"Opposing imperialism" was the theme given to yesterday’s protest which marked the opening of the sixth World Social Forum (WSF) in Caracas, Venezuela.
Around 15,000 participated, mainly composed of the pro Chavez activist layer in Venezuela and international WSF participants. These included left parties, NGOs, human rights organisations and indigenous rights groups.
The demonstration took place during the working day and it seems no drive was made to mobilize the wider Caracas population.
There was no organised presence of the trade union federation, the UNT. Similarly the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR) which won the recent elections did not have an organised presence.
CWI members from Chile, Brazil, US, Germany, Britain, Ireland and Belguim intervened into the demonstration with a pamphlet taking up the debate of "Socialism in the 21st Century". Nearly five hundred were sold and scores of people indicated gave their contact details for further discussion with the CWI. CWI members also sold 230 pamphlets at the WSF youth camp.
Away from the WSF events, CWI members are taking every opportunity to meet workers and discuss with them the course of the revolutionary process in Venezuela. What is clear is that despite the important reforms of the Chavez government attacks are still raining down upon the conditions of working people that because the overwhelming bulk of the economy remains in private hands.
Yesterday I came across a demonstration at the national parliament of several hundred retired CANTV (telecom) workers who are not receiving the pensions they are due from the company. One protestor, Jorge, explained to me that the company was part of the public sector when he worked there but was subsequently privatised. He felt that the government should demonstrate its concern for the elderly by intervening and forcing the company to pay up. The legacy of the neo-liberal offensive of the eighties and early to mid nineties is clearly still being felt.
Unfortunately the questions the workers and poor have about how to take the revolution forward and what is meant by socialism is not the main theme of this year’s WSF. What is clear is that the organised working class and activists in the community need their own space to discuss these issues.