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(From Socialist Campaign Group News)

During a recent Parliamentary debate on Venezuela one Tory MP complained that the regime of Hugo Chavez was undertaking a “land grab” and had to be opposed. It then turned out that the Member concerned, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, was actually related to the Vestey family, who have massive land holdings in Venezuela. The unused parts of their estates have been handed over to landless peasants.

In a sense history is being played out to its fullest extent in Venezuela, where the Bolivarian revolution is in full swing and is providing inspiration across a whole continent.

Bolivar, the charismatic leader of the South American independence movements lived in London in Warren Street, and the Bolivar Hall (run by the Venezuelan Embassy) is in neighbouring Grafton Way. Bolivar dreamt of South America as independent of Imperial Spain. He suffered many reverses in his campaigns, including an impoverished spell in Jamaica before resuming his efforts. His achievements were the routing of the imperial forces, many decrees on people’s rights and the concept of national culture that encompassed the indigenous and the European settlers. He died too soon, and the newly independent countries suffered from the injustice of land ownership by the settler class, and endless neo-colonial exploitation by European and North American companies.

Venezuela, like others, has massive injustices of wealth and power, but unlike many others it has huge resources of oil.

The Bolivarian revolution led by Chavez is rapidly changing things. The poorest do get food, can see a doctor thanks to Cuban help, and are able to get good education. Chavez was elected, faced down a coup attempt, won a recall referendum, and then won Parliamentary elections. His electoral democratic credentials are beyond reproach.

In power, and faced with enormous opposition from a very hostile media, he has allowed them to continue, preferring instead to develop an alternative from of communication and thus inspire support. The very interesting BBC Radio 4 reports on Latin America have freely conceded the levels of support that the revolution inspires.

Radical movements in Latin America are not new; indeed the whole history of the 20th century is of radical governments removed from office by coups, and US inspired economic pressure. Guatemala, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua to name but a few have suffered military repression and brutal civil conflict.

Allende was killed in 1973 after a CIA run coup put Pinochet in power, who went on to ensure the deaths of over 25,000 through Operacion Condor in the Southern zone. The heroic Sandinista government in Nicaragua from the 1979 liberation was eventually defeated by the US backed Contra, and economic strangulation. Nicaragua is now the poorest country in the region.

These defeats and the debt crisis of the 1980s have changed many things. The success in Venezuela has inspired others so that there is a tangible shift across the whole continent, with the election of Left Governments in Uruguay, Bolivia and now Peru looking likely to follow. The isolation of the USA with only the lame duck President Fox of Mexico, and President Uribe of Colombia supporting it at the 2005 trade conference in Buenos Aires shows just how far the politics of the region have moved.

In Parliament, Tony Blair seemed not to understand that the survival of Cuba since 1979 is an inspiration to the poorest in the region, and that Venezuela is seriously conquering poverty by emphatically rejecting the Neo Liberal policies of the world’s financial institutions.

Success for radical policies in Venezuela is being achieved by providing for the poorest, liberating resources, but above all by popular education and involvement.

As with Cuba the threat to the USA by Venezuela is not military or economic. It is far more insidious, a threat by example of what social justice can achieve.

Solidarity means practically working with the Unions and popular organisations in Venezuela. Blair’s ill-informed outburst in response to a perfectly reasonable question from Labour MP Colin Burgon backfired. The media in Latin America showed how out of touch with real social change New Labour is.