The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 47      December 13, 2010

‘Share experiences and
learn from these books’
Thirst for working-class politics at Venezuela fair
(feature article)
CARACAS, Venezuela—“I’m glad you’re here. We need to share experiences and learn from these books,” Jesús Solé, a worker at an agricultural tool company, told volunteers at the Pathfinder Press stand at the Sixth Venezuela International Book Fair.

Solé was one of thousands of workers, students, and others who visited the booth between November 12 and 21, many coming more than once, to talk and buy books. During the 10-day period, a total of 1,839 books were sold.

The top selling book, which also sparked the most discussion, was Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by Jack Barnes, of which 277 copies were sold.

Those who staffed the stand were communist workers from the United States and the United Kingdom. This was of interest to many, who listened as Pathfinder volunteers explained that they sold the books in the factories where they work, in workers’ districts, universities, at protests, and on picket lines. Many were surprised to learn that the effects of the capitalist economic crisis on working people in the United States has generated marked interest there in books that promote the perspective of the working class taking power.

One of those who bought the Workers Power book was Ender Heresa, an Afro-Venezuelan construction worker who came to the booth several times on his break. He was drawn to the many photos in the book of working-class struggles in the United States.

The second best seller was The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, with 146 sold. In third place was Is Socialist Revolution in the U.S. Possible? by Mary-Alice Waters, with 130 sold. Pointing to the book, readers would ask volunteers at the stand, “Do you think workers in the United States can make a revolution?” They wanted to know what the conditions of U.S. workers are today. Several visitors had attended the five-day rolling debate at the 2007 Venezuela book fair that inspired this title.

Other commonly asked questions were why the Republicans gained ground in the recent U.S. elections, what the development of the tea party registered, and whether communist workers face repression selling revolutionary books and copies of the Militant.

Pathfinder volunteers described the growing disgust among workers, farmers, and youth toward politicians of both the Republican and Democratic parties, who have nothing to offer but high unemployment, cutbacks, wars, and repression of workers rights.

On the last day of the fair, an interview with Steve Warshell, one of the volunteers who staffed the Pathfinder stand, appeared in the newspaper CiudadCCS, with the headline, “Is a Revolution Possible in the U.S.” Warshell, recent Socialist Workers Party candidate for Congress in Texas, explained that yes, a revolution is possible if working people are able to build a revolutionary party that can advance working-class struggles, unite the class, and chart a path toward taking power.  
World economic depression
As in the past couple of years, the world economic depression was on the minds of many. Of the 191 copies of Nueva Internacional sold, the top seller was issue number 6, which features the article, “Capitalism’s Long Hot Winter Has Begun” by Barnes.

Just before the fair opened, the Caracas daily El Universal reported that the price of food has risen 33.7 percent in the past year, while overall inflation is a hefty 23 percent. On several different days public hospital nurses, who have organized walkouts and other protests demanding wage increases to keep up with inflation, came to the booth to purchase books and talk about their fight.

Eighty-one copies of Pathfinder’s new edition of Lenin’s Final Fight were sold, as well as 244 copies of the Militant and 144 copies of the Militant supplement that includes the introduction to Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power.

Gustavo García, who works at Avila TV, a channel run by young people, was one of those who bought the supplement, read it, and then came back to buy the book.

During the fair Avila TV featured a program aimed at exposing racism in the media. “Because most people here are of mixed race, there is the idea that racism doesn’t exist in Venezuela,” García explained. “But our language is full of racist references. For example, people will say a person has a ‘good appearance’ if they are lighter skinned.”

This is the sixth consecutive year Pathfinder Press has had a booth at the Venezuela International Book Fair. Many returning visitors were familiar with Pathfinder, having bought books in previous years.

Arnaldo Rojas, a bank worker, said he first became acquainted with Pathfinder in 2001 at the International Youth Festival in Algeria. He and some of his friends have been reading and discussing Pathfinder books, he said, and he has introduced the books to other workers at the bank. This year he purchased three issues of Nueva Internacional, toward completing his set of all eight volumes.

Andrea Canave, a student who traveled to the fair from the nearby city of Carabobo, first learned about Pathfinder when a friend gave her Their Trotsky and Ours by Barnes. She came looking for titles advertised in that book, leaving with The Communist Manifesto and several titles on the Cuban Revolution.

The sale of 84 copies of Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle by Thomas Sankara, along with other women’s liberation titles, reflected the increased numbers of women in Venezuela who are demanding more rights, including legalization of abortion. Sixty-five copies of Abortion Is a Woman’s Right by Pat Grogan were picked up.

The Sankara title was one of 10 books bought by María Ramírez, a student at Bolivarian University of Venezuela. “My family tried to pressure me to stay at home, cooking and cleaning, the traditional women’s role,” she said. “But I wanted more in life.” Now she is working, studying, and active in student struggles.

Pathfinder volunteers frequently participated in panel discussions and book presentations, some on women’s liberation themes, which took place daily in large tents throughout the fair.

In addition, those attending the fair enjoyed concerts and dance performances, where groups presented the music, costumes, and dance of the countries honored by this year’s fair—Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico—as well as poetry readings, films, and children’s workshops.

Maggie Trowe contributed to this article.
Related articles:
Hundreds at Miami fair visit Pathfinder booth
Socialists from U.S. meet with Venezuelan workers  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home