Fred Fuentes, who has spent a year working in Venezuela, will be a special guest speaker at the Resistance National Conference in Sydney, June 27-29. Green Left Weekly's Trent Hawkins caught up with Fuentes just before he left Caracas for Australia.
What is the political situation in Latin America?
Throughout Latin America, the winds of change are blowing. As the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, said: "We're not just living through an era of change, we are living through a change of eras".
In the eye of this revolutionary storm is the Bolivarian revolution led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In the decade since Chavez was first elected president, Venezuela has been undergoing profound and radical changes based on the simple idea that to get rid of poverty you have to give power to the people. This has led a majority of people to the conclusion that it is not enough to just reform the system, it is necessary to create a new one — socialism.
Across the country, communities, workers, small farmers, students and women are organising to begin to change their daily lives. The Chavez government has been crucial in stimulating this by providingeconomic and political support to struggle against the rich elites.
The simple idea of power to the people goes to the heart of everything that is wrong with capitalist society. It's so powerful that the US would like nothing better than to destroy this revolution. I hope to be able to give people a taste of this exciting struggle to change the world in the face of US aggression.
@question = Why is the Bolivarian revolution relevant to Australian activists?
The simple fact is that the Bolivarian revolution has raised the banner of socialism as a real and viable alternative to imperialism and capitalism. For socialists, this is an extremely important development.
Building solidarity with the Venezuelan government and its people fighting for a better world, not just a better country, is crucial for all those who agree that capitalism is not only an irrational and unsustainable system, but is a threat to life and humanity.
The US empire is in trouble economically, politically and militarily: it is bogged down in unwinnable wars in the Middle East — the other pole of opposition to imperialism that has emerged in recent years.
Throughout the 1980s and \'90s the US was, in large part, able to contain the problems it faced because no serious alternative existed. However, the world today is witness to the fact that not only is an alternative system possible, it is taking shape right now and its name is socialism.
Today, the struggle of millions of Venezuelans is being joined by new mass contingents of social movements and youth across Latin America.
Venezuela is turning the tide of history and as such it is a beacon of inspiration to activists across the world, including in Australia. One only has to look at the numbers of people joining the solidarity brigades to Venezuela, organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, to see this.
@question = You've been studying the struggles in Bolivia, where an indigenous revolution is taking place. What's been the impact of the struggle in Bolivia on the rest of Latin America and internationally?
Across the continent the spirit of anti-imperialism and Latin American unity is growing. Within this, there is an important force — that of the indigenous people of the Americas. Since the early \'90s, they have been waging a militant campaign in defence of their rights.
That struggle, particularly over the last eight years in which two governments were toppled in Bolivia, is expressed today in Evo Morales being elected the president of Bolivia.
Evo is the first indigenous president in a country where the indigenous majority have been oppressed and exploited for more than 500 years. His election has deepened the convictions of the indigenous people of the Americas to push forward in their campaign, initiated in 1992, to move from resistance to power.
The impact of the Morales government is inspiring indigenous peoples across the world. Today, Evo is central to an international indigenous movement that is at the cutting edge of the struggle to defend the environment. Indigenous people, who for centuries have struggled against their lands being destroyed by capital, are today rising up to tell the world that capitalism is killing Mother Earth and it's time for a change.
@question = Do you think revolutionary struggle, like what we're seeing in Venezuela and Bolivia, is possible in a rich country like Australia?
It is not only possible, it's absolutely necessary! Today, anyone who is interested in saving the planet should join those already fighting back. We need to join up with our indigenous brothers and sisters across Latin America, the Middle East, Australia and elsewhere who are resisting the corporate profits-first agenda of big capital.
We need to convince more people that, like the Venezuelans, we too can change the world. That's the critical role young people can play in the struggle: we're more open to the ideas that change is not only possible, but necessary. Right now, the global petrol, food and climate crises have opened up the discussions about system change among a lot more people. We should be saying "No to global warming, we want to change the system".
What happens today in Venezuela is crucial because we in Australia are fighting the same enemy — capitalism. Each blow struck against this enemy, no matter where in the world, is a victory for all progressive fighters.
This is why imperialism is trying to isolate Venezuela: they want to crush the revolution. Therefore, building solidarity with this struggle is extremely relevant to our discussions about deepening and broadening the struggle in Australia.
[Fred Fuentes is working as an aide to an advisor of the Venezuelan government. He will address the topic "Socialism in the 21st Century — the Venezuelan Revolution" on June 28 at 4.30pm at the Guthrie Theatre, University of Technology, Sydney. He will also be presenting a workshop titled "The indigenous revolution in Bolivia today". For the full agenda visit http://www.resistance.org.au.]