Chavez not Bush!

February 8, 2007

When US President George Bush visits Australia in September for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, thousands are expected to hit the streets in opposition to the man perhaps most known for his extensive war crimes and suspect election "victories".

Popular resentment towards Bush has grown, with his approval rating in the United States and around the globe dropping to a record low. This resentment is being fuelled by the US war drive in the Middle East, which has already led to the deaths of more than 665,000 Iraqis. Despite massive opposition at home and abroad, the US administration is continuing its bloodthirsty war for oil — recently deciding to send another 21,500 troops to Iraq — in its desperate bid to gain control over this resource and the region.

That's why when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez spoke out at the United Nations General Assembly in September against the crimes of the US administration, declaring that Bush was "the devil", he was representing a growing view that Bush's decisions have proved disastrous for the future of our planet. Most of us would agree with Chavez's latest comments fingering Bush as "evil", a "criminal" and "more dangerous than a monkey with a razor blade".

Even more importantly, due to the struggle being waged by the Venezuelan people for a better world — led by Chavez's revolutionary government — in direct opposition to US imperialism and the capitalist order, German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg's counter-position — "socialism or barbarism?" — is once again being posed on the global scale.

In Venezuela, the Bolivarian revolution has begun to move towards a new system of real democracy, based on popular power, as a fundamental component of the "new socialism of the 21st century". The Bolivarian revolution, inspired by Simon Bolivar, a 19th-century South American liberation fighter, is about handing back to the people what is rightfully theirs.

A key part of building the revolution has been the introduction of various social programs, referred to as social missions, which have been established to help the country's most needy — left behind under previous neoliberal regimes — with free health care and education, as well as numerous other basic rights. The missions aim not only to help increase access to basic needs, but also to facilitate greater collective democratic control over them. It is the communities that are organised to tackle the root causes of poverty and need in their areas.

Bush, on the other hand, has shown through his ongoing wars on Afghanistan and Iraq that he cares little about people and the environment. Many people in the US are forced to go without basics like decent education and health care. In a country held up as the ideal society, many people in the US are denied even basic dignity.

This is because the US economy is geared towards maximising profits for its corporations and the wealthy few who run them, at the expense of people's basic rights. Bush isn't the reason why the US went to war in Iraq; rather it is the imperialist system that he helps maintain that is the root cause.

It is this same wealthy minority who for decades ruled over Venezuela while more people were thrown below the poverty line who, together with the Bush administration, are actively trying to oust the Chavez. Their pro-corporate private television stations have been used to foster opposition to Chavez, at times by violent and undemocratic means necessary, including through their open support of the failed 2002 coup.

This minority would like to see a return to the old days, when money from the oil sector was used to fill their pockets rather than to provide a decent life for all.

But for millions of Venezuelans there is no going back to the days of old. Instead, the Venezuelan people have continued to push forward in their revolution to replace the old capitalist order with a new people-oriented economy, based on solidarity and cooperation — socialism. Having taken power, the working masses are moving forward in destroying the old and erecting from the bottom up a new society where the majority participate in running the country.

They demonstrated this resolve in December — having already defeated a coup, a two-month bosses' lockout, and a presidential recall referendum — when once again the Venezuelan people elected Chavez in a crushing landslide. It is this mandate of the people that has allowed the workers and poor majority to move forward in taking over control of more and more of the economy and placing it under the control the people's government in order to direct it towards benefiting the poor.

That is why as socialists, Resistance members give our complete solidarity and support to the people and government of Venezuela, who are fighting to make the better world that we all dream of and struggle for a reality. That is also why, together with the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, we are campaigning to invite Chavez to come to Australia. We want Chavez, not Bush, to come here in 2007.

Because for those who believe in social justice, it is important not just to show what is wrong in the world today, but also to show the alternatives. Today the people of Venezuela are building that alternative.

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