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Venezuela: For the Left is Defence of Maduro, Dialogue or Criticism, the Answer?

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Image result for maduro

Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun !

This was on Newsnight yesterday: Evan Davis speaks to Juan Andrés Mejía, founding member and National Director of one of the main Venezuelan opposition parties, Popular Will (Voluntad Popular, a “centrist social democratic party”).

This statement has caused controversy and there is little doubt that many critics of it do so in bad faith.

I will restrict comment to one point.

If Macron has indeed called for dialogue in Venezuela, his appeal has not been widely reported in the French media.

A search reveals that he suggested that he offered his services in the role of mediator.  France’s Macron pushes for mediation role in Venezuela  4th of August. The French language media is pretty near silent on this but you can find that, “La lettre écrite de la main d’Emmanuel Macron a été envoyée le 5 juillet à Nicolas Maduro” – a letter written by Emmanuel Macron was sent on the 5th of July to Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela : Macron a envoyé une lettre à Maduro pour tenter d’aider le pays à sortir de la crise).

I may well be proved wrong but Le Monde certainly has not found this story worthy of recent coverage and there was certainly no major “call today” as the Corbyn statement suggests: here.

We wait for a reply from Maduro to Macron.

But, silence, Mr 5,7% has spoken.*

George Galloway ridicules Venezuela dictatorship claims: ‘They’ve won more elections than anyone in history’.

George Galloway has rubbished the idea that Venezuela is sliding into dictatorship, saying the country’s Socialist regime has won more elections than any other regime in history.

The country’s constitution is to be redrawn following a recent election, and there are fears that President Nicolas Maduro will gain a raft of new powers – fears exacerbated by the recent arrest of two leading opposition activists.

Galloway told a caller that he was firmly opposed to dictatorship, saying “some of them work for a little while, none of them work for long,” while quoting Winston Churchill’s line that “democracy is the worst political system apart from all the others.”

Turning to the specific allegations against the Venezuelan regime, Galloway said “the government of Maduro, and before him Chavez, has won more elections than anybody in all of human history.

“If they’re dictators they’re the most elected dictators in the history of the world.”

George Galloway: Venezuela critics are just Blairites having a kick at Jeremy Corbyn.

Galloway said: “I keep hearing half-witted, uneducated pontificators who know nothing about the country, lecturing us on how Venezuela has taken such a wrong turn.

“When I heard the interview about it on this station, in this very studio room with Ken Livingstone, I realised we had to take a stand.

“What’s really going on here is not an attack on Maduro, who these pontificators had not heard of before last week, couldn’t identify his mug on a mugshot on a TV screen. This is another assault on Jeremy Corbyn.

“Labour MPs, many of them admirers of Tony Blair, many of them supporters of the Iraq War, many of whom abstained on a three-line whip to ask for an inquiry into the selling of deadly weapons to the putrid dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, are demanding that Corbyn denounce his erstwhile friends in Venezuela.

“It’s enough to make you sick.”

Galloway went on to suggest that, “if only Venezuela had hired one of Tony Blair’s PR machines in London town, they might be in a better place as far as the British mainstream media is concerned.

“If only Venezuela, when it adopted its new constitution in the last couple of days, had chosen the Saudi Arabian constitution, all the Western countries would have loved it and would have been queuing up to sell it weapons. Prince Charles might have done a sword dance with President Maduro.”

Turning to the cause of the current crisis, Galloway said it has been “fuelled by the United States, not in the last few weeks or months but since 1998.

“Nineteen years the United States government and its secret agents have been trying to overthrow the Venezuelan political protest.

 Skwawkbox can only agree, screaming yesterday that,

Rightist Labour MPs busted exploiting Venezuela for a shot at Corbyn.

As anyone who follows the news even tangentially will be well aware, the latest ‘weapon of mass desperation‘ used to attack Labour’s hugely-popular leader is a country. To feeble and flailing right-wing media and MPs, the complex troubles of a whole nation have been reduced to little more than a hammer to try to land a blow on Jeremy Corbyn.

But the new Venezuela APPG does little more than expose the motivations and lack of character of MPs who have joined it. Labour MPs Graham Jones, Angela Smith and John Spellar joined the group – but their former deputy leader spotted something interesting and called them out on it on Twitter.

Now this may well be true but when will people answer serious left-wing criticisms of the Venezuelan regime?

