How to stand with Venezuela’s workers

February 27, 2019

Steve Leigh responds to an ongoing debate about the U.S. left and the Venezuela coup.

“IN THE Global North, it’s our job to do everything we can to stop empire’s assault on Latin American socialism and independence,” ends writer Nathan Fuller’s response to SocialistWorker.org’s coverage of Venezuela (“Anti-imperialism on our own terms”).

SocialistWorker.org heartily agrees with that statement — except that there is no “socialism” in Latin America to defend. Read SocialistWorker.org’s original statement, which starts with vigorous opposition to U.S. intervention and only then criticizes Maduro (“The Venezuelan people must decide, not Trump”).

The International Socialist Organization, the publisher of SocialistWorker.org, also signed onto a statement by Latin American leftists in the same vein (“Anti-imperialist resistance against the coup”): “The issue is how can we best build a strong movement against intervention here in the U.S.”

Image from SocialistWorker.org

Fuller says that SocialistWorker.org’s criticism of Maduro undermines that effort. The reality is that we will never build a strong movement of opposition to U.S. military, economic and diplomatic attacks on Venezuela by coming across as Maduro apologists. It is clear that large numbers of people in Venezuela, including working-class and poor Venezuelans oppose Maduro. The crisis in Venezuela under Maduro is not just caused by the U.S. and its allies.

The antiwar movement must focus its energy against the U.S. and call for self-determination for the Venezuelan people. It must oppose any U.S.-backed coup attempt and appeal to all people in the U.S. who support democracy, no matter which political parties they might sympathize with inside Venezuela.

We should welcome into the antiwar movement supporters of Maduro, as well as opponents, as long as they oppose U.S. attempts to impose its will. Supporting Maduro politically against other political forces in Venezuela will weaken the movement and therefore defeat its purpose.

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As Fuller’s letter shows, the U.S. left generally leans toward political support of Maduro, even against workers in Venezuela, not just support of Maduro against the U.S. Much of the left identifies the “Bolivarian Revolution” with socialism. It downplays the class struggle within Venezuela, where workers oppose both capitalists and Maduro’s bureaucracy.

Though SocialistWorker.org’s main argument has been against the U.S. intervention, its criticism of Maduro helps to counter the dominant trend on the U.S. left . It will therefore help to push the movement away from taking sides within Venezuela’s internal politics. SW’s stand lays the basis for a more effective antiwar movement.

Socialist analysis must go beyond the question of how to build an antiwar, anti-imperialist movement.

Socialists oppose imperialism and want it to be defeated. But that is not the end of our politics. We are internationalists. That means supporting workers everywhere that they struggle against exploitation and oppression. We support workers in U.S.-allied countries and U.S.-enemy countries like Venezuela. We don’t suspend our support for workers because the government they are under is opposed by the U.S.

In order to build the strongest possible socialist movement, revolutionary socialists need to clarify what socialism is and what it isn’t. Very few will join a movement to set up a Maduro-like government in the U.S.

If we want to build a mass, working-class movement for socialism, we must have a pro-worker analysis of events around the world, including in Venezuela. It is only such a movement that can finally rid the world of U.S. imperialism.

In the long run, clarity about being on the side of the working class everywhere is the best solidarity we can offer to people around the world who have been the victims of U.S. empire.

Socialists should support revolutionaries in Venezuela who are organizing against U.S. intervention, against the right wing and against the Maduro government. As the Anti-Capitalist Network, an alliance of revolutionary Marxist groups in Latin America and Europe puts it:

It is a duty of the revolutionary left to help build an independent alternative, profoundly anti-imperialist, ready to confront any coup attempts, but with the sufficient clarity to not be drawn by the siren songs of a bureaucracy that is responsible for the current situation. The mobilized working people of Venezuela must sovereignly decide their future.

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