[Translated from Gegenstandpunkt 1-2007]
Chávez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador and now even the former Sandinista chief Ortega in Nicaragua! In Latin America, the wrong leaders are coming to power, at least in the opinion of western experts and official politics. In their unanimous view, these ruling powers draw completely incorrect conclusions from the admittedly desolate conditions in their countries, they commit themselves to economic and political aims that obviously lack the due expertise, allow themselves relapses into bygone nationalistic economic programs whose ineffectiveness was shown long ago, make false “populist” promises to the masses and squander their means for that. A public that has a great liking for “healthy patriotism” discovers a dangerous “leftist nationalism” gaining ground in Latin America. It is profoundly dissatisfied with the criticism that the new leaders announce about the conditions in their countries and even more with the practical consequences they draw from it. No wonder. The program that has been in power with Chávez in Venezuela for several years and that threatens to find more or less determined followers in other places thoroughly contravenes everything that the international guardians of public morals in today's world market take for granted in claims against these countries.
I. The criticism of the unbearable condition of the nation
Hugo Chávez is not willing to accept that in a country like Venezuela, so rich in oil reserves and natural gas, a majority of the population is struggling in misery and held down by force while the wealth of a small upper class is growing; that multinational oil companies make enormous profits while the country accumulates debts; that international companies get rich off location conditions such as the water and electricity supply while for the majority of the population not even these elementary living conditions are duly available.
What he finds scandalous is the consequences of the inclusion of Venezuela as a oil supplying country into the world market in general and specifically the devastating political-economic direction at the end of the 1980s: in the 1980s most countries of Latin America, including Venezuela, fell not for the first time into a debt crisis because the revenue from their international business was less and less sufficient to finance the increasing costs of their credits. The oil dollars and other earnings from the business with natural resources and agrarian products were unproductively consumed by the private beneficiaries or were transferred to foreign countries; the foreign currency earnings mainly had to be used by the government to pay the increasing debt service, creditworthiness was perpetuated again and again through new debts and with it the growing claims of the international credit providors. That's how the capitalistic handicap that the essential revenue source of these countries is the utilization of their natural resources and agricultural goods for the capitalistic centers, i.e. for capitalistic business elsewhere, and that they never got their own industry capable of competing on the world market, asserted itself.They could never get rid of the status of a raw material exporting country lacking capital; on the contrary: for most of them it has consolidated. National efforts to induce a profitable national production in competition with foreign capital failed because of the superiority of the established world market powers and the conditions of the world market enforced by them. And because a national accumulation has not been induced, the majority of the people is of no capitalistic use and only an encumberance for a nation aiming for national enrichment, and they are left to degenerate in slums.
From the debt crisis, the Latin American governments, in accord with the IMF, drew the conclusion that they should further open their countries to foreign business interests and advocated this policy as the best way to more national wealth. The foreign participation in the extraction of raw materials and the business with agricultural exports, in Venezuela especially the partially nationalized oil industry, was again reorganized in favor of the multinational companies in order to fetch more foreign capital for the development of raw material extraction in the country, to maintain creditworthiness with the private and official international financial institutions and, last but not least, to secure the goodwill of the USA, the supervising power of the world market and world finance. Additionally, the remaining state-owned enterprises were privatized; the water and electrical supply, as well as telecommunications and banks were turned into investments for North American and European multinationals – under conditions which guaranteed them a profitable business, guarantees for the monetary value of their profits and free foreign exchange operations.
Those countries indeed realized some billions of additional revenues and new credits, but they only found themselves soon again, and on a new level, in the debt trap and this sped up the conflicts within them. The privatization of the public utility companies turned into only one long list of demands on the governments: to ensure higher prices and profits, indifferent to the poverty of the masses, so that a large part of the population can no longer afford water and electricity. Mass protests were put down partly by force, partly by delaying tactics.
The arrangement of the concessions and the modalities with the tributes, also in Venezuela, led to the situation that the national revenue did not grow, although the prices for crude oil and natural gas were rising, whereas the multinationals, together with the management of the national oil industry, made huge profits and shifted the increasing dollar funds into foreign countries, to the disadvantage of the national foreign currency account.
This internationally demanded and nationally implemented “neoliberal” program of the countries of Latin America - to prosper as an investment place for foreign businesses, to make the debt service the leading priority of budgetary policy and to manage the drastic consequences for the country and people by force - Chávez finds intolerable. Impoverishment and forced oppression of growing parts of the population, on the one hand, and domestic and foreign enrichment on the other hand, proves to him that politics lacks a proper national conviction.
In the poverty of the masses he detects the subjugation of his country to foreign demands to wealth and power and sees this as a betrayal of its people. And it is also clear who is meant in particular: the USA with their multinationals companies, which claims Latin America as their economic and political backyard.
