"In the end", said Martin Luther King, "we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends." His words are relevant to every social struggle and are especially pertinent to the ongoing fight for social justice in Latin America, where media manipulation and forces hostile to the positive changes of the last decade conspire to return nations such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Honduras to an imposed neo-liberal economic model.
The survival of Hugo Chávez' government in Venezuela, the popular elections of Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador and the campaign to restore Manuel Zelaya, the democratically-elected leader of Honduras, to power following a right-wing coup have all relied on solidarity at home and abroad and the courage to read between the lines of the disinformation pedalled by corporate media outlets.
The British labour movement has always played its part. From the Spanish Civil War, to the coup in Chile and the apartheid struggle in South Africa, and now the solidarity campaigns around Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela and Honduras, the British left has stood up for democracy and justice. This makes the present media manipulation around Venezuela even harder to stomach.
Against a background of increasing anti-Chávez propaganda an attack on the British left's support of Venezuela's revolution has emanated from Labour's benches in the House of Commons. Denis MacShane's critique in The Guardian (3 August) must be challenged. The Rotherham MP began with a call for all "Hooray Hugos", presumably including more than 50 Labour MPs and many national trade unions, to rethink their support for Venezuela's leader.
According to Denis MacShane: "While the left in Spain, France, Italy and Latin America has always had doubts about the populist, demagogic style of Chavez, he has had a free run in Britain. Ken Livingstone organised meetings to worship him and got involved in a bizarre oil deal. The NUJ [National Union of Journalists] and Labour MPs have made pilgrimages to Caracas to buy the Chávez line."
It was a risible attempt to belittle the work of the solidarity movement which arose in response to the CIA-backed coup against a democratically elected Venezuelan leader, who has made the alleviation of poverty a priority.