The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 45      November 29, 2010

Sixth int’l book fair
opens in Venezuela
Pathfinder Press sales off to strong start
(feature article)
CARACAS, Venezuela—Thousands streamed through the grounds of the Sixth Venezuela International Book Fair here the first weekend after its November 12 inauguration. The book fair, the largest cultural event in the country, will run through November 21.

“Let’s remind ourselves that the book fair is not only a commercial fair for the exhibition and sale of books. Above all, it’s a cultural celebration,” said Christian Valles, president of the National Book Center of Venezuela at the opening press conference. The center hosts the event.

Fair visitors can browse and purchase books, magazines, and other publications from more than 100 exhibitors from Venezuela and abroad. They also attend dozens of workshops, poetry readings, musical performances, and other activities.

At the opening ceremony, Francisco Sesto, Venezuela’s minister of culture, highlighted efforts made by publishing houses and other government institutions that have increased access to literature and culture.

Every year fair organizers dedicate the event to a specific country. This year that designation is shared by Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina, the three countries in Latin America that together with Venezuela are marking the bicentennial of their independence from Spain.

While the participation of international diplomatic delegations and publishing houses is greater this year than in previous ones, there are fewer exhibiting stands and spaces for presentations, panels, and other activities. This year, the bono-libro was also eliminated. These were coupons distributed through social programs and government institutions that could be used to purchase books at the fair, which benefited many workers and working-class youth.

Book and pamphlet sales by Pathfinder Press, which for the sixth consecutive year has a stand at the book fair, are off to a strong start, with 454 books sold the first weekend.

The top seller is Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power with 97 copies sold so far, followed by Is Socialist Revolution in the U.S. Possible? with 61 copies. Other sought-out titles include The Communist Manifesto, Abortion Is a Woman’s Right, and The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning.

The explanation that the roots of the economic crisis and the expanding imperialist wars can be found in the dictatorship of capital, and the perspective of building revolutionary parties that can lead struggles to overthrow capitalist rule, have provoked lively discussions between fair visitors and the international team of socialist workers staffing the stand.

Rubén Martínez, a worker in a cosmetics plant in Caracas, was one of those who bought Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by Jack Barnes. “The U.S. is the biggest power, and it’s not functioning right, making war, and taking away peoples’ rights,” he said. “I’m hoping to learn how this can be changed.”

Leafing through the many photos portraying the history of the Black movement in the United States, Ingrid Selga, a member of the Afro-Venezuelan Youth Network, said the lessons contained in the book would be valuable for her group, which is fighting for the rights of Afro-Venezuelans.

A colorful display of photos at the Pathfinder stand portrayed the strikes, protests, and other struggles by working people and youth in the United States in response to the capitalist rulers’ assault on working conditions and standards of living. These came as a surprise to many visitors.

After volunteers at the booth explained how the two books complement each other, a number of people took advantage of a special discount to buy both Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power and The Changing Face of U.S. Politics. The latter book describes the struggle to build a party of communist workers, rooted in the industrial unions.

Working people of all ages stopped by the booth and carefully considered the content of the books and what the Pathfinder volunteers told them. A middle-aged waitress said, “I am glad I could be part of these discussions with workers like you from the United States. Five years ago, I really couldn’t read, I really didn’t know anything, and I really wasn’t interested.” She described how she has become more interested in what is happening in the world and bought a copy of Is Socialist Revolution in the U.S. Possible? by Mary-Alice Waters.

In addition to poetry readings and other cultural performances, there are many panel presentations on topics ranging from “The importance of reading and the inappropriate use of the internet” and “Women in the war for independence” to “A bicentennial facing the future: What, how, and who blocks our independence today in Latin America.”

At a well-attended program on feminism, Alba Carosio, director of the Women’s Studies Center at the Central University of Venezuela, explained that a proposal to decriminalize abortion has stalled in the National Assembly. A proposed new penal code would allow abortion under all circumstances up to the 12th week of pregnancy, and up to 20 weeks in cases of rape, fetal deformation, or risk to the woman’s life. This legislation still has not been debated in the National Assembly.

Many of those attending the program were university students, who snatched up copies of Abortion Is a Woman’s Right, published by Pathfinder. More than 30 copies of the pamphlet were bought in the first three days of the fair.

Héctor García, a teacher at the National Institute of Women, came to the Pathfinder stand looking for pamphlets by Mary-Alice Waters, after having read Waters’ pamphlet Feminism and the Marxist Movement in a public library in Caracas. He went away with Cosmetics, Fashions, and the Exploitation of Women and Is Biology Woman’s Destiny? by Evelyn Reed.

In addition to participating in the book fair, volunteers at the Pathfinder Press stand have been invited to participate in a series of meetings with university students, workers, and activists in the state of Aragua.  
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