Having spoken for over two hours on the significance of the Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution earlier that day, President Hugo Chavez spoke to special discussion session on August 13 attended by a representative from each of the delegations at the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students, held in Caracas on August 8-15. Federico Fuentes, a member of the socialist youth organisation Resistance, represented the Australian delegation at the meeting and recorded Chavez's speech. Below are excerpts from the speech.
I was remembering Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg and the phrase that each one of them, in their particular time and context put forward; the dilemma "socialism or barbarism". Marx, the original author of this phrase, and of all the dilemmas contained in it, put forward that phrase looking towards a future horizon.
Afterwards, years after, Rosa Luxemburg also thought of this issue with the understanding that some day, at some moment in the not so immediate future, human beings would see ourselves confronted with a crossroad which would urge us to make a collective decision, a decision to change the social order to save life on this planet, to achieve survival, social progress and equality, or, not being capable of making real changes, we would allow the end of life on this planet.
So, Karl Marx could reflect, think and write looking towards a distant future, a century, the same could be said of Rosa Luxemburg, but for us it can't. The circumstances have changed terribly. The situation today is radically different. We don't have centuries in front of us. It could be decades at most that are left for the peoples of this planet to make a decision. Either we really change the social and economic order, we give real form, viability and outlet for socialism, we say now we must have a new, renovated socialism of the 21st century, or we decide that life finishes on this planet. We no longer have the long time that Karl Marx had, or any other fighter of that era.
This reflection is something I feel deep in my heart because of my profound conviction that the planet is being degraded more and more everyday, and that life on this planet is under threat. Because of this, today more that ever the dilemma has return with much more force, socialism or barbarism.
I believe it is time that we take up with courage and clarity a political, social, collective and ideological offensive across the world — a real offensive that permits us to move progressively, over the next years, the next decades, leaving behind the perverse, destructive, destroyer, capitalist model and go forward in constructing the socialist model to avoid barbarism and beyond that the annihilation of life on this planet.
I believe this idea has a strong connection with reality. I don't think we have much time. Fidel Castro said in one of his speeches I read not so long ago, "tomorrow could be too late, let's do now what we need to do". I don't believe that this is an exaggeration. The environment is suffering damage that could be irreversible — global warming, the greenhouse effect, the melting of the polar ice caps, the rising sea level, hurricanes — with terrible social occurrences that will shake life on this planet.
Comrades, that is why I believe that in all the history of the World Festival of Youth and Students, which has been held for nearly 60 years, that never before has it been necessary that the festival, this festival, our festival, does not finish the day of the closing ceremony, but rather that the festival is the beginning of a new stage of impulsion of a powerful global movement — or of strengthening it, because it already exists, giving it an overall orientation in each continent, region, subregion, bringing closer together the social movements, political movements, movements for transformation, revolutionary movements, the working class, indigenous peoples, students, youth, women, intellectuals, all of us to grow in strength.
This same preoccupation, this same anguish, this same idea, I transmitted last December during two significant events in Caracas. At the gathering of Artists and Intellectuals in Defence of Humanity, I commented to my friends that we cannot discuss for 100 years more, we can't spend much time debating. The debate must be permanent, but action must also be permanent. Debate must be accompanied by action and that action, as according to the dialectic, must permanently feed into the debate.
It is the moment of offensive, of the masses, of struggle, of battle. It is a new moment we have now and we don't know if we will have another moment later. We don't know if we will have time.
I believe there is not enough time to wait 50 years for another moment so advantageous like this one to advance in the global struggle against imperialism, against imperialist hegemony and for the creation of new paths, the opening of new paths.
I also spoke at the Congress of the Bolivarian Peoples, where I proposed the creation of a type of coordination, a commission, a group — however we want to call it — that dedicates itself to developing, with movements of the whole world, proposals to initiate actions, design uniting schemes, and strategies for the whole world. I have to say I am not happy with the results, but this festival is a marvellous opportunity to insist on this point.
At the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, I once again planted this idea, because I have felt that in these events there is debate and debate and debate, but sometimes there aren't any conclusions.
New wave of people's struggles
We spend five days in meetings, hugs meetings, but this world is under threat! We can't spend 50 more years like this; there won't be a world in 50 years if we don't stop in some way the beast that is devouring the planet and life on it.
I am at your service to help in whatever way I can in this direction. All of Venezuela is at your service to continue the process every day, without rest, this process of discussion, ideas, proposals, struggle and of battle, and so as to not only see each other at festivals every four years or every time there is a meeting of the G8 in some place where some groups go to protest. That is not enough! We need to be at it every day and every night. Either we save the world or we allow the world to be destroyed.
I remember that when I was in prison, I read an interview by [Nicaraguan] Commandante Tomas Borge with Fidel Castro from 1989-90 — in the midst of the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the midst of the collapse of the socialist camp. In this interview, Fidel, in the middle of this darkness, it seems he could see a light and he said that soon there would be a new wave struggle of the peoples. He referred to Latin America in particular, but now it is a wave across the world. And it is this is another characteristic of the moment we are living in.
We need to arm ourselves now with a spirit of the offensive. Enough of being defensive. The best defence is attack! All the military strategies indicate that a war is never won on the defensive. You can pass to the defence to win time, this is valid in military wars and political wars. But only on the offensive do you win the war, do you win the struggle.
What is necessary is to know how to utilise the moment. It is necessary to evaluate and create conditions. According to my criteria, we are in the moment for an offensive; we need to unleash it at a world level.
I believe it has been unleashed. We need to orient it, coordinate it better so as to have much better results.
I said earlier today in the Teresa Carreno [theatre], you have to reproduce yourselves. No young person from any part of the world who has come can go back and unpack their luggage and take up their particular lives, their study, their family. No, those who do that will be betraying the spirit of the festival. You have to go back to reproduce yourselves, to grow and multiply.
Each one of you needs to be an importer of this idea; repeat it on the street corner and on the street, write it on the murals of the cities, on the walls of the towns and cities, repeat it in the universities, repeat it where you live, sleep, and work. Go and repeat that imperialism is not invincible. Go and repeat that we are in a time of offensive. Go and repeat that a new time is approaching. Go and repeat in different areas that there is a threat that people need to see and hear. Go and fill them with hope and strength, the peoples you represent. That is one of the big tasks of every man and woman at this festival.
The success of this festival will not be measured here in Caracas. We will see tomorrow or the day after, if this festival has been successful. It has been useful for many things. But, from my point of view, to say that this festival was successful, tomorrow or the day after, we need to prove that it has had an impact in all the five continents — an impact felt with the offensive of the youth, who battle for the future because the future, said Che [Guevara], belongs to us. Today we have to say that it — the future, belongs to you.
From Green Left Weekly, August 31, 2005.
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