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The Nemeses of Imperialism

CUBA and VENEZUELA


The Nemeses of Imperialism

by

Frederic F. Clairmont

CITIZENS

INTERNATIONAL

Cuba and Venezuela

Published by Citizens International 10 Jalan Masjid Negeri 11600 Pulau Pinang Malaysia 2007

Printed by Jutaprint 2, Solok Sungai Pinang 3 Sungai Pinang 11600 Pulau Pinang Malaysia

ISBN 978-983-3302-14-7

The Nemeses of Imperialism

FOREWORD

Frederic F. Clairmonts Cuba and Venezuela: The Nemeses of Imperialism follows on from his earlier work, The Rise and Fall of Economic Liberalism: The Making of the Economic Gulag*, as well as his later writings on Iraq, in which the author demonstrated how the miring of the United States in the Mesopotamian conflict heralded the decline and fall of the American empire. In this new work, Frederic Clairmont returns to a subject that he knows particularly well, Latin America, and the conflictual and domineering relationship that Washington has historically maintained with the region. The author, with the aid of copious and irrefutable documentation, recalls how under the leadership of Fidel Castro, Cuba a small country of 100 square kilometres and 11 million inhabitants has been able to maintain a policy of resistance for almost 50 years, and engage in a trial of strength with the United States, whose leaders were unable either to topple the Cuban president, eliminate him, or modify the direction taken by the Cuban revolution. A third world war could have erupted in October 1962 because of Washingtons objection to the installation in Cuba of Soviet nuclear
* Southbound Press and Third World Network, Penang, 1996.

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missiles whose function was primarily defensive and dissuasive: to prevent a new invasion like that of Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) in 1961, but this time directly organized by the Americans, to overthrow the Cuban revolution. Since 1960, the United States, despite the increasingly vigorous opposition of the United Nations, has waged economic war against Cuba and, unilaterally, imposed a devastating commercial blockade (augmented in the 1990s by the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts, and again reinforced by the Bush administration in May 2004). This impedes Cubas normal development and hampers its economic growth, with tragic consequences for the islands population. Moreover, by means of the powerful Radio Marti and TV Marti based in Florida, Washington conducts a permanent ideological and media war against Havana, inundating Cuba with propaganda reminiscent of the worst periods of the Cold War. The American authorities, sometimes through front organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an NGO set up by Ronald Reagan in 1983, finance groups abroad that disseminate anti-Cuban propaganda. For example, according to the US press agency Associated Press, in 2005 NED disbursed $2.4 million among organizations in Europe campaigning for regime change in Cuba. In addition, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is directly dependent on the US Government, has provided more than $65 million since 1996 to mainly Florida-based groups active against Cuba. Again, in May 2004 the Bush administration set up a supplementary fund of $80 million to bolster assistance to these groups. Throughout the world dozens of journalists are paid to disseminate information concocted against Cuba. Some of the money, however, subsidizes terrorist organizations hostile to the Cuban regime, among others Alpha-66 and Omega-7. Based in Florida where they have training camps, they regularly send armed commandos, with the tacit complicity of the American authorities, to carry out attacks and sabotage. Cuba is a

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country that has sustained an outstanding number of victims of violence (almost 3,500 dead and 2,000 permanently handicapped) and that has most suffered from terrorism over the past forty years. In 2005, with total disdain for Cuban sovereignty, and considering the island to be, so to speak, an internal matter, Washington unhesitatingly appointed a Cuba Transition Coordinator, Mr Caleb McCarry (formerly assigned to Afghanistan). On 10 July 2006, a report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, co-chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutirrez, demanded that everything be done to ensure that... the Castro regime's succession strategy does not succeed. Specifying that United States aid to their allies within the island such persons as the American writer Ernest Hemingway in a quite different context categorized as a fifth column would total more than 62.8 million, the document states that the sum should be delivered directly to the dissidents, who will receive matriel and training. This constitutes blatant meddling by a great power to destabilize a small country. It is also a veritable kiss of death for the opposition since, as the president of the Cuban parliament Ricardo Alarcn stressed: As long as this policy continues, Cubans will become involved in plotting with the Americans and accepting their money, and . . . no country I know of would not categorize such an activity as a crime. It is all the more criminal in that the American plan includes a classified annex for reasons of national security to ensure its effective implementation. As far as covert action is concerned, the history of Latin America offers numerous examples from the Chile of Salvador Allende to the Nicaragua of the Sandinistas. Let us not be nave. Indubitably this is a question of covert war. Despite American remorselessness and some 600 acts of aggression, Cuba has never responded with violence. In 48 years not a single violent

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act instigated by Havana was recorded in the United States. On the contrary, following the despicable attacks of 11 September 2001 on New York and Washington, Fidel Castro declared: Their attitude towards us diminishes in no way the profound pain we feel concerning the victims of the terrorist attack of 11 September. The Cuban diplomatic service is one of the most active in the world. In the years 1960-80 the revolution buttressed guerillas in several Central American (El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua) and South American (Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Argentina) countries. The armed forces it dispatched across the world took part in important military campaigns, particularly in the wars in Ethiopia and Angola. Cuban intervention in the latter country ended with the routing of the elite divisions of the Republic of South Africa, undoubtedly speeding up the independence of Namibia and the collapse of the racist apartheid regime, and paving the way for the liberation of Nelson Mandela, who never misses an opportunity to recall his friendship with Fidel Castro and his debt to the Cuban revolution. In the 1980s, Cuba assumed the leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement and undertook an intensive international campaign for the non-payment of the Latin American countries foreign debt. Following the debacle of the socialist bloc of Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, the Cuban revolution experienced some agonizing years, dubbed a Special Period, but nevertheless managed to survive, much to the astonishment of most of its adversaries. For the first time in its history, Cuba is no longer answerable to an empire, neither to that of Spain, nor the United States, nor the Soviet Union. It has embarked on a new kind of political life, to the left of the international left, joining the vast offensive against neoliberalism and globalization.

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In this new geopolitical context the Cuban revolution still remains, thanks to its successes and despite its serious deficiencies (economic problems, colossal bureaucratic incompetence, widespread small-scale corruption, hardship of daily life, food shortages, power cuts, chronic lack of transport, rationing, limitation of certain freedoms), an important model for thousands of the deprived throughout the world. In many regions of the globe men and women protest, struggle and sometimes die in attempts to achieve some of the social gains that characterize the Cuban example. This is strikingly true in Latin America where solidarity with Cuba and recognition of the stature of Fidel Castro have never been so strong. Since the electoral victory of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 1998, the polls have enabled the election (or re-election) of several candidates of the left: Nestor Kirchner in Argentina, Lula da Silva in Brazil, Tabar Vazquez in Uruguay, Martin Torrijos in Panama, Ren Prval in Haiti, Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Rafael Correa in Ecuador. In Mexico in July 2006, only apparent fraud prevented the representative of the left, Andrs Manuel Lopez Obrador, from winning. (The margin was 0.56%!) And even in Colombia, where Alvaro Uribe was re-elected in May 2006, the results obtained by the leftwing candidates were remarkably strong. Latin Americas situation is wholly unprecedented. It was not so long ago that a military coup under whatever pretext (the most recent attempt was in 2002 against President Hugo Chavez), or direct intervention by the United States (the last was in Panama in December 1989 against Manuel Noriega), would quickly have aborted any plan for economic and social reform, even if supported by a majority of the electorate. The author reminds us that democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Joao Goulart in Brazil, Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic, and Salvador Allende in Chile, to name the most noteworthy, were ousted in 1954, 1964, 1965 and 1973 respectively, by military coups orchestrated by the United States to prevent the introduction of structural reforms into

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non-egalitarian societies. Such reforms would have adversely affected the interests of the United States and it being the era of the Cold War (19471989) could have led to a modification of alliances that Washington would not have tolerated. In the geopolitical context of the time, the only leftwing experiment that managed to survive was that of Cuba. But we know the price that was paid. External pressure compelled Cuba to toughen its policies excessively. For more than two decades it strove to overcome political isolation and economic strangulation organized by the United States. To escape these constraints it entered into a somewhat unnatural alliance with the remote Soviet Union, whose sudden disappearance in 1991 brought in its wake grave difficulties. Except in the case of Cuba, all attempts to change the pattern of ownership, or redistribute the continents wealth more equitably, were brutally suppressed. Why then should the United States accept today that which it rejected for decades? How could a pinkish or scarlet wave now flow across so many Latin American states without being broken as in the past? What has changed? In the first place, a major factor has been the failure in most of Latin America of the sometimes radical neoliberal experiments of the 1990s. In several countries such policies resulted in shameless pillage, massive impoverishment of the middle and working classes, destruction of entire sectors of national industry, and finally widespread social upheaval. In Bolivia, in Ecuador, in Peru and in Argentina, veritable civil insurrections succeeded in toppling presidents who, although democratically elected, had, once in office, considered that they had a blank cheque for the duration of their mandate to act as they pleased and in some instances to ignore the programme they had offered to the electorate.

The Nemeses of Imperialism

In this regard, the collapse in Argentina of the neoliberal policies of Mr Carlos Menem in 1999, and the mass uprising of 21 December 2001 that forced the departure of President Fernando De La Rua, are in a way the counterpart in Latin America of what the collapse of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 represented for Europeans, that is to say, the permanent rejection of a dogmatic and arrogant model that ill-served the population. Another basic element is that since the Gulf War of 1991, and even more so since 11 September 2001, the United States, godfather of the region it regards as its backyard, has reoriented its geopolitical preoccupations towards Iraq and the Near and Middle East, where oil and its principal current enemies are to be found. This diversion favoured the blossoming in Latin America of several leftwing experiments, notably the Bolivarian revolution of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and doubtless spared them from being rapidly stifled at birth. This was particularly fortunate for Caracas and Havana, who have seen their new regional allies proliferating, allies with whom they have increased their political and economic ties. Thus on 21 July 2006, at the Mercosur summit in Cordoba (Argentina), Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez signed an important commercial agreement with Mercosur member countries, including Brazil and Argentina. In so doing they openly challenged the American blockade and paid homage to a small country like Cuba that for almost 50 years has refused to submit to the worlds major power. [Translated from the French by Carl Freeman] Ignacio Ramonet

Ignacio Ramonet is the Director of Le Monde Diplomatique, one of the founders of ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions to Aid Citizens) and a leading figure in the anti-neoliberal-globalization movement.

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Dedication To the tens of thousands of young Cuban medical, educational and other professional workers who irrepressibly continue to fling themselves selflessly without respite into the war against disease, poverty and illiteracy on a scale that has never been witnessed, not only in Latin America but worldwide.

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Within the Revolution there is a place for everyone; against the Revolution there is room for none. This is a life-and-death struggle that can only end with the death and destruction of the Revolution or the counter-revolution. Fidel Castro

I have lived in the belly of the beast and I know its entrails. Jose Marti

History does nothing, it possesses no immense wealth, fights no battles. It is rather man, real living man who does everything, who possesses and fights. Karl Marx

Freedom is a function of power. Harold Joseph Laski

Recent The Trends Nemeses in Global of Imperialism Financial Flows

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CUBA AND VENEZUELA: The Nemeses of Imperialism

y reflections on the revolutionary processes now sweeping through Latin America are based on researches and lengthy discussions with many Latin American leaders and civil servants that were initiated during my years as a senior economic affairs officer in the United Nations, specifically the secretariat of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). My sojourns in Latin America in 2006 came at a crucial tipping point in the grim and exploitation-ridden history of the region. What we are now seeing are the convulsions of a region that is hungering for authentic freedom, extending from the Mexican frontier to the southernmost extremity of Tierra del Fuego. These mark the massive erosion of the imperial power of the US oligarchy and its domesticated political quislings that have bled the region since its countries acquired formal independence in the early part of the 19th century. Despite the fact that US imperialism has butchered more than 655,000 Iraqi men, women and children, as The Lancet confirms, it has lost the colonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The estimated cost of Bushs undeclared war of exterminism in Iraq against an innocent people will be well over $1.2 trillion. It is one of the greatest crimes ever perpetrated against any people at any moment in history. Referring to the genocide of

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the peoples of Indochina in which 3 million were butchered, Martin Luther King declared: He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate evil. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with evil. The peoples of Cuba and Venezuela have now raised the ante: there is at present not only a mighty voice against evil, but also an active combatant that has taken its struggle for emancipation into the very backyard of imperialism. Although the economic, political and military power of the US still prevails in Latin America, it is fairly obvious that in this crucial region of revolutionary change its overwhelming hegemonic control is rapidly ebbing. This work is concerned primarily with the freedom struggle of two still-poor nations against the evil of imperial carnage and pillage. It is a struggle rooted in the choice of their masses to reject the dictates of imperialism and advance on the broad highways of social justice and dignity; this can be encapsulated in one word: socialism. What matters, as we shall see, is that these fighting nations have not merely refused to relinquish their sovereignty as free peoples and accept meekly the yoke of the colonial empire whose crimes have been touted under the most mellifluous of high-sounding moral platitudes. Of primordial importance is that these two oppressed peoples of colour have fought back successfully in the battering of imperialism. The combined freedom forces led by Cuban President Fidel Castro and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez represent today leaving aside the heroic resistance of the people of Iraq and, more recently, of Iran the most formidable nemeses ever faced by the now crumbling and moribund forces of empire. This work first examines the consequences of the unstoppable breakdown of American capitalism, of which its many layers of indebtedness are but one facet. We then turn our attention to the emergence of Cuba as a world power, and subsequently chart the course taken in Venezuela by the leadership of Hugo Chavez that is forging ahead under the banner of socialism of the 21st century. Cuba and Venezuela remain the salient inspirers of the drive for freedom that is sweeping Latin America.

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Fidel Castro

uba, the beacon of socialist freedom in the Americas, has not merely survived but has successfully beaten back the half-centurylong annexationist onslaughts of the US corporate gulag. We have no illusions, however, of the price that it has paid and continues to pay to retain its socialist gains. In the extended scale of human history there is nothing remotely comparable to the unremitting savagery of the US blockades, embargos and mass assassinations that have incessantly battered the first socialist nation in the Americas since its liberation in 1959. In but one year, 2006, the cost of the US embargo on Cuba which has time and again been repudiated by the UN General Assembly was an estimated $4 billion. The US is not alone. In this criminal conspiracy the US gulag has been joined by the European bourgeoisie. The US has internationalized the embargo, whose overriding goal let this be stressed is the liquidation of socialism and the reimplantation of the US colonial order in Cuba.

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The horrendous toll exacted by the embargo tells us much, for what it highlights is the recognition by the US caste oligarchy that Cuba remains one of the greatest ramparts for human freedom (a word that is inconceivable in the lexicon of imperialism) in the Americas, hence the compulsive lunge for its extermination. What is of importance, however, as we shall see, is that the brightest firmament in the Americas has ceased to be alone, and its spiritual aura is ramified throughout the region. We must understand clearly that Venezuela, which has now emerged as one of the leading powers in the Americas, is pursuing its own anti-imperialist trajectory, indeed its own specific socialist trajectory. One of the most elating stories in the odyssey of Hugo Chavez took place during the April 2002 coup in Venezuela, when he was a prisoner of the putschists in the island of Orchila. The role played by Fidel Castro at this time was spelt out in his biography, Fidel Castro: Biografia a dos voces.1 He communicated to Chavez: Dont immolate yourself, Hugo. Dont repeat the mistake of Allende. He was an isolated individual without the support of a single soldier. A large part of the army is backing you. Do not resign. Do not relinquish power. The rest, as they say, is history, with Chavez and his Fifth Republic Movement rapidly striding from one victory to another. Embargo is too mild a word to describe the barbarous, unrelenting economic war waged by the US against Cuba, a small island nation with 11 million souls, for almost half a century. The dust had barely settled on the triumphant revolution proclaimed on 1 January 1959 when the entire US apparatus of counter-revolutionary state terrorism was unleashed. Let us briefly glance at the first two years of its agonizing but immensely creative existence. This was a barefaced attempt at ousting a government whose ideals of social justice and freedom were incompatible with those of the US caste oligarchy and its domestic Cuban puppets, the Batistianos. It started with sabotage, targeted assassinations of revolutionary leaders, and the infiltration of terrorists and highly trained killers, many of whom
1

Barcelona, 2006. The biography was written by Ignacio Ramonet, the director of Le Monde Diplomatique.

