Carolus Wimmer, a longstanding member of the Latin American Parliament and International Relations Secretary of the Communist Party of Venezuela, spoke at a Sydney forum on Latin America in revolt on August 11, sponsored by the Communist Party of Australia.
During his Australian tour, he also addressed meetings in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
At the Sydney forum, Wimmer took up the question, “What progress has been made toward socialism by the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela?” He said Latin America is still dominated by US imperialism, supported by Britain and Europe. He described the Bolivarian Revolution, which began in Venezuela in 1999, as “an anti-imperialist struggle, with the goal of anti-capitalism and socialism”.
He said: “After the eventual failure of the US-backed right-wing coup of 2002, the Venezuelan people learned they had to be ready to fight to defend the revolution. After the coup, the people realised they had to fight against capitalism, for socialism.
“At present, we do not have socialism in Venezuela, capitalism still exists. The challenge now is to find new ways to give more power to the people: to build socialism not as a copy of the past, but with our own forms. We need not just representative democracy, but participatory democracy. New popular organisations, communal councils, have been formed. Socialist workers' councils in the factories are developing.
“In the last 10 years since the failed coup, there has been considerable progress. Free education and health care have advanced, poverty is still significant, but reduced. There are training schools for the youth, increases in wages and pensions for all.
“The next big step is for President [Hugo] Chavez to win re-election on October 7. Chavez has enormous popular support, but there has been serious foreign interference in the process, especially by the US.
"Chavez has signed a commitment to recognise the result of the presidential election, whereas the right-wing candidate Capriles Radonski has refused to sign. This opens up the possibility of opposition violence after the election.”
Wimmer said the Communist Party of Venezuela is “a party of the working class. It is not part of the government at present, and reserves the right to criticise. But with independence also comes the need to take responsibility.
“In this complex situation, we are working with the government and the revolution. The Communist Party of Venezuela and the mass party of Chavez, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, are two parties united in coordinating a victory for President Chavez.
“The Great Patriotic Pole, in support of Chavez, includes seven parties, trade unions, and women's and youth organisations. On the other side, the opposition counter-revolution, has the backing of the right-wing media, the international media and the church, who all condemn Chavez and the revolution.
“Overall, I am optimistic for Venezuela and Latin America. There is increasing integration through ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America) and other bodies. There is rising solidarity with Cuba and the rest of Latin America.
“We can win this fight against capitalism; we can win this struggle for socialism. We have learnt the necessity for international solidarity. The enemy is strong, so we need the greatest unity possible. And international solidarity works in both directions, so assists all of us.”