Frederic F. Clairmont
Published by Citizens International 10 Jalan Masjid Negeri 11600 Penang Malaysia
"Our national security is threatened by the belligerent advance of a totalitarian communist power that is already at our doorsteps. The airport and military facilities of Grenada [pop. 98,000] are swiftly being transformed by advanced weaponry and troops provided by Cuba and the Soviet Union. These aggressive strides pose a lethal threat not only to our democratic institutions in the United States but to all freedom-loving peoples in the entire western hemisphere. This scourge must be halted." – US President Ronald Reagan, 1983 (The US-led invasion of Grenada in October 1983 was codenamed “Operation Urgent Fury”)
"There is nothing in our system designed to exploit anyone." – George Bush, US ambassador to the United Nations, December 1972
"There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." – Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, quoted in the New York Times, November 2006
An earlier version of this paper was presented as a lecture on the eve of the 26 September 2010 legislative election for the renewal of the 165 seats in Venezuela’s National Assembly. That day will go down as a milestone in the history of the Americas for the election reflected a clash of two opposing and irreconcilable class forces that was being fought out within the country and internationally. You will understand that this is not a formal confrontation between two bourgeois prize-fighters whose class origins are identical. The electoral battle of September 2010 was the embodiment of the confrontation of contending class forces: those fighting to preserve the existing social and propertied order, and those wishing to establish what its protagonists have baptized the socialism of the 21st century.
What is unique in this confrontation, whose outcome is of decisive importance for the region and beyond, is that it is an ideological and class war that transcends national frontiers. This is a point that we shall stress again and again. It epitomizes the globalization of the class struggle. There should be no doubt that this is a war waged by the open enemies of Venezuelan democracy, strutting under the name of freedom. The word “overthrow” is no longer in current usage. It has been replaced with the innocuous-sounding name of “regime change”, coined by the US State Department in the 1970s. The enemy is targeted for physical destruction and there are ample precedents for this since the end of World War 2. The Venezuelan administration of President Hugo Chavez and its socialist orientation has long become anathema to imperialism and its political jackals. The alpha and omega of all the latter’s policies is to annihilate any democratic order that rejects neocolonial hegemonism and the annexationist blueprints of imperialism.
It was Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), the renowned German military theorist, who spawned the aphorism that “war is politics by other means”. In Venezuela, what we are witnessing is that politics is the unrelenting class war pursued on the domestic front by violence, targeted political killings and overt sabotage with no holds barred. The US imperio leads the battle on the external front. The cardinal counter-revolutionary juggernaut that is the United States is joined to its vassal bourgeoisie in Latin America, Nato and elsewhere. Successive US administrations since 1945, despite their repetitive babble on the virtues of “representative government” and “human rights”, have sedulously battled and bled the forces of national liberation universally. In the universe of imperial-dominated hegemonism that masks its crimes in such nostrums as “the free multilateral trading system”, the admirable notion of human rights and their familiar ideological baggage have become nothing more than sordid refurbished rationalizations to conceal the dictatorship of capital and, increasingly, its reign of terror.
The US was founded as an empire, as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn have always reminded us.[i]Indeed, George Washington, the first president, baptized it an infant empire. Thomas Jefferson is often cited as the exemplar of the American “democratic ideal” but in fact he was one of the zealous activists of racial exterminism. His racialist yearning was to have members of the presumed superior Anglo-Saxon breed eradicate the Native Americans (pejoratively branded as Redskins) and grab their lands – which they proceeded to do throughout the century – deport negro slaves back to Africa and then push on to eliminate what his racial expletive called “the Latins”. Mission accomplished, the Americas would then be repopulated with his exalted race of Anglo-Saxons.
