The team included YS leader Olympia Newton from Los Angeles, Argiris Malapanis from Miami, and this reporter from Vancouver, British Columbia.
"We underestimated the thirst for revolutionary literature," said Malapanis at the conclusion of the visit. "We ran out of many titles before the trip was over." The team sold 61 Pathfinder books and pamphlets to students, factory workers, peasants, fishermen, and others during its 10-day stay here. The trip included visits to Valencia, Maracaibo, Cumaná, and San Carlos. They also sold 20 copies of Perspectiva Mundial and three PM subscriptions.
The top-selling pamphlet was The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning: The Fraud of Education Reform Under Capitalism by SWP national secretary Jack Barnes, with five copies sold. Runner-up, with four copies sold, was Cuba and the Coming American Revolution also by Barnes. The team sold three copies each of The Changing Face of U.S. Politics and Capitalism’s World Disorder both by Barnes; Peru’s Shining Path: Evolution of a Stalinist Sect by Martín Koppel; Puerto Rico: Independence Is a Necessity by Rafael Cancel Miranda; and 50 años de guerra encubierta by Larry Seigle.
The five issues of Nueva Internacional, the Spanish-language sister publication of the Marxist magazine New International, were also popular. All but one of the 10 copies of Nueva that the socialist workers from North America brought with them were sold.
The team also met workers at the plant gates of the large Ford, GM, and Chrysler auto assembly plants, and a Hyundai car distribution company in Valencia, the third largest city and biggest industrial center of the country. Workers purchased two copies of Perspectiva Mundial and one copy of The Transformation of Learning pamphlet.
Problem is capitalism
Wilmer Mejias, a truck driver recently laid off from GM, described the deepening economic crisis in the country. This includes unemployment reaching 20 percent this year and inflation expected to reach 25 percent in 2002. "It’s capitalism that’s leaving us and our families on the streets," Mejias commented, "not [Venezuelan president Hugo] Chávez or individual capitalists simply taking capital out the country to undermine his government."
He pointed to a previous bust of the capitalist business cycle in 1988–89 that led to the Caracazo, a working-class rebellion against government austerity measures at that time. He bought a copy of The Transformation of Learning pamphlet after finding out it’s about a scientific explanation of how capitalism works and the need to build a communist movement.
Later that afternoon the team set up a display of literature on the floor in one of the high-traffic areas at the University of Carabobo, Valencia. The socialists sold an additional three pamphlets and four copies of PM in 20 minutes. A leader of the Fifth Republic Revolutionary Youth (JVR) who had studied at the college accompanied them, and helped introduce the socialists and the books to students there. The JVR is affiliated to the party of President Chávez.
Members of the reporting team were able to make several presentations to meetings and found a real interest in what they do as part of the working-class movement in North America. Olympia Newton and Carlos Cornejo, for example, gave greetings to 400 participants at a regional conference of the Bolivarian Circles in Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-largest city, July 20.
In their brief remarks they pointed to the struggles the communist movement is part of in North America; what they are doing to build proletarian parties that, as battles unfold, can fuse with other forces and lead toilers to form a workers and farmers government; and why in this struggle they start from the world, recognizing that it is the imperialists who are the originators of class violence and have never allowed any peaceful road towards a social revolution.
Many people approached Newton and Cornejo at the end of this gathering to ask for magazines and books. They sold virtually everything they had with them. Newton was also interviewed on local TV as a socialist candidate for secretary of state in California.
North American class struggle
There was similar interest in the class struggle in the United States and Canada during an impromptu forum organized by the local branch of the JVR. About 30 youth attended, many of them students.
Some of the questions asked were about the socialists’ response to last year’s September 11 events, such as whether or not George Bush was an illegitimate president in the United States, and how communists can function in the United States. They were also interested in learning about why the Quebecois want to separate from Canada.
Newton said socialist workers and young socialists recognized the U.S. rulers simply used the September 11 attacks to accelerate the assaults they were already carrying out against working people at home and abroad. Communist workers and young socialists sold the Militant, with a front-page statement issued September 11 by Socialist Workers candidate for New York mayor Martín Koppel, along with Pathfinder books. They explained these issues on the job, on college campuses, and at street corner tables. The statement pointed out that by its systematic superexploitation of peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America; its never-ending insults to the cultural dignity of oppressed peoples; and its ceaseless murderous violence, including the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II and the more recent war against the Iraqi people, U.S. imperialism is turning North America into a death trap for working people and others who live there, just like Israel has become a death trap for the Jews.
Finding out about Cuban Revolution
At the end of this meeting, several young people stayed around to look at Pathfinder books. Renata, a college student, was particularly struck by a picture in the photo section of Cuba and the Coming American Revolution showing thousands of Cuban students mobilized in 1961 to go to the countryside to teach workers and peasants how to read and write two years after the triumph of the revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship. "Why can’t we do this here?" she asked, pointing to the high levels of illiteracy in Venezuela today, especially in the countryside. This led to more discussion on the Cuban Revolution. At the end, Renata bought Cuba and the Coming American Revolution, Nueva no. 5, which contains the article "U.S. Imperialism Has Lost the Cold War," and a subscription to Perspectiva Mundial.
There was similar interest in learning about the Cuban Revolution among many young people. One high school student, who purchased Che Guevara Talks to Young People, said that many youth sport T-shirts with Che.
Numerous murals with his well-known figure can also be seen now around Caracas, especially in working-class areas like the January 23 barrio or Catia. But the real Che, what he did as a leader of the Cuban Revolution and expressed in many of his speeches and writings, is not known.
During an impromptu debate at Bolivar Square in central Caracas, July 15, Newton and Malapanis explained why they disagreed with views expressed by supporters of the Tupamaros, a Maoist organization that claims the Cuban Revolution degenerated when Che allegedly split with Fidel Castro and the central leadership of the Cuban Revolution over the guerrilla struggles in Latin America in the 1960s. A number of youth present later bought Pathfinder books on the Cuban Revolution as a result of that discussion.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home