From its inception in 1991, the Sao Paolo Forum has been an important vehicle for the exchange of views and experiences for the Latin American and Caribbean left. The 10th Sao Paolo Forum was held Dec. 3-7 in Havana, Cuba.
Over 500 working-class and peasant leaders, liberation fighters, intellectuals, political leaders and activists met and discussed the new problems facing the people of Latin America and the Caribbean. Besides the 74 member-parties present, there were invited guests from all over the world. The participants represented 84 countries.
Communist Party USA (CPUSA) Executive Vice Chair Jarvis Tyner and National Committee members Rita Perna and Armando Ramirez attended as guests representing the CPUSA.
Brazilian Workers Party (PT) presidential candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva opened the conference. Daniel Ortega, the former president of Nicaragua, and Shafic Handel, leader of the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front of El Salvador, both gave extensive remarks. Cuban President Fidel Castro gave the concluding address.
The conference focused on the growing poverty and human suffering in the region and showed that these conditions are a result of policies imposed largely by U.S. corporations and government.
Participants also discussed the impact of the tragic terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the subsequent use of that tragedy by the Bush administration to launch a new worldwide military, economic and political offensive. At the time of the attacks, these countries and movements expressed their condolences and solidarity with the American people. The terrorist attacks were universally condemned.
While speakers opposed what happened on Sept. 11 they also pointed out the terrorism at the hands of U.S.-backed corrupt governments and death squads responsible for the loss of thousands of lives. They especially emphasized the impact of Sept. 11 and the war in Afghanistan on the ongoing struggles of workers and peoples movements in the Southern region of the American hemisphere.
The was a strong opposition to the “Bush Doctrine” because it could engulf the entire region in war.
Also on the forum’s agenda were the critical problems posed by free trade agreements, like NAFTA and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, and the danger of full-scale war as a result of Plan Colombia. There were also first-hand reports of recent elections in Nicaragua, Venezuela and El Salvador.
The delegation from Puerto Rico spoke of their militant struggle to end U.S. Navy bombing of Vieques.
The first Sao Paolo Forum was called to address the world situation after the collapse of the USSR and the other socialist countries. It also focused on the development of the new worldwide movement against globalization and the problems of neoliberalism. It took place in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and was hosted by the PT.
The following are the remarks to the conference given by Tyner on behalf of the CPUSA.
It is a great honor to be with you at this 10th Sao Paulo Forum. I want to use my time to discuss the impact of the tragic attack on Sept. 11, 2001. On that day thousands of innocent people were incinerated or crushed to death by the actions of a small group of terrorists.
Sam Webb, CPUSA national chairman, said the impact of 9/11 sent “shock waves of profound sorrow, fear, anger and concern about the future across our country and the world.” Fidel Castro called it an “insane attack against the American people” and that is what it was. In fact, the events of Sept. 11 resulted in the death of mainly working-class people, including 640 trade unionists. Among the dead were nationals from 80 different countries.
The events of 9/11 have strengthened U.S. imperialism’s global drive. It has given them a new rationale in this post-Cold War period to launch a new offensive, new wars, which will mean the loss of not thousands, but tens of thousands or worse. The Bush Doctrine is not really about defending the world against terrorism. It is basically a doctrine of world conquest.
It is a doctrine that will lead to disastrous consequences for much of the world’s people. Yet no one is allowed to disagree with it. According to Bush, you are either with him or the terrorists. In other words, you cannot be against terrorism if you also oppose his war.
Can you imagine, we have a U.S. president who was not elected and who wants to take us into an era of endless wars, costing countless lives, with no defined enemy, no borders and no end in sight. And no one can question his policy? That is not acceptable.
However, tens of thousands of people in the United States are disagreeing. Many thousands continue to demonstrate all across our country. The slogan is “Our grief is not a cry for war.”
Although in a state of mourning, many Americans, including relatives of the victims of 9/11, are calling for peace and for ending the cycle of violence. A new national movement for peace and justice is being born in the United States. Just a few weeks ago more than 10,000 demonstrated at Fort Benning, Ga., demanding the government close down the “School of the Assassins” there.
At its recent meeting, the U.S. National Council of Churches called for stopping the bombing in Afghanistan. The council represents 37 religious denominations and 51 million churchgoers. They are calling on the Bush administration to find peaceful means to solve the problem of terrorism.
