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Sydney, April 10-12, 2009: `World at a Crossroads' 21st century socialism conference day-by-day agenda

 

World at a Crossroads: Fighting for socialism in the 21st Century
Easter 2009, April 10-12, Sydney

Venue: Sydney Girls High School

World At A Crossroads is a conference that brings together hundreds of socialists, progressive activists and Marxist thinkers from around Australia, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and North America in dozens of panel presentations and workshops dealing with the urgent questions that confront us all: war, imperialism, food security, racism, workers' rights, sexism, the media and culture. Feature sessions and streams will include:

Venezuela: Mass organisation, unity increases as revolution deepens; Coca-Cola plant replaced with `socialist commune'

Photo by Winston Bravo, ABN.

By Federico Fuentes

March 21, 2009 -- “This government is here to protect the people, not the bourgeoisie or the rich”, proclaimed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on February 28, as he ordered soldiers to take over two rice-processing plants owned by Venezuelan food and drink giant Empresas Polar. 

The move was made in order to ensure that the company was producing products subjected to the government-imposed price controls that aim to protect the poor from the affects of global price rises and inflation.

Under Venezuelan law, companies that can produce basic goods regulated by price controls must guarantee that 70-95% of their products are of the regulated type.

“They’ve refused 100 times to process the typical rice that Venezuelans eat”, said Chavez. “If they don’t take me seriously, I’ll expropriate the plants and turn them into social property.”

PSUV document: Crack in the accumulation of world capitalism (march towards the global depression)

The following document was produced by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) national leadership. It has been translated from the Spanish-language original by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

On March 21, all PSUV battalions met to discuss the document, together with an article written by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez (read it HERE). The day after, Chavez announced his government’s anti-crisis measures (see http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/4314).

The document is significant not only for what it says, but also because it is the beginning of a mass discussion on how to confront the crisis in Venezuela in the lead-up to the PSUV’s August congress (for more see http://www.escambray.cu/Eng/news/Wvenezuela090320434.htm).

Venezuela: Confronting capitalism's crisis with more revolution

By Manuel Sanchez

Caracas, March 14, 2009 -- In some countries, the severe crisis of capitalism has resulted in a realignment of respective governments with the imperialist powers — and the adoption of different forms of cut backs that affect the living conditions of the majority.

In the Venezuela, the opposite is occurring.

Before and after the victory for the pro-revolution forces in the referendum on February 15, 2009, to allow elected officials to stand for re-election more than once, the decision to push forward with the transition to socialism was ratified.

The world economic situation has also undoubtedly hit hard in Venezuela. The revolutionary government has already resolved to eliminate “all expenses that are not absolutely indispensable”.

But these austerity measures, far from adversely affecting the course of the revolution that seeks to transform the country, are favouring it. To the average politically trained eye, this has been evident since September 2008. President Hugo Chavez explicitly warned of this in this annual message to the nation on January 13.

Bolivia: `More of the same’? Or a break with `traditions’? The MAS: a paradoxical case of democratisation

By Hervé Do Alto, translated for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Gonzalo Villanueva with Do Alto’s permission. It was first published in Le Monde diplomatique (Bolivian edition) Febrero 2009, nº 11, pp. 6-8.

The Santos Ramirez affaire marked, undoubtedly, a shift in the social perception of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). [In February, Santos Ramirez, a former head of the state energy company YPFB, and former head of the Senate from 2006-2007, was charged with corruption and faces a lengthy prison sentence of up to eight years.]

As several researchers of the “political instrument” have highlighted, including Moira Zuazo, the credibility of the party created by Evo Morales in 1999 was largely constructed on bases of ethical politics.[1]
This "ethical principle", symbolised by the implementation of the Austerity Law at the beginning of the Morales administration in 2006, played a fundamental role in establishing the dichotomy between, on the one hand, the so-called traditional parties (members of the "agreed democracy") and, on the other, movements  that raised the slogan of the moral reform of the discredited Bolivian politics.

El Salvador's left poised for election victory: FMLN promises a people-centred government

By Erica Thompson

February 26, 2009 -- Committee in Solidarity of the People of El Salvador (CISPES) -- Polls on the March 15 presidential vote show the election will likely open a new progressive chapter in El Salvador's long, violent history of war and dictatorships with a victory by the left-wing FMLN, which is promising to build a people-centred government. But the right is not taking its impending defeat lightly; it has been orchestrating a massive fear campaign and has worked feverishly to secure corporate-driven development contracts before its rule is set to expire.

