By JEFF MACKLER
(UPDATED FROM EARLIER REPORT) It took some 34 days for the Donald Trump administration to decide on May 18, 2019, to forcefully evict from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., four antiwar activist members of the Embassy Protection Coalition. The four were there with the formal and express consent of the Venezuelan government and its president, Nicolas Maduro. Their attorneys repeatedly informed threatening U.S. government officials that any attempt to evict members of this Embassy Protection Coalition would be in flagrant violation of U.S. and established international law, wherein the embassies of recognized governments cannot be violated.
Embassy personnel and appointed representatives, as well as their offices and contents, cannot be breached or infringed upon by the host government. These principles were recently affirmed with regard to the Ecuadoran Embassy in London that provided sanctuary to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Until the new Ecuadoran government reversed its previous position and decided to allow British authorities to remove Assange, no one had dared to enter for some seven years.
In this matter, the Trump administration finds itself ensnared in its self-declared and delusional contradiction. On the one hand, it maintains official recognition of the Venezuelan government and, therefore, the sanctity of its embassy; on the other, it insists that its puppet “president,” appointee Juan Guaidó, is the true representative of this government. In the end, as with all such matters when U.S. imperialism’s “interests” are at stake, international law and all other “laws” are ignored with impunity and brute force is employed to achieve heinous ends.
No doubt, if the embassy matter becomes subject to future litigation, Trump and Company fully expect that their U.S. Supreme Court, or any other judicial body, will find or invent some “legal” justifications to suit the imperial needs of the capitalist system they are sworn to uphold. One can only imagine reading a Supreme Court decision wherein the Court recognizes the right of the U.S. government to appoint its agents/puppets to the presidency of another country!
Certainly, no such U.S. judicial authority has ruled that the myriad of recent regime change wars that leveled much of the infrastructure of Iraq, Libya and Syria, and now Yemen, and slaughtered millions of civilians, were illegal.
Today, the full force of U.S. imperial power is directed against Venezuela, including enforcing an international embargo and blockade, unprecedented sanctions, overt threats of intervention and the massive U.S. sequestering of billions of dollars in Venezuela’s international assets. The combination of these U.S. actions alone, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has resulted in the incredible loss of 40,000 Venezuelan lives due to U.S.-imposed starvation and lack of medical supplies.
CIA’s fake revolution
U.S. media monopolies for months, and to this day, dutifully report each and every Trump and CIA-manufactured lie to justify its ongoing regime-change coup efforts. Trump’s warmongering cohorts, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Elliot Abrams went to the extreme in scripting and orchestrating a “Wag the Dog” Hollywood-style, fake revolution against the Venezuelan government, aimed at convincing the Venezuelan people and world public opinion that the Venezuelan army had gone over to Guaidó’s side, that Guaidó was in power, and that masses were in the streets proclaiming his victory. Guaidó’s April proclamations to this effect included that he had won the support of three major military officers, that his soldiers had captured a prime military base in Caracas and that massive numbers had rallied to his cause in Caracas and across the country to demand President Maduro’s ouster.
All of this soon proved to be CIA-created fiction, repeated as truth ad nauseam, according to the media investigating group, FAIR (Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting), in virtually every major newspaper in the country. (See https://fair.org/home/failed-coup-a-fake-corporate-news-story-designed-to-trick-venezuelan-soldiers-and-us-public/)
The named “defecting” Venezuelan military officers—who had apparently been contacted by the CIA and offered huge bribes—played along with the would-be coup makers only to later expose their deeds, repudiating Guaidó’s and the CIA’s fabrications (see the May 5, 2019, Los Angeles Times). None defected. The mass protests that Guaidó announced never materialized. Small groups of Guaidó supporters gathered briefly in Caracas’ upper-middle-class neighborhoods to engage police with rocks.
Meanwhile, the subsequent May Day mobilizations a day later of 400,000 government supporters, the largest in several years, were invisible to the corporate media. In the end, the entire rigged scenario proved to be a fiction. The New York Times finally reported in a front-page article on May 22, “Weakened and unable to bring the political crisis gripping Venezuela to a quick resolution, Mr. Guaidó [fleeing from one safe house to another in Venezuela] has been forced to consider negotiations with Mr. Maduro.”
Yet to this day the fiction of Guaidó’s presidency is maintained by the duopoly war parties of the United States. Not a single U.S. politician moved to expose this charade. Manufacturing such scenarios, accompanied by demonization of a nation’s leader as a mass murdering tyrant, often accompanied by “proof” of heinous misdeeds such as the now-refuted charge of using lethal sarin gas against civilians in Syria, is the stock in trade in imperialism’s arsenal of mass deception aimed at justifying “humanitarian” and regime change wars in the public mind.
Self-determination for Venezuela
The articles in this Socialist Action pamphlet serve as a resounding refutation of these crudely orchestrated regime-change efforts and as an affirmation of Socialist Action’s unconditional support of the right to self-determination of Venezuela’s people and democratically elected government.
