No to U.S. Intervention in Venezuela! No to 21st Century State-Capitalism! Yes to Self-Determination of Venezuela’s Masses!
We oppose U.S. intervention, military or otherwise, in Venezuela. The U.S.’s imperial boots have left a murderous imprint on much of Latin America and, in the most recent period, have threatened to trample Venezuela. The disaster of President Nicolás Maduro’s authoritarian rule—much of it self-inflicted, but also partly forced by the U.S. and neoliberal capitalism’s determination to end his state-capitalist brand of rule—must not give a green light to intervention from without, or to supporting a coup from within.
The events of January demonstrate a coordinated effort by the U.S., led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, to overthrow the regime. Juan Guaidó, the current head of the National Assembly from the social-democratic Popular Will party, succeeded in declaring himself interim president, winning recognition from several Latin America countries in the Organization of America States, getting several European nations to go along with this coup-in the-making, and calling for military personnel to defy Maduro’s rule.
While the coup efforts are most intense at the present moment, they have a history. The attempted coup against President Hugo Chávez in 2002 had U.S. acquiescence and foreknowledge. The Observer reported that the 2002 coup had been “given a nod” by Elliott Abrams, who was previously convicted in the Reagan administration’s Iran-Contra affair and has now been appointed the Trump administration’s Special Envoy to Venezuela. For years there have been increasing U.S. sanctions aimed at financial strangulation of the government. The U.S. has tied up oil revenues, prevented Venezuela from arranging financial relief and loans—desperately needed with the collapse of oil prices—which have greatly contributed to hunger and medicine shortages amid runaway inflation and economic collapse. Tens of thousands have been forced to flee the country in order to survive (the UN reports 3 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela), with the most poverty-stricken trapped in a bankrupt economy.
At the same time we cannot forget that what passed for constructing “21st Century socialism” has been a problem. Chávez wanted to break from the stranglehold of neoliberal capitalism. But the attempt to construct socialism from the top down was no substitute for a social transformation from below. Chávez’s redistribution of oil revenues for health, education, housing, and food was a needed, important change. But it could never be a substitute for the Venezuelan masses fighting for themselves to break with the dependence on capitalism’s key commodity: oil. Authentic movement toward the development of proletarian and peasant power was subordinate to one-man rule by Chávez as the decision-maker, although he relied on his military cohorts.
Maduro could not replace Chávez’s popularity with the masses. He lost the support of many chavistas by making his own coup against the Bolivarian Constitution that was voted in by the vast majority of the people. His rule, besides becoming more and more autocratic, focuses more on his grip on power than on any concerns about how to run an economy that is under attack and reeling from plunging oil revenue. Initially the masses continued their support against the neoliberal Right intent on overthrow. Now the majority do not support Maduro, but neither are they for the official opposition.
The real void in Venezuela today is the lack of a revolutionary vision and organization that could pose an alternative to a return to neoliberalism and its despotic rule, and to Maduro’s misrule in the name of “socialism.” Much of the Left has vehemently attacked any criticism of the “Bolivarian” regime, hyping a fairy tale of its near perfection and overlooking its support of the genocidal regime in Syria and other oppressive governments in Iran, Libya and Russia. Almost all of the Left, socialist or anarchist, has failed to project ideas and organization that could provide a pole of attraction. What is urgently needed at this moment of crisis is the development of such an alternative in Venezuela.
–E.W., Jan. 28, 2019