[News] Combating the US Economic War on Venezuela – Differences in the Chavista Ranks

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Sat Oct 3 11:52:30 EDT 2020

the US Economic War on Venezuela – Differences in the Chavista Ranks

By Stansfield Smith, Roger Harris and Jesus Rodriguez-Espinoza  –  Oct 2,

*(Exclusive for Orinoco Tribune)*

The Popular Revolutionary Alternative, a new coalition within the Chavista
movement in Venezuela, stresses the importance of fortifying the communes,
popular organizations, peasant movements, and production cooperatives to
further advance the Bolivarian struggle. Indeed, these are necessary tasks
to develop a self-sustaining economic system.

Yet, success in these fields alone will not resolve the overwhelming
economic obstacle Venezuela faces: the US-European Union (EU) imperial
blockade, combined with their outright looting
of Venezuelan wealth and resources. That is a boot on Venezuela’s neck; day
in, day out, changing only by becoming more severe the more Venezuela
valiantly stands up for itself.

Alfred de Zayas, the United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur on Venezuela,
called the sanctions on Venezuela “economic asphyxiation
CEPR reported
in 2018 that the sanctions killed about 40,000 Venezuelans in little more
than a year. The cumulative number of sanction-caused deaths is now much
higher. To place the blame elsewhere than on the blockade is letting the
imperial powers off the hook. It is capitulating to the anti-Venezuela
propaganda by Washington and the rightwing opposition in Venezuela.

*Formation of a new Chavista coalition independent of the ruling party*

It is in this context that the new Popular Revolutionary Alternative (APR)
coalition was recently formed to run their own candidates independently of
the dominant Chavista party, the PSUV, in the December 6 election for the
National Assembly. The leading members of the APR are the Venezuelan
Communist Party (PCV) and Patria Para Todos (PPT). They are minor parties,
holding 10 of the 167 seats in the National Assembly, currently stripped of
its powers.

The APR advocates issues important to the workers and peasants and, in this
respect, plays and important and positive role. As Venezuelanalysis
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14963>has noted when the APR was formed:
“the parties have converged in criticising a range of government measures,
including the privatisation <https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14109>
of public assets, impunity <https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14715>
for escalating rural violence <https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14158>,
policies marginalizing communal empowerment
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/video/13509> and an economic
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14465> agenda dubbed ‘anti-worker’.”

The APR proposes cutting national funding to the capitalists while
increasing funding for the people to more fairly distribute national
wealth. Luis Britto Garcia, a leading Chavista intellectual close to the
VCP, takes <https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14985> issue with
government handouts to big companies and to the present tax system that
benefits the 5% who are business owners at the expense of the remaining

The APR calls for “the construction of a political reference for the
revolutionary overcoming of the crisis of capitalism.” PCV leader Oscar
Figuera states <https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14994>, “The
objective of the APR and its precursors is bringing together the
working-class, campesino, and communard forces in a revolutionary way.”

*Risks for the Chavista movement*

The US is actively engaged in interfering in the internal affairs of
Venezuela by calling for a boycott of the National Assembly elections as
part of its larger campaign to delegitimize and overthrow the elected
government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The demand for an
election boycott has been echoed by the Venezuelan puppet president Juan
Guaidó, recognized by the US and its allies, and the far-right opposition.

The National Assembly is now controlled by the opposition. The recent
pardoning <https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14986> of many opposition
members imprisoned for criminal actions served to benefit the
anti-imperialist struggle by furthering divisions among the opposition over
participation in the December election.

But it remains to be seen if two separate Chavista slates in the National
Assembly elections allows the opposition to win more seats than otherwise.
Many rank-and-file Chavistas, sympathetic to the PCV, consider themselves
more Chavistas than Communists (i.e., PCV). Many of these Chavistas
sympathetic with the PCV believe that voting for the APR coalition might
endanger the Chavista project by subtracting votes from the PSUV, which
would put control of the National Assembly in jeopardy.

While having the APR alternative within the Chavista movement may engender
healthy debate and airing of issues, it also comes with risks. For
instance, given the dire economic condition in Venezuela caused by the
US-EU blockade, the Maduro government has been forced to make certain
compromises with major capitalist corporations to ensure vital necessities
reach the populace. However, the APR/PCV criticisms of the government’s
tactical moves to avoid further economic collapse, while not inappropriate,
could be misinterpreted as abandonment of the Maduro administration.

RELATED CONTENT: Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV): Our Difference with the
Government is Not due to a Quota in the National Assembly (Interview)

Tensions exist within the broad Chavista movement over the ruling
government party sometimes acting as if they were under siege and acting
arrogantly towards the PCV and PTT – and they are under siege. The danger
is this creates an impression for international leftists to form a
misunderstanding of the struggle in Venezuela. Some may tend to consider as
valid any criticisms against President Maduro and the PSUV made by the VCP.
This is further compounded by ultra-left Trotskyist elements in Venezuela
such as Marea Socialista, which use left rhetoric to unite with the right
against the Chavista government.

