For too long, solidarity with the oppressed, the working class and the “wretched of the earth” has been an afterthought for those on the left of the Welsh independence movement. Solidarity with socialists abroad shouldn’t be an adjunct, a caveat to the “real” struggle of Welsh independence; it is part of one organic whole, our fight is their fight and their fight is our fight. We must understand that a victory against imperialism is a victory for all of humanity whereas a loss is felt by all of us.
Solidarity has been reserved for other stateless nations such as Catalunya, the Basque Country and Corsica. These are all noble causes, and we should continue to support them, yet solidarity should be unconditional. We support Catalunya and Scotland because they share our worldview and their breaking away from the Spanish and British states will strengthen the Welsh cause. But what of states in the global south, in Latin America, Africa and Asia that are fighting to break away from imperial domination, do they not also deserve our support and solidarity?
Lenin, through his impeccable understanding and application of dialectical and historical materialism was able to not only explain the world as it was, but understood the underlying processes that led to dominant states being imperialist. He argued in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism that:
Capitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and of the financial strangulation of the overwhelming majority of the population of the world by a handful of “advanced” countries.
He continues, stating that:
Monopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination and not for freedom, the exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest or most powerful nations — all these have given birth to those distinctive characteristics of imperialism which compel us to define it as parasitic or decaying capitalism.
The “advanced” nations fight for colonial “booty”, carving up the world as they deem fit. Political independence for the ex-colonies didn’t equate to the end of imperial domination by the “advanced” economies, instead, each imperial nation has maintained its own sphere of influence. The French continue to pillage Francophone Africa, with 80% of Francophone Africa’s foreign reserves being kept by the French Central Bank, estimated to be worth $500billion. NATO, created to stop the ‘spread of communism’ still amounts to 70% of the world’s total arms expenditure. They continue to occupy Afghanistan and were instrumental in toppling Libya’s Colonel Muammar Qaddafi; a country which now sees black people sold openly in slave markets after western “liberation”. The reality is that countries that are invaded and exploited by imperial powers are never better off after intervention.
The USA has decided to declare itself the world police. No geographical distance is enough to quell the rapaciousness with which the USA tries to exert its influence; Afghanistan, Vietnam and Iran can all attest to that. However, where the USA’s influence is most pervasive is in Latin America. The CIA deposed Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and imposed the military dictatorship of Carlos Castillo Armas due to the fact that the United Fruit Company were enraged that Arbenz gave the company’s unused land to the peasants. Since, more than 200,000 Guatemalans have died in a three-decade civil war directly influenced by the CIA’s decision to depose Arbenz.
Since the victory of the Cuban Revolution and “el Movimiento de 26 de Julio” the USA and the CIA has agitated for regime change. Declassified CIA documents state the following:
The majority of Cubans support Castro… The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.
Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba. If such a policy is adopted, it should be the result of a positive decision which would call forth a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.
The US Government also gave over $15million to the opposition in Chile during 1970-73 to help depose the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. This ushered the way for Pinochet; a man arrested in 1998 due to human rights violations and a big friend of Margaret Thatcher. Amongst many other violations, the USA also deposed Manuel Noriega in Panama – when he had finished being useful to them – in the grotesquely named “Operation Just Cause”. Panamanians still don’t know how many people died in this invasion. The lesson is that wherever the USA intervene, the local population suffers.
Venezuela is the most recent flashpoint in the struggle between the working class and imperialism. The fault lines have been drawn. The Government of Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution is supported by the indigenous, those of African descent and the toiling classes. The self-proclaimed “president”, Juan Guaido is supported by the bourgeoisie and landowners mostly formed of Criollo Venezolanos (those Venezuelans of mostly Spanish descent), the USA and its imperialist lackeys or “vendepatrias” Ivan Duque in Colombia and the fascist Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. The country, as with many others in Latin America, is stratified by ethnicity. Not only did the Europeans bring disease, death and slavery, they brought their racist conceptions of racial superiority. Hugo Chavez, partly Amerindian, part afro-Venezuelan would never be accepted by parts of the Criollo-Venezolano community or the international capitalist community. To illustrate this point, the opposition would regularly call Chavez “mico Comandante” or “ape commander” and regularly share racist cartoons of the old President.
Harsh sanctions have been imposed on the Government of Bolivar; in fact, of the 20 states which Venezuela imports most from, “at least 17 have joined actions of blockade or harassment against [the] country”. The opposition wants to privatise the Venezuelan oil industry, the largest known oil reserves in the world. The opposition, along with the USA, Brazil and Colombia want to feast on the carcass of Venezuela’s state like vultures. In fact, the Caracas stock market surged after reports that Juan Guaido would proclaim himself President.
The UK are far from being without fault, the Bank of England refused to release Venezuelan gold, now worth $1.2billion, which Venezuela wanted to use to pay for food, because they allegedly believe “Mr. Maduro may seize the gold, which is owned by the state, and sell it for personal gain”. Guy Verhofstadt has banged the imperial drum due to the fact that “crucial EU partners” such as the USA have supported Juan Guaido. Similarly, Macron has denounced Maduro, claiming to speak for Europe. What these events have shown is the moral and ideological bankruptcy of liberalism.
The USA, emboldened by Bolsonaro’s victory amid the unlawful jailing of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff (another example where there was no solidarity shown) have ramped up their efforts to depose Maduro. The tail does not wag the dog; this has been orchestrated from the beginning by the USA. In fact, the USA declared they would support Juan Guaido’s claim before he had even declared himself President; this was the green light he needed to instigate the attempted coup.