The state-terrorist murder of Toussaint Louverture (1743-1803) and the slave revolt in Saint Domingue (later Haiti) at the start of the l9th century unmasked the unbending hatred of anything that smacked of effective democracy.[ii] I would suggest studying CLR James’ classic The Black Jacobins to grasp this chapter of sordid colonial pillage and extermination. It dramatizes the implacable law of the class struggle that Marx poignantly hammered home at the time of the Paris Commune in 1871, when the revolutionary working class took to the barricades, and were gunned down, bayoneted and subsequently deported by the thousands:
"The civilization and justice of the bourgeois order comes out in its lurid light whenever the slaves and drudges of that order rise against their masters. At that moment, this civilization and justice stand forth as undisguised savagery and lawless revenge … the infernal deeds of the soldiery reflect the innate spirit of that civilization of which they are the mercenary vindicators."
The Fifth Columnists of US imperialism in Venezuela, represented by the political formation of the “election-monitoring group” Sumate and other political transmission belts, originate in the serried ranks of Big Capital. The media giant Globovision clamours day and night for the overthrow of the Chavez government. And of course the same plans and projects are harboured by an entrenched, overwhelmingly unreformed white-skinned bourgeois bureaucracy that considers any progressive mutations in the social order anathema to their class and propertied interests. However, there is no doubt, as a perfunctory visit to the nation will reveal, that the working class, the peasantry and the more enlightened segments of the intelligentsia under Chavez's leadership have made significant gains in a very short historical time span in reshaping the inherited class relations, notwithstanding the systematic sabotage.
There should nevertheless be no illusions as to the entrenched class society in which the Bolivarian revolutionaries of Venezuela are struggling. The rantings on “Castro-communism” by the class enemies of the Bolivarian revolution are nothing more than a screech of blatant ignorance. Cuba, despite the measures now being taken to reallocate a sizeable segment of the workforce to the private sector, is a socialist order created and led by the Communist Party. Venezuela, in contrast, is still predominantly a capitalist economy strapped in the grips of world trade and global accumulation. But within this bourgeois political context massive counter-organizational power drives and politico-state power will continue their unrelenting assault against capitalism.
Within Venezuela the big capitalists, landlords and rentiers are battling one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing socialist parties in the world, one with a membership that has already rocketed to over 5 million. The governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has become the Promethean ideological and institutional battering ram of the Bolivarian revolution that shows promise of being the gravedigger of capitalism. Do not misunderstand me. Given its youth and inexperience, the party is not free from internal conflicts, but in time, with the pressure of events in the next two years, I have little doubt that it will overcome current weaknesses. There is no automaticity in this drive to political change, however; change there will be, but it can only be germinated by extended debate and the cleansing of the opportunists that have nestled in its ranks. Swiftly pursuing these revolutionary changes, as in Cuba, is not a matter of choice; it is one of life or death.
The Creole and international bourgeoisie have chosen the path of naked class war. They are playing a lethal game without fully grasping the reverberations of the forces that they have unleashed. This is the law of unintended consequences articulated by Hegel: "Out of the actions of men comes something quite different from what they intend and directly know and will." The goal of the exterminists is explicit: it is not merely the smashing of the Chavista-led political machine but the obliteration of the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution. This blueprint of what amounts to scorched-earth economic policies embraces: privatization of the state-owned petroleum company PDVSA and its transfer to the giant oil multinationals; reprivatization of all banks and credit institutions; privatization of the large and growing merchant marine; scrapping of exchange controls; and a return of expropriated latifundia (large estates) to their original owners. All this in the name of liberty, democracy and restoring the rights of private property.
The tale is a familiar one but that is only for starters as the aim stretches to privatization of the health and educational sectors and ending the separation of church and state. Indeed, the ultimate goal is a return to the conditions of the pre-Chavez era under the repressive, blood-drenched regimes of Marcos Perez Jimenez and Juan Vicente Gomez, akin to the American occupation of Cuba under the political boot of Fulgencio Batista. The physical obliteration of the structure and leadership of the revolutionary movement is part and parcel of their stratagems. What we are seeing is a war and it is not being fought according to Marquess of Queensberry rules. As one of the caudillos of the appropriately named opposition group MUD (Coalition for Democratic Unity) pithily puts it: "We are not simply going to derail Chavez's agenda, which is nothing more than wholesale theft; we are flinging everything we have to uproot hook, line and sinker his communist tyranny and expel all communist fellow travellers, not least of all the Cubans. And this shift to freedom will occur in record time. Our future will be anchored in the Free World and its system of free markets. We shall make short shrift of his foreign gangsters such as Morales, Ortega, Correa and their like. This includes booting out the Iranians and shoving the signed contracts into the garbage can."
