Trump’s “Mein Kampf” tirade at the United Nations

20 September 2017

The speech delivered Tuesday by Donald Trump to the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York was without precedent either for the UN or the American presidency.

Speaking before a world body ostensibly created to spare humanity the “scourge of war” and founded on the principles elaborated at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders, the American president openly embraced a policy of genocide, declaring that he was “ready, willing and able” to “totally destroy” North Korea and its 25 million people.

The fact that nobody in the assembly moved for Trump’s arrest as a war criminal, or even told the fascistic bully to sit down and shut up, is a measure of the bankruptcy of the UN itself.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump told the meeting. “Rocket Man [Trump’s imbecilic nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able…”

As with his every public utterance, Trump’s megalomaniacal remarks began with the supposed revival of America’s fortunes since his election last November, which has found expression, he argued, in the Wall Street stock market bubble and the passage of a $700 billion military budget.

At the core of Trump’s speech was the promotion of his “America First” ideology. The US president presented the promotion of nationalism as the solution to all the problems of the planet. “The nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition,” he proclaimed in a speech in which the words “sovereign” or “sovereignty” were repeated 21 times.

While declaring his supposed support for the sovereignty of every nation, Trump made it clear that his administration is prepared to wage war against any nation that fails to bow to Washington’s diktat.

In addition to threatening to incinerate North Korea for testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, he threatened to abrogate the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, describing it as an “embarrassment.’’ He thereby placed the US on the path to war against Iran, whose government he described as a “corrupt dictatorship,” a “rogue state” and a “murderous regime.”

He also singled out Venezuela, declaring that its internal situation “is completely unacceptable, and we cannot stand by and watch.” He added: “The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable. We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded in a tweet, saying that “Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times—not the 21st century UN—unworthy of a reply.”

The foreign minister of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza, charged Trump with seeking “regime change by force,” adding that he “wants to rule the world when he can’t even rule his own country.”

Trump made no attempt to explain the glaring contradiction between his invocation of universal national sovereignty and his assertion of US imperialism’s “right” to bomb, invade or carry out regime change against any nation it sees fit.

On the eve of the speech, a senior White House official told reporters that the American president had spent a great deal of time pondering the “deeply philosophical” character of his address.

What rubbish! The speech’s “philosophy,” such as it is, is drawn from the ideology of fascism. Indeed, no world leader has delivered the kind of threat uttered by Trump against the people of North Korea since Adolf Hitler took the podium at the Reichstag in 1939 and threatened the annihilation of Europe’s Jews.

The kind of nationalist doctrine put forward by Trump at the UN distinctly echoes the positions of Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s. As Leon Trotsky wrote in his 1934 article “Nationalism and Economic Life”:

“Italian fascism has proclaimed national ‘sacred egoism’ as the sole creative factor. After reducing the history of humanity to national history, German fascism proceeded to reduce nation to race and race to blood… The enduring value of the nation, discovered by Mussolini and Hitler, is now set off against the false values of the 19th century: democracy and socialism.”

The parallels are not accidental. The text of the speech bears the visible fingerprints of Trump’s fascistic senior policy advisor and speechwriter Stephen Miller, who seems to work best with a volume of Hitler’s Mein Kampf close at hand.

Just as this promotion of reactionary nationalism in the 1930s was the ideological expression of world capitalism’s descent into world war, so it is today.

The threats against North Korea and Iran are bound up with far wider geostrategic aims of US imperialism, as Trump indicated in his oblique denunciation of China and Russia for trading with Pyongyang and his reference to the South China Sea and Ukraine. Moreover, the attacks on Iran and threats to tear up the 2015 nuclear accord are aimed not only against the government in Tehran, but also at Washington’s erstwhile allies in Western Europe, which are already seeking new sources of profit based on trade and investment deals with Iran.

The absence from the UN’s opening session of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was significant. No doubt they had a sense of what was coming and feared the domestic political consequences of being seen as giving legitimacy through their presence in the auditorium to Trump’s diatribe.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke shortly after Trump, delivered a right-wing speech promoting the “war on terrorism,” but was forced to directly oppose the US position on North Korea, warning against military escalation and calling for dialogue. In relation to Iran, he opposed any abrogation of the nuclear treaty. The French media compared the split to the tensions that arose during the Bush administration’s drive to war against Iraq.

The threats today, however, are far greater. Trump’s speech has made it unmistakably clear to the world that the government he heads is comprised of criminals. Having drawn multiple lines in the sand, threatening war on virtually every continent, Trump’s own demagogy leads almost inexorably to escalation and military action.

The speech included a passage warning the world that the American military is no longer subordinate to civilian control. “From now on,” Trump declared, “our security interests will dictate the length and scope of military operations, not arbitrary benchmarks and timetables set up by politicians.”

In other words, the military will decide, not elected officials—the fundamental characteristic of a military dictatorship. That this “principle” is accepted by the US Congress, which approved the $700 billion Pentagon budget while voting down an amendment calling on the legislative body to reclaim its constitutional power to declare war, is a measure of the putrefaction of American democracy.

The consolidation of such a government, with the repulsive figure of Donald Trump at its head, is the culmination of a quarter-century of economic and political degeneration, combined with unending wars and military interventions waged with the aim of reversing the erosion of American capitalism’s global hegemony.

Contradicting the vision presented in Trump’s speech of a Hitlerian springtime for nationalism, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres preceded the American president with an address to the General Assembly describing “a world in pieces.”

“People are hurting and angry,” he warned. “They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing.” He added that “global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.”

This undeniable reality found indirect expression in Trump’s own address, with his attempt to exploit the crisis in Venezuela—a country where the dominance of finance capital is today greater than it was three decades ago—to denounce socialism.

“Wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure,” said Trump. “Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.”

A quarter-century after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the proclamation of the failure of Marxism and triumph of capitalism, the threat of socialism has become a central preoccupation of an American president delivering a reactionary and militarist diatribe before the United Nations.

Trump speaks for a US financial and corporate oligarchy that feels itself under siege. It fears growing popular anger. It has been shaken to the core by the revelation during the 2016 election that a broad social constituency within the working class and among the youth is intensely hostile to the profit system and sympathetic to socialism.

Ultimately, Trump’s belligerent threats of war and nuclear annihilation are the projection onto the world stage of the class policy pursued by the American ruling class at home, and the very advanced state of political and social tensions within the United States itself.

Bill Van Auken

WSWS

 

 

Washington’s drive for regime change in Venezuela

https://i2.wp.com/studentsforliberty.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/venezuela-protests_car10.jpg

2 May 2014

In the past few days, US officials have resumed a drumbeat of denunciations against the Venezuelan government of President Nicolás Maduro.

In response to an appeal from a right-wing Venezuelan émigré in Miami, President Barack Obama described himself as “deeply troubled by the continued repression of protestors in Venezuela,” and declared that he was “working behind the scenes” to influence events in the South American country.

Speaking Monday via an Internet video connection to a conference in Estonia of the “Freedom Online Coalition,” which includes the governments of 23 countries, Secretary of State John Kerry made unsubstantiated claims that the Venezuelan government had blocked access to some web sites and lumped it together with Russia as a country that suppresses Internet freedom and constitutes a place “where we face some of the greatest security challenges today.”