Chávez is emphatic on the point of view that the realities of the world market are not “inherent necessities” that have to be used to make the most out of them, but rather interests that harm people and nation, and which should be fought against.
The ex-military man who has close ties to the people does not want to accept that the vast majority of the population has to be kept in poverty by force because it is - according to the hitherto valid criteria - a capitalistically useless overpopulation. He wants to eliminate the capitalistically produced and governmentally supervised pauperism in his country: out of a sump of social misery and suject of state repression they should become a proper people recognized in their life needs and requirements. The masses, until now excluded from all the achievements of civilization, should be granted what they deserve, the right to a life in “dignity.”
The means for such a social development program should come from the money that the government gets from world market relations. Instead of subjecting the whole country to a terms and conditions which condemn the vast majority to being a crowd without work and income, the first man in Caracas agitates and acts for the opposite: with the money from the raw materials trade he wants to organize living conditions in which his population can reproduce itself.
II. The practical struggle for a “national renewal” in the service of the people
For that purpose Chávez has to reorganize the governmental command over the material means and bases of economic life in the country in order to extort their service for his national goals.
He re-organizes the national oil company, which previously, under a management strictly oriented towards the enrichment of the company, directed billions into private bank accounts and overseas investments instead of paying royalties to the state, and which worked as an agency of lucrative shareholding for external multinational oil companies instead of a comptroller of the national oil business. The company is not only obliged to increase payments to the state. It is, additionally, obligated to provide political services with its revenues, as it has to make financial contributions to cooperatives and other projects in the public interest. Also, for the private oil companies, the license and fiscal taxes are raised, thus the hitherto minimal duties of payment to the state are raised to a standard comparable to other countries. Stakes and supply relationships are diversified as far as possible in order to reduce the one-sided dependency on North American and European multinational oil and natural gas production and, as far as possible, the processing is also put under national control. The national oil company has to have the majority and the control in order to secure national sovereignty in all decisions and national benefit from its cooperation. The aim is not just to increase income from the raw material trade and to expand, together with the multinational companies, exploration and extraction. The complete “re-nationalization” of the raw materials sector is to break fundamentally with a policy which was just the servant of the interest in enrichment of the oil industry; it should guarantee that this national source of revenue can be used for its political goals.
“Strategic areas” like the electricity and water supplies, as well as telecommunications, are also nationalized. The political executive in Venezuela makes itself again the organizer of services, instead of leaving such services to capitalistic calculations, i.e. allowing them to become too expensive for the population. With subsidized services the state takes over responsibility to ensure that country and people do not decay further. Beyond that, the Chávez government introduces measures to control foreign exchange in order to stop the negative foreign exchange balance and sacrifices the sacred cow of the “independence of the central bank” in order to guarantee a monetary policy in accordance with political monetary needs. The government shall have budgetary funds in its hands to improve the living conditions of the majority of the population.
The Venezuelan government has demonstrated how this is to be realized. Using oil money it has started in the form of “misiones,” which already in its name contains the program of uniting state and people, an extensive government social development program for the population, and with their active participation. Among these “misiones” are literacy campaigns, a system of scholarships and preparation courses for anyone who wants to study, new universities, health services for poor people, but also local and neighborhood support circles. The social “networks,” which for the first time ever bring the most elementary achievements of civilization to the inhabitants of the slums and the poor population in the countryside, got started in the beginning with the help of the military as an assistant; in the meantime, they are firmly functioning institutions in which the masses can and shall, under continuous political support, act as activists in control of their own daily lives.
Moreover, the Venezuelan government has started to reorganize the domestic economy for the purposes of their social program. The private economy should be made to function, by regulatory conditions and with public means, primarily as a generator of jobs to get the people out of unemployment. The private firms are tied down by the “social responsibility of property” with increased minimum wages and the obligation to recruit personnel, but on the other hand supported with wage subsidies; the national interest in socially agreeable employment should definitely be used to earn money, but the interest in earning money must be realized in a socially agreeable manner. In addition, bankrupt businesses are taken over on state orders by the workers, put into operation again and preserved with public credit; thus employment is initiated which is not subjected to the direct constraints of profitability. As "social production enterprises" these ventures demonstrate the state's intention to initiate a national production which provides work for the people, and to keep it running.
Land cooperatives and small farms are also launched and supported with public funds to produce mass food on fallow land confiscated from large landholders. With “microcredits” a small-scale production is developed for mass demand. The banks are encouraged to provide appropriate credits, and in competition with them, state institutions for microcredit financing are established. The former “informal sector” of the economy, in which large parts of the population had to let themselves be exploited in the most miserable conditions or somehow eke out a living, thus becomes a peculiar part of the national economy, subsidized with special conditions by the state. In particular the Venezuelan state, alongside and in competition with private business, has established a network of state subsidized people's markets which offer low-priced basic goods for the masses, preferably produced by the cooperatives and small farms, or imported from other Latin American countries in exchange for oil. At the same time, the state decrees prices for basic goods to the private food stores in order to ensure an affordable supply for the population, passes taxes to prohibit merchants from withholding goods, and threatens to nationalize the wholesale business.
