Hands Off Venezuela! For Socialist Democracy!

Steering Committee of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization

Summary: Opposing US imperialist intervention in Venezuela and the responsibilities of the left — Editors

The foul, brutal hands of US imperialism and its allies are tightening around Venezuela, and there is a strong possibility that a far-right takeover will occur in the near future.  This would extinguish the last vestiges of the left-of-center Pink Tide in South America. If this occurs, an entire region, from Argentina to Brazil to Venezuela, would be in the hands of the far right in a manner not seen since the military coups of the 1960s and 1970s that produced a Southern Cone of torture and murder. While the situation today is different, it is virtually certain that a brutal crackdown on leftwing and labor movements, as well as on indigenous communities, would follow the overthrow of Venezuela’s Maduro government. This would especially be the case if there is armed resistance, which there is very likely to be, since while Maduro’s authoritarian policies and the economic collapse have alienated many working people, even low estimates suggest the government retains about 20% popular support.

The sanctions imposed by the Trump administration in January are the severest ever used against another country, way beyond those on Iran or North Korea, but in keeping with the longstanding US imperial attitude of “ownership” toward Latin America.  The sanctions threaten to literally shut down Venezuela’s oil exports, its economic lifeline. It is expected that the Venezuelan economy will contract a further 25% in the next 90 days as a result of the U.S. sanctions.

It is true that the opposition movement is massive. But in a move reminiscent of the old gunboat diplomacy, its new leader, Juan Guaido, has been officially recognized as the legitimate president by the US, Western Europe, and some Latin American governments.  However, just because a movement is massive and includes some working people does not it itself prove that it is democratic or revolutionary. Consider its political agenda, both open and secret.  Openly, Guaido talks democracy, but appears alongside Vice President Mike Pence of the far-right Trump administration. But behind his youthful visage lurks not only the ill-concealed interests of US imperialism, but also the shadow of Leopoldo Lopez, the founder of Guaido’s party and the one surely pulling the strings today from house arrest. Lopez is the most rightwing leader of an already rightwing opposition movement, much of which repudiated him due to his support for the anti-democratic coup of 2002 against the legitimately elected government of Hugo Chavez.

And it is certainly true that both the Latin American Pink Tide, with its concessions to neoliberalism, and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Socialism, are deserving of critique, not least because Chavez and later Maduro kept the existing military and state apparatus in place. They simply redistributed oil revenues without seriously developing industry or agriculture. As with the Pink Tide, this had some success until China’s economy slowed down. Even before that, a worrisome sign was that Venezuela was importing more food and medicine over the past two decades than before. In addition, the very notion of creating socialism in one country was non-viable. And we certainly oppose the Maduro government’s restrictions on democratic expression, even though it is hardly the dictatorship the US claims it to be.

But is now, when Venezuela faces the full force of US sanctions, and possible military intervention, the time to point a finger by putting that kind of criticism at the forefront?

Thus, in addition to attacking the US’s nefarious plans and criticizing the idiotic slogans of knee-jerk anti-imperialists like “Venezuela Is Not Divided,” we need to criticize equally firmly those parts of the left, however well-intentioned, and however much they use terms like socialist humanism, that support without qualification the Venezuelan “democratic” movement, equating it with the uprisings against the Assad regime in Syria or the Iranian regime. Those resistances and uprisings have significant leftwing, feminist, or labor dimensions, unlike Venezuela’s far-right-dominated opposition.

Therefore, we need to concentrate our fire on US imperialism and other reactionary forces in Latin America and Europe that are trying to bring this rightwing opposition to power, not least to protect their property interests and to extinguish any anti-capitalist aspirations in the region and globally.

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6 Comments

  1. Frieda Afary

    As a Marxist-Humanist and a member of the newly formed Transnational Socialist-Humanist Solidarity Network, I am saddened by your unjustified accusations. Your readers should read the statement of the new network and judge for themselves. In no way does it offer “support without qualification” for the Venezuelan opposition. It takes a clear stance against U.S. imperialism and the pro-Guaido and pro-U.S. imperialist opposition. Instead it says: “The poor and starving masses in Iran and Venezuela are being told by supposed “socialists” and “peace and justice” advocates that their miseries are only caused by U.S. imperialism and that they have to live with authoritarian regimes like the Islamic Republic or Maduro’s state as the “lesser of the two evils.” ” It also says: “many leftists are rationalizing the actions of authoritarian regimes such as those of Putin in Russia, Assad in Syria, Khamenei in Iran, Ortega in Nicaragua, and Maduro in Venezuela—simply because these governments use the rhetoric of anti-U.S. imperialism.”

