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A CRITIQUE OF NICOLAS MADURO’S OPEN LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF THE USA By Matthew Quest

posted 23 Apr 2019, 12:49 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 23 Apr 2019, 13:24 ]
Nicholas Maduro’s
“Open Letter to the People of the United States” raises crucial
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Dr. Matthew Quest is a scholar of CLR James. See his essay on the Haitian Revolution in The Black Jacobins Reader.
questions. We see the boiling pot bubbling in world affairs. We should ask: “what is in it?” We should wonder what socialism or anti-imperialism might mean in Maduro’s worldview as we are concerned and act against US intervention in Venezuela.


Maduro appeals to the “good soul” of the American people, as distinct from their leaders, as he speaks in defense of the self-determination of Venezuela. Why do our anti-imperialists not speak to the Venezuelan people distinct from Maduro’s government?

We should never rally around American empire under any terms, including in this instance in the Age of Trump. Still, part of teaching global solidarity to ordinary working people in the US is not misrepresenting historical development or political economy. Instead we should be illuminating it by the questions we ask.

We should be anti-imperialist, if not socialist also, as we relate to how these unleash the self-governing power of the unemployed, care givers, workers, and the post-colonial world. We do not live in a world after the empire of capital. But we live in a world where the political class in nations or communities of color looks like us, claims our heritage, claims authenticity, and on this basis asks for our loyalty regardless of the actual policies or world outlook that is maintained.

For those that insist the complexions of Chavez and Maduro go against the grain of racism in the national history of Venezuela, we should have a retort to that. In the last 50-60 years, US government officials with this color have facilitated police murder and mass incarceration of people who look similarly. Let’s pay attention to the program of politicos and not just their color, or the resentment that white racists feel toward rule of people of color above society. Let’s ask why we are not opposed to the “black” political class or mis-leadership class at home and abroad.

Anti-imperialist solidarity can have self-interest. If we support social revolutions abroad, one would think we should advocate and be for one at home. Is Maduro’s government in Venezuela a beacon of social revolution in the world? What can we learn from it?

We must be on guard against professional scholars and experienced political observers of Venezuela. Even those who are critical of empire can still be mistaken. For those who are not sufficiently informed to implement a people to people foreign policy, we should consider the arguments in support of Venezuela’s government as leading a certain type of social revolution, and ask is the criteria they use for making such an evaluation sufficient and credible?

1. Maduro’s Venezuela demands a stop to the US aggression which seeks to suffocate “our economy.” While we should agree with an end to any and all U
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S aggression or military interventions, what type of economy is the Maduro government in Venezuela presiding over? Does the Venezuelan economy include self-governing workers, property relations, and relations of wage labor and capital they do not control?

2. Maduro claims to be a “man of the people,” someone who grew up poor, who was a trade union leader. Is the US familiar in its history with statesmen who claim to represent social change but in fact do not? If someone grows up poor does this make them opposed to the state and capitalism, hierarchy and domination? Are trade union leaders always rebellious or democratic minded? Why does Maduro wrap himself in these thin identities if anyone with a grasp of radical history (if only by the experience of struggle) knows these mean little?

3. Whether the question of usurpation of power by Maduro in Venezuela is as false as the claim that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and this should not lead to the people of the US allowing for a false war, this argument has a peculiar logic. It accepts that there are good and legitimate wars and “peace” can be facilitated under international law. Why do so-called socialists and imperialists share the same terms of war and peace? Why is Maduro, the anti-imperialist and his advocates, arguing to the empire about his legitimacy?

4. Maduro questions why the forces of empire always move in the name of “democracy.” He is right to underscore that this is disgusting. Further, thinking democracy is minority rule through periodic elections is also ghastly. We need not be concerned with the terms of elections in Venezuela other than to say undoubtedly the US has colluded to undermine fair elections in many countries and assassinated and overthrown leaders they did not wish to hold power. Yet this should not write Maduro a blank check.

Is government by minority rule under some other circumstance desirable? What does Maduro’s Venezuela offer the people of the US, in his open letter, in terms of majority rule as the direct self-government of working people?

Some scholars of Venezuela have noted popular assemblies or councils of the caregivers of some kind distinguishing what is termed the Bolivarian Revolution. How come Maduro doesn’t offer this model to the world or the people of the US, if it is indeed central to the social revolution he supposedly is leading?

Incidentally, if “participation” has so broadly been expanded, why are the popular classes not conducting foreign policy with us independent of Maduro’s state? How come Venezuelan toilers are not self-managing in their workplaces?

5. Why does Maduro speak of a noble dialogue initiative led by Mexico, Uruguay, and CARICOM (the bureaucratic federation of Caribbean nations)? None of these nation-states and ruling classes is anti-imperialist or anti-capitalist. Do they even represent the national sovereignty of their countries? Not if Maduro is an advocate of ordinary people being central to government.

To be clear, a people’s republic or a workers’ state, even where such exist, are contradictions in terms. Why would the majority permit a minority to rule in the name of social revolution unless this was a historical mistake? Every country’s ordinary people should be asked the same democratic question. Do you govern? Are you preparing to govern? If not, why not?

6. Maduro makes references to human rights and development indexes that are not informed by any historical radical philosophy but one shared by both the imperialist and peripheral governments in the capitalist world system. What should this mean to the ordinary people of the US or any country?

Image result for chavezTo say that Maduro’s government pays attention to the most vulnerable sectors of society, when his predecessor came to power in 1999, is remarkable. That means for 20 years a “social revolution” is being conducted, a form of popular power, where the poor and powerless, the unemployed and marginal toilers still exist. This is despite the fact that in some substantial way the popular classes are said to hold the reins of power.