Thus money calculation has not been abolished, but on the other hand the necessity for profitable business and money-making is not accepted if the state deems it inopportune; private property is not overruled, but is constantly intervened in; a cheap supply for the people is determined as a program and at the same time it is coupled to profit and loss accounts; private and collective ventures exist side by side and against each other, and in order to have acceptable prices undergo state modifications and manipulation.
Such efforts obviously do not pursue the old goals of developing a competitive capitalist economy in the country, for which other Latin American state leaders wanted to make their masses useful and therefore organized social services to care for them. In contrast to national efforts to develop as an “emerging nation” through state aid into a national economy capable of competing on the world market, the actual efforts of these “nationalists,” who are getting very hostile publicity, boils down to rescuing their nation because the progress of world business throws more and more of their country and people to the dogs. With the money that they earn from the capitalistic demand for raw materials, the new leaders try to take action against the ruinous consequences of their dependence on the world market. From the situation of the exclusion of the majority from money and possibilities to earn some, the state grants its masses a participation in the state wealth which it obtains from other sources, so that they can become what they should be, according to the political will of their leader: a real people which reproduces itself properly, which feels confident under his government, and whose mebers regard themselves as accepted members of a national community and who therefore commit themselves to this community.
This also distinguishes these social services from the social welfare institutions in the metropolises. In Venezuela the aim is not to keep a working class available and capable for its services for capital; here part of the wage is not collectivized by the state for the social insurance funds, along with provisions that the costs of the hardship cases, which are inevitable with the profitable use of the workforce, are kept at a minimum, adapted to the localized conditions for capital; here a mass of paupers without income or employment are supported by state money in a kind of self-help; although this is roughly what the nations in the UN propogate as their eternal and unachievable “Millennium Development Goals” for the removal of poverty – for the political chiefs of the capitalist centers a cynical title for their claim to be an appropriate management for the poorhouses created by them, but never ever meant as a claim of the paupers to material means and least of all participation in the oil dollars, which have to be used for the debt service and otherwise “recycled.”
Measured by the prevailing standards of good government, this is nothing but a violation: the masses who do not contribute to increasing the wealth of capitalistic enterprises and who therefore are not useful for enrichment of the state are guaranteed what no capitalist calculation and no imperialist supervision program intends: an existence with acceptable living conditions. A government who wants to use income from the raw material business so as not to degenerate into the poorhouse, but which aims, however modestly, for a people that is under social care and works for its own existence: this is in fact an attack on all those interests that previously determined the national direction and profited from it.
III. The bitter enemies and the new supporters of the alternative national direction
First, foreign capitals and their agencies are provoked. The multinational companies are not only the essential operators and beneficiaries of the raw materials commerce. Also the infrastructure companies were handed over to foreign capitalists with the privatizations. Thus it is their property that is affected by the nationalizations. These companies, accustomed to advantageous business conditions, are now obliged to arrange their interests with the state according to the new conditions, or else clear the field. They defend themselves, insist on observance of the long-term contracts, threaten to file suits with international courts and to confiscate state export returns and are, in any case, demanding massive compensations. The new regulations for foreign exchange violate the entitlement to free transfer of profits; the officially announced submission of the debt service under the point of view of the national budget is an attack on acquired creditor claims, as well as an infringement of the foreign commandments regarding the budget, which insist on strict discipline, especially with state subsidies and social spending as well as a consequent orientation of the state’s financial institutions towards debt service. An infringement against the demand for even more “opening up” for international investors is complained of, anyway. The program of “national renewal” interferes in general with the demands of the leading world market nations - above all, the USA - to free disposal of the “strategic raw materials” that are under foreign sovereignty. Here a Latin American nation calls into question the role that it has in the world economy, in principle: it rebels against the use of such countries as a property of the “global players” and that their governments have to function as guarantors of freely disposable spheres of access for foreign capital without any consideration for the national consequences.
Equally provoked are all the agents and interested parties of the previous national policy; in particular, the management of the national oil company and the political profiteers. Their freedom to exert their interest in enrichment from the raw material business is taken from them on account of the national interest in returns from this crucial budgetary source. In their view, which is completely supported by international observers, a “withdrawal” of profits and investment means is taking place, when their previous ways and means to use the company is as their benefice is taken from them. The leaders of the state-owned company, the crucial economic power in the country, thus reacts to the government that wants to stipulate the company to national service, with open obstruction, even sabotage. They are supported in their opposition by a major part of the comparatively well-off employees and workers; under leadership of the company union, they defend -- like the management -- the freedom of “their” company against the demands of the Chávez government. To wrest the desired services of the state enterprise, the government had to terminate its role of a “state within the state.” After the putsch of 2002 and the “strike” that lasted for months, the management is replaced, the union smashed and the transfer of profits abroad is stopped, as far as possible.