Needless to say, the US secretary of state—who had earlier condemned the Venezuelan government for waging a “terror campaign” against its own people—made no mention of Washington’s own role in the wholesale spying on Internet activities of hundreds of millions of people around the globe.

And at a separate conference in New York City, Roberta Jacobsen, the undersecretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, told an audience that the Obama administration was not “ruling out anything,” including the imposition of sanctions against Venezuela, but for now advocated “giving a chance” to the ongoing “dialogue” between the Maduro government and its right-wing opposition.

The statements by the US president and the two top State Department officials only go to confirm the warning made last month by Maduro that his government is confronting a “slow-motion” coup, in which US-backed violent demonstrators are “copying badly what happened in Kiev.”

In Venezuela, as in Ukraine, the aim of US imperialism is to remove any obstacle to its exercise of hegemony. Venezuela sits atop the world’s largest proven oil reserves, and Washington is determined to place these strategic resources firmly under its thumb. The Venezuelan government’s diversion of oil revenues to finance minimal assistance programs for the poor, its provision of subsidized oil exports to Cuba and other nations in what the US has always regarded as its “own backyard,” and the growing trade and financial ties between Caracas and Beijing have all served to provoke the ire of the US government.

As in Kiev, in Venezuela Washington backed “peaceful protesters” who dubbed their campaign la salida (the exit), meaning the ouster of the elected president. To that end they employed Molotov cocktail attacks against government buildings and sniper fire against security forces and government supporters. All the while, as in Ukraine, Washington and the Western media grossly exaggerated the repressive actions of the government, while utterly ignoring the violence of the demonstrators.

Unlike Kiev, la salida failed to achieve its objective. The violent protests were confined almost exclusively to the more well-heeled neighborhoods. They attracted little to no support within the country’s working class and impoverished masses. Their own growing anger against rising prices and chronic shortages notwithstanding, working people recognize in the protest leaders—who, like their counterparts in Kiev are longtime recipients of US aid through agencies such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy—the representatives of imperialism and the old Venezuelan oligarchy that oppressed the country for centuries.

Now, along with Washington, the Venezuelan right and big business are “giving a chance” to the so-called “dialogue” initiated by the Maduro government, even as the violent protests continue, albeit on a far reduced level.

Mediated by the Vatican and foreign ministers of Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, this dialogue has been aimed at reaching an accommodation between the Maduro government and the right-wing opposition, organized in the electoral coalition known as MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable). Alongside these dialogue sessions, the government has organized an economic “peace conference” with leading Venezuelan capitalists, appealing for an increase in production and asking billionaires like Lorenzo Mendoza of the Polar food conglomerate what they need to boost productivity and profits.

What the Venezuelan financial and corporate ruling layers are demanding is more cash from the public treasury—which they are being granted—as well as higher prices on goods along with attacks on basic rights and living standards of the working class. These are also forthcoming, with prices on a number of basic commodities having been quietly allowed to increase—along with a 40 percent hike in public transit fares—and labor laws protecting workers against layoffs increasingly ignored.

Maduro used May Day to announce a 30 percent increase in the minimum wage, upon which large sections of those employed in the formal sector subsist. Given an inflation rate that neared 60 percent last year, the increase leaves workers far behind, with two minimum wage salaries required just to buy basic necessities under even the government’s low estimate of these costs.

The president of Venezuela’s chamber of commerce, Fedecamaras, Jorge Roig, praised Maduro for consulting with big business before announcing the paltry wage hike, calling the 30 percent rise “responsible.”

The emerging strategy of the Venezuelan right and its US sponsors is to utilize the instability it has created to push the government to the right, while in the process further alienating the measure of popular support it enjoyed thanks to its social assistance programs and populist rhetoric.

Waiting in the wings, should neither the Maduro government nor the right prove capable of imposing new conditions of stability for Venezuelan capitalism, is the military. From the coming to power nearly 15 years ago of Hugo Chávez, a former army lieutenant colonel and abortive coup leader, the military has played a decisive role in the “Bolivarian Socialist” government. Today military officers occupy 11 government ministries, including the most important—Defense, Interior and Economy—as well as the majority of the country’s governorships. The announcement that three air force generals and some 30 officers have been arrested for alleged participation in a coup plot serves as a deadly warning.

The Venezuelan working class is confronted with sharp dangers, not only from the political right, but from within the Maduro government and its military core as well.

Those pseudo-left elements who have cast “Chavismo” and “Bolivarian Socialism” as some new road to socialism have worked to politically disarm workers in the face of these threats. They have painted in rosy colors a situation in which the grip of private capital over the country’s economy is greater than before Chávez took office and in which finance capital is reaping super profits off of Venezuelan oil revenues, even as a new layer tied to the government, the so-called boliburguesia, enriches itself through contracts and corruption.

Venezuelan groups like Marea Socialista (MS-Socialist Tide), whose politics are promoted by both the Pabloites and the International Socialist Organization, pose the task of the working class as pressuring Maduro to the left to counteract the pressure from the right. Other pseudo-left groups abroad have moved even further to the right, distancing themselves from the Venezuelan government after Chávez opposed the imperialist regime change operations in Libya and Syria that these groups have supported.

In the end, all of these groups speak politically for more privileged layers of the petty bourgeoisie. They were attracted to Chavismo precisely because it subordinated the working class to a “comandante” and a military-dominated government, thereby mediating Venezuela’s explosive class struggle.

The bitter lessons of the recent violent clashes in Venezuela and the government’s response are summed up in the necessity of establishing the political independence of the working class, in opposition to the bourgeois government of Maduro and its pseudo-left supporters. This means building a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International based on the theory of permanent revolution and fighting for the working class to take power in Venezuela and throughout Latin America.

Bill Van Auken

El Libertario: beware Venezuela’s false ‘anarchists’


by George Ciccariello-Maher on March 28, 2014

Post image for El Libertario: beware Venezuela’s false ‘anarchists’

Not everyone who calls themselves anarchists are worthy of the name. Before expressing our solidarity, we should be clear who it is we are supporting.

When it comes to the Venezuelan protests of recent weeks and months, misinformation reigns supreme. Just as liberals and progressives have been misled by desperate hashtags like #SOSVenezuela and simplistic comparisons to Occupy, so too has the radical left been tempted by the some self-described Venezuelan anarchists, and El Libertario in particular.

This is not a critique of anarchism in general or even of all Venezuelan anarchists (I will discuss others below). I have always been very close to the anarchist milieu and, while frustrated by certain anarchist blindspots, I am influenced by anarchism as a doctrine of revolutionary struggle that understands the inherent contradictions of the state. The liberal, middle-class anarchism of El Libertario, however, represents not the fulfillment but the betrayal of this revolutionary anarchist vision. Condescending toward the poor and utterly absent from concrete struggles, it has instead allied itself—as it does today—with reactionary elite movements.

