Manolo de los Santos is the Executive Director
of the People's Forum which is a revolutionary
centre for educating, organizing and mobilizing
for justice located in in New York City.
Manolo is also an organizer with the Popular
Education Project and has worked for many
years coordinating solidarity initiatives,
community organizing efforts and popular
education projects in Latin America and the
This interview was conducted by Fire This
Time organizers Azza and Mike while
participating at the North American Regional
Meeting of the International Peoples Assembly
hosted by the People's Forum in New York City,
April 11 - April 12, 2019.
FTT: Last month you participated in the International Peoples Assembly Conference in Venezuela. How did you see the situation in Venezuela and what is your take on the people and government of Venezuela responding to the U.S. imposed crisis, such as sanctions and all kinds of intervention and sabotage against their country?
Manolo: Coming to Venezuela at that particular moment was very eye opening for me but also for many delegates coming from across the United States and definitely those coming from different continents on the planet because we came to Venezuela right at what we would say was probably one of the most intense moments in the full on onslaught by U.S. imperialism and its allies in Western Europe and Canada against the Bolivarian Revolution.
We came right at the end of February when you know the U.S. imperialists are using this deception of a self-proclaimed president that didn't have any legitimacy inside the country. Basically, they are using the ruse of humanitarian aid to force a possible invasion of the country putting him in a situation where he would have been responsible for the deaths of thousands and possibly millions of Venezuelans at the hands of U.S. imperialism. We would have seen the creation of a new Syria sadly in the continent of Latin America and with consequences far worse and even unknown to us, because of the gravity of the forces of imperialism but also the technological use of weaponry that would definitely wreak havoc in a country like Venezuela.
Being in Venezuela, particularly at this exact moment in which you had such a high confrontation, was also a lesson to popular movements and organizations across the globe. Seeing how the concepts of the unity of the class, the unity of the Venezuelan people and the weapon of actually organizing themselves to fight back actually turned what could have been a defeat for our movements into an actual victory. It reminded us in many ways symbolically of Fidel's leadership in the Bay of Pigs, a situation in which a people who are outnumbered and outranked by the highest weapons of imperialist technology were actually capable of defeating the empire. And that's what we perceived in Venezuela. And that is a great example and moral lesson for movements all across the planet. That while the biggest battles against imperialism are being played in Venezuela right now, they're not necessarily a scenario in which we have to assume defeat. We can actually learn about how to stand victoriously against these imperialist forces.
FTT: This regional gathering of the International Peoples Assembly, taking place in New York, I believe is an important step forward after the International Assembly last month in Caracas, Venezuela, which Mike and I also participated in, we found it to be a really great initiative toward bringing everyone in the struggle together. Can you elaborate more how you see the overall goal of the International Peoples Assembly and how you envision its future?
Manolo: Well the first thing is that we always want to clarify is that the International Assembly of Peoples organizations and movements is not a conference gathering space but rather a process by which revolutionaries from across the planet seek to gather, get to know each other and build strategic actions that advance the struggles of the working class internationally. We emphasized the process part of it because we want to differentiate the Assembly from previous spaces that have existed such as the World Social Forum that were so concentrated on gathering the NGOs or representatives of an NGO'ized working class organization to essentially debate about what it would look like to work together.
We're coming into the assembly process rather to engage on how to move the revolutionary agenda forward, understanding that we may not necessarily have an ideological unity, but we have a platform that is anti-capitalist, that is anti-imperialist and anti-patriarchal. A common understanding of the necessity that we cannot advance or we cannot defeat global capital if we do not unite as a working class internationally. So in the space that we gather in we engage, again not in ideological debates but in discussions and dialogues about how to build common work together, common work around what we understand to be important areas such as the battle of ideas and how this has dimensions in the communications work that we lead. How this relates to the political education processes which we organize in our respective countries. And according to the conditions that we all face in each of our own particular terrains. And understanding that in this common space of practical and concrete struggles is where we really get to know each other and build the unity of the international working class.
FTT: Concluding what Azza asked you earlier, what is your message to activists in Canada or better to say overall North America?
Manolo: Well the important message that activists in Canada and particularly in North America need to understand is that we cannot assume in North America a passive role to the revolutionary actions and changes that are taking place on the planet. We are not asking for a relationship of global north to global south solidarity, we are actually looking for who are the revolutionaries across our planet, including in Canada, that are willing to engage in the daily and concrete struggles to defeat capital, to how we build this unity of our class internationally. And it's important that we engage with organizations in Canada and the US that are willing, out of their experiences rooted in the struggles of the class, to actively think in this new era as internationalists and to think about how we engage in different types of relationships with each other. That are about again building the unity of our class and not necessarily about a unidirectional offering of aid or solidarity.
FTT: Thank you Manolo.
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