The first CWI discussion school in Latin America for a number of years kicked off to a splendid start in Sao Paulo Brazil on Thursday, February 14. The opening rally brought together comrades from Brazil, Venezuela, and Chile.

Unfortunately the representatives from Bolivia have not reached us yet. The country has been struck by terrible floods and travel in much of Bolivia is barely possible. The comrades have been travelling since last Monday and according to our latest information have just succeeded in crossing the border into Brazil. From there it will take another two days by bus to reach Sao Paulo!

The enthusiasm this event is generating was made clear by the presence of many Brazilian comrades who have been travelling the length of this enormous, super-sized country. CWI members from the North-East took a two day coach journey to reach Sao Paulo. We also had comrades from the provinces of Rio de Janeiro, Parana, Cara, Sergipe and, of course, Sao Paulo. Members of Socialismo Revolucionario, the CWI in Brazil, from Minas Gerais will join the school on Saturday.

As Andre Ferrari, who chaired the meeting, said in his opening remarks, we are organising this event because the CWI understands the historical necessity to build a workers’ international capable of leading the fight to overthrow capitalism and build revolutionary parties of the working class capable of successfully fighting for Socialism. This is the first time the CWI is organising a Latin American school on this scale and it represents our conscious effort to bring together our cadres in Latin America, exchange ideas, debate the historical and actual developments in Latin America and use them in furthering the class struggle and building our forces.

The opening meeting was also marked by the attendance of a number of activists of P-Sol and representatives of social movements and trade unions who follow and are in sympathy with our political work in Brazil. Miguel Carvalho, the president of the P-Sol in Sao Paulo spoke briefly to give greetings to the meeting as did Guilheime Boutros, a representative of the MTST, the movement of the homeless workers. Marzeni Pepeira, a trade union leader and a member of the leadership of the CLS (Coletivo Liberdade Socialista – Socialist Liberty Colective) also gave greetings and spoke warmly of the respect he has for the work of Socialismo Revolucionario in P-Sol as well as the admiration he has for us as class fighters and activists.

Celso Calfullan spoke in the rally for the Chilean section of the CWI about the re-emergence of class struggle in Chile, beginning with the school student movement in 2006 and covering the more recent strikes of workers in the copper mines and the forestry workers. In the most recent period important mobilisations have taken place in defence of the struggle of the indigenous Mapuche people. Johan Rivas from the CWI in Venezuela spoke about the growing contradictions in the Venezuelan revolutionary process and how the Chavez government has turned to the right after its defeat in last December’s constitutional referendum. He spoke about how the Venezuelan state-run oil company has sacked Orlando Chirino, one of the best known trade union leaders of the UNT (National Workers’ Union). The meeting approved a motion calling on the government and the company – PdVSA – to reinstate Orlando Chirino and pledged to join the international campaign around this issue.

The CWI Latin American discussion school is not limited to our Latin American comrades. Visitors from Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and the US are attending the school. Alex Rouillard, from Gauche Revolutionnaire in France, and Greg Beiter from the US, spoke to the meeting.

Tony Saunois closed the opening event by pointing out that big changes in the international situation are ahead. The economic crisis developing on a world scale will open up a new and different panorama and perspective. Already three million people in the US are faced with losing their homes. Another million people could lose their houses as a result of the housing bubble bursting in the United Kingdom. At the same time the differences between rich and poor have never been bigger.

The CWI in Latin America and elsewhere is convinced it will play a role in bringing down this terrible system of exploitation that is responsible for the misery of billions of people in the world. The Latin American school will play an important part in that process – in forming cadres, exchanging experiences and reinforcing our work in the region.

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