US Empire Rolls the Dice on Venezuela Invasion
27-10-2018 – It’s no secret. The US ruling class, through its various fronts, has attempted to overthrow the Venezuelan government repeatedly since Hugo Chavez swept to electoral power in 1998. There was a coup attempt in 2002, an attempt to shut down the state owned PDVSA oil company in 2003, a separatist plot in the Zulia region in 2008, and violent opposition led rolling street demonstrations in 2014 and 2017. This year on July 8, US President Donald Trump laid the military option on the table. According to Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, Trump had a meeting with the then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then national security adviser HR McMaster, asking why the US could not “finish off” Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro through a military operation. Apparently Tillerson and McMaster managed to talk Trump out of that option.
US government funding of Venezuelan opposition
Washington, however, continues to carry out everything but an actual military intervention to overthrow the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. While there is a substantial right-wing domestic opposition to the Venezuelan government, it would barely be able to sustain its multiple coup attempts without the financial and political backing of notorious US deep state operatives such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED is more or less the public face of the CIA, which poses as an aid organisation, but in fact exists to subvert and/or overthrow any government or country around the world which is perceived to be too independent from Wall Street. In Venezuela, it partners with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), to funnel funding to the opposition which repeatedly refuses to accept the results of elections within Venezuela which they lose. In 2015 alone, the US pumped $4.2 million into Venezuela through the NED and USAID. The US government also funds the Broadcasting Board of Governors, to the tune of some $777.8 million. This money runs the “Voice of America” news service, which for decades has beamed anti-communist propaganda into Cuba, and continues to do so throughout Latin America and Asia.
Yet it is not just faux media organisations which Washington funds and often creates. It is also entire opposition political parties. The NED, via the International Republican Institute (IRI), funds the right-wing coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), in violation of Venezuelan law. The IRI has virtually set up the opposition parties Primero Justicia and Voluntad Popular. It is also no coincidence that these right-wing parties are heavily supported and backed by Venezuela’s wealthy and upper classes. For years, the majority of working class and poorer Venezuelans have stood by their “Bolivarian Revolution”.
Economic crisis undermines Chavismo
For around 15 years, the Chavista movement (or “Chavismo”, named after initiating President Hugo Chavez) was unassailable and virtually could not lose an election. The Bolivarian Revolution, with the overwhelming support of the majority of Venezuelans who have little personal wealth, did win substantial gains that leftists the world over could celebrate. For the first time, many people who could not afford to get an education were able to enroll. The minimum wage was increased, by government decree, repeatedly. Free health care centres were set up in poorer neighbourhoods which had rarely seen a doctor. Housing was built for those who could least afford to buy. Venezuela’s substantial oil wealth helped to fund these progressive steps which had never previously been contemplated.
Hugo Chavez and the Chavistas claimed they were for socialism, and that this was the aim of their revolution. Chavista supporters no doubt consciously accept socialism, yet in practice the Bolivarian Revolution was always based on reforming the capitalist system. Chavistas may deny it, but the Bolivarian Revolution did not take the crucial first steps towards socialism – the organisation of the working class in preparation for the seizure of state power. For this, what is indispensable is the forging of a Marxist vanguard party – composed of the most advanced pro-working class fighters. Even Chavista supporters internationally would admit that the party created by Hugo Chavez, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), was not conceived as a Marxist organisation.
The Bolivarian Revolution itself was never a socialist revolution. This is something that genuine Chavista supporters in Venezuela and internationally have to face up to. Socialism begins with the working class creating its own power, overthrowing the rule of capital, and taking control of the major means of production, at least initially. None of this has been attempted in Venezuela – in fact, quite the opposite. Despite some abandoned factories being taken over by the government here and there, the major means of production remain in private hands in Venezuela. The entire banking system remains in the hands of the wealthy elite. Far from organising working class occupations and take-overs of critical public infrastructure, the Chavistas have restricted their political work largely to elections. Because the state remains in the hands of capital, all of the gains made by the Bolivarian Revolution can therefore be taken away by a lost election.
This reality is getting closer day by day. In fact, a US backed military intervention, or even just a classical Wall Street backed “opposition” movement creating enough chaos to topple the government, is on the cards. An actual socialist revolution enables the most advanced workers to destroy the capitalist state, and erect a workers’ state in its place, as the first step towards the transition to socialism. The critical factor is that the working class uses state power to win the majority of the working people, and integrates them into ruling the new society themselves – without and against the corporations and their wealthy backers. The Bolivarian Revolution, on the other hand, attempts to rule in the name of the “people” or “Venezuelans”. In a class divided society, however, uniting antagonistic classes is an impossibility. And so, without working class control of the banks especially, there is no chance of being able to control such things as runaway inflation. This is one reason why the right-wing opposition is able to make a comeback.
