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Worldwide meeting decides: Only future is with socialism

Published Nov 8, 2008 12:20 AM

John Catalinotto, a spokesperson for the International Action Center and a managing editor of Workers World newspaper since 1982, participated in discussions in Caracas, Venezuela, in mid-October of two groups: the VIII Meeting of Intellectuals and Artists in Defense of Humanity, based in Venezuela, and the Assembly of the World Forum of Alternatives, which has members around the world, mainly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, including all the Middle East. Of the 170 participants, Catalinotto was one of only two from the United States. He was interviewed by WW Editor Deirdre Griswold.

John Catalinotto
Photo: Jean Salem

WW: What was the main accomplishment of this weeklong meeting?

JC: The large majority of participants came from the former colonial countries, what today is called “the South.” About an equal number were from Asia and Africa; more came from Latin America, since there was a large Cuban and Venezuelan participation. There were both East and West Europeans.

What made the meeting additionally important was that it took place in the midst of a financial crisis in world capitalism. That meant that the first point in almost every discussion was the impact of this crisis on the world struggle. Whether the report came from a workshop on the working class, the world political order, the question of land reform or the world economy itself, it began by referring to the economic crisis.

What came out of these discussions was a general consensus that, far from history being over and socialism buried, as capitalist ideologues claimed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is capitalism that is in a severe structural crisis that goes far beyond being a financial crisis caused by speculation.

The final statement concluded by saying that “the participants in this meeting ratify its conviction that socialism is the only alternative that could resolve the collection of economic, social, political, cultural, environmental and governmental problems of humanity and make the hopes of the peoples into a reality.”

WW: How were the discussions organized?

Dr. Carmen Bohórquez (Venezuela) and
Langa Zita (South Africa) at Africa forum
in Caracas.
WW photo: John Catalinotto

JC: We each could participate in two of the eight workshops that discussed a program for different aspects of the world struggle. I was in a workshop on Unity on the Labor Front and another on the International World Order—Political. Instead of presenting papers, as is done at many international conferences, we held more informal meetings over two days—four sessions of about three hours each, first to share ideas and then to try to hammer out a coherent analysis.

Naturally, there was not complete agreement. Some of us, for example, considered the collapse of the USSR to be among the greatest tragedies of the 20th century. Others didn’t consider this a tragedy.

Among the economists, while all saw the crisis as severe, some saw preparation for a struggle for socialism as the only road while others proposed reforms of a Keynesian type, sort of a “New Deal” on a worldwide scale.

In the labor workshop, there was agreement that what we consider the working class today goes far beyond the old industrial proletariat and includes all people who sell their labor, plus their families, the unemployed and “precarious” workers who now seem to be a large number, especially in the global South. There was unanimous sentiment that the interests of immigrant workers had to be put at the top of the list for all workers.

A few participants shared the experience that the current labor leadership in their countries is inadequate to the demands of the new situation. I was hoping there would be greater experience of cross-border cooperation among unions, something that the new organization of global production calls out for. There was some, but it was still limited.

In the International World Order—Political workshop, there was a general consensus that “Capitalism has shown itself to be an unsustainable and predatory system” and that the U.S. is “the principal promoter of state violence.”

The workshop decided to promote participation in ongoing struggles and concluded: “We have agreed to join the anti-militarist struggle begun by the Campaign for the Demilitarization of the Americas and by the Coalition No U.S. Bases. Also to promote a boycott of the states of Israel and Colombia. And to oppose free trade agreements with Israel. We denounce this apartheid state that now exists in Israel. We will participate in the anti-militarist campaign on the 60th anniversary of NATO in April of 2009.”

WW: Were there activities beyond the workshop discussions?

JC: In the evenings and on the final day there was an exchange with the Venezuelans. A few participants from each of the different world regions presented talks on the political situation in their area to an audience mainly from the Venezuelan public. At the same time in another venue, Venezuelan speakers described aspects of the ongoing changes in their country to the international participants. One day we visited a center in one of the Caracas communities. Another day President Hugo Chávez spoke to us and answered questions for four hours.

One evening it was the turn of Europe and North America to present. I was chosen to speak regarding the U.S. To illustrate U.S. intervention, I used a PowerPoint slide show to show some of the protests we held in the U.S. opposing imperialist intervention. Since the International Action Center has opposed nearly every U.S. aggressive move, it was simple to put the slide show together.

This included mass protests against the war on Iraq and symbolic protests, for example, against the U.S. role in the country of Georgia last summer. People really appreciated seeing that right in the heart of the U.S. there was an active political opposition to the aggressive policies of the government.

They also saw the leaflet calling for a demonstration on Wall Street and pictures of workers’ protests in the U.S. They could see something new was happening, right in the center of world imperialism.