US/EU/AUST: Hands Off Venezuela!
For Workers’ Power in Latin America
23-02-2019 – Self-declared “President” of Venezuela, the right-wing Juan Guaido, has called on the actual President Nicolas Maduro to step down – or else. Or else what? The Venezuelan military remains on the side of the Venezuelan government, and the governments of Russia and China – the only powers with the material ability to counter US imperialism – have recognised Maduro as President, and have denounced what amounts to a brazen attempt at violent regime change. Juan Guaido at this stage appears to have little chance of his coup – more or less obviously in collaboration with Washington – doing anything but floundering.
Unfortunately, there are ways in which this barely concealed US led (yet another) Latin American coup can “succeed”. Juan Guaido has set a deadline of February 23 for the Maduro government to allow “humanitarian” aid into the country. The arrival and stockpiling of aid packages on the Colombian border with Venezuela is a re-hash of a trick used many times by the US ruling class when attempting regime change in Latin America. Deliver the aid, entice people to collect it, and use the cover of “aid” for a stock standard invasion. This time, Juan Guaido is calling for one million of his right-wing supporters to act as chaperones for the aid, who will likely act as human shields guarding the entry of US or Colombian troops. Even those with little political awareness can see the trap being laid.
Tripwire for World War III
Working people the world over must be aware that we can ill afford to allow the Venezuelan government to be overthrown by US imperialism, with its backing from the European Union (EU) and lackey medium sized imperialists such as Australia. Whatever its shortcomings, the “Bolivarian Revolution” in Venezuela over 20 years has built a form of resistance to the onslaught of Western led “globalisation”. Even though the forces of Western capital give scant regard to the sovereignty of a nation which retains a shred of independence, it is vital that this principle be defended by workers. What is more, if the US Empire is not staved off at this point, it could set off a wider war across the Americas, setting the scene for what many believed was impossible 20 years ago – World War III.
Workers must not be cowed, however. Out of crisis emerges great opportunity. And whatever military power the Venezuelan right-wing opposition can count on, it cannot be won with arms alone. A political struggle must ensue, and it is one in which Venezuelan and international workers must prevail.
US President Donald Trump in his recent State of the Union address won stormy applause from Republicans and Democrats when he claimed that “America will never be a socialist country”. With the US working class in desperation, enduring economic hardships seemingly without end, Mr Trump and the housebroken Democrats should not be so confident. All the prerequisites for a socialist revolution in the US are there – but what is missing is genuine leadership of US workers. Arguably the foremost working class leader in world history – V.I. Lenin – understood more than most that the working class will not struggle to overthrow capitalism except under the leadership of revolutionary Marxists. This applies not only to the US, but also in the EU and Australia – and it is also the case in Venezuela.
Chavismo has run its course
No matter how many times the US ruling class, and the right-wing Venezuelan opposition it collaborates with, decry “socialism” in Venezuela; the reality is that the first steps towards it have not been taken. “Chavismo” – the movement named after Hugo Chavez when elected in 1998 – was always a political project which explicitly rejected the key lessons of 20th century socialism. That is, it rejected the need for a Marxist vanguard party to lead the workers in a struggle for state power. From the distortions of Marxism which conservative and bureaucratic leadership of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe brought about, the Chavistas drew the wrong conclusion that, therefore, the need for “the dictatorship of the proletariat” – a workers’ republic representing the working class in power – is obsolete. But today reality is starkly demonstrating that what is obsolete is Chavismo itself, or “Socialism of the 21st Century”. This was always a liberal vulgarisation of socialism, and an overt break with the first tenets of Marxism.
Chavismo under Chavez, or now under Maduro, was never about confrontation, let alone a contest, with Venezuelan capitalists. It was always an attempt to placate and pacify them. Maduro has bent over backwards to keep on reasonable terms with the Venezuelan capitalists, and by extension, with US imperialism itself. One result of this was leaving the banks in the hands of their private owners, and hence an inability to control hyperinflation – now likely to be running at 1 000 000 %. Needless to say, this drives up prices, especially of vital goods like food, fuel and medicine, to a level which is unaffordable for most Venezuelans. There are many examples of Venezuelan businesses hoarding goods to make them scarce, which pushes up prices. This can then be blamed on the government. In 2017, President Maduro accused bakeries of refusing to make bread, hoarding the flour to make more profitable brownies and cookies. The absence of bread hits the poor – the base of support for Maduro – the hardest.
Steve Ellner claims that the economic problems in Venezuela have a three-fold source. Firstly, the nosediving oil prices, which have declined precipitously since 2014. Secondly, the impact of US sanctions on Venezuela – which have even included sanctions on Cilia Flores, the wife of President Maduro. And thirdly, the mistaken policies of the Maduro government. Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, and the oil prices never sank before 2014. US sanctions also inevitably take their toll. But it is not simply a case of the “mistaken policies” of the Maduro government. The whole approach and framework of the false theory of “Socialism of the 21st Century” is at fault. Capitalism cannot be reformed, even with the majority of electoral support, expressed many times over 20 years.
Unity of the “people” ?
