Marxist-Humanism at the crossroads

A Press Review on the inter-imperialist standoff about Venezuela

After the fuss about the failed “humanitarian” aid operation, the economic crisis and the boycott by the United States drag on. As usual, the proletarians in particular suffer from a lack of basic necessities and medicines. In this case, they are also called upon to defend the interests of one of the two groups within the ruling class of Venezuela, those around the incumbent president Maduro (supported by the corrupt army summit, Russia, China, Turkey and Iran) and the self-proclaimed interim president Guaidó (supported by entrepreneurs and the US and — in an unprecedented action — the EU). This false choice is fought by (as far as known) all publications that defend the standpoint of proletarian internationalism, that is, those who invoke the Communist Left against both Stalin’s ‘socialism in one country’, and against the defense of the Soviet Union by most Trotskyists as a ‘workers state’, despite its ‘degeneration’ and ‘bureaucratization’, later followed by a ‘critical’ defense of the Eastern European ‘popular democracies’ and other ‘socialist’ countries that participated in the Russian bloc.

In general, left-communist groups generally take the following positions (1), here in the formulation of the article The Venezuelan Crisis published by the Internationalist Communist Tendency’, (2) its most important group in terms of the quality of its positions:

1) Trump intervenes because of the unstable situation in Venezuela; most oil goes to the US. In addition, US imperialism is trying to strengthen its loosened grip on South America. This would be at the expense of the increased influences of regional imperialist powers such as Brazil and Bolivia and those of China and Russia. This brings with it the threat of a new inter-imperialist massacre as in Syria.

2) Even before the American boycott, Venezuela’s revenues have drastically decreased due to lower oil prices on the world market since 2014, due to almost half the amount of oil pumped up due to lack of maintenance, due to the plundering of its economy by entrepreneurs and the army top.

3) To expose the lie of the “Bolivarian road to socialism”, against the left-bourgeois positions that Chavez’s state capitalist policy tries to sell as a development towards socialism, whether or not on the pretext that the poor were thrown some crumbs of the gigantic oil revenues in exchange for supporting the regime.

Of course, there are plenty of Stalinists and Trotskyists who continue to defend Maduro against American imperialism without any criticism, and with a simple reference to the ‘right of peoples to self-determination’. Given the obvious failure of the Maduro government, the open repression, the corruption and the extreme exploitation of the proletariat, most Trotskyist organizations openly condemn Maduro, while at the same time defending Chavism.

What is the attitude towards Venezuela of a movement that originated from Trotskyism, but which broke with it on the important question of the defense the Soviet Union and its US ally in World War 2: Marxist-Humanism of Raja Dunayevskaya? First of all, it is striking that the Marxist-Humanist Initiative’ (MHI, a split-off of ‘News and Letters Committees) seems not to have published anything about Venezuela since 2010. (3) By contrast, News and Letters’ of March-April 2019 contains an article Venezuela is at the crossroads in which it obviously condemns the imperialism of the U.S. (4) On the other hand, the criticism of Chavism is extremely weak, especially where the author believes the existence of an “Authentic movement toward the development of proletarian and peasant power was subordinate to one-man rule by Chávez as the decision-maker, although he relied on his military cohorts”. Even worse, the article defends the “Bolivarian Constitution that was voted in by the vast majority of the people”. Without further explanation from the author, he cites a speaker from the “Citizen Platform in Defense of the Constitution” who argues for “a negotiation that opens the way for Venezuelans to decide for themselves”. In the context of the ‘right of peoples to self-determination’, which is widely supported by Marxist-Humanism, this will be seen by the regular readers of ‘News and Letters’ as a support for the referendum that the above-mentioned platform demands.

On this point, the ‘International Communist Party’ (Italian Communist Left) is very clear: “Meanwhile the left-wing opposition to Maduro such as Marea Socialista, political scientist Nicmer Evans, former mayor of Caracas, as well as former ministers who deserted Chavism, are generally in favor of holding a referendum to decide whether the president should remain in power: umpteenth use of the old electoral opium. The alternative we have always defended is: No to electoral farce! Yes to class struggle! And Maduro himself proposes the holding of legislative elections, confident in the effectiveness of this electoral opium.” (5)

Indeed, the so-called “Authentic movement toward the development of proletarian and peasant power” is in no way comparable to the massive development of class consciousness and organization by means of the Soviets between February and October 1917 in Russia, that ended in the destruction of the state. Rather, a comparison with the emergence of People’s Democracies within the spheres of influence of Russian imperialism after World War 2 is more appropriate. Thanks to its state capitalist character, despite the absence of a proletarian revolution, these People’s Democracies were miraculously given by the Trotskyists the halo of Worker States. Now the starving Venezuela carries this false honorary title.

The ‘International Marxist-Humanist Organization’ (IMHO), which is not far from ‘News and Letters’, avoids a clear position by limiting itself to publishing “for discussion” an article by Marea Socialista in which an ‘original’ Chavism is defended, and all kinds of bourgeois slogans emerge, especially the demand for a referendum. Typically, Maduro and Guaidó are not seen as fractions of the same exploitative and oppressive bourgeois capitalist class, but the former as “bureaucrats” and the latter as “capitalists”. (6)

We know from history that the Trotskyists who take such a “critical” stance, at the time of the outbreak of an inter-imperialist conflict openly favor one of the two imperialist camps, usually that of state capitalism. Because of their origins in Bolshevism and in the power struggle between Stalin and Trotsky, they still defend Trotsky’s view of state capitalism as a development towards socialism. This position was already wrong when Lenin in State and Revolution took over from reformism the false idea of state capitalism as being ‘socialization’, thereby replacing the workers councils, this “finally discovered form of the proletarian dictatorship”, this “association of free and equal producers” by a state that integrated more and more of the personnel and practices of the state that was to be destroyed.

We might expect otherwise from Marxist-Humanism, but now we have to conclude that it hardly differs from the most critical forms of Trotskyism.

F.C., 12-3-2019

Proofreading: H.C., March 19, 2019


2 Internationalist Communist Tendency: The Venezuelan Crisis.

4 ‘News and Letters’, Vol. 64 #2 (March – April 2019), page 9. Freely available as pdf:

6 IMHO’s Discussion Article on Venezuela: The people no longer want Maduro, and no one chose Guaidó, by Marea Socialista, (originally published at Anticapitalist Network – IV. International) with an introduction by the editors of The International Humanist-Marxist, January 29, 2019.