In a recent piece published in English both by Libcom.org and ROAR Magazine, El Libertario figurehead Rafael Uzcátegui (not to be confused with the former guerrilla of the same name), put forth a highly misleading but also revealing account of the recent protests to provide an “anarchist perspective” for the “poorly informed.” Unfortunately, the piece leaves us even more poorly informed than before, and lacks any anarchist perspective whatsoever. (While this is not the time to fully dissect Uzcátegui’s book, translated into English as Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle, let’s just say that—as the title suggests—it’s more Debord than Magón or Bakunin.)

What is misleading is that Uzcátegui repeats mainstream misrepresentations of how the protests started, claiming police repression when the police only acted in response to a February 6th attack on the governor of Táchira’s house. He uncritically reports arrests and torture allegations, despite the fact that most of these were never actually reported to the competent agencies, and some are under investigation. While rightly mentioning the role of intelligence officials in deaths of both protesters and Chavistas on February 12th, he fails to mention that the officers responsible were promptly arrested and charged (the number of officials arrested for excessive force has now reached 17).

He invokes a common refrain that there is no press freedom in Venezuela while noting that it was the most important Venezuelan newspaper, Últimas Noticias (which is sympathetic to the government) that released a crucial video investigation showing the actions of security officials on February 12th. He critiques president Nicolás Maduro’s suggestion that a coup plot similar to the one that briefly overthrew Hugo Chávez in 2002 might be in the works, but leaves out El Libertario’s own ambivalence toward that coup when it happened (see below).

What is revealing, however, is the fact that Uzcátegui positions El Libertario as “simple spectators” and condescendingly blames “low levels of political culture” for the absence of a truly independent left. For anyone who has spent even a week in Venezuela, and especially for those of us from the US who have lived there extensively, this last statement is utterly incomprehensible, since the political culture of Venezuela, the constant flurry of vibrant critical revolutionary activity, is at times overwhelming. But this, alongside Uzcátegui’s demonization of popular revolutionary organizations (colectivos) as “militia groups” speaks volumes about El Libertario’s opposition to popular struggles and the self-activity of the poorest Venezuelans and support for middle-class notions of social change that are ultimately complicit with the right.

Who Are El Libertario?

1. A middle-class organization…

As one former member puts it, El Libertario’s constituency and membership consists of “total upper-class snobs (sifrinos), unos hijitos de papá, pampered rich kids.” Uzcátegui himself comes from a family with money and became even more “gentrified through student politics in the university.” (Uzcátegui has even worked a day job under the former mayor of Baruta in wealthy eastern Caracas, none other than right-wing opposition leader Henrique Capriles, formerly of the US-funded opposition party Primero Justicia). Origin is not a curse, however, and many a revolutionary has committed “class suicide” to join the struggle—not so for El Libertario.

2. … with liberal, middle-class politics…

In the words of a former member, El Libertario “operates more like an NGO than a group, it’s not a grassroots movement,” and this should be no surprise since members have close relations to liberal human rights NGOs like PROVEA, where Uzcátegui works. Whereas revolutionaries worldwide have become increasingly aware of the limitations and even dangers of human rights discourse—which in recent years has been strategically co-opted by right-wing forces worldwide—El Libertario has seemingly moved in the opposite direction. All of which raises an interesting question for self-professed “anarchists”: when the all-out class war comes, will El Libertario be there to defend the human rights of our enemies? This is not to celebrate repression: I have been tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, attacked with concussion grenades, arrested, and assaulted by police—but I have never heard this described as a “human rights violation.”

Inherent limitations of human rights discourse aside, Uzcátegui and PROVEA have gone further in recent weeks by circulating one-sided denunciations of the Maduro government that make no mention of the many deaths at the hands of the opposition protesters. You would have no idea that two motorcyclists had been decapitated by barbed wire seemingly hung for that purpose, or that bystanders had been attacked and even killed when crossing barricades to get to work. Thankfully, a number of human rights defenders—some formerly working with PROVEA and Amnesty International—have recently denounced this manipulative use of human rights discourse.

3. … that upholds middle-class leadership…

Even more astonishingly, in a country in which the poor majority—both the traditional working class and the informal sector—have become increasingly organized and revolutionary, Rodolfo Montes de Oca from El Libertario even openly supports the idea that it is the middle class that should lead the struggle. In an article replete with the obligatory references to “counter-power” and citations of Graeber and Holloway, we find the astounding suggestion that it is “the college-educated middle class, and perhaps owners of small means of production and service providers, who are the best suited to assume leadership within emerging organizations and social movements, since their basic necessities are covered and their autonomy won’t be put at risk [hipotecada].”

Montes’ choice of words is revealing, as hipotecada refers literally to mortgages, implying that the poor will simply sell their political loyalties to the highest bidder. In On Revolution, Hannah Arendt argued that the French Revolution was doomed by “necessity and poverty” because its supporters were drawn from “the multitude of the poor.” Here we have so-called “anarchists” trotting out the same tired argument: the poor, it seems, can’t be trusted to lead their own social struggles, since their empty stomachs will only get in the way. El Libertario aspires to be, in the words of one critic, “The boss in the workplace and the boss in the revolution.”

4. … and is absent from popular struggles…

As a result of this middle-class composition, liberal middle-class ideology, and emphasis on middle-class leadership, it is little surprise that El Libertario would be absent from popular grassroots struggles and allied instead with the more middle-class struggles of increasingly conservative students in elite and private universities. In the words of a former member, El Libertario “has never had a presence in the barrio,” and when small projects were attempted in the past, their vanguardist method of work—in which they sought to enlighten the poor—was “self-isolating” in practice. Other Venezuelan anarchists similarly insist that El Libertario is “never seen by communities in struggle.” Even El Libertario sympathizers have observed that “they have only the most marginal presence in many key sectors of social struggle,” a characterization which fits Uzcátegui’s admission that they are “simple spectators.”

For example, when revolutionary organizations engaged in direct action in 2004, tearing down a statue of Columbus in Plaza Venezuela in the name of decolonization, some were arrested and Chávez denounced the organizers as “anarchists.” Rather than participating in the action or showing solidarity with those arrested, El Libertario instead chose to mock the action as somehow—here revealing their longstanding obsession—simply a spectacle, and blamed those arrested for naively presuming the government would support them. In the complex dialectic of the revolutionary process, it’s worth pointing out that despite Chávez’s initial denunciation, these and other radical direct actions pushed the Bolivarian government toward emphasizing indigenous genocide and eventually declaring October 12th the “Day of Indigenous Resistance.”

After a similarly combative action on the anniversary of the Caracazo in 2008 which Chávez similarly criticized as “anarchistic,” again El Libertario did not express solidarity but instead issued a statement insisting that Chávez did not know what the word meant. According to participants, he had evidently “touched their sacred word,” and they couldn’t allow anyone else to be accused of anarchism, and so they misrepresented the slogan of the action—“we don’t want them to govern us: we want to govern”—as simply a demand for state power.

5. … and more likely to join forces with the right…

The list goes on and on: while revolutionaries (who supported Chávez) were repressed by the National Guard while participating in a 2008 caravan to support indigenous Yukpa rights, El Libertario was nowhere to be seen (despite paying lip service to the Yukpa struggle), but was instead in the streets with middle-class students, defending the right-wing TV station RCTV. This all points to a troubling trend: instead of submerging themselves in revolutionary popular struggles, El Libertario has moved increasingly toward student struggles that tend toward the right. This trend has only been confirmed in recent weeks, as members of El Libertario have openly celebrated the middle-class and largely right-wing protest movement. Uzcátegui has even gone so far—according to his tweets—as to mistake this middle-class crowd (which other “libertarians” argue is hegemonically fascist) for the networked multitude, thereby committing the cardinal error of forgetting that for old Antonio Negri, the multitude is above all a “class concept.”

