Neither Maduro nor Guaidó have anything to offer the working-class in the face of this turmoil.
In the past few days Venezuela's latest political drama has fluttered across the world press. On January 23 Washington declared that it recognizes Juan Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition, as the country's legitimate president with Trump stating “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law… I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.”1 In harmony with the giant power, 11 countries in the Lima Group, not long after declared their support for Guaidó as president, with the European Parliament backing the dissenting National Assembly but not throwing full support behind Guaidó. In response Maduro ordered American diplomats out of the country, alleging the United States was attempting a coup d'état.2
It is of course true that the United States has long desired a friendly government in the oil rich nation. It is well known that the United States backed the coup in 2002 and headlines such as: ‘Venezuela Is a Disaster. Time for a Coup?’3 are not rare in the American press. This particular headline appeared in the New York Times on September 2018. The piece attempts to justify a possible coup by claiming Venezuela’s violation of democracy and human rights and the humanitarian crisis caused by Venezuela’s so-called socialist policies. Indeed, Venezuela’s foreign rivals are always at the end of their chairs when proclaiming their love of democracy and the efficacy of capitalism. But this capitalist rag is blinded by the analysis of the class it represents. It attempts to portray the crisis as merely political and national. The truth of the matter is the crisis in Venezuela can only be understood in the context on the ongoing global capitalist crisis. The truth of the matter is that whether we are talking about the anti-Maduro United States or the pro-Maduro Russia it is not a matter of democracy or legitimate government but of their own imperialist interests.
Contrary to the cries of both the Venezuelan government and the American and Brazilian backed opposition to “Bolivarian Socialism”, Venezuela remains, as before, a state-capitalist economy based on the extraction of oil rents. The current Chavista government has fed on the surplus-value generated by the working class in Venezuela for nearly two decades.4 And of course with the capitalist nature of its economy lingers the cloying threat of the well-known capitalist crisis. It is with no surprise with an economy extremely based on oil profits and with little investments in other industries that in June 2014, when international oil prices plummeted, the regime could not help but be thrown into crisis5 , and as always the misery has been placed on the working class.
In 2017, Venezuela’s GDP fell 35% below 2013 levels, or 40% in per capita terms and the minimum wage declined by 75% (in constant prices) from May 2012 to May 2017.6 Mixed with hyperinflation the Venezuelan working class faces hunger, a lack of basic medical needs and an increase in crime. “According to a survey of June 2016 in Mirante state, 86% of children are afraid of having nothing to eat, 50% of them had gone to bed hungry given that there was nothing to eat in the house”.7 In 2016, 74% of Venezuelans had lost an average of 19 pounds and the Venezuelan Health Observatory claimed a 100-fold increase in the death of newborns in hospitals.8 Of course the extreme suffering of our class has not stopped the malicious chase for profits by the capitalists, high ranking bureaucrats and military officials. Many of whom are finding lucrative opportunities out of the crisis - such as exploiting exchange controls by selling cheap gasoline purchased in neighboring countries for vast profits.9
But to talk of the crisis in Venezuela alone is to miss the point, and when done by the various sections of the bourgeoisie seeks to screen the global proletariat from their shared universal condition in the face of global crisis and to rob us of class independence. The 2014 fall in the price of oil did not just hoist suffering on Venezuelan workers. The once booming oil industry of western Canada now has economists claiming that thousands of oil and gas jobs lost during the Alberta recession are gone for good.10 Once the destination of many workers from the rest of Canada, the Alberta oil industry has told workers to return to the rust belt of the east, only to find the impending closure of the GM Oshawa Assembly Plant slated for the end of 2019!11 While it is true that the fall in the price of oil has not hit the Canadian national economy as hard as the Venezuelan national economy, it is undeniable that this crisis is not simply a national affair due to poor policy making, but rather a crisis of global capitalism which places the misery on the world proletariat.
The political drama in Venezuela has yet to completely unfold. What is already clear is that the various imperialist interests are finding themselves driven into tension and conflict with one another. As the United States backs away from a Syria in ruins, and with the Russians first in line to receive the $200bn-$500bn reconstruction contracts from Assad12 , the United States has turned its gaze to another corner of Russian-Chinese influence. Trade wars and regional conflicts have become the norm. Russia enjoys a small victory, China banks on its Belt and Road Initiative and increasing influence in Asia and Africa13 , and the United States continues to count on its economic dominance and its fleets of nuclear powered aircraft carriers.
In this crisis the working class has no interests with any section of the bourgeoisie. Neither Maduro nor Guaidó have anything to offer the working-class in the face of this turmoil. The United States, Brazil and Russia seek nothing but the best outcome in line with their own imperialist interests. Looming is the possibility of war. Guaranteed is civil instability and declining living standards. The Canadian “Communist” Party has declared: “The Communist Party of Canada gives full support and solidarity to the PSUV government which is defending Venezuela’s sovereignty, independence and right to national self-determination”.14 But this is nothing but petty bourgeois phraseology. As published in the Left Bolsheviks' journal Kommunist:
“Modern capitalist foreign policy is closely bound up with the supremacy of finance capital, which cannot abandon the policy of imperialism without threatening its own existence. Therefore, it would be extremely Utopian to advance anti-imperialist demands in the field of foreign policy while remaining within the framework of capitalist relations… The answer to the bourgeoisie’s imperialist policy must be the socialist revolution of the proletariat.”15
Furthermore, to declare allegiance with a Maduro regime which brutally exploits our brother and sister Venezuelan workers can only distance us from them. The solution to economic crisis and imperialism is working class independence on an international scale. Revolutionaries must work to connect local struggles with the total struggle against capitalist barbarism, and that includes complete opposition to imperialism and militarism. Communists must strive to place these words in every workers' heart: “The fraternization of the workers of the world is for me the highest and most sacred thing on earth; it is my guiding star, my ideal, my fatherland. I would rather forfeit my life than be unfaithful to this ideal!” – Rosa Luxemburg.16
26 January 2019