On the Venezuelan crisis

With the global fall in oil prices, Venezuela’s fifteen-year experiment in “petrol populism” seems to be winding to a close. Either the regime will collapse in short order, or it will maintain itself through increasingly bloody and repressive measures, as Maduro’s claim to represent the interests of the people grows even more tenuous. George Ciccariello-Maher, a seasoned apologist of Chavismo in the United States, writes in an article for Jacobin that the “enemies” are the ones who are out there “in the streets, burning and looting.” Socialists, he contends, should be supporting the recent state crackdown on the protesters, which has already left 130 or so dead.

One should read comrade Ross Wolfe’s full article on the Charnel-House, but this conclusion is important,

Socialists gain nothing by continuing to defend this bloated and incompetent regime. Even an oil-rich state like Venezuela cannot build “socialism in one country,” as the old Stalinist motto goes. Better to admit now what should have been obvious all along: Bolivarianism was a Revolution In Name Only, or #RINO for short (that acronym is still available, right?).

As Vincent Présumy puts it on his Blog carried by the highly respected French left site, Mediapart, in answer to those on the left who defend Maduro,

Ni l’expropriation du capital par les travailleurs organisés, ni la destruction de l’appareil d’Etat existant, n’ont jamais été à l’ordre-du-jour au Venezuela sous la direction de Chavez.

Neither the expropriation of capital by the organised workers, nor the destruction of the existing state apparatus, were ever on the cards in Venezuela under the Leadership of Chávez.

Présumy states,

La meilleure chose qui pourrait arriver au Venezuela, au contraire, serait une mobilisation indépendante de la classe ouvrière, des pauvres et des paysans, contre Maduro.

The best thing that could happen in Venezuela is, by contrast, an independent mobilisation of the working class, the poor and the peasantry, against Maduro.

Drawing to a conclusion he comments,

Le problème principal, à gauche et dans le mouvement ouvrier, est l’absence de mobilisation en défense du peuple vénézuélien et donc contre Maduro. Se répète l’expérience accablante et tragique de l’Ukraine et surtout de la Syrie.

The main problem on the left and in the workers’ movement, is the absence of a mobilisation in defence of the Venezuelan people, and therefore against Maduro. This is a repetition of the horrifying experience we saw with the Ukraine and above all with Syria.

 

A propos du Venezuela  7th of August,

*********

* 2017.  Manchester Gorton. Parliamentary constituency Galloway 5.7% , 2,615.

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The Tragedy of Venezuela, Michael Roberts: How Should the Left Respond?

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https://i1.wp.com/www.japantimes.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/wn20130414p1a.jpg

The Morning Star reports,

LABOUR MP Graham Jones declares that he would have “gone further” than shadow foreign minister Liz McInnes’s criticism of Venezuela.

McInnes had urged “the government of Venezuela to recognise its responsibilities to protect human rights, free speech and the rule of law.”

She demanded a response to concerns expressed by the “international community” about supposed authoritarianism and very real hardships affecting Venezuela’s people. This is presumably the US-led “international community” rather than regional states such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba that have declared solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution.

Jones, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Venezuela, advised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that he must make a statement “at some point” and told frontbencher Chris Williamson that “he’s backing the wrong side.”

Several Labour MPs, including Corbyn, and many unions support the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, but Jones wants “everybody in the Labour Party (to) condemn the Venezuelan regime” for not looking after its citizens. His colleague Angela Smith asks Corbyn to condemn President Nicolas Maduro’s government as “a very serious threat to democracy in that country.”

If Williamson is on the “wrong side,” it follows that Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable and Tory MP Mark Pritchard, who all attacked Corbyn for his silence, while on holiday, over Venezuela, must be on the right side.

What would the Morning Star say about this?

Michael Roberts Blog

Blogging from a marxist economist

The tragedy of Venezuela

As the Maduro regime tries to impose its new Constituent Assembly as a rival or replacement of the existing Venezuelan Congress and arrests the leaders of the pro-capitalist opposition, the dire economic and social situation in the country continues to worsen.

