FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sea-Change in Venezuela

Caracas.

When President Maduro responded to the recent White House executive order declaring Venezuela to be a national security threat, saying first that it was a “Frankenstein” and later that it was “schizophrenic,” he may have made small errors regarding both literature and psychiatry, but his point was clear enough: Obama’s decree is a bit like Frankenstein’s monster (a hodgepodge) and it indeed comes from a government with a split-personality.

In fact, U.S. politics, like that of most Northern governments, is deeply irrational. This is in part because it is concerted among various oligarchical interests and monopoly groups, making the official discourse really something of an epiphenomenon. Yet it is also because the political sphere obeys discordant, heterogeneous time-frames.

U.S. politics’ profound internal clock – which ticks away in the country’s innards – is that of capital accumulation. The demands of capital accumulation, when they irrupt on the surface of usual national and international politics (with its quotidian fare of summits, elections, and everyday lawmaking) produce strange effects that defy the rationality of this more visible arena.

Take the case of the U.S.’s policies regarding Venezuela. This country’s recent political panorama has been defined, in the first place, by a Bolivarian reformist government that has opted for a Chinese-style project of gradually diversifying its productive apparatus and, in the second place, by a right-wing opposition that (because it was tacitly consulted on the government’s reforms) was inclined to wait patiently for upcoming elections, in which it projected important successes.

Abruptly, this has all undergone a sea-change. In months, if not weeks, the older scenario has given way to a situation marked by widespread political disobedience on the part of the opposition, a graver economic situation, alarming information about coups d’etat, and now open U.S. interference.

Why has this happened? No rational sequence of steps in the internal arena explains why Maduro’s government should abandon its carefully-crafted reformism, nor why the Venezuelan opposition should ditch its plan for very likely electoral successes in late 2015 and 2018. The first key to a serious explanation is to be found rather in the U.S.-Saudi engineered drop in oil prices that happened last November.

The drop in oil prices was the deep voice of international capital speaking, which irrupted as if from nowhere and in counterpoint to the rhythms of local and visible Venezuelan politics. When international capital spoke, it dashed all the local plans, because the slow time-frame of the Bolivarian government’s plans for economic diversification and the turtle steps of the Venezuelan opposition’s march towards the upcoming elections suddenly were no longer viable.

New actors and new, surprising actions appeared. Among them were the opposition’s about-face regarding several “Citizen Power” nominations in December, their extra-parliamentary disobedience, the mysterious Air Force conspiracy, and now the exotic declarations of the White House. These can only be understood as political surface-effects that correspond to the rhythms of capitalist accumulation. In effect, the engineered drop in oil prices needs to have its pay off, not in the middle- or long-term, but more immediately!

Now that the surprise has come, what should the Venezuelan government and people do? The risks of this new situation are more than evident but, by the same token, it should be clear that the Bolivarian government was extremely foolish to think that it could follow a risk-free path to socialism, which was the aspiration expressed in the concerted “Chinese model” of slowly developing the country’s productive forces by way of innocuous reforms. This is the perennial social-democratic myth, which is always projected upon capitalism’s gradualist time-lines and fantasies of normality. It is a myth that capitalism itself, when it periodically assumes a fascist modality, takes charge of debunking.

With risk-free, rule-abiding normality dashed to the rocks, is it not time for Venezuela to try something else? That Maduro has been both brandishing the Venezuelan Constitution like a talisman and at the same time asked for exceptional powers, shows him to be caught between two options. Yet for the Bolivarian socialist movement as a whole, it is clear that some variant of the latter option – that is to say, declaring a state of exception – is the right path.

The real state of exception, however, is nothing other than socialism: the negation of capitalism’s automatic mechanisms and clocks of all kinds in favor of a deliberate human construction. It consists neither of chasing the imperialist monster to the North Pole nor ignoring it, but rather marching to the beat of one’s own drummer. The rhythm of this drummer is marked by the masses’ needs, the programmed satisfaction of which (via solid steps toward socialism) is the surest protection Maduro’s government can have when faced with imperialism.

Chris Gilbert is professor of political science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.

 

More articles by:

Chris Gilbert is professor of political science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail