Notes from the front – of the week 18/3/2015

US declares its aim to overthrow socialism in Venezuela

On 9 March President Obama signed an Executive Order declaring ‘a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela’ and imposed sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials.

The declaration has sent out a clear signal that the US priority in Venezuela is to overturn the elected government. It is similar to an order signed by Ronald Reagan in 1985 against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, which added Presidential authority to that campaign to destabilise a country which at the time, like Venezuela today, was trying to consolidate its socialist revolution.

Fidel Castro warned on 17 March that Venezuela was prepared to confront US ‘threats and impositions,’ and said the US could no longer count on the Venezuelan military to do its bidding. Venezuela ‘will never allow a return to the shameful pre-revolutionary past’ and it is always prepared ‘to argue in a peaceful and civilized manner with the United States, but will never accept threats and impositions by that country’, Castro said in his letter to Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

Since Hugo Chavez’s first election as President in 1998 Washington’s goal has been regime change in Venezuela. The US was involved in the military coup in 2002 when Chavez was briefly ousted. Since then it has actively supported the efforts to overthrow the Chavistas. The US refused to recognise the internationally observed Presidential Elections in 2013 which Nicolas Maduro won. Last year it supported the street violence and already this year it has been caught involved in assisting the preparation of a coup attempt, due on 12 February but foiled in advance by the Venezuelan government.

The socialist agenda pursued since Chavez became President; including nationalisation of the oil reserves, free health and university education, improved housing etc, does not challenge US security, but it is the threat of a good example. It is unacceptable to the imperialists that Venezuela’s main industry (oil) is under working class state control, with the recourse being used to end poverty and assist social justice across the region.

With global stagnation depressing commodity prices and impacting severely on Latin America, the US and its allies are trying to exploit economic weakness to encourage rising discontent and help build support for right wing forces across the continent. Imperialism is coordinating increased backing for the political movements fighting the region’s social democratic and revolutionary left.

In Argentina a campaign is being whipped up to discredit Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her centre-left party in advance of October’s Presidential elections, to build support for the pro-US right wing.

In Brazil the opposition mobilised protests of hundreds of thousands across 65 cities on Sunday 15 March calling for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. The right want to overturn the democratic result of last October’s Presidential election which the PT (Workers’ Party) won by a margin of three per cent.

As the US increases its interventions against the Venezuelan revolution, it is important international solidarity is stepped up.

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has denounced Obama’s Executive Order as a ’threat to sovereignty’. In Britain support for the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign and its initiatives needs to be built as widely as possible.

Crimea’s secession remains popular because it is self-determination

One year ago, on 16 March 2014, the population of Crimea decided in referenda to re-join Russia and that decision retains widespread support.

Last year the autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol both held referenda on whether to retain their status as a part of Ukraine or whether to join Russia. In both referenda over 95 per cent of the populations voted to re-join Russia. Imperialism falsely presents this self-determination and secession of Crimea as an ‘annexation’ by Russia.

Following the February 2014 parliamentary coup in Kiev Ukraine’s eastern and southern provinces, where the population is overwhelmingly Russian, started agitating for autonomy. They rejected the legitimacy of the new Kiev government with its clear pro-Western anti-Russian agenda. There were huge demonstrations against the impositions of the coup, and across the south and east the left, in particular the Communist Party led a movement that occupied government buildings in the main cities such as Kharkov and Donetsk. The new pro-US Kiev regime mobilised army units and attacked these occupations. In response the left built up self-defence forces and later went on to declare People’s Republics in Lugansk and Donetsk.

In Crimea the Russian Federation decided to intervene to protect the majority of the population (which is Russian) from this hostile takeover by Kiev. Not a shot was fired and the local legislatures decided to hold referenda to determine Crimea’s status.

Most of the population in the east of Ukraine regards itself as Russian, not Ukrainian. This is also the case on the Crimean peninsula, which had previously only been administratively transferred in 1954 from Russia to Ukraine, within the framework of the wider USSR.

One year on, the secession from Ukraine and re-joining with Russia remains overwhelmingly backed by Crimea’s population. A recent pro-West organised poll (reported on here) found that 82 per cent still fully support Crimea’s inclusion in Russia, with another 11 per cent expressing partial support and only four per cent against. The population in Crimea also considers Kiev’s propaganda untruthful. Asked in the poll, ‘what is your opinion of what is being written by the Ukrainian media about Crimea?’, 45 per cent said the Ukrainian media provides ‘completely untrue information’, 35 per cent believe it is ‘more often deceitful than truthful’. Only one per cent said it ‘provides entirely truthful information’ with four per cent saying it is ‘more often truthful than deceitful’.

Regardless of the huge popular support in Crimea for the reunification with Russia, it is not recognised by the West. The US wants the Russian Black Sea Fleet ousted from its home base of Sevastopol and imperialism will not accept self-determination in Ukraine as the population in the east also wants to secede.

The US goal is to bring NATO and eventually the US anti-missile systems into the Ukraine so that Russia is unable to defend itself.

Greek business needs to pay for the crisis

Repayments of €1.2bn are being made by Greece to the IMF as the international institutions continue to apply extreme pressure on the Syriza government.

Greece’s new finance ministers were obliged to call on the cash reserves of the state pension funds in order to meet the immediate payments. In exchange a higher interest rate is being offered to the funds.

At the same time, German Finance Minister Schauble and others have increased the verbal attacks and insults aimed at Syriza.

It may be that tapping the pension reserves was unavoidable in the absence of any other cash holdings. Without the payment, Greece would have been held to be in default and cut off from all international funding. Yet other funds in Greece exist, in the form of unpaid taxes by the very wealthy as well as vast sums owed by big business. The Syriza government could take decisive steps, for example introducing emergency enabling legislation allowing them to impose new taxes on profits and very high incomes, as well as measures to seize assets in lieu of unpaid existing taxes. In the OECD business pays about one quarter of its profits in tax. By contrast Greek businesses pay closer to one-eighth of their profits in tax.

To achieve any success the battle against austerity is set to be a prolonged one. The entrenched power of big capital and their political representatives in all the other EU governments is completely committed to the austerity project. Yet the political balance of forces has shifted against them in Greece, because of huge struggles and Syriza’s clear-sighted leadership.

That political advantage can be used to adjust the material balance of forces within Greece, which will buy time, defend workers and the poor and create space for further international struggles. That means dealing some blows against Greek capital and making it pay something toward the crisis.