Venezuela’s People Self-Determination Not Trump will Decide their Future

A completely misplaced criticism of the Scottish Socialist Party, particularly from socialists in England, is that we are some kind of nationalist party because of our support for Scottish independence. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are a socialist party which is part of an independence movement. Our aim is the break up of the British imperialist state and the establishment of a Scottish Socialist Republic. More John McLean than Nicola Sturgeon. We are also a profoundly internationalist party with a proud track record of international solidarity and contacts with socialist movements throughout the world. This was demonstrated recently by the decision to send the SSP’s International Secretary; Bill Bonnar, to Venezuela to express, in person, our support for the Venezuelan Revolution, establish contact with the PSUV and to report back on what he experienced. This is his report. 

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Before I left for Venezuela I noted the kind of stories which were circulating in the British media. 

Caracas was a battle ground between supporters and opponents of the government, there was fighting in the streets, the Maduro ‘dictatorship’ was clinging to power by its finger tips and army controlled death squads were rampaging through the capital hunting down opponents. 

It was therefore with some trepidation that I landed in the capital. Yet my first day  revealed all this to be a compete work of fiction. What I witnessed was a city and its people going about its normal business. I saw no conflicts or clashes and the main activity of the the army, the National Guard, seemed to be in trying to sort out the horrendous traffic congestion. 

When I related some of the horror stories circulating in the British media in a meeting in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they simply  laughed explaining that the opposition had an entire industry devoted to spreading anti-government propaganda which is then sent around the world via American news agencies. Instead they invited me to explore the capital and draw my own conclusions. These were my impressions.

It was obvious that describing Nicolas Maduro as a dictator is a nonsense. He is the elected President of an elected government. In fact it was pointed out that in the last 20 years there has been 25 elections at regional, national and presidential level and the PSUV have won 23 of them; most by huge margins and under international supervision. 

The so called democratic opposition have not recognised any of these results and recently  announced that they would never recognise any future election victory by the Venezuelan Socialist Party, the PSUV. It says everything we need to know about the opposition. As for Maduro being a dictator my sense was that there exists in the government  a strong collective leadership.

The right wing opposition appear to have little or no presence within the capital; they are overwhelmingly located in the wealthy white suburbs stretching along the Caribbean coast. Its where the wealthy live and have always lived; not in Caracas itself. 

In fact someone told me that the clue to understanding the politics of Caracas is to understand its geography. Although in South America Caracas is in every sense a Caribbean city. With a population of over four million people, mostly black or mixed race and surrounded by barrios with another half million people it is the power base of the government. 

The wealthy white suburbs are a considerable distance away which is the key problem for the opposition. They cannot influence events in the capital because they are not in the capital. A picture of the nature of the opposition quickly emerges. The core are overwhelming white and middle class and although they call for the ‘restoration of democracy’; there is hardly a democrat among them.

 They have never recognised any democratic victory, have regularly called for the armed overthrow of the elected government, have glorified in some of the past right wing dictatorships which ruled Venezuela and are completely in the pay of an aggressive, foreign enemy power. 

The aim is clear. To turn the clock back to that point immediately before the Bolivarian  Revolution when they treated the country as their own personal property and when the government was composed of people exactly like them.

Support for the government remains strong, You see it in the numbers of people wearing PSUV emblems, in the political activity in the city and in the large numbers of Venezuelan flags been flown; a strident symbol of Venezuelan resistance closely associated with the government. 

I saw no evidence of any kind of widespread resistance to the government in the city; in stark contrast to the kinds of stories regularly told in the western media.

The army, in the form of the National Guard, has a strong presence and is strongly linked to the government, All the military commanders appear to be leading political figures in their own right  and project a very definite image as defenders of  Venezuelan sovereignty and the Bolivarian Revolution. It is interesting to watch  a pro-government mass rally on television; addressed by a leading army general who uses words like socialism, imperialism and solidarity.

One obvious example of government support was the National Petition against American  Aggression; NO MAS TRUMP. Launched on the first day I arrived I proudly signed it on behalf of the Scottish Socialist Party.  In the main squares and streets large numbers of stalls had been set up for people to sign, queues quickly gathering and within a week it had totalled  7 million signatures and counting.

