Nicolás Maduro was elected President of Venezuela in 2013, winning a second term in May 2018 with 67.7% of the vote. From the start, the US has mounted a relentless campaign against him, calling openly for regime change and threatening military intervention. Trump’s government recognized Juan Guaidó, of the conservative opposition, as ‘interim president’ in January, and backed his spectacularly ill-conceived coup attempt at the end of April. Venezuela is heavily dependent on its oil revenues and relies on these to import food and medicines. The collapse of global oil prices in 2014 accelerated the country’s profound economic crisis. From 2017 Trump’s policy has been to impose severe economic sanctions on the country, hitting the petroleum industry as hard as possible, including preventing the state’s energy company—PDVSA — from receiving payments for its export of petroleum products. By one estimate, the US sanctions have contributed to the deaths of 40,000 Venezuelan civilians between 2017 and 2018.
Alongside anti-imperial opposition to violations of Venezuelan sovereignty, socialists must also offer a full analysis of the class character and nature of the Maduro regime and an assessment of its role in the crisis. It is not at all self-evident that the Maduro administration represents the interests of Venezuela’s lower orders, with the economic and political power of the military, a self-enriching state bureaucracy, and sections of private capital growing considerably under his watch. In some ways, the present conflict between the right-wing opposition and the Maduro government is a political confrontation between different fractions of Venezuelan capital, the former backed by the imperial power of the United States and international financial markets, and the latter backed by the Venezuelan state (and to some extent, Chinese and Russian imperialism), which has retained its rentier-capitalist character throughout the Chávez and Maduro eras. The difficult but necessary task facing independent socialists has been to navigate an independent struggle against imperial intervention, total separation from the Venezuelan right, and simultaneous independence from the Maduro government.
Jeffery Webber will discuss this situation with us. He is a Senior Lecturer in International Political Economy at Goldsmiths, and has written and spoken internationally on Latin American Politics, international relations and social theory. He sits on the editorial board of Historical Materialism and writes regularly for non-academic publications, including Jacobin, Viewpoint, and NACLA Report on the Americas. The most recent of his five books The Last Day of Oppression, and the First Day of the Same: The Politics and Economics of the New Latin American Left was published in 2017.
7th October 2019