Protesting the main enemy

January 30, 2019

Elizabeth Dean and Seth Uzman comment on the sources of the crisis in Venezuela and how the U.S. left should respond.

IN THE heart of world imperialism, Socialist Worker’s emphasis in this period should be on fighting back against the resurgent reactionaries in Venezuela and their U.S. backers.

Our coverage should foreground the demands we put forward in the recent ISO statement: No aid to the Venezuelan right wing, no recognition of Guaidó, no sanctions, no military intervention and abolition of debt. This statement does a much better job than previous widely promoted articles in foregrounding the most important issue: The U.S. is the main threat in Latin America.

Yet this statement is at odds with the SW’s profile on social media. In the past week, @SocialistViews provided only one tweet giving a straightforward condemnation of U.S. interference in Venezuela. Other posts provided a mealymouthed “we oppose U.S. imperialism and Maduro is also bad” framing which underplays the urgency of this moment.

The conflict is between a (flawed) Third World government and U.S. imperialism, not between interimperial rivals or between the Democrats and the Republicans. Socialists in imperialist countries have a basic duty to offer critical but unconditional support to movements for national sovereignty and national liberation.

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There has also been almost no analysis presented of the Venezuelan right or the linkages between Trump/Pompeo and the Venezuelan right wing. We should publish an article(s) explaining these ties between a far-right group and the U.S. state, just as we would with any far-right domestic group.

Instead, much of our coverage has obscured the sources of violence in Venezuela. For instance, in an interview from April 2017, but recently reposted), the interviewee claims: “We are far from anything that can be called democratic practice. In this context, challenges from the media and the opposition become increasingly violent, and the government, seemingly unable to act any other way, responds with repression of demonstrations and arrests of political prisoners. It’s using all of the tools it has to keep itself in power.”

This ignores that the right-wing opposition has always been willing to resort to violence, going back to before the 2002 coup attempt, and that it naturalizes this violence as a response to Maduro’s assumed “authoritarianism.”

Another example of the mismatch between the editorial line on the one hand and the demands put forward in the official statement on the other is the demand for the withdrawal of the Fourth Fleet, the U.S. naval fleet in Latin America which was re-established in 2008, drawing condemnation from Chávez and other leaders at the time. Readers could be forgiven for having forgotten this, considering there has been no coverage of the issue of the Fourth Fleet in SW since 2008-09.

WE AGREE that criticism is always healthy and necessary. No one should pretend that there is no economic crisis in Venezuela, that people are not suffering, that Maduro retains the same level of popular support that Chávez did during the 2002 coup, or that everyone out in the streets is getting a check from Langley.

Readers’ Views welcomes our readers' contributions to discussion and debate about articles we've published and questions facing the left. Opinions expressed in these contributions don't necessarily reflect those of SW.

Our concern is not with criticism of Maduro or the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), but the content of the actual criticisms being made.

It is true that sanctions are not the full explanation for the crisis in Venezuela. However, this does not justify brushing them off in a sentence or two in every article about Venezuela.

Rather, a priority for U.S. socialists should be highlighting the effects of these sanctions and campaigning for their end, especially as these measures have intensified over the last week in a naked attempt to force the PSUV from power. As Justin Akers Chacón’s recent Facebook post lays out, these sanctions are a deliberate, years-long, bipartisan attempt to starve the country of oil revenue and prevent it from resolving its foreign debt in order to force the PSUV from power.

Another example is the discussion of the electoral system in Venezuela. If part of our criticism of the PSUV’s strategy is its failure to break with the bourgeois state, how can we also condemn them for not relinquishing state power to the right-wing opposition?

There is certainly no reason to claim that Guaidó has constitutional backing for his bid for power. It is blatantly contradictory to: 1) condemn the PSUV for not overthrowing the bourgeois state (which, it is true, it never had any intention of doing); and then 2) condemn the PSUV for the formation of the Constituent Assembly and equating democracy in Venezuela with the operation of its bourgeois parliament.

A left seeking to advance a movement for revolutionary rupture and workers’ control of production would confront the task of not just suspending parliament, but disarming and eliminating it!

Instead, we should criticize the PSUV’s repression of the left within Venezuela, precisely because it weakens and divides the working class and restricts the independent working class action which is the only real protection against fascism and imperialism.

Our line here should be the same as our line for fighting the right at home: the united front, the broadest possible coalition of working-class forces to reverse the advance of the right.

This is crucial for how SW wants to intervene in this period. Demands emerged from many comrades that DSA members in Congress and other left-wing Democratic members issue condemnations of the coup in Venezuela. They certainly should, and to the extent that they have (such as Rep. Ilhan Omar), this is good.

However, this publication’s current posture sets its readers off-balance.

First, we can’t demand clear and unambiguous condemnations from U.S. social democratic officials if we aren’t putting those forward ourselves in the first place. Bernie Sanders’s tweets foregrounding the alleged authoritarianism and abuses of the Venezuelan government could regrettably be mistaken for this publication’s line.

Second, we should develop demands for condemnation into demands for material action. Social democratic officials in the U.S. should be confronting the public expectation that they exploit their participation in Congress to block aid to the right-wing opposition in Venezuela, lift sanctions etc.

Lastly, this publication should be offering not just demands, but a concrete agenda for unorganized and organized progressive forces in the U.S. ready to carry them out: A call for solidarity committees in cities and universities, a solidarity agenda for those in trade unions, etc.

If this publication has the ambition of intervening in and shaping the orientation of a new left, it must offer both analyses and a vision for action worthy of that role.

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