Amid ongoing process against Chris Williamson, let’s remember his firm opposition to regime-change efforts abroad

Chris Williamson
Slava Zilber

On 30 July, the Campaign for Chris Williamson tweeted:

As this process continues, The Canary is taking a look at Williamson’s record as an MP. And in this piece, we remember his firm opposition to Western regime-change efforts abroad.

The Venezuelan coup attempt

More than six months have passed since Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself ‘interim president’ of Venezuela, with support from the US, its allies, and much of the media. The ongoing coup attempt has so far failed to overthrow the country’s democratically elected president Nicolás Maduro. But the US government continues to support the opposition in Venezuela and has recently imposed new sanctions. As prominent economists estimated in April, US sanctions helped to kill 40,000 Venezuelans between 2017 and 2018 alone.

On 14 February, I spoke to one of the few Western politicians to oppose the regime-change effort, Derby North MP Chris Williamson. He had previously attended an event on 7 February of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (VSC) to protest the decision of the Bank of England not to hand over gold worth $1.2bn that belongs to the Venezuelan government.

Amid current attempts to expel Williamson permanently from the Labour Party, it’s important to remember his principled stand against regime change abroad and against the mainstream media cheerleading such efforts. And his words below illustrate this honourable position.

Williamson’s anti-coup position

Chris Williamson MP: Well, I believe in self-determination which is also a matter of international law. And I think the difficulties that Venezuela is currently experiencing need to be resolved by Venezuelan people, not by external interference from imperialist powers like the United States, supported by countries like the United Kingdom and Spain.

And I was frankly astonished that Spain felt it’s appropriate to lend their support to Donald Trump when they were responsible for indulging in extreme violence against the Catalan people when they had the temerity to hold a referendum calling for independence from Spain. It seems that, in a democracy, it doesn’t really apply in their own country. And of course, not only did they mete out most of the violence against peaceful people in [Catalonia], they imprisoned their leaders and put them on trial. I mean, you know, this hasn’t happened in Venezuela – even though Venezuela’s got many problems, and there have been excesses on both sides. But at the end of the day, Juan Guaidó is still walking the streets free to make his case as it were…

I support self-determination of peoples and do not feel it’s appropriate for outside counties to intervene and interfere. 

How can ordinary people support a peaceful resolution in Venezuela?

CW: What we support – for us in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere around the world, and in the United States and other countries, particularly those that have come out in support of Juan Guaidó – is to demonstrate that our governments are not doing that in our name. And I think international solidarity is so important that what I will be doing, and what the public can do, is with pressure on their own government; with pressure on, for example, in this country the Bank of England to release those gold reserves which belong to the Venezuelan people, belong to… the duly-elected government of Venezuela; and try… – from a grassroots level, using civil society organisations, trade unions and so on – to argue that self-determination for Venezuelan people is something that we should all subscribe to, and that this external intervention is completely unacceptable, and as I’ve already said, not being done in our name by our government…

I’ve tried to raise it on the floor of the House of Commons. So I’m in a privileged position to be able to sort of take it up to the heart of government in terms of making the case. But I think it’s so important… for the public, through their efforts in terms of attending the demonstration outside the Bank of England, writing to their MP, raising awareness, raising consciousness in civil society about what’s happening in Venezuela, to try and inform themselves about the reality on the ground because we’re only getting a very one-sided view from the media, sadly.

I have no difficulty with the media highlighting what they perceive to be the shortcomings of the Maduro government. That’s what the media’s there for. That’s fine. I’m not asking for them to be propaganda tools of Venezuela; but I do think it’s also important that they give the other side of the story. And because the mainstream media isn’t doing so, I think it’s important that… we do everything we can to try and inform people about the reality on the ground, and direct them to the… alternative news sites, people like… Max Blumenthal and others; American journalists and various others who are doing some excellent work, Greg Palast, for example, on the ground in Venezuela, who have been reporting on the reality of what’s happening right now, but also getting some historical context to how Venezuelans arrived at the situation that they have today. 

Featured image via Mohamed Elmaazi

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See The Canary‘s full coverage of the Venezuela coup and our on-the-ground reporting from the country.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Why are those who want Chris Williamson excomunicated from the labour Party appear to be so terrified of his prescence in the group? Who are these individuals, as I never hear the names of these MP’s apart from Tom Watson.
      These expulsionists may be Labour members who have nothing in common with the reasons as to why Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign struck such a popular nerve with people during the last election?
      Regime change in the Labour Party is the goal?
      Chris Williamson is a man of experience in change like this. Is this why they are terrified?
      You want this man!
      I’m guessing they feel deeply the Political State of the Realm is far more powerful than they are as individuals, which it is, and are awed by the experience.
      They live to obey.
      But the relationship between an individuals civil rights and the State has been very positive one down through the centuries ending in giving us an undreamt prosperity, inventive approach to life, and freedoms we have well earned through the troubles suffered
      The State has prospered as well.
      I think these expulsionists are not the intelligent or so very clever individuals in the future fantasy of George Orwell’s 1984 of who comes to rule as Big Brother, and Big Sister. But this is who they really look like.
      Doing it for the good of the State, and for naturally for all of us to achieve a sense of peace, to be normal so to speak.
      Whereas the Tories are out, and out right Pirates. In the old days the Queen would have called suspended Parliament ,and called for a General Election for the deceit ,chicanery, financial fraud, utter lack of respect for Parliamently decorum, and utter contempt against England’s main trading partner just 20 miles across the Channel in exchange for some flakey fantasy of there has to be some one else.
      They imperil the realm, while claiming the Throne for the Tories.
      It’s a governemnt in transition in these rabid times, and we’ll notice in the next General Election who is astute, and who can be fooled.
      But individual human rights is our safeguard against these Pirates of Parliament.
      The Brexiteers, and Labour People who don’t understand our history.
      What they choose to show on TV is so dull. Dulled minds by whom?
      Its an exciting world, and this New Ship without a photo album has stranded these people on shore.
      The breeze is in my face, and to those I dont’ even know,
      Happy sailing.

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