The following are excerpts from a speech given by Hugo ChÃ¡vez at Gigantinho Stadium during the 2005 World Social Forum. A DVD containing the entire speech is available at the Z Store. To find out more, click here.
Ignacio Ramonet, in his introduction, mentioned that I am a new kind of leader. I accept this, especially coming from a bright mind such as Ignacioâ€™s, but I am inspired by many old leaders.
Some very old like for example Jesus Christ, one of the greatest revolutionaries, anti-imperialists fighters in the history of the world, the true Christ, the Redemptor of the Poor.
â€¦Simon Bolivar, a guy that crisscrossed these lands, filling people with hope, and helping them become liberated.
Or that Argentine doctor, who crisscrossed our continent on a motorcycle, arriving in Central America to witness the gringo invasion of Guatemala in 1955, one of so many abuses that North American Imperialism perpetrated on this continent.
Or that old guy with a beard, Fidel Castroâ€¦ Abreu Lima, Artigas, San Martin, Oâ€™Higgins, Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa, Sandino, Morazan, Tupac Amaru, from all those old guys one draws inspiration.
Old guys that took up a commitment and now, from my heart, I understand them, because we have taken up a strong commitment. They have all returned.
Today we are millions.
One of these old guys, he was being ripped into pieces, pulled by horses from each arm and leg â€“ Empires have always been brutal, there are no good or bad Empires, they are all aberrant, brutal, perverse, no matter what they wear or how they speak. When he felt he was about to die, he shouted â€œI die today but some day Iâ€™ll return and Iâ€™ll be millionsâ€. Atahualpa has returned and he is millions, Tupac Amaru has returned and he is millions, Bolivar has returned and he is millions, Sucre, Zapata, and here we are, they have returned with us. In this filled up Gigantinho Stadium.
About the WSF
As I said two years ago here in Porto Alegre, in the third WSF, the World Social Forum is the most important political event in the world.
We have come to learn and to grasp knowledge, to soak ourselves in the passion that abounds here. We keep searching, because as every test run, the Venezuelan process needs to be monitored and improved; it is an experiment open to all the wonderful experiences happening in the world.
The World Social Forum, in these five years, has become a solid platform for debate, discussions, a solid, wide, varied, rich platform where the greater part of the excluded, those without a voice in the corridors of power, come here to express themselves and to raise their protests, here they come to sing, to say who they are, what they want, they come to recite their poems, their songs, their hope of finding consensus.
One more militant.
I donâ€™t feel like a President, being President is a mere circumstance. Iâ€™m fulfilling a role as many fulfill a role in any team. Iâ€™m only fulfilling a role, but Iâ€™m a peasant, Iâ€™m a soldier, Iâ€™m a man committed to this project of an alternative world which is better and possible, necessary to save the Earth. I am one more militant of the revolutionary cause.
Friends and Enemies.
I have been a Maoist since I entered military school, I read Che Guevara, I read Bolivar and his speeches and letters, becoming a Bolivarian Maoist, a mixture of all that.
Mao says that it is imperative, for every revolutionary, to determine very clearly who are your friends and who are your enemies.
In Latin America this is particularly important.
Path of revolution /The conscience of the south
Iâ€™m convinced that only through the path of revolution we will be able to come out of this historical conundrum in which we have been stuck for many centuries.
The South, according to Mario Benedetti (the Uruguayan Writer) also exists. There are many revolutionaries in North America and in Europe, but although I could be wrong, I think that the South is where there is a greater conscience about the need for urgent, rapid and profound change in the World.
In 1950 we had the Summit at Bandung, where the movement of non-aligned countries was born, giving birth to the concept of the conscience of the South.
But then, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, as Stiglitz says the â€œhappy 90â€™sâ€ were upon us, we were all apparently so happy, the end of history, the technological age, and so the conscience of the south was frozen, and, as an avalanche, the proposal from the Washington consensus arrived, neocolonialism, dressed around a dubious thesis, neoliberalism, and all those IMF policies injected with particular venom in Latin America.
Today, at the WSF, no other space more appropriate, it is opportune to say that to save the world one of the first things we need is the conscience of the south.
Re-launch the conscience of the southâ€¦it is possible that many in the north donâ€™t know this, but the future of the north depends on the south, because if we do not do what we must, if we truly do not make a better world real, if we fail, behind the marinesâ€™ bayonets, behind the murderous bombs from Mr. Bush, if there is not enough strength, conscience, and organization in the south to resist the neo-imperialist attacks, if the Bush doctrine were to impose itself the world would be destroyed.
Even before the polar caps melt and entire countries became submerged under the waters, the planet would see hundreds of violent rebellions. People are not going to take peacefully the imposition of the neo-liberal model, preferring to die fighting than of hunger.
The whip of counter-revolution.
Trotsky said that every revolution needs the whip of a counterrevolution, and the counterrevolution whipped us hard, with economic, media and social sabotage, terrorism, bombs, violence, blood and death, coup dâ€™etat, institutional manipulation, international pressure, they tried to convert Venezuela into a subservient country, trying to install a transnational power above our laws, our institutions and our constitution. But the Venezuelan people demonstrated to the oligarchy that they will never surrender.
We resisted, we defended ourselves, and then went on the counteroffensive. As a result in 2003, for the first time, Venezuela recuperated its oil company, which had always been in the hands of the Venezuelan oligarchy and the North American Empire.
We were now directing almost 4 billion dollars to social investment, education, health, micro credits, housing, directed to the poorest. The neo-liberals say we are throwing money awayâ€¦ but they were giving it away to the gringos, or shared it amongst themselves in their juicy business deals.
We have called everybody to study, grandmothers, children, many of them living in misery, so we created a system to give half a million grants of 100 dollars each per month. Almost 600 million per year that before was stolen from us and now is redistributed to empower the poor so they can defeat their own poverty.