So called “Socialism of the 21st Century”, as practiced by Chavez and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), is at best left-leaning social-democracy. It has never made a political break with capitalism, and hence its impending downfall – perhaps at the hands of the invading US Empire. It is not possible to “unite the people” in Venezuela, or in the US, or Australia, or any country where capitalism rules. Capitalism means the division of society into the two great classes involved in production – capital and labour. For labour to release itself from under the heel of capital, and thus liberate all of society, the working class must take power in its own name. This cannot be done in the name of Chavismo, or Bolivarianism, or “the people” – for all of these attempt to “unite” classes with irreconcilable interests. Socialism is above all the working class in power, and this can only be achieved by splitting, not uniting, with the middle and upper classes, and especially the ruling class.
Yet this is not the strategy of the PSUV in Venezuela, and nor can it be. Their approach is to mobilise their own supporters, while at the same time cutting deals and making concessions to the political right-wing and the Venezuelan capitalists. The political intent is that of a united front with the capitalist class. Not only is the bourgeoisie entirely uninterested in such an alliance, these attempts further confuse and disorient the working class, and drive them away from the most essential first step – a political break with private capital and the reformist illusions of the PSUV. A political unification with the ruling class is always a recipe for stagnation and demoralisation, as workers wait interminably for signs of things improving.
If “unity” of all people in Venezuela is a mistaken strategy, it is doubly so internationally, including here in Australia. The Socialist Alliance (SA) has largely organised political solidarity with the Venezuelan Bolivarian process for years. It is again doing so, but again with the politics of “unity”, and this time including unity with the Labor Party. In its newspaper Green Left Weekly, SA call for the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to oppose the US led coup in Venezuela. They write: “The Labor leadership must reverse its decision to recognise Juan Guaido. It must also demand the coalition government pressure the US to lift its sanctions on Venezuela and rule out any military intervention.”
Here the strategy is one where SA seeks to improve the policy of the ALP, so it can work together with the ALP, supposedly against an imperialist war. Yet the ALP represents one wing of the Australian ruling class – the same ruling class represented by PM Morrison and the Liberal Party. By extension, it seeks to lead the Venezuelan solidarity movement into a united front with the very ruling class which has loyally served the US ruling class in war since Korea in the 1950s. Working people can only lose through being politically subordinated, once again, to the major political parties and thus to Australian imperialism.
The Communist Party of Australia (CPA), alongside SA, retails the line of the reformist government of Venezuela, in calling for a “peaceful political solution to the crisis based on the principles of self-determination and non-interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation.” In other words, the CPA calls for “dialogue” and “negotiations”, when the actions of US imperialism have clearly indicated that it will only accept the abolition of the Venezuelan government. Workers can hardly be empowered by staid calls on their own governments, and the US government, to come to what could only be a temporary agreement.
Workers to Power
Workers in Australia should note that while joint work with SA on the question of the current defence of Venezuela can be carried out, such co-operation is NOT possible when it comes to the question of Syria, Iran or Sudan. SA calls for “Hands Off Venezuela”, but for eight years strongly opposed both the demand “Hands Off Syria” and the organisation Hands Off Syria – as they vociferously backed US led regime change against the Syrian Arab Republic. Likewise for Iran and Sudan, SA again loudly advocate US led regime change – while simultaneously opposing US led regime change in Venezuela!
The CPA, in addition, is also an organisation that working people CANNOT be allies with on the question of Iran – where they concur with the Tudeh Party of Iran that the Iranian government represents a medieval dictatorship!! The US state department would approve. Nor can the CPA be an ally on Sudan, where it joins with SA to once again call for political power to be usurped and handed to a US backed opposition. When it comes to Venezuela today, the CPA and SA are also only half correct. Granted, they call for the defeat of the US backed coup attempt, the non-recognition of coup leader Juan Guaido, and the lifting of US sanctions on Venezuela. Yet they also politically defend President Maduro and the PSUV – a reformist (and still capitalist) government which in practice attempts to conciliate US imperialism. What is required is the mobilisation of workers in Venezuela and across Latin America to confront and defeat US imperialism – through efforts to organise workers to take state power into their own hands. A workers’ state is the key mechanism through which imperialism can be temporarily staved off until workers internationally are able to bring down “their own” capitalism.
Such an approach, however, is anathema to the PSUV in Venezuela, and also to SA and the CPA on these shores. While in Venezuela the PSUV practice a “united broad front” with the Venezuelan business class, in Australia SA and the CPA practice a “united broad front” with the ALP, i.e. the “liberal” wing of the ruling class. In both cases, workers are thus tied politically to a coalition with the bourgeoisie – a recipe for complete disaster. In order for workers to either defend themselves against capitalist austerity, or against a US led coup, workers must know exactly who their enemies are and who are their allies. To the extent that the Venezuelan government and military defend the country against US-led overthrow, workers should not stand in the way, and even assist. At the same time, not one bar of political support can be offered to the PSUV. In fact, workers in Venezuela desperately need to forge the Marxist vanguard party which can begin the task of winning the most class-conscious Chavistas to the perspective of uniting the workers, rather than the “people”.This is the missing link that workers internationally are crying out for.
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