Yesterday, August 8 saw the start of the 16th World Festival of Students and Youth, which is being held in Caracas this year. Under the slogan "For peace, solidarity and against imperialism", more than 15,000 young people from all over the globe gathered to discuss an entire range of issues, all of them anti-imperialist in nature.
Very much to its credit, the Venezuelan government is sponsoring this important event and opened up the Military Academy, Fuerte Tiuna to receive the delegates for the official opening rally. Delegates from an impressive 144 different countries from all continents lined up for the opening rally. The Cuban delegation was among the biggest with 1,800 youth present. There were 2,200 delegates from Colombia and the Venezuelan delegation was composed of more than 3,000 delegates. The attendants of the ceremony were surprised and glad that there were 720 delegates present from the United States.
The delegates were greeted by the slogan “Welcome to the Socialist Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”. After all the delegations had paraded in front of President Chavez there were performances of indigenous culture. Representatives of the Guaranis and other indigenous Venezuelan peoples presented Hugo Chavez with different items that represented their cultures.
Equally impressive was the team of volunteers who welcomed the visitors. Apart from the translation teams, the food catering teams and the National Guard, a sizeable section of the Bolivarian youth joined the march, singing songs, shouting revolutionary slogans and performing dances.
At the end of the parade, when all delegations had finally marched to the main square and after the performances, President Chavez officially opened the Festival. After a long wait, Chavez addressed the thousands of youth (as well as the not so young people who were also present) who listened eagerly to what he had to say. He started by looking back sixty years to when the atom bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. President Chavez paid tribute to the victims of this genocide and condemned these acts of terrorism. “Today,” he said, “there is an atomic bomb of youth in the valley of Caracas.” They had come to see Caracas, the place where Simon Bolivar was born and were very much welcome at this Festival. This has been a great challenge for Venezuela and more than two years of preparation were invested in this event, involving a lot of coordination, and requiring plenty of logistical and political support.
Chavez then recalled the main events of the last six decades. At the end of the 1940s there was the Chinese revolution, one of the greatest events in human history. This great event was followed by the Cuban Revolution a decade later. Chavez described it as a tremendous inspiration for all of Latin America. This great event marked the path for the future, the President affirmed.
In the 1960s American imperialism suffered a humiliating defeat in Vietnam, which proved that the Empire was not invincible. “A people that wants to be free cannot be defeated”, he said, praising the heroic Vietnamese resistance against imperialism.
The 1970s were a period of hope in Latin America, where we saw the Chile of Allende, which was unfortunately brutally crushed by US imperialism. The end of the 1980s in turn signified a universal earthquake with the fall of the Soviet Union. The old political equilibrium was destroyed and after the fall of the socialist camp, the capitalists declared the “end of history”. “Neo-liberal globalisation,” Chavez said, “is no more than another word for imperialism, and imperialism,” he continued, “is the highest stage of capitalism, as Lenin said”. In the 1990s the word capitalism had disappeared from dictionaries and a moral and ideological crisis set in, creating a period of intense doubt and confusion. However, like a phoenix rising from its ashes, the President explained that the fighters and revolutionaries would reappear and that they were in fact reappearing. “We are starting a new process, a new dawn where the ideas of justice, peace and equality will be central.”
Chavez claimed he was profoundly convinced that the last years had been very demanding and difficult. However, despite the great frustration, in the first decade of the 21st century, thousands of youth are gathering in Caracas. This, Chavez proclaimed, points to more than simply a new sense of hope. It is an opportunity to debate and to open the battle for ideas. For his part, Chavez does not believe in a struggle in one isolated country. As he said at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre at the end of last year, Chavez again stated that socialism was the only true path and the only way to build a new world. “It is our duty and our challenge to save our planet from the most powerful imperialism that has ever existed, i.e. US imperialism.” Significantly, Chavez did not see all American people as one reactionary mass. On the contrary, he firmly saluted and congratulated the American delegation present in Caracas and recognized the “great fighters of the American people”, mentioning the name of Martin Luther King. In a bold but very true statement, he said, “The future of the world depends on the consciousness of the American people. When they unite, they can save the world from war and destruction.”
Chavez then went on to explain that this was in fact the best moment for the Festival to be held, in these terrible conditions under capitalism and despite the existence of most powerful and hypocritical form of imperialism in history. “The Roman Empire,” he said, “was at least not as hypocritical, since they called themselves an Empire. American imperialism, on the other hand, shamefully proclaims to ‘fight for democracy’”, after which he gave the examples of the role of the US in Chile, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Panama and Haiti to prove the opposite. “The whole of America has suffered the attacks of US imperialism. Bolivar was right when he said in 1826, ‘The United States of America seems destined by providence to plague America with misery in the name of Liberty.’”
Then he turned the audience’s attention to Venezuela, “where US imperialism has suffered some nasty surprises”. US imperialism is not invincible, a fact which has not only been proven in Venezuela, but also in Cuba, where the revolutionary people have struggled against US imperialism for 40 years. Chavez greeted Fidel Castro, who was watching his speech that was also broadcasted on all Venezuelan TV channels. “We came here to debate about peace. But to the hawks in the Pentagon we say, ‘If someday you get the crazy idea of coming to invade us, we'll make you bite the dust defending the freedom of our land,’” after which the crowd loudly started shouting “el pueblo armado, jamás será aplastado” (The armed people, will never be smashed).
“The struggle of Venezuela is the struggle of the people of the whole world”, proclaimed Chavez as he began to sum up his inspiring speech. He recalled the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, who in the 1960s on his visit to Cuba wrote, “Conditions and circumstances impose upon us a revolution.” He called for a moral revolution to save the world and for a “revolutionary humanism”. But he also added that this was not enough. A political revolution was needed – a political revolution through democracy. Not the false democracy but real people’s democracy, like in Venezuela. “Thus,” he said, “we need a moral, social, political and economical revolution in order to destroy the perverse mechanism of this capitalist system.”
By way of conclusion, repeating what he had said earlier in his speech, Chavez proclaimed: “I have said this earlier. I am convinced more than ever, and I will retain this belief until I die, that the only path to destroy capitalism is socialism. It is the only way to save the planet and the new generations.”
To this a pedantic would have only a few commas to add. Some references to Jesus Christ and “moral revolution” might be a bit confused, but one thing is clear: such a radical speech made by the President of a nation is quite extraordinary, and can only be welcomed by all progressive people of the world. It was, for that matter, a very inspiring start to an exciting week that will be spent with revolutionaries from all over the world.