6. … due to a caricatured “three-way fight” politics…

El Libertario like to position themselves as being equally opposed to both Chavismo and the right. While this invokes in some ways the “three-way fight” logic in the form of the lucha tripolar, or “tripolar struggle”, it is in a brutally caricatured form (although, let’s be real, three-way fight is capable of its own ridiculous caricature). This was as clear during the right-wing coup of April 2002 as it is today: confronted with a coup that removed not only Chávez but also the progressive 1999 Constitution, and which left dozens dead in the streets before it was reversed through popular mass rebellion, El Libertario again stood on the sidelines, unwilling to even condemn this quasi-fascist assault on the people. (Issues 26 and 27 of El Libertario, published around the time of the coup, are conveniently missing from the web archive, but I have myself interviewed former members who left El Libertario after it took this “reactionary position”).

7. … making any mass-revolutionary outlook impossible.

Uzcátegui insists that “The Revolutionary Independent Venezuelan Left (anarchists, sectors that follow Trotsky, Marx, Lenin and Guevara)” are “simple spectators”—but what about revolutionary socialists like the Marea Socialista current? What about revolutionary anarchist-libertarian militants like Roland Denis, who rather than admiring the networked creativity of these protesters urges us instead to take radical measures to “deactivate fascism”? And what about revolutionary Guevaraists like the new Bolivarian-Guevaraist Current or the La Piedrita Collective, one of those popular collectives that Uzcátegui smears as a blindly Chavista militia, despite the fact that they predated Chávez by decades and frequently clashed with the government in practice.

Rather than humbly seeking a basis in mass work, El Libertario condescendingly insists that if the masses don’t join them, so much the worse for the masses. Accordingly, it smears those who disagree as oficialistas, supporters of the government, in an attempt to erase the very real history of revolutionary autonomy within the Bolivarian movement. Thus while El Libertario parrots tired mantras of the opposition that there is no press freedom in Venezuela (which is a blatant lie, incidentally), it ignores the flourishing of popular grassroots media in recent years, as well as the fact that revolutionaries were demanding that media be “neither private nor state-run.” Anyone who happens to also support the Bolivarian process, or to see it as worth defending despite its limitations and defects, is according to El Libertario a sell-out and a pawn.

But this view is not revolutionary and certainly not anarchist. Any anarchist revolution will be a mass, class-based phenomenon or it will be nothing at all. This doesn’t mean that anarchists and anti-authoritarians should simply uncritically toe the Chavista line, but instead engage directly in building revolutionary movements, spaces, and ruptures within and against the mainstream of the Bolivarian movement, as thousands of Venezuelan revolutionaries have been doing for years if not decades.

Will the Real Anarchists Please Stand Up?

While capital-A anarchism has never been a major force in Venezuela, the liberal anarchism of El Libertario does not enjoy the monopoly on the term that it would like you to believe. A good example was the Revolutionary Anarchist Federation of Venezuela (FARV), which unfortunately dissolved last year. The FARV represented the voice of revolutionary, decolonial, class-struggle anarchism in Venezuela, but like most non-middle-class movements, this was not a voice that was amplified by translated books or US speaking tours, and so I will quote at length from the FARV to compensate.

In a 2012 article, Luis from the FARV provided an exhaustive analysis of the “absurdities of El Libertario” and, rejecting El Libertario’s attempts to “hoard” and “monopolize” the name anarchism, sketched the parameters for a truly revolutionary anarchist alternative. This alternative sets out from a firm rejection of the middle-class ideology and leadership that defines El Libertario. Noting that “we have always been under the leadership of the privileged classes,” the FARV insists that to uphold middle-class leadership is to maintain the traditional reproduction of the system whereby academic institutions legitimate those “predestined to guide the country… this is exactly the same as the opposition discourse that speaks of a so-called meritocracy, loaded with racism, classism, liberalism, colonialism, and fascism.”

Further, suggesting that those possessing the means of production are rightful movement leaders is to “validate exploitation, difference, and privileges rather than combating them, which we understand to be the reason we are anarchists to begin with… Proudhon cried ‘property is theft,’ and so that small property… is therefore a small theft, a small parasitic action.” Worst of all, to openly celebrate middle-class origins by embracing middle-class politics is to contribute to discrediting of anarchism itself by reinforcing the oldest caricature of anarchism in the books, “sustain[ing] the fallacies Bolsheviks have woven about anarchism… that anarchism is a petit-bourgeois ideology.” For the FARV,

The anarcho-liberals [of El Libertario] are part of the middle class and proud of it, so we know that they will never work against their own interests… [But] fortunately, the popular movement doesn’t let anyone act in its name, much less the middle class. Fortunately, social movements are not the same as the popular movement. Fortunately, the popular movement continues to advance toward collective forms of leadership.

The correct position toward these popular movements is not of course the passivity of “simple spectators” as Uzcátegui would have it, and the FARV rejects the three-way fight insofar as it represents “the posture of the ‘enlightened third way’… which does not participate in struggles but only watches, criticizes, and pretends to give the orders because it believes it possesses a luminous truth. An arrogant and authoritarian ‘anarchism’ that we do not share.”

The FARV “expresses ourselves from the position of concrete popular struggles. It is from this difference that all other differences stem.” They spread libertarian ideas “not only with the word, but with everyday constructive action alongside the children of the people. With humility and as equals, since there is much we have to learn from communities in struggle.” As the FARV recognized in a 2012 communiqué, to position oneself alongside concrete communities in struggle is not to oppose the Bolivarian process—understood as something that began long before Chávez and will continue long after him—but to embrace aspects of it while pressing it in ever more revolutionary directions:

Our struggle is for libertarian communism, and so we are not willing to go back to a ‘state of affairs’ in which: we will be persecuted, where alternative media will be closed, where lands and businesses today under communal control will be returned to large landholders and businessmen, where there will be systematic violations of human rights, where the juridical instruments that can help the popular cause [i.e., the 1999 Constitution] and the future construction of truly horizontal and assembly-based communal spaces will disappear… to regress to a past that, scarcely concealed, awaits a fascist backlash.

Instead, from this position in concrete popular struggles, the FARV embraces a different sort of three-way fight:

We are equally against those supposedly ‘leftist’ positions that want us to believe that ‘this is more of the same’ as we are against those top-down accommodationists who insist that ‘this is a true revolution’… and even more certain ‘personalities’ who take refuge in anarchist ideas (and certain Trotskyist positions) to cover up the fact that they speak from a bourgeois perspective, and thereby to invisibilize struggles and processes of change… We also say to these anarchists-turned-hucksters, commercializers and tourists of ideas, that fascism shall not pass.

