XIV Sao Paulo Forum: Left parties debate the current historic conjuncture
By Inés Hayes, with reports from Montevideo by Cristina Camusso and Julio Louis.
Dilemma: From May 22 to 25, the XIV Sao Paulo Forum was held in Montevideo, Uruguay. Under the banner `The Latin American and Caribbean left in the new time, richness in diversity’, 844 delegates from 35 countries in Latin America, Asia and Europe participated in this historic meeting. The first encounter was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1990. The debates over the crucial issues of the 21st century are embodied today in the governments which have emerged through the electoral road. The historic dilemma of reform or revolution once again returns to centre stage.
The Sao Paulo Forum was born in 1990 at the hands of the Partido de los Trabajadores (PT, Workers Party) of Brazil and the Partido Comunista de Cuba (Communist Party of Cuba). In the context of the disintegration of social and political struggle, the forum achieved an important task. Nevertheless, with the arrival ofgovernments such as those of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and the possibility of once again believing in socialism, the reformist and social democratic positions of some political organisations now clash with the dynamic embodied in new and old experiences of revolutionary organisations.
In this, the XIV edition of the encounter, it was possible to clearly distinguish the two positions. While these strategies are being debated within administrations such as those in Brazil and Uruguay, governments like those of Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba start from the conviction that capitalism is intrinsically inhuman and has to be surpassed.
The opening of the forum was like a frozen snapshot. Almost as if it was an expression of desires, the Frente Amplio (Broad Front, Uruguay) opened the encounter focusing on the issue of governability, the construction of a more humane society, Latin American integration and the construction of another possible world based on more solidarity. Afterwards came the turn of the secretary of the PT, who put emphasis on the struggle against neoliberalism and on inclusion and integration.
The Cuban, Fernando Ramirez, changed the tone and climate of the encounter. Ramirez put forward the necessity of revolution and gave a historic outline of the situation of the continent when the forum first emerged 18 years ago. ``We are at the end of an epoch’’, he said. He was the first to mention Hugo Chavez and to talk about what the Bolivarian Revolution had meant for turning around the situation in the continent. Moreover, he assured that gaining access to government did not presuppose having access to power.
``We are witnessing an epoch of wars, of conflicts, of environmental problems and preventive wars by the United States’’, detailed Ramirez, mentioning the failure of Free Trade of Americas Agreement as well as the imposition of the free trade agreements in the continent. ``ALBA, Unasur, Petrocaribe and Petrosur are the real path forward’’, he emphasised. [ALBA is the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, an anti-neoliberal trading alliance led by Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia; Unasur unites two existing customs unions – Mercosur and the Andean Community – as part of a continuing process of South American integration; a Caribbean oil alliance with Venezuela to purchase oil at fair prices; Petrosur is a similar oil agreement involving Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina.] Ramirez outlined in detail the way in which the United States was financing the coup-plotting plans in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia and underlined the importance of the unity of parties and movements: ``The struggle for socialism must be constructed by each one of our peoples’’, he concluded.
Integration versus unity
During Saturday May 23, the speeches in support of socialism gained more strength. José Renaldo from the Communist Party of Brazil (Partido Comunista de Brasil) spoke of the structural crisis of capitalism and marked out Cuba as a permanent example [of the alternative]. Furthermore he highlighted the importance of Venezuela in once again placing socialism on the agenda and the necessity of counting on an anti-imperialist front in Latin America and the world. ``Unasur is a beacon in this sense’’, he assured
For his part, Ricardo Patiño, coordinating minister for policy in Ecuador, outlined the consequences of the Ciudadana Revolucion (Citizens’ Revolution) and the risky situation which Latin American finds itself in, denouncing the ``assassinations of Raul Reyes and other people in Ecuadorian territory’’ and said that [Colombian President] ``Uribe will have to prove that a country like Colombia possesses technology that no one else in the continent has’’. Patiño ratified what Correa had said in regards to establishing a Latin American regional organisation to replace the Organisation of American States, without tutelage and with Cuba. ``There is an attempt to destabilise Ecuador and regionalise the conflict through the use of preventive war doctrines. The Sao Paulo Forum should ratify its rejection of intervention and aggression against the countries of Latin America’’, explained the minister. Referring to the sovereign decision by Ecuador to dismantle the Manta US military base he said: ``There needs to be, on the part of the Sao Paulo Forum, a line of action, a collective labour to ensure that no United States base exists in our countries.’’