Is the whole point of social revolution to implement an enhanced welfare state under capitalist hierarchies and wage labor? Maduro’s Venezuela if it is really distinguished by popular assemblies and councils, not rubber stamps of his party, should have a public record of disagreeing with the state on some issues, while still maintaining principles guided by opposition to hierarchy and domination. There is a record of autonomous self-organized resistance, independent of US empire, but the Maduro groupies will not tell the world or wish to malign its credibility.

7. Maduro speaks accurately enough of US efforts to blockade the Venezuelan government’s sovereign effort to independently trade on the capitalist world market. He even says he wished to maintain the business relationships that Venezuela has long held with the US throughout its history and even since Chavez came to power. What kind of socialism and anti-imperialism for 20 years has friendly trade relations up to recent times with the emperor of the world?

Certainly, the Age of Trump did not begin the Age of US empire. How come our socialists and anti-imperialists have not explained this to the ordinary people of the US? If some believe “a long revolution” is happening in capitalist Russia and China now, is this how they see self-determination in Venezuela or in the US?

8. Maduro’s reference to John F. Kennedy as someone who said “let’s not negotiate out of fear, but let’s never fear to negotiate” and who desired to pull back from the brink of catastrophe is opportunist or stupid. He believes part of making an anti-imperialist appeal to the ordinary people of the US is to appeal to their ruling class’s best intentions, the phony image of our elites that they have manufactured for themselves.

Maduro’s reference is disgusting exactly because it was Kennedy who presided over the Bay of Pigs invasion before the Cuban MissileImage result for missile crisis cuba Crisis, which was resolved by disarming Cuba. Kennedy promoted an “Alliance for Progressthat actually used the premises of trade and human rights to destabilize Latin American regimes. 

Nelson Rockefeller, the close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, strived to implement similar imperial policies in Latin America before and after the Kennedy years. How intelligent an anti-imperialist could Maduro be in evaluating Kennedy, who was also responsible for the overthrow of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo and after using Moise Tshombe to steal the mineral wealth from Congo? 

If imperialism is a predatory system one does not negotiate out of it or delink from it. A peripheral nation-state might preserve its sovereignty for a little longer. Not fearing to negotiate with the empire, even while trying to preserve a strong stance, is real politique but also bourgeois politics. Is Maduro looking for permission to sustain his power or return to power like the U.S. gave Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti? 

9. Whatever Maduro’s mistaken notions, or the foolish arguments of certain of Maduro’s dissident friends in the US who see themselves as socialists and the State Department in exile, this is no way to rally ordinary people in the US to an anti-imperialist cause. 

It should be clear by this open letter and the concerns and critiques I am raising that the Maduro government in Venezuela is not a socialist government. The working classes of Venezuela do not directly govern, whatever dependent forms of participation exist under the 1999 Constitution and his political party. The Maduro government’s vision of economic planning, however much Venezuela has expressed solidarity with many nations by providing oil under market prices or in difficult circumstances, is not a challenge to the accumulation of capital. Trade relations as facilitated by many types of governments (the US, China, Cuba, Russia) pursue ultimately new opportunities for capital accumulation for the sphere of commerce they represent by at first offering token and diplomatic gestures.

Venezuela asks us to rally around its “self-determination” as presiding over an aspiring independent bloc of capital in the world. We should never forget that the primary bloc of capital that Maduro’s Venezuela manages is not the commodity oil. It is the hides of Venezuela working people.

It is working people that produce wealth under arduous conditions not nations. Critics of neoliberalism who tell us wealth is produced by nations wish to reorganize capitalism to be more humane. Next, they will reorganize bears to not have fur and drool dripping from their sharp teeth.

Image result for no to US aggression venezuelaThere is no question we should oppose any US intervention or aggression against other nations in the world, even where those nations have less democracy (or even socialism) than we would wish. Wherever authoritarian government is present (in Russia, China, Syria, Israel, or Iran – I didn’t forget the US like the “anti-imperialists” who wish to lobby this government on behalf of Venezuela in the name of international law), we should wish for each nation’s toilers to overthrow them and directly hold the reins of those societies.

It’s a simple premise but a profound ethic. Why do most anti-imperialists avoid this? Is it because they are not against the empire of capital but in fact work for a bloc of capital?

This stance, that mass democratic forces should overthrow authoritarian regimes can and must be separated from the machinations of imperialism. If we don’t think ordinary people can grasp this than our end goal is clearly a regime that they will never preside.

10. When we misrepresent socialism and anti-imperialism to ordinary people in the US or any nation, it is a foolish mistake and undermines the self-directed, and self-liberating actions necessary for a future socialist society.

Imperialists who are aggressive in the name of “democracy” damage the fight for genuine democracy. But this is to be expected. Socialism without democracy (direct majority rule) not welfare state planning under property relations is also a degradation.

We need to begin expecting that progressives and “Jacobins”, regardless of color or gender, who are on the side of permanent slaughter, will mislead us about the meaning of a socialist future.

This state planning functions like “progressive” fugitive slave laws. In the name of national development, it seeks return of rebel toilers who have run away from alienated workplaces and economic relationships. I have no doubt ordinary people in Venezuela, like in the United States, desire to run away from such exploitation.

We should oppose US imperialism in Venezuela while writing no blank checks to Maduro’s government. We should also reject any worldview that thinks direct self-governing workers are fairytales. This is a widely held disposition among all the competing blocs of capital, whether imperial or peripheral, in the world system. Even those folks who tell us they grew up poor and are “men of the people.”
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