By Jordan Jardine
In the wake of a dramatic increase in tensions between the Trump Administration and Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, it is as appropriate a time as any to clarify a few misconceptions about this South American country. First of all, although the political party to which Mr. Maduro belongs is called the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the workers in Venezuela have no control over the means of production, there remains a large centralized state, and the functions of the capitalist system have not been abolished in Venezuela. Said functions have fallen under the control of the Venezuelan state. This is analogous to the infamous “Workers’ Party” of Korea in North Korea. Just because a political party calls itself a “socialist” or “workers” party, that does not necessarily mean the parties’ actions match the ostensible policy positions they may espouse.
Venezuela used to be among the most thriving and prosperous countries in the entire South American continent. Unfortunately, in 2014 (the earlier days of Maduro’s administration), Venezuela’s GDP dropped 3.9%, according to data from the World Bank. It is without question that Maduro (and his predecessor Hugo Chavez) and his ever-increasing authoritarian impulses and decrees (such as increasing military and law enforcement presence throughout the nation) has contributed a significant amount to the collapse of Venezuela. However, it is Maduro’s corruption and selfish lust for more and more control over his citizenry that have ruined the country, not socialism. Again, one of socialism’s most rudimentary components is workers’ control over the means of production. Since Venezuelan workers cannot control much of anything in their daily lives, let alone their work, it is unfair and definitionally inaccurate to attribute the nation’s woes to socialism. Venezuela absolutely still has a capitalist system. It just so happens that it has been reconfigured to solely benefit Maduro and his inner circle of bureaucrats and elites.
The media, particularly Fox News, constantly displays images of starving Venezuelans waiting in long lines for basic goods like bread and toilet paper. A true socialist society would NEVER let this happen. Though anarchists such as myself disagree with Karl Marx on a variety of issues, we agree with one of his main principles: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” It is necessary to include this quote because Venezuelans are watching their basic needs slip away. If workers in the country were allowed more control over their own labor, it would follow that the producers would be able to fulfill everyone’s needs in society. A capitalist society, especially a state capitalist one such as Venezuela, is not necessarily concerned about fulfilling people’s needs if it interferes with the profit motive, or in Maduro’s case, the profiting off of his own people to fatten his pockets and those of his cronies.
Venezuela’s problems are not limited to its own government. The elephant in the room that American media outlets scarcely ever address is the crippling effect Barack Obama’s series of 2014-2015 sanctions had on Venezuela. According to Reuters, Obama went so far as to deem the nation a national security threat to the United States in March 2015. Really? Venezuela is a formidable threat to Americans? If Maduro said he was going to send troops to open fire on Oklahoma, that would have been cause for concern. However, Maduro never said that and never has and probably never will. America has the largest military in the world by far and we also spend more money on our military than the next 10 countries combined, the vast majority of which are our allies. There is no way Maduro actually believes his military can compete with that. Regarding the reasoning for the economic sanctions, the Obama administration offered the weak and farcical excuse that Maduro was violating Venezuelans’ human rights. While this is certainly true, the United States backs, funds and/or arms 73% of the world’s dictatorships according to the progressive news site, Truthout. One of the clearest examples of this is our support of Saudi Arabia, where the human rights of women, Christians, Jews, atheists and alleged drug smugglers are violated on an almost daily basis. The US government has no right to call out other nations as “human rights violators” when we provide military and economic support to a large portion of these abhorrent wrongdoers.
So, if the US government does not actually care about the human rights of Venezuela’s people, what are they really interested in? The answer is very simple: oil. Venezuela has been rich in oil reserves for decades. According to the Washington Post, the United States imports over 500,000 barrels of oil per day from Venezuela, primarily for use as diesel fuel. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume that the true motives of the American government that underlie the instigation and escalation of tensions with Venezuela are not laid on a foundation of the desire to liberate desperate people from an authoritarian regime, but instead are merely to artificially foment an excuse to send innocent American troops to the country to die in the name of corporate profits and geographical hegemony.
In short, corruption, authoritarianism, and ever-more aggressive economic and political actions on the part of the United States are the primary drivers of Venezuela’s significant fall from grace in recent years. This has nothing to do with socialism and it never has in reality.