Since 1492 the people of Latin America have suffered massive oppression and poverty at the hands of imperialism and capitalism. The last few years, however, have opened up a new period of explosive resistance against the rule of big business.

Workers, youth and peasants throughout the region have been protesting on the streets and at the ballot boxes. The working class is stepping into struggle, and increasingly becoming more anti-capitalist. Even the dreaded “s word,” socialism, is now being discussed and debated in the streets, from Caracas to Mexico City.

In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez was recently swept into a third term with over 60% of the vote. Chavez has consistently been a thorn in the side of U.S. imperialism and Venezuelan capitalism since he was first elected in 1998. They have tried all sorts of dirty tricks to remove him: a recall referendum, massive funding of opposition candidates, and even a military coup. In each attempt the mass of Venezuela’s poor have rose to the occasion to defend Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution.

This latest election represents a further defeat for Washington and its right wing allies. Chavez’s victory will boost the confidence of the working class, and the revolution’s aim of building “socialism in the 21st century.” Already it seems Chavez is moving further to the left, and in early January he announced plans to nationalize Venezuela’s energy and telecommunications industries.

In Brazil, anger at Lula’s abandonment of his socialist principles has led to the development of a new party, the Socialism and Freedom Party (P-SOL). In the presidential elections P-SOL got over 6 million votes, nearly 7%. This starting point will help the development of this new socialist political movement.

Just south of the Rio Grande, in Mexico, the left wing mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) was just barely defeated in the presidential elections. This defeat was widely considered as fraudulent, and mass protests erupted against the massive fraud initiated by the Mexican capitalist class and its candidate Felipe Calderon.

Directly after the electoral theft, AMLO’s supporters occupied Mexico City’s Zocalo Square for 48 days in protest. On November 20, 300,000 showed up in force to protest Calderon’s farcical inauguration. In the halls of the Mexican Congress, where the inauguration was to take place, fistfights broke out between opposition politicians supporting AMLO and those supporting Calderon.

This comes on top of the massive battles that took place in the Oaxaca region. These protests started with a teachers’ strike and culminated in a march of over one million in November. Before it was brutally crushed, the Oaxaca rebellion led to the formation of a popular assembly of workers and ordinary people that took effective control of the region.

The events in Mexico show the willingness of the Latin American working class to go beyond electoral struggles. Throughout the region there have been massive strikes and protests.

In Chile mass protests erupted in opposition to a scheme to privatize education. This attack on education came from a government headed by Michelle Bachelet, a supposed socialist. Mere months after her election over one million students, teachers, medical workers and others came out on strike to protest.

Political tensions have also erupted in Bolivia in recent months. The Bolivian working class has waged a heroic struggle over the last few years mainly around the demands to nationalize the country’s vast oil and natural gas resources. This culminated in the 2005 election of left wing president Evo Morales.

Morales has stoked the anger of Bolivia’s rich landlords and their right wing parties. The city of Cochabamba erupted in protest this November as workers and peasants fought to disrupt a meeting of right wing governors.

Thousands of peasants and indigenous people have been marching hundreds of miles from Santa Cruz to the capital of La Paz picking up people along the way. They are threatening to shut down the Senate if it does not approve modifications to the agrarian reform law that would allow the government to confiscate and redistribute land to indigenous groups.

This mood of struggle and growing class-consciousness has even penetrated the heart of capitalism and imperialism. The immigrant rights movement last year erupted into the biggest mass movement in recent U.S. history. Millions of Latin American immigrant workers chose to stand up to the right wing threats of the Republicans and for the right to live and work with dignity.

This movement culminated in the “day without an immigrant” last spring on May 1. This day of action pointed in the direction of a general strike, as millions of workers walked out of their jobs and shut down numerous businesses and industries in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago and elsewhere. This movement forced the far right to step back and effectively blocked the vicious Sensenbrenner bill.

These historic struggles are a glimpse into the future, when the working class worldwide will move into struggle for a better world. They have put the idea of socialism back on the political map. They should serve as an inspiration to workers and youth around the globe. These movements show that it is possible to fight back against capitalism and imperialism.

But, socialist policies can not be fulfilled in the name of the working class by well meaning leaders. They are the task of the working class and require its full involvement and leadership. That’s why we support the Committee for a Workers’ International’s call for the creation of new mass workers’ parties. This is a necessary step to end the rule of capitalism and achieve the socialist transformation of society, which alone can transform the lives of workers and the poor across the region.