Report-Back on Los Angeles Venezuela Demonstration

On Saturday, March 17, members of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) attended a small ANSWER-dominated rally in downtown Los Angeles against US intervention in Venezuela, as we share the aim of opposing any US imperialist attack or strangulation of that country. Chants from the stage included “Hands Off Venezuela,” but also the more problematic and myopic “Venezuela Is Not Divided,” implying that the entire people is behind the increasingly authoritarian Maduro government.

Our slogans, as seen on the signs in the photo above, emphasized a firm opposition to US imperialism and intervention plans. But, unlike ANSWER, we also stressed that our solidarity is with the people, not the regime, and that we support socialist democracy and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity everywhere.

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“No Trump, No Maduro, No War: Socialists Should Take a Stand on Venezuela” by Charles Davis”

Courtesy the BBC

There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 6/6, written by Charles Davis. Originally published on The Daily Beast on 21 February 2019.

Donald J. Trump, the oppressively dim president of these United States, was elected by a majority of white people who cast ballots but only a minority of the popular vote, and only then with the actively solicited help of a foreign intelligence service. His closest allies are gaudy authoritarians who murder their critics without so much as a plausible cover story. He does not, one must conclude, give half a goddamn about democracy—not in the United States, not in Saudi Arabia and certainly not in Venezuela, where his point person is a man, Elliot Abrams, whose obituary will include the term “right-wing death squads.”

It is an obvious point, but one necessary to make in a world where implausible statements from an incoherent president are still treated with legitimacy by a class of reporters and pundits trained to show undue respect to those who wield power, corporate or political and nowadays both. Trump cares about Venezuelans, whom his government routinely deports, about as much as he cares about his own children, which is not to say “a lot.” If he cared about corrupt elites ignoring the opposition-held legislature on their way to bankrupting a country for profit, he would resign, or at least hand back the $500,000 he received from the Venezuelan state for a party on his inauguration.

It is good and just to be an irritant on this point, but it is equally important that it not be the only one that is made. When Trump talks about democracy and poverty in Venezuela unconvincingly, what he says that is discernible is not necessarily wrong; the former is indeed lacking, in Caracas and Washington, and the latter abundant. As in the imperial core, the Venezuelan government has usurped its constitutional authority. I know, in part, because I was paid by it, working as an editor at the state-sponsored teleSUR, based in Ecuador, a former sponsor (its governing social democrats recently withdrew).

In late 2015, when the opposition coalition won the National Assembly with 56 percent of the vote, the expectation was that my employer would go down with the dethroned ruling party—the expectation being that legislatures, not presidents, determine spending priorities. And the opposition did not like us.

That did not happen. Maduro, instead, claimed the authority to pass budgets by executive fiat—in the U.S. democracy, presidents declare a “national emergency” to do that—helping preserve the delicate balance of power that has led the military, enriched by smuggling and the self-inflicted currency exchange system that fuels it, to stick with his administration. He then created an extralegal body, called a Constituent Assembly, that has the purported power to rewrite all laws.

Filled with party loyalists, the assembly was declared illegal by Venezuela’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz, who had been appointed by Hugo Chavez in 2007; she was forced to flee the country, another Chavista labeled a right-wing plotter by a government that has betrayed the poor. Maduro then won a presidential election, after banning his leading opponents, in a vote that, according to the United Nations, “does not in any way fulfill minimal conditions for free and credible elections.”

The international left, then, should have taken notice and—supporters of Maduro or not—urged against the dismantling of democracy, and walking back from the precipice; friendship is not telling a drunk comrade that they are a great driver and thus ceding the moral high ground to the cop that pulls them over.

It is also true that the Venezuelan government, not the U.S., is largely responsible for the state of the Venezuelan economy.

Continue reading ““No Trump, No Maduro, No War: Socialists Should Take a Stand on Venezuela” by Charles Davis””

Statement on Venezuela by the Anti-War Committees in Solidarity with The Struggles for Self-Determination

A man is detained during clashes with the Bolivarian National Guard in Urena, Venezuela, near the border with Colombia, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Venezuela’s National Guard fired tear gas on residents clearing a barricaded border bridge between Venezuela and Colombia that day, heightening tensions over blocked humanitarian aid that opposition leader Juan Guaidó has vowed to bring into the country over objections from President Nicolás Maduro. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 5/6. Originally published on News and Letters on 12 February 2019.