Also, all the other profiteers have their freedoms reduced. Right then, when unemployed workers are available in plentiful supply and for minimal wages, enterprises are supposed to be regard social considerations when they are employing human labor. Commerce is restricted in its economic power and freedom to use the needs of the masses to squeeze out as much solvency as possible. And the banks have to provide consumer-friendly credit with special conditions and, above all, they face strict control of all their financial activities. The owners of large estates are confronted with questioning in regards to the sovereignty of their property. The duty to provide valid evidence of their ownership and cultivation of the land, the expropriation of fallow or insufficiently documented ownership farmland: this undermines their role as local landlords, who enforce and assert their claims against the rural population through political indulgences and organized private militias.
The new political leaders may announce, diplomatically or more or less honestly, that in their “system of two hands” - the “invisible hand of the market” and the “steering hand of the state” - private business and private property are tolerated as long as they contribute to the common “national reconstruction” and subordinate themselves to this goal. Indeed, nothing but conflicting interests are under way, which are partly supported, or cut, or tolerated, or openly combated by the new regime. A national oil trust which has to prove itself to be an organizer of useful international cooperation with multinational companies and at the same time a motor for social improvements and initiator of national people's enterprises through its profit and loss calculations; a private sector which faces a world of new responsibilities; a commerce which perceives itself deprived of traditional money making opportunities and which is obliged to provide an affordable supply; right next to the state-subsidized poor shops, which have to be profitable somehow, family and neighborhood little rat shops and self-managed enterprises which exist off small credits and more or less unproductive pottering about; small farmers and land cooperatives right beside large estate landowners who file their claims to all the land: all this is nothing but an attack on the ruling class, in their view.
They have hitherto made use of the state as a servant of their interests and have thus ruled this way, although their property and business demands were by no means satisfactory to the state interest in the growth and progress of the national location. As the proprietors of the sources of national wealth they successfully asserted their influence on the political leadership in spite of all the discontent regarding the condition of the nation, by making sure that the political elite was recruited from their own ranks and could be directly controlled. For many decades, two political parties who were committed to their own interests regularly alternated in government and managed the continuation of this policy against the inevitable resistance, again and again by using brute force. Thus also challenged are the political representatives of the former policy who were associated to these interests and who had promoted the engagement of international capital with all its consequences for the country and its people. And last but not least, the military is also provoked, insofar as they feel themselves responsible for the guarantee of the national order.
Chavez himself, however, came to political power as a man of the military. Also large parts of the military wanted less and less, due to their closeness to the people which is a common characteristic of supporters of a proper state authority from within the “public security forces,” to protect by force the selling out of the nation and the related profiting interests against a population which demands social justice. An essential support for the program of a “national renewal” came also from dissatisfied patriots who shared the point of view that the government has generally failed when it produces such conditions in the country: opposition groups who condemn the increasing violence against the people as an injustice and who understand this as a sign of national decline; critics of the prevailing conditions who agree, at least in that one issue, that things cannot go on like this. This opposition saw in Chávez the chance to finally remove the ruling class and has joined him, after the failed rebel decided to fight for state power with democratic means. That’s how he became the focal point of all opposition forces: as the joint candidate for a real change in political governance.
The acceptance he got from the masses who had rebelled again and again against their living conditions or who arranged themselves in these conditions out of necessity and who got, either way, in touch with the state’s power, predestined him to become such a political leader. They found his promise plausible to fight for a just sovereignty under which the people, until now restricted in their needs, are in agreement with their government, no matter what they envisioned as suppressed Indigenes, as landless farmers, as uprooted slum-dwellers, as low-wage workers or as members of the “middle class” threatened with descent down the social ladder. They saw the chance with him and seized it, to elect a leader into power who politically enforces their social needs with sufficient power.
Thus it was possible to break up the old political interrelation within the traditional elite and with it their monopoly on political power.
