Socialism defining new culture of Latin America

According to Sarah Hines, a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), socialism is spreading through Latin America and may one day influence the United States.

Hines, a history teacher at Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications in Bronx, N.Y., said that “exploitation (from capitalism) is driving people to rebel in Latin America.” Hines had spent time in Latin America, working as a journalist and political activist.

This trend arose in response to neo-liberalism and capitalism, Hines said. She used Venezuela and Bolivia as examples.

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has called for socialist reforms. Hines said Chavez, who was called “Hitler” by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, has “absolutely no fear of offending (President George W.) Bush.”

Chavez has set up several reforms in Venezuela. According to Hines, he has spent oil profits on funding education, resisted privatizing the state-owned oil company and set up a trade block that could challenge the U.S.

Hines said she believes many of these reforms came about because the people of Venezuela are overwhelmingly supportive of Chavez.

She added that the people of Bolivia similarly helped create a strong socialist movement in their country.

“(Bolivian President Evo Morales) came out of six years of struggle against privatization and poverty,” Hines said.

Morales, like Chavez, is changing the political climate of Latin America through his leftist reforms. He has repealed a decree that privatized many industries, created teaching jobs and lowered government salaries, including his own.

Working class countries like Venezuela and Bolivia are the driving force of change in Latin America, Hines said.

“Can you imagine if Bill Gates had to listen to what his workers in Indonesia have to say?” Hines said.

Hines said that “the task (at home) is no less urgent,” and she encouraged students to participate in socialism in the U.S. “(The U.S.) has a very rich history of working class struggle and rebellion,” Hines said.

Hines noted that, as a history teacher, she sees that a lot is left out of the typical high school history curriculum and “deliberately hidden.”

During the open discussion that followed the lecture, some students disagreed with these ideas.

Aaron Minnick, a freshman international business major who lived in Bolivia for 12 years, criticized Morales for supporting the ending of programs that give Bolivian farmers alternatives to growing cocoa, a plant turned into cocaine and shipped to the U.S.

The cocoa plant, according to Minnick, takes minerals out of the soil of the rain forest, “destroying the land forever.”

Minnick also said that the set-up of the event didn’t allow for a “back-and-forth” conversation.

“I thought it was . biased but I didn’t expect anything else,” John Richard, freshman political science and philosophy major, said.

Richard said he thought that the socialists in the audience who rebutted his remarks were “taking my words and interpreting them the way that they feel is the best way to attack them.”

Matt Richman, senior history and women’s and gender studies major and ISO member, called Richard and Minnick’s remarks “abstract objections.”

Richman, who helped organize the event, felt the lecture “went well.” He said that ISO and co-sponsor Uni?n Latina chose Hines to speak because she “saw what had happened in Venezuela firsthand.”

“(Hines) has a good perspective on what’s going on (in Latin America),” Jessica Penaranda, senior criminology and justice studies and women’s and gender studies major, said.

According to Penaranda, there were a lot of students who didn’t know about socialism or Latin America in the audience, as well as members of the ISO.

“I was surprised there were so many people,” Hines said. There were about 35 people at the event.

The next step, according to Hines, “is standing up for immigrant rights.”

To do this, a mass demonstration is scheduled for May 1 nationwide, when immigrants and their supporters are encouraged to skip work and school.