  • No to the U.S. Intervention in Venezuela!
  • Oppose Trump’s threats to send troops!
  • No confidence in Maduro or Guaidó!
  • Corrupt Venezuelan generals and foreign creditors profit while the people face hunger!

A severe economic crisis coupled with a deepening crisis of leadership has left Venezuela vulnerable to U.S. attempts to orchestrate a political transition that protects the military high command and creates a regime directly subordinate to Washington. Nicolas Maduro offers no alternative to the economic crisis and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV by its acronym in Spanish), created by Hugo Chávez, is an obstacle to the popular mobilizations and struggles required to overcome the crisis.

Although the U.S. has recently taken economic measures to cut the Maduro government’s access to vital oil revenues, throughout the Chavista “revolution” of “21st Century Socialism,” the U.S. has been the biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil. Trump’s sanctions preventing Maduro and members of his inner circle from receiving oil revenues are effectively a blockade on oil sales to the US, but this recent development does not explain the hyperinflation and scarcity of food and medicines driving popular protests against the government.

The root cause of the hyperinflation immiserating the people is the Chávez regime’s attempt to purchase the loyalty of the military high command, keep paying the foreign debt and avoid directly challenging the economic power of Venezuela’s criollo elite through serious land reform and nationalizations aimed at breaking the power of landlords and monopolists, and securing food sovereignty and the ability to overcome Venezuela’s dependency on imports.

Chávez coopted the popular struggle that challenged IMF-imposed austerity in the Caracazo of 1989. That popular struggle swept aside the power pact between corrupt political parties in 1998 and defeated a coup attempt in 2002. Initially enjoying deep popular support, Chávez replaced the old political regime, and carried out a redistribution of oil revenues in popular social programs to alleviate poverty and increase access to housing and healthcare.  But these policies could only be maintained as long as oil prices remained high. Chávez did not break the country’s exclusive reliance on oil revenues to purchase imports of consumers goods. With the collapse of oil prices, the needs of the people competed with the colossal waste of resources spent purchasing the loyalty of the military high command and, worst of all, the uninterrupted service on the foreign debt.

Historically, the resistance against austerity in Latin America has been associated with struggles against measures imposed upon governments in or at risk of default to international banks. The populist redistribution of oil revenues by Chávez was praiseworthy. Today, however, the government’s policies following the collapse of oil prices have tightened the belt on Venezuela’s people in order to purchase the loyalty of the army; the result is a massive transfer of wealth to the generals. Workers’ wages are eaten up by hyperinflation. Venezuela imports everything except oil, and an artificially low exchange rate is reserved for the regime’s allies—in particular, the high command of the military. The result is a black market that fuels inflation. The military is in complete control of food imports and distribution, and it has become an enormous parasite sucking the lifeblood from the Venezuelan people. Under Maduro, the Chavista regime has gone from populist programs to aid the poor to effectively forcing Venezuela’s poorest to bear the burden of the crisis, while enriching the generals who maintain control over the military and guaranteeing debt service to foreign creditors.

The question of control over the military is key to understanding the political crisis in Venezuela. Up until recently, Juan Guaidó was largely unknown to Venezuelans. He has seized upon popular discontent to present his leadership over the simmering revolt, but his planned transition is based on amnesty for the same corrupt, criminal generals whose loyalty Maduro buys. The Trump administration, European governments, together with reactionary governments like Brazil’s and Colombia’s, have backed Guaidó’s claims that Maduro’s election in 2018 was illegitimate, but although much noise was made about corruption, none of the opposition candidates in that election opposed the foreign debt service nor seriously challenged the military’s control over food imports. In any case, no election result or constitutional crisis can bind millions of Venezuelans to endure years of misery. Political struggles aside, Guaidó and the National Assembly are in fact in agreement with Maduro on protecting the generals and continuing the debt payments.

Continue reading “Statement on Venezuela by the Anti-War Committees in Solidarity with The Struggles for Self-Determination”

“In support of a democratic solution, by and for the Venezuelan people” by Mediapart

Locals come to the store to get their groceries. Cash used to buy the food, is on a daily basis, becoming more devalued. Douglas Hook/Al Jazeera

There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 4/6. Originally published on Mediapart on 29 January 2019.

Venezuela is experiencing an unprecedented crisis, which has been gradually worsening in recent years, to the point of dramatically affecting all aspects of the life of a nation. The collapse of public services, the collapse of the oil industry and the extraordinary fall of GDP, hyperinflation, the vertiginous increase of poverty, the migration of millions of people define this crisis, among other factors. Political unrest has escalated to very dangerous levels, undermining the constitutional state, the framework of social coexistence and the health of institutions. The country’s population is in a state of absolute vulnerability.