IV. The inner power struggle for the “national renewal”
However, nothing is settled with this democratic change. There is really not just a change in the political personnel of a government whose political aims are shared by everyone and reliably anchored within the governing apparatus and the democratic competition, and which has an economically prepared and civicly educated population at its disposal in order to realize its aims regarding power and wealth. With the new leaders, a new alternative state policy which stands against the political will of the hitherto ruling political parties, against the interest of the ruling part of the society, against the directions and the credos of the whole governmental apparatus – including the “prevailing opinion” of the established public - entered the highest ranks. The new national program can not rely on any established power. It has to be anchored within the state and the society; a new loyalty has to be created; it is necessary to have new structures in the executive to realize the state commands – against evryone who has utilized, lead and managed the state as their means, whose interests are challenged with the political change, but which are not suspended, attacked or overruled. The new leadership is continuously under fire by the “achievers” of the old ruling system who do not make their peace with the democratic legitimacy of the new government, but rather find themselves challenged with every new vote of the masses, to which they do not concede demands that should govern politics. Thus the national departure emerges as a continuous power struggle with the former supporters and beneficiaries of the political system. The old leadership elite and its supporters in state and society, the state bureaucracy, the judiciary, and parts of the military, all practice from the beginning open and hidden resistance in terms of rebellion, sabotage and continuous obstruction. Chávez did not allow himself to be impressed, rather – if it was not already pre-decided – he learned from this resistance that the “struggle against the oligarchy” is very serious, and became more radical because of that.
Initially, he tackles the implementation of his political command within the institutions: the power apparatus is filled with new personnel as far as possible, the stubborn bureaucracy is removed and the oil management, which had paralyzed oil extraction for many months, is replaced together with the union. Because the old state administration and the experts are not reliable, and furthermore a complete new spectrum of tasks regarding the care of the people is on the agenda, the alternative public university is commissioned to educate, through “personality-” and “specific training,” a reliable troop of cooperators for the regulatory administration and for the instruction of and attending to the countless initiatives and “missions.” Additionally, constitutional instruments for the consolidation of presidential power are created as essential for the implementation of the political program: more presidential authority, also an enabling act which suspends the parliamentary approval procedures, the possibility of permanent re-election. All these measures, which are widely taken as proof of Chávez' greed for power, come from the understanding that his project adds up to the establishment of a state of emergency for an indeterminate period. These institutional changes are achieved by planned and unplanned referendums and elections which regularly provide democratic legitimacy through a majority of the people.
However, the president, who is accused by mainstream critics as being a power-obsessed populist and who is eager for acclamation from “the street,” is not satisfied with the democratic legitimacy of letting the voting masses deliver just their vote for him. He follows the example of Castro, and accedes as his admirer and emulator. The people should not just line up as a mass of voters and as accessories of their leaders and then take orders; ideally and practically, the people are charged with political activities because they shall, with guidance from the ruling authorities, act as helpers, supporters or activists, and because the population is needed as staff essential for sovereignty in the struggle for power. For that, it is constantly agitated. Whenever Chávez, in his program “Alo Presidente,” is publicly paying attention to the needs of the people, when he is expressing their sense of justice, when he appears as instructor and inspector of the building-up efforts, or when he acts publicly as a pioneer against the public enemies, then he talks to the masses as people who should quit their role as submissive people who let the leaders decide. To mobilize them for the fights which are in his eyes necessary, he illustrates the hostility which is provoked by his progress program by using drastic images of the enemies and presenting himself as an example of the common struggle. They are constantly called upon to rise against the “oligarchy,” together with their leadership, and to defend the “achievements of the revolution.” In this sense they may and shall show practical engagement. In the Constitution, grassroot democratic elements to control the representatives, but also enactments for their realization, are being incorporated so that the populace is enabled to act in the daily battle against the reluctant parts of the society: it shall survey the operations and public activities, protect the social works and the beneficial institutions for the public against sabotage and again and again demonstrate, through rallies, its willingness to defend the new governance, in order to intimidate the political enemies.
The friend of an empowered people is familiar with the questions of power and takes into account – and experiences it continuously - that his enemies will not make peace on their own with this regime. Therefore, their intimidation is necessary utilizing the credible threat of a mass movement which is ready for anything. And thus Chávez not only takes care of the loyalty of the military, but also for the readiness of the people to defend their case, also because of threats from abroad.
Furthermore, from the development of the “movement” that was elected into power, there is an inevitable growing need to further establish the political leadership and to constitute mandatory guidelines for the new rule. The masses, most of them just recently introduced to reading and writing and hitherto busy just with eking out a living, who are to be mobilized and to be made politically aware in neighbourhood circles, need a reliable instruction, an alignment with the mandatory common political goals, in order to avoid their basic activities from becoming a major disorder. A major part of the state's agents only conform in an opportunistic manner or cooperate in a limited way. The engaged activists quarrel due to their differing ideas about how this huge political experiment should proceed, whether the “movement” should develop in a more “grassroot-democratic” manner on its own or under “instruction” in a top-down direction. Within the leadership circles, representatives of different parties with diverging claims and programs compete for influence. They are not combined through a programmatic mutual consent, rather through the participation in ruling and their common political enemy. From the beginning some of them do collaborate only conditionally, others do not understand the transitions and radicalizations that the program of the restless president is going through. They bail out. And all these conflicts are stirred up, and are being slowed down and harmonized just provisionally by the leader of the movement. Thus not only he himself develops the need to consolidate the “movement” in the shape of a new “unity party.” However, herewith a new battlefield within this “movement” is opened up – how the conflicting political ideas, expectations and claims can be subsumed under the roof of such a party.