This does not mean that the state is not powerfully dangerous and contradictory, of course: according to the FARV, “no state is revolutionary,” but “as anarchists we know that this process… is constituted as a collective and common task of the Venezuelan people, and therefore that the conditions of possibility today posed by connecting tactically to the Bolivarian state must not be abandoned.” Anarchism can only be built through the collective struggle of the masses, and for reasons both defensive (avoiding repression) and offensive (laying claim to new spaces opened by the process), this mass struggle emerges through the Bolivarian process (although in a tense and often conflictive relation to the government).

This means resisting the automatic solidarities and stifling confines of a capital-A anarchism that limits itself to those self-described anarchists:

In the present moment there exist many examples of spaces that, while not defining themselves as anarchist, are nevertheless engaged in everyday libertarian practices: communities that possess a certain degree of social production, self-government, and self-defense… [like] Collectives in 23 de Enero, Alexis Vive Collective, Montaraz Collective, among others.

El Libertario, faithful to their class background and class politics, “are more afraid of Chavismo and the revolution than fascism, the oligarchy, and the Venezuelan right-wing, with which they gladly march.” So it is no surprise that these collectives celebrated by the FARV for their tacitly anarchist activity are the very same collectives that are today demonized by a fearful bourgeoisie as well as their anarchist collaborators who mimic elites in their denunciation of “militia groups.”

The FARV’s reply to El Libertario’s strange right-wing bedfellows is blunt:

No, we have nothing in common with the bourgeoisie. El Libertario and the FARV are not the same thing. It is very different to say ‘social movements’ (meaning NGOs and foundations) vs. ‘popular movement’ (collectives and working groups, campesino fronts, land occupation movements, indigenous movements, health committees, land committees, etc). Bakunin is right, the middle class is one thing, with its aspirations and conceits; the children of the people with their struggles, dreams, and victories are another thing entirely… As children of the people we don’t hope for anything of the middle class, and much less its leadership… We choose not to be on the side of a class that fears the revolution…

We prefer instead to be with the popular movement, with its rebellious, disobedient, and ungovernable temperament; with its self-managed experiments, with its steps toward socialism, with its libertarian yearnings and its anarchist intuition… we need to look for [this anarchist impulse]—not in the middle class, not in the communiqués of the bourgeoisie, not on the internet or in the official speeches of university professors, not on television or in Chávez’s statements or actions, but in the barrios, in the communities in struggle, at the heart of the popular movement.

In We Created Chávez, I wrote that “Far too often, discussions of contemporary Venezuela revolve around the figure of the Venezuelan president. Whether from opponents on the conservative right or the anarchist left or supporters in between, the myopia is the same.” Similarly, the FARV argue that:

The acolytes of Chávez-centrism, whether Chavistas or from the opposition, share the determination to circumscribe everything in the figure of Chávez, either by denying the accomplishments of the Bolivarian process and saying that everything bad is due to the zambo of their nightmares, or by fomenting the idea that these accomplishments are the gifts of power or the result of Chávez’s benevolence.

We, on the other hand, consider these accomplishments to be the product of the historic struggles of the popular movement, which have cost us and continue to cost us blood and sacrifice… Although El Libertario, along with the right-wing opposition and the red [Chavista] bureaucracy attempt to erase all traces of the autonomy of popular action, we the children of the people will continue organizing, they will hear our voices more often and will have to get used to seeing our faces.

Not everyone who calls themselves anarchists are worthy of the name, and before revolutionaries in the U.S. or elsewhere re-post articles, translate books, or organize speaking tours, we should be clear what it is we are supporting. Especially in Latin America, moreover, we must be attentive to the thousands engaged in revolutionary anti-state activity that don’t even call themselves “anarchists.” To support middle-class, liberal anarchists like El Libertario is to be against the revolution, against concrete popular struggles of the Venezuelan poor, and even against anarchism itself.

George Ciccariello-Maher is the author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution (Duke University Press, 2013).

How Florida Reactionaries Undermine Venezuelan Democracy

 

https://i2.wp.com/static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2012/10/3/1349281883272/Venezuelan-President-Hugo-008.jpg

 

The Anti-Cuba Privateers

 

by W.T. WHITNEY

 

Remember the Tonkin Gulf Resolution?  In 1964 that joint congressional resolution propelled the United States into war lasting nine years.  Resolution 488, passed by House of Representatives by a 393 – 1 vote on March 4, is a moral and practical equivalent. Its title was “Supporting the people of Venezuela as they protest peacefully for democracy, a reduction in violent crime and calling for an end to recent violence.”

The vote took place under a provision known as “suspension of the rules” which Congress uses for “legislation of non-controversial bills.”  The sole dissenter was a Kentucky Republican.  Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced R 488. In Florida she represents the 27th congressional district, part of Miami-Dade County. All but unanimous backing for the resolution is reprehensible – for three reasons.

One, the resolution did not tell the truth.  It speaks of Venezuelans “protesting peacefully.” Actually as of March 7 protesters had shot five people dead. Three were soldiers. Six deaths are attributed to opposition roadblocks, 30 more because roadblocks prevented access to emergency services. Soldiers had killed three people, one a government supporter. When protests started in Táchira, Mérida, and Caracas in early February, police did not intervene until government offices and police cars were being attacked and burned and until food and medical supply trucks were blocked. The government arrested officers who violated orders to  to act with restraint. 

The resolution suggests Venezuela is undemocratic. Over 15 years, however, governments there have won 17 out of 18 national elections. They are elections that for fairness and efficiency are “the best in the world,” according to the Carter Center in Georgia. Press freedom abounds: Venezuela’ predominately privately-owned newspapers and television outlets disseminate opposition viewpoints. Their television broadcasts reach 90 percent of viewers nationally.

Real democracy means uplift for everybody. In Venezuela poverty dropped from 50 percent in 1998 to 32 percent in 2011. Social spending increased from 11 percent of the GDP to 24 percent.  Pensioners rose from 500,000 to 2.5 million; people finishing college, from 600,000 to 2.3 million. High school enrollment increased 42 percent. Children malnutrition and infants deaths have fallen dramatically. Every year the minimum wage has increased 10 – 20 percent.

Media misrepresentation contributed to the resolution’s passage. Protesters, for example, hardly represent Venezuela’s majority population. Disturbances have taken place in only 18 of 335 municipalities, places where the middle and upper classes live and where right-wing politicians are in charge.  Most students in the streets attend private schools. National polling shows that 85 percent of respondents oppose “protests continuing throughout the country.”

Secondly, passage of Ros-Lehtinen’s resolution is a new chapter in the process of U.S. preparations for undermining  Venezuela’s elected government.  Money tells some of that story. Analyst Mark Weisbrot reports, “[O]ne can find about $90 million in U.S. funding to Venezuela since 2000 “just looking through U.S. government documents available on the web, including $5 million in the current federal budget.” According to Venezuelanalysis.com: “Over one third of US funding, nearly $15 million annually by 2007, was directed towards youth and student groups, including training in the use of social networks to mobilize political activism.”  And, “Embassy cables also reveal US government funding of opposition parties.”  Discussing his leadership of the National Endowment for Democracy, a prime source of U.S. funding, Allen Weinstein told the Washington Post in 1991 that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

Preparations are evident too from a report produced by Venezuelan – U.S. lawyer Eva Golinger. She alludes to a meeting on June 13, 2013, location unspecified, attended by representatives  Colombia’s “Center for Thought Foundation and the Democratic Internationalism Foundation. The two groups have links with ex-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, right wing protagonist of destabilization in Venezuela.   Mark Feierstein, regional head of the US Agency for International Development, attended the meeting.