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were the gunmen of the American Mafiosi, and hired mercenaries from the Americas and Europe. The US-bankrolled terror apparatus was engineered to turn the newly liberated people of Cuba against the government and ultimately to smash it. Hospitals, schools, kindergartens and retirement homes for the aged were set on fire, their inmates butchered and wounded. B-26 bombers using incendiary and phosphorous bombs were deployed to destroy sugarcane, tobacco and vegetable plantations and irrigation and industrial facilities. Piratical attacks hammered the nations coastal ports and fishing boats. Poisons were stuffed into cigar boxes, time bombs deployed in theatres and shops. The big newspaper owners, most of whom were North American capitalists, unleashed a hate campaign inciting readers to destroy the regime, in much the same manner as the media moguls are doing in Venezuela today. The Roman Catholic hierarchy dominated by pro-Franco Spanish priests and the white-skinned oligarchy were among the most vociferous conspirators in this ideological campaign. Keep in mind that all of these crimes against humanity were perpetrated and sanctified in the name of human rights and the preservation of property rights. The gains of the revolution were under attack by highly trained commandos armed with sophisticated weapons. Among their targets were the young volunteers who went into the countryside in great numbers to wipe out illiteracy. In March 1960, the French ship La Coubre was sabotaged in the port of Havana, with more than 100 dead and hundreds of wounded. The major oil refinery in Havana was destroyed in April 1961. Such acts continued in the ensuing years, the most perfidious of these being the blowing up in 1976 of a Cuban airliner in Barbados airspace, killing 73 people. It was carried out by Cuban-born Venezuelan national Luis Posada Carriles, an agent of the CIA. (The US government has till this day adamantly refused to extradite him to Venezuela or Cuba so that he may be prosecuted for this and other heinous crimes against humanity.) In addition, the innumerable abortive attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, which are revelatory of the reach of the state terror apparatus, have been well documented over the years and hence will not be commented on here.

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he emergence today of Cuba and Venezuela as major world actors in the anti-imperialist front must be scrutinized in the context of the wilting power of American imperialism. Indeed, context is everything. The expanding world business cycle that lasted five years has now turned, with the discernible fall in the growth of world gross domestic product (GDP), trade and international capital flows. Since the end of World War 2, the US dollar has been the worlds reserve currency. Almost 75% of primary commodities are denominated in dollars. The dollar is the monetary unit in which international trade and financial accounts are settled. However, this monetary bludgeon of American imperialism has weakened with the march of time, and sharply so in 2006, with present trends ominously indicating that the greenbacks value will continue to shrink into the foreseeable future. Many central banks have already switched from the dollar to the euro as a unit of account. The continuing massive US trade and payments deficits must indubitably precipitate a run on the dollar, triggering an international financial explosion. It can never be overemphasized that the dollar, as the bloodiest of weapons in the arsenal of the US gulag, is living off borrowed time and underpinned by borrowed money. What is of central importance to our thesis is that the current American business cycle is in its death throes. The dotcom bubble has burst and the housing bubble has followed in its wake. The economic and political implications of this are already ominous. In the not too long run this will prove fatal for the survival of empire. This is not synonymous with the death of capitalism, however, but with an intensifying slowdown related to stagnation in production, consumption, investment and real wages. I am not talking of the collapse of capitalism and hence its obituary cannot as yet be written, nor requiems sung to its inglorious past. I am talking of the US meltdown and its impact on the rest of global capitalism, strikingly so for those addicted to the American market for a sizeable segment of their export earnings. In the case of China and the Asian region, they will inevitably be battered by the magnitude of the deceleration and the rising tidal waves of American protectionism. As the repositories of US debt to a degree unprecedented in the annals of financial history, their assets will simply be wiped out.

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This will be a slump whose power demonstrates a capacity to lurch at devastating speed into a depression tsunami. Globalization is on the rocks. The onslaughts against globalization are manifest in, among others, the ignominious debacle of the World Trade Organization (WTO)s deadlocked Doha Round of international trade negotiations, which dramatizes the irrelevance of a WTO that had long basked under the spurious slogan of a free multilateral trading system. The downturn of the cycle is not impacting in the same way on all social classes, however. This is so because one of the leading traits of capital accumulation on a world scale is the law of unequal development mirrored in the divergent cyclicality of capital movements, profits, savings and investment. We must also clearly understand that these trends and movements are not isolated elements. They must be seen as part of the process of capital accumulation in its historical dimensions as it unfolded in the critical period of imperialisms gestation in the decades 1870-1914, and the subsequent implosion that followed in the imperialist holocaust of 1914-18. The present downturn must not be likened to the Great Depression in 1929-32. Then, profits fell and so did wages. The contractionary forces at work at present are unsynchronized. Simply to bandy about the overworked clich of crisis leads us into a cul de sac. If there is a crisis, as there clearly is, we must identify the gainers and the losers. In so doing we bring to the fore the fundamental concepts of labour and capital whose interplay constitutes the national and international class struggle. According to the estimates of Forbes magazine, the number of billionaires rocketed from 793 to 946 between 2006 and 2007, the space of just one year. No less mind-boggling is the spiralling concentration of this highest caste of hyper-rich, with more than half of them coming from just three countries: the US (415), Germany (55) and Russia (53). For the overwhelming majority of the worlds population of 6 billion, however, real incomes slumped or stagnated. The total wealth of the billionaire masters of the globalizing corporate gulag hit $3.5 trillion. This is the quintessence of the pickings of neoliberalism: a Himalayan figure that is

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49% larger than Chinas (2005) GDP. What was the origin of this boundless accumulation and exponential income increase? It came from rampant speculation in derivatives and currency markets, not from productive investments that would have generated employment and wages in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors of the real economy. This in essence is descriptive of the criminalization of global capitalism. As a Financial Times analyst noted ironically: It has been a great time to be a capitalist. All around the world profits have been rising as a percentage of gross domestic product. According to the HSBC banking group, UK profits were the highest in 2005 since records began in 1950. In the US, Japan and Euroland profits as a share of national income are at historic highs. Corporate America has rocketed its share of national income from 7% at the start of the cyclical recovery in 2001 to 15% in 2006, or an annualized compound rate of 52%. However, to the extent that the corporate behemoths enshrined in the Fortune 500 have gained, others have lost. According to the Bank for International Settlements, wages as a percentage of national income fell from 60% in 1975 to around 55% in 2006, with no possibility of reversal in the present configuration of the worlds distribution of economic power. Illustrative is the fate of American labour, whose real wages have steadily shrunk over the last three decades. The real weekly wage of a typical American worker in the middle of the income distribution fell by 4% since the start of the cyclical recovery in 2001. (Total compensation, if we take into consideration health and pension benefits, barely rose by slightly more than 1% in real terms.) However, labour productivity rose by 18% between 2000 and 2006. In short, more and more goods and services are being produced with smaller and smaller labour inputs receiving falling real wages. This is what we mean when we say that the cycle constituted a wageless recovery. Or to put it another way, the working class is producing more and more per unit of labour (thereby generating enhanced profits for the capitalists) but receiving less and less. This is precisely what is meant by the global acceleration of the exploitative process.

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The sham is exposed for what it always was: the gains in labour productivity are not shared with labour but grabbed by the owners of capital. This is a reality that exemplifies the nature of the exploited/exploiter relationship that forms the matrix of capitalist social relations. Or better still, a reality that depicts the dynamics of the class struggle. The Economist, a publication owned by Big Capital and a virulent propagandist of neoliberal globalization, departs from its byzantine neoliberal orthodoxy when it is compelled to admit: [T]he usual argument in favour of globalization that it will make more workers better off, with only a few low-skilled workers losing out has not so far been borne out by the facts. Most workers are being squeezed. Coming from the mouthpiece of Big Capital, this is a confession of startling dimensions. The reason why workers are being squeezed is that larger and larger shares are being gobbled up by Big Capital. Let us be clear: the bleeding of the world of labour is not a unique attribute of the Bush/Blair regimes. We are dealing with the exploitative workings of the capitalist engine itself and not the aberration of its political domestics. This is one of the crucial upshots of globalization. The headlong rush of the national bourgeoisie to create national champions to secure ever-larger market shares and kill off competition is commonplace, be it in Russia, China or the European Union, and the tragic but highly successful blitz against the world of labour is also a part of the crisis and the contradictions it spawns.

eoliberalism, the ruling ideology of globalized capitalism, places emphasis on privatization, deregulation and the unquestioned hegemony of corporate capital. Its quintessential and undeviating strategy is to penetrate where it wants and when it wants, and on conditions dictated by its own political specificities. However, the current phase of capitalism marks the approaching end of its ascendancy. Its institutional handmaidens, the WTO, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), are in their death throes. Or if I should change the metaphor, they are gasping in a raging sea of irrelevance. Venezuelas liquidity alone,

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i.e., its foreign exchange reserves combined with the funds that it is raising in its domestic market, is immensely larger than the combined funds of these dinosaurs, and growing exponentially. To this, of course, could also be added the capital liquidity of the planned Bank of the South promoted by Chavez. The Washington Consensus, as the bourgeois press called it, is swilling in the gutter, akin to the battering the US caste oligarchy experienced and is experiencing in its four front wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza and Lebanon. (In the latter two I have not separated Israel from the US caste oligarchy because their interests are harmoniously blended.) Inasmuch as globalization is synonymous with imperialism, what we are witnessing is at once its dual debacle military and economic. The government of the US gulag and its ruling class have appropriated all the trimmings of formal democracy, but there it stops. The definition of oligarchy given by the online encyclopedia Wikipedia spells out its wider significance: Oligarchies are often controlled by a few powerful families whose children are raised and mentored to be heirs of the power of the oligarchy, often at some sort of expense to those governed. Seen in this light, there is a politico-money oligarchy in the US, a country with one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world and which proclaims its antipathy to all democratizing forces Cuba and Venezuela are but two sterling illustrations that choose an alternative development path. Growth in inequality is not an aberration. It owes nothing to chance. It stems from the drive of corporate power to accumulate. Accumulation thus becomes the sole condition of survival; in the gripping epithet of Marx: Accumulate, accumulate. That is Moses and the prophets. Competition in all its varied manifestations is the pivot of the system. It is an instrument of war in the battle for bigger and bigger market shares. It is here that we see competition not as a thing of fixity and permanence, but as an evolving historical reality that underpins the system. It is here that we see how, historically, competition kills competition; it is the spawning ground of monopoly.

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This is the unfolding process of imperialism in which we study how capitalisms relations of production are being engineered and reshaped. This transformation becomes evident with a perusal not only of the rapidly changing market capitalization and revenues of the 500 largest multinational corporations in a given time span, but also of the profits of individual capitalists. It is not surprising that the frantic pace of corporate mergers and acquisitions, or better still the drive to concentration and centralization of capital, has scaled heights unprecedented in capitalisms history. The gains of this concentration of capital are appropriated by an infinitesimal minority of mega-capitalists that include the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Lakshmi Mittal, etc., even as this same concentration and centralization of capital has brought in its wake the liquidation of millions of jobs. It is a movement that stems not only from the internal dynamics of a corporation to maximize its profitability and liquidate its competitors. It is also being propelled by national state apparatuses in their headlong quest for the buildup of national champions. The drive for corporate aggrandizement is synonymous with globalization. This is true of all sectors. Consider the 10 major US investment banks, with Citicorp a leader of the band. The search for overseas acquisitions continues apace. The Mexican banking industry, for example, has been gobbled up by foreign banks. Already 55% of the earnings of the big 10 US investment banks come from outside the United States. This phenomenon that conspicuously surfaced in the decades 18701914 continues unabated. Even a liberal economist understands that the stage is set for a backlash. As Joseph Stiglitz pithily puts it: What is remarkable about globalization is the disparity between its promise and what has happened. Globalization seems to have unified so much of the world against it. The word seems is wholly superfluous though. With so many losers and so few winners, even the developed capitalist countries are becoming rich countries with poor people.

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Neoliberalism of the American model may have been touted as the solution to world poverty, but the reality is totally different. Neoliberal orthodoxy, as Mica Panic of Cambridge University pinpoints in an illuminating comparative study2, is traversing the wretched policy collapses as it did in the inter-war period. The ideology of uninhibited laisser faire is anathema to economic welfare. One statistic alone, revealed in a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), serves to encapsulate the horrendous inequalities engendered by neoliberalism and the dismantling of the welfare state: A baby boy from a family in the top 5% of the US income distribution will enjoy a lifespan 25% longer than a boy born in the bottom 5%. Let us cast a brief glance at the extent to which the protagonists of American free-market orthodoxy who prattle on endlessly about human rights have in fact scuttled these rights: The US is unique in being the only country in the developed capitalist world that does not have a universal health system. According to a study by the US Census Bureau, the number of people without health insurance coverage climbed to 46.6 million in 2005. This was 15.9% of the total population, up 1.3 million over 2004.
l l The US Census Bureau has also noted that there were 37 million people living in poverty in 2005, or 12.6% of the total US population. The poverty rates of Cleveland and Detroit were as high as 32.4% and 31.4% respectively, and nearly 1 out of 3 was living under the poverty line. l According to a November 2006 report by the US Department of Agriculture, 34.8 million Americans did not have enough financial

Mica Panic, Does Europe need neoliberal reforms?, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol. 31, No. 1, January 2007. The author is a Keynesian social democrat and his study is limited to the United States and the Nordic countries. It is a useful comparative study of different models of development, but stops short of being a critique of imperialism.

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resources to buy food. A survey of 23 US cities, including Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles, by the US Conference of Mayors reported that in 2006 requests for emergency food aid rose by 7% over 2005, with 74% of the cities registering an increase.
l A study of 173 countries with high, middle and low incomes carried out by Harvard and McGill universities indicates that the US is one of only five countries that do not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave. (The other four are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.) Of the 173 countries, 137 provide paid annual leave, but there is no US federal law to guarantee such leave. The country also has no federal law on maximum work-week length nor a limit on mandatory overtime.

Racism and all its corollaries are rampant. According to 2005 data released by the US Census Bureau in November 2006, average yearly household income was $50,622 for whites as against $36,278 for Hispanics and $30,940 for blacks. The income of whites was 64% more than that of blacks and 40% more than that of Hispanics. According to a US Department of Labour report, the unemployment rate was 8.6% for blacks and 3.9% for whites. The same grim picture holds for everwidening disparities in education between whites and non-whites.
l

According to a report issued by the US Department of Justice on 30 November 2006, nearly 2.2 million inmates were held in state and federal prisons or county and municipal jails by the end of 2005. Although blacks account for 12.2% of the US population, they account for 40% of all prisoners. The adult US correctional population, including those on probation or parole, hit a high of more than 7 million men and women for the first time. About 3% of the US adult population, or one in every 32 adults, were in the nations prisons and jails or on probation or parole.
l

What these figures so graphically indicate is that the US is a failed society. It is precisely for this reason that Cuba and Venezuela have chosen alternative, revolutionary paths that meet the highest standards of human

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dignity and justice. It is precisely for this reason also that their leadership has been targeted for personal liquidation, for their designs for socialism clash at every point of the compass with neoliberalism. Since the late 1970s, the income of the richest 1% of the US population has roughly doubled, and the income of the top 0.01% has risen by a factor of five. Economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez show that even if capital gains from a rising stock market are excluded, in 2004 the real income of the richest 1% of Americans surged by almost 12.5%. The average real income of the bottom 99% of the population, however, rose by barely over 1%. Other statisticians have also noted that growth bypassed not only the poor and the lower middle class but the upper middle class as well. Even people at the 95th percentile of the income distribution that is, people richer than 19 out of 20 Americans gained only fractionally. Paul Krugman of Princeton University is correct: the winners were those that were already in the upper reaches of the economic stratosphere. This is also clearly brought out in the findings of Doug Henwood, the editor of Left Business Observer , as seen in his chart (right) on the Gini index of the United States. Income inequality, he notes, pursuing its wellestablished trend, rose in 2005 to the highest levels in more than 70 years. The index is the most comprehensive measurement of inequality. It is a number between 0 and 1, with 0 representing an economy or social group

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whose members enjoy perfect income equality. In contrast, 1 represents perfect inequality, with one individual gobbling up everything. The Gini index for the United States was .469 in 2005 (as against Swedens .250, for example), a staggering rise from its post-war nadir of .386 in 1968. This movement continues its remorseless ascendancy. A profile of New York City, the mecca of global capitalism, reveals the morphology of its impoverishment. According to the New York Times (8 October 2006), the city has a population of 8 million. A fifth of these are poor. One-third of all the children in the city under five are poor. This is what some have labelled, employing an appropriate image, the deep rivers of poverty flowing beneath the glittering surface of Wall Street. Indeed, it is the barefaced image of American capitalism as a whole and its workings. We must recall that when we use the metric of GDP we are dealing with averages. It is thus misleading to contend that if one averaged the income of Bill Gates and ones personal income, one would magically be transformed into a multi-billionaire. The system of national accounting is a useful instrument of analysis, but it fails, and indeed it is not designed, to give us an insight into the nature of the class distribution of income. Certainly, by the metrics of national accounts, the world economy has grown. But who are the beneficiaries of this growth? The preceding discussion on inequalities highlights the fact something not evident in national GDP figures that the gainers are the rich, the super-rich and the plutocracy enshrined in the uppermost niches of the multinational corporation. But there is yet another facet of the national accounts that we must examine to grasp the extent to which they are the objects of creative manipulation. This was brought out when the Greek government found itself 25% richer in 2006 because its national accounts were revised upward to capture, according to its national-account creators, the most lucrative and dynamic sectors of the Greek services industry: prostitution and money laundering.

