It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Tories, along with the governments of Spain, France, Germany and others, have echoed America’s call to recognise Juan Guaidó as the President of Venezuela. As usual, this orchestra of imperialists have dutifully assembled behind Trump as their conductor. Their tune as before: regime change.
The US says jump…
Jeremy Hunt, the UK foreign secretary, took his cue from Washington whilst on a trip to visit the US vice president. He stated that: “The election on May 20  was deeply flawed; ballot boxes were stuffed, there were counting irregularities and the opposition was banned.”
In reality, it is Hunt’s statement that is deeply flawed. Firstly, it is not possible to “stuff” ballot boxes in Venezuela: voting is electronic. Secondly, the opposition was not banned; many instead just boycotted the election in an attempt to deprive it of legitimacy. Despite this, opposition leader Henri Falcón nevertheless still participated!
Following in the footsteps of the US and the EU, Theresa May indicated that the British government would endorse their plans to tighten sanctions against the Venezuelan government.
Already, the Bank of England, under instruction from the US, is refusing requests to repatriate $1.2bn of Venezuela’s gold reserves that it is “safekeeping” in its London vaults. This amounts to the largest bank robbery in history - only this time it is the bank that is the robber!
Hands off Venezuela!
Jeremy Corbyn has correctly condemned this imperialist intervention, stating that:
“The future of Venezuela is a matter for Venezuelans. Jeremy Hunt’s call for more sanctions on Venezuela is wrong. We oppose outside interference in Venezuela, whether from the US or anywhere else”.
This sentiment echoed that in an open letter signed by many leading Labour Party figures and trade unionists, including John McDonnell MP and Chris Williamson MP. The letter correctly called the situation by its correct name: a “US attempt at regime change”. Furthermore, it pointed to the “disastrous interventions” in Iraq and Libya as a warning to what could happen in Venezuela.
"The Venezuela economy has been crippled by U.S sanctions! - And the UN rapporteur said that: 'U.S sanctions are illegal, & could amount to crimes against humanity!' - Any intervention from the U.S could precipitate a civil war & lead to a humanitarian catastrophe!" -@DerbyChrisW pic.twitter.com/Ducznysan3— C0RBYNAT0R (@Corbynator2) January 28, 2019
House of imperialists
Shamefully, some Labour MPs have disagreed with this stance. Most notably was Mike Gapes, MP for Ilford South. Gapes used the trick of asking an “urgent question” to Parliament as a platform to back the US-led coup. Whilst ridiculing the Labour MPs who signed the letter as “assorted Stalinists and anti-Semites”, he said it was correct to recognise Guaidó as President and invited the British government to do the same.
MPs from all parties then joined the chorus of support for imperialist intervention, of course for “humanitarian” reasons. The only Labour MP to defiantly resist these calls was Chris Williamson, who correctly linked the crisis in Venezuela with the “economic warfare” conducted against it by the USA. He argued that far from solving the crisis, the US backed coup could likely precipitate a civil war and a humanitarian catastrophe.
Emily Thornberry MP, the Labour shadow foreign secretary, did to her credit reject the US intervention. She also pointed out British imperialism’s hypocrisy when it comes to dealing with other Latin American states.
Thornberry’s starting point, however, was to echo the imperialists’ suggestion that Maduro rigged the election, and that he is primarily to blame for the crisis facing Venezuela. This, as well as her solution of calling for “all parties to engage in dialogue, working towards a peaceful resolution” somewhat misses the mark.
Even if we have criticisms of the Maduro government (which we do), as socialists and internationalists we must unconditionally reject any attempt by imperialists to intervene in the affairs of other countries.
We cannot give any illusions that engaging in “dialogue” with gangsters such as Trump and his reactionary friends will solve anything. Our solidarity must be to the working class and poor, in their struggle against their oppressors. This includes waging an implacable struggle against our own ruling class at home, which is a bastion of world imperialism.
It is vital that we expose our government’s shameful role in this imperialist debacle. We must cut through the barrage of lies being churned out by the establishment media and set the record straight on Venezuela. Our solidarity must be expressed with the Venezuelan masses, who have fought off coup attempts before and can do so again.
Given the crisis in the Tory Party over Brexit, the Labour Party and trade unions must mobilise their full weight to force a general election, by taking the struggle to the streets. The coming to power of a socialist Labour government would present a significant blow to imperialism worldwide and would be a beacon to workers around the world.
However, as the “debate” in Parliament on Venezuela has shown, many Labour MPs continue to play the role of agents of the ruling class and imperialism. If our struggle is to be successful, these relics of the past must be replaced. We need genuine socialist MPs who stand up for our class - both at home and internationally.
Model motion: Oppose Trump's coup in Venezuela
This meeting notes that:
- On 23 January, the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, appointed himself “president in charge” of the country;
- Nicolás Maduro remains the democratically elected president of Venezuela, having won the 2018 presidential election by a large margin;
- The National Assembly remains in contempt of court after a 2016 ruling declared that the election of 3 MPs from Amazonas was null due to election fraud;
- Article 233 of the Constitution, which is being invoked by the opposition in the National Assembly who support Guaidó’s claim to the presidency, relies on a “permanent absence of the president”, which is clearly not the present situation. Even if this were the case, the vice president ought to take on the office of the presidency;
- Guaidó’s anti-democratic and unconstitutional manoeuvre is being backed by major powers across the Western hemisphere, including Trump in the US, Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government in Brazil, and Theresa May.
This meeting further notes that:
- Following the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998, the workers and poor of Venezuela achieved significant advances in healthcare, housing, education and workers’ rights;
- The Bolivarian Revolution has been opposed every step of the way by the forces of international imperialism and a right-wing opposition in Venezuela who seek to defend the power and wealth of the oligarchs. These opposition forces have at times aligned themselves with fascist gangs, and have employed a range of violent means – including political assassinations, intimidation, and a US-backed military coup in 2002 – to undermine Venezuelan democracy;
- Should the right-wing opposition come to power it will immediately embark on a savage campaign of cuts and attacks on the working class, using violent repression wherever necessary, as evidenced by the conduct of opposition figures in the bloody ‘Caracazo’ massacre in 1989;
- The current crisis of the Venezuelan economy, which began with the steep fall in oil prices in 2014, has been greatly exacerbated by deliberate sabotage on the part of the oligarchy, and economic sanctions by the US, combined with the Maduro government’s inability to put the ownership and control of the Venezuelan economy in the hands of the working class;
- Notwithstanding this fact, for much of the past twenty years, the working class and poor of Venezuela have mobilised repeatedly – at the ballot box and in the street – to defend the gains of the revolution.
This meeting resolves that:
- We are in total opposition to the imperialist coup being carried out in Venezuela;
- We condemn the attempt by the UK government to legitimate the coup in Venezuela by recognising Guaidó as president;
- We demand that the Bank of England immediately hands over the Venezuelan gold it is withholding worth $550 million;
- We call on the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn to reject the ongoing coup attempt in Venezuela;
- We extend our solidarity and friendship to those Venezuelans involved in opposing Guaidó’s coup attempt, and who are seeking to bring the revolutionary process to a successful and satisfactory conclusion and we call on the British Labour and trade union movement to do the same;
- We believe that such a resolution can only be achieved by the energetic expropriation of the oligarchy, who continue to control most of the Venezuelan economy, by the Venezuelan working people;
- We further believe that the future of the struggle of the Venezuelan people for liberation can only be secured by the victory of socialist forces elsewhere, most especially in the US itself, which is the strongest bastion of capitalist reaction in the world.