Moreover, Patiño highlighted the defeat of the right in electoral politics and the coup-plotting role of the mass media. ``Latin American unity has its central axis in Unasur. None of our countries will be able to triumph on its own: the socialist revolution must spread throughout all of Latin America’’, he concluded.
Following the potent speech by Patiño, there was an intervention by Roberto Regalado, member of the Communist Party of Cuba. ``We talk about neoliberalism but neoliberalism is the capitalism of our day’’, emphasised Regalado, confronting the positions of those who assure that capitalism can be humanised.
The Communist Party of Paraguay was also present in the forum. It argued in favour of its support for the recently elected president, Fernando Lugo, and pointed out the importance of the peasant movement. The Paraguay Communists assured that there was a programmatic agreement with Lugo, including over agrarian reform and the defence of Paraguayan sovereignty against United States’ intervention.
For their part, both the Partido Humanista and the Communist Party of Chile harshly criticised the Concertación government: ``[President Michelle] Bachelet and the [ruling] Concertación [alliance] are not involved in the Banco del Sur [Bank of the South], nor in Telesur [a new pan-Latin American TV channel based in Venezuela]. They did not allow Operación Milagros in Chile and the Concertación is intact, exactly how Pinochet designed it. One example of this is the repression against students and the [indigenous] Mapuche people, who are permanently attacked and persecuted.’’ The exposition was shorter than the others because the organisers of the forum signalled that their time had run out. ``It seems that the Concertación cannot be criticised here’’, said the speakers.
In concordance with a progressive viewpoint, Marco Aurelio Garcia, vice-president of the PT said that many different lefts exist, not just the reformist and revolutionary ones. He put forward the necessity of import substitution and the complementarity of sectors. ``This is a favourable moment for progressive countries’’, concluded Garcia.
Taking a Copernican shift, Osvaldo Peredo, member of the Bolivian MAS [Movement Towards Socialism] affirmed: ``We are embarking on a socialist project following the examples of Cuba and Venezuela.’’
Ortega: `Only socialism will make us free’
The closing speech, given by Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, was also a counterweight to the positions more focused on the immediate problems of government and electoral issues. Without equivocation he assured: ``There is no good empire and bad empire, there is no good capitalism and bad capitalism. We need to bring down the tyranny of global capitalism and the power of the empire. Elections can no be seen as an end in themselves, this is not the goal.’’
The death of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) leader, Marulanda, traversed throughout all of Ortega’s speech. ``Marulanda was an extraordinary fighter in a struggle which is rooted in the deep inequalities faced by the Colombian people. The terrorist is the Yankee government, the European governments, not only because they use military force, but because they have been practising terrorism in a systematic way, assassinating human beings with their economic policies and eagerness to concentrate wealth’’, he stated.
Ortega ratified the example of Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela and classified Colombia as the most destabilising country in Latin America. ``War and narcotrafficking are the big business of the United States’’, said the Nicaraguan president, who also warned of the interventionist activity of the Fourth Fleet of the United States, deactivated since 1950. ``We need to redouble our capacity to struggle, only socialism will make us free’’, he finalised.
The dilemma between reform or revolution was present throughout all the discussions and debates in the forum. The mark of this encounter will be the struggle between those forces who propose to moderate capitalism and that those that openly come out on the side of the construction of socialism of the 21st century
[Translated with permission from America XXI, Issue No. 39, June edition, http://www.americaxxi.com.ve]