Official meeting in Caracas commemorates Trotsky’s anniversary

The commemoration meeting in memory of Leon Trotsky was an outstanding success. 300 people gathered in the Jose Felix Rivas hall of the Teresa Carreño Theatre in Caracas to hear the first ever public event organised by a government ministry on the life of Leon Trotsky. The commemoration meeting in memory of Leon Trotsky was an outstanding success. 300 people gathered in the Jose Felix Rivas hall of the Teresa Carreño Theatre in Caracas to hear the first ever public event organised by a government ministry on the life of Leon Trotsky. At the entrance to the theatre staff handed out a leaflet with the programme for the day, a short brochure that provided a brief background to the life of Trotsky and the speakers present a poster with a sketched picture of Trotsky with a quotation from his Testimony.

One of the main speakers was Esteban Volkov, Trotsky's grandson, the son of Trotsky's daughter Zinaida. Esteban outlined some of the most brilliant achievements of Trotsky's life, such as his role as the founder of the Red Army, and then explained the struggle that Trotsky waged against the Stalinist degeneration of the October revolution. Esteban explained how this struggle led to the creation of the 4th international in 1938, which was organised in Europe by Trotsky's son, Lev Sedov, who was murdered by Stalin's agents in Paris as part of Stalin's attempt to destroy Trotskyism, which is to say the traditions of Bolshevism. Esteban finished by describing the last period of Trotsky's life in Mexico when Esteban lived with Trotsky and Natalia Sedova, Trotsky's second wife, when there was more than one attempt to murder Trotsky. The first was carried out by David Alfaro Siqueiros, a famous Mexican painter and a leader of the Mexican CP, who was part of a group of CP members who entered the house in the middle of the night and sprayed Trotsky's bedroom with bullets without turning on the light. Esteban commented that a painter should never change his painting instruments for a gun. But such were Stalin's resources and determination to murder Trotsky that it was only a question of time before the inevitable happened, and on August 20th Ramon Mercader brutally murdered the man who together with Lenin led the October Revolution. Esteban described how he was not in the house at the time because he was at school, and that he will never forget how he walked back from school towards the house, and saw a crowd of people standing outside, which told him that something terrible had happened.

Ydalberto Ferrera, a Trotskyist in his 90s from Cuba, then spoke about how he and other Trotskyst militants fought against the Machado dictatorship, which was overthrown by a revolutionary movement in 1933. However the working class was not able to take power and the army, led by Batista, launched a coup against the popularly elected "government of the 100 days". Unfortunately, due to the degeneration of the Communist International under Stalin, the Communist Party in Cuba also degenerated, sending ministers into Batista's government in 1942. The best elements of the Cuban CP took up the banner of Trotskyism to defend the best traditions of the CP, and in the 1950s supported Castro's movement against the Batista dictatorship while the CP stood aside until the last minute. When Cuba entered the Soviet camp Soviet advisers forced the government to arrest and imprison the Cuban Trotskyists, and in jail they created branches to support Castro and the Cuban Revolution. This history demonstrates that Trotskyism is the genuine tradition of working class struggle that the Cuban Communist Party of Julio Antonio Mella was set up to defend, and did defend before the influence of Stalinism ruined the CP.

The subsequent speakers underlined the fact that Trotskyism is not something foreign or imposed on the struggle against imperialism in Latin America. Ricardo Napuri, the Peruvian Trotskyist and former Air Force officer, explained how he gave Che Guevara books by Trotsky. Although Che didn't call himself a Trotskyist, his struggle against bureaucracy and his struggle to extend the revolution throughout Latin America clearly corresponds to Trotsky's struggle against bureaucracy and the Stalinist distortion of socialism in one country in the USSR. Celia Hart, a Cuban Communist and a very public Trotskyist, then talked about the relevance of the permanent revolution in developing both the Cuban and the Venezuelan revolutions, as part of a continental Latin American revolution.