"An historical event is underway in El Salvador. For the first time, a government especially dedicated to the popular sectors is possible. The current government, subjected to the interests of small groups, has shown their inability to lead the country for the common good. A new government is born precisely of the hope of citizens to break the pattern and install a government that will be at the service of the entire Salvadoran population."
—Program of Government, FMLN.

Venezuela: Referendum victory advances process of change

By Chris Kerr

Caracas, February 20, 2009 -- “Today we opened wide the gates of the future … Truth against lies [and] the dignity of the homeland has triumphed”, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez insisted to tens of thousands of celebrating supporters after Venezuelans voted to amend the constitution to end term limits on all elected politicians — allowing Chavez to stand for re-election in 2012.

“Venezuela will not return to its past of indignity”, Chavez stated, referring to the four decades of alternating rule by two corrupt parties that followed the overthrow of a military dictatorship in 1958.

During this period, known as the Fourth Republic, billions of dollars of oil wealth was squandered by a corrupt elite that increasingly opened the country to plundering by foreign corporate interests while the poverty rate sky-rocketed. Chavez was first elected in 1998 on a platform of transforming Venezuela (creating a “Fifth Republic”).

The turn-out of voters in the referendum was the largest ever, with 54.85% (or more than 6.3 million) voting in favour of the amendment. Around 5.2 million voted “no”. The result was declared free and fair by independent international observers.

`Let us rediscover Marx' -- Two talks on Michael Lebowitz's `Beyond Capital: Marx’s Political Economy of the Working Class'

By Michael A. Lebowitz

[Michael Lebowitz will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Resistance and Green Left Weekly. Visit http://www.worldATACrossroads.org for full agenda and to book your tickets. Find other articles by Michael Lebowitz HERE.]

Venezuela: A balance sheet of the constitutional referendum victory

Venezuelan newspapers report the victory of the constitutional referendum.

By Gonzalo Villanueva

Venezuela’s February 15 constitutional amendment referendum, which proposed to modify the existing constitution to allow politicians to stand for re-election without restrictions, was triumphant. However, the referendum was more than a legal amendment – the removal of term limits – it was a political issue: to continue the revolutionary project or not? The Venezuelan people have convincingly signalled their desire to continue with the Bolivarian process, under the leadership of Hugo Chavez. The victory undoubtedly opens a path to advance and deepen the Bolivarian Revolution.

The amendment achieved a significant 6.3 million votes (54% of the vote). These latest electoral result confirms that the chavista camp has recovered significantly from the 2007 constitutional referendum defeat of 4.4 million votes (49.29%), a trend also followed in the 2008 regional elections. However, there is still a shortfall in comparison to the 2006 presidential elections that achieved 7.3 million votes (62.84%).

Mexico: Social and political struggles and the state of the left

Peter Gellert. Photo by Rachel Evans.

Peter Gellert is a US-born, long-term activist, now Mexican citizen. He is a leader of Mexico's Movement for Cuban Solidarity. Links International Joural of Socialist Renewal’s Rachel Evans spoke to Gellert in Mexico City.

February 18, 2009 -- Inside Peter Gellert´s small apartment books of history, politics and art, line groaning walls. Meticulously framed Cuban posters monopolise the remaining space. Three turtles climb over each other in a fish tank that gurgles sporadically.

'NAFTA destroyed Mexican agriculture'

Democracy wins in Venezuelan referendum; Chavez promises `socialist democracy'

Hugo Chavez addresses thousands of Venezuelans from the `Balcony of the People' following the referendum victory.

[Click HERE for more coverage of the referendum campaign.]

A statement from the Australia–Venezuela Solidarity Network

February 17, 2009 -- On Sunday, February 15, Venezuelans voted in a referendum to change the country’s constitution to allow elected officials to re-stand for election without restriction. Previously, Venezuela’s constitution allowed elected officials, including the president, to stand for only two terms.

With 94.2% of the votes counted, the National Electoral Council announced that the “Yes” vote had won with 6,003,584 votes (54.36%). The “No” vote received 5,040,082 votes (45.63%). Dozens of election observers from international bodies such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States verified that the referendum was free and fair.

Tariq Ali on Obama: Imperialism with a human face

Obama visits US troops in Afghanistan during the 2008 presidential campaign.

February 14, 2009 -- With US President Barack Obama to visit Ottawa, Canada, on February 19, renowned writer and anti-war campaigner Tariq Ali shares his thoughts on the new administration's foreign policy. In his recently published book, The Duel, Tariq Ali argues that expanding the war in Afghanistan will only sow more destruction in that long-suffering Central Asian country, and aggravate the already volatile situation in Pakistan.