V. The foreign political struggle for “the second liberation of Latin America”
The program of the leading “left nationalist” - to end the degeneration of his country into a slum - may be modest; it is a revolt against the role that such a sovereignty should play according to the will of the nations which rule the world market, particularly the U.S.; thus, it is also a rebellion against the competency of the U.S. to rule the world. It is actually meant as such by its manager: as the cessation of a policy which calculates with the business interests and powerful influence of North America and inserts itself in the world order, trying to capture a role therein. Chávez resists against the material restrictions, political limitations and strategic classifications, i.e. against the constraints on sovereignty that the superior world power expects from his nation, with its idea of a “backyard.” He propagates and fights to break away from these restrictions and to organize other international relations: an order between nations which is no longer dominated by the U.S. and – for him, this is the same – no longer provides the basis for the commercial exploitation and political subordination of other nations, an order in which, with the respect to the sovereignty of governments, the people's needs will also be entitled. Also here he is explicitly acting as the heir and continuator of the Cuban revolution against the super imperialists in Washington.
Herewith, he wants to protect also his national cause. It is clear to him that the national refusal is not enough, but that an international countervailing power is necessary. Therefore, he tries with all national means available, not only to form diplomatic alliances, but a coalition with like-minded countries, and to win the favor of the worldwide public opinion. For his ideas of a more favorable world order between nations, he therefore agitates not only – emphatically and fiercely – on the diplomatic stage of the UN and other assemblies of nations, but also at alternative summits and meetings of anti-globalization movements.
His efforts for an alternative order of nations are directed primarily towards Latin America, whose governments should consider their people who have no social and political rights at all and should therefore set out to shake off American “domination” and try to get rid of dependence on the U.S. By referencing Bolivar, Chávez propagates a new nation comprising all the countries of South America, a second liberation of Latin America from the “neocolonialism” of the U.S., also an association of all countries of the “South,” which should form a counterbalance against the predominance of the countries of the “North.” In this sense, he designs a program opposed to the institutions that the U.S. has installed or planned in order to secure the organized dependence of their Latin American backyard and to construct special spheres for American capital, political influence and strategic control; and he also opposes the other instruments of world market control and supervision under U.S. leadership. Instead of the FTAA, the U.S. project for a total American special economic zone, an ALBA, a particular Latin American economic association; this pact shall – this is his vision, that he proclaims again and again – provide the basis for the social advancement of the population in the respective countries instead of being the source for American enrichment; this shall act to guarantee a mutual benefit among them and it shall, in the end, release them from the preponderance of the dollar by means of the introduction of their own currency; furthermore, a common Latin American development and anti-hunger program; instead of the U.S. NATO, a South American SATO; an alternative to the IMF, which is not directed by the industrial nations as the powerful credit grantor: a complete mirror image of all instruments of the actual competition of the imperialistic nations - in an anti-imperialistic spirit.
As material leverage Chávez uses the measure which is at his disposal: oil. Oil is sold to Cuba for a special price and it is not traded for dollars, but for medical doctors and other goods, i.e. a commerce between countries following the principles of mutual benefit instead of profit-making – a type of reciprocal development and state survival assistance against the U.S. demands for submission. Additionally, Chávez acts as a substantial supporter for the most impoverished countries of the region, the Caribbean countries, and delivers oil on conditions that consider their lack of foreign exchange – an economic assistance which aims to constitute a counterimage to the plundering by the U.S. and to break their dependence on North America. Moreover, he initiates relations with the two main powers of Latin America, Argentina and Brazil, in a spirit of common struggle for political and economic independence from the demands of the world market's leading powers and their institutions. He projects a Latin American energy network which puts the oil supply on their own footing and thus benefits the supplier and the recipient country. With his oil dollars, he finances Argentina's payback to the IMF with the political perspective of supporting this country in its struggle against the paternalism of the international creditors. Because of the specific pacts of Columbia and Peru with the U.S., he leaves the Andean Community of Nations, CAN, and joins the Mercosur, with the declared intention to form this economic community into an example of anti-U.S. unity of Latin America.
