by R. T. LUKE V. BROWNE
I WOULD LIKE TO GIVE you the benefit of thoughts I expressed at a public lecture at Frenches House earlier this week on Tuesday night.We discussed the USA’s Policy towards Venezuela.
These two countries are engaged in a long-running geo-political battle that started over 20 years ago when the now deceased Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela in 1999.
The USA government has tried to justify its actions on the basis of democracy and human rights. However, the facts suggest that the conflict really has an economic motivation.
The USA has a long history of intervention in the internal affairs of countries in the Americas. According to Former President of Guyana Cheddi Jagan, in the period 1902 to 1954 there were 32 interventions by the USA in Latin America (source: page 345 of The West on Trial).
I am not sure if this figure takes account of the Caribbean. This pattern of subversive activity continued throughout the second half of the 20th century and right up to today’s date.The fact that the USA government was involved in the overthrow of a democratically-elected president in Chile (Salvador Allende) in 1973 and replacing him by a brutal dictator (Augusto Pinochet) suggests an unprincipled position.
Moreover, the evidence of Former Marine Commander Major General Smedley F. Butler is especially damning on this point.
The Major General said in a 1935 article that was published in the American magazine Common Sense that his job as a member of the US Marine Corps was really to safeguard the hemisphere for American companies.
He said that he: i) “helped to make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914; ii) …helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in; iii) …helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Bros. in 1909-12; iv) … brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916; v) … helped make Honduras ‘right’ for American fruit companies in 1923; [and] vi) In China in 1927… helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.” The distinguished and decorated Major General described himself as a racketeer for Capitalism or in other words a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for Bankers.
From the example of the USA, we could define Capitalism in straightforward and non-technical language as an economic system that serves the interests of rich and powerful corporations at the expense of the rest of society.
This economic system is based on tenets of privatisation, deregulation, reduction of taxes, minimisation of public investment and cutbacks in expenditure on social services. This economic system has produced growing poverty, inequality and social injustice.
I would like to make the point that the privatisation of public pensions in the UK resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in benefits. The lack of adequate regulations and oversight led to the financial crisis in 2008. Additionally, inadequate public financing and austerity constitute clear and present dangers to the public interest.
The nature of Capitalism as an economic system that caters to the interests of rich and powerful corporations at the expense of everyone else is laid bare by the fact that this system bailed out the banks that caused the Great Recession of 2008 but provided no assistance to the persons who were losing their homes as a result of that catastrophe.
The system is amenable to what can be described as corporate welfare programmes but hostile to public assistance. Incidentally, the bail out money that was given to the financial institutions was used to lavish generous bonuses on corporate executive officers who ruined their companies and created a financial disaster – they were in effect rewarded for failure. This economic system really has nothing to do with the notion of a free market.
The alternative to Capitalism is typically called Socialism which can simply be defined as an economic system based on the principles of Equality and Social Justice.
The scenario of Capitalism is possible because the big business interests in the USA control the government of that country and has been able to secure favourable policies. Moreover, the US government on behalf of its big companies seeks to impose the terms of its Capitalism abroad to facilitate foreign expansion.
This is achieved by the attachment of conditions to the provision of development assistance and by other measures. The conditions are collectively known as the Washington Consensus and are based on the tenets of Capitalism and Neoliberalism/ Globalisation (trade liberalisation, free circulation of capital, freedom of investment and free trade of goods and services).
We arrive at a situation where foreign companies own very important local industries with the result that decisions that have a bearing on matters of national development are taken by external parties that are detached from the local reality and the plight of resident populations.
This is essentially a state of Neocolonialism – a “new” form of colonialism in which a country has political independence but is nonetheless economically dependent.The outcomes of Neocolonialism are poverty, inequality, social injustice and underdevelopment.
Prior to the arrival of Hugo Chavez in office, Venezuela was in a state of Neocolonialism.The USA had a very cozy relationship with the state-owned oil company in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez amended this relationship and pursued a policy of economic independence.
President Chavez was not interested in being an instrument for the foreign control of the Venezuelan economy. In the words of a state governor in Venezuela as expressed to reporters in an interview, President Chávez “liberated [Venezuelans] from transnational companies and stood up to imperialist countries.”
He decided to pursue a path of Socialism which as I mentioned earlier is based on equality and social justice. The outcomes were a dramatic reduction in poverty and inequality in Venezuela – the country’s poverty rate fell from 50% in 1998 (the year before Chavez took office) to 30% in 2012 (the year before he died).
These facts brought President Chavez into conflict with Washington and the USA employed many strategies in its attempts to topple the leadership of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Interestingly, President Chavez made the point that Socialism is not incompatible with Democracy.These were his words: “Every day I become more convinced, there is no doubt in my mind, as many intellectuals have said, that it is necessary to transcend capitalism. But capitalism cannot be transcended through capitalism itself; it must be done through socialism, true socialism, with equality and justice. I’m also convinced that it is possible to do it under democracy, but not in the type of democracy being imposed byWashington.” I hope that I have been able to give you a better understanding of the reason why the USA adopted a hostile policy towards Venezuela. I think that Hugo Chavez served the interests of Democracy, Equality and Social Justice in our hemisphere and the world. He gave us a powerful model for development.We should honour and uphold his legacy.