Any visitor to Caracas will be immediately struck by the extent of the current economic crisis. It is obvious from the crumbling infrastructure, the half empty shops and the queues outside banks. 

While the origins of this crisis are in the collapse of world oil prices and before that the international banking crisis what is driving it now are draconian American sanctions and domestic economic sabotage and speculation from the country’s still predominant private sector. 

This latter point produces palpable anger among people who are regularly held to ransom by private companies and distributors.   

There is a war being waged against the Venezuelan people. It is not a war fought by guns and marauding American troops, It s an economic war and remains the principle weapon of the opposition and their American backers. The aim is to make the Venezuelan people so desperate that the will support any kind of change just to get back to some normality. 

As was explained to me. ‘Its as if the opposition and the USA are holding a gun to the heads of the people while offering them a simple choice. If you continue to support the government we will keep this going but if you support us we will make all of this magically go away.’ 

Students of Latin American history will instantly recognise a strategy of de-stabilisation. It was  applied to Chile in the seventies and Nicaragua in the eighties and is being applied to Venezuela today. 

Yet the impression I had was the the government was riding out the economic storm. It was beginning to bring the currency under control, deal with hyper inflation and through increasing links with China was significantly undermining the sanctions.  

Despite everything that has been thrown at them my impression was of a government which remain strong, resolute and confident about the future. With the opposition apparently in complete disarray and the American Government scratching its head with what to do next the Venezuelan Government remain firmly in control and is setting the agenda.

What struck me more than anything else was the way  the Venezuelan Government  frame their  struggle in terms of national self determination and sovereignty. 

Venezuela first emerged through a campaign against Spanish colonialism and for independence and in modern times against  US aggression. From one small country fighting to achieve its own sovereignty to one fighting to defend its existing sovereignty it is a struggle we in Scotland should be proud to identify with.

Comments (16)

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  1. Roland says:

    From and Englishman I wish the Scottish people all the luck in the world, and hope that one day soon they will at last have there freedom from England, as my dad once said when England get a cold Scotland gets Pneumonia, what you could do with is another great Scotsman like John Maclean.

  2. John B Dick says:

    “A completely misplaced criticism of the Scottish Socialist Party, particularly from socialists in England, is that we are some kind of nationalist party because of our support for Scottish independence. ”

    I didn’t know there were enough Socialists in England to run an office party, far less a political party.

  3. Alan Webster says:

    Thank you for publishing the article as if you rely on the MSM we would never know what is going on in the world. The neo cons will not be happy until the regimes in South and Central America do as they are told and allow the USA steal their resources

  4. SleepingDog says:

    There was an interesting story yesterday about opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s links with organized crime paramilitaries:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/13/juan-guaido-faces-questions-over-links-to-organised-groups
    which is par for the course in US-backed South American frontmen.

  5. john learmonth says:

    So you are a national socialist party?
    Oh dear……
    As for Venezuala i doubt Trump or for that matter anybody in the USA gives two figs.
    Just another failed socialist state….join the queue and blame western ‘imperialism’.
    Its the easy option

    1. JAMES SINCLAIR says:

      JL are you a certified lunatic by any chance ?

  6. Alistair MacKichan says:

    Good to have an eye-witness account. It sounds as though China is helping Venezuela considerably, and its effective bulwark against US hegemony is welcome. It does seem that US colonialism is stalling around the world now. I really hope Venezuela can brave out the economic disarray. I am nervous about socialist economic policies however. if we take the case of Scotland, I would hope that a vigorous, ethical private sector will contribute to the future independent economy. It weakens a nation to neutralise the initiative and imagination which stem from private enterprise, and are lacking in the grey uniformity of socialist states. I am looking for a post-capitalist and non neo-con model which can invigorate an economy without ignoring ordinary peoples’ welfare. I don’t want a Scotland where part of the population is pitted against another section in an economic war.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Alistair MacKichan, I think it was arch-capitalist Henry Ford that said you can have any colour you want as long as it was black; while socialist William Morris (of British Arts and Crafts movement fame) championed personal creativity for human fulfilment, opposing the mass-production wage-slavery of capitalism:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Morris
      In fact, capitalist monopolists and patent-squatters seek to crush rival innovation and corral personal creativity towards profitable ends. If you want an example, compare corporate computing with the modern-day Maker movement:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maker_culture

      Of course, countries with socialist policy programmes tend to be either illegally invaded or illegally embargoed by the USA and its allies, so life has perhaps been a bit grimmer there than if they were left in peace (or their governments illegally overthrown).