Today we also have the Missions, for example Barrio Adentro. It is a national crusade involving everybody , civilians, military, old, young, communities, the national and local governments, grassroots community organizations, helped by Revolutionary Cuba. Today there are almost 25 thousand Cuban doctors and dentists living among the poorest, plus Venezuelan male and female nurses. 50 million cases were seen during 2004 â€“ thatâ€™s double the Venezuelan population. Before, the money to pay for all this left the country.
Capitalism is savagery.
Before, education was privatized. Thatâ€™s the neo-liberal, imperialist plan, health systems were privatized, that cannot be, itâ€™s a fundamental human right. Health, education, water, energy, public services, that cannot be given to the voracity of private capital, that denies those rights to the people, thatâ€™s the road to savagery, capitalism is savagery.
Every day Iâ€™m more convinced, less capitalism and more socialism.
We need to transcend capitalism, but capitalism cannot be transcended from within. Capitalism needs to be transcended via socialism, with equality and justice, thatâ€™s the path to transcend the capitalist power.
Iâ€™m also convinced that itâ€™s possible to do it in democracyâ€¦but watch it, what type of democracyâ€¦not the one Mr. Superman wants to impose.
Although I admire Che Guevara very much, his thesis was not viable. His guerrilla unit, perhaps 100 men in a mountain, that may have been valid in Cuba, but the conditions elsewhere were different, and thatâ€™s why Che died in Bolivia, a Quixotic figure.
History showed that his thesis of one, two, three Vietnams did not work.
Today, the situation does not involve guerrilla cells, that can be surrounded by the Rangers or the Marines in a mountain, as they did to Che Guevara, they were only maybe 50 men against 500, now we are millions, how are they going to surround usâ€¦ Careful, we might be the ones doing the surrounding…
â€¦not yet, little by little.
Empires sometimes do not get surrounded, they rot from inside, and then they tumble down and get destroyed as the Roman Empire and every Empire from Europe in the past centuries. Some day the rottenness that it carries inside will end up destroying the US Empire.
And the great people of Martin Luther King will be free, the great U.S. people, our brothers.
We are not yet declaring victory, but reality shows that the process is ongoing, although we have to nurture it every day. Thatâ€™s one of my sermons to my compaÃ±eros and compaÃ±eras every day. And as Che said, we need revolutionary efficacy, fighting bureaucratism and corruption.
2004 brought us the great political victory. It was said that I was doing everything possible to avoid the referendum. The neo-liberals said I was afraid of the people. All lies. I never did anything to avoid it. But the opposition had to abide by the constitutional requisites, collecting their signatures within the allotted time, as our institutions mandate. It could not be the OAS or the U.S. Government presenting the signatures with witnesses. We won on August 15 with 60% of the vote, much more than five years ago. Then, in the regional elections of 10-31 we won in most of the 24 provinces up for grabs, a great advance in the social inclusion model. An advance in the political stage, a strengthening of our institutions, the judicial power.
Economy and Integration.
In 2003 and 2004, we saw the strengthening of the Venezuelan economy. Manufacturing, agriculture are all growing. For the first time in a long time we can say that we donâ€™t have to import rice, we are self sufficient in corn, and we will continue to rescue our agriculture, helping us attain food sovereignty. In the war against the latifundios, we recognize the example of the MST. They have been an example to us and to the rest of the peasants all over the continent.
In 2004 we entered Mercosur (South American Common Market). I am critical of its profile, but still we decided to join. Five years ago I was criticized for being in Canada in the Americas Summit. But I was the only one there opposing the FTAA, because it is nothing but a colonialist project. We want to create an alternative integrationist model, which we call Bolivarian alternative or ALBA. This project progresses, one would want it to be faster, but there are realities and moments, timing.
The sun rose on January 1st, 2005 and the FTAA has gone to hell. Where is the FTAA, Mr.? The FTAA is dead. There are little FTAAs, but the North American Empire did not have the strength, in spite of so much pressure and blackmail, to impose on this continent the imperialist and neocolonial model that the FTAA represented. I do not want to overestimate the weakness of our adversary. It would be a fatal error. But nevertheless I think it is convenient to objectively recognize its weaknesses. Because if one believes that the adversary is unbeatable, well, it is unbeatable.
History has Vietnam, the Iraqi people resisting the attack and invasion, Revolutionary Cuba forty years later still resisting. Bolivarian Venezuela resisting for already 6 years. North American Imperialism is not invincible. Of course it is important to know that, because there are people around with good intentions who think that it is invincible and we cannot even hit it with rose petals, the Empire can get angry and react.
Goliath is not invincible. That makes it more dangerous, because as it begins to be aware of its weaknesses, it begins to resort to brute force. The assault on Venezuela, utilizing brute force, is a sign of weakness, ideological weakness.
This is not the same Latin America of even five years ago. I cannot, out of respect for you, comment on the internal situation of any other country. There in Venezuela, particularly the first two years, many of my partisans criticized me, asking me to go faster, that we had to be more radical. I did not consider it to be the right moment, because processes have stages. CompaÃ±eros, there are stages in the processes, there are rhythms that have to do with more than just the internal situation in every country, they have to do with the International situation. And even if some of you make noise, I will say it: I like Lula, I appreciate him, he is a good man, with a big heart, a brother, a compaÃ±ero, and Iâ€™m sure that Lula and the people of Brazil, with Nestor Kirchner and the Argentine people, with Tabarez Vazquez and the Uruguayan people, we will open the path towards the dream of a United Latin America, different, possible.
A big hug, I love you all very much, a big hug to everybody, Many, many thanks.
Translated by Daniel Morduchowicz