Today’s central antiwar movement demand, “U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!” has proved to be increasingly effective in forging broad united-front-type mass-action coalitions like the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), whose focus is on bringing thousands into the streets in clear opposition to the bipartisan warmakers. UNAC’s component organizations, of course, hold a range of often divergent assessments on the policies of the Venezuelan government. They are united in rejecting U.S. intervention in all its horrific expressions, but as a mass action coalition they take no position on the nature of the Venezuelan government. As individual organizations each is free to present its own views.
Socialist Action’s assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution is presented here in some detail. While standing full square on the side of the Venezuelan government and people against every effort of the U.S. government to overthrow it, we have also been harsh critics of Venezuela’s “pink revolution” policies that have tragically served to weaken its fight against imperialist-imposed isolation and war.
Socialist versus “pink” revolutions
Venezuela’s “pink revolution”— as with all of Latin America’s recent experience with the political rule of social-democratic, reformist, or left nationalist governments that promised to improve the lives of the working masses without fundamentally challenging their nation’s capitalist and private property foundation—has proved to be inadequate to the task. John Pilger’s Feb. 22, 2019, Counterpunch article entitled “The war on Venezuela is built on lies” makes this absolutely clear. Pilger, a longtime admirer and friend of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and a sympathetic, anti-imperialist friend of Venezuela, explains in great detail what has been widely viewed as Venezuela’s democratic electoral process and its significant social achievements. But Pilger’s balance sheet includes this painfully accurate yet contradictory statement: “For all the Chavistas’ faults—such as allowing the Venezuelan economy to become hostage to the fortunes of oil and never seriously challenging big capital and corruption—they brought social justice and pride to millions of people and they did it with unprecedented democracy.”
The iron laws of capitalism, whether in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world, repeatedly demonstrate that advancing the interests of the vast majority is inherently incompatible with defending the prerogatives of the minority ruling-class capitalist elite. The Chavez/Maduro governments, as Pilger painfully notes, “never seriously challenged big capital,” that is, the overwhelming ownership and control by the “one percent” of Venezuela’s major industries including its oil—partial “nationalizations” notwithstanding—its land, banking, and related financial institutions, basic resources, systems of transportation, shipping, etc. Venezuela’s land largely remains the private property of big landowners.
In short, the Chavez/Maduro project of “coexisting” with capitalism left it incapable of developing a rounded economy capable of producing its own food—Venezuela imports almost all of its food—and instituting a semblance of planned and balanced economic growth aimed as satisfying human needs as opposed to capitalist profits. Today, 70 percent of Venezuela’s economy remains in capitalist hands, not to mention some 70 to 90 percent of its media.
Rhetoric aside, Venezuela is no socialist economy. The rhythms of its economic, and therefore social development, are contingent on the exigencies of the world capitalist market. When world oil prices, always manipulated by the U.S. and a few of the most powerful oil producers, plummeted from over $110 per barrel to less than $40 over the past decade, Venezuela’s economy suffered greatly and became increasingly subject to imperialism’s ever-deepening destabilization measures.
The Chavez government’s conscious decision to avoid any fundamental break with capitalism left it unprotected, as was the case with similar reform-minded governments in Brazil (Lula), Ecuador (Correa) and Nicaragua (Ortega). The Chavistas sought to coexist with the “boli-bourgeoisie” (Venezuelan capitalists) who occupied essential parts of the government infrastructure and were included in Venezuela’s United Socialist Party. Capitalism and government corruption are inseparable.
In contrast to Venezuela’s reform-minded but capitalism-committed Chavistas, Cuba’s socialist revolution of 1959 proceeded to rapidly, in Fidel’s words, “nationalize the capitalist class down to the nails in the heels of their boots.” It quickly established a planned economy based on meeting human needs, not capitalist profits; it distributed the land to the long-oppressed and exploited peasantry; and it armed its population to defend all of those gains. In consequence, Cuba’s proud revolutionary achievements remain largely intact and a shining example to oppressed people everywhere, despite more than a half-century of U.S. imperialist efforts to restore it to its former neo-colonial status.
The way forward for Venezuela
Venezuela today stands at the threshold of social change. It can take the Cuban route and move toward a fundamental break with capitalist domination or it can continue on the dead-end path of “peaceful” co-existence with an imperialist-backed internal capitalist elite. The latter course, as history has repeatedly demonstrated, is a sure road to disaster.
Genuine socialist revolution, established via the direct and democratic rule of the working-class majority, requires the formation of a deeply rooted, mass revolutionary socialist, working-class-based party. While no such party exists in Venezuela today, the conditions for its formation, given the deep radicalization brought on by the immediate threat of a U.S. invasion and the experience of millions with the severe limitations and failures of previous reform projects, are propitious.
The road to the construction of such a party centers on winning the confidence and mass support of the working class and absolute opposition to imperialist intervention. In the current context, the best defense is a good offence. There is nothing the Venezuelan government can do to placate the rapacious capitalists in the U.S. or within Venezuela. Appeasement will not work. Power must be met with power. And the only source of power within Venezuela that can match the imperial behemoth at the gates is an emboldened, organized, mobilized working class headed by a mass revolutionary socialist party that proves in action to be the best defenders of the interests of Venezuela’s working masses. U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!