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The inspiring figure who renewed and revived socialism

Hugo Chavez must be remembered for his leading role in transforming the lives of millions of people.

Chavez’s stand for democracy and equality, his commitment to social justice and his opposition to western militarism over the past ten years or so has been part of my political awakening and inspired a new generation on the left who want to struggle for a better future.

His reach was truly global. Only last August, when I visited Hiroshima, I spoke to activists from Japan and from India who were learning about his work and saw him as a new leader of the left.

Through his challenge to neo-liberalism and the agenda of global capital, Chavez revived and renewed the ideas of socialism for many people, young and old alike, who had not known it or had seen it reversed for too many years. We must do what we can to defend and continue that.

Being one of a few hundred who saw Chavez speak in the Camden Centre in the Summer of 2006 was an electric, emotional and inspiring experience.

He has been attacked as a dictator, a demagogue, an autocrat by those who have disagreed with him issues of policy, but he was none of these. He secured 56, 60, 62 and 55% in his four successful elections as President. 6 million took part in 1998, 14 million took part in 2012. Successfully elected time after time in internationally acclaimed democratic polls not only demonstrated his mass support but ensured that he had to constantly renew that support.

The 2002 coup is the symbol that the leading Venezuelan political forces who opposed Chavez throughout his time as President were not concerned with democracy. He was able to change peoples lives because he was committed to democracy.

The documentary of the coup and its defeat, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, is compelling viewing.

Having established himself in power, his transformation of the Venezuelan state and the lives of its citizens will be his legacy. The missiones, the community councils, the nationalisation of key resources, and he development of new state institutions that empowered poorer people to take control of their lives, through free health, housing and education in particular, are evidence that politicians can drive a progressive agenda with the necessary will.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, and other documentaries like South of the Border, make clear the historic threat to Latin American sovereignty posed by the US. The defeat of the coup has not prevented further attempts by the US to intervene into Latin American politics, but it, and the election of Chavez’s allies across the continent in the years since has ensured a developing process of Latin American co-operation, integration and organisation that has helped cement their national and regional sovereignty.

We should continue to support that unfolding process.

You can do so by joining the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. VSC are holding a candle-lit vigil by the Bolivar Statue in Belgrave Square, 6pm, Thursday 7th March (nearest tube Hyde Park Corner).

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