However, U.S. imperialist interference today expresses itself in a historic moment different from that of U.S. hegemonic maturity in a stable neocolonial world-system. Several factors have created a different historic moment. (1) The formerly colonized peoples of the world never fully accepted the rules of the neocolonial world order, giving rise to a persistent tendency for the emergence of revolutionary subjects among the colonized peoples, challenging and sometimes taking power from national elites that accommodate colonial interests. The phenomenon reached its most advanced expression in the period 1948 to 1979, represented by the emergence of the Non-Aligned Movement and the proclamation of a New International Economic Order by the UN General Assembly in 1974. Although eclipsed by the imposition by the global powers of neoliberalism, the Third World project of 1948 to 1979 established the theoretical and practical foundation for Third World resistance today. (2) The world-system has been in a sustained multi-dimensional structural crisis since the 1970s, as a result of the fact that it has reached and overextended the geographical limits of the earth. (3) The United States has suffered an economic decline relative to other core nations since the 1950s, as a result of its overconsumption in relation to its productive capacities and its dependency on an expanding military-industrial complex, a decline that was evident in the elimination of the gold standard for the dollar in the 1970s. (4) U.S. and European elites responded to the above dynamics with a neoliberal economic war, launched in the 1980s and spearheaded by the IMF and the World Bank; and with aggressive military actions in the Middle East, especially since 1990. Such economic and military aggression, in violation of laws, norms, and values that the world-system itself had developed, was and is intended to reassert political, economic, financial, and ideological control of an increasingly unstable world-system. (5) The global economic war and the wars of aggression gave rise to a revitalization of Third World resistance to the neocolonial world-system, as is evident in the emergence of progressive and Leftist governments in Latin America, and the retaking of the Third World project of the 1960s and 1970s by the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77, with the support and cooperation of a rapidly expanding China and a revitalized Russia (see posts in the categories Third World, Latin American Unity, South-South Cooperation, and World-System Crisis).
Therefore, in the current historic moment, the USA does not have the economic and financial capacity and the prestige that it had in its hegemonic maturity, and it must increasingly rely on the use of military force, a sector in which remains hegemonic, in the pursuit of its political and economic objectives. At the same time, the consciousness of the peoples of the Third World for the necessity of an alternative, more just, democratic, and sustainable world-system has never been greater, and the interest of powers like China and Russia in an alternative world-system has never been clearer.
Venezuela is of central importance in this clash of civilizations, between, on the one hand, an unsustainable neocolonial world-system and a militaristic declining hegemonic power, and on the other hand, a more just and sustainable world-system seeking to be born. Since 1999, Venezuela has played a leading role in the forging of a progressive political reality in Latin America, and it has significant oil reserves. Accordingly, it has become a symbol of Third World efforts to construct a more just and sustainable world-system.
The capacity of the Chavist revolutionary government in Venezuela to turn back the recent U.S. directed coup d’état (see “Venezuela blocks coup attempt” 3/3/2019) is of pivotal importance, and it could be a turning point that reveals the inherent limitations of the militarist foreign policy of a declining power; and that reveals the strengths of the global popular revolution in the current historic epoch, in spite of the continuing challenges that it confronts. The turning back of the coup could be interpreted as an indication that the revitalized Latin American popular revolution has sustainability, because it is firmly rooted in popular consciousness of imperialist and neocolonial domination and of the principle of the right of nations to sovereignty. And the turning back of the coup could be interpreted as an indication that the world-system, as it is presently organized, cannot be sustained, because it is based on the morally and politically unacceptable premise that a minority of the world’s population are the rightful owners of the natural and human resources of the planet.
What made the successful resistance to the U.S. directed coup possible? As I observed events through the lens of Cuban journalists, among whom successful Venezuelan resistance to the coup was never assumed, it became clear that the people were unifying in support of the government. The armed forces remained united behind the constitutional president, and the people took to the streets in his support. At the same time, it became clear that the calls of the opposition gained a weak following. At the critical moment, polls found that some 92% of the people were against foreign intervention, and 86% believed that Venezuelans should resolve their own problems. When confronted with what they increasingly understood as the imperialist designs of a neocolonial power, the Venezuelan people came to the support of their nation; and of universal human values that are central to a just and sustainable world-system, such as the non-interference in the affairs of nations and the sovereign right of nations.
The increasing support for the government at critical moments is not surprising, because the opposition plays political games, as it must. It attained a certain level of support among the people through political maneuvers and deception. To wit, it preys on the human tendency to expect too much of governments, blaming the government for all inadequacies, real and invented, in order to attain a degree of electoral support. But in these political maneuvers, it does not announce a return to neoliberal policies or a subordination to foreign interests. When its actions reveal that these are precisely its intentions, it loses popular support. The growing popular rejection of the opposition, for its inability to present a viable political program to the people, was evident in the May 20, 2018 presidential elections, in which Maduro attained a solid majority for a second presidential term.
By the time Guaidó emerged on the scene, the opposition had less support, and his blatant ties to imperialist interests and his calls for military intervention reinforced the decline of the opposition. His call to the masses went unheard; and his “orders” to the military were ignored. Seeing this, the world backed off its previous implicit support for US military intervention. Even the U.S.-created Group of Lima in the end did not support military action. Apparently, the Trump administration did not want to act unilaterally, without the support of the Latin American Right.
The key, then, to the successful resistance to the coup was the unity of the people, made possible by popular commitment to the principle of the right of the nation to be sovereign, to determine its own road, without interference by a foreign power; and by popular awareness that U.S. imperialist polices, historically and at present, ignore this right. The unification was aided by the fact that the United States is itself a declining hegemonic power, without the prestige and the economic clout that it once had, so that it is less able to influence popular consciousness in Latin America and other formerly colonized regions.
But it is only one battle. The USA intends to continue with economic pressure on Venezuela and to build an anti-Venezuela coalition of nations, looking for a more opportune moment to intervene. Venezuela, meanwhile, will be seeking to develop new trading partners, to diversify and strengthen its economy, and to strengthen its international support, with the conviction that success in these endeavors will enable it to maintain the unity of the people.
Who is likely to win this battle between, on the one hand, a declining neocolonial hegemonic power seeking to restore its domination of Latin America; and on the other hand,
Latin American nations seeking a sovereign and dignified road? We will address this question in our next post, taking into account world-systemic tendencies.