According to the IMF, Venezuela’s GDP in 2017 is 35% below 2013 levels, or 40% in per capita terms. That is a significantly sharper contraction than during the 1929-1933 Great Depression in the US, when US GDP is estimated to have fallen 28%. It is slightly bigger than the decline in Russia (1990-1994), Cuba (1989-1993), and Albania (1989-1993), but smaller than that experienced by other former Soviet States at the time of transition, such as Georgia, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine, or war-torn countries such as Liberia (1993), Libya (2011), Rwanda (1994), Iran (1981), and, most recently, South Sudan.

So, on this measure, according to Ricardo Haussman, former chief economist of Inter-American Development Bank, Venezuela’s economic catastrophe dwarfs any in the history of the US, Western Europe or the rest of Latin America.

Back in 2013, I warned that the achievements of the ‘Bolivarian revolution’ under Chavez were seriously under threat.  Chavez had improved the conditions of the poorest with increased wages, social services and reduced inequality.  But these improvements were only possible within the confines of capitalist economy by using the revenues of oil exports at a time of very high global oil prices.  But oil prices started to mark time and have virtually halved in the last two years.

Oil exports fell by $2,200 per capita from 2012 to 2016, of which $1,500 was due to the decline in oil prices.  The Maduro government started to rack up huge foreign debts to try and sustain living standards.  Venezuela is now the world’s most indebted country. No country has a larger public external debt as a share of GDP or of exports, or faces higher debt service as a share of exports.

More,

The minimum wage – which in Venezuela is also the income of the median worker, owing to the large share of minimum-wage earners – declined by 75% (in constant prices) from May 2012 to May 2017.  Measured in the cheapest available calorie, the minimum wage declined from 52,854 calories per day to just 7,005 during the same period, a decline of 86.7% and insufficient to feed a family of five, assuming that all the income is spent to buy the cheapest calorie. With their minimum wage, Venezuelans could buy less than a fifth of the food that traditionally poorer Colombians could buy with theirs.

Income poverty increased from 48% in 2014 to 82% in 2016, according to a survey conducted by Venezuela’s three most prestigious universities. The same study found that 74% of Venezuelans involuntarily lost an average of 8.6 kilos (19 pounds) in weight. The Venezuelan Health Observatory reports a ten-fold increase in in-patient mortality and a 100-fold increase in the death of newborns in hospitals in 2016.

Importantly,

Before Chavez, most Venezuelans were desperately poor after a series of right-wing capitalist governments.  But now once again, under Maduro, this is the situation for the poor and the majority of the Venezuelan working class.  No wonder support for the Maduro government has subsided while the forces of reaction grow stronger.  While the majority struggle, many at the top of the Maduro government are as comfortable as the Venezuelan capitalists and their supporters who are trying to bring the government down.

The Maduro government is now relying increasingly not on the support of the working class but on the armed forces.  And the government looks after them well.  The military can buy in exclusive markets (for example, on military bases), have privileged access to loans and purchases of cars and departments, and have received substantial salary increases. They have also won lucrative contracts, exploiting exchange controls and subsidies, for example, selling cheap gasoline purchased in neighboring countries with huge profits.

As Rolando Asturita has pointed out in a series of posts.  the army has strong direct economic power, since the FANB directs and controls a whole series of companies: the bank BANFANB; AGROFANB, for agriculture; EMILTRA, transport; EMCOFANB, company communications systems of the FANB; TVFANB, an open digital TV channel; TECNOMAR, a mixed military technology projects company; FIMNP, an investment fund; CONSTRUFANB, constructor; CANCORFANB, Bolivarian Mixed Company; Water Tiuna, water bottling plant; And then there is CAMINPEG, the anonymous military, mining and oil and gas company.

Many of the Maduro government elite have used the economic crisis to their own personal benefit.  They have bought up government debt for rich returns, while at the same time ensuring that there is no default, all at the expense of falling living standards for the people who must pay this debt through taxes and foregone oil revenues.  Foreign exchange earmarked for the payment of foreign debt has been offset by the reduction of imports of food, medicines or essential industrial inputs.

Robert’s concludes,

What went wrong with the laudable aims of Chavismo? Could this tragedy been avoided? Well, yes, if the Chavista revolution had not stopped at less than halfway, leaving the economy still predominantly in the control of capital.  Instead, the Chavista and Maduro governments relied on high oil prices and huge oil reserves to reduce poverty, while failing to transform the economy through productive investment, state ownership and planning.  Between 1999 and 2012 the state had an income of $383bn from oil, due not only to the improvement in prices, but also to the increase in the royalties paid by the transnationals. However, this income was not used transform the productive sectors of the economy.  Yes, some was used to improve the living standards of the most impoverished masses. But there was no plan for investment and growth.  Venezuelan capital was allowed to get on with it – or not as the case may be.  Indeed, the share of industry in GDP fell from 18% of GDP in 1998 to 14% in 2012.

