We have just returned from seeing Hugo Chavez address a crowd that filled a domed structure of comparable size to the old Philadelpia Spectrum. The speech was almost two hours long, with topics ranging from the applicability of Marx, Luxemburg, and Bolivar to the modern day, to the ecological crisis incurred by global capital. Mr. Chavez even sang a song in the middle of the speech.
One of the easily predicted main points of the speech concerned George Bush, who Chavez has nicknamed "Mr Danger." Chavez revealed to the crowd that the US plans to formally list Venezuela as a sympathizer with terrorists starting this year. After dicussing historical US imperialism in Latin America, Chavez discussed the current US empire and its similarity to empires past. Here is a paraphrased account:
"This is the most powerful, deceitful empire that has ever existed. The Romans, Alexander the Great...they operated all the while acknowledging that they were empires with the distinct goal of perpetuating their empires. The US operates as an empire, at the same time talking about human rights. Where are the human rights of the Cuba Five?"
After recognizing the amazing power and even the intelligence of the US, Chavez reminded the crowd of the landmark defeat of the FTAA at Mar del Plata. This, he said, portends an age in which the solidarity of South America (which will also extend to its historically linked brother Africa) will prevent the exploitation of the land and the people, while preserving the identity and dignity of a continent. ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative to the FTAA will unite the continent in a manner that will prevent hegemonic and imperialist interests by its very nature. The Bolivarian revolution will provide true democracy, democracy of the people, and the people will take the offense.
This was an incredibly empowering speech. Ever since seeing his speech to the United Nations, I have been constantly impressed by not only his rhetorical abilities, but the craft and sensitivity of his sentiments. Rather than vilify an entire country, he talks about the of hope he sees in the people of the United States as a force for cahnge from below. He appeals to the power of the Catholic faith in Latin America and the Bible's overriding sentiment of service to the poor, rather than damning his opponents with the same religion. Change is necessary, he claims, change that will allow the human species to carry on. He claimed that it is a romantic, but pessimistic notion to expect peace only when the human race has died out. A new, revitalized socialism can bring us into harmony with the environment, with each other, and our true humanity...all of these things are countered violently by capitalism and its insatiable urge to expand and the destruction of its own means of production. This is true in the long run for an ecosocialist endeavor, but his current oil exploration throughout Venezuela and the indiginous peoples it has displaced takes some of the green out of the rev.
After making the caveat that he respects the autonomy of all groups involved, he explained that he believes (and I am sure the overwhelming majority of us agreed) that the timetable for change must be shortened. The liberation struggles of Bolivar, Lenin, and Guevara never had to contend with assured destruction through climate change. This sounds oddly familiar to train of thought many people reading this may have encountered before.
Through eventually liberating the people of Venezuela from the predatory empire, and thus setting a standard for the future, he shares the vision of the World Social Forum that "Another World is Possible." We must however, act quickly to start making that change, for we're racing capital's expansion and the physical obstacel of dramatic climate change. If anyone fluent in Spanish is interested, I have a recording of the speech I can mail or hand to you upon my return to the states.
When we entered the building, after having two socialist bottles of water forced upon each of us, we were frisked and stripped of any weapons. Adam and I had our multitools taken and placed in a community bin with the assurances that they would remain there until we exited the building. The bummer is, they weren't... but I did run into Scott Beiben from the Lost Film Fest almost immediately upon leaving the building. This assuaged my ire I had been projecting towards the Venezuelan Military, with whom I had an entirely unremarkable relationship prior to this evening.
said: awww. ..Wwe were really happy to run into you guys.. We extended our stay here for a week. Have fun with Mr. Danger.. We're planning on bringing back a few Chavez speaking dolls..
Okay.. I'll see you hopefully when we get back
Scott Beibin + Liz Cole
[lost film fest - evil twin booking - hollywood can suck it]