We can’t limit our analysis of Venezuela

February 11, 2019

Nikki Williams contributes to the discussion of socialists, imperialism and Venezuela.

IN THEIR article “Protesting the Main Enemy,” Elizabeth Dean and Seth Uzman challenge Socialist Worker to change the publication’s approach to discussions about the crisis in Venezuela. In fact, the authors demand that discussion be replaced with a statement which foregrounds what they describe as “the most important issue: The U.S. is the main threat in Latin America.”

The article goes on to criticize posts from SW’s Twitter feed @SocialistViews, which has offered what the authors describe as a “mealymouthed” platform: a “‘we oppose U.S. imperialism and Maduro is also bad’ framing which underplays the urgency of this moment.”

Rather than being “mealymouthed,” the social media and articles foregrounded by Socialist Worker clearly depict the urgency of a crisis that is multilayered and has no easy solution.

As socialists, we know that U.S. intervention in the region will have devastating consequences and is in opposition to the self-determination of the people of Venezuela. As a statement published at SW puts it: “An imperialist intervention, as on other occasions, will not defend democracy, but precisely the opposite. It will not be aimed solely at the Maduro government, but will maintain regional imperialist dominion.”

Image from SocialistWorker.org

U.S. imperialism must be opposed, and that statement is carried out in every article published by SW about Venezuela in recent weeks. However, there is also substantial opposition to Maduro and his government’s corruption and undemocratic practices. To erase that opposition is to erase the voices of the people in Venezuela — something which contradicts self-determination.

Offering the limited analysis that Dean and Uzman suggest would underplay the suffering of people in Venezuela, which is something the authors only briefly mention in their article. Under Maduro’s corrupt government, “there are just daily catastrophes in Venezuela,” Eva María, a Venezuelan socialist living in the U.S., said in an interview in SW, “so people are desperate for a change. There’s scarcity, there’s paralysis of the ruling establishment, and there’s endless fighting at the top.”

To put the suffering of the people of Venezuela as a footnote in a call to action would render this publication ineffectual for the people who are experiencing this crisis.

For some in Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, the self-declared right-wing “president,” and intervention by the U.S. seem like the only solution in the face of the devastating crisis they are facing.

As Eva María reports: “I think some on the left argue that everyone who went into the streets [to protest Maduro last month] were right wing and pro-imperialist, but I think it’s much broader than that. I think all kinds of people went out into the streets. I don’t think most people in Venezuela welcome U.S. intervention, but they’re responding to Guaidó promising new elections in a month.”


AS REVOLUTIONARY socialists, it is our duty to adequately represent the material conditions people are facing and to advocate for their self-determination, which means opposing the U.S. coup, opposing the U.S.-backed Guido government, and being critical of the corrupt and ineffective Maduro government.

This combination of evils is part of what created the crisis, and in order to promote solutions that we believe will work, we need to address all of them.

Dean and Uzman argue against emphasizing all of these facts because “socialists in imperialist countries have a basic duty to offer critical but unconditional support to movements for national sovereignty and national liberation.”

As revolutionary socialists, we have a duty to stand in unconditional support of self-determination, which can manifest as national sovereignty and liberation under the current world order, but that isn’t the end goal — especially when the options of national sovereignty don’t fully represent the people, but are the only alternatives that seem available given the material conditions.

The authors bring up interesting points regarding sanctions, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and the U.S. Fourth Fleet. An article (or articles) dedicated to dissecting these topics would be an excellent contribution to a deeper understanding of what is currently taking place in Venezuela and the role of the U.S. in the crisis. I hope that the authors take up writing those articles for SW in addition to the current analysis.

As I stated from the start, there is not an easy solution for Venezuela right now. There are no options that we can wrap in a package simply and present as the solution or the “main threat.”

For this publication to attempt to “[intervene] in and [shape] the orientation of a new left,” it must stand behind the principle of self-determination, not simply insist for the creation of protests to end U.S. imperialism. Protest in the belly of the beast is important, but will only go so far as a means to bring real socialism to Venezuela and to the world.

To dilute the struggles in Venezuela to an easy slogan doesn’t address the reasons why the right wing is able to use Venezuela to promote the idea that socialism is dangerous.

It is important to state our opposition to Guaidó and U.S. intervention in the region — and it is important that this publication continue to put forth a thorough analysis of what former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez called “socialism for the 21st century,” which was never the type of socialism we ascribe to because it is a “socialism” that is dependent on capitalism.

As Venezuelan revolutionary Gonzalo Gómez said in an interview at SW:

We need an international campaign against U.S. imperialism and the imposition of illegitimate governments, and for the democratic rights of the Venezuelan people to decide the future of their own country through constitutional means and free elections...

But this anti-intervention campaign cannot mean any support for Maduro’s government as such, since it is an oppressor of its people. The opposition to intervention must be for the Venezuelan people to make their own decisions, based on sovereignty and freedom — not to help further consolidate a government that betrayed and dismantled the Bolivarian revolution in the name of a false “socialism.”

The analysis put forward by articles in Socialist Worker offer important insights and a straightforward call: the urgent need for the solidarity of the international working class with the people of Venezuela and the need for true socialism: socialism from below.

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