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News :: Social Welfare
Imperialist Intervention Brings Counterrevolution to Venezuela
12 Dec 2015
[Photo: Some of the 1.5 million participants in Hugo Chavez’s Mission Robinson campaign against illiteracy. Photo by Franklin Reyes]
Click on image for a larger version

Imperialist Intervention Brings Counterrevolution to Venezuela

By Steven Argue

It is the end of the Venezuelan era that began with the election of President Hugo Chavez in 1998. In the national elections of Sunday, December 6th, 2015, a right wing pro-imperialist party, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), seized 112 seats in Venezuela’s National Assembly. The activities of the MUD were funded by the CIA through the well-known CIA front called the National Endowment for Democracy. The party of Hugo Chavez’s legacy, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was only able to retain 55 seats. This defeat for the PSUV gives the U.S. backed MUD a two thirds super-majority, giving it the strength to re-write the constitution enacted under the leadership of Hugo Chavez in 1999. This defeat comes after many years of electoral victories for Hugo Chavez and his PSUV within the arena of Venezuela’s bourgeois elections. Hugo Chavez’s successor in the Venezuelan presidency is Nicolas Maduro. Theoretically, Nicolas Maduro could remain president until 2018. Yet, there should be no doubt that the counterrevolutionary MUD movement will quickly move to remove him from office through referendum.

President Nicolas Maduro said of the defeat, “We got 43 percent of the votes … the counterrevolution triumphed yesterday, for now.”

A major cause of this defeat is the economic and political war that has been waged on Venezuela from both inside and outside the country. The Obama administration, desiring regime change in Venezuela, has actively kept Venezuela under an economic blockade. As Obama stiffened sanctions against Venezuela earlier this year, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa responded with disgust, saying that it “reminds us of the darkest hours of our America, when we received invasions and dictatorships imposed by the imperialists.” Sanctions have been combined with an active CIA program of destabilization. Millions of CIA dollars are spent on Venezuelan destabilization with money funneled through the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. International Agency for Development. In 2015 alone, these agencies spent 18 million dollars in their attempts to end the Maduro presidency. Likewise, the Venezuelan capitalist class has used their direct control of much of the economy to sabotage the economy through capital flight and repeated manufactured shortages of everything from food stuffs to medicines. Corporate ownership of the Venezuelan media has also been used by their right wing owners to greatly exaggerate failures, falsify other news, and even use repeated lies to incite violence.

In addition to obvious direct aggression, the drop in the world price of oil has greatly hurt the oil dependent Venezuelan economy. That oil price drop is a result of U.S. ally Saudi Arabia abandoning past principles of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and instead glutting the world oil market. This oil glut is being carried out by Saudi Arabia partly to slow the development cleaner energy sources as well as to slow the development of fracking (both being competitors with Saudi oil). Yet, Saudi Arabia is also likely carrying this out as an act of economic aggression meant to hurt Saudi Arabia’s enemies of Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. With Saudi Arabia’s glut of oil on the world market, the price of a barrel of oil plummeted from over $130 a barrel to $40 a barrel, both hurting the Venezuelan economy and cutting into revenue needed for Venezuela’s extensive social programs developed by Chavez and Maduro and paid for through Venezuela’s state owned oil production. Hugo Chavez also helped bring a better price for the oil of not just of Venezuela, but for underdeveloped countries around the world by strengthening OPEC after being elected to office 1998. At that time, oil was just $10 a barrel. Thanks in part to President Chavez’s work, that price was increased through limits on oil production. It was OPEC controls on oil sold on the world market that helped underdeveloped countries gain a better price for their dwindling natural resources. Saudi Arabia has now, however, destroyed all meaning to that once powerful OPEC alliance.

The first major attempt by the U.S. imperialists and the Venezuelan bourgeoisie to overthrow Hugo Chavez came in 2002. At that time they carried out a coup. The military brass arrested Hugo Chavez. In the two days’ time Hugo Chavez was removed from power, the imperialists handpicked Pedro Carmona to be the new president. Carmona then moved rapidly to dissolve the elected National Assembly, Supreme Court, and the 1999 Constitution was unilaterally declared void. The 1999 constitution guarantees health care for all, among other gains. If other CIA organized coups in Latin America are any indication, mass death camps for leftists and or death squads would have been next. On the ground in the poor neighborhoods of Venezuela, however, this overthrow of Venezuela’s elected president was not taken lightly. An uprising took place in the streets and around 50 people were killed in government attempts to put down the rebellion. Soon, however, the rank and file of the Venezuelan military sided with the uprising. The military brass knew that the military had been split and they had lost their control over it. At that point they also realized that bringing Hugo Chavez back to power was the only way to regain their command over the military and prevent the complete dismantling of the Venezuelan capitalist state in a proletarian uprising. So this is what they did. The Venezuelan bourgeoisie and the U.S. imperialists wanted Hugo Chavez gone, but in their key hour of need, they saw they must turn to him to preserve the Venezuelan capitalist state.