  7. Wul says:

    Thank you for this article. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who has actually been there.
    Funny how those who advocate “Free Markets” are so keen to completely capture, and un-free, the resources of other peoples.

    As an aside; you said: “Our aim is the break up of the British imperialist state and the establishment of a Scottish Socialist Republic. ”

    Can I just say that the idea of a “Scottish Socialist Republic” (SSR) will be a massive turn-off for most Scots. The word “Socialist” has such negative connotations, for so many people, nowadays that it would be better to find another word or story to express the wish for a fairer, more equal society.

    From what I can see, countries which have a mixed, market economy with strong welfare and redistributive social policies, high taxation and enforceable anti-greed and anti-monopoly legislation are the most successful.

    Countries which go the full “socialist” bhoona; having state control of all means of production don’t look like much fun to live in.

    1. Wul says:

      To put it simply: ” You are welcome to set up business here as long as it benefits our citizens”

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Wul, has some order come down from Central Command to portray Socialism as grey, uniform and dull?

      The lives of all those people in factories and prisons and sweatshops churning all the goods for our consumer-capitalism society (currently destroying the planet) must be full of laughs and excitement, right enough.

      Even if you take a market like computer games, it might seem as if that might work pretty well, with diversity and choice and innovation. Yet regulators have to keep stepping in to prevent games companies doing things like exploiting kids with gambling mechanisms:
      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-49674333
      And here is a puzzle. Since games thrive on presenting the player as a underdog, and many use historical themes and settings. Yet where are all the games where the player is a slave? There is a fantasy role in Shadows of Mordor, for example, where the player can choose to aid a slave revolt (against Orcs). But games representing historical slavery are very few and far between. Could it be that a commercially-dominated culture-production industry might suppress certain themes or under-represent certain characters or peoples? The evidence is compelling that it does.

      1. Wul says:

        S Dog: “@Wul, has some order come down from Central Command to portray Socialism as grey, uniform and dull?”

        Aye, I think it has. Look at the hysteria about the “Marxist Extremist” “threat” from Corbyn. Which is why I think a “Scottish Socialist Republic” would be a very hard sell.

        I believe that rule by any, single ideology or “ism”, be it untrammelled capitalism or state controlled socialism, will result in enforced serfdom for many of us.

        You make a valid point about all those people slaving away to make our consumer goods in far-off sweatshops. However, they are out-of-sight-out-of-mind for many Scots voters and “capitalism” is providing cheap goodies at the moment, so why change things?

        My point was about presentation and marketing rather than actuality. However, it is hard to think of any 100% socialist, state-controlled country which looks worth emigrating to. (They are not really “socialist” those places are they? Just another form of rule of the many by the few).

        As someone else commented ( in the thread about Allende?) in response to a “capitalism is best” troll, the best examples of socialist policies ( NHS, free education, social security etc) are happening within market economies.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Wul, OK, thanks, I see you point more clearly now. I agree with you on the dangers of single ideologies. I do not regard totalitarian, one-party states as intrinsically socialist because they privilege party over society (although they may have some socialist policies). Similarly, beware the fake pluralism of an electoral system where the main parties are all essentially parties of business (or other powerful groups). A mixed market-socialist arrangement will currently tend to be captured by corporations, in my view.

          But talking about socialism need not be avoided. The word is apparently coming back into fashion in the USA. Which in turn has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and whose prison-industrial complex houses one of those unhappy-bored-exploited populations that capitalist profit depends upon. I think a lot of those people are a lot closer than we may like to think.

