Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Guest speakers included Ignacio Ramonet of Le Monde Diplomatique, former Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella, Bolivian indigenous leader Evo Morales, Hebe de Bonafini of the Argentine Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Cuban Vice-President Carlos Lage, Shafik Handal of the Salvadorean FMLN, José Amorim of the Brazilian Movement of the Landless, former French Defence Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement, well-known Chilean-Cuban writer Marta Harnecker, and from Britain, Richard Gott, Tariq Ali, Perry Anderson and Robin Blackburn. Over 800 international participants joined 15,000 Venezuelans in a celebration which resurrected the spirit of Che Guevara, the Chile of Salvador Allende and 1980s Central America.
First anniversary of the coup
The extraordinary events of last April – Chávez’ overthrow by a military-civilian coup which installed business leader Pedro Carmona as a 48-hour Pinochet, dissolving parliament and suspending all representative and judicial institutions and starting a witch-hunt which killed over 50 people, followed by an overwhelming popular mobilisation and counter-coup by the progressive military – made it clear to many people that what’s at stake in Venezuela is a radical process of popular transformation unparalleled in Latin America since the Sandinista revolution. Chavismo means popular power at all levels, a participatory democracy in which common people are taking the initiative away from bosses, politicians and bureaucrats.
Brazil under Lula and the PT also represents a great hope for change in Latin America, and perhaps also Ecuador under Lucio Gutiérrez, a former army officer who is sometimes compared to Chávez. But only in Venezuela has a radical transformation of the country’s power structure really been initiated, with a new constitution, a shakeout of the armed forces, popular organisation in thousands of grass-roots committees known as Bolivarian Circles, and a reassertion of public control over the vital oil industry. The failure of the coup led to a purge of reactionary officers, and the failure of the opposition strike in December and January led to a purge of pro-multinational managers and technicians in PDVSA (the state oil company). The established oligarchy is losing power month by month, which is why the opposition is so desperate and continues to resort to unconstitutional means.
The defeat of the coup last year was an object lesson in popular power and political consciousness. People all over the country came onto the streets brandishing copies of the constitution and demanding the return of Chávez, and surrounded military bases urging the troops to restore the legitimate government. Several military units refused to accept the authority of the coup-mongers, and the “civil-military alliance” became a reality. “Every 11th has its 13th” is now a popular slogan in Venezuela, referring to the date of the coup and the date of the popular uprising which restored Chávez.
An international example
Already this popular victory is being seen as an international example. Chileans present at the Caracas gathering said that Venezuela’s victory over the coup-mongers was the vindication of Allende, and Gloria Gaitán, daughter of the great Colombian popular leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán assassinated in 1948, proclaimed that “With Chávez Gaitán is back!” – a reference to the popular chant of “Volvió, volvió, volvió!” (He’s back, he’s back, he’s back!) which celebrates Chávez’ return on 13 April 2002.
One of the progressive Venezuelan military officers speaking at the forum, Captain Eliécer Otaiza, declared that he is confident there will be a world-wide “13th of April” in which the peoples of the world will reject the war-mongering policies of Bush and Blair. Hebe de Bonafini of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo from Argentina – one of the countries where for obvious reasons it is most difficult to accept the idea of the military siding with the people -explained how she had been convinced of the revolutionary commitment of Chávez and his comrades-at-arms, and presented the Venezuelan President with the emblematic white scarf of her movement. Chávez swore always to keep the scarf as a reminder of what the military should not do.
The reality of change
The international gathering was not limited to rhetoric and emotion, however justified. There were also thematic panels on the constitution, on participatory democracy and popular initiative, on the environment and health, on the world economy, neoliberalism and the alternatives, etc. Venezuelan and international delegates exchanged views on the struggle to build a different world, in an atmosphere reminiscent of the World Social Forums and other anti-globalisation gatherings.
International visitors were able to appreciate the reality of change in Venezuela: popular education in the Bolivarian schools, community housing and neighbourhood improvement projects in slum areas, agrarian reform, the Women’s Development Bank and Bank of the Sovereign People which provide micro-credit for popular initiatives, and alternative media outlets which are breaking the commercial information monopoly. Many foreign delegates also visited popular neighbourhoods around Caracas to see these achievements for themselves.
The Venezuelan revolution has arrived on the international stage. The myths and distortions about militarism and dictatorship under Chávez can no longer have the slightest credibility. This is the first real popular revolution of the 21st century, and the most important message to come out of this gathering is the urgency of organising solidarity.
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero