[WSMDiscuss] Venezuela is paramount because it is the battle of this century

Tord Björk tord.bjork at gmail.com
Wed Mar 13 14:30:38 CET 2019

Venezuela is paramount because it is the battle of this century: João Pedro

João Pedro Stedile of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) talks about the
recently concluded International Peoples’ Assembly, the assault on
Venezuela, and the battles against imperialism and the right wing in Brazil
and across the world
March 13, 2019
Latinamericano <https://peoplesdispatch.org/author/resumen/>
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March 9, 2019
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February 24, 2019
Why does the United States of America want to overthrow the government of
February 14, 2019

After the International Peoples Assembly (AIP) in solidarity with the
people and the government of Venezuela that was held in Caracas recently
and attended by over 500 delegates from 90 countries, activist and
journalist Carlos Aznárez of *Resumen Latinoamericano*
with one of the key people involved in the process, João Pedro Stedile, the
leader of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil.

Why now an International Peoples Assembly?

The efforts we are making with this organization, including all parties and
trade unions, are in order to bring together all the popular forces to
promote common struggles against the common enemies, the imperialists. This
is the main reason for seeking new forms of international coordination that
promote struggles and try to unite various spaces and forms of organization
in our countries. Due to the degree of conflict in Venezuela, since it is
currently the epicenter of the world’s class struggle where imperialist
forces want to topple the country, this first assembly had, as a primary
task, to return to our home countries with an agenda of mobilizations and
of denunciation, to help our movements develop in each one of the countries
that we are here from.

Often, when such meetings are held, proposals are made to coordinate
actions but they are not carried forward or the documents and resolutions
are shelved due to internal issues in each country. Why do you think this
time it is going to succeed or would have to succeed?

This is our self-critical reflection: we have to get out of paper work and
try to promote more actions. I believe that we must promote concrete
struggles and actions because the people’s forces that are here are already
familiar with the processes of organizing people in their countries. They
are more prepared to build united and social struggle processes. In other
words, this not a bureaucratic meeting that comes with the acronym or the
party. The people who have come here are involved in their countries in
real processes of struggle. So, we are confident that when they will return
to their countries, they will put the issue of Venezuela, the issue of
internationalism, as a permanent part of their agenda in the national
struggles they are already leading.

Venezuela is a game changer today in the anti-imperialist struggle. How do
you think it is more valid or more efficient to show solidarity with
Venezuela in the continent?

It is true that there is a lot of confusion and that is why Venezuela is a
key point, because even some sectors of the Latin American and European
left wing are influenced by what the bourgeois press says. We had invited
several forces from Europe who refused to come to Venezuela because they
believed that there was no democracy in the country. Look, a country that
has held 25 elections in 20 years, where the majority of the media is
private, where the opposition carries out marches whenever it wants – how
anyone can say that there is no democracy in this country? These bourgeois
ideas have affected the left and most institutional sectors, which are then
moved only by the electoral logic. So if they are in the election year,
they believe that they should be close to Venezuelans because they are very
radical. This is how in the past they had isolated Cuba, but Cuba is there,
after 60 years of resistance and now its people are happy and educated.

So, Venezuela is paramount because it is the battle of this century. If the
empire manages to topple Venezuela, it means that, it will have more
strength to topple Cuba, Nicaragua and all the processes that propose
change, even this institutional left that only thinks in elections.  With a
defeat of Venezuela, they will have more difficulties in winning elections.
So, even for the institutional or public struggle, it is very important to
defend Venezuela and to transform it into a trench of resistance and to
make here the tomb, at least, of Trump’s government.

In your speeches and statements, you often criticize the mistakes of the
neo-developmental governments, but there is a tendency whereby in order to
get out of this imperialist offensive, there is [a call for a] return to
social democracy. How do you see this? Is it valid or should we define it
more clearly by suggesting the way to socialism?

The assessment we make is that there is a deep crisis in the capitalist
mode of production and the exit that they are seeking to solve [the
problems of] their companies, their accumulation, is taking over the
natural resources in an even more offensive form, be it oil, mining, water
and biodiversity. There is also the increasing exploitation of the working
class by taking away the historical rights that we have conquered
throughout the decade after the Second World War. In ideological terms,
what the capital is pushing is the recovery of the far right, as happened
in the crisis of 1930s, when it resorted to fascist and Nazi ideas.

The advantage we have now is that this scheme cannot be repeated as a
right-wing proposal because they do not have mass movements in the working
class as fascism and Nazism did, and this gives us security. But on the
other hand, as they do not have masses, they wage an ideological struggle
and use all the weapons they have – television, internet, networks, fake
news – to defeat us in ideology.

In this plan of capital, they themselves have already defeated social
democracy. In Latin America, Europe and the whole world, social democracy
was a way of humanizing capital, but capital no longer wants to be human.
Capital, in order to recover, has to be the devil, go to farthest extent,
either in terms of manipulation of the State or of super-exploitation of
nature and human labor.

