National Sections of the L5I:

Chavez calls for action but builds illusions in false allies

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The World Social Forum in the Americas attracted between 60,000 and 70,000 participants. Big contingents came from Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and, of course, Venezuela. Several hundreds came from Cuba. Representatives from Canada, Australia, Italy, France and Britain were also present.

In contrast to previous WSFs, there were really substantial contingents from the United States too, like the 150 strong delegation from the San Francisco based Global Exchange, and Jobs with Justice. US peace activist Cindy Sheehan, whose one woman protest outside George Bush’s ranch has inspired a powerful revival of the antiwar movement in the USA, spoke several times, to denounce Bush and US imperialism.

Some 2,200 organisations held nearly 1,800 seminars, panels, workshops and other activities during the five days of the WSF. As usual, there were tales about the widespread scattering of events, many that did not take place, or took place somewhere other than as advertised, problems with translation. But such problems are inevitable given the heterogeneous nature of the event and the element of self-organisation.

Youth denied autonomy

Amongst the multitude of issues debated were food rights and international trade, the effects of toxic industries on local communities, human rights violations in Colombia, Guatemala and Palestine, radical forms of democracy, such as popular assemblies in Bolivia and grassroots “Bolivarian” committees in Venezuela, the global antiwar movement to get US imperialism out of Iraq and stop further attacks.

A key topic of discussion was the rising number of populist and “socialist” governments in Latin America. But central was the experience of the Bolivarian revolution of Hugo Chavez

Political debates and networking - as well as music and culture - made the International Youth Camp in Parque Los Caobos an important centre. But much criticism was expressed about its “vertical” organisation (the camp manager and newspaper had been installed by the Venezuelan government, with no consultation with the campers), its considerable distance from the main events, the tendency for it to become a ghetto for the more radical youth. Some said the attitude was: “we have given you your space; now go away and play."

Once again the lack of a self-organised Youth Assembly meant that it was impossible to run the camp democratically, let alone formulate radical proposals for the Assembly of the Social Movements. The refusal of both the WSF council and the local authorities to put a youth camp in a central position vis-a-vis the general venue effectively denied young people the autonomy that is so much talked about at these forums.

The reason for this suppression is quite simply the revolutionary and critical spirit of young people. Of course the landless peasants, workers and indigenous peoples there had these qualities, too. But youth can be expected to give an impulse to revolt against the bureaucratism that all too often afflicts their official organisations.

This can only done by organising assemblies on the basis of democracy, making decisions, setting goals, not by the hole-in-the-corner utopianism of the “horizontals". Thus, for example, the latter held their own tiny alternative social forum, where no more than a few hundred listened to their guru, Mexican based academic John Holloway, author of Change The World Without Taking Power.

But in fact it is truly stupid to turn one’s back on the question of political power, especially in Latin America, where politicians, who have roots or origins in the World Social Forum process, are winning elections. The big issue is what sort of power they are exercising, on behalf of which class or classes. And this is nowhere more important than in Venezuela itself.

Hugo Chavez

The key figure at the Forum was undoubtedly Hugo Chavez. Speaking before 10,000 people at the Polihedro Stadium on 27th January, he said he hoped the WSF would not turn into a “revolutionary tourist event". He urged all the participants to “transform the WSF into a tool of struggle", not “a discussion forum with debate but no conclusions".

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".

"We should go toward setting up a worldwide anti-imperialist movement. We have already taken steps in this direction,” Chavez told the enthusiastic audience, “We are not here to waste our time. We must urgently build a new socialist movement."

He continued:

"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."

Revolutionaries should most certainly respond to such radical, populist and socialist calls for mass action, since they clearly raise the horizons, hopes and fighting spirit of millions in Latin America and beyond. They take the very name of revolution and socialism out of the exclusive preserve of small sects, to which the downfall of Stalinism seemed to have consigned them, and back onto the streets and squares where the popular masses are in action.

But support for Chavez, when he denounces Bush or Blair, and calls for action against them, must be accompanied by frank criticism, when he puts forward his utopian programme of a united front of Latin American presidents, most of whom are actually implementing IMF policies, not fighting them, and shaking Bush’s hand not seizing him by the throat.

This applies to Evo Morales, as well as Lula, though it can be expected that the mobilised masses of Bolivia will make it difficult to keep some of the promises he is so freely giving to the capitalists since his inauguration.

Thus, referring to the US offensive against the new governments of South America, Chavez said, “They have tried to classify us as two different ’lefts’. The madmen are Fidel and me, while Lula and Tabare Vazquez, [president of Uruguay] are statists."

Here the views of the imperialists are a bit more realistic than Chavez. The non-capitalist character of Cuba (a bureaucratic workers’ state) and the situation with elements of dual power in Venezuela, where the local bourgeoisie does not hold undivided power, and the masses are mobilised and partially armed, make these countries very different to Lula’s Brazil or Vazquez Uruguay. This is why Blair denounces Chavez for his links with Castro.

It must also have alarmed the CIA agents present that Chavez’ speech, and the rally ended with a thunderous singing of the Internationale.

Revolutionaries both in Latin America and in the imperialist heartlands must mobilise support for Cuba and Venezuela against the threats and sabotage of Bush and Blair. But they must not regard either Castro or Chavez as the “leaders of the revolution” - even if millions now do.

Their strategy remains one of class collaboration, of an “anti-imperialist” front with bourgeois regimes and forces, which are very far from being anti-imperialist. It means subordinating the working class struggle for power to maintaining bonapartist regimes. Thus, throughout Latin America, the central task is the creation of revolutionary parties, linked in a new, revolutionary International - the Fifth International.