With all these activities, Chávez stirs up the differences in this backyard of the U.S. The adversaries of Washington, Cuba and Bolivia, are supported ideally and materially. He is hostile to other governments, like Columbia, due to their relations with Washington, which demands, vice versa, that these nations take clear sides with the U.S. In Argentina and Brazil, the proposals from Caracas to revolt against U.S. hegemony meet an ambivalent echo. Kirchner and Lula accept the diplomatic and economic offers in a calculating manner, including them in their own national programs of a “more self-confident” Latin America, which have not much in common with the “Bolivarian” departure of Chávez. Rather, suffering from the hegemony of the U.S. is also part of their nationalism. But as the leaders of “emerging nations” who do not want to revolt against the world market, but rather to improve their position in it, they calculate and argue for better access to the American and European market and for more political importance in the circle of the dominant nations. They value the credits from Venezuela, but they are ambivalent regarding the nationalizations and the energy project, particularly as their own national enterprises are concerned. First of all, they do not want to be nailed down as backyard rebels of the U.S. As appointed Latin American ruling powers, they demonstrate their independence versus the U.S., but also their distance to the Venezuelan course and use their influence to try to restrain Chávez and call him to order. That is how they compete for leadership on the sub-continent.
It is not unknown to Chávez that suffering from American hegemony is nourished by other governments in their own ambitions for power, and clearly not through championing alternative principles of commerce between nations, when the leaders of these countries campaign diplomatically against state “paternalism” and “unipolar world order.” But this does not prevent him from seeking allies even where a common criticism regarding the uses of the world market and the world order is not present at all. Also outside of Latin America he makes efforts to establish co-operation with all countries which he views as challenged, harmed or affronted by the U.S. Following the maxim that America's enemies are our natural allies, he is demonstratively seeking diplomatic association with the “rogue states”: Iran, Syria, and Belarus. With the oil-nations among them he is trying to agree upon a common OPEC-policy and, together with Iran, he is pursuing the project to switch oil trading to euros. Also with the imperialistic competitors of the U.S. he is presenting himself as acting for a common cause. He declares Russia, China and India as natural allies in the struggle for a “multipolar” world order, although these might understand something completely different by this term than a Latin American revolt against the demands of the world market and the world order. Practically, he uses their interests to arrange as many useful connections for Venezuela as possible, independently and against the U.S. Chinese investments, Russian arms, perhaps arms and other deals with European countries, as far as these countries involve themselves against the wishes of Washington – all that shall be practically helpful in the abatement of dependence on the U.S. Simultaneously, Chávez is eager to propagate ideally and practically his alternative model of useful international relations wherever this is possible, and to unmask his foreign enemies, most of all the U.S.: slums in the U.S. are supplied with Venezuelan oil; with some American cities and with London, he arranges to exchange oil for the support of the development of Venezuelan services and infrastructure.
When, of all countries, the main oil supplier of the U.S. is demonstrating practical criticism of American demands, right in its original dollar- and influence-zone, then this is unacceptable for Washington. Their economic and political dominance is based on the alignment of these countries according to the functional roles they play for the leader of the world market and world power number one – and it therefore insists on obedience, even if the concerned sovereignties have to relinquish their claims and discover mainly disadvantages in the set up.
This dissatisfaction that necessarily emerges with being the losers of the state competition in the U.S.-dominated world market and the U.S.-controlled power structure is not acceptable, especially if it shows itself practically as an openly announced national rebellion in a region which is, like no other, the “property” of North America. Venezuela is nothing other than a challenge: with its special relations to Cuba, with its influence on other countries, with its connections to guerilla-movements, with its followers it threatens America's order in the region; and with its connection to Iran, it becomes a part of the world wide threat scenario of Washington. Thus the U.S. classifies Venezuela as “not fully cooperative,” i.e. as a nation on the cusp of becoming a rogue state according to their definition in their war on terror.
Even though they do not officially initiate a “regime change” on their agenda: without a fundamental revision of the national program, i.e. without a disempowerment of the leadership which represents this program so peremptorily, Washington will not close the files about this case. Accordingly, they use their influence: they appreciate and support the activities of the opposition to overthrow Chávez, they list Venezuela's misdoings, they pursue its isolation, issue an arms embargo and engage themselves, along with Venezuela's neighboring nations, in building up a threatening scenario.
P.S. On the bad and good reputation of an anti-imperialist adventure
The Chávez government undertakes the serious attempt to govern Venezuela well, according to its own high standards of welfare, friendliness to the masses, and social justice for the people. It undertakes this experiment in the midst of a world of sovereign state powers and the private power of capital - as established and supported by them - a worldwhich does not have much sympathy for this kind of good government; its powerful administrators classify even the smallest deviation from their rules of free capital flows and an efficient world order, which has been tailored perfectly for them and their benefit, as a case which must be isolated and straightened out at all costs, sooner or later.
