When London Welcomed Chavez

In 2006, President Hugo Chavez visited London as a guest of Mayor Ken Livingstone. During his visit President Chavez addressed the TUC, a packed meeting of MPs in Parliament and a huge public rally. As we mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Hugo Chavez on March 5, below we print some key quotes from his rally speech outlining Chavez’s views on how to create a better world.

On the need to change the world:

What we are going to do is change the direction the world is going in. We will take the rest of our lives and dedicate it to that. At the moment there is a destructive model which rules the world: destructive capitalism. This is a real threat, even to the survival of the human race. Yet, when you look at the thousands and thousands of men and women who are looking at alternatives …you are more convinced that we can change the direction the world is going in.

On the beginnings of the Venezuelan revolution:

There was a revolution in Venezuela… people exploded against the neo-liberal policies of the IMF and the World Bank. That was February 1989. The Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union had disintegrated, but in Latin America, and particularly in Caracas, a revolutionary state started. We were looking for other ways forward…

On why Latin America rose against neo-liberalism

It is not just Venezuela, or something you can isolate in one given country. Venezuela, for various reasons… is the first place the volcano exploded. It has fallen to us to be a kind of vanguard… now we are now becoming a whole mass. Look at what is happening in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the year 2000 there was a whole chorus singing in unison the neo-liberal song. There was not one head of state who said something different, or anything out of line with the Washington Consensus, the IMF, the World Bank. … Latin America was given an overdose of this doctrine. These were shock policies; the idea of a free market that would sort out everything. This invisible hand in fact destroys everything. This thesis… is an absolute absurdity, a lie and it does not work.

On Socialism of the 21st Century:

We call it socialism in the 21st century in Venezuela… Socialism, first and foremost, has to be about humanism. You have to love people and love humanity… respect others, and recognise we are all equal and no one is better than anyone else — be they man, woman, a young child, be they white, black, Muslim, Christian, atheist… A lot of people don’t believe that and this is a kind of poison we absorb….

On Women’s equality:

In this world, there are half and half: men and women. I say, we are equal: men and women. One of the intrinsic features of capitalism is that it excludes or exploits women. Capitalism is very macho. Socialism can’t be… This is a political issue: the involvement of women in political struggles, in social struggles to save humanity.

On participative democracy:

For us Venezuelans, political socialism is …what we call revolutionary democracy. …If democracy is not representative, nothing can be solved. We have to talk about a democracy in which we are all participants. Power to the people and for the people.

On changing the economy

Economic socialism is the other front in this battle, to transform the means of production, the economic model. An economy based on different relations of production, work that frees human beings, that includes everybody, doesn’t exclude anyone. An economy that serves everybody through an equal distribution of national income – not just concentrated in a few hands.

Free healthcare and education:

Today, for the first time in our history, we have a national public health system . This is with great support from Cuba, [through] about 20,000 Cuban doctors…treating millions of people who didn’t have access to health care, free of charge, before. … We have saved thousands of lives…In its first year, 200 million consultations have taken place and there are 25 million people in Venezuela. This gives you some idea of how much the people have used this system…Last year UNESCO officially said that we are free of illiteracy..Venezuela is a huge school, about 70 per cent of the population are studying!

An alternative to neo-liberalism:

We’re building decent housing for people..so that people who never had anywhere decent to live in the past can have a house. …. We have distribution system that guarantees food for people and 15 million people are using these popular markets, where food is 40 per cent below what it would be in the free market….so that people can get enough for their basic diet… good healthy food. In both the social and economic, the revolution is making headway. We are showing that things can be done. Things can change. This scares those who have tried to convince everyone that there was only one way to do things – neo-liberalism.