          I do not see how an ethical private sector would be created. However, if you made being rich illegal in an independent Scotland, you would remove the greater part of the incentives for exploitation. That would not encourage foreign companies to invest. But it might prevent Scotland from turning into sweatshop-land. Someone or something always pays more than the simple asking price of cheap goods.

          Anyway, as socialism is a form of humanism, it is too limited a form of government to be used on its own. The world is a commons shared by so much other life.

          1. Wul says:

            Maybe it’s the word “capitalism” that needs re-named or more closely examined? What do we mean by “Capitalism”? For some it just means a trade-based economy and is quite benign. It is hard to convince these people that things need to change. For others it signifies an oppressive methodology of exploitation of the poor and planetary rape.

            I tend to think of it as a structure which guarantees that, once a certain level of wealth is reached, the Capitalist is guaranteed wealth for life and society’s rules all become aligned in his favour ( tax havens, Non Dom, property speculation, landlordism, fancy accountants, “inside information”, land speculation, legal loopholes, etc. etc). The pool of wealth available to everyone else shrinks.

            As a property owner some of these goodies are available to me; I can flip my house for tens of thousands in tax-free profit and collect the value added by other people’s efforts, not my own. A magic money tree.

          2. davidd says:

            @SleepingDog
            Isn’t part of the ‘problem with socialism’ that we haven’t yet seen emerge, anywhere or any time in Earth’s history, one ‘Socialist’ state that performs the function of removing inequality without incurring some negative results, be them totalitarianism, mass inequality in power, corruption, cultural vaccums, etc?

            Not to discredit you or the ideology – in fact, I support it to some extent. But is there even one example of absolute Socialism ever working?

            I’m not even trying to go against the article and rule out Venezuela, but that seems too soon to call for me.

            @Wul
            So, accepting your definition of capitalism, I take it your preferred mode of Government would be a more socialised state (e.g. an Indy Scotland) with stronger regulations against these loopholes for the rich? (e.g. maybe elements of… Japan/Korea, or the Scandi countries to give very oversimplified examples). Or do you think these flaws are a somewhat necessary/unavoidable evil while a free market exists?

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @davidd, neither a problem, nor an accurate or fair historical summary, would be my view. Egalitarian societies have existed throughout history, according to standard archaeological interpretations, such as the apparently very stable and long-lasting city of Çatalhöyük, with its equivalent-sized and non-hierarchical rooms:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Çatalhöyük
            Since the State as we understand it is a relatively modern invention, it seems odd to strain back through all time to find socialist versions. Collectivism in a variety of forms was the norm for much of human development, and subsistence societies, where everyone has to play a full role in social survival, are essentially socialist. A Scottish subsistence society is effectively portrayed in Neil M Gunn’s fictionalisation Silver Darlings.

            The problem that socialist states attracts in the modern era is extreme hostility from hierarchical states and empires. They set too good an example for the masses elsewhere. This means that they generally need to be organised on the basis of perpetual defence, which tends to create militaristic hierarchies and often paranoia amongst leaders who face regular foreign assassination attempts. There is then a threat that the state may veer into totalitarianism (I would note this also exists when business corporations dominate the government, see the USAmerican Business Plot). I do not see why corruption would be more of a problem in socialist states than any others. Surely states where money sets the highest value would be most corrupt?

            The Ba’athist Parties in government have been criticised in a way that cruel monarchies and nepotistic oligarchies of the region have not. I am not an expert in Ba’athism or how the various Parties differ from the principles of the founders of the movement:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ba%27athism
            However, it is clear that many of their socialist policies in power had (at least initially) extraordinarily positive effects on their populations, in terms of health, education and literacy at least (and recognised as doing so by the United Nations). The form (Arab socialism) is pan-national. Pan-national socialisms are a major threat to modern empires like the USAmerican one, which is why US imperialists are so antagonistic towards the aspects of the United Nations which tend to treat nations equally.

            And for anyone who thinks the USA is not an empire, in the context of Venezuela they should research the USA’s history of hemispheric hegemony.

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