The long-lasting effects of colonialism
The portrayal of Venezuela in the Western media is one of failure, yet this is a half-truth at best. The lack of historical and material analysis shown by agitators for regime change is no accident. The scene they set is similar to “the fall” in the Bible; Venezuela was a paradise for the people before being tainted by the Bolivarian Revolution. This illiterate analysis papers over centuries of exploitation and colonialism which leaves long-lasting effects wherever it is established. Andre Gunder Frank argued that the historical amnesia of mainstream development theories was unforgivable. He argued that it wasn’t “wrong policies”, unproductive “cultures” or geographical luck that decided whether a nation was rich or poor, but the ongoing legacy of colonialism, slavery and resource extraction. Paul Baran, in Richard Anthony John’s words argued that:
Despite political independence, continued imperialist activity is ensured by domestic reproduction of socio-economic and political structures in accordance with the interest of the rich, formerly metropolitan, powers. For this reason, the development of capitalism in such areas does not replicate that experienced by advanced countries in an earlier period of history…The gulf between these different countries widens not narrows.
Furthermore, Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson posit that a third of income inequality in the world today can be explained by the varying impact of European colonialism on different societies. They continue:
Among the areas colonized by European powers during the past 500 years, those that were relatively rich in 1500 are now relatively poor. Given the crude nature of the proxies for prosperity 500 years ago, some degree of caution is required, but the broad patterns in the data seem uncontroversial. Civilizations in Meso-America, the Andes, India, and Southeast Asia were richer than those located in North America, Australia, New Zealand, or the southern cone of Latin America. The intervention of Europe reversed this pattern. This is a first-order fact, both for understanding economic and political development over the past 500 years, and for evaluating various theories of long-run development.
The Bolivarian Revolution has been vilified by the western bourgeoisie because it has tried to break away from this cycle of dependency. Venezuela, like Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Grenada, Iran, Egypt, Libya and more before it has tried to break away from colonial exploitation. The only thing the Bolivarian Revolution is guilty of is caring more for its own people than the whims of capital and the global elite. Hugo Chavez ignited the spirit and fire of the Venezuelan people to throw off the chains of imperialism.
There are difficulties, of course, like in any country, but we must defend the gains made by the revolution and challenge this notion that Venezuela was a prosperous nirvana in the “good old days” before the Revolution. For example, the Organic Law of Labour and Workers entitled mothers to 26 weeks of maternity leave as well as ensuring 2 weeks paternity leave. Workers will work a maximum of 40 hours a week and must be given 2 consecutive days a week for leisure. Every employee in Venezuela has the right to a pension after retirement, including homemakers. Every museum and historical site are free for Venezuelans to enter, life expectancy has increased every year under the Bolivarian Revolution and literacy rate has increased by around 9% to 97% literacy, whilst infant mortality has decreased every year since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution. This is a nation with difficulties, but one that is making gains despite imperialist meddling and embargoes. The majority of Venezuelans support their government, why do we know better than they do?
Ultra-leftism and the romanticism of western Marxism
Why has there not been an outpouring of support for the Bolivarian Revolution? Why was the support, if any, for the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional in Nicaragua “critical support”? The left in Europe has been immobilised by ‘ultra-leftism’, described by Lenin as a politics of purity – the doctrinal “repetition of the ‘truths’ of pure communism”. It seems that the Bolivarian Revolution, in the eyes of the Western Left has failed in the same way as the Eastern Revolutions as described by Roland Boer:
The resentment of Western Marxists against the successful Eastern revolutions manifests itself in a complex mix of dismissal and unbearable romanticism. As for the latter, it appears in the position that the perfect revolution is yet to come, that it will happen at an undefinable utopian moment in the future. The criteria for what constitutes such a romantic moment constantly shift, depending on which position one takes, but they all remain in the future, have not yet been realised, offer as yet unimaginable qualitative change and certainly don’t need an army. Needless to say, all of the successful Eastern revolutions fail the test, for they inevitably came to grief, were betrayed, fell from grace, turned away from romantic revolutionary ideals. In short, they ‘failed’.
The Bolivarian Revolution hasn’t been vehemently defended because it ‘fails’ to reach our ultra-leftist notions of what a revolution should be. Lenin continually stated that the revolution itself is “as easy as lifting a feather”, the far more complex part is the construction of socialism itself.
We must excavate our consciousness to understand why many of those on the “left” in the West do not support Maduro and other workers governments across the world. Franz Fanon, the sociologist and revolutionary suggested it was because Europeans of all stripes still held chauvinistic attitudes and that they had bought into the European “civilisation” project:
Some Europeans were found to urge the European workers to shatter this narcissism and break with this un-reality. But in general, the workers of Europe have not replied to these calls; for the workers believe, too, that they are part of the prodigious adventure of the European spirit. All the elements of a solution to the great problems of humanity have, at different times, existed in European thought. But Europeans have not carried out in practice the mission which fell to them, which consisted of bringing their whole weight to bear violently upon these elements, of modifying their arrangement and their nature, of changing them and, finally, of bringing the problem of mankind to an infinitely higher plane.
It is time for us to decide whose side we are on and to accept that we do not understand the material conditions of Venezuela or any other workers’ state better than the people that live there. It is time for us as Westerners to throw off the yoke of chauvinism and imperialism and to stand side-by-side with the workers of the world. It is time for us to understand that these struggles are not secondary to our own but that a victory for Miguel Diaz-Canel, Evo Morales, Nicolas Maduro and Daniel Ortega against imperial meddling is a win for all of us.
In the words of Marx, “society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps”. I have decided I will stand with the people and against capitalism, imperialism, poverty and greed.
With who will you stand?