Now the right-wing ‘free marketeers’ tell us that this shows ‘socialism’ does not work and there is no escape from the rigors of the market.  But the history of the last ten years is not the failure of ‘socialism’ or planning, it is the failure to end the control of capital in a weak (an increasingly isolated) capitalist country with apparently only one asset, oil.  There was no investment in the people, their skills, no development of new industries and the raising of technology – that was left to the capitalist sector.  Contrast that with ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, albeit in the largest country and now economy in the world.

Just over a year ago, I argued in a post that, to save the aims of Chavismo, “it is probably too late, as the forces of reaction gain ground every day in the country.  It seems that we await only the decision of the army to change sides and oust the Chavistas.” 

 Left critics of Maduro:

Criticizing Venezuela from the Left. ANDRÉS FELIPE PARRA 30 May 2017  Open Democracy. 

Venezuela, increasingly, resembles today’s liberal democracies, where institutions are becoming formal appendages of the power of the markets and securitization. Español

Venezuela and the Left.

RAFAEL UZCÁTEGUI.  May the 3rd.

The human rights situation in Venezuela is getting worse. Fortunately, some on the Left are deciding to speak up. Español 

Just after the Sunday vote this declaration came out from a small Trotskyist group.

¡Contra el fraude constituyente redoblemos la movilización! ¡Fuera Maduro!  (Unidad Internacional de los Trabajadores – Cuarta Internacional).

El gobierno hambreador, corrupto y represivo de Maduro, consumó el pasado domingo un gigantesco fraude en alianza con el CNE.

Au Venezuela, ce sont les travailleurs qui ont le droit de dire à Maduro : dégage !  30th of July.

Against Venezuela’s authoritarian turn . May 3, 2017

On May 1, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro signed an executive order to form a Constituent National Assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution. Predictably, Maduro’s right-wing opponents howled about a lack of respect for democratic rights and procedures, which they themselves routinely violated in seeking the overthrow of Chavismo.

But many on the left see the latest move by the ruling Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV) to consolidate its power as a dangerous further lurch toward authoritarianism. Here, we reprint a March 29 statement by Marea Socialista , which joined the PSUV when it was founded in 2007 by the late President Huge Chávez, but left it in 2015 in protest of the course set for the party by Maduro. The statement by Marea Socialista’s National Operations Team was first published in Spanish at the Aporrea website and appears here in a version edited by Todd Chretien of the English translation published at the Portal de la Izquierda website.

How should the Labour Party respond?

Two Views:

Jeremy Corbyn will be on the right side of history – if he condemns Venezuela’s left-wing leaders. James Bloodworth. New Statesman

The country appears to be marching toward full-blown dictatorship.

The demand that a politician “condemn” something is usually an exercise in political performance. It typically has no measurable impact beyond a minor point scoring exercise. But calls for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to condemn the government in Venezuela are different in one important respect.

On seemingly good terms with the government of Nicolás Maduro, Corbyn’s words may actually carry weight in Venezuela. This is a matter of some importance when the country appears to be marching toward full-blown dictatorship.

…..

Demanding an apology from those who did not see the true nature of the Venezuelan government earlier on would be self-indulgent. It is also, for many, wildly hypocritical. Britain sells weapons to Saudi Arabia after all, another brutal dictatorship. Those getting on their high horse about Venezuela include admirers of Margaret Thatcher, whose relationship with Chilean tyrant Augusto Pinochet makes Corbyn’s relationship with the Venezuelan leadership look decidedly frosty.

Yet Corbyn, who engaged in a cordial conversation with President Maduro over the telephone in 2014 for the television show En Contacto con Maduro, arguably has it in his power to influence developments in Venezuela. However small his influence might be, he ought to be calling publicly for the release of the political prisoners López and Ledezma.

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn like to say that their man has always come down on the “right side of history”. If this is to mean anything at all, then it should also mean speaking out against the abuses committed by one’s own side.

 A different approach is offered here:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 4, 2017 at 12:02 pm