At least its clarity is admirable. But this was precisely the terrorist blueprint of the Venezuelan chamber of commerce Fedecamaras, propagandist and ventriloquist’s dummy of its US paymaster, in April 2002 when its former head Pedro Carmona took over as the country’s interim president during a shortlived anti-Chavez coup.
What the opposition groups in Venezuela and their imperial mentors are hollering for is a bloodbath. In September 2010 these criminal scum legally leapt once again into the electoral ring, bankrolled by tens of millions of dollars of foreign money. The designation “opposition”, however, is correct only in a very formal and restricted sense. They are in fact mercenaries.
The confrontation is not between two conventional bourgeois parties such as Tory or Labour, Democrat or Republican, both of which, despite their formal divergences, are wedded to the sacrosanct dogma that private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange is the morally inviolable principle of civilization. Their electoral joustings are nothing more than the battle for supremacy as to who gets or does not get the choicest pickings from the exploitation of the wealth created by the working class. In the lingo of Margaret Thatcher that epitomized the bonds between Tory muscle and the money bags of the City: "There is no alternative [to our system]." The philosophy behind this Thatcherian dictum is spelled out by the German novelist B. Traven in his imperishable novel Government(1936), whose setting is Mexico under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz (1875-1911): "Grab where and when there is anything to be grabbed. For poetic justice you must look to opera, and to the Easter Communion when sermons are preached about the Resurrection of the Saviour of mankind."
The upshot of this pitiless class war will determine whether an embattled democratic socialist-oriented Venezuela, and the resurrection of its national sovereignty under the leadership of Chavez and the PSUV, succeeds in beating off the onslaughts of the big battalions of global imperialism. No doubt Rosa Luxemburg would have branded this a battle against barbarism.
The counter-revolutionaries, or golpistas, in their murderous pursuit of the restoration of the ancien regime, have conjured up forces they can no longer control. We ought, however, never to ignore the fact that revolutions, their leaders, their master ideas and their political machinery are never fixed in time. They are forcible eruptions of volcanic intensity that are vomited by the historical process born of intolerable exploitative conditions, as we are now witnessing in the Middle East whose regimes were spawned by imperialism. The incandescent perception of Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), the celebrated historian of the French Revolution, is a trenchant reminder of the impact of such irreversible class-power shifts as have been unleashed not only in Venezuela but in the entire region:
"Hunger and nakedness and nightmare oppression lying heavily on twenty-five million hearts, this, not the wounded vanities or contradicted philosophies of philosophical advocates, rich shopkeepers, rural noblesse, was the prime mover in the French Revolution; as the like will be in all such revolutions, in all countries."
The battle being waged in Venezuela transcends national frontiers. In its sheer scale it is unique in the history of the Americas, and in certain ways it bears comparison to the wars of imperialist intervention (1917-1921) that were waged to crush the Russian October Revolution in its cradle. The global bourgeoisie, in the prosecution of its blatant class war, has flung its armoury against the Bolivarian republic. This battle to the death is revelatory of the worldwide reach and intensity of the class struggle that will not vanish with the flick of a magic wand. And hence it will not stop the rot that imperialism has spawned over time.
We shall now focus our attention briefly on the major external enemy of the Bolivarian revolution, that is, the United States, a nation which, despite its mendacious claims of its democratic heritage, has always remained the enemy of democratic practice. To be sure, there are differentia specifica between Democrats and Republicans, but they are not of a class nature. They are both political embattled contenders in the defence of the prevailing class and propertied order. As mentioned, their electoral joustings are not intended to revolutionize the propertied/exploitative relationships, for that falls outside their ambit. The likes of Obama and Bush are the political praetorian guards of imperial predation that share a common origin. They are genetically linked members of the same propertied caste, nevermind the colour of their skin. The overarching unity of the entire system is the hegemonic drive for the perpetuation and aggrandizement of capital.