It generated a document entitled “Venezuelan Strategic Plan,” which detailed 15 “action points.” They included destruction of facilities, “massive mobilizations,” food shortages, and “insurrection inside the army.” The document mentions “crisis in the streets that facilitate the intervention of North America and the forces of NATO, with support of the government of Colombia.” “Violence [causing} deaths and injuries” is anticipated.

The third objection to Ros-Lehtinen’s resolution, and especially to congressional consensus, relates to her associations. She is famous for projecting Cuban-American determination to undo the Cuban Revolution onto the national stage.  She thereby bears major responsibility for continuing a national policy of economic blockade of that island. Nor has she challenged her neighbors’ toleration of, even direct participation in, anti-Cuban terrorist attacks. It’s clear now that her neighbors have extended terror attacks to Venezuela, presumably as their contribution to U.S. plans to overthrow Venezuela’s government.

Surely it’s reasonable to expect that U.S. congresspersons, as part of their job description, might ask questions.

They could have inquired about Raul Diaz Peña, who in 2010 showed up in Ros-Lehtinen’s Miami office after having just arrived in the United States. Weeks earlier he had escaped from prison in Venezuela where he was serving time for having bombed embassies in Caracas in 2003. He told reporters on hand that costs for his escape and U.S. entry amounted to $100,000. The congresswoman indicated she “had been lobbying the US government”on his behalf .

On February 23, two days before Ros-Lehtinen introduced her resolution, Robert Alonzo held a “patriotic lunch” for friends at his farm outside Miami.  He told them he wanted “help and solidarity of unyielding Cuban – exile combatants in their campaign to step up resistance to [President] Maduro’s misrule.”

Present were Reinol Rodríguez, head of the paramilitary group Alpha 66; José Dionisio Suárez, admitted murderer of ex-Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier in Washington; and Armando Valladares, formerly imprisoned in Cuba for bombings and more recently implicated in a plot to kill Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Born in Cuba, Alonso was living in Venezuela until authorities there discovered 153 Colombian paramilitaries lodged at his farm near Caracas. Their plan was to kill then President Hugo Chavez. Alonso helped out with the coup attempt against Chavez in 2002 by leading an assault on the Cuban Embassy.

Another meeting to plan the ouster of President Chavez took place in Miami in 2009.  On hand were Jose Antonio Colina Pulido, on the lam after the embassy bombings in 2003;  Joaquim Chaffardet, intelligence chief in Venezuela linked to the bombing of a fully loaded Cuban Airliner in 1976, along with Miamian Luis Posada; and Johan Peña, self-exiled after participating in the 2004 murder of Venezuelan prosecutor Danilo Anderson.

Other notable neighbors include: Patricia Poleo, who plotted against Danilo Anderson; military officer Gustavo Diaz, who helped propel the anti-Chavez coup attempt in 2002; and Angel De Fana who tried to kill Fidel Castro in 1997. Former Miami-area FBI head Héctor Pesquera attended a meeting in Panama where final arrangements were made to kill Danilo Anderson.

Finally, R-488 is emblematic of a serious problem relating to the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, specifically privatization.  The U.S. government has long farmed out decision-making on and implementation of policies toward Cuba to agents, really proxies, belonging to the Cuban-American émigré community. The same tendency now crops up in regard to Venezuela.

It’s apparent that privateers involved with Cuban affairs, epitomized by Representative Ros-Lehtinen, are promoting a U.S. campaign to undermine Venezuela’s government. Joining this essentially autonomous force are self-exiled, often terrorist-inclined, migrants from other Latin American countries, notably Venezuela. The evidence shows that the milieu where Resolution 488 was spawned nurtures this class of dark characters.  That the resolution gained quick, basically unquestioning approval – after all, it was deemed “non-controversial” – is bad news for the future of democracy in both Venezuela and the United States.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

 

Does It Matter That the Venezuelan Opposition Is Funded by the US?

BLOGGER COMMENT:  The US has never been able to tolerate alternative economic systems in the Americas. We would rather, for example, support a fascist General Pinochet than a socialist Allende. In Venezuela we support return of corporate control to the oil business. With us, the US, it’s always about the money, not the people.

By Ray Downs

Protesters march against the government in Caracas, Venezuela, on February 15. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

In the summer of 2007, the vehemently pro–Hugo Chávez journalist and lawyer Eva Golinger got on Venezuelan state TV and, with the help of a flow chart hand-drawn on flimsy poster board, called out several fellow journalists who had allegedly accepted US funding to help bring down the country’s famously left-wing, anti-American president.

“These journalists are destabalizing agents,” Golinger said, and explained that that they had participated in programs paid for by the US that were designed to promote a pro-American agenda, the goal of which was to create anti-socialist sentiment in Venezuela.

The accusation didn’t cause the kind of uproar Golinger was hoping for. The journalists were briefly investigated by a government committee, but that prompted an immediate public outcry—in fact, many Chavistas rejected such McCarthy-like tactics, claiming they made them look bad.

The incident did cause the US Embassy in Caracas some concern, however. In a cable released by Wikileaks titled “IV Participants and USAID Partners Outed, Again” that describes Golinger’s TV appearance and the aftermath, an embassy official wrote that people were becoming wary of getting involved with any enterprise funded by the US. “It is particularly hard to persuade Chávez supporters to participate in a program they perceived as potentially career-ending,” the official wrote. In other words, though Golinger embarrassed herself with her shit-stirring, the US was really trying to bring down Chávez by funneling money to his opponents.

Since then, the US has continued its longstanding practice of funding programs that it often claims are aimed at promoting fair elections and human rights, but also strengthen Venezuelan opposition groups—and this money may be influencing the ongoing protests that have helped put the country in a political crisis.

These programs have several names and objectives. Some have clearly benevolent goals; one is targeted at discouraging violence against women, for instance. But other US efforts in Venezuela are unabashedly political, such as a 2004 USAID program that, according to a Wikileaks cable, would spend $450,000 to “provide training to political parties on the design, planning, and execution of electoral campaigns.” The program would also create “campaign training schools” that would recruit campaign managers and emphasize “the development of viable campaign strategies and effectively communicating party platforms to voters.”

Interestingly, it’s illegal for a US political party or candidate to accept funding from any “foreign national,” which includes individuals, corporations, and governments. Venezuela passed a similar law in 2010, but this is easily circumvented by channeling the money through NGOs.

It’s difficult to determine exactly how much money the US has spent on these political programs in Venezuela since Chávez was first elected in 1998, but some estimates put the figure around $50 to $60 million. This year alone, President Obama earmarked $5 million to “support political competition-building efforts” in Venezuela.

It’s understandable, then, that some critics of Venezuela’s opposition have argued that the protests are in part due to US meddling.

