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Emilia Lucena, "Chavez Meets Workers in Madrid"

eh writes:

Chavez Meets Workers in Madrid

Emilia Lucena, El Militante

It is nearly five o’clock. A shy autumn sun bathes the
Prado Avenue on our way to the headquarters of the
Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) in Madrid. When we arrive
there are already more than 300 people queuing to get
into the meeting hall. They patiently wait to attend
the meeting with Chavez which is scheduled for 7 pm.There is chaos. Lope de Vega is a narrow street and
more and more people arrive to attend the meeting. The
hall stewards are overwhelmed, some of them surprised
by the enormous expectation, some ask what is the
matter with Chavez and some even ask who Chavez is
(one mixes him up with Andalusia president Chaves).
The police officers cannot understand and do not know
what attitude to adopt. One of them tries to show that
he is in charge, and demonstrates the usual arrogant
and contemptuous attitude of the police, but nobody
pays any notice. They are all either sufficiently
happy or enthused with the perspective of meeting
Chavez, and are not prepared to fall into any
provocations. During the nearly two hour wait, the
queue breaks into singing and shouting of slogans in
defence of the Venezuelan revolution and its

It is nearly 7pm when the doors open, and the human
tide is allowed in, in groups of five. We must go
through a metal detector. It is just four days since
the State Prosecutor investigating those involved in
the April 11 coup has died, assassinated in a
terrorist attack carried out by the forces of
reaction. Nobody complains. We all understand the need
to take all necessary security measures. We are aware
that the international counter-revolution has set its
sights on Chavez.

Slowly the meeting hall fills up. There is the
shouting of slogans and the singing of songs. We are
shown a video of the revolution. Some singers and
musicians go on stage to entertain the people before
Chavez’s arrival. Amongst them are the extraordinary
Olga Manzano and Quintin Cabrera, but also many
others, who do not feature in the commercial music
scene, but want to show their solidarity and sympathy
for the revolution. Of course, [Spanish singer]
Alejandro Sanz, the gusano who said that Chavez should
resign because the people of Venezuela were against
him, and who has now been shut up by the results of
the recall referendum, is not there.

A terrible moment. It is announced that the president
will not come. It is half past eight. The audience is
stunned. Disillusionment runs through all those
present, but it is agreed that the meeting will
continue. We want to show our support for the
revolution, but the mood has changed from one of
enthusiasm to a disheartened one. We wanted to listen
to Chavez, the leader of the Venezuelan revolution.

William Lara, the former president of the Venezuelan
National Assembly and Member of Parliament, addresses
the audience. His speech does not connect. He says
that Venezuela is a paradise for investment from
Spanish businesses. There is a stunned, and a little
bit of an angry silence. These are the same businesses
that exploit us day in and day out. These are the same
businesses that hire young people and immigrant
workers as cheap labour without rights, and demand
more flexibility for wages and working conditions! We
know they are not going to create wealth in Venezuela,
in the same way they do not create wealth for the
people here.

William Lara continues with his speech and at the end
adds, like an afterthought, that this investment will
not have the same exploitive character as in the past.
The question everybody is asking themselves is: does
William Lara really know what employers are? Does he
know that their profits come from our exploitation?
Does he realize that they will not invest a single
cent unless they have a firm guarantee that they will
recover their investment tenfold by keeping the
majority of the population in poverty? While Lara
speaks a rumour makes the rounds: “Chavez is coming”,
first it is just in the front rows, then moves
throughout the hall.

Nobody pays much attention to anything apart from
whether Chavez is coming or not. From the stage
nothing is said about this, William Lara continues to
speak. At the end a powerful voice from the audience
says: “Chavez is coming”. There is a spontaneous
ovation. The mood is cheerful again. Now the musicians
go on stage and we all sing along and clap to the
songs. Later we found out what had happened. A group
of people, led by Manolo Espinar of the Haydee
Santamaria organisationa and JM Municio from El
Militante, had gone to the Circulo de Bellas Artes,
where Chavez was meeting a group of intellectuals and
actors, and explained to him that 1500 workers and
youth were waiting for him in the CCOO meeting hall.
And they managed to bring him along! When Chavez found
out that we were waiting, he did not hesitate: “I am
going over there, even if it is just to give a 15
minute greeting”. As he himself said later: “thank
you, you have rescued me from the intellectuals to
bring me to the workers”.

