Why is US capitalism so opposed to the Maduro regime in Venezuela? They claim it’s because of the repression there, but all one has to do is mention two words – “Saudi Arabia” – to know better. Trump and the US foreign policy establishment are not always aligned, but in this case they are.
Reason not obvious
It’s not as if Maduro is pro-worker. His government has held down wages and attacked trade unionists. And, in the case of Trump himself, one might think that Maduro’s alignment with Russian imperialism would tend to push Trump into a pro-Maduro position, but it has not.
But there are wider considerations: Ten to 15 years ago, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia had nominally “left” presidents, all of which took a degree of independence – at least in words – from US imperialism. This was extremely worrying for US imperialism, for which Latin America holds a place similar to that of Eastern Europe for Russian imperialism. It is their backyard. It’s like a drug gang being able to control their home turf; if they can’t control that, then their wider role is thrown open to challenge.
Now, all those nominally left governments have been thrown out except for in Nicaragua and Venezuela, both of whose presidents are in crisis. So US imperialism sees an opportunity to continue its offensive and get rid of them both.
Two wings of Venezuelan capitalist class
There are two wings of the Venezuelan capitalist class – the old line Venezuelan capitalist class and the new “bolibourgeoisie”. The former have stronger economic and political ties with the US capitalist class. This includes investments in Florida real estate. Some of the bolibourgeoisie have also invested there, but their situation is precarious. Take the case of former Venezuelan National Treasurer Alejandro Andrade, who was just indicted for (and confessed to) corruption in a US court. Both Trump and the US capitalist class as a whole are more aligned with the old line Venezuelan capitalists.
Trump and US capitalist establishment
Trump and the US foreign policy establishment are not always aligned. That’s because of Trump’s close relationship with Putin and the Russian mafia capitalist class, which in turn stems from Trump’s history of serving as a money launderer for them. His attacks on NATO and his acceptance of Putin’s swallowing up of Crimea are two primary examples. In the case of Venezuela, it might seem that he would be more conciliatory towards Maduro given the close relationship between Maduro and Putin. For example, in December of 2018 Maduro signed a deal for Russian investors to invest some $5 billion in Venezuela to exploit that country’s oil and gold resources.
For Trump, though, everything is personal, and he is probably considering his investment potential in Latin America as a whole. (He had invested in Panama, for example.) The presence of governments that are nominally opposed to US imperialism makes that difficult. Also, his party and supporters like US Senator from Florida Marco Rubio clearly are tied to this old wing of the Venezuelan capitalist class. Finally, Trump has found a convenient whipping boy in Maduro. In a farcical repeat of the anti-Communism of old, Trump is holding up Maduro as the example of the “socialism” that the Democrats supposedly stand for.
Many on the left have been warning about a supposed coming invasion of Venezuela by Trump. A month ago, Oaklandsocialist published an article considering this possibility. We concluded that the main pressures seemed to be against such an invasion, but that with Trump anything is possible. Now, it seems more unlikely that there will be such an invasion. Talk about a quagmire if he were to send an invastion!
So, what is the likely outcome?
The Wall St. Journal is no opponent of military rule. But even they admit that Maduro retains the backing of the Venezuelan military. That is because it’s the top military brass that has been allowed to run major industry in Venezuela, including PDVSA, the Venezuelan oil company. These generals are able to massively enrich themselves through this; they and their cronies are part of the new “bolibourgeoisie”. The right wing opponent of Maduro, Juan Guaidó, has offered the generals amnesty in an attempt to bring them over to his side. So far, none of them has broken, but it’s possible that some will.
If there were a serious split in the military, it’s hard to see how that could be resolved by anything other than “military” means. In other words, a civil war in Venezuela. It’s hard to see how that would have anything but absolutely disastrous consequences, with massive bloodshed and suffering.
What would happen if Guaidó came to power, either “peacefully” or otherwise? His mentor is Leopoldo López, who has openly said “I belong to one percent of the privileged.”
Guaidó is simply the face of the degenerate old line Venezuelan capitalist class and their backer, US imperialism. As such, it’s hard to see how in the present conditions he would not follow the examples of Trump and Bolsonaro (in Brazil) – completely open up the Venezuelan economy, completely support the unchallenged rule of the landlords in the country side, attack the working class in general. It’s hard to see how he would not end up just as oppressive as Maduro, if not more so.
Update: It is now being reported that Trump has ordered the removal of all remaining staff from the US embassy in Venezuela. This is possibly in preparation for an invasion, either by the US military or by Brazil and/or Colombia, or possibly all three. If that happens, then the overwhelmingly main issue will be how best to defeat this invasion. It seems from here in the US that role of the working class will even more come into play. Both to confuse and disorient the invaders and also to try to fraternize with the invading rank and file soldiers. The same goes for the working class in the United States. It would even more sharply raise the issue of the necessity for building a mass working class party here.