The Latin America and Asia Pacific International Solidarity Forum (LAAPISF) in Melbourne on October 11-14 will be attended by one of the most important and interesting leaders of the Venezuelan revolution — Comandante William Izarra.
Izarra was a leader of the underground revolutionary organisation that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez led inside the armed forces. When Chavez formed a new party — the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR) — to contest the 1998 presidential elections, Izarra was its first national director.
Elected to the National Congress (now the National Assembly) in 1999, Izarra resigned his seat and left the MVR after disagreements with Chavez's then mentor Luis Miquilena who later joined the right-wing opposition.
Izarra formed his own organisation, the Movement for Direct Democracy, which he dedicated to supporting Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution while promoting policies to put power directly into the hands of the people. As Chavez and his supporters moved away from the idea of a "third way" between capitalism and socialism towards an understanding that a socialist society was necessary, Izarra rejoined Chavez's cabinet in 2005. His return to the central leadership indicated the revolution's radical direction.
Chavez has since deepened this turn, calling for a new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to lead the creation of a new society. Izarra is currently heading up ideological development within the PSUV and the organisations of popular power, such as the communal councils, and trade unions. He's developing classes designed to improve the political understanding of the Bolivarian revolution of all participants. As part of this, new labour laws require employers to allow their workers to attend the classes and discussions, which aim to develop workers' understanding of the communal councils with a view to running them.
In a January 2005 interview with El Tropo, Izarra noted that the structural changes implemented by the revolution were important but would be limited by the ideologies of the past. A key task, therefore, was to develop a new ideology based upon solidarity and self-activity rather than cronyism and bureaucratic representation.
Izarra's plans to attend LAAPISF represent a serious commitment to building international support for the Bolivarian process. It's an invaluable contribution to a conference dedicated to discussing the new breakthroughs in politics across the world that prove that a better world is possible.
Other speakers at the forum will include leaders of mass struggles in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Indonesia, the Philippines, East Timor, Mauritius, Thailand, Korea, Malaysia and Aotearoa New Zealand. A leader of the Labour Party Pakistan, which is campaigning to overthrow the dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf, will also attend. Last month, Musharraf attempted to sack High Court chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry for threatening to reveal the corruption of the regime, leading to huge street protests and general strikes.
The forum aims to promote people's struggles against war, poverty and injustice, and build solidarity between such struggles in order to strengthen them. The forum is an initiative of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, the Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference, the Latin America Solidarity Network, the Bolivarian Circle and Australia Asia Worker Links.
For more information, to register for the forum or to offer a workshop/paper, visit <http://www.solidarityforum2007.org>.