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.

The question in the graphic for a poll published by Le Figaro asks: “over the last month which of the following personalities was the best opponent to Nicolas Sarkozy?”. The New Anti-Capitalist Party's Olivier Besancenot came out on top for the fifth month in a row. From Liam Macuaid's blog.

By Sam Wainwright

Paris, February 14, 2009 -- On the weekend of February 7-8, more than 600 delegates and as many observers attended the founding conference of France’s New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA), held at la Plaine-Saint-Denis in the working class suburbs to the north of Paris.

Less than a week before, on January 29, around 2.5 million people took to the streets across the country in a nationwide strike against the efforts of the President Nicolas Sarkozy's government to foist the burden of the capitalist economic crisis onto working people.

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 …”

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is humbled by the inspirational messages from all over the world for our boycott, sanctions and divestment campaign against Israel.

By Bongani Masuku, COSATU international relations officer


`We are the bat people' -- Voices of resistance by the urban poor of Manila. Photos by Peter Boyle.

[Reihana Mohideen, a representative of the Power of the Masses Party (Partido Lakas ng Masa), 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. For more information about the Partido Lakas ng Masa, click HERE.]

By Peter Boyle

Socialist Alliance statement

Melbourne, February 11, 2009 -- Like all people across Australia Socialist Alliance members have been devastated by the Victorian bushfire tragedy, the greatest disaster in peace-time Australian history.

We express our condolences to and solidarity with all who have lost family, friends and homes in this shocking holocaust, made worse by the possibility that some of these fires were deliberately lit.

We salute the efforts of Victorian Country Fire Authority workers and all volunteers who have sacrificed time, effort and security and done everything in their power to halt the ravages of the fires. Emergency service workers battled for up to 30 hours without sleep trying to control the infernos, help the injured, and attend to the thousands left homeless.

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.

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.

Thais donned red shirts in protest at the far-right PAD's opposition to Thailand's elected government.

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

By Katherine Bradstreet

Melbourne, February 7, 2009 -- The heatwave across south-eastern Australia in recent weeks has given a hint of what we can expect as global temperatures continue to rise: black-outs, fatalities and transport chaos as privatised infrastructure fails. 

Many are in mourning as bushfires have devastated rural Victoria, with the death toll passing triple figures and more than 750 homes destroyed. The country town of Marysville has been erased from the map. Several other towns have all but been destroyed.

Even before the bushfire catastrophe, South Australia and Victoria had seen a sharp increase in deaths as a result of the heatwave, with Adelaide’s central morgue quite literally overflowing — the “excess” cadavers were stored temporarily in a refrigerated freight container.

Thousands of homes were left without electricity as demand soared, overwhelming the existing grid. Melbourne’s rail system collapsed into chaos as temperatures reached over 40°C.