Venezuela’s socialist revolution was both highlighted and defended this weekend as the global summit of social, economic, and environmental justice movements known as the World Social Forum (WSF) came to a close. With some 40,000 activists gathered to discuss anti-capitalist alternatives to the world economic crisis, participants stressed the importance of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution and the leadership role played by President Hugo Chavez in proving that “another world is possible”.
“GREEN CAPITALISM” VS. DEMOCRACY & SOCIALISM
Having convened their forum in the context of Rio+20 – the United Nations (UN) summit on “sustainable development” to be held in Rio de Janeiro later this year – those gathered at the 2012 World Social Forum largely focused their discussions on the current debate between “green capitalism” and the wide array of grassroots justice initiatives that make up democratic alternatives including Venezuela’s Bolivarian Socialism.
World Social Forum supports Venezuela’s Revolution According to Venezuelan sociologist Edgardo Lander, professor at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and participant in last week’s WSF, “the Rio+20 conference is to be held at a time of profound crises for capitalism, a time in which the severe problems of limited growth and the destruction of life-producing conditions on the planet have become ever more obvious”.
“Capitalism is attempting to reinvent itself with a new, green façade”, Lander said. “Green capitalism”, he explained, “is nothing more than a repetition of fictitious promises of market mechanisms and technological fixes, promises that do nothing to alter relations of power, nothing to change the logic of capital accumulation nor the profound social inequalities that exist today”. The Bolivarian Revolution, argued Lander, demonstrates that “if we don’t address social inequality, we don’t resolve anything”.
According to Joao Pedro Stedile, of Brazil’s Landless Worker Movement (MST), “green capitalism” is nothing more than “international capital looking to protect itself and prepare for a future period of renewed accumulation”. Transnational corporations, explained Stedile, “understand the great lucrative potential of natural resources – including land, water, and oil, among others” which is why they ignore the “resolutions of international institutions such as the UN” as well as the environmental protections enacted by national governments, “whose role and authority have been weakened as a result of neo-liberal globalization”.
According to economist Marcos Arruda, Coordinator of the Institute for Alternative Policies in the Southern Cone, most national governments today are limited by the “globalized capitalist economy” and thus “lack the political will to take on commitments to reduce carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, and deforestation, anything that would imply the obligation to produce concrete results”.
In response to these limitations, social forum participants have begun organizing a “Peoples’ Assembly” and global day of action against capitalism and in defense of social, economic, and environmental justice. Scheduled for June 5th, the international protest is set to coincide with the Rio+20 summit.
THE VENEZUELAN EXAMPLE
In addition to the limited “room to maneuver” granted to national governments by neo-liberalism’s grasp on local economies, WSF participants also questioned the failure of many social movements to have significant impacts on national policies. In contrast, the success of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution was cited by renowned author and intellectual Ignacio Ramonet to illustrate how new relationships between movements and leaders are needed to consolidate the “other world that is possible” proposed by the WSF.
Speaking to Argentina’s Pagina 12 from the halls of the WSF, Ramonet addressed the need for organized social movements worldwide to coalesce – within each specific country – around political programs and “leaders” that can help turn grassroots proposals into national projects.
“No one expresses social suffering better than a social movement”, explained Ramonet, “but if steps aren’t taken towards a political program all large crises end up serving the interests of the extreme right – which tends to show up in the form of movements and anti-system parties that promise radical, demagogical, transformative change”.
For this reason, argued Ramonet, progressive social movements “must possess the vocation to engage in (national) politics”, such as is the case of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. Referring to the first election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (1998) and the birth of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Republic (1999), Ramonet explained that “the political crisis that ended” Venezuela’s Fourth Republic (1958-1998) would not have resulted in profound change without “Chavez’s leadership”.
The aforementioned “crisis”, which involved the birth of numerous armed guerrilla movements (throughout the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s), a popular rebellion met with fierce government repression (the Caracazo, 1989), and the failed military uprising led by Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias (1992), ended with a constitutional assembly that drafted the country’s current carta magna (1999), approved by the Venezuelan people in a national vote (1999).
Asking if “such changes would have been possible without Chavez and all that he represents?” Ramonet said he asked himself the same question when considering the changes underway “with Ecuador and Correa, Bolivia and Evo, Brazil and Lula, Argentina and Kirchner”.
“Currently many social movements reject the idea of leadership…a type of infantile illness within social movements which will end when leaders arise and movementsmreach their adolescence, or maturity”, he remarked.
“I’m not talking about saviors”, explained Ramonet, “but democratic leaders that can understand said social movements, helping them to find solutions”.
“HANDS OFF VENEZUELA”
Apart from the overall support for and interest in the Bolivarian Revolution shared by those in Porto Alegre, specific steps were also taken to defend Venezuela’s socialist alternative during the social forum. The Social Movement Assembly of the Bolivarian Alternative for the People’s of the Americas (ALBA), for example, launched a coordinated effort to defend Venezuela in the run-up to presidential elections to be held later this year.
According to Osvaldo Leon, spokesperson for the Latin American Information Agency (ALAI) and WSF participant, grassroots movements from across the Americas used the forum to plan a campaign “to combat the great offensive currently being waged by the United States against Venezuela”. “Largely a media offensive”, explained Leon, “this offensive is aimed at creating the conditions to impede a new victory” for President Chavez in presidential elections scheduled for October 7, 2012.
The Social Movement Assembly, affirmed Leon, “will be carrying out actions to ensure the US keeps its hands off Venezuela, thus allowing the Venezuelan people to freely decide on the future of their country in upcoming elections”.