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e shall now shift our attention to the imbalances within the US balance of payments. This will give us the insight necessary to understand that the crisis of US imperialism has been affected by the workings of the financial system. The current account of a countrys balance of payments is the broadest measure of its balance of trade in goods and services. The current-account deficit (CAD) is equal to the trade deficit plus the cost of servicing the countrys net international asset position (i.e., the net rent, interest and dividends owed to foreigners who have invested their capital in domestic assets and securities). What the evidence from the US balance of payments suggests is the alarming worsening of the US net international investment position (NIIP) since 1985: from the worlds strongest asset position to the worlds largest liability position. That is a downward shift from being the worlds biggest creditor to being the worlds biggest debtor. A deficit is a debt that has to be either repaid or repudiated. As deficits pile up year in year out, the cost of servicing the NIIP climbs. The awesome implication of a CAD of over $1 trillion is that the US must increasingly sell more of its assets to foreigners or slash the stock of US assets held abroad.

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With interest rates climbing, the situation will become even more perilous. The massive scale of the funding of the CAD, which ran at an annual rate of over $1 trillion in the third quarter of 2006, requires $3.5 billion in capital inflows of fresh money every single business day of the year. There is nothing fixed about this number. If lenders chose to restrict or abscond from the capital markets, it would lead to an implosion of interest rates kicking the greenback into a freefall. The American external imbalances are a euphemism relating to the central fact that the United States imports more than it exports. Over time it has become the worlds leading debtor, owing hundreds of billions of dollars to the likes of China, Japan and its other trading partners. This is what we mean when we say that it is a giant living off borrowed time and borrowed money. The United States has neither the will nor the wherewithal to reimburse these debts. China has reason to be apprehensive of a dollar meltdown and the financial debacle that will inevitably follow. It is this which explains the massive shift from dollars to euros by the central banks of China, Venezuela and Iran, among others. As it stands, China has already lost billions of dollars because of the systematic devaluation of the dollar over the last four years, and is on course to losing even more. The collapse of the Bretton Woods agreement (1971) offers us an illustrative lesson. Then, as now, external imbalances revealed the fissures within financial markets. The US government suspended the convertibility of the dollar into gold and imposed a 10% tariff surcharge because other countries dollar holdings escalated in relation to the US shrinking stock of gold. The old belief that the dollar was as good as gold was shattered. Then, as now, the US balance-of-payments deficits led to an undermining of confidence in the dollar. The erosion of the balance of payments is but one vital aspect of the current crisis bedevilling US finance capital. Although there may be a pause in raising interest rates after 17 successive hikes, central bankers fiddling with interest rates is like doling out an aspirin tablet to an AIDS patient. Misleading clichs like soft and hard landings are not only

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useless as guides to understanding the system but noxious devices to stymie our rationality. The pursuit of monetary policy, whose scope of effectiveness is narrowly circumscribed, is little more than a gimmick to delude us into believing that the system can be corrected by manipulating interest rates. It is highly improbable that there will be any shrinkage in the external imbalance of the US trade deficit in the short term. Appalling deficit arithmetic unmasks the vicious circle in which US capitalism is quagmired. With nominal imports of goods and services 57% more than exports, it is apparent that exports will have to grow that much faster than imports just to hold the deficit constant. Another factor that needs to be considered is the US loss of market share, given the extent to which the US has outsourced production. One of the prevailing myths is that a shrinking and enfeebled dollar will give a boost to exports. Such a dollar devaluation, it is believed, would slash the trade deficit, but the affirmation ignores the degree to which industrial output is outsourced. The upshot is a cutback in US exports. US production is increasingly being outsourced because of cheaper foreign labour. Outsourcing affects both tradable and non-tradable sectors, as seen in the evolution of both financial and non-financial services over the last 15 years. There is little hope of US capitalism exporting its way out of its deficit through dollar devaluation. The game of competitive devaluation, or beggar-my-neighbour policy as Joan Robinson of Cambridge University christened it in the 1930s, is a petty little game that can be played by all. The US master class has been able, so far successfully, to exploit the world by printing greenbacks without limit, extracting value from the dollars hegemonic status. It is paying for imports with paper money by running sustained current-account deficits. However, let us repeat what we have already said: deficits are debts. Debts must be repaid (at compound interest rates) or repudiated.

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The deficit stems from a critical shortage of savings (see savings graphs on p. 31). According to the US Department of Commerce, the economys net national saving (which is the combined saving of individuals, the government and the business sector net of depreciation) fell to an alltime low of 0.9% of GDP. In short, the US must pull in money from abroad to finance the deficit. The dollar has lost a third of its value vis--vis the euro over the last two years (2004-2006) and yet during that interval EU exports rose 20%. Even assuming there is a 30% or bigger revaluation of the Chinese renminbi, which is highly implausible, it will not in any way diminish the US external trade imbalance. Bashing China and raising protectionist barriers against that country will not tackle the problem of low saving rates. What it will do is boost the rate of inflation. Indeed, the external deficit is only one segment of the US economic pathology. Another segment, the federal budget deficit, is out of control like a drunk hobbling from one lamppost to another. The numbers and their growth tell the story. The disparity between the worlds current-account surpluses and deficits highlights the parasitism of American capitalism. The US is living off the worlds savings, accounting for 71% of the worlds deficits. This is perhaps one of the biggest differences between British and American imperialism. In the heyday of British imperialism straddling the Victorian and Edwardian ages from 1880 to 1914, Britain, basking in the glories of the sustained and successful pillage of its empire, was able to run an annual current-account surplus of 5%. The US empire, in contrast, now has an annual chronic and rising currentaccount deficit of 7%, which has been on the boil since the early 1980s. The deficit sums are agonizingly huge, with not the remotest possibility of a respite in sight. The sheer size and speed of the CADs growth during the years 2000-2005 indicate the depth of the cataclysm. It swelled from $415 billion to almost $900 billion, passing from 4% of GDP to around 7% in 2007. This is an annual compound rate of 14%, outstripping the growth of national income by a factor of six. We must consider not only the CAD at a given moment but also its trajectory over time. The cumulative CAD already tops 50% of US GDP.

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On present trends, this could surge to 60-65% in just three years. It is not only that this tempestuous growth cannot be sustained in the very short run. It points to a currency collapse that will have serious reverberations in international financial markets inasmuch as the dollar is still although its power is rapidly wilting the paramount medium of exchange in these markets. Moreover, this economic affliction is being exacerbated by the confluence of high energy prices, mounting debt-servicing burdens, negative personal saving rates, non-competitive export capabilities, and a crumbling manufacturing and transport infrastructure. For how long will a parasitical American capitalism be able to draw on the pool of world savings? The year 2007 should give us an answer to that question.

he US aggregate domestic and foreign debts (household, government and corporate) are around $41 trillion or about the size of world GDP. US government payments to foreign holders of this debt amount to $120 billion yearly. The handouts can no longer come from the coffers of Asian central banks, including the main money man China, or from the reserves of Venezuela, Russia or Iran. These countries have rapidly been switching their reserve holdings to the euro, gold and other assets.

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As long as the United States runs a near-zero net national saving rate, it is perpetually doomed to run monstrously large current-account and trade deficits. The net national saving rate is today lower than it was in the peak year of the Great Depression in 1932. This leaves US capitalism with the grim prospect of repudiating its debts as it did at Bretton Woods. It bears repeating that US capitalism is parasitically sucking in 71% of the worlds savings. The endgame is approaching, but the meltdown will not occur from one day to the other. The inferences that must be drawn from this are obvious. It is not only the cataclysmic tableau of a nation that is irretrievably in debt, but one in which the debt hole that it has dug for itself is getting bigger and bigger, and from which it will be insuperably difficult to extricate itself. The crisis in the US balance of payments that we have briefly scrutinized is not an isolated phenomenon that can be abstracted from the universe of capitalist accumulation. The pathology, the monstrous inequalities and class iniquities of American capitalism are shared with all the other national agents of global capitalism. The overriding characteristic of international capitalism now is overproduction of all goods and services. The cyclical boom of 2001-2006 is fizzling out. The US growth engine is in a state of semi-paralysis. Job growth has been running at 30-35% below average since 2001. More than 3.7 million industrial jobs, according to the US Labour Department, were scrubbed between 1998 and 2006. Is it surprising, then, that inflation-adjusted spending growth is on the ropes? There are no countervailing forces. The crumbling of the US housing market or, better still, the bursting of the speculative housing bubble is a terrible reminder that the implosion of the dotcom bubble in 2001 is now being trailed by others, including, notably, the market for financial derivatives that could explode at any moment, as Mr Warren Buffett obsessively reminds us. (Let us not forget that the size of the derivatives market now stands at $160 trillion or four times as much as global GDP and is growing three times faster than the global economy.) The rise and fall of the housing market has already had devastating repercussions on the structure of overall output and

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employment, and its adverse impacts are spilling over into the financial markets. The housing market had become a grand casino because it gave the hapless consumer the possibility of equity extraction, or converting rising home values into cash through mortgage refinancing. The American consumer is drowning in a sea of debt. Real personal consumption (20022006) rocketed at a 4% average annual rate or almost three times as fast as disposable income. Consumption was bankrolled by debt. This uninhibited financial debauchery comes with a price. Neither corporate investment nor exports are capable of growing at a pace to offset the housing slump. Indeed, the crash of the housing sector is a mirror image of the external sector as foreign capital inflows into dollar-denominated assets stem from the absence of labour-generated income savings. The spillover effects of a post-bubble housing economy are everywhere in sight. Recall that the unwinding of the speculative dotcom mania triggered the recession of 2000-01. Likewise, the spillover effects of the housing bubble (seen in sub-prime mortgage lending) are characteristic of asset-dependent economies as they spawn an explosion of domestic demand that is not matched, or complemented, by effective purchasing power of labours gains. Significantly, the industrial capacity of the United States has withered and what remains of its huge industrial heritage, a legacy of the decades 1865-1914, is being swiftly offshored. Let us look at a specific case to better comprehend the unfolding of this process. Electronic Data Systems, an American firm, is to speed up the shift of its workforce to India and other low-cost centres. It is part of the offshoring wave at a time when the pressure to boost productivity in the labour-intensive information technology sector is rising. EDS plans to shift to low-cost centres half of its workforce over the next couple of years. With armies of employees that represent around two-thirds of their overall costs, and with Indian rivals growing fast, the US companies that dominate the industry have intensified their focus on offshore hiring.

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On the domestic front we are confronted with the spectacle of desolation. General Motors and Ford are a shadow of their earlier selves, with 80,000 workers slated for the axe. Daimler-Chrysler is on the auction block. The shares of these blue-chip corporations that represented the apex of American industrial supremacy have slid into the gutter of junk-bond status. John Pickering, a stellar automotive engineer from Michigan, accurately describes the debacle of the industry in words that represent its epitaph: I was always proud to be an automotive engineer from my earliest youth. Today our industry has been mangled. We are bankrupt and demoralized. We are caught in the grips of an economic war that we have lost. In much the same way as we lost the way in Iraq. Let us be honest with ourselves. We have lost our independence. We are colonized. Our industry is in the hands of foreigners. The only noise thats coming from us is the death rattle. That savage depiction could not be more accurate. Detroit presents today a spectacle of an industrial wasteland. We have come a long way in the history of American capitalism since GMs boss Charlie Wilson thundered: Whats good for America is good for GM, and whats good for GM is good for America. In short impressionistic brushstrokes I have portrayed the major lines of the apoplexy of US capitalism. It is within this context of the implosion of American imperialism that we shall be better positioned to evaluate the strides made by socialist Cuba since the advent of the Special Period. This period, entailed by the demolition of the Soviet Union, was marked by harsh austerity. There were those who believed that a socialist Cuba could not survive. However, it has not only survived, but today enjoys the highest standard of living at any time in its history, despite the most savage embargo that has endured since the start of the revolution.

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astening the crumbling of imperialism is the revolutionary upsurge in Latin America that is headed in an ever more militant socialist direction as time rolls on. Latin America is not an abstraction, but a region that has been reduced by the holocaust of imperial capital to grinding poverty. The following set of figures tells the story. The regions population is 561 million. As recent data from the UNs Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean indicates, it is blighted with one of the worlds highest levels of inequality, with the richest 20% having an income more than 20 times that of the poorest 20%; more than 135 million are without regular and basic health services; more than 150 million are without sanitary services; more than 80 million are without regular water supplies; around 1 million have not been or been incompletely vaccinated; there are over 3 million cases of malaria; and the infant mortality rate stands at 2.1 per thousand. All this and much more in a region designated as the free world by the masters of this imperial holocaust. This litany of human misery serves as the indispensable background to understanding why the Cuban revolution stands out as one of the most dazzling beacons of humanity. Cuba is an integral part of Latin America

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because of its colonial history, language, culture and the extent to which it has been a victim of the most brutal and sustained powers of imperialist pillage; but at this point in history it demarcates itself from the rest of the continent as a result of its triumphant shift from Batistas despotism to socialist construction, the first nation in the Americas to have made this leap into freedom. The texture of Cuban civilization is distinct from that of all other nations. It is not only a socialist society but a unique socialist order. I have closely followed the Cuban revolutionary experience since its exuberant birth on 1 January 1959. Over the decades, I have never been separated from its strivings and its exalted attainments, not least of which is the absence of racialism. The racial mix in Cuba is 51% mulatto, 37% white and 11% black. Under Cubas education system, which is ranked among the best in the world by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there are no private or religious schools or exclusive schools that cater, as in pre-liberation Cuba, for the progeny of the white-skinned elite. Education is free. Meals are provided free, as are school uniforms. All of this is of course more than a symbol of equality; it is proof that Cuba has passed the test of civilization with flying colours. The economy, growing by a robust 10% yearly over the last three years, according to the national accounting metrics of the UN, has now attained the nirvana of full employment, a treasured goal that eludes all in the capitalist galaxy. The Cuban national accounts now include services, which marks a departure from the earlier Soviet model, as Cuba has become a robust exporter of medical, engineering and software services. It is no longer dependent on sugar although that remains an important export alongside nickel. Cubas brisk industrialization is evidenced in the exponential growth of the biotechnology sector and its offshoot, the pharmaceutical industry, a brainchild of the Comandante Fidel Castro which now accounts for $900 million worth of exports. The sheer power of this massive technological complex is omnipresent but it would have been

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inconceivable without the educational revolution in the sciences over successive decades, notably in physics, chemistry and mathematics. Cubas industrial momentum and its overall harmonious and balanced development has been vastly boosted by several joint ventures with Venezuela, China, Iran, Russia, Vietnam, Belarus, India and others, with Cuba having over half of the equity. The pace of industrialization straddles a staggering array of manufactured goods for both national and international markets: refrigerators, air conditioners, automobile and engineering goods, shoes, textiles and other products. The cumulative cost of the US embargo, one of the longest and cruellest in world history, is estimated at around $85 billion. However, the barbarity of this embargo has failed to shake the foundations of this unique socialist country. Indeed, in certain ways, the embargo has acted as a spur to Cubas advance. What it has done is generate a leadership and a massively coherent working class that has become steeled and creative, as a perfunctory visit to the countrys sparkling industrial plants, mines and collective farm projects would suggest. The isolation of Cuba planned by the corporate-politico gulag has not materialized. In the 2006 session of the UN General Assembly there were only four countries that voted against the end of the embargo: the United States and its three satraps, Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau. Nelson Mandela was right on target when he said in his superb tribute to the Comandante when the latter visited South Africa in the aftermath of its liberation: We and all of the peoples of the Free World are honoured to have you here. And by the Free World we refer to the peoples whose blood has been shed profusely to liquidate imperialism. Consider South Africa as your land. We shall not forget the decisive role you played militarily in destroying the South African army. You fought nobly, unstintingly and shed your blood to ensure our freedom. Without you our freedom would not have been consummated.