It is certainly true abuses have occurred under Maduro’s administration as
well as his predecessor Chávez. But no head of state or ruling group can be
held solely responsible for all actions of all officials in the country. We
should not fall for the double standard that the US and its corporate media
sell: when a cop abuses someone here, he is called a bad apple; when a cop
in a country the US seeks to overthrow abuses someone, it is an indictment
of the alleged totalitarian dictatorial regime.

We must also emphasize that unlike the US, Venezuela seriously prosecutes
police abuse, with vastly more police convicted and sent to prison. A total
of 540 had been charged since August 5, 2017, with 426 actually imprisoned
In contrast, in the US
where police shoot an average of 1000 people a year, for the whole 15-year
period 2005-2017, 28 police have been convicted for murder or manslaughter.

*No solution to the crisis in Venezuela without ending the blockade*

Although PCV leader Figuera allows, “we see imperialism as the main enemy
of the Venezuelan people,” his APR coalition does not present measures how
it would fight imperialism more effectively. As Venezuelan economist
Pasqualina Curcio points out, there is no solution
<https://orinocotribune.com/the-productive-engines-ii/> to the crisis
Venezuela faces outside of ending the US-EU blockade and looting of
Venezuela’s resources. Economist Mark Weisbrot with CEPR observes that the
US sanctions are deliberately and explicitly designed to prevent economic
in Venezuela.

Curcio compares <https://orinocotribune.com/the-productive-engines-ii/>
Venezuela’s situation today with what the US inflicted on Allende’s Chile,
to “make the economy scream”:

*“The attacks of imperialism against our economy and therefore against the
Venezuelan people have been accurate. They are attacking us at strategic
points: 1) the price of the bolivar and 2) our main source of income, oil….
But it is important to understand that the productive engines [of the
economy] will not be turned on, neither for domestic consumption nor for
export, until the attack on the bolivar is strategically stopped and oil
production recovers in the short term.”*

Venezuela is a country long dependent economically on its oil industry,
which made up 95% of its export earnings. This dependence on one or a few
exports is hardly unique to Venezuela. Economies in the Global South have
generally been distorted after imperial conquest to suit the needs of the
“mother” countries. Overcoming the enforced dependency trap is a nearly
insurmountable task. Struggling internally to rebuild an economy that is
self-sustaining and developed requires the greater task of confronting the
roadblocks externally imposed by the imperial powers: sanctions, blockade,
and even the possibility of invasion, all to achieve regime change.

The APR calls for “a revolutionary way out of the crisis of the capitalist
rentier model” without specifying concretely what this revolutionary way
is. This requires the country to take on the might of the world imperialist
system seeking to maintain neo-colonial dependency. Historically, the only
countries in the world that effectively broke with that economic dependency
have been the Soviet Union and China. Small countries such as Cuba, North
Korea, and Libya, have established some economic independence but have been
unable to overcome crushing blockades and/or US-backed coups to create
developed economies.

A small country like Venezuela, under a major years-long economic attack
and counter-revolution by the imperialist powers, is going to experience
economic deterioration regardless of the revolutionary fiber of its
leadership. Unlike Cuba, after its 1959 revolution, there is no Soviet
Union to rely on to protect the country politically, economically, and
militarily. Venezuela remains mainly on its own.  Focusing economic blame
on the Venezuelan government miseducates others, lets Western criminality
off the hook, and sows illusions about an easy fix.

*Building socialism in an imperialist world*

Those who did not criticize Chávez for “building” socialism sooner, yet
criticize Maduro for the same, are applying a double standard. For example,
VCP leader Oscar Figuera criticizes the Maduro government for not building
socialism. But then he still says,
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14687> “from our point of view (and
we said this when President Chávez made the proposal), Venezuela’s
[economic] development isn’t mature enough to move toward socialism.”

Figuera adds <https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14994>:

*“Chávez, despite socialism not being built, was convinced that socialism
was the path. Today, Chavista politicians talk about socialism in a rote
way, but they are not committed to it. Government officials disassociate
discourse and practice: they talk about socialism and national liberation,
but in real terms the political and economic policies have a liberal
bourgeois character.” *

(It is a gross mischaracterization to label the country’s massive food
programs, housing programs, and health care programs for millions of the
working poor, let alone the Chavista people’s political mobilizations, as
“liberal bourgeois.”)

With some legitimacy, Figuera’s comment could be said of all currents and
tendencies around the world, which over the last several decades, have
advocated socialism.

No socialist revolution has occurred in the world since 1959.  In contrast,
in the 40-year period between 1917 and 1959, socialist revolutions occurred
in Russia, China, Korea, Vietnam, across Eastern Europe, and Cuba. But
after 1959, a drought has persisted for a remarkably long period of 60
years.  Some may claim US imperialism is declining, but it is socialist
revolution that has shown the real and dramatic decline. In the last 30
years, the struggle for socialist revolution has even gone sharply in
reverse, with US imperialism and its allies being able to overturn
socialism in the whole Soviet bloc. We should put Venezuela in context; the
struggle for socialism has stalled worldwide for several decades.