In this interview, which first appeared at the progressive Canadian website rabble.ca, Ali discusses with rabble's editor Derrick O'Keefe the war, prospects for Palestine under Obama's watch and the rising left-wing tide in Uncle Sam's backyard. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with O'Keefe's permission.

* * *

Venezuela: Luis Bilbao -- Reasons to be on alert after the referendum victory

By Luis Bilbao, translated by Federico Fuentes

Luis Bilbao is a central participant in the construction of the mass United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and in the formation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). He will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Resistance and Green Left Weekly. To book your tickets for the conference go to http://www.worldatacrossroads.org/register.

February 14, 2009 -- A string of provocations in the days leading up to the constitutional amendment referendum points to the employment of a disturbance plan that could well be followed up with destabilisations attempts after the poll.

Venezuela: Democracy, revolution and the `president for life' lie

Chavez arrives at the polling place on February 14, 2009. The referendum on term limits was passed with a 54% majority vote.

By Chris Kerr

Caracas, February 6, 2009 -- “The reform is aimed as a personal project. This is neither revolution nor socialism, but personal ambition”, argued Federico Black of the student organisation Furthering the Country to the virulently anti-Chavez Venezuelan daily El Universal

Black was referring to an amendment to Venezuela’s constitution that will be voted on in a referendum on February 15 to remove limits on the number of times an elected official can stand for election to a public office. If passed, it would allow Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez to stand in the presidential elections in 2012.

According to Black, “We have been educating the public about why you should vote ’no’. The point at issue is to explain to ordinary people and the whole country that indefinite reelection is anti-democratic and a mere personal desire …”

Economic and social advances during the Chávez decade in Venezuela

Washington, DC – February 5, 2009 -- The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) released a report today on the Venezuelan economy on the tenth anniversary of President Hugo Chávez’s tenure, which began in February 1999.

“Looking at the economic data and social indicators, it’s not difficult to see why Chávez remains popular and has won so many elections, despite overwhelmingly hostile media coverage”, said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of CEPR and lead author of the report, The Chávez Administration at 10 Years: The Economy and Social Indicators.

Among the highlights:

World Social Forum returns to Brazil, marks Latin America's `swing to the left'

Latin America's leftwing presidents meet with WSF participants. Photo by Marc Becker.

By Marc Becker

February 5, 2009 -- After an absence of four years, the World Social Forum (WSF) returned to Brazil during the last week of January 2009. More than 100,000 people descended on the city of Belem at the mouth of the mighty Amazon River to debate proposals and plan strategies for making a new and better world.

The forum first met in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre in 2001 as a gathering of social movements dedicated to fighting neoliberalism and militarism. Nine years later, Latin America has shifted significantly to the left, and the forum has played an important role in that process.

The forum began on January 27, 2009, as all of the forums have, with a massive march through the streets of Belem. The theme of the march was from Africa, where the last unified forum was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in

2007, to the Amazon. A drenching tropical rain momentarily stalled the planned events. The march concluded with a massive rally featuring speeches and music.

World Social Forum: `We won't pay for the crisis. The rich must pay!' & Belem Climate Assembly declaration

World Social Forum, Belem, Brazil, 2009. Photo by Marc Becker.

Declaration of the Assembly of Social Movements at the World Social Forum, January 27-February 1, 2009, Belem, Brazil.

February 1, 2009 -- We the social movements from all over the world came together on the occasion of the 8th World Social Forum in Belem, Amazonia, where the peoples have been resisting attempts to usurp nature, their lands and their cultures. We are here in Latin America, where over the last decade the social movements and the indigenous movements have joined forces and radically question the capitalist system from their cosmovision. Over the last few years, in Latin America highly radical social struggles have resulted in the overthrow of neoliberal governments and the empowerment of governments that have carried out many positive reforms such as the nationalisation of core sectors of the economy and democratic constitutional reforms.

Fidel Castro: Contradictions between Obama’s politics and ethics

By Fidel Castro Ruz

February 4, 2009 -- A few days ago I referred to some of Obama’s ideas which point to his role in a system that denies every principle of justice.

Some throw their hands up in horror if anything is said to criticise the important personality, even if it is done with decency and respect. This is usually accompanied by subtle and not so subtle darts from those with the means to throw and transform them into the elements of media terror imposed on the peoples to sustain the unsustainable.

Every criticism I make is always construed as an attack, an accusation and other similar qualifiers reflecting callousness and discourtesy towards the person involved.

This time I’d rather address some questions of many that could be raised and that the new President of the United States should answer.

The following for example:

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