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To talk of Cubas isolation, as the Bush cabal continually does, is a falsification of the record, like everything else that emanates from the sewers of that administration. What we are seeing is not the isolation of this socialist beacon but the extent to which Bush has become a schizophrenic grovelling in a ghetto of his own creation. Indeed, representatives of 126 nations attended the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Havana in September 2006. (There is also no point in discussing one of the vilest of Bushs crimes, the Agenda for Freedom. It is as stale as yesterdays bread, an echo of what we have heard over the decades dressed up in a fancy set of clothes with a price tag of $80 million.) Havana is now a world cultural metropolis for ballet, music and the arts affordable to rank-and-file Cubans. What country in the so-called developed capitalist world can say the same? Elitism has been dealt a death blow in Cuba. It matters little what the Mafiosi in Miami and others believe or say. They inhabit a different celestial orbit. Like schizophrenics they have lost touch with reality. Their blindness and abysmal ignorance and I have talked at length with many of them are self-imposed. Regarding Cubas isolation, all I will add is that there are only two countries in Latin America that do not have diplomatic relations with Cuba: the banana republics of Costa Rica and El Salvador. The presence of Cuba is almost universal. Thousands of Americans (who come via Jamaica and Mexico) and Canadians are flowing into Cubas extraordinary health clinics and centres for first-class medical treatment, in much the same manner as the rich Arabs once flooded into Geneva, Switzerland. The key difference between the two is a matter of price. Dozens of Americans on scholarships are studying at Cubas institutions of higher learning, many of them in the medical colleges. Dozens of the rich and the super-rich have sent and are sending their children to be educated in Cuba. This is not merely a matter of getting a first-class education, although that is a vital component. No less important a factor is the total absence of a criminal and drug culture, in contrast to the majority of South American cities, which have become drug-infested, violent, unlivable and polluted urban slums. The quality of life in Cuba

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stems from the very texture of what we may designate as Cuban civilization, with a socialist ethos that lifts its health, educational and cultural facilities to the worlds highest pinnacles. Few would disagree with the claims of a Japanese ambassador that his children are getting the best education in the world in Cuba. As one Cuban Ministry of Education official said: The Latin American bourgeoisie are banging on our doors and are coming in droves to get their children enrolled in our schools, and although we charge them for our services, we cant entirely accommodate the influx. Cubas achievements indeed, the word achievement is wholly inadequate are one of the great triumphs of the revolution. It emerged from being the worlds biggest bordello and Mafiosi gambling paradise, whose criminality moved hand in hand with mass poverty, to effect the profoundest of social transitions. For example, there are few Cubans today who are aware that Varadero Beach, with its wondrous white sands that are marvelled at by tens of thousands of holiday makers, was once upon a time the private retreat of the Du Pont de Nemours dynasty, masters of the worlds biggest chemical corporation. This huge splendid area was reserved for the exclusive use of the family and their friends. It had been grabbed for a pittance by the dynasty in the aftermath of the American occupation in 1898. Among Cubas numerous other achievements, many recall the 120 Cuban medical volunteers who went to the earthquake-stricken areas of Pakistan in the depths of the Himalayan winter. I refer also to the 20,000 medical volunteers who serve the impoverished barrios in Caracas and in the hinterland of the Orinoco Delta, and with many of whom I had illuminating discussions. I also saw the impact in the barrios of Cubas software educational revolution Yo si puedo that has contributed to illiteracy-eradication efforts in Venezuela and Bolivia and elsewhere. The world knows about the tragedy of Chernobyl and the terrible radiationinduced deaths that followed, but what is far less known is that despite the austerity imposed by the Special Period, Cuba continued to treat over the years thousands of children exposed to radiation with free medical care and medication innovated by Cuban scientists.

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Cuban doctors doing volunteer service in other countries.

What has the cabal that rules Washington, or for that matter any European country that boasts of its cultural attributes and its civilizing mission, done to match these humanitarian achievements? We all know the answer. The recent wanton annihilation of Lebanon, executed with its Zionist henchman at an estimated cost of $14 billion, gives us a partial picture of the politics of US exterminism, as do the 655,000 dead in Iraq. By the same token, the meaningless nostrums of human rights and the rule of law peddled by Washington can be dumped into the trashcan of history. Indeed, the very march of US history, with its vicious colonial past, repudiates the idea of human rights and the rule of law. Like many millions, I was saddened by the affliction of Fidel Castro in July 2006. I leave it to the likes of the vermin in Miami and others of their species to, on hearing the news of his ill health, chant the fascist slogan that

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surfaced in Francos ranks in 1936: Viva la muerte. Although the Comandantes recovery is now well underway, we ought not to forget that we are all biological creatures with a beginning and an end, and are but tenants on this earth. Nevertheless, the scale and scope of the Cuban revolution is incomparably larger than any individual. Inherent in the revolution is its sparkling capacity for renewal, innovation and, above all, continuity of purpose. What the US caste oligarchy fully understands, despite its persistent uproar for demolishing the socialist order, is that Cuba is now militarily secure. A military assault against Cuba, irrespective of whether it is by land, sea or air, will encounter a crushing response that will not be confined to the nations shores, and thus not a replay of the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion. Ignorant and callous though he is, Bush should not ignore the declaration of Chavez at the Non-Aligned Movement: An attack against Cuba is an attack against Venezuela. It will lead to a flow of blood including Venezuelan blood because Cuba and Venezuela are blended in the struggle against imperialism. It will be a horrendous war if the masters of the empire are so stupid as to unleash it. And I need hardly stress that it will be a war that overspills the confines of Cuba. This is the acme of clear revolutionary thinking and the boldest articulation of internationalism.

here are those simpletons who nourish the delusion that Cuba will succumb to the fate of the Soviet Union, which was demolished in 1991. However, it is worth noting that the Soviet Union did not die in a moment of unexpected apoplexy. It succumbed to a degenerative bureaucratic disease that had begun many years earlier. A disease incubated by a leadership that lost contact with the masses and was subsequently exploited by imperialism to carve up the Union. A perfunctory visit to Cuba will amply confirm that this self-destructive Soviet ailment is singularly absent in this nation that has never abandoned its socialist principles.

There are also those prophets of neoliberalism that are mouthing the miracles of the market place and calling for the adoption of the Chinese

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model in Cuba. Or in Deng Xiaopings formula: To be rich is glorious. There is nothing new or attractive in this formula. It is a putrid morsel of bourgeois demagogy. It has its roots in 19th-century classical economic liberalism. What is Dengs formula other than a resounding and unvarnished exhortation for the restoration of the bourgeoisie and of capitalism? What we are witnessing in China today is the war of opposed classes, between the owners of the means of production and those whose surplus labour has been expropriated. China has become a country with highly unequal income distribution, comparable, as measured by the Gini index, to the United States. Such is the reality of the prevailing Chinese class struggle. Let us look at two small southern territories that are part of China. I will cite their experience to indicate the reasons why Cubas ethically inspired leadership totally repudiates the repellent class nature of the Chinese neoliberal model. (Such a policy choice is, however, by no means incompatible with the strongest economic ties and cooperation at the Party and other levels.) Macao and Hong Kong are owned and dominated politically by at most a dozen mega-capitalist families that are entrenched through marriages, extended family connections and financial dealings. They are the pristine embodiment of neoliberalism. Let us zoom in for a moment on Macao. Once upon a time a murky, small-scale gambling den, it has now escalated into the worlds biggest gambling market, outstripping the profits of the legendary swindlers paradise that is the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. Central to our thinking is that capital and capitalism are never an abstraction but are epitomized in the powers of individual capitalists. Such is the case with Stanley Ho, billed as the worlds biggest casino tycoon, who owns at least half of Macao. He generously doles out some of his pickings to his cronies in the ruling political party and other officials in recognition of their protection and services. Through Shun Tak Holdings, his Hong Kong-listed company, he controls stakes in 16 casinos, Macaos dominant ferry company and helicopter service, its duty-free monopoly, the territorys airport, its flag-carrier, its only short-range budget airline

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and many hotels. And, obviously, that is only a small part of his sprawling big-money empire. Is this, then, the Chinese model that the propagandists of neoliberalism intend to foist on Cuba? What these advocates are forgetting is that the Cuba of old was the drug, prostitution and gambling paradise of the Americas, ruled by the Mafia and policed by the Batista regime and the masters of the American occupation. It was indeed a model of disease, vice and capitalist decadence that has been liquidated. There is of course no such thing as an irreversible historical process; the Soviet Unions trajectory is confirmatory of retrogression. But I do not believe and this is more than just an act of faith on my part that revolutionary Cuba will swing into that orbit with or without the leadership of the Comandante. What is important is not so much his physical presence as his enduring legacy that reveals the profound democratic fusion of the leadership and the working masses. To understand the nature and thrust of the Cuban revolutionary movement, it is necessary to say a few brief words about the dynamics of his teaching. As a Marxist, to whom theory and practice are indissolubly linked, he had read about and long reflected on the class nature of the state so trenchantly formulated by Lenin in The State and Revolution on the eve of the October Revolution. The Comandantes grasp of the dynamics of revolution its causes and reverberations stems not only from his profound reading of the Marxist classics The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and The Civil War in France but also from his own revolutionary practices that began with the unsuccessful attack on the Moncada Barracks in July 1953. His study of the state as an organ of repression moved in tandem with his intense study of the evolution of the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain that raged from 1868 to 1898 and the history of the subsequent colonial American occupation from 1898 to its end in 1959. As a rigorous intellectual, he plunged, in his prison years following Moncada and after, into a profound reflection of the role of the national quislings and the compradors that enriched his understanding of their imbrications with their imperial paymasters.

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Like many revolutionary thinkers, above all those of Marxist persuasion, he taught that every revolutionary situation must be studied separately and a synthesis made of its strengths and weaknesses, its causes and effects. But this is only the starting point of the enquiry. From the very onset, he stressed that a specific revolutionary act must be inter-related with other revolutionary and counter-revolutionary situations. The individual revolutionary act must be evaluated within the general context of other revolutionary acts from which certain policy inferences could be drawn. He has consistently differentiated between illusion and reality. In this respect he is at one with Engels, who said that one should not nourish the illusion that changing the name of things is the same as changing the things themselves. These are the prime fetishes of bourgeois rule. The capitalist state engine at all times and in all countries exists for the oppression of one class by another, that is, the suppression of the overwhelming majority by a tiny minority of parasites and exploiters, the masters of capital. This is the defining point of the Comandantes thinking that has guided the prodigious transformation of US-occupied colonial Cuba into a socialist country. Its corollary was the end of wage slavery. What many observers of Cubas leadership ignored was that the Comandante had repudiated a mechanical recitation of the state apparatus simply as an organ of class oppression. The teachings of the Comandante highlighted another dimension of state power: the imperatives of revolutionary morality in which lies and duplicity are not simply discarded but are alien to revolutionary morality. This was stated with masterly clarity in a lengthy exposition on the role of the state and morality in his 1st of May address in 2000, an excerpt from which is presented: A revolution and the revolutionary process require a grasp of the essential historic moment; it is the changing of everything that has to be changed; it is freedom and equality raised to the highest level; it means treating all persons as human beings; it means liberating ourselves by our own efforts and by our own resources; it means challenging the dominant forces within a given national and

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international framework; it means battling for revolutionary values regardless of the sacrifices that it entails; it enshrines modesty, selfsacrifice, altruism, solidarity and heroism; it means pursuit of the struggle with ideological clarity, audacity, intelligence and realism; it means avoidance of lies and thorough adherence to the highest ethical principles; it embodies the profound faith that there exists nothing in the world capable of crushing the force of truth and ideas. Revolution is unity, it is independence, it is the battle that must be fought sans cesse for the concretization of our dreams and hopes of justice for Cuba and the world. Hence revolution and all its corollaries are the fundamentals of our patriotism, our internationalism that is the guarantor of the victory of socialism.

he Cuban revolution was born as a reaction against the exploitation perpetrated by the US occupation and its domesticated political quislings that had reigned through the instrumentalities of state terrorism since 1898. A revolutionary war was fought to put an end to the rapacious occupation and usher in social justice and dignity.3 Listen well to the Comandantes words framed just prior to the US invasion of the Bay of Pigs. Pinpointing the record of rapine, he reminded the Cuban revolutionary masses of the lessons that must be drawn from the imperial occupation. It was more than a testimonial of the historical record; it was a graphic indicator of the future line of advance of a socialist society: Some have insisted that the only way out for Cuba was to guarantee private investments. That, we are told, would solve the whole problem. But foreign capitalists had these guarantees in Cuba for fifty years, and similar guarantees in practically every other country of the American continent. Did these guarantees solve the pressing problems confronting
To elucidate the main premises of the economic struggle for liberation, I shall refer readers to the first edition of my book The Rise and Fall of Economic Liberalism (Bombay, 1960), published in India during my sojourn at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
3

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the peoples? Did they solve the problem of unemployment, education, public health? Indeed, what did they solve in all these fifty years? Look at the picture: 661,000 unemployed in Cuba, one-third of the labour force, widespread underemployment, prostitution, hunger and chronic malnutrition; and what was true of Cuba was true of every underdeveloped Latin American country. In short, as he stressed, Cubas democratic reconstruction was irreconcilable with the empire-building corporations and their normal political, diplomatic, ideological and military paraphernalia. In this perspective, capitalism had ceased to coexist with the rule of law, human rights and democracy. It had ceased to ensure, in the immortal words of Marx, that the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. In his critique of the international division of labour imposed by the occupation, the Comandante has noted: If we plant rice, it turns out that we thereby infringe foreign interests. If we produce fats, it turns out we act contrary to foreign interests; if we grow cotton we neglect foreign interests; if we carry out a land reform, we disregard foreign interests; if we pass a law on petroleum it affects adversely foreign interests. If we draw up a law on the mining industry, it again turns out that we neglect foreign interests. If we want to find new international markets for our country, we act contrary to foreign interests. If we want to sell at least as much as we buy, again we infringe foreign interests. It is this that explains why we have adopted revolutionary laws which infringe the interests of our national capitalists and foreign companies. Hence the adoption of these revolutionary laws was predicated on swift frontal assaults against the behemoths of domestic and foreign politico-economic power. The price for such an emancipatory set of policies was that it was targeted, as Arbenzs Guatemala before it in 1954, for extermination. But the course of history, and above all the Promethean power of Fidel Castros leadership and the creativity of the revolution,

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decided otherwise. What direction the revolution should take was among the burning central themes in the discussions of the guerilleros. Che Guevara, a professional physician, played a key role in these debates; recall also that he was present in Guatemala working as a doctor until the very end of the coup that ultimately led to the butchery of more than 300,000 Guatemalans, most of them Indian. He sought asylum in the Argentine embassy in Guatemala in the aftermath of the coup, a decision that would save his life.

