whatever that might mean!).
According to him, socialism was incomprehensible to the broad mass of
the people. Only the likes of Heinz Dietrich, it seems, could aspire
to understand it! Heinz has apparently been in Venezuela quite a lot
lately, yet he seems not to be aware that the masses are very much in
favour of socialism and identify completely with it. Who does he talk
to in Venezuela? Not the workers and peasants, for sure! Not the
revolutionary youth either.

It is true that the latter have not read the three volumes of Capital
(has Heinz Dietrich? If he has, he has forgotten every word of it).
But they are quite capable of carrying out the socialist
transformation of society without any “clever” intellectual advisers
of the Dietrich type. The real purpose of this speech was not to make
clear the ideas of socialism but to pour a bucket of cold water over
the heads of the young people present. With “friends” like this, the
Bolivarian Revolution really needs no enemies!

However, in the same debate, President Chavez put forward an entirely
different perspective that contradicted Dietrich’s defeatism. He
answered Dietrich by quoting Marx’s famous phrase that the
alternative before humankind was socialism or barbarism. If we did
not overthrow capitalism, the future would be barbarism, or worse. We
should not spend years and years debating, but must act, the
President said.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Alan Woods at the Tribunal -Chavez speaking on the right

In the course of his speech, he also paid tribute to the work of Alan
Woods in defending the actuality of Marxism, mentioning the editor of
Marxist.com by name. At the time, Alan was at the anti-imperialist
tribunal. But there can be no doubt that, had he been present, the
President would have called him to speak. That is why he was
carefully kept away from this particular debate.

Ultra left antics

It does seem that Chavez is looking for ideas and wants to base
himself on the Left. The President has repeatedly distanced himself
from the ideas and model of Stalinism. It is significant that he made
a point of quoting Trotsky (yet again) and quoting Che Guevara’s
criticism that the Soviet Union had “abandoned the Third World”.

In these extremely favourable conditions, when the Bolivarian
Movement is crying out for Marxist ideas, the ultra-left sectarians
have shown themselves to be utterly incapable of intervening
correctly in the real movement of the masses. Instead of giving
critical support to Chavez, at a time when he is clearly moving to
the left and coming into collision with the pro-bourgeois wing, they
concentrate all their energies in denouncing him.

The friendly attitude of the young Communists was in sharp contrast
to the venom of the sects who are consumed with impotent fury. Their
showing was absolutely pathetic.

Needless to say, the ultra-left sectarians have been driven to
distraction by the success of the Marxist tendency. In a desperate
attempt to find a stick to beat us with, one supporter of the
American SWP loudly protested in the meeting on militarism that Alan
Woods had questioned the intellectual qualities of George Bush: “He
is the most capable representative of the US ruling class,” he
explained to the astonished audience, who must have thought they were
listening to a man from Mars.

The ultra-left sects that falsely lay claim to being Trotskyists have
nothing in common with the ideas and methods of Trotsky. Fortunately
they have no serious base of support in Venezuela. They have
alienated those people with whom they have come into contact by their
constant hysterical attacks on Chavez. They were all like fish out of
water in the Festival and made no impression on anybody. Their main
activity seems to have been to attack the CMR and the International
Marxist Tendency, taking advantage of our meetings to give away their
leaflets, but even in this they did not have the slightest effect.
They must have gone away pretty demoralised.

Marxism versus reformism

The Stalinists manoeuvred to limit the impact of Alan’s intervention.
He was allowed to speak at the meeting on imperialism and militarism,
but this was in order to stop him from speaking in the important
debate on Socialism and the Bolivarian Revolution. Nevertheless, it
was a spectacular success, despite the blatant manoeuvre of the
bureaucrats of the Frente Francisco de Miranda, who ordered their
members to walk out of Alan’s meeting. This they dutifully did, but
since the abandoned seats were instantly occupied by other people,
nobody noticed it. In the end, over 1,000 people heard him speak, and
he was the only one of the speakers who received an ovation. The
Stalinists on the platform, who bored everyone to tears, were
mortified. Their faces were a real picture!