Comrades from the CMR (the Revolutionary Marxist Current) in Venezuela were also present at the meeting and intervened with a stall outside the meeting, and the sales of the stall, which exceeded 1 million bolívares (465 US$), demonstrates the thirst for ideas, particularly the Marxist and revolutionary ideas of Trotsky that the Bolivarian revolution has generated. Indeed before the meeting Celia Hart ran up to the stall because the Minister had asked for her book, published by the Spanish comrades from the Frederick Engels Foundation. The fact that Trotsky is popular in Venezuela was reflected also in a market trader setting up his stall with Trotsky and Che t-shirts, since this is a profitable line of trade today. But the fact that it is the ideas of these revolutionaries that is in demand explains why yesterday we had a very successful day, and the trader selling t-shirts was left to look on at our busy stall enviously.

Indeed the interest was so great that after the Trotsky meeting had finished we stayed there selling material, gathering names of support for a petition calling for the nationalisation of the Sanitarios Maracay and Sidor factories. And this was because in another theatre an even bigger meeting (an assembly of the PSUV) was held on President Chavez's proposed amendments to the constitution with the participation of well-known figures from the national assembly. This meant that the discussion of Trotsky was linked yesterday and will remain linked in the future very concretely with the programme of the PSUV, and the need for the nationalisation of the banks, industry and the land under workers' control as the only way to defeat capitalism and imperialism, as well as the dangers of reformism, corruption and bureaucracy that threaten the revolution from within, just as they threatened and then destroyed the Soviet Union, as Trotsky warned in his masterpiece The Revolution Betrayed. It has to be said that the dangers the revolution faces and the need to carry it forward, with the full democratic participation of the working class, is instinctively understood by the working class, which is why the workers and the masses have enthusiastically joined the PSUV. Except for visitors to Venezuela from abroad everybody who gave their name to us was a member of the PSUV. And all these comrades from the PSUV are looking for clear ideas and for a coordinated plan to campaign in an organised manner against reformist elements within the party for a working class programme for the PSUV.

Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution, which was actually outlined in essence by Marx, and the history of the Russian revolution, completely destroys all the arguments of the reformists. They say that Venezuela is seeing a struggle limited to fighting imperialism, which has nothing to do with Marxism or 1917. But Marx himself began his political activity by fighting for the bourgeois democratic revolution in Germany, while 1917 saw the working class coming to power on a programme to solve the agrarian question and break Russia's dependence on imperialism. This is why the main slogan of 1917 was "peace, bread and land" and not nationalisation under workers' control, which followed in 1918. This is because the bourgeoisie in countries dominated by imperialism is so rotten that it is incapable of fighting imperialism. And this means that the task of fighting imperialism falls to the working class, in alliance with the peasants in the countryside. A group of peasants from Yaracuy came up to the stall and bought pamphlets by Marx and Rosa Luxemburg as well as the paper of the CMR, El Militante, and explained how they are concretely battling against the reformist elements in the PSUV in their area. The peasantry is looking to form links with the working class in the towns to defend itself from attacks organised by the landed oligarchy today. Its level of consciousness and organisation is much better than in Russia in 1917, while the working class is numerically much stronger in Venezuela today than it was in Russia. If the struggle against imperialism is waged by the working class it is organically linked to the struggle for the socialist revolution and nationalisation under workers' control, and there are very favourable conditions for this to happen.  It is only a question of building the organisation of the working class, and as part of that, of the organised Marxist current of the PSUV, the CMR.

And while the struggle against imperialism when it is led by the bourgeois is limited to creating conditions for the development of national capitalism, the struggle against imperialism led by the working class is international based on the international unity of the working class. This unity was indicated by the number of supporters of the Bolivarian revolution from abroad who were at the meeting and many of whom came up to the CMR stall yesterday, from Spain, the US, Britain, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador and Honduras. The debate on Trotsky here is set to be reproduced in all these countries, the spectre of communism in the 21st century.