efore discussing the impact of science and technology in Cuba, I shall deviate with a brief comment on the mass ignorance of the American and European public about the major mutations now sweeping the Latin American region. Their ignorance is conditioned by the milieu in which they live. The bourgeois press and communications media, like all commodities, has been subject in recent years to wave after wave of concentration. Not merely has the number of readers fallen precipitously but ownership is in the grip of a tiny minority of bankers and industrial moguls whose murderous hatred of socialism requires no advertisement. This is a universal phenomenon of the transnationalization of the bourgeois corporate media. Consequently the corporate media has become more mendacious and vicious towards those it perceives to be its class and ideological enemies. The media of Big Capital has also become, apart from its sheer viciousness, more stupid and irrelevant in its analyses. What it says, nevermind its deliberate falsehoods, is trivial. But its omissions are of even greater importance. Cuba is a test case. Most readers have been bamboozled into believing that Cuba is merely a country that produces cigars and sugar and has a bearded president called Fidel Castro. Such is the stereotype that grabs the media headlines. The profound metamorphosis of Cuba from a deformed and impoverished US neo-colony into a major industrial and scientific power is rarely commented on, save in the most perfunctory of ways. Fidel Castro,

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a leader of immense imaginative and intellectual power, clearly recognized that the harnessing of science and technology was an imperative for the revolutions survival. In 1963, the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas was established. It became the embryo of the institutions that were subsequently created. Science was enmeshed in the revolutionary process. In one crucial strategic utterance he pithily underscored the relationship between science and the revolution: The preservation of the independence of this country depends fundamentally on science and technology. In the ensuing years Cuban science was helped by the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic, strikingly so in the case of physics and mathematics and indeed in all of the applied sciences and engineering. Thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians were educated there. These constituted the nucleus for the gigantic strides that followed. All of the following institutes have now attained the highest of world standards: Instituto Sanidad Agropecuario, Instituto Qumica Farmacutica, Centro de Ingeniera Gentica y Biotecnologa, Instituto de Vacunas Finlay, Instituto de Inmunologia Molecular and Institute of Information Technology. And this is a list that is by no means exhaustive. The capital outlays necessitated tens of millions of dollars whose startup costs were subsequently paid for by exports of their products. They are not creations of foreign multinationals but the property of a sovereign socialist nation. As a distinguished Indian biochemist reminded me, the achievement is all the more remarkable because it involved harnessing the savings of the people. Above all, it was accomplished within a country that did not have a scientific heritage save for isolated examples like Carlos Findlay, the discoverer of yellow fever. Likewise, like most visitors, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, ex-prime minister of Malaysia and a physician himself, was speechless in his admiration when he visited the research centres and plants. True to form, though, in its economic war against Cuba, the US has banned the pharmaceutical and biotechnological exports from its markets. The same applies to the exports of the burgeoning engineering industries.

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La Escuela de la Medecina de las Americas (the Medical School of the Americas) is one of the most glittering diadems in Cubas crown. It is one of the greatest medical institutions of all time. The majority who are privileged to study there come from peasant and working-class families and from every corner of Latin America and, more recently, Asia, Africa and Europe. Located on the outskirts of Havana, its vast, exquisite campus has graduated tens of thousands of medical doctors. A sizeable segment of them are non-Cubans and that includes Chinese, Russians and Japanese. Bear in mind, as Hugo Chavez has always reminded critics of his fraternal Cuban connection, that the cost of getting a medical degree in the United States is around half-a-million dollars. This is medicine for the rich. Space constraints prevent me from entering into a lengthy discussion on one of the most important industries to have grown in recent years. The emergence of the petroleum industry is seen in the dozens of rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. Cuba is not yet selfsufficient in oil production but it will be in a relatively short span. It has the potential of becoming a major world exporter inasmuch as, according to the US Geological Institute, its gas and oil resources are among the largest in the Americas. This huge drive to boost the nations energy resources is being executed by the Cuban National Petroleum Institute in joint ventures with foreign corporations (that exclude the United States). In my opinion the caste oligarchy in the United States is unlikely in the near future to abandon its genocidal dogma of liquidating Cuba. What we are seeing, however, are fissures within the ruling class, among whom some have come to the realization that attempts to eliminate the socialist democracy have failed abysmally because they ignore the roots and ramifications of its humanized socialist order not only in Cuba but in all of Latin America. We have been afforded glimpses of this realization in the debates of the Council on Foreign Relations, which has for decades been the mouthpiece of the US ruling class. Views on the bankruptcy of US policy towards Cuba were recently spelt out in its house journal Foreign Affairs. The thesis is stated unequivocally and wisely, but it is only the

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march of time that will tell us if and when the message from a ruling-class organ will be heeded: Washington must finally wake up to the reality of how and why the Castro regime has proved so durable and recognize that, as a result of its willful ignorance, it has few tools with which to effectively influence Cuba after Fidel is gone. With US credibility in Latin America and the rest of the world at an all-time low, it is time to put to rest a policy that Fidels handover of power has already so clearly exposed as a complete failure.4

Julia Sweig, Fidels final victory, Foreign Affairs, January-February 2007.

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shall now proceed to discuss the central thrusts of Venezuelas Bolivarian economic and social revolution. This is necessary to elucidate the origins and subsequent trajectory of the accelerated revolutionary movement, which was consolidated by Hugo Chavezs crushing victory in the presidential election of 3 December 2006. During my first visit to the city several years ago, Caracas reminded me of the Vietnamese village in the valley of Dien Bien Phu that was also surrounded by hills. A village which, I might add, marked the debacle of

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Caracas

French colonialism. Caracas is located in a basin where the rich live in the valley and the others blacks, mestizos, poor whites in the poverty-stricken barrios in the surrounding hills. The social geography is descriptive of the ethnic and class nature of Dien Bien Phu Caracas and indeed of the nation itself, as is the case with most Latin American countries. It was precisely the highly politically conscious masses from the barrios who had descended on the avenues of Caracas and the Miraflores presidential palace to smash the US-sponsored coup in 2002 and restore Chavez to power. The convergence of almost half-a-million impoverished proletarians into the valley signalized a turning point in Venezuelas Bolivarian revolution. It served to shred in Chavez the last remaining morsels of utopianism that capitalism and its political appendages were open to reason and could be

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reformed. Not only did the putsch and its foreign backers fail, but this most tempestuous of class struggles contributed to the implosion of the old political order. Caracas is a huge, polluted metropolis of over 2 million inhabitants that bears little resemblance to the elegance and gentility of the port city of Havana. The contrast between the two cities is accentuated by the far smaller number of cars in Havana and hence a far less menacing degree of pollution. Capitalist Caracas is a crime-ridden, brutal and pitiless city that mirrors the nature of capitalist society. However, signs of betterment are already evident and the sweeping democratized changes underway will no doubt further humanize the great metropolis. I could liken Venezuela to a triangle. At the apex is a super-rich class of whites with a sprinkling of token mulattoes, who still grab a sizeable chunk of the nations wealth. A poverty-stricken peasantry and the working class constitute the remainder. Chavez and his political allies stand at daggers point against the plutocracy, whose parasitical grip is set to be loosened in the next six years under Chavezs new presidential term. The plutocracy are no longer represented in the National Assembly because, acting on

Hugo Chavez under a portrait of Simn Bolvar.

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the orders of the American embassy, they had refused to participate in the elections. The battle that was waged in the United Nations in 2006 over Venezuelas attempt to secure a seat on the Security Council provided an insight into the constant threat faced by the Bolivarian revolution. It was not so much Guatemala that Venezuela was pitted against in the contest for the seat, for Guatemala was nothing more than a stooge government picked by the United States to prevent the acceptance of alternative views on the Security Council that would threaten its global hegemony. Venezuelas determination to battle on indicated that much more than just a seat on the Council was at stake. It would have used its position to brandish alternative views and put forward policies unacceptable to the empire. In this regard, the battle for the seat was inseparable from Chavezs celebrated devil and sulphur speech delivered at the 61st session of the UN General Assembly. What that speech, unprecedented in the annals of the United Nations, achieved was to highlight not merely the opposition to the United States but the depth of the North-South divide. That division is not the work of Chavez but a creation of imperialism. As writer Gregory Wilpert has pointed out, Chavez is immensely popular throughout the Third World, not to speak of his elevated status within the Latin American region itself. If one were to add up the populations of the countries supporting Venezuela, such as Russia, China, India and most of the larger countries of Latin America, it is obvious that Venezuela enjoys the backing of the representatives of over two-thirds of the worlds population. Quite understandably, the white mans world of the European Union is unanimously hostile to Chavez. So what we are seeing is not only a geographical North-South divide but a racial divide as well. The locus of the enemy of Chavez (and Castro) is thus not only in the US caste oligarchy but the entire European bourgeoisie, with the Spanish bourgeoisie leading the band. To be sure, the same holds for the South American bourgeoisie, which has always been at the beck and call of the gringo master; the likes of

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the crooked former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, are the supreme incarnation of this pliant bourgeoisie. The years from 1998, when Chavez first assumed the presidency, to April 2002, when the coup was staged, were not wasted years. They were part of Chavezs political apprenticeship in which he developed a formidable and fraternal relationship with Cuba which was and still is indispensable for his goals and personal survival. I do not believe it an exaggeration to contend that the world has never experienced such an extraordinary fraternal relationship as that between Chavez and Castro. They are separated in age by 28 years and spring from diverse social and ethnic backgrounds, but what stuns all observers is the power of their personal chemistry. The warmth and personal affection that binds them has conspired to produce a magical relationship. I am tempted to liken the relationship to that between Marx and Engels, but the parallelism is wobbly inasmuch as, although both the latter were the mightiest of revolutionary thinkers, they were not anchored in an ongoing and successful revolutionary political movement that has captured state power. (Their political activism, however, was inseparable from their theoretical achievements that revolutionized our understanding of the laws of contemporary capitalism.) Bourgeois power has certainly been dented in certain domains in the eight years of Chavezs presidency but cannot be discounted as yet. It is true that the two major domestic stooge political formations (the Democratic Action (AD) party and the Christian Democratic party COPEI) of the empire have tumbled, but their influence in society and even within the prevailing niches of state power still exists although it is destined to shrivel rapidly. The economic power of the bourgeoisie exemplified in the capitalist control of the media is still intact but of late deep fissures have been revealed. Although the essence of the Bolivarian revolution is socialism, many battles must be waged before the grand obituary can finally be written on the Venezuelan bourgeoisie. What matters is that, as a social class, its power is now being systematically undermined.

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he non-renewal of the broadcasting licence of the RCTV television station announced in January 2007, and the planned creation of a public television network to replace RCTV when the licence expires in May 2007, are suggestive of a revolutionary thrust against one of the mightiest outposts of the oligarchy and the American empire. RCTV is Venezuelas second largest media conglomerate, owned by multimillionaire Marcel Granier and US media investors that include Rupert Murdochs Fox Television Network. Like Mr. Murdoch, Granier also has an American passport. The likes of RCTV, Globovision and Venevision plunge their tentacles into a range of major sectors of the national economy beyond the media, from plantations to financial services. Granier is the most vicious and hate-filled adversary of every form of democratic practice. Of course, saying that is not to pay homage to the other television and radio networks that were involved in the April 2002 coup. Granier and his criminal cronies were totally blind to the repercussions of their actions as the most blatant of propagandists clamouring for the governments overthrow. A self-declared profoundly religious devotee, Granier was succoured by Opus Dei. His personal tragedy, one that he amply shares with others of his diseased social class, was that he was born with the delusion that his white caste oligarchy was destined to rule eternally. He was more than a propagandist of the oligarchy; he was a brazen advocate of violence. His television and radio stations were switched into command centres of the 2002 coup in which agents of the CIA were present. He brazenly lied again and again when his broadcasts thundered that the Chavistas were killing the opposition. He flung open his lie machine to the military coup plotters advocating sedition and open rebellion against the administration. It was a union of common class interests. He also propagated the big lie, this time using, amongst others, the Catholic bishops as his peddlers, that Chavez had resigned. It would have been like squeezing blood out of a stone to have asked RCTV and its felonious masterminds to acknowledge that the moral and political consciousness of the proletarian barrios had soared to new heights

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in this life-and-death struggle for the survival of democracy. The mobilization that led to the crumbling of the coup plot exploded in the rural areas, in the schools, the factories and the ports. This extraordinary concatenation of events was subsequently poignantly spelled out in the documentary The Revolution will not be Televised. Granier and his media breed also criminally supported the December 2002 oil strike that cost around $14 billion and was engineered to bring the economy to its knees. During the time of the 2004 recall referendum in which voters were asked whether Chavez should serve out the remainder of his term, Granier refused advertisements from the pro-Chavez groups. Granier and his ilk could not grasp the fact that the airwaves were not his personal property but the sovereign property of the people of Venezuela. A broadcasting concession by definition is never a thing of fixity and permanence. Granier thought himself above the law, like all Venezuelan capitalists and their multinational fellow travellers. They were even proud of declaring that they did not pay taxes. One of Graniers spokesmen noted that taxes are for suckers and the idiot class. Granier had flouted the tax laws and also repeatedly failed to pay fines imposed by the Telecommunications Commission. Furthermore, he had sedulously ignored the constitutional injunction to eschew violence and racism and to adhere to the pursuit of true and accurate information. He deployed the airwaves in an attempt not only to oust an elected democratic administration an extremely rare event in the nations history but also to advocate the killing of the president and his associates. The timing of Chavez in the non-renewal of RCTVs concession was one of his many great masterstrokes. The message was blunt and irrevocable: There will be no new concessions for the coup-plotting channel known as RCTV. Senor Granier and his gang fully understand that the measures for nonrenewal of the concession have already been prepared. They are irrevocable. Let them shut the shop down, close the windows and pack their suitcases and start looking for what they are going to do. Dont forget to turn the lights off. And shut the door. No media will be tolerated in our democracy

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that operates as coup plotters against the nation, against the people, against the dignity of the Republic. Venezuela is to be respected. As was to be expected, the yellow press lords and their North American mentors hollered in a single voice that this was emblematic of an authoritarian administration and was a grotesque violation of freedom of expression. What a surprising claim emanating from a capitalist Moloch where the private oligopolistic media still prevails. Freedom of expression, which the Bolivarian revolution has unstintingly promoted, was always conceived by the owners of the private media in all climes and times as a commodity to be bought and sold in the market place. Ownership of this commodity would confer on the media capitalist the untrammelled right to pursue the economic goal of private profit and the political goal of supporting those interests that perpetuate the ever-growing propertied constellation of things. In so doing the private media wages a merciless and unrelenting war against those of which Chavez is a prime example who seek an alternative, democratic order. Likewise the Organization of American States (OAS) joined the chorus that the non-renewal of RCTVs licence was an affront to human freedom. I must interject a personal comment here. Such fatuous utterances are not surprising coming from that US colonial outpost. I had known of the subversive workings of the OAS in the abstract, from books and newspapers. It was however only during my leave of absence to the OAS in Washington DC, as a member of the UNCTAD secretariat, that I came to have a deep understanding of the machinations of that organization, what Fidel Castro scathingly labelled the ministry of the colonies. It was in Washington that I learnt to what extent its officials of all ranks, including clerical personnel, were selected and vetted by the US State Department. It was the trough from which the CIA enlisted many of its most odious Latin American agents, many of whom were later planted in the UN secretariat or migrated to their own diplomatic missions. Invariably, those deviants who slipped the net of ideological cleansing were caught, blacklisted and booted out. The OAS was one of the nurseries

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of US state terrorism. What struck me most was the boast of many of the OAS senior officials of the sordid role that it had played in Nicaragua, Chile, Cuba and elsewhere. The organizations recent onslaughts against Venezuela were therefore true to form. It made no bones about performing its assigned role in keeping America free from communism. Regarding the foolish comment of the OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza that the non-renewal of RCTVs licence was a violation of human rights, it was obvious that the OAS, like the Bourbons of the Ancien Regime, had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. It is an organ of empire located next to the White House and cut from the same cloth as the World Bank and the IMF. Indeed, it was set up at around the same time as these two imperial subsidiaries and for much the same reasons.