In issuing economic sanctions against Venezuela, the Obama Administration claimed Venezuela is an "extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." This is, of course, absurd as Venezuela has never been a threat to the United States. So what have been the real crimes of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro in the eyes of the U.S. imperialists and Venezuelan capitalists? That’s simple. Despite Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro being democratically elected, the United States, which is of course is the biggest supporter of dictators in the world from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, has never cared about democracy. Instead, the crimes of Chavez and Maduro in the eyes of the imperialists include refusing to bow to their pressures to privatize Venezuelan oil and stop spending some of that oil money on a wide array of social programs that have reduced extreme poverty from 21% to 5% Venezuela. Among the areas where money was spent were programs that improved literacy, child care, health care, nutrition, employment, and education. In this century already, Muammar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein have paid the ultimate price for not giving in to western imperialist dictates demanding an end to spending oil money on providing health care, education, and housing for the Libyan and Iraqi people. Far better in the eyes of the U.S. imperialists are countries like Saudi Arabia that conspire with the western based oil monopolies to rob the people blind of their resources and labor.

In addition to spending oil money on the poor, another crime in the eyes of the U.S. imperialists is the fact that Venezuela under the Chavez and Maduro leadership has made friends with those that the United States also seeks to destroy through regime change. These include Cuba, Russia, Iran, and China. It also includes a number of center left movements and governments in Latin America that the U.S. would like to crush as well. While the United States has finally reopened diplomatic ties with Cuba, it continues its 5 decades long economic blockade of Cuba. This is a blockade that the United States has long strong armed much of Latin America to go along with. Yet, Venezuela under the Chavez and Maduro leadership helped break that blockade. This has included Venezuela selling revolutionary Cuba needed fuel supplies which have reached 100,000 barrels a day. Cuban solidarity with Venezuela’s poor has included sending 20,000 doctors to Venezuela. Let there be no mistake, despite the U.S. finally reopening diplomatic relations with Cuba, the isolation and destruction of the gains of the 1959 Cuban Revolution remain a high priority of the U.S. imperialists. The solidarity Venezuela has shown Cuba is one of the reasons the United States has spent millions of dollars every year in its attempts to overthrow the Chavez and Maduro presidencies.

These “crimes” of spending oil money on the poor and building friendships with anti-imperialist allies were sufficient for the U.S. imperialists to falsely label Chavez and Maduro “dictators”, carry out a propaganda war against Venezuela in the mainstream media both in the U.S. and in Venezuela that included blatant exaggerations as well outright lies, and carry out CIA operations for regime change in Venezuela. Despite imperialist lies of a “dictatorship” in Venezuela, Jimmy Carter said, in 2012, “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

President Maduro blames the current electoral loss on the economic war waged on Venezuela from both inside and outside the country. This is only partially correct. The defeat of the PSUV was also a result of the failures of Maduro and Chavez to adequately end capitalist control and sabotage of the economy, establish a planned socialist economy, and clamp down on open CIA intervention for regime change. As Venezuela is beginning to stand as another confirmation in the negative affirming Lenin and Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, this must be seriously evaluated. While defeat is rarely the right time to bring a revolution to a higher level, it is, on the other hand, a teachable moment necessary to bring the vanguard to a better understanding of the kind of revolution we must lead. The Bolivarian Revolution has faltered, not due to the invincibility of its enemies, but instead largely due to the inherent weaknesses of its own program.

Despite recognizing the methods of economic war used against him, Maduro has no evaluation of how his movement’s failure to adopt Lenin and Trotsky’s program of permanent revolution strengthened the ability of the United States and Venezuelan capitalist classes to wage an economic war against the workers and farmers of Venezuela. Before coming to power in the 1917 October Revolution, Lenin argued against the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries in power in his September 1917 pamphlet on "The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It". In this pamphlet he argued that in response to capitalist sabotage of the economy, a socialist program needed to be adopted that included workers and farmers power, nationalization of the banks, and the seizure of capitalist owned businesses. He wrote:

“In point of fact, the whole question of control boils down to who controls whom, i.e., which class is in control and which is being controlled. In our country, in Republican Russia … it is the landowners and capitalists who are still recognized to be, and still are, the controllers. The inevitable result is the capitalist robbery that arouses universal indignation among the people, and the economic chaos that is being artificially kept up by the capitalists. We must resolutely and irrevocably … pass to control over the landowners and capitalists by the workers and peasants. And this is what our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks fear worse than the plague.”