“There’s absolutely some organic movement against the government. There are concerns about crime and other things,” said Roberto Lovato, a journalist who has covered the drug war and social movements in Latin America. “But if you don’t factor in the millions of dollars that’s been spent on destabilizing the government and prop up opposition leaders, it’s not the whole story.”

Lovato added that this top-down funding of a protest movement is similar to how the American Tea Party claims to be a grassroots mobilization of everyday people but is largely bankrolled by a few wealthy individuals, such as the billionaire Koch brothers.

Although there are disagreements about the root causes for the high crime, goods shortages, and political repression that’s fueling the demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro, nobody is denying the pain Venezuelans are suffering as a result. But there are undoubtedly a lot of international interests at stake here, and both wealthy people in Venezuela and multinational corporations would be happy to see, for instance, the privatization of the country’s oil industry.

“This is not necessarily a case of the US being a puppet-master and telling the opposition what to do, but the US government does want to remove the Maduro government from power just like they wanted to do with Chávez,” said George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor at Drexel University and author of a book about Chávez. “You also have a lot of rich businessmen in Venezuela who have put money behind the opposition. But their interest is not only political—they want to get their hands on that oil money.”

There’s no question that many of Maduro’s opponents are wealthy and come from elite families that have significant ties to corporate interests and have long opposed the Chavista government. One example is jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López, who comes from a wealthy Venezuelan family, was educated at Harvard, is cousins with the owner of the largest food company in Venezuela, and whose mother is the vice president of corporate affairs at the Cisneros Group, the largest media conglomerate in Latin America. (Billionaire Gustavo Cisneros, the company’s founder, is a fierce critic of Chavismo who is also close to the US government; a Wikileaks cable from 2004 describes a meeting he had with the US ambassador to discuss ways to eventually remove Chávez from power.)

So yes, the opposition is made up of political parties that have received extensive US funding and is led by the well-connected López. Does that mean the protests aren’t about helping the poor and instead only serve the interests of the US and wealthy Venezuelans?

One of the directors of Lopez’s political party, Voluntad Popular (“Popular Will”), is Juan Andrés Mejía, a 27-year-old activist who has been working with Lopez since 2009 and is now pursuing a master’s at Harvard. He admits that the bulk of the opposition protesters are from the middle and upper classes and are led by Venezuela’s elite, but he claims that support among the poor is growing.

“What Chávez did right was give the poor a voice. Before 1999, they didn’t have that,” Mejía said, referring to the year Chávez came to power. “But the opposition leaders today don’t agree with the [pre-Chávez government], so that won’t change. And it’s true that a lot of the poor still support the government, but that is changing because the current government’s policies are causing problems for everyone.”

As for the US funding, Mejía thinks it shouldn’t matter.

“As long as it’s not illegal, if another country wants to help us make elections more transparent and help strengthen a political party, I don’t see what’s wrong with that,” he said. “Besides, the Chavistas have Cubans and Russians on their side.”

And although Voluntad Popular is often said to be the most right-wing and capitalistic of Venezuela’s opposition parties, Mejia balks at the description. All they want to do is open up the markets in Venezuela, which will help the poor, he says.

“Private investment is essential to foster the Venezuelan economy,” he said, “but we do not think that private investment will, on its own, be sufficient to make people progress.”

Opposition parties like Voluntad Popular want a drastically different economic model than what Venezuela currently has. But Mejía told me that they don’t want to completely eradicate the socialist element from Venezuelan government. Mejía says they’d still use oil money to provide social programs for the poor as the current government does, but they’d also look at doing something similar to what Norway has done with its oil profits and invest in stocks to create a government-run pension fund for the people.

But however things turn out in Venezuela, there’s no question that the socialist government has been weakened and corporate have interests received a boost—which, fairly clearly, has been the point of the US’s funding programs all along.

http://www.vice.com/read/does-the-uss-funding-of-the-venezuelan-opposition-matter?utm_source=vicefbus

An anarchist perspective on the protests in Venezuela

by Rafael Uzcátegui on February 22, 2014

Post image for An anarchist perspective on the protests in Venezuela

Lacking clear political content, the Venezuelan protests are at the same time capitalized upon by the right and violently repressed by the government.

Editor’s note: Yesterday we published some initial reflections on the Venezuelan protests which decried the anti-democratic intentions of the country’s US-backed right-wing opposition from a left-libertarian perspective. We also highlighted some of the important social advances made by successive Socialist governments, while remaining critical of chavismo as a political program and roundly condemning the police brutality against protesters. Today, we would like to share a short article by Rafael Uzcátegui for the Venezuelan autonomous-anarchist newspaper El Libertario, which highlights the violent repression of the protests by the Socialist government and criticizes its narrative of an anti-government “coup” being in the making.

The situation in Venezuela is complex and still in flux. The unfolding events therefore need to be assessed from multiple independent and critical perspectives that recognize both the violent means through which the US, international capital and the Venezuelan elite are trying to oust a democratically-elected government, as well as the reproductive patterns of state violence to which this Socialist government itself is now resorting. As we have written elsewhere, the Bolivarian Revolution is riven with internal contradictions, and it takes openness to seemingly contradictory perspectives to be able to recognize both its achievements and its limitations.

N.B.: The image above shows Genesis Carmona, 22, being transported to hospital after having been fatally shot in the head by an unidentified gunman during an anti-government protest.

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On February 4th, 2014, students from the Universidad Nacional Experimental del Táchira (Experimental University of Táchira), located in the inland state of the country, protested the sexual assault of a fellow female classmate, which took place in the context of the city’s increasing insecurity. The protest was repressed, and several students were detained. The next day, other universities around the country had their own protests requesting the release of these detainees, and these demonstrations were also repressed, with some of the activists incarcerated.

The wave of indignation had as context the economic crisis, the shortage of first necessity items and the crisis of basic public services, as well as the beginnings of the imposition of new economic austerity measures by President Nicolás Maduro. Two opposition politicians, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, tried to capitalize on the wave of discontent rallying for new protests under the slogan “The Way Out” and also tried to press for the resignation of president Maduro. Their message also reflected the rupture and divisions on the inside of opposing politicians and the desire to replace Henrique Capriles’ leadership, who publicly rejected the protests. The Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unity Table) coalition, didn’t support them either.

When the government suppressed the protests, it made them grow bigger and wider all over the country. On February 12th, 2014, people from 18 cities protested for the release of all of the detainees and in rejection of the government. In some cities of the interior, particularly punished by scarcity and lack of proper public services, the protests were massive. In Caracas, three people were murdered during the protests. The government blames the protesters, but the biggest circulating newspaper in the country, Últimas Noticias, which receives the majority of its advertising budget from the government itself, revealed through photographs that the murderers were police officers. As a response to this, Nicolás Maduro stated on national television and radio broadcast that police enforcement had been “infiltrated by the right wing.”

The repression of the protesters draws not only on police and military enforcement agencies; it also incorporates the participation of militia groups to violently dissolve the protests. A member of PROVEA, a human rights NGO, was kidnapped, beaten and threatened with death by one of them on the west side of Caracas. President Maduro has publicly encouraged these groups, which he calls colectivos (collectives).