Like Fidel Castro and many people around the world, we believe that terrorism can be stopped without war. While the bombs are dropping and despite being flooded with pro-war propaganda every day, our people are also deeply worried about the economic crisis in our country:
• Growing unemployment and lack of healthcare.
• The underfunding and privatization of our schools.
• Growing poverty, hunger and homelessness without a safety net.
• Growing racism and repression, especially against immigrants.
There is a growing demand that the government must help the people today. The guns-or-butter issues are growing. As the crisis in the economy deepens so will the crisis of ultra-right, neoliberal policies.
The hounding and persecution of thousands of mainly Middle Eastern immigrants is a threat to our democratic rights. The suspension of due process, instituting new measures for domestic spying, the general assault on civil liberties are all done in the name of fighting terrorism.
The establishment of military tribunals with the power to secretly arrest, convict and execute “terrorists” without due process is a new and frightening development. The government can impose firing-squad-like justice against anyone they choose.
Many are talking about the growing fascist danger inherent in the basic proposals of the Bush administration. Bush’s doctrine is designed to protect and expand U.S. capitalist globalization. It is to enforce the “one superpower” concept through the barrel of a gun.
Dropping 15-ton bombs on starving people is not the answer. More terrorism is not the answer. War and the suppression of democratic rights are not the answer.
What is the answer?
Our party agrees with President Castro’s call for a worldwide conference of all countries to find the answers to ending terrorism. The answer is to build a real coalition of nations to find democratic and effective solutions to terrorism. Sept. 11 is a reason for more peace and justice, not more war and terror.
We are working for:
• An immediate end to the bombing of Afghanistan – start negotiating now.
• U.S. Navy out of Vieques.
• U.S.-Cuban friendship, which means ending the blockade, establishing normal relations and releasing the five Cuban patriots, convicted of terrorism by the United States from federal prison in Florida (see story 12/29/01).
• A just peace in the Middle East, which includes guaranteeing the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people, including statehood.
• To stop U.S. attempts to subvert the democratic process of other nations like Venezuela and Nicaragua.
• Repeal of NAFTA and stop FTAA.
• The elimination of the death penalty and all forms of racial, national, gender and class oppression.
• The elimination of terrorism in all its forms, including state terrorism.
U.S. imperialism has inflicted great pain and suffering on people of this hemisphere and around the world. It is not innocent. By their own admission, some of the very people linked to Sept. 11 have had long-term relationships with U.S. military intelligence circles. They have had long-term business relations as well, especially through the oil industry.
We know terror. We know our capitalist ruling class’s basic wealth was accumulated through slavery, centuries of Jim Crow, lynching and murder.
We know terror. We know they built their wealth on brutal exploitation and violence against the labor movement of the United States.
We know terror. We will never forget the murder of the four little girls killed in the KKK bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963. We will never forget the bombing in Oklahoma City that killed 168 innocent people. We will never forget the 41 shots fired from the guns of the New York Police Department that killed African immigrant Amadou Diallo.
We must not forget history. The government of Apartheid South Africa called Nelson Mandela and his comrades “terrorists.” During slavery, the racist ruling class considered rebellious slaves and all abolitionists criminals. Based on George W. Bush’s definition, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would have been considered criminal terrorists.
Today, U.S. polls show that Bush has the support of the majority of the U.S. people. But that is because at this point of great anger, pain and fear, the U.S. people do not see any way to stop terrorism other than military action.
As the casualties on all sides mount and the social and economic crisis at home deepens, the polls will change. Bush’s father was also high in the polls during the Gulf War. He still lost in the next election. Lyndon Johnson was also very high in the polls at the start of the Vietnam War. He ultimately decided not to run for a second term.
Today we must help unite and organize the world’s peace majority. To win this historic struggle in our country, we must build broad left-center unity around the issue of peace and justice.
There is another side to the mass reaction of the U.S. people to the tragic events of Sept. 11. This is the first time that most Americans experienced the horrors of war on U.S. soil.
To a lot of people, war was an image on the nightly news. Now the absolute horror of war has struck home and it is painful and frightening and it is changing people’s thinking. Many are realizing that war is hell and it cannot be the way to solve problems and conflicts in the world today.
The average American has a deep belief in fairness and democracy. If the peace movement can bring this to the fore, the Bush Doctrine will be defeated. Let us go forth from here with greater unity and renewed confidence that we can win. Venceremos!