Similarly, the Venezuelan capitalist class has kept Venezuela in constant economic chaos throughout the years of the Chavez and Maduro presidencies, purposely creating shortages in all kinds of necessities, including the latest attack that was denying the Venezuelan people even basic medical supplies. Yet, despite Maduro recognizing the cause of these shortages, the Maduro government failed to step in and nationalize the pharmaceutical distributers. Lenin’s Bolsheviks, by carrying out the above September program in the October 1917 Revolution, stripped the Russian capitalists of their ability to sabotage the economy by expropriating their ill-gotten ownership of the economy, thus liquidating both their wealth and power. Similarly, the one successful socialist revolution in the western hemisphere, the Cuban Revolution, followed a program of expropriation of the Cuban and U.S. capitalists and landlords to create a planned socialist economy that has brought near universal literacy, free health care available to all, a life expectancy longer than the United States, an end to starvation for agricultural workers in the off season, and big gains for women’s liberation and black liberation. As much as we must defend the PSUV from imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution, it is also essential to recognize that the PSUV were defeated largely for staying the Menshevik path of maintaining a capitalist economy in Venezuela, defending the capitalist state, and never adopting the socialist program laid out in theory and adopted in action by V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Fidel Castro, and other successful leaders of socialist revolutions.

Another key blunder of the Maduro presidency was allowing a CIA funded and CIA directed party like the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) to run in the Venezuelan elections. Both MUD and the Venezuelan protest movement have been heavily funded by the CIA with many millions of dollars coming directly from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED was established by the U.S. Congress in 1983 as a means of the CIA to overtly fund its projects of regime change and other U.S. imperialist intervention around the world. This kind of foreign intervention in Venezuela’s elections should have been outlawed long ago, with the party then being banned for accepting CIA aid.

These capitulations to imperialist sponsored bourgeois “democracy” by Chavez and Maduro never helped soften U.S. imperialist policy against them either. From the left to right, the bourgeois establishment in the U.S. hates Chavez and Maduro. Case in point, and a good lesson for those with illusions in the leftwing of the Democrat Party, the so-called “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders refers to the democratically elected former President Hugo Chavez as a “communist dictator”. This insult both to communism and to Hugo Chavez shows that even Bernie Sanders, the left wing of the U.S. political establishment, is neither “democratic” nor is he “socialist”.

Maduro’s PSUV will now lick its wounds and attempt to rebuild and survive under a National Assembly controlled by the right wing. The resistance of the PSUV and anti-capitalist socialist parties to the left of the PSUV, along with the resistance of workers and farmers in general, will be critical in attempting to stay the hand of imperialist sponsored bourgeois reaction in Venezuela. Yet, we should make no mistake, the history of imperialist sponsored reaction in Latin America is one that often involves disappearances, torture, and death squads, as has happened with Obama’s 2009 coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Manuel Zelaya. Manuel Zelaya was overthrown for maintaining friendly relations with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and for increasing the minimum wage for workers in U.S. owned maquiladoras. Since the coup, Honduras has become the murder capital of the world with large numbers of labor leaders, activists, and journalists abducted, tortured, and murdered. This includes 32 journalists killed in this manner since the coup.

Today the far right and the imperialists have the upper hand in Venezuela. They will try to use this to make sure that the anti-imperialist left never gets the upper hand again and never regains power. They are strengthened in this task through their electoral victory. In opposition, workers and farmers must be mobilized in defense of their interests. Above all, a Leninist-Trotskyist party must be built that seeks to lead workers and farmers to power, smash the capitalist state, and establish a planned socialist economy. Imperialism is not invincible, but it will take more than Chavez’s program of Bolivarian Revolution to defeat it.

This is an article of Liberation News, subscribe free to our low volume list:

For related articles by this author, see:

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Re: Imperialist Intervention Brings Counterrevolution to Venezuela
12 Dec 2015
The Maduro govt. has paid 15 1/2 billion dollars on its foreign debt in 2015 alone! Like Syriza, Maduro is afraid of the international bankers.
Re: Imperialist Intervention Brings Counterrevolution to Venezuela
06 Jan 2016
Yes, good point Earl. Chavez and Maduro "socialism" also included this capitulation to the international finance capitalists.