[A-List] Chavez: `Socialism ... it's now or never'
glparramatta at greenleft.org.au
Mon Jan 30 02:01:22 MST 2006
Jim McIlroy & Chris Kerr, Caracas
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proclaimed 'socialism or death' in
finishing his rousing speech to a rally of around 10,000 people at the
Polihedro Stadium on January 27. The rally was a feature of the Latin
American section of the Sixth World Social Forum held in Caracas on
The forum attracted an audience of up to 100,000 people from all over
Latin America and the world, to a feast of more than 2000 public
meetings and seminars on themes of anti-imperialist globalisation and
the struggle for a better world.
Chavez said that unlike Karl Marx, when he first issued the call for
socialism in the 19th century, 'we do not have much time left'. The 21st
century has now come, 'when the dilemma must be finally resolved'.
'Time is short. If we do not change the world now, there may be no 22nd
century for humanity. Capitalism has destroyed the ecological
equilibrium of the earth. It is now or never!', Chavez declared. 'We
should go toward setting up a worldwide anti-imperialist movement. We
have already taken steps in this direction', Chavez told the cheering
crowd. He commented that at the previous WSF in Porto Alegre in 2005,
'many talks were occurring without conclusions. We are not here to waste
our time. We must urgently build a new socialist movement.'
Chavez blasted the US empire. 'It is the most perverse empire in
history: It talks about freedom while invading and destroying other
nations ... The empire is very powerful, but not infallible. This
century we will bury the US empire. The empire has to face the people of
Venezuela and Latin America. It has failed in Iraq already.'
He urged the audience to 'imagine a world in which the US administration
declares peace to the world, withdraws its forces, and uses its
resources to produce medicines and food for the poor people of the world'.
Chavez contrasted the US's record to the achievements of the Bolivarian
revolution in Venezuela, with the help of Cuba, which taught 1.5 million
people to read through Mission Robinson in just two years.
'Injustice and inequality are losing: it is now up to us to define the
formula of unity for victory. We need unity of all our currents. While
respecting the right to autonomy of the movements, including the green
movement and the various political and national movements, all of us
should get together in a victorious offensive against imperialism.'
Many prominent figures in the international progressive movement were
featured on a podium, including Aleida Guevara (Che's daughter) and
Cindy Sheehan (US anti-war leader whose son was killed in Iraq). Huge
applause greeted Chavez's speech, and the rally included a rousing
rendition of the workers' anthem, 'The Internationale'.
Chavez's stress on the need for urgent international political action
against global capitalism and oppression was a major theme of the forum.
The whole conference was filled with the overwhelming influence of the
Venezuelan revolution. The 'Bolivarian spirit' was pervasive from the
very first day, when around 20,000 activists marched to launch the WSF.
The lively and colourful march featured the banners, clothing and chants
of the many national contingents, especially from Latin America.
One contingent was a group of around 15 Australians, marching with the
banner of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network and chanting:
'Chavez, friend! Australians are with you!'
A panel with speakers from the National Union of Workers, the
worker-managed Alcasa aluminum factory, organisers from participatory
budgets in Brazil, and well-known radical intellectuals, discussed how
co-management and participatory budgeting were weapons in the struggle
against capitalism and in building a democratic socialism of the 21st
century. It also featured debate on the strengths and weakness of these
various experiments so far.
Another panel of radical Latin American economists discussed how the
Latin American integration project known as the Bolivarian Alternative
of the Americas (ALBA) was the antithesis of the US-inspired Free Trade
Area of the Americas. The panellists discussed how ALBA gave activists a
strategic and concrete alternative to struggle for and that it must be a
social integration of peoples at every level rather than only of
governments and elites.
Another well-attended forum discussed the Marxism of Che Guevara and its
relevance. The panel concluded that while Che's thought didn't contain
all the elements of 21st century socialism, he articulated its essence
by arguing that socialism must be centered on developing new human
beings liberated from alienation, and that this can only be achieved
through their active participation in building a society free from
capitalism and all forms of bureaucracy and hierarchy.
Another forum discussed the massive achievements of Venezuela's social
missions in improving the lives of the poor communities, and their role
in transforming the communities into organised, conscious and creative
social actors in constructing a new socialist Venezuela, thus giving
them a revolutionary character in a capitalist society.
Meetings also discussed solidarity work in various countries and plans
for coordination of international solidarity activities with the
Venezuelan revolution in 2006.
The variety and breadth of topics covered the whole spectrum of debate
in the world anti-capitalist globalisation movement. As the WSF draws
toward a close, discussion is occurring on the future of the social
forum movement and the urgent tasks facing us in the coming year.
> From Green Left Weekly, February 1, 2006.
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