So, it would be a mistake for the left to think that in order to win
elections again, it is important to be more social democratic. Now, we have
to try to do grassroots work again, fight the ideological struggle and
recover our social foundation that is the working class, which is
displaced, precarious, and faces many problems. But we have to reorganize
it in other ways that are not just trade unions and parties as we were
accustomed to, but in new forms and with new movements that have a social
base that brings to the table even participative democracy, because only
winning elections is not enough, as was proven in Uruguay, Brazil and
Argentina. Of course, it is important to win elections, but if we have
accumulated forces, they will achieve structural changes in the economy and
in the political regime.

The phenomenon of the Yellow Vests movement is gaining a lot of attention
in Europe. Interestingly, that wave comes from Europe and not Latin America
and it has an anti-system perspective. Do you think that this phenomenon
could succeed in fighting the Empire?

No doubt. It calls us a lot of attention and we are very interested in
their organization process. We will try to send our people, so that they
stay there a while and learn with them the forms that they have adopted. It
caught our attention because they are part of the working class, not a
small bourgeoisie movement or disillusioned students’ movement like ones in
Europe that camped in public squares and had a little touch of left. We
notice that there, they promote the initiatives of the poor working class
that was outside the unions and the parties, but that reacted against this
contradiction on observing that capitalism no longer solves their daily
problems and they adopted this form that we find very interesting.

However, it is not a form that we should apply in each country because the
important thing is that they were creative and discovered a form that
serves the French reality. That is what we have to look for in Brazil, in
Argentina and in every country. In other words, encourage a debate among
the popular forces to seek new forms of struggle that will curb capital and
harm them, because only with demonstrations, slogans of command, rallies,
etc., capital cannot be curbed. I hope that the French left learns from
them from the methodological point of view of organizing the masses.

How is the MST fighting at this time in Brazil? Lula continues to be in
prison and there are contradictions with the government but are the rights
and achievements of workers still being attacked?

The MST is now in a very complex situation since we have to double-down our
work and our efforts, because our movement has a peasant base, with a
developed experience of class struggle in the field against the big
landowners and agro-capital, which are the big transnational corporations.
There, we train, politicize and understand how agrarian reform is not only
land for those who work on it as the Zapatista ideas were defended in the
20th century, but is also a fight against international capital, against
its transgenic and agro-toxic technology. It was that struggle that
politicized us to extrapolate what the classical peasant movements were.

Faced with the defeat of Lula’s imprisonment and Bolsonaro’s victory, new
challenges were posed on us that extrapolate the struggle for agrarian
reform. At the same time, to take forward the agrarian reform we have to
win the political struggle. So, the MST has to advance in the struggle for
agrarian reform more carefully because the right is ready for us to fall
into a trap and defeat ourselves. Now, in the field, we have to act with
much more wisdom to protect us from the repression that is coming.

In political terms, what we have to do and what we are currently preparing
our militancy for, is to try to go to the city with our activism, our
experience, and develop a movement that brings together the peripheral
sectors and the people’s forces. To do this we have created in Brazil a
broad unitary front of the popular movements called *Frente Brasil Popular*.
We are developing a proper way of doing grassroots work that we call the
People’s Congress, it’s a bit of a pompous name, but its tries to
challenge, to go house to house to talk to people, ask about their
problems, and motivate them to go to a people’s assembly in their
neighborhood, parish, local work spaces.

After these assemblies where people share their problems, we are trying to
hold assemblies at the municipal level, then at the provincial level. Soon,
maybe next year or by the end of this year, at the national level, a
National People’s Congress will be held as a way to encourage people to
participate in the politics, to recover new media, distribute our
newspaper, discuss it with people, use internet networks, do cultural
events, reach people through music, theater, and not just through a
political discussion that no one hears. We have to use other means of mass
pedagogy so that the masses understand what is happening in Brazil using
the creativity that I was talking about.

Will Lula and his freedom remain a central point on the MST’s agenda?

This is the second major issue of politics. Lula’s freedom is at the heart
of the class struggle in Brazil. There is no successor to Lula because it
is the people who choose the popular leadership, not the parties, that is
why, it is called popular leadership and Lula is the people’s leader of

It is a fundamental task for the class struggle to liberate Lula so that he
becomes the main spokesperson. He is the one who has the capacity to help
conduct mass mobilization against the system and the project of the far
right. That is why the far right is scared and even prevents him from
speaking and giving interviews, something that goes against the
constitution. Any Brazilian drug trafficker can speak on the national
television networks, but Lula cannot give an interview, not even to a print
media journalist.

So, we are in this fight for Lula’s freedom that will depend on two
important factors. One is international solidarity. That’s why I take this
opportunity to ask everyone to help us. There is a massive signature
campaign calling for the nomination of Lula for the Nobel Peace Prize. The
second factor is national mobilization. From Brazil, we are working to
promote Lula’s campaign with a concrete struggle so that the people begin
to realize that they will have to mobilize against the measures of the
neoliberal government, in defense of the historical rights of the working
class that they are now trying to eliminate.

*Original text in Spanish by Carlos Aznarez for Resumen Latinoamericano
Translation to English by Tanya
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