We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Venezuela’s Opposition: Attacking Its Own People

Click here to access article by Eric Draitser from TeleSur.

Note: This post was inspired by a reader of my blog in Oregon who made a reference to Venezuela as a socialist nation which is common among left oriented activists. But this is contrary to what I know about that country. So I proceeded to find factual information about the ownership of the economy. What I found was a plethora of articles from corporate media sources spewing pure propaganda pieces attacking Venezuela, and a few naive pieces of left sources that exhibited considerable ignorance about conditions there, and without any background knowledge of the history and culture of that country. This post by Draitser was a single exception. My commentary that follows is an elaboration of my response to her.

The politically volatile conditions in Venezuela never seem to let up, and now that the right-wing opposition is in the majority in their parliament, things are only going to get worse. Although I visited the country for two weeks in 2005 and toured many of the organizations that the Bolivarians created, and followed events there subsequently via the web, I am by no means an expert but feel that I have much more accurate information than most people. For a North American to understand what is going on there requires one to thoroughly understand the history and culture of Latin America.

First of all, I do not view Venezuela as a socialist state in spite of all the rhetoric that Chavez used. I was unable to find factual information about state owned enterprises, but they are very much a minor participant in the economy--except for their oil industry that is state owned. Chavez and supporters did nationalize companies that refused to produce or were counter-productive, but they were few. He did introduce grass-root organizations such as co-ops, media such as Telesur to counter the ubiquitous and blatant right-wing media, and re-distributed wealth through his many social programs. The Bolivarian government, although ruled by the Socialist Party, is mostly social democratic with Latin American characteristics. (People must stop being confused by political parties that use the name of "socialism", but are in fact social democratic parties. This has been common throughout Europe simply because socialist ideas were so popular with the people. Even the Nazis used socialism in their party's name: National Socialist German Workers' Party.)

The history of Latin America since the US launched into empire mode (early 1900s) is strewn with military interventions and indirect forms of domination of those nations. In the early days of the US domination, our capitalist ruling class simply sent in the Marines whenever they didn't like what was happening in those countries. (Read War is a Racket by Gen. Smedley Butler.) Nowadays whenever there is an unfriendly government that takes power, US agents use their updated strategy of chaos to destabilize the country and pave the way for US-loyal right-wingers to take power. By supporting the local capitalist elites who do much of the work of creating chaos, they have found a much cheaper way to effect regime change. Chili, after the people elected a "socialist" government, is a prime example. Another is Nicaragua in the 1980s. The US has been, and is now accelerating that strategy in Venezuela.

Yes, there is a lot of economic chaos in Venezuela, the chief being that of the very high rate of inflation. They have long had that problem, and it is my impression that it is not as bad now than under previous administrations. Also with the Saudi's decision to pump greater amounts of oil to depress prices, their state oil industry has suffered a loss of income which has impacted many of their social programs and is probably contributing to the high rate of inflation. This adverse effect on the economy was very likely the result of collusion between Empire directors and the Saudi family to wreck economic havoc on both Russia and Venezuela.
Their political culture is one of "clientelism" and this has been true of the Chavista governments as well. The state is typically seen as a prize and whichever group can capture the ruling regime fills the government posts with relatives, friends, and neighbors. Thus there have been many instances of government corruption, and this has continued, probably to a lessor extent, under the Chavez governments. 

There is also a strong overlay of racism that has reinforced a split between classes based on the private ownership of the economy. Like most all of the Latin American countries, you will find most government agencies and businesses run by light-skinned Spanish (or in Brazil, Portuguese) descendants. Most of these people also identify with the capitalist interests of the Empire and thus cooperate with the latter's destabilization efforts. Of course, opportunities for education have favored this group and consequently many of them are in the Bolivarian government.

While Chavez often referred to his program in terms of "socialism of the 21st century" and accordingly promised a political role for his grassroots organizations ("bottom-up democratic structures"), he never implemented any type of independent role for them. He mostly used them for his political support during elections.

There is a considerable amount of crime in Venezuela. Their society is wracked by open class war due both to its racist and classist history and, I think, together with US interventions has fostered this kind of sociopathy.

My overall impression is that Venezuela is now under attack by right-wing capitalist forces in alliance with US agents to spread as much chaos as possible in their nation until it is ripe for a military takeover by right-wing military figures. Meanwhile the vastly more numerous Chavista supporters are preparing to defend their social gains.

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