And not only that. Chávez and his group undertake their adventure of a social-minded governance with the means of the imperialist world against which they take their stand: with money from the sale of oil. They use a source of income which is not really under their own control: they have sovereign access over their top export, but not to the willingness to pay of foreign buyers who hold a capitalistic accumulation in momentum, like Venezuela has aimed at but has not carried off; the population at their disposal does not provide the means for a noteworthy political power, let alone for good government in the sense of the “Bolivarian revolution.” This source of money, with which the government of Venezuela pursues its program of anti-imperialistic “good governance,” needs the opposite - a constant safeguarding by special political efforts regarding the solvent customers: a continuing business interest from the oil multinationals of the USA, thus exactly the nation against whose political dominance and power of access the Chávez government is in rebellion; for the arousal and maintenance of the commercial and mercantile interests of other major powers of the world economy that compete more or less openly with the USA. In addition, understanding on a certain level with the competitors in the oil export market is indispensable for the preservation of the national basis of business. All these issues have to be resolved in order to attempt its own national direction in the midst a world of nations mercilessly following the path of imperialistic success.
And just as this bold and shaky experiment finds extreme opposition - on the other side, it finds many admirers among leftists and globalization critics.
The free democratic reproaches against Chávez and his “Bolivarian revolution,” and in particular the hostility of the media and their imperialistic experts, are characterized by an eagerness for denunciation, as if the media would have to resist again the beginnings of a new communistic world revolution. The effort of the president to consolidate his rule is summarized with the verdict “undemocratic”; even where the man can show the most solid legitimization by winning popular votes and referda – to the extent that these are not merely the formal approval of existing affairs by its victims, but rather the mobilization of the underdogs for a continuing struggle for power, that is certainly true. The allegation is lust for power for its own sake - as if there would not be far easier methods to satisfy this ambition, in the lap of US imperialism, than to use state power for a program that feeds and educates the people, which results only in enemies, and especially enemies of the world powers whose money is essential for his governance. The program itself is being predicted to fail: the oil production is to run dry, the infrastructure to collapse, when the profits do not to flow into the pockets of the competent foreign enterprises and other private beneficiaries. Only they would have the economic power to “develop” the country and the population – the experts assure this in a shamelessly hypocritical siding with the “little people” whose glorious future in the free market economy Chávez would destroy, the very same experts who gave the orders that insured all past attempts to make capital the national development aid of the whole Latin American continent led only to ever deeper mass poverty - both the earlier state-capitalistic experiments and the following policy of neoliberal sellout of the nation. In every case, when the state is spending its money to support a population which is not useful for capital - thus obviously useless - then there is an inane misuse of wealth, which has its only place in the hands of powerful multinational companies and international finance: this they take for granted, the opinion makers of the realm of liberal pluralism, and thus they are pleading by no means for a patient wait and see, but rather against any permission to continue. For a really serious struggle against poverty, financed with revenues from oil exports, there is no place within the global market economy, that is stressed by the free market experts, and also that this does not speak against the free market economy and its global success, but for putting an end to this adventurer sooner rather than later.
Against such anti-Chávez polemics, leftist anti-globalization committees and initiatives campaign for solidarity with Venezuela, its poor and its president. They cannot but be rightfully irritated by the embittered denunciation of the project of a “Bolivarian” “socialism of the 21st Century” - but they also do not want to comprehend how merciless the determination of irreconcilability is by the globe-governing bourgeois soveriegns against such deviationists from the democratic-free market codex of good governing. They are not interested in analyzing an imperialistic world order which really cannot bear it if even only one government somewhere breaks from the ranks with a social reconstruction program. The rulers react to such a thing with exclusion and proscription and therefore set Venezuela on the list of candidates for “regime change.” The deeper, not constructive insight that the constellations of power and repression among the nations of the world have their foundation in the reasons of state of the big free market democracies, which derive the exclusive right from their power and the range of their interests to “take responsibility” in every corner of the globe, and that these circumstances can be eliminated only there, and there only, where the power of world rule is reproduced every day: this criticism would indeed not fit the hope for world improvement that the friends of Venezuela direct to the addressees of their solidarity statements. In particular, they see in Chavez’s experiment with the “dual use” of state oil revenues - the precarious freedom of a third world country to use a money income from the international energy business for its masses - they take as practical proof that “another world is possible” - which is certainly true, but only if the conception of “another,” better-run world are extraordinarily modest in dimensions and the emphasis is on “possible!” But the friends of the “Bolivarian revolution” are not completely lukewarn. They love a Venezuela in which they can recognize their own favorite ideals: an El Dorado of grassroots democracy - where the Chávez team is struggling hard to mobilize a sufficient mass basis for their deviating state program to keep them active and to commit them to being consequential; they love a revived “21st century socialism” - where on site the real tasks are just to get the hardships of the people under control, using petrodollars and petro-euros to contain the pauperization and the neglect and to manage an employment program which is not really productive. They envision a “possible” beginning of the end of the US-American “dollar imperialism” - where Venezuela struggles to hold its ground in the slipstream of inner-imperialistic rivalries. Thus, the Venezuela of president Chávez is going to become another pit stop for leftists in their everlasting search for “right living within the wrong life” ...