Figuera goes on to say, “Venezuela is a capitalist country and, as a
consequence, the state has a bourgeois character.” However, there are
exceptions to this general observation. For instance, Nicaragua today
remains a capitalist country, but it is false to characterize the
Sandinista government as bourgeois. The same could be said of Maurice
Bishop’s Grenada, Thomas Sankara’s Burkina Faso, Ben Bella’s Algeria, even
Lenin’s Russia when he characterized it as state capitalist.

Nevertheless, if Figuera states the Venezuelan state has a bourgeois
character, then it follows that this same class character has continued
throughout the Chávez and Maduro administrations. Both under Chávez and
Maduro, Venezuela has never had a government of workers and peasants. It
has a nationalist and anti-imperialist multi-class government that
represents the Venezuelan people as a whole. And both administrations have
provided the world with outstanding models of how to defend national
dignity in face of imperialist assaults, how to mobilize the people to
defend themselves, and how to take advantage of divisions in the opposition
and among the imperial powers.

Not the APR, nor the other advocates of *comuna o nada*, present an actual
program to lead a socialist revolution. Nor do they offer a program for
after they are in power; where the means of production and distribution,
the land and the banking system are nationalized and in the hands of the
representatives of the workers and peasants, where the state apparatus is
reconstructed in their interests.

To speak of “building” socialism in Venezuela, as an immediate action
rather than a goal, causes confusion. It ignores the most important prior
step, which is a victorious socialist revolution. Socialism cannot be built
independent of a working-class revolution, something that is not even
discussed, let alone organized by the parties comprising the APR.

*Unity in a time of crisis*

The Venezuelan people are living in a crisis. So long as that blockade
continues, the crisis continues, which is the intent of the US to make it
impossible for the Venezuelans to solve the problems imposed on them. For a
country the size of Venezuela, no leadership – how ever revolutionary – can
lead it out of this crisis alone. Vastly greater US and international
solidarity must play an essential role for the revolution to advance.

The APR recognizes the overriding importance of opposing imperialism and
remains part of the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP), the umbrella group for
Venezuela’s national anti-imperialist and anti-rightwing alliance. Figuera
correctly points out, “there is the need to build a revolutionary unity on
the basis of the class interests of the working class, of campesinos,
communards, and other popular sectors.” The GPP presents an ideal Chavista
front where revolutionaries can engage in constructive internal debate to
build this anti-imperialist unity and advance the revolution. In the
absence of greater worldwide solidarity with Venezuela, as we experienced
generations ago with Vietnam, a national organization or national alliance
of these sectors can only help solidify Venezuela against imperialism and
its local agents.

Some international leftists, such as Michael Lebowitz
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14937>, have distanced themselves
from defending the Chavista project from the US blockade of Venezuela in
part because Venezuela’s government has not resolved problems, particularly
economic ones, in a manner these leftists think they should. These leftists
in the imperialist countries have criticized the administrations of Hugo
Chávez and especially President Maduro for not “building socialism.”

However, we argue, this issue of “socialism” in Venezuela should have
little bearing on the issues of defending national sovereignty of nations
and opposing US interventions, sanctions, and blockades. Even if Venezuela
were guilty as charged by the imperialists, it would not justify their

In a former time, aid would come from a socialist country like the Soviet
Union. Today, mobilization of the peoples in the imperial countries to
compel the ending of the blockade is a necessity. The ongoing survival of
Bolivarian Venezuela in the increasingly difficult world situation is a
tremendous victory for oppressed peoples worldwide and continues to show a
new world is possible.

*Featured image: Juan Barreto/AFP. Courtsy of Brasil de Fato.*


Stansfield Smith

Stansfield Smith is a Chicago based anti-imperialist activist. He was
active for over a decade in the Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5. His
work is now on ChicagoALBASolidarity.wordpress.com
<http://chicagoalbasolidarity.wordpress.com/>. He has written on Venezuela,
Bolivia and Ecuador for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and on North
Korea for Counterpunch and others.

Roger Harris

Roger Harris from Corte Madera, California, has a special interest in
Venezuela and Cuba. He is on the central committee of the Peace and Freedom
Party and is involved with the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library. He is also a
Certified Wildlife Biologist and conservationist, leading whale watching
trips for the Oceanic Society and birding for the Marin Audubon Society. He
is on the Marin County Parks and Open Space Commission. He is retired from
an employee-owned environmental consulting firm, where he specialized in
endangered species, wetlands, and native habitat restoration.

Jesus Rodriguez-Espinoza

Jesus Rodriguez-Espinoza is an expert in international relations,
Venezuelan politics and communication. He served for several years as
Consul General of Venezuela in Chicago (United States) and prior to that he
was part of the foundational editorial team of the website Aporrea.org. He
is the founder and editor of the Venezuelan progressive website Orinoco
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