The Venezuelan government actually controls all of the major TV stations, and has threatened with sanctions radio stations and newspapers that transmit information about protests. Because of this, the privileged space for the distribution of information have been the social media networks, especially Twitter. The use of personal technological devices has allowed record-keeping through videos and photographs of ample aggressions of the repressive forces. Human rights organizations report detainees all over the country (many of them already released). The number has surpassed 400, and they have suffered torture, including reports of sexual assault, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. As this is being written 5 people have been murdered in the context of the protests.

In his speeches, Nicolás Maduro encourages the protesters opposing him to assume even more radical and violent positions. Without any ongoing criminal investigation, he automatically stated that everyone killed has been murdered by the protesters themselves, who he disqualifies with every possible adjective.

However, this belligerence seems not to be shared by all the chavista movement, because a lot of its base is currently withholding its active support, waiting to see what will come next. Maduro has only managed to rally public employees to the street protests he has called. In spite of the situation and due to the grave economic situation he faces, Nicolás Maduro continues to make economic adjustments, the most recent being a tax increase.

The state apparatus reiterates repeatedly that it is facing a “coup”, that what happened in Venezuela on April 2002 will repeat itself. This version has managed to neutralize the international left-wing, which hasn’t even expressed its concern about the abuses and deaths in the protests.

The protests are being carried out in many parts of the country and are lacking in center and direction, having being called through social media networks. Among the protesters themselves, there are many diverse opinions about the opposition political parties, so it’s possible to find many expressions of support and also rejection at the same time.

In the case of Caracas the middle class and college students are the primary actors in the demonstrations. On the other hand, in other states, many popular sectors have joined the protests. In Caracas the majority of the demands are political, including calls for the freedom of the detainees and the resignation of President Maduro, while in other cities social demands are incorporated, with protests against inflation, scarcity and lack of proper public services. Even though some protests have turned violent, and some protesters have fired guns at police and militia groups, the majority of the protests, especially outside of Caracas, remain peaceful.

The Revolutionary Independent Venezuelan Left (which includes anarchists and sectors that follow Trotsky, Marx, Lenin and Guevara) is not involved in this situation. We are simple spectators. Some of us are actively denouncing state repression and helping the victims of human rights violations.

Venezuela is a historically oil-driven country. It possesses low levels of political culture among its population, which explains why the opposition protesters have the same “content” problem as those supporting the government. But while the international left-wing continues to turn its back and support — without any criticism — the government’s version of “a coup”, it leaves thousands of protesters at the mercy of the most conservative discourse of the opposition parties, without any reference to anti-capitalists, revolutionaries and true social change that could influence them.

In this sense, Leopoldo López, the detained conservative opposition leader, tries to make himself the center of a dynamic movement that, up to the time of this writing, had gone beyond the political parties of the opposition and the government of Nicolás Maduro.

What will happen in the short term? I think nobody knows exactly, especially the protesters themselves. The events are developing minute by minute.

For more alternative information about Venezuela, we recommend:

http://periodicoellibertario.blogspot.com
http://www.derechos.org.ve
http://laclase.info

Obama Pushes for Regime Change in Venezuela

Once Again, South America Says No

by MARK WEISBROT

When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the U.S. government says it is. Not surprisingly, that’s not the way Latin American governments generally see it.

On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) released a statement on the past week’s demonstrations in Venezuela. They described “the recent violent acts” in Venezuela as “attempts to destabilize the democratic order.” They made it abundantly clear where they stood.

The governments stated “their firm commitment to the full observance of democratic institutions and , in this context, [they] reject the criminal actions of violent groups that want to spread intolerance and hatred in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as a political tool.”

We may recall that when much larger demonstrations rocked Brazil last year, there were no statements from Mercosur or neighboring governments. That’s not because they didn’t love Dilma; it’s because these demonstrations did not seek to topple Brazil’s democratically-elected government.

The Obama administration was a bit more subtle, but also made it clear where it stood. When Secretary of State John Kerry states that “We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protestors,” he is taking a political position. Because there were many protestors who committed crimes: they attacked and injured police with chunks of concrete and Molotov cocktails; they burned cars, trashed and sometimes set fire to government buildings; and committed other acts of violence and vandalism.

An anonymous State Department spokesman was even clearer, earlier in the week, when he responded to the protests by expressing concern about the government’s “weakening of democratic institutions in Venezuela,” and said that there was an obligation for “government institutions [to] respond effectively to the legitimate economic and social needs of its citizens.” He was joining the opposition’s efforts to de-legitimize the government, a vital part of any “regime change” strategy.

Of course we all know who the U.S. government supports in Venezuela. They don’t really try to hide it: there’s $5 million dollars in the 2014 U.S. federal budget for funding opposition activities inside Venezuela, and this is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg — adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars of overt support over the past 15 years.

But what makes these current U.S. statements important, and angers governments in the region, is that they are telling the Venezuelan opposition that Washington is once again backing regime change. Kerry did the same thing in April of last year when Maduro was elected president and opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles claimed that the election was stolen. Kerry refused to recognize the election results. Kerry’s aggressive, anti-democratic posture brought such a strong rebuke from South American governments that he was forced to reverse course and tacitly recognize the Maduro government. (For those who did not follow these events, there was no doubtabout the election results.)

Kerry’s recognition of the election results put an end to the opposition’s attempt to de-legitimize the elected government. After Maduro’s party won municipal elections by a wide margin in December, the opposition was pretty well defeated. Inflation was running at 56 percent and there were widespread shortages of consumer goods, yet a solid majority had still voted for the government. Their choice could not be attributed to the personal charisma of Chávez, who died nearly a year ago; nor was it irrational. Although the past year or so has been rough, the past 11 years – since the government got control over the oil industry — have brought large gains in living standards to the majority of Venezuelans who were previously marginalized and excluded. There were plenty of complaints about the government and the economy, but the rich, right-wing politicians who led the opposition did not reflect their values nor inspire their trust.

Opposition leader Leopoldo López – competing with Capriles for leadership — has portrayed the current demonstrations as something that could force Maduro from office. It was obvious that there was, and remains, no peaceful way that this could happen. As political scientist David Smilde has argued, the government has everything to lose from violence in the demonstrations, and the opposition has something to gain.

By the past weekend Capriles, who was initially wary of a potentially violent “regime change” strategy – was apparently down with program. According to Bloomberg News, he accused the government of “infiltrating the peaceful protests ‘to convert them into centers of violence and suppression.’”

Meanwhile, López is taunting Maduro on Twitter after the government made the mistake of threatening to arrest him: “Don’t you have the guts to arrest me?” he tweets. Hopefully the government will not take the bait.

U.S. support for regime change undoubtedly inflames the situation, since Washington has so much influence within the opposition and of course in the hemispheric media. It took a long time for the opposition to accept the results of democratic elections in Venezuela. They tried a military coup, backed by the U.S. in 2002; when that failed they tried to topple the government with an oil strike. They lost an attempt to recall the president in 2004 and cried foul; then they boycotted National Assembly elections for no reason the following year. The failed attempt to de-legitimize last April’s presidential election was a return to this dark but not-so-distant past. It remains to be seen how far they will go this time to win by other means what they have not been able to win at the ballot box, and how long they will have Washington’s support for regime change in Venezuela.

Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

This essay originally ran in the Guardian.