Thursday, February 01, 2007

Jeremy Corbyn speech to Bolivar Hall

The following is a transcription of Jeremy Corbyn MP's speech at Bolivar Hall on the 28/01/07 for the one year anniversary celebrations of Evo Morales election victory in Bolivia.

Thank you very much... I think it's wonderful that we have an event here, in the Bolivar Hall, to celebrate the real achievement and real improvements in the lives of ordinary Bolivians.

I first visited Bolivia over thirty years ago and it's indelibly stuck in my memory. The beauty, the magnificence, the poverty, the discrimination, the achievements, the spirit - all those things stick in my mind and I think to appreciate the historical importance of what has been achieved in Bolivia we have to understand something of the history.

The sheer brutality of the Conquistadors and their aim of the theft of the cultural achievements of the whole region. And the way the whole Spanish Empire was dedicated not towards development but towards extraction of wealth from all its colonies to prop up a failing economy.

The inspiration for the independence from the Spanish Empire was started in this very street but reading and rereading the works of Bolivar one sees achievement and one sees flaws. Obviously the achievement of independence from imperial Spain, but also the many inspirations that he had concerning the liberation of all the people and the recognition of all the different languages that make up Latin America was something that didn't really happen after his death.

So a succession of international mining companies, local oligarchs and basic corruption ensured that the majority of the Bolivian people remained desperately poor ever since that time. But contrary to all received economic wisdom in the world Bolivia is going in the right direction now.

It goes like this, the silver was stolen by the Spanish, the tin by the British and the Americans came for the oil. This time it hasn't happened because of this huge political change that has happened in Latin America, not just in the last few years but, I'd argue, in the last fifty years.

There have been ups and downs, the Cuban revolution is obviously an incredible achievement and its survival is something we should all celebrate, but there have also been disasters. Like the end of the Guatemalan revolution in the 1950's, the death of Allende in Chile and many other examples of the way the rich and powerful of the world have sought to destroy that desire for freedom by ordinary people.

But we are now in a time of a very unusual set of circumstances. The world's most powerful nation, the United States, is running out of natural resources, heavily in debt and embroiled in an unwinnable, diisgusting, vile war in the Middle East. And all those efforts to impose neo-liberal economics on Bolivia, on Brazil, on Mexico and other countries in the region have come full circle. The election wasn't the start of the whole achievement it was the defeat of the privatisation of water that provided such a catalyst for change.

And I notice the arrogance with which many politicians have greeted the election of Evo Morales and the changes in Bolivia. Such as people telling me they weren't sure the Bolivian government was "up to the job" [laughter] I wish the governments of the rest of the world were as up to the job to the degree the Bolivian people are up to the job. [cheers]

It is because for too long the radical movements of the world have been over dominated by as sense of Eurocentricism and Euro-thought. And the media we all read is also dominated by a kind of Atlantacist thinking in its reporting.

I'll give you one very brief example, this week there were two summit meetings held. One attracted about 500 people, the other attracted about 200,000. The BBC has about twenty reports on the 500 member assembly and one report on the other. The World Social Forum was held in Kenya, the first time it's been in Africa, it attracted people obviously from Africa but also from all over the world. Almost totally ignored by CNN, BBC and all those kinds of stations. In fact the only thing they managed to report was some issue about the vendor of sandwiches outside the centre.

Yet a gathering of business leaders in Davos under massive security attracted massive publicity day in day out as though it were some kind of crucial world summit. But if thought makes us free, technology helps us to know. We can know what's going on, we can tell each other what's going on. So I'm here today to express my support, my solidarity with the people of Bolivia and I'll do my best to continue raising solidarity messages in Parliament and to oppose British companies seeking to exploit the people of Bolivia [applause] and as one who has had the good fortune to travel to a number of countries in Latin America over the past few years that sense of change in the air from Cuba, from Venezuela, from Bolivia, from Peru - all over - is palpable...

Thank you very much, good wishes to the [Bolivia Solidarity] Campaign and I'm delighted to be here to support and to show solidarity with the people of Bolivia on their historic quest for peace, justice, liberty. Thany you.

1 comment:

The Sentinel said...

Although the interference of 'western' nations has obviously contributed enormously to the disparity of wealth and the appalling living conditions of much of Latin America it must also be noted that the vast bulk of Latin America is now populated by peoples of Latin descent, wholly or in part.

I believe that the swings in political polarity have also contributed enormously to the misfortunate of the region. Radical movements, by their very nature always assume totalitarian features and when they fail to deliver disillusionment naturally creeps in, setting the stage for another, even more radical movement to attempt to supplant the last one.

The idea of the displacement of the privileged elite is fine in theory but in practice this privileged elite is merely replaced with a new governing elite who then have little other incentive then to retain that newly found position at all costs.

I cannot see Cuba as any remarkable achievement. It is a government that was probably no worse and probably no better then the prevalent cycle would have produced in any case.

If the real problems of poverty and justice are to be tackled, what is really needed first of all is a carefully considered and written constitution that reflects the equality of all of citizens and enshrines in unequivocal law; and then a government shorn of radical ideology, almost apolitical, to pursue the implementation and maintenance of the principles of the new constitution.

Corruption, which is always attendant with extremity and arbitrary power needs to be stopped before any progress will ever be made.