Opposition to the Bolivarian revolution, as in the case of Cuba, began at the cradle of the upsurge of the revolutionary movement. The US caste oligarchy was the major planner and bankroller of the golpe (coup) in April 2002. Its goal was to kill Chavez and cripple the economy. It was a matter of touch-and-go. The attempt failed but not for lack of trying. The Fourth Republic was not wiped out because of the mass support of workers and peasants, as described in detail in my book Cuba and Venezuela: The Nemeses of Imperialism.[iii]
The drive to decapitate a democratic regime has not slackened, however. The US 4th Fleet is in the Caribbean and three of its 15 world-class aircraft carriers are in the waters of the Caribbean. The US embargo against Cuba, although long condemned by the world's nations in the UN General Assembly, has remained for over half a century, with the aim of destroying the first socialist nation of the Americas. The cost of the blockade, according to the estimates of the Cuban government, now exceeds $700 billion. The US has also imposed an embargo on Bolivia's industrial products. The Obama cabal was the central force behind the coup in Honduras that overthrew the elected government of Manuel Zelaya. The latter’s crime was that it legislated minimum-wage legislation and higher taxes on multinationals and, not least, its adherence to economic integration pursued by ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America).
Meanwhile, the militarization of a once-neutral Costa Rica has begun with the implantation of 6,000 US Marines. The restoration of US military bases, with the connivance of the narco-trafficking Panamanian elite, is in full swing. The abortive military coup in Ecuador in September 2010 that almost led to the assassination of President Rafael Correa is part of the same conspiratorial design.[iv]Most conspicuous of all was the setting up of seven airbases in Colombia (notwithstanding that its National Assembly repudiated as illegal on constitutional grounds the agreement between ex-President Alvaro Uribe and the US government) whose goal as stated by the Pentagon planners was to encircle Venezuela. But US military domination of Colombia has other objectives too. This included the push to wipe out, in the name of combating terrorism, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels who have been fighting the corrupt narco-financed governments for several decades. The September 2010 killing of FARC leader Jorge Briceno by US special commando-led forces backed by 70 Apache helicopters and aircraft armed with “smart bombs” marked a major push in what has become an open war against a national liberation movement in Colombia.
The tentacles of US military intervention are now spreading. We ought not to forget that the US has 852 military bases worldwide. This is matched by the dominating presence of US corporations abroad, with the 1,000 largest US financial and non-financial corporations deriving on average over 43% of their revenues from their foreign subsidiaries. A number exceeded by the Big Five Wall Street banks that derive 55% of their revenues abroad. The military/industrial/banking complex is not confined to continental USA but is universal. They represent different faces of the imperial gulag.
The economic, military and political penetration of Venezuela and the Latin American region as a whole was conspicuous for centuries. This was tersely stated by Henry Stimson, Wall Street corporate lawyer, investment banker and Secretary of War in Roosevelt's cabinet in 1945: "I think that it's not asking too much to have our little region over here which never has bothered anybody [emphasis added]." Note the paternalistic tone, the air of overweening condescension and arrogance, the unbreakable steel-like grip of personal proprietorship enshrined in those three nasty little words: “our little region”. What he's saying is that “this is our backyard and the preserve of American capitalists and woe to any intruders that move to put their hands on it”.
Talk of the divine rights of American corporate ownership has marched to the drumbeat of racial arrogance. "The time is not too remote," jubilantly thundered US President William Taft (1857-1930), "when the whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally."
There is no space for democracy in this scheme of things. Moving from the abstract to the concrete, what Stimson and Taft were saying was seen in the most concrete definition of economic liberalism that has ever been articulated. It remains the dominant credo of capitalism at all stages of develop