“This conference is more than just an event. It is a staging post in the struggle. It enables us to take stock of what the challenges are and, vitally, what collectively we can do to build a movement that is strong enough to make a real material difference.”
By Roger McKenzie, Liberation General Secretary.
The annual Latin American conference takes place on Saturday 4th December at Friends House in Central London. The need for this important annual gathering of activists supporting the cause of liberation in Latin America is as important as it has ever been.
The end of the catastrophic Trump presidency has not brought about an end to the US continuing to assert its so called leadership of the world. A leadership that they believe gives them the right to continue to put in place sanctions and blockades against anyone they decide threatens their dominance. The long established attempts at illegal regime change also continues. Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have all experienced this as they resist the dominant ideology peddled by the US.
Even with the constant threat of military and economic intervention from the US and their allies, the people of the region, notably in Bolivia, Argentina and Peru continue to assert their rights by electing left wing presidents.
In other countries the resistance is building to the oppressive far right regimes in Colombia and Brazil. Regimes that threaten the very existence of the planet through their support for the continuing destruction of our environment alongside a virulent racism designed to divide workers against each other.
The conference is not some romantic journey into the past where we can all meet to remember the likes of Fidel Castro or Che Guevara. It is in fact an assertion of the importance of a practical internationalism rooted in socialism.
When people decide to fight back even though the odds are heavily stacked against them we should not be merely inspired to reach for dusty books on our shelves about past revolutions we should, instead, be inspired to providing practical solidarity as well as engaging in the hard graft of organising for socialist change on whatever land we happen to be standing.
Internationalism is not just sending a few people on very expensive visits or collecting some money to donate to identified worthy causes. These can be very important but on their own are not enough. Internationalism is, to state the obvious, entirely political and is about taking action now to materially change the situation facing millions of people.
Our internationalism should not be just about what the future could look like – although we must offer a vision of a changed society. We have to remember and act on the fact that many people in Latin America, Africa and Asia are struggling to put bread on the table and to keep a roof over their heads today – right now! At the same time as so many in the world are struggling for the basics the rich are getting richer and spend ever more of their money on the trappings of luxury or even, for the uber-rich, planning trips into Space.
International solidarity is essentially about organising for fundamental and irreversible change in society in favour of the working class where people are valued more than profits.
Capital organises more than ever on transnational lines. As socialist, if we really want to challenge this world order then we must also organise effectively across borders.
We must understand that as well as governments, particularly those of the richest nations, transnational corporations hold a massive control both through their incredible wealth and the power that goes with it but also because of the politicians that they have bought and paid for.
This makes the role of the trade union movement in Latin America and elsewhere across the globe even more important than it has ever been. But the role of trade unions cannot be neutral. It must be guided by a politics rooted in socialist change and not some sort of patronising philanthropy.
This conference is more than just an event. It is a staging post in the struggle. It enables us to take stock of what the challenges are and, vitally, what collectively we can do to build a movement that is strong enough to make a real material difference to the working class across Latin America but also in other parts of the world. It is for us to use an opportunity such as this to make the links clear.
Socialists should not just support this conference and affiliate to the liberation campaigns that work so hard all year round but we all need to re-dedicate ourselves to socialist internationalism that is backed up by more than words with genuine solidarity and a plan for organising for fundamental and irreversible change.
- The Latin America Conference features a range of workshops and speakers from across the region. It takes place at Friends House, London on Saturday December 4th. Book your ticket and find out more here.
- Roger Mckenzie is general secretary of Liberation and a long-time trade union and anti-racism organiser. You can follow him on twitter here.