    Here is the statement:

    https://www.allianceofmesocialists.org/call-for-the-formation-of-a-transnational-socialist-humanist-solidarity-network/

    As a member of the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists, I would also recommend reading the following statements from the Alliance and from a Venezuelan socialist feminist:

    https://www.allianceofmesocialists.org/venezuelan-socialist-speaks-to-middle-eastern-socialists/

    https://www.allianceofmesocialists.org/statement-of-solidarity-on-venezuela-from-alliance-of-middle-eastern-socialists/

    Reply
  2. Dave Black

    Firstly, as should be obvious to anyone who reads our article, your claim, in a tweet of 10 April that it is an ‘effectively pro-Maduro statement’, is untrue.

    Secondly, the following, in your comment on our article, is demonstrably false:

    ‘Your readers should read the statement of the new network and judge for themselves. In no way does it offer “support without qualification” for the Venezuelan opposition. It takes a clear stance against U.S. imperialism and the pro-Guaido and pro-U.S. imperialist opposition.’

    We actually did read your statement, and nowhere in it do you take any ‘stance’ whatsoever against the ‘pro-Guaido’ opposition. Indeed there is no mention of Guaido at all.

    Lastly, we would like to point out that, as we are not sectarians, our criticism of groups like yours who adhere to socialist-humanism was intended to be friendly; recognising that your stances on this issue are ‘well-intentioned’. We simply criticized a wrong political position.

    Reply
  3. Javier Sethness

    We have deleted the tweet in question; apologies for the mischaracterization. However, is it really friendly to associate us with “the idiotic slogans of knee-jerk anti-imperialists like ‘Venezuela Is Not Divided,’” referring to the PSL/WWP’s campism? Are we really in need of “equally firm” criticism in comparison to them?

    It is unfair to accuse a formation formed less than 10 days ago of being “pro-Guaido” when we don’t mention him in an initial statement that is primarily critiquing those leftists, even libertarian-/left-communists and anarchists, who effectively rationalize Maduro’s “anti-U.S. imperialist” stance (no matter Maduro’s half-million-dollar donation to Trump’s inauguration, or that the U.S. is Venezuela’s #1 oil importer) as part of a larger phenomenon of covering for global authoritarianism. There is, for example, no mention of Maduro’s State terror in this statement, as carried out by the military and FAES special police unit.

    It is indeed very questionable to malign the opposition to Maduro, which you acknowledge as “massive,” as being “rightwing”/”far-right-dominated,” and to cleave it from the opposition to Assad and the Islamic Republic of Iran. See here for important articles clarifying this misrepresentation:

    https://venezuelanvoices.home.blog/2019/04/05/this-government-is-rightwing-says-venezuelan-union-leader-jose-bodas/

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/03/venezuela-maduro-slums-guaido-petare

    https://www.caracaschronicles.com/2019/02/13/open-letter-from-peace-and-non-violence-activists-and-organizations-from-venezuela/

    Reply
  4. Dave Black

    Thanks for deleting the mischaracterizing tweet.

    Our criticism of your apparent ‘support without qualification’ for the Venezuelan ‘democratic’ movement (led by Guaido) does not mean that we ‘associate’ you with ‘knee-jerk anti-imperialists’ who support the regimes of Syria and Iran.

    However, your failure to even mention Guaido in your statement can hardly be excused by your claim ‘that is primarily critiquing those leftists, even libertarian-/left-communists and anarchists who effectively rationalize Maduro’s “anti-U.S. imperialist” stance ‘. Indeed that seems to be precisely the problem, i.e. being so over-burdened by the positions of ‘libertarian-left/communists and anarchists’ (whoever they might be) that any criticism of Guaido’s relation to US imperialism is deemed unnecessary or taken for granted. In our view, the limitations of small groups of leftists are hardly a bigger threat to the future of humanity than a neo-fascist in the White House and his allies in Venezuela.

    It would of course clarify things if you were to explain what your position on Guaido actually is. Otherwise, we do not understand why you object to our ‘cleaving’ of the Guaido-led opposition from ‘the opposition to Assad and the Islamic Republic of Iran’. As we have said, in the latter cases those resistances and uprisings have significant leftwing, feminist, or labor dimensions, unlike Venezuela’s far-right-dominated opposition.

    Furthermore, as you know, Assad’s regime has killed hundred of thousands of its opponents, and the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran massacred as many as 30,000 political prisoners at the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988 and has continued bloody repression ever since. The policies of Maduro’s authoritarian regime do not bear comparison with such atrocities, and recognizing the undoubted repressive actions of his army and police doesn’t make it so.

    Reply
  5. Hyung Rog Choi South Korea

    “Socialism in one country is not viable”!
    It’s the significant lesson of The Bolshevic Revolution which had degerated into Stalinist regime.
    I totally agree to the concise and pointed statement by Editors.
    To my knowldge Istvan Meszaros had much intrest in Chavez government. Why did not Chavez
    prefer grounding the workers-controlled industry to the easy populist road?

    Reply
  6. LOWY Michael

    Great statement, clear and imsightful !

    Reply

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