Negotiations while migration crisis expands
The PSUV and Maduro constantly enter into negotiations with Venezuelan capitalists and the opposition generally, in a vain attempt to somehow make enough concessions that might lead them to refrain from sabotaging the economy and the state. A genuine socialist leadership of a workers’ state would enter into negotiations with former capitalists who have been deprived of political power – but Maduro and the Chavistas do not lead a workers’ state, and they have no intention of expropriating even some of them. Their negotiations are based on the fantasy that Venezuelan business owners would somehow value all Venezuelans above their material wealth. But the opposition’s open consorting with and through Washington and all of their agents is a clear indication that the Venezuelan “captains of industry” are only loyal to the profits they can squeeze out of Venezuelan workers and the poor.
The Venezuelan rich classes are also part of the reason why there is a migration crisis between Venezuela and Colombia, and elsewhere. The hoarding of goods by businesses that refuse to sell or supply them to poor Venezuelans causes some to pack up their belongings and seek asylum where food and goods, not to speak of work, are available. Hyper-inflation, now barely measurable, pushes prices of basic goods out of reach. Some reports state that as many as 10 to 12%, or around 3.8 million, Venezuelans now live abroad in more than 90 countries. Many of them flee Venezuela on foot, and large numbers of them cross the border into Colombia. Some move further through Ecuador and into Chile.
At the same time, the hypocrisy of the Colombian government blaming Venezuela entirely for this migration crisis stands out in stark relief. 50 years of war in Colombia, with right-wing paramilitaries regularly murdering left-wing guerrillas and perceived supporters has led to millions of Colombians fleeing for their lives. Venezuela has reportedly absorbed about 30% of this migration, with an estimated 5.6 million Colombians living in Venezuela, according to 2015 figures. What is more, these Colombians benefit from the same rights as all Venezuelans, and make use of the government provided health care, education and housing!
Chinese investment assists oil industry
The Venezuelan oil industry, the exports of which make up around 95% of government earnings, is now at its lowest level in 70 years. Crude oil production is currently down to around 1.4 million barres per day (mbpd), which is about half of the average 2.4 mbpd Venezuela usually produces. It had a record high of 3.4 mbpd in 1997, and a record low of 0.594 mbpd in January 2003, during the opposition “oil lockout”. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a major recipient of Venezuelan oil, but due to the problems PDVSA is experiencing, it is struggling to send its shipments. In July, the China Development Bank approved a $250 million grant to PDVSA to boost oil production. This is on top of a $5 billion loan already approved, which exists alongside previous $50 billion oil-for-loan arrangements with the Asian economic powerhouse. Workers should be clear – this assistance from the PRC stems from the predominantly socialist state led Chinese economy, of which its state owned oil production forms a part. Without the PRC’s largely collectivised and planned economy, based on public ownership of the major means of production, Red China would not be the world’s leading economic generator today.
While the economic assistance the PRC is able to grant Venezuela acts as a welcome countervailing factor to the threats of regime change emanating from the US Empire, it may not be enough to stave off the relentless sabotage the Venezuelan right wing opposition utilises, in concert with Washington. While the PRC’s assistance to Venezuela is welcome, the politics of the Communist Party of China (CPC) leadership is such that it does so in order to prop up the Venezuelan bourgeois system, rather than “socialism”. If the PRC was led by genuine Marxist internationalists, the assistance would be provided alongside political encouragement to raise the working class to power, in Venezuela and Latin America.
Defend Venezuela against regime change
The working class internationally is crying out for leadership, as capitalism drives human society ever closer to an abyss. There is scarcely any leadership coming from the left in the Western imperialist countries. The leaderships of the countries which broke from capitalism after World War II maintain their initial success in establishing the first steps towards socialism. In the PRC, the largely nationalised and planned economy guided by socialist state led development continues to outstrip the US, Europe, Japan and Australia. Yet the PRC leadership, along with their cohorts in Vietnam, Laos, the DPRK (“North Korea”) and Cuba concentrate their building of socialism within their own borders. Unfortunately, workers do not hear calls from them to join with them in a struggle to finally end global capitalist rule.
Neither, however, do such calls emanate from Chavismo. The movement led by Chavez and now Maduro has won substantial gains for the working class and the poor in Venezuela. Yet every reform made via electoral change, even one which has governmental power, can be taken away by capital as soon as the political conditions allow. The only way to not only protect the free health care, education, housing and other gains won by Chavismo, is to prepare the workers for the overthrow of corporate rule, via the destruction of the old regime based on vast inequality, and the construction of their own state. Unless the working class holds power, socialism only lives in words.
Workers in Venezuela have the task of winning over Chavistas to the perspective of a genuine struggle for the arming of their class and the rule of a workers government. Key to this is the forging of an internationalist Marxist cadre party. Workers internationally have the task of defending Venezuela against the dire threat of open imperialist intervention from the US Empire. There is a need for the military defence of the Venezuelan government against US imperialism, while preparing the political conditions for the supersession of Chavismo with a perspective of united action between the workers of Venezuela, Colombia, Latin America, the US and internationally.
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