In the two days after the Festival Alan spoke at two very successful
public meetings organised by the CMR in the Caracas Town Hall
(Alcaldía Metropolitana de Caracas). There were about 200 present.
The first was a meeting of young comrades with Alan to publicize the
Revolutionary Young Socialists (JSR). In addition to Alan, there were
good interventions by leading youth activists from Spain, Mexico and
Italy.

The second meeting included two speakers from the Town Hall, both
representatives of the reformist bureaucratic tendency. The first was
a typical pseudo-intellectual, who repeated the usual nonsense about
socialism being boring (he certainly made it sound so) and the second
was a former guerrilla, and, as such, an ossified cynic.

The line was, as usual, that the ignorant masses were “not ready” for
socialism. Only when the masses had been sufficiently educated
(presumably by the reformist intellectuals and bureaucrats), could we
go down that road. This would presumably take most of the present
millennium – or maybe a little more. They were answered very
effectively, not just from the platform but from the floor, where a
large queue of comrades from different countries formed to intervene
in the discussion.

New possibilities

The Festival confirmed what we already knew: namely, that there is a
huge potential for the building of the Revolutionary Marxist Current.
Everybody was interested in Marxist ideas; everybody was willing to
give their telephone, their email address, to meet, to ask questions,
to discuss. And after the Festival the comrades have been busy
following through the long list of contacts, a number of whom have
already joined the CMR.

This intervention served to raise the profile of the Marxist tendency
considerably. New possibilities have opened up in areas where we had
no contacts before, like Portuguesa and Falcón in the West of
Venezuela, in Acarigua (Portuguesa), or in the peasant region of
Turen, where there are people interested in setting up the JSR, and a
whole group of young people in Guarico, who were very enthusiastic
about Alan’s meetings, in Cumane and many others.

There was considerable media coverage. Alan appeared on television as
a judge in the anti-imperialist trial, which was to be publicized all
over the world. Apart from the reports in the Venezuelan press (he
was singled out for attack in an article in the most important
bourgeois daily paper, El Nacional, entitled Return of the Hammer and
Sickle), he was interviewed in numerous television and radio
programmes, and other comrades also spoke on television.

Ultimas Noticias, a paper that is extensively followed among
Bolivarian activists, carried quite a good report of one of Alan’s
meetings, although all the references to his links to the
Revolutionary Marxist Current were cut out, and a much longer
interview with him was conveniently replaced by an interview with the
revisionist Heinz Dietrich. Nevertheless, the level of press coverage
was very good.

We must not exaggerate, but it is clear that our ideas are
increasingly having an effect, not just on rank and file militants
but also on some of the leaders of the Bolivarian movement, not least
on Chavez himself. More than once he mentioned Alan Woods in his
speeches (including a speech he made in Cuba). This shows the
importance of flexible tactics and correct methods when intervening
in the mass movement. The sects and ultra-lefts will complain. Let
them complain to their heart’s content. We will continue the work of
putting down roots in the mass movement and building the forces of
genuine Marxism in Venezuela and internationally.

A tendency that calls itself Marxist and is incapable of building in
a revolution – and that is what is unfolding in Venezuela – does not
deserve to be taken seriously. The facts speak for themselves. Only
our tendency – the Marxist tendency – has shown that it is able to
seize the opportunity and connect with the revolutionary mass
movement in Venezuela. This requires not only correct ideas but also
correct methods, tactics and orientation.

The prior condition for success is always the same: to build a
powerful Marxist tendency, with trained cadres who possess an
intransigent attitude to ideas, theory and principles, combined with
the necessary flexibility in questions of organisation and tactics.
On that basis alone we can succeed. Of course, we are still at the
early beginnings. It will not be easy. There are many obstacles to
overcome. But this report shows that we are definitely moving in the
right direction and making impressive progress.
See also:
http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org
http://venezuela.elmilitante.org

This work is in the public domain
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