enezuela remains a highly polarized class and racial society, a putrid historical configuration that the likes of Granier wish to perpetuate in contrast to the active striving of the Chavistas toiling at a breakneck tempo to demolish these inherited structures. The pattern of income-distribution reforms and the changing class relationships introduced since Chavez assumed the presidency have modified but not appreciably altered the prevailing class configuration. For example, the state of Zulia, which accounts for 40% of the countrys oil and gas resources, is still under the control of a Creole right-wing administration that threatens secession from the republic with the active support of the US government and Spain. The ignorant accusation flung in the face of Chavez and his companeros by his class enemies, that he has split the country by promoting class war, is an all-too-familiar clich. As those who have read and derived great inspiration from Eduardo Galeanos classic Open Veins of Latin America will know, antagonistic social classes existed well before Chavez was catapulted onto the political podium. They were the creations of the Spanish Conquistadores. There are social divisions in every aspect of life. This is the inheritance of the colonial and post-colonial capitalist order in all its

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ugliness and savage brutality. What Chavez intends to do and this in their eyes is his most unforgivable sin is end the legacy of capitalism and imperialism. On this score there is no ambiguity. A visit to the Caracas Country Club, with its enormous golf course which still caters for the panic-stricken rich and members of the US embassy, tells its own melancholic story as a symbol of class rule and racialism. It was the cockpit of the golpistas, the people behind the 2002 coup. It was here that they met and exchanged ideas in that congenial atmosphere of class solidarity and anti-communism. A mass movement led by the Mayor of Caracas has demanded the expropriation of the land of the golf course for large-scale housing projects. The drive to take over and build houses for the people on the expropriated land is not a trivial affair. It is highly symbolic not only of the intensity of the class struggle, but also of the far-wider mutations that are coursing through the nation. The golf course is a visible emblem of imperial rule. The power of the multinationals is being swiftly clipped but their influence still prevails albeit in diminished form. When the Financial Times speaks of the luscious profits of the private banking sector, it is not exaggerating. I have confirmed this personally in many of my discussions with leaders in the financial sector. However, the overwhelming impression one gets when one talks with the representatives of the bourgeoisie and their most vitriolic militants is their fear of the future. The New York Times, which had applauded the putschists, is a natural class enemy of Chavez but its August 2006 report on consumption patterns gives us an apercu into the morphology of class relations: New Porsches and Range Rovers crowd the streets here. Rents for a three-bedroom apartment in leafy districts like Altamira and Los Palos Grandes have doubled since January [2006] to $6,000 a month. But what most vividly illustrates Venezuelas latest oil boom may be its Scotch whiskey sales, which are soaring. Diageo, the British company that markets Johnnie Walker and Old Parr, said the volume of its Scotch sold in Venezuela climbed 60% in 2005 And while the wellheeled may be alarmed by his rhetoric, Mr. Chavez has largely allowed

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these Venezuelans to profit in this latest boom as long as they do not become his saboteurs. Witness the Caracas stock exchange, up 70% this year. A newly rich class has even emerged, called boliburguesia, a riff on the words Bolivarian and bourgeoisie.5 It would be foolish to believe that Chavez and the leadership are oblivious to these transpirings. These are the artifacts of the rich intoxicated by the extremes of neoliberal consumerism. Chavez knows these saboteurs, real and potential. As he says: We cannot keep providing the dollars, which belong to the nation, for an importing oligarchy that brings in the best of everything, including the best whiskey. Cubas external trade sector, it is worth noting, is nationalized. The deep changes now racing through Venezuela indicate that the bourgeoisie can expect no quarter in the months and years ahead. And, to be sure, 2007 will be a decisive year for changes that were inconceivable even two years ago. Already such change has begun in the wake of Chavezs resounding electoral victory in December 2006. Taxes on luxury consumption goods will be raised considerably and immediately, and revenues allocated to the communal councils. For eight years gasoline prices had stayed the same, subsidized annually to the tune of almost $1 billion. That too has changed, for the main beneficiaries of this massive subsidy were the rich and the middle class, not the working people who relied on bicycles and public transport.

I
5

was a short distance from Chavez in the sport stadium where he pronounced his illustrious policy-making statement (repeated in his devil and sulphur speech at the UN) at the World Social Forum in January 2006. It followed immediately in the aftermath of the declaration of the now-defunct US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld that one should not forget that Hitler too, like Chavez, had grabbed power by legitimate political means. In short, Chavez equals Hitler. Implicit in this statement was that he is an evil force that should be squashed. The
Simon Romero, Venezuelas cup runs over, and the Scotch whiskey flows, New York Times, 20 August 2006.

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fundamentalist Christian crusader Rev. Pat Robertson spelt it out in cruder terms: kill him because it is the cheapest way to do the job. This is the familiar mode of demonization that has been used against all anti-colonial liberation militants and is today one of the genocidal components of the Bush doctrine. In the giant sport stadium more than 40,000 people of all ages and races had gathered to listen to a message of hope and social change. Indeed, rhetorical waffling is alien to Chavezs political style. He has the enormous capacity, as a matchless orator and revolutionary, to be always on target. What staggered his audience and I was certainly no exception were his short, simple, straightforward sentences that matched the persuasive power and pugnacity of Fidel Castro at the summit of his oratorical brilliance, his aptitude for detailed analysis, and his ability to reel off facts and figures. He then concluded the grand finale as it were with a scathing response to Rumsfeld that could not have been encapsulated with greater brevity: We shall shed you. This is the requiem that will be sung on the tombstone of US imperialism. This was no fatuous rhetorical outburst. It was a manifesto that the existence of the empire was incompatible with the existence of Venezuela. The US power oligarchy, in this perspective, has irrevocably repudiated democracy and the rule of law. His thesis is that the United States used the fig leaf of democracy to perpetuate the hegemonic interests of its white ruling class. It was the verdict of a revolutionary that made no bones about his choice of socialism as the alternative to barbarism, quoting Rosa Luxemburg. A giant roar reverberated throughout the stadium and he received a standing ovation. As with the Comandante, the alliances of Chavez, wedded to his extraordinary entrepreneurial ability, are sculpturing the topography of that vast and richest of lands. Barring El Comandante, Chavez is the most widely travelled statesman of Latin America. This is not hyperbole. He has cast his prodigious net far and wide. Indubitably, he will go down as one of the greatest leaders of our century. Indeed, he has already left his imperishable mark.

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In what follows, I shall delineate succinctly Chavezs impact on those economic and social sectors in which his imprimatur is visible even to the blind. All Venezuelans are aware that free healthcare, thanks in large measure to approximately 25,000 Cuban health personnel, is available to all or almost all; all are also aware that thanks to Cubas software teaching techniques (Yo si puedo) almost all Venezuelans are now able to read and write. The indigenous languages are being taught in schools and used in the National Assembly. In a relatively short time span Venezuela will have achieved the nirvana of comprehensive literacy. The freedom struggle against foreign vested interests and the domestic oligarchy waged by Chavez is inseparable from his domestic battles against race and gender inequality. The Bolivarian ranks have been swelled by women who are among the most voluble and militant segments in his grandiose transformational project. The Bolivarian vision of socialism of the 21st century harmoniously meshes the richness of Chavezs personality and his indomitable will with the nations prodigious natural endowments. No other country in the world embarking on a revolutionary process with such a Promethean thrust has been so blessed with natural resources as Venezuela. These resources are being brought within the orbit of democratic socialization and national ownership. This is one of the prime reasons why then-US Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte (now Deputy Secretary of State) created a new CIA mission on 18 August 2006 to galvanize espionage and sabotage in Venezuela and Cuba. Negroponte stated to the US House of Representatives in January 2007 that Cuba maintained its position as the top intelligence priority of the US government in the region. As for Venezuela, it was probably the second country in the hemisphere where we have concentrated the majority of our intelligence and analysis efforts. The price tag for this job runs into hundreds of millions of dollars. If this is not destabilization and an unconditional demand for regime change, then what is it? The establishment of the CIA mission is one more stage in the accelerating political and economic war against these two nations that

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have rejected and successfully battled imperialism. Note well the terms of reference for the mission manager: responsible for integrating collection and analysis on Cuba and Venezuela across the Intelligence Community [a euphemism for the internationalization of world espionage networks, and that includes Mossad and MI6], identifying and filling gaps in intelligence, and ensuring the implementation of strategies, among other duties. There is no double talk. This is a blatant declaration of war against two sovereign nations. The key words are implementation of strategies. However, history is running with full lungs against the empire and we shall soon know whether the criminal plots will continue after the political demise of the Bush cabal.

he growth of its petroleum and energy sector indicates the extent to which Venezuela is breaking the back of neoliberalism. Certainly, the petroleum multinationals are still hanging around but the nation has ceased to be a petro-colony. The extension of public ownership and control of almost the entire production, distribution and marketing chain announced in January 2000 gives an idea of the degree to which the commanding heights of the economy are passing under the control of the Bolivarian revolution. This new thrust of national power extends over an area of 55,000 square kilometres in the Orinoco Delta. Power passes from ExxonMobil, Chevron, Conoco, Statoil and Total. The hydrocarbon reserves of the delta area alone are a staggering 2.5 billion barrels. It means the recuperation of sovereignty on the entire energy front: oil and gas. The oil giants have to submit to the new conditions of being minority shareholders. Chavez again: Those who want to continue to work as minority shareholders are free to do so; to those who choose not to do so well simply say: goodbye, good luck and thank you very much. The big oil corporations do not have a monopoly on technical knowhow and marketing savvy. Even this minority shareholding that they have

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been consigned to accept is not fixed. It seems highly plausible that even before the end of the current presidential term (2013) the socialization process will extend its powers over the entire oil operations. The marketing and distribution gains for the government coming from its extended ownership of equity rights in the sector will hit an estimated $8-10 billion yearly. That is one of the compelling reasons why the imperial gulag is breathlessly toiling to exterminate the still-fragile sprouts of the nations democracy. And on that score there is unanimity between Democrats and Republicans. The burgeoning growth of an energy sector free from the shackles of petro-colonialism has been boosted by rising oil prices. Although the oil sector is not the only one that is powering the nations GDP, whose pace of growth is now beating all-time records in Latin Americas history, it is the keystone of the arch. Today, Venezuelas foreign exchange reserves top $55 billion and that in a nation of only 26 million. Contrast this with the debt-stricken United States, whose reserves, according to the Bank for International Settlements, have steadily shrunk to $35 billion and which is confronted with a dollar drowning in a tempestfilled sea of red ink. The strategy of the Venezuelan government that it is pursuing so successfully in the energy sector is one I had advocated and fought for in UNCTAD as a senior economist in the Commodities Division, with respect to the banana industry and other primary commodity sectors. The ultimate goal was to extend control and ownership of the entire marketing and distribution chain. Nevertheless, given the constraints under which UNCTAD operated and the total subordination of its political handlers in the secretariat to the multinationals that operated through the permanent political missions, I must confess sadly that the seed I had sown did not germinate. Today, however, Venezuelas nationalized state petroleum company PDVSA bears the hallmarks of my strivings in UNCTAD. It is calling the shots (as is already the case with Cuba that created the mould) and has become the mightiest of Third World firms working for the national

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interest and not for a clutch of foreign capitalists and the domestic oligarchy. Witness its capacity for generating capital on a scale that Latin America has never experienced. It launched a $5 billion bond sale that was raised in the spring of 2007 to $7.5 billion. These resources will boost the capacity of PDVSA to finance a $70 billion expansion plan intended to double its production over the next five years and completely renew its infrastructure. PDVSA is also part of a much larger network, working through joint ventures with Russias Gazprom, Cuba, Iran and the Chinese national oil companies. In addition, the nations still-untapped hydroelectric resources, among the largest in the Americas, will be harnessed on a big scale from 2007. This will inevitably be followed by the exploitation of wind, solar and nuclear energy in very quick order. The oil plunder in Venezuela was started in Maracaibo in 1916 by Rockefellers Standard Oil. It was a prime example of financial pillage. Certainly, the governments that were political stooges garnered some crumbs from these riches but that was about all. They were colonized robots that had no inkling of how much oil was actually produced. The political stooges knew nothing of the marketing supply chain. No questions were asked and no answers given. One nationalist Venezuelan economist called it the biggest celebration of the corporate accounting lie machine, which the master swindlers of Enron would no doubt have ecstatically applauded. All that Standard Oil flung at the face of the white Creole political oligarchy was a concocted balance sheet at the end of the year. Venezuela, like the Central American statelets, became an obsequious banana republic, save that the commodity in question was not bananas but oil. It was Big Oils corporate nirvana. From 1916 until the start of the Chavez era, hundreds of billions of dollars were looted by the oligopoly of oil companies known as the Seven Sisters. For John D. Rockefeller Venezuela was the oilmans paradise of paradises. That is now changing. The guideline of economic genocide is best summarized in the sparse words of a petroleum-company executive in 1952 that I quoted in my book on The Rise and Fall of Economic Liberalism: Here in Venezuela you have the right to do what you like with your capital. The right is dearer to

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me than all the political rights in the world.6 This is the pithiest definition of economic liberalism that I have ever seen. It incarnates the genocidal policy of the corporate gulag in its drive for global hegemony and the liquidation of national sovereignty. It is the quintessence of the workings of what Richard Tawney baptized as the acquisitive society. The golpistas behind the April 2002 putsch did not smash the revolution but they did subsequently succeed, in the agonizing and unforgettable 63-day strike which began in December that year, in crippling the oil industry at the criminal cost of $14 billion. It was a terrible strike from which the afflicted nation has only now recovered. The rationale of the masters of empire was inescapable: If our political conditions cannot be met, we shall destroy those national resources that you have dared to appropriate. Reflect on the enormity of these losses for just a moment. The US-backed golpistas, supported by its lickspittle corporate media, were engineered to bleed the nation to death. The subsequent resurgence of the energy sector owes much to the unsparing abnegation of internationalists: Cuban petroleum engineers, Iranians, Indians, Chinese, Canadians, Brazilians, Russians and others. Today, PDVSA, the glittering diadem of the Bolivarian crown, has been radically transmogrified. The defeat of the strike is one of its greatest triumphs in an unfinished saga. We must always seek to learn by negative example. The spoliation of Nigeria presents an instructive lesson in this regard. Where did the hundreds of billions of dollars that successive waves of military governments obtained from the countrys oil royalties end up? There is no secret about this. The money was stolen by at most a dozen highpowered native political crooks working jointly with the big-money banks and the oil multinationals. This theft enriched the banking mob in the white mans capitalist world. The gains for the working people of Nigeria were zero, which explains the ongoing popular armed uprising in the countrys oil delta region demanding an equitable share in oil revenues.
6

Time, 21 September 1952.