The hours go by and he still does not arrive. The
banners in the hall still speak solidarity from the
walls. Amongst them is one from El Militante and the
Sindicato de Estudiantes (Spanish Students Union)
which reads: “Venepal: nationalization under workers

Nobody leaves. Now and then the news is confirmed:
despite the delay, Chavez is coming. We are waiting.
Messages of support are read to the meeting. At the
beginning two were read from the Alliance of
Anti-imperialist Intellectuals and another one from
Culture against War. Then they read the one from the
Sindicato de Estudiantes, which was interrupted by
ovations twice. Then, in between the songs, others are
read: from the Communist Party, the Red Current, El
Militante, the international Hands Off Venezuela
Campaign... We sing some songs and then The
Internationale. The whole room has raised fists as the
Internationale comes out of our throats like the shout
of revolutionary struggle, solidarity and proletarian

At last, at 10:30 pm, after waiting for more than 5
hours, Chavez arrives! The enthusiasm is overwhelming.
There is a standing ovation and raised fists as we
greet him.

He is standing on stage. He is obviously tired but
also moved by the greeting and the enthusiasm
overfilling the hall. He apologises for the delay, and
starts by reciting a poem by Garcia Lorca.

He begins to address the crowd. He talks about the
revolution, the oppressed, the oligarchy and
imperialism that organized the coup in April 2002, how
he thought he was going to be shot dead, and how the
soldiers, arms in hand, avoided it. “There, facing the
death squad, I though of Che (...) how men die”. He
explains how thousands and thousands of workers, the
poor, surrounded the Miraflores Palace defending the
revolution. “They tried once and failed, and if they
tried again they would fail again, because in
Venezuela the arms are in the hands of the soldiers,
who are part of the people”. He mentions the coup
against Allende: “the Chilean revolution failed
because it was a peaceful and unarmed revolution. The
Bolivarian revolution is peaceful... but armed”. We
understand very well what he is talking about. We also
know about our own past. The audience begins to shout,
fists raised again, “el pueblo armado, jamás será
aplastado” (“the people, armed, will never be

Now he talks about the money from [state oil company]
PDVSA, which is being used for social programs, and he
mentions Cuba and the Cuban doctors. There is another
standing ovation and shouts of “Chavez, Fidel y el

He mentions the shipyard workers [fighting for months
against the closure of the shipyards]. The whole
audience shouts, “The shipyards will not be closed
down!” He talks about the democratic revolution in
Venezuela, of how the people support the revolution.
He talks of the peoples of Latin America. “If Bolivar
lived today, he would be a socialist”. He also
mentions Marx.

He now talks about the workers and the need for unity.
“There is a socialist international and a Christian
Democratic international. Why can’t we form a
democratic and revolutionary international? Unite all
the oppressed peoples, the workers, the indigenous
peoples...”. There is another standing ovation. He
develops the idea: “the working class must be the
vanguard of the revolution (...) It should not only
concern itself with immediate or wage demands, which
are necessary and must be fought for, but it must also
look beyond, to the transformation of society as a
whole”. The enthusiasm is overwhelming. “Long live the
working class”, and “the working class has no borders”
are slogans which become alive and are shouted by the
whole audience as one.

During the speech, standing up, he has been given cups
of coffee which he drank. It has been a very packed
day. He was at the Complutense University, where the
students also received him with enthusiasm, surpassing
all expectations. He met with Zapatero, with artists
and intellectuals in the Circulo de Bellas Artes, and
then at 10:30 pm he met with the workers... The best
part of it, he snubbed a meeting with big business.
Today the media complain and say this is not
acceptable because he snubbed a meeting with 200
“business leaders”. Today, workers understand more who
Chavez is and the support he receives from Venezuelan

It is past 11:30 and finally he says goodbye. As he
leaves the hall, as when he came in, there is a
standing ovation. We are all shouting, “La revolución
p’alante, p’alante y al que no le guste que se joda y
que se aguante” (“the revolution forward, forward,
and those who do not like it, will have to stand it”).

As always, everywhere he goes, this enthusiasm is also
expressed in the desire to get close to him, to greet
him personally. Despite the bodyguards and the
security measures, when he comes out he is surrounded
by a sea of hands showing their solidarity and support
for the Venezuelan revolution. He is extremely polite,
tactful and educated, and in an impossible attempt, he
tries to greet and talk to all those who come close to
him. He understands that this show of solidarity
reflects the desire of workers to show, through him,
to the workers and the oppressed in Venezuela, the
hopes that their revolution has raised amongst workers
and youth around the world.