The unfolding Latin American revolution and the call by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to build "socialism of the 21st century" will be big features of the "World at a Crossroads" conference to be held in Sydney over the Easter weekend.
From the revolutionary struggles in Venezuela and Bolivia, to the struggles in Argentina, El Salvador and Haiti, numerous panels and workshops will take up some of the important debates and lessons emerging from a continent in revolt. The Cuban Revolution, celebrating its 50th anniversary, will be a key feature.
Amongst the keynote speakers from Latin America is Argentine socialist activist Luis Bilbao. A leader of the Union of Militants for Socialism in Argentina, Bilbao spends a lot of time in Venezuela where he is collaborating with the Venezuelan government on the formation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). He is also an active participant in the construction of the mass United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
A veteran of the Latin American left, Bilbao was a student leader during the uprising in Cordoba, Argentina in 1969. Forced into exile during the brutal dictatorship installed in 1976, he returned to Argentina in the early '80s, but not before participating in the founding of the Workers Party in Brazil.
Since then he has helped establish a monthly newspaper of the Mothers of the Disappeared (Argentina), was a correspondent in Nicaragua, Grenada, Afghanistan and the Soviet Union during its collapse, and was a columnist for the Southern Cone edition of Le Monde Diplomatique.
Bilbao is also the author of 16 books on Latin America and Marxist theory, including two based on long interviews with Chavez conducted in 2002, and his latest, Venezuela in Revolution: The Rebirth of Socialism.
He is also the founder and director of America XXI, a Venezuelan monthly magazine that is distributed throughout Latin America.
Another guest speaker will be renown Canadian Marxist economist Michael Lebowitz, who has been living in Venezuela since 2004 and is currently the director of the "Transformative Practice and Human Development" program at the Centro Internacional Miranda, Caracas.
An important contributor to the debate on socialism in the 21st century, Lebowitz's works includeBuild it Now: Socialism for the 21st Century; Socialism Does Not Drop from the Sky; and The Path to Human Development: Capitalism or Socialism — which have all been translated and published in Venezuela and which Chavez has recommended on various occasions.
His book Beyond Capital: Marx's Political Economy of the Working Class won the Isaac Deutscher Memorial Prize in 2004.
Other speakers at the conference include: Nelson Davila, the Venezuelan charge d'afaires in Australia; Dr Tim Anderson, just returned from Cuba and director of The Doctors of Tomorrow, a documentary about Cuba's program to help newly independent East Timor provide health care for its people; Federico Fuentes, editor of Bolivia rising, co-author of two books on left parties in Bolivia and Paraguay, and Green Left Weekly journalist; Roger Annis, an activist with Haiti Solidarity in Canada who participated in a human rights fact-finding mission to Haiti in 2007; activists from the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) of El Salvador, and participants from the recent solidarity delegations to Cuba, Venezuela and El Salvador.
Hosted by GLW, the conference is being organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective and Resistance and will be held April 10-12 at Sydney Girls High, corner of Anzac Parade and Cleveland Street, Surry Hills.