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The towering sums of royalties that were shovelled into the worlds leading investment banks were then recycled to bankroll economic expansion in the imperial centres. It was something Marx himself could not have envisaged. It was a cumulative force of exploitation continuously compounded. The dynamic world of Hugo Chavez, however, is not Nigeria. The development in Venezuela of the large-scale iron and steel industry as well as the engineering industry means that almost all of the equipment used in the petroleum industry, such as the giant pipelines, is already being produced nationally in plants owned by the Venezuelan people. Offshore oil rigs will also be produced in joint ventures with Iran. To this might be added the expansion already revving up of the petrochemical industry with the production of fertilizer and other derivatives, transforming Venezuela in a relatively short time span into one of the worlds mightiest producers and exporters. Certainly, the fruits of the Bolivarian revolution redound to the people of the republic, but what the domestic and foreign capitalist press never mention is that Venezuela is also fraternally sharing its technical knowhow and its oil resources with many countries at vastly subsidized prices. Vietnam, a nation which had crushed Japan, France and the United States in its anti-colonial liberation struggles, has now embarked on the largescale exploitation of its offshore oil resources. It produces oil but it imports gasoline. PDVSA has already started construction of one of the biggest refineries in South-East Asia to produce gasoline in Vietnam, which would result in savings of $25 billion yearly. Together with Iran, it has also started work on a giant refinery and petrochemical byproducts plant in Syria. This is a blueprint well beyond the capabilities of the economic agents of imperialism. In Cuba, PDVSA has launched the construction of one of the worlds biggest refineries that will become a petroleum hub to supply all of the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico. The economic tie-ups between Iran and Venezuela are also pointers of the extent to which Venezuela has become a world power. Its mutual ventures with Iran now straddle the

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automobile and tractor industry and a wide swathe of small, medium and large-scale engineering industries, as well as the banking, financial services and insurance sectors. To this will be added Irans massive multi-billiondollar investment in Venezuelas energy and petrochemical industries. It is not fortuitous, therefore, that the United States and the European Union, the unabashed adversaries of the Cuban and Bolivarian revolutions, are totally marginalized from these projects. The frantic drive to establish a world-scale merchant navy and petroleum tanker fleet is an integral part of the grand design for national construction and reconstruction within a 10-15-year span. Currently around 12% of Venezuelas crude is shipped in its tankers. That is only a starter. The tanker fleet operates in tandem with the huge buildup of the national merchant marine. It goes well beyond the elementary textbook notion of import substitution. One of the most far-reaching commercial agreements just signed with China provides for the construction within the next two years of 19 supertankers, each with a deadweight exceeding 100,000 tonnes. To this number will be added another four tankers produced in Iran, each also exceeding 100,000 tonnes. The gargantuan dimensions of the supertankers ordered are dictated by distance and the economies of scale. Venezuela and its technological momentum have ceased to be badgered by problems of cash flow. Almost all of the nations crude will soon be able to be shipped in its own tankers. All of these formidable targets will come onstream within the next three years. It will be the final element in the drive for control of the marketing and distribution of oil, earning supplementary tens of billions of dollars for the national economy. China has become a paramount catalyst (an honour it shares with PDVSA and the Russian energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft) in the oil market of Venezuela, whose oil reserves, including the heavy oil of the Orinoco Delta, are now much bigger than those of Saudi Arabia, according to the estimates of the US Geological Institute. China has been allocated a sizeable area for exploration of the fabulously endowed Orinoco Delta, as well as the Zamano gas fields. Iran is also now exploiting the oil of the

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Orinoco Delta in joint ventures. It is these resources that will allow Venezuela to pay for its ships, tankers and all other imports of capital goods necessary to speed up the already white-hot tempo of its industrial metamorphosis.

n another crucial sector, the telecommunications industry, massive multi-billion-dollar investments in radio and television and the myriad of cooperative radio stations that have exploded in recent years are proof of the energizing dynamic of the counter-attack of the Bolivarian revolution. The entire telecommunications industry is now being socialized, as announced in January 2007. The Compania Anonima Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela (CANTV), the countrys biggest telephone firm, has been nationalized. This marked more than putting an end to a monopoly that had gouged its consumers for years. CANTV was part of the telecommunications empire of the US corporation Verizon, whose tentacles extended throughout Latin America. It owed nothing to coincidence that one of its biggest shareholders is US Vice-President Dick Cheney. The bulk of CANTVs infrastructure had been subsidized by Venezuelan taxpayers. Its profits were 20% higher than those for Verizons operations in the United States. The bourgeois worldview is premised on personal enrichment and aggrandizement, and on the homicidal theory and practice that any alternative structures for the making of a better world must be smashed. All ruling classes at all times have tenaciously occupied the commanding heights to ensure their unchallenged ideological supremacy in the information media. The Globovision media conglomerate, property of the Cisneros dynasty, is still able to exist. But it is only a matter of time before it too crumbles under the combined onslaughts of the Bolivarian revolution and the rapidly developing democratized media. How does one eviscerate the enemy not only on the battlefield but on the airwaves? This was a question socialists had been unable to tackle since the October Revolution. This was something that the Soviet Union failed to achieve although it possessed the material resources to do so.

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They were imprisoned in the cage of national frontiers. Cuba on its own, with exiguous resources, could not effectively battle the enemys media onslaught. In contrast, imperialisms media extensions such as CNN and Murdochs Fox News dominated the airwaves. However, the scope of their power is now waning. The overall objective of the media revolution in Venezuela is to irrevocably pull out the roots of US cultural colonialism. The latters fundamental goal is the perpetuation and enhancement of the cultural values of imperialism, which are so repugnantly manifest in its diseased entertainment industry that is part of the political ballyhoo of the propertied classes. Every corporate microphone and television screen is a pulpit devoted to the preachments and exaltation of the American way of life visualized through the distorting corporate lens of Big Capital. One of the most unique and far-reaching media revolutions in the Third World has been Alo Presidente, the weekly talk show hosted by Chavez. I say unique because I do not know if it has, or ever has had, any counterparts in any other part of the world. Only on rare occasions has Chavez ever postponed his weekly discourse. It has nothing in common with the fireside chats of a bourgeois politician like Franklin D. Roosevelt during his New Deal administration. Alo Presidente is catapulted into the regional airwaves by the Telesur channel (see below). It is a catalyst of social change. It is heard by Chavezs fellow Latin Americans in prime time. From the first syllable he pronounces until his final, robustly delivered sentence, there is no respite for the viewers. It is a political manifesto delivered with the power of a bulldozer charging at full throttle. It advances Simon Bolivars dream of a single and free Latin America, one whose guiding principle is cooperation and not capitalist competition for ever-larger market shares. All the peoples of Latin America Chavez regards as extensions of his own fellow citizens. It is not a morsel of bravado. As one of his regular listeners, I have been staggered by how he reduces language to its simplest and most eloquent forms to give flesh and bone to complex policy decisions and articulate them to millions of peasants and workers.

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He enunciates lucidly, in his stentorian voice, what he is doing, why he is doing it, and the costs and reverberations of his policies. Imperialism could never have conceived an enemy of such overwhelming stature. He is not striving for theatrical effect because the power of his message alone is a force that provides him with momentum. And of course, he is an orator with the markedly resounding power of the Comandante, which says it all. These weekly broadcasts are part of an unending war of ideas. He is expounding directly to the people with no punches pulled and of course to his class adversaries, many of whom have told me they listen to him assiduously, irrespective of their sizzling hatred of his persona. I have been asked if Bush and his cronies ever read these transcripts. I can only smile at the question because even if they do read them, which I doubt, they will be unable to assimilate the essence of what they call the Chavez phenomenon. It is not only a blueprint of national and international reconstruction but also a stirring message of Latin American integration and humanism. Like the Comandante, Chavez possesses a rare ability as a statesman to visualize a given situation and to extrapolate its political impact over time. Such ability has given rise to Telesur, which, in my view, is one of the most grandiose and creative projects ever germinated by the Bolivarian revolution, and indeed by any country. Telesur, a pan-Latin America TV channel headquartered in Caracas, has dozens of correspondents worldwide in addition to its two major Arabic television associates. Its pungent message already transcends Latin America with news bulletins, documentaries and cultural fare. Telesur does not sleep. It is the manifestation of an effective internationalism in action. The ideological custodians and imperial flag bearers have no delusion on that score. It is the media gravedigger of imperialism. Congressman Connie Mack, personification of American fascism in its vilest guise, is correct: Telesur is a battering ram to the ruling caste oligarchy in the US, but by no means exclusively so. Telesur is not the ideological detonator of any specific party. Its central

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guiding force is protagonist democracy. A fancy term, no doubt, but it defines cultural selfenrichment of the highest order for all. Its perspectives and battle lines are clear. As its director-general noted: We are independent but we are not neutral. This is not the language of diplomacy. Telesur continues to be an organ of political and cultural enlightenment but most vital of all and I speak from personal experience it is the most penetrating beacon of hope and analytical insight Telesur, the pan-Latin America that Latin America has ever had. This TV channel. is so because it is a repository of truth, an enemy of triviality and the peddling of pedestrian claptrap. For this mightiest of reasons it must perforce be the adversary of exclusionism, repression, exploitation, racial hatred and imperialism. Its cooperative technical-assistance deals now link it with the Arabic channels Al Jazeera and Al Manar. And that is of supreme importance, measuring as it does the scale, depth and sheer courage of its fraternal internationalist links. Thanks to these two mightiest of freedoms voices in the Middle East, tens of millions of Latin American viewers were able to come to grips viscerally with the bloodthirsty character of the Zio-fascist monster and its US accomplice in the rape of Lebanon. With unsurpassed footage the peoples of Latin America witnessed at first hand the butchery of the Lebanese people and the murderous eradication of their villages and cities. Tens of millions of viewers also heard Chavezs indictment of Israel and the reasons why he withdrew Venezuelas ambassador to Tel Aviv and this was only a starter. Thanks to Telesur, televiewers heard the declaration of Chavez that the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity

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were the combined forces of the Zio-fascist state and its accomplice, the US caste oligarchy. His indictment, based on the foreign-policy directions of the Bolivarian Revolution, also highlighted the breadth of his research backup capabilities. For tens of millions, it was exhilarating to see his grasp and mastery of details related to the scale and cost of the American weapons deployed in the drive for mass extermination, as he branded it. Telesur at one stroke has transcended space and time. This makes Latin American televiewers among the most honestly and best informed in the world. His audiences heard him chastising in his inimitable manner these crimes against humanity and his demand that their perpetrators, Bush, Blair and the Zionist criminal camarilla, be hauled before a war crimes tribunal. Thanks to Al Manar, the voice of Hezbollah, tens of millions of televiewers also witnessed the grisly scenes of an anti-tank rocket scoring a direct hit on one of Israels American-produced $50 million tanks. They saw how the guts of the steel turret, once deemed impenetrable, were ripped apart. They saw the Zio-fascists scrambling out of the crippled tank as lighted torches and how their misery was abruptly ended when they were gunned down by the firepower of the resistance fighters. Not a single collaborationist clique of the empire in Latin America is positioned to escape the all-seeing investigative eye of Telesur. Outstanding forward thinkers like Fisk, Galeano, Ramonet, Chomsky, Pilger, Galloway and myriads of other humanists are regular analysts on the Telesur panel. What is more, the channel will shortly no longer be geographically confined to the Latin American orbit. Telesur will soon be seen on the television screens of the United States by the colonized and rapidly growing Hispanic masses. Historys longest and most repulsive wall of 3,500km straddling the US-Mexico border will not bar this unstoppable force. A new multimillion-strong audience will be able to partake of the insights delivered by Telesur. This stems from the demographic growth of Hispano-America, matched by their burgeoning political consciousness. Congressman Mack is indubitably a bubblehead but in this respect at least hes got the message right: Telesur is an unbeatable challenger to imperialism judged by all

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yardsticks. What Al Jazeera represents today, with its more than 100 million televiewers in the Middle East region, will be emulated by Telesur. Ignacio Ramonet of Le Monde Diplomatique (who is a member of Telesurs advisory board) together with Bernard Cassen were the earliest stimulators of the project. Telesur is not a purely national public sector enterprise and this brings in the question of fraternal Latin American economic integration. It is a cultural (and political) spearhead that embraces among its national shareholders (besides Venezuela) Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay. It epitomizes an authentic democratic integration that crashes head on into the corporate media, the prime example of which is CNN. The inputs into Telesur (there is no need for advertising revenues) are being fed by many tributaries including Iran, China, Russia, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and others. Today, Telesur is an ideological whiplash operating by cable, but things are changing fast. A telecommunications satellite (officially baptized Simon Bolivar) produced in China and paid for by Venezuela will be operational at the start of 2008. Venezuelan engineers will be running the show, albeit with some Chinese technical guidance. Since the middle of 2005, 60 graduate engineers have been sent to Chinas Aerospatiale Technology Centre (they were first given a six-month intensive course in Chinese). The cost of the satellite is $250 million. Its power ideological and technical will ramify into North America. Few countries in the world could match the scale and cost of this colossus, which will rank among the worlds biggest satellites and be deployed, in addition to television broadcasting, for a wide array of scientific research and telecommunications purposes. Its ramifications are crucial as it comes as part of a package with technology transfers. The satellites life expectancy will be 12-14 years. Part of the technology-transfer deal is for Venezuela to build its own facilities to produce and launch satellites of a smaller size. These same technologists, with Chinas support, will also be building a fibre-optics communications network.

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ndeed, China has been and will continue to be a paramount catalyst in Venezuelas transformation into a modern agricultural and industrial nation. Nevermind that China is the bloodline to the empire, with its purchases of US bonds and securities amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars. It too has been singled out for destruction, threatened with a US protectionist backlash. A bill before the US Congress envisages the imposition of a 27.5% tariff on China as a punishment and reprisal for maintaining its currency at what they consider to be an undervalued rate to grab market share. Other protectionist barriers have already been put up on several specific commodities. This is the course of economic war, and that from a nation that does not cease to prattle on hypocritically about its belief in the virtues of free trade. China has become one of Venezuelas major strategic partners. The recent visit of Chavez and the signing of a raft of commercial agreements indicate Chinas role in the nations transition to socialism. It is building a 1,000km railway line from south to north with ancillary lines in all directions (in much the same way as it has already revolutionized the entire Cuban rail transport network), at a cost of $10 billion. The size of Venezuelas investment outlays in all sectors at present is around $25-30 billion. With these huge investment outlays and their employment and production capacities, the vow of liquidating poverty by 2020 is a promise that is on track to becoming reality. Over the next three years (2007-2010) China will build 200,000 homes at a cost of $1.2 billion, with 75% borne by China. Iran will be adding another 25,000 homes. A replica of Chinas biggest and most prestigious Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Shandong will be built and initially operated by Chinese agronomists in 2007. I have already mentioned the 19 supertankers to be built in China. A very large refinery to transform the heavy crude from the Orinoco Delta will be built adjacent to the shipyards now under construction. Nor is it surprising that Venezuela will be doubling its oil output by 2010. Chinas share of this is planned to soar from the presently negligible 6% to 42%. This is a geo-political tsunami in the making.

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A communiqu in June 2006 indicated that China is set to invest $5 billion in the exploitation of Venezuelas energy resources over the next five years. This is a figure that could very well be further boosted significantly. Even on the presumption that their political presence was desirable, which is clearly not the case, what European country, not to speak of the cash-strapped US, is capable of making such colossal investment outlays? It is not only that the number is staggering; what is primordial is its portentous impact worldwide. In such a new geographical configuration what we are seeing and this is no short-term aberration is that the European Union and the United States are politically and economically nailed to the wall. The major beneficiaries in the remaking of Cuba, Venezuela and indeed Bolivia are China, Iran, Russia, Belarus and, to a far lesser extent, India. Noteworthy, as already stressed, is the concentration and completion of these projects in a very short time span. These are unprecedented investment outlays by any standards, not merely in Latin America but on the widest historical canvas. And these projects are coming onstream simultaneously. For whom the bells are tolling should be quite obvious. Where are the Himalayan resources to come from to finance these behemoth projects in such a short period? The financing is not based on debt because Venezuelas public debt, astounding as it may seem, will be reimbursed by 2010 but rather on the economys sustained growth rate of over 10% and of course the petroleum revenues (oil is an important but by no means the exclusive component of Venezuelas growth as the national private sector remains a powerful contributor to this growth). It is in fact Venezuela that is financing the national debt of Argentina and Paraguay through the purchase of their national bonds. It is Chavez that has bankrolled Ecuadors public-sector takeover of its energy sector. It is Venezuela that is funding massive projects in Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador. There is no need to invoke the names of such fully owned subsidiaries of the empire as the IMF and World Bank; the dodos fate awaits them. Chavezs appeal to the end of illusion was best exemplified in his project that is already gaining ground, namely the setting up of a Bank

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of the South. Chavez intends to invest as much as 10% of the reserves of the National Bank to initiate its funding. No doubt Iran will do likewise. Where are the national financial reserves of our countries? Chavez asked at the NAM summit in September 2006. Everyone knows where the bulk of these reserves are: in the banks of the North. It is only through a Bank of the South, he insisted, that the South will be positioned to bypass the IMF and the World Bank. This, like many other grand projects such as PetroSur, a petroleum energy pact programme for the South, will not remain long on the drawing board but will become an institutional reality well before 2010.

ith the passing of each day, imperialism sinks deeper and deeper into the quagmire of moral and political disintegration. Over the last six decades the empire has been militarily vanquished in its wars against the coloured peoples of the colonial world: Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. The nostrums of its propagandists apply with singular force to its own wretched condition; namely, it is at once a rogue state and a failed state. The Latin American region once regarded as the unconquerable private preserve of American imperialism is now shaking off its shackles. Cuba and Venezuela in their conjoined efforts have thus become the major catalysts in the still-unfinished war against an evil empire. The smashing electoral victory by the Bolivarian revolution incarnated in the persona of Hugo Chavez on 3 December 2006 was one of the most decisive turning points in Latin Americas history. It was indubitably the most resounding and far-reaching achievement in Chavezs long string of unbroken victories against the empire. It was a shattering confrontation between a white lackey caste underpinned by the US empire and a social and political mass movement experiencing an irrepressible upsurge. In the same order of things, it also ranked as one of the most disastrous debacles of US imperialism. It was the third abortive attempt by the US government to smash the Bolivarian revolution.