The Government of Nicolás Maduro has advanced towards authoritarianism, suppressing de facto numerous forms of popular participation that had been established since the beginning of the Bolivarian process. Repression has increased in the face of numerous protests and demonstrations of social discontent; the government has hijacked the electoral route as a collective decision-making mechanism and has proved intransigent in the goal of holding on to power at any cost; Maduro has ruled outside the Constitution, applying a permanent state of exception. Meanwhile, extractivism is deepening and economic adjustment policies which favor transnational corporations are implemented, with a negative impact on society and nature.

In parallel, the extremist sectors of the opposition bloc that managed to lead different mobilizations, have prompted several calls for a forced and radical ousting of the Maduro government (in 2014 and 2017), which generated very serious violent confrontations and attacks on infrastructure. This has further contributed to the strangulation of the everyday lives of millions of people, and had a severe impact on the framework of peaceful coexistence.

Additionally, in the context of the growth and alignment of the political right in Latin America, foreign intervention has intensified. In the first place, the Government of the United States has assumed a much more aggressive position toward Venezuela since 2015, through Executive Orders, threatening statements, creation of regional and international lobbies against the Maduro Government and economic sanctions which have impacted the national economy. Other international actors such as China and Russia also have significantly influenced the course of events according to their own expansionist interest, and their economic and energy appetites, configuring an extremely tense geopolitical situation.

Continue reading ““In support of a democratic solution, by and for the Venezuelan people” by Mediapart”

“The Venezuelan people, not Trump, must decide”

Courtesy Reuters

There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 1/6. Originally published on Socialist Worker on 25 January 2019.

AS INTERNATIONALISTS and anti-imperialists, we look to the people of Venezuela to defend their own sovereignty. We recognize that the greatest threat to peace, democracy and prosperity in Latin America has always been the U.S. state and U.S. big business.

President Donald Trump must have choked on his words when he claimed to stand up for “freedom and the rule of law.” This from a man who has imprisoned thousands of Central American children in cages. We hold him and his administration responsible for the deaths of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal.

And Vice President Mike Pence’s accusation that “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power” rings hollow from a man who, along with Trump, won office after losing the popular vote, and who regularly defends the reactionary monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

We unconditionally oppose all U.S. aggression against the people of Venezuela and demand that the Trump administration refrain from any provocative military actions. Unfortunately, there is broad bipartisan consensus in Washington, D.C., to target the people of Venezuela. Let us not forget that almost two years ago to the day, President Barack Obama declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat.”

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Javier Sethness, “Communalist, Autonomous, and Indigenous Movements in Latin America: Concrete Hope for an Alternative to Capitalism”

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Javier Sethness, Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation

Comments presented at the July 14 launch of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution and Social Justice at a public meeting at the Westside Peace Center, Culver City

Communalism: relating to the community or Commune; referring to communal or popular power; also collectivism

Autonomy: resisting the State and capital

Indigenous: Native, non-mestizo; most oppressed

“Concrete hope”: Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hopeconcrete utopia

  • “concrete” here in its Hegelian sense as con crescere, a dialectical growing together of tendencies and latencies
  • The struggle for liberation is a constant effort to realize “the Not-Yet-Become, towards viable possibilities of the light”

 

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Angel Cappelletti’s Anarchism in Latin America, forthcoming from AK Press. Reproduced with permission.

 

The environmentalist and ecological movements in Latin America have produced their own martyrs, including Chico Mendes and Berta Cáceres, as well as Mariano Abarca and Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez, anti-mining organizers from Chiapas and Oaxaca, respectively, together with countless others. Indeed, ecologists and land-defenders have been singled out for repression at the hands of States and private interests in Latin America, with hundreds of organizers killed annually in the past few years. The severity of such suppression reflects the fears of the ruling classes regarding the potential for autonomous indigenous, communalist, and anarchist movements engaging in radical ecological praxis: recovering and communizing the land, expropriating the expropriators, employing agroecology, abolishing or at least minimizing alienated labor, completely redistributing wealth and resources, redesigning the cities for collective living and sustainability, overthrowing pollution and productivism, halting economic growth, delineating biosphere reserves, and equilibrating the overall relationship between humanity and nature.

Continue reading “Javier Sethness, “Communalist, Autonomous, and Indigenous Movements in Latin America: Concrete Hope for an Alternative to Capitalism””