After the historical meeting at the Arena cultural centre in Vienna, Hugo Chavez was once again the main attraction, this time at the closing meeting of the Alternative Forum.
This meeting took place in a hall with a capacity of around 1300 people on Saturday afternoon. And it was absolutely packed!
Apart from Chavez, the main speakers on the platform were Evo Morales, Carlos Lage, the Vice President of Cuba, Joao Pedro Stedile, the main leader of the Movimento Sem Terra in Brasil and Jose Bové, the well-known French anti-globalisation leader.
The first thing that you could clearly see when the debate started was the difference between the speakers from Europe and those from Latin America.
While the Europeans concentrated on words such as “integration” and “solidarity” without any practical content, Chavez, Stedile and the others gave much more radical speeches. This reflects the revolutionary mood of the masses across Latin America and the great events taking place there.
The first speaker was Joao Pedro Stedile. He explained that “winning elections is important, but it is not enough to defeat imperialism”. The reference to the experience of the Lula government was quite clear. The MST has continued fighting to defend the rights of peasants, even during the last few years that Lula has been in power. This means that the MST has often fought against the PT government, which the MST supported at the time of the election.
One interesting remark that Stedile made was that “we need militants and cadres who are capable of leading the masses down the road of social change. The lack of such figures is the main problem we face in Latin America now.”
In his opening words Morales made it clear that he is a president of the people and that he is the expression of the struggle that has taken place in Bolivia over the last few years. Morales repeated that the nationalisation of gas was not reversible and that it represented a key step in achieving national sovereignty for Bolivia.
The Morales government is still in its first months and it is difficult to see now in which direction it will move. But it is evident that without the pressure of the Bolivian masses and the “cover” provided by Cuba and especially Venezuela, both of which have signed a number of agreements with Bolivia, such a measure would have been very difficult to take.
The final speaker was Hugo Chavez, who, in a three-hour speech, reaffirmed and expanded upon the points he made the previous night at the Arena.
“There are some who think that you can avoid the question of imperialism. That is not possible. We have to denounce imperialism, we have to clash with imperialism.” To this point he added that the troops occupying Iraq and Afghanistan must be withdrawn.
Chavez then congratulated Morales for his recent electoral victory. Talking about Morales’ indigenous origins he affirmed: “America was born under socialism and must go towards socialism again.”
Over the last few months a whole series of multilateral agreements have been signed by progressive governments of South America - against the wishes of the USA. Venezuela has played a key role in all these developments by promoting ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.
Chavez gave several examples of how ALBA could be used. “Bolivia has a big state deficit. We said to our Bolivian brothers; we have made profits on our oil in the last period. Instead of buying US bonds, if Bolivia issued state bonds, we would buy them from Bolivia without asking for anything in return.”
Chavez made similar points on recovered and occupied factories and agricultural trade. These ideas are just a glimpse of would be possible in a Socialist Federation of Latin America. But to achieve this we must break the power of the multinationals, which still rule in the whole of Latin America.
Without this kind of qualitative change all the reforms introduced by Chavez and Morales could be one day overturned.
Chavez seems to be aware of this danger though, when he declared: “The only road, and I repeat one thousand times, is socialism. We need a revolutionary strategy and a revolutionary project. And this revolutionary project must be international”.
Chavez ended his speech by shouting: “Viva el Socialismo, Viva la revolucion mundial!” (Long Live Socialism! Long Live the world revolution!)
Without doubt, the winds of revolution are blowing across Latin America. All revolutions throw up and create charismatic personalities like Chavez. But individuals are not enough to change society. For this a revolutionary organisation is needed. The building of such an organisation is the task of the Marxists throughout Latin America, and the Marxists of Europe and the world must support them in this effort!