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The reverberations of the victory have yet to sink into the skulls of the US caste oligarchy and its NATO hustlers in the European Union whose abiding zeal for demonizing and demolishing the Bolivarian revolution from its beginnings has effusively been affirmed. The awakening will not be long delayed though. It was a victory of the Bolivarian revolution that will endure until 2013. This time span of Chavezs new presidential term is both long and short. Long in that it gives the forces of an ascendant socialism six years to lay the groundwork for a socialist order and to propagate its influence well beyond the geographical confines of the nation. Short in the sense that the revolutionary Prometheus now unleashed essentially a moral force has no time to waste on futile ideological disputes. In these six years, however, there can be little doubt that an empire that has masked its crimes against humanity with the fig leaf of infinite freedom, and that has consecrated its energies and trillions of dollars to wars of colonial pillage, will be subjected to further humiliating defeats and a wilting of its power base. In contrast, Cuba and the Bolivarian Republic will have been further transmogrified into still more potent economic, cultural and industrial complexes. What is more, the duos ranks will have been swelled by millions of workers and peasants elsewhere. Such is the spectre of nightmares that will continue to devour the vitals of imperialism. The jeremiads against Chavez had begun immediately with his first electoral triumph. They have continued unabated. The propaganda blasts have become shriller and, I daresay, more panic-stricken. The Economist and the Financial Times now rank among the most tendentious anti-Chavez scribblers in the business. Their views are wholly indicative of the entire yellow corporate press. Chavez has now openly been branded a communist. He is now accused, with no evidence given, of being a thuggish militant who has cast aside his democratic socialist clothing. These two big-time British-based organs (both owned by the Pearson corporation whose majority shares are owned by a few large American investment banks) have continued over the years to pursue their vilification of both Cuba and Venezuela. Now, Bolivia too has been bracketed with these two for demonization.

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The lie machine is also working at full blast on the other side of the Atlantic and includes the big four: the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and New York Times. Following the January 2007 announcement of the nationalization measures in Venezuela, White House spokesman Tony Snow pontificated that nationalization has a long and inglorious history of failure around the world. He is not concerned with elaborating where these failures occurred and the reasons why. Truth and the quest for objectivity are the lethal adversaries of the lie machine. Mr Snow and his gang are not concerned with the critical scrutiny of facts and figures. This ventriloquists dummy of the White House proceeds to shed his crocodile tears for the Venezuelan people and the sheer misery that is said to await them. The mainstream television networks, including the infamous Fox News owned by Murdoch, repeat the same story without even trying to alter the words. It was not only the spate of nationalizations in the energy and telecommunications sectors that aroused the ire of the enemies of the Bolivarian revolution. Their hatred soared to new heights when it emerged that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has developed the warmest fraternal relations with my friend and comrade-in-arms Hugo. Words that were not calculated to warm the cockles of the hearts of the White House inmates. After all, this is the statesman of one of the worlds leading regional powers that had been branded the worlds leading sponsor of terrorism by the US State Department. The extremely intimate political and economic relationship that has now been forged between Venezuela and Iran cannot be reduced to anodyne, high-sounding political clichs. Both countries economic destinies are inextricably enmeshed in a swelling number of projects. Both leaders had formulated a $2.5 billion plan for the financing of infrastructural, social and energy projects that would not be restricted to the two countries but would encompass all friendly countries seeking to liberate themselves from the US imperialist yoke. Venezuela and Iran are the third and fourth largest producers of oil and natural gas. Both have combined foreign exchange reserves exceeding $80 billion. The dual power

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structures of Cuba and Venezuela are now joined by Iran. Indeed, Cuba, Venezuela and Iran have become an iron triangle which is undoubtedly the most formidable phalanx of anti-imperialist resistance that US power has ever confronted, apart from Iraq. The internationalist spirit of the Bolivarian revolution is also manifest in Venezuelas relations with Nicaragua (not to speak of several other countries, and that includes the sale of subsidized oil to certain impoverished American consumers). Daniel Ortega was the leader of Nicaraguas Sandinista revolution that was crushed by the Reagan-backed Contras. While attending a Central American summit meeting in 1989, then-US President George Bush Sr described Ortega as this little man and an unwanted animal at a garden party. This unwanted animal is now once again President of Nicaragua and is embarking on a crusade to resurrect his nation from the imperial holocaust to which it had been subjected at a cost of more than 250,000 dead, 600,000 wounded and the obliteration of its ports, farms and basic infrastructure. The compulsive drive to annihilate the democratic Sandinista project for an alternative social order had exacted a toll measured at $20 billion by the World Bank and that in the poorest of countries. After attending Ortegas presidential inauguration on 10 January 2007 (following his own inauguration on the same day), Chavez demonstrated the supreme human qualities that have propelled him into the leadership of the Americas: We cannot give ourselves the luxury of a new historical defeat. No! This century must be the century of our America, of our liberation, of the definitive breaking of the chains of imperialism. Death to imperialism! By death to imperialism he meant its political demise inasmuch as its existence is a malediction on humanity. Nicaraguas debt of $31 million to Venezuela was promptly forgiven. To this generous contribution was added the planned construction of a refinery that would process 150,000 barrels daily. That was not all. Planned development projects amount to $750 million. These span the farming, industrial and services sectors. To this must also be added the aid packages of Cuba and Iran. Which capitalist country has ever aided a single country so

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generously? Foreign direct investment, which, according to the preachments of neoliberalism, is a catalyst of growth, has ceased to be the crucial ingredient.7

he new socialist direction of economic policy announced in Chavezs presidential inaugural address on 10 January marks a clean break from the waves of privatization that swept Venezuela in the 1980s and 1990s. Spurred on by a bunch of corrupt promoters and abetted by the neoliberal zealots in the OAS, the IMF and the World Bank, Uncle Sams strongman Carlos Andres Perez had denationalized a large swathe of industry. His personal cut from these deals ran into millions of dollars. The anti-privatization backlash was immediate but the response to it was brutal. The military repression that followed in 1989, known as the Caracazo massacre, ended with some 3,000 dead and thousands wounded, detained and tortured. The mass privatization drive, however, would be one of the detonators of the Bolivarian upsurge. Everything that has been privatized, declared Chavez, shall be returned to the national patrimony. According to the time horizon of Chavez, the years 1999-2006 were a transitional phase, one of testing, learning and the toughest of apprenticeships. The second phase, from 2007-2013, will signal the consecration of the socialist order. In his two-hour inaugural address he gave his audience a spellbinding speech on the life and labours of Simon Bolivar, and the quest for the integration of the Americas and for social justice. Chavez never waffles in his policy pronouncements. He has consistently spelt out what road the revolution was taking, and why in those first eight years the revolution achieved the unwavering support of

According to Agence France Presse, the bilateral agreements signed between Venezuela and Nicaragua provide for 10 million barrels of discounted oil daily, $10 million for social programmes, the building of a food distribution network, the construction of an aluminium plant and the gift of 32 electricity generators. And that is just a starter.

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the masses. What he meant by social justice was that the time had come for scrubbing the slate clean of privileges and inequality. He gave a new twist to the swearing-in ceremony when he vowed in the name of Christ whom he considers the greatest socialist in history the countrys liberators and the people of Venezuela that he would not give rest to my arm nor rest my soul I will give my days and nights, my entire life to the construction of Venezuelan socialism Those in the audience realized that these assurances were not gusts of deceitful political verbalism but marked a new turn in the nations history. Chavez is an untiring, voracious reader and brings to mind the quip of Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes to Harold Joseph Laski: You read books as fast as I swallow oysters. He had always devoted a part of his day to heavy reading and to discussion with all and sundry of his reflections on what he had read. As he has stressed repeatedly, he was and is not a Marxist and he entertains the belief that Marx does not belong to a single party but that all of progressive humanity should absorb his ideas and ideals. His grasp of socialist doctrine and of the workings and mis-workings of the capitalist system is profound. Among the many thinkers who influenced his trajectory was none other than the great physicist Albert Einstein. There is little doubt that the article Why Socialism? written by Einstein in 19498 has exercised the deepest influence on him and, I daresay, on all of us privileged to have read and absorbed its moral teachings and wisdom. In my view this short essay is one of the most profound expositions of socialism to have ever been penned. I shall cite below key passages that have no doubt left their imprimatur on the guiding principles of Chavezs revolutionary path. On the source of wealth: The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labour power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid,
This article was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).
8

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both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labour contract is free, what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists requirements for labour power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Albert Einstein

On the concentration of capital: Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labour encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. On the concentration of the media: [U]nder existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights. On production for profit and not for use: There is no provision that

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all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an army of unemployed almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labour, and to [the] crippling of the social consciousness of individuals This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career. On the imperatives of socialism: I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils [of capitalism], namely through the establishment of a socialist economy In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman and child. On why a planned economy is not yet socialism: Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

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I have quoted these profound insights of Einstein, written with such disarming simplicity and matchless clarity, at some length because they illustrate to what extent Chavez has assimilated his thought, which is essentially Marxist in its origin, and incorporated his teachings into the warp and woof of the Bolivarian revolution. And this is particularly true of Einsteins apprehensions about the scourge of bureaucracy. Like Einstein, Chavez is not a Marxist, but due to his intense study of the Marxist classics and that includes the writings, teachings and practice of his friend Fidel Castro and the epic struggles of the Cuban revolution, he is able to have a weighty theoretical understanding of the rapacious logic of capitalism and imperialism as it unfolded in his country and others. Provincialism and dogmatism are alien to Chavezs prodigious intellectual attributes. The world got a glimpse of this when he chastised the Catholic clergy, still enmeshed in their medievalism and colonial dogmas, that they would do well to study the writings of Marx and Lenin, Trotsky and Gramsci, Castro and, by no means least of all, the teachings of Christ. Chavez has never evaded confrontation. There are certain similarities here with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the architect of the New Deal in the US, who uttered the following words in 1936: We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred. These were defiant words but we ought not to forget that the New Deal, despite its mellifluous outpourings on human dignity and legislation in the domain of social security, did not shunt the capitalist engine onto a non-capitalist track. What catapulted American capitalism out of the rut of the Great Depression then was not the anodyne therapy of the New Deal but massive expenditures on armaments and the preparation of wars. FDR did declare: The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. An admirably well-intentioned choice of

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words on the depredations of American capitalism which, however, was never translated into concrete reality for it would have meant pursuing a socialist direction. Like his mentor John Maynard Keynes, FDR had no designs on burying capitalism. He was a save-capitalism patrician from the East Coast incarcerated in his own delusion that with a few welfare changes and by pruning a few rotten branches from the capitalist tree, the system could be made to work. His goal was capitalism with a human face. What it amounted to was that FDR was seeking ameliorative changes within capitalism with the blessings of the capitalist. When it comes to theory of social change and practice, therefore, Chavez and FDR are ideologically poles apart. Chavez is an uncompromising revolutionary socialist, the quintessential exemplar of a world leader who sees, understands and battles against the malignancy of a system that has to be not only confronted but struck down. The outline of Chavezs revolutionary changes to expedite the advance of socialism required an enabling law (ley habilitante). This is not a legal gimmick for restraining democracy, as the counter-revolutionary critics contend, but a democratic enhancer. This enabling law is designed to promulgate laws in all selected spheres of political, economic and social activity as decrees. It is aimed at short-circuiting the putrefied bureaucratic apparatus from which reactionary elements have not yet been entirely expunged. Pursuit of normal legal bureaucratic procedures would have delayed or simply stymied the implementation of these measures. Indubitably, they would have diluted the democratizing impact and this would have redounded to the benefit of the domestic oligarchy and its imperial mentors. Indeed, such decrees have constitutional precedents seen in the drive to speed up changes in the 1999 constitution. These tumultuous mutations could be summarized in 10 points: Changes in the legal institutions of the entire state apparatus to boost their efficiency and combat corruption and crime, a major scourge in the republic.
l l Legal measures to ensure mass participation in all individual and collective decisions connected to the national interest. Participatory

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institutions such as communal councils will inevitably become the spearhead of the Bolivarian revolution. This institutional structure was first conceived by workers in the Paris Commune in 1871, the worlds first communist revolution as Lenin dubbed it, subsequently drowned in blood by the counter-revolution of the French bourgeoisie. These communal councils, or communes to use the original French designation, are decentralized multi-purpose institutions consisting of 300-400 families. David Velasquez, a 28-year-old member of Venezuelas Communist Party (which is slated to be merged into the planned United Socialist Party see below), holds a crucial portfolio in the cabinet charged with overseeing the expansion of these councils. In his perception of things, the rise of these institutions will vastly downscale the centralized state apparatus as it exists today. Around $3 billion will be invested in their creation.
l Overhaul of the civil service, notably the ministry of foreign affairs, traditionally hegemonized by the white caste oligarchy and the masters of empire, as well as a crooked police establishment whose leading cadres were recruited from the prevailing power elite.

Spawning new legal institutions to ensure equitable distribution of income. This is mandatory as the republic has one of the worlds highest levels of inequality and, by the very dynamics of class rule, the oligarchy will do all in its power to frustrate and sabotage the implementation of measures aimed at tackling this problem.
l l Setting up an entirely new legal infrastructure to galvanize the modernization of propertied relations, of the tax, monetary, banking and insurance sectors. l Scaffolding new judicial norms for prisons and the entire justice system, which had never been democratic save as a faade. The justice system as it evolved was in a fact a criminal system designed to perpetuate the profits, property and privileges of the master owning class.

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l New legal norms to facilitate the accelerated growth of science and technology to propagate the fruits of its research capabilities to the entire nation.

Legal norms that establish a new territorial organization at the sub-national level aimed at diminishing the regional inequalities exacerbated by colonization and its sequels.
l

Galvanizing of legal norms for the coordination of state administrations in matters of national security and defence, norms that are all the more important insofar as the invasion and liquidation of Venezuela remains an overriding strategic objective of imperialism.
l

Reshaping the legal framework to meet the pressing demands of modernization in infrastructure: air, sea and land transportation, housing and public services.
l

n the wake of Chavezs December 2006 electoral triumph, a US State Department spokesperson declared with a straight face that the US government recognizes the right of the Venezuelan people to elect the government of their choice and the path they want for their country. There is no point in gloating at this hapless functionary who makes a very good living in pushing such mendacious claptrap. It is pointless to remind this falsifier of the historical record that Bush and his cronies should study William Blums Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Eduardo Galeanos Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. To be sure though, there are moments of truth that at times surface even from within the dung heap of empire, from some of its most fanatical protagonists. Dennis Ross, a leading neo-conservative and former member of the Bush administration, exemplifies the workings of this machine. This [Bush] administration has never had a negotiators mindset, he confesses. It divides the world into friends and foes, and the foes are incorrigible and not redeemable. There has been more of an instinct toward

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regime change than to changing regime behaviour. In fact, both processes are inseparably interlinked a useful insight that explains why Chavez and his vastly burgeoning army of devoted militants are considered beyond the pale, hence to be consigned to the executioners block. The English dramatist and Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, who throughout his long life has battled imperial hegemonism and racism, encapsulates its essence in these memorable words: You do as I say and dont ask questions or Ill kick your ass in. Chavezs electoral triumph was a victory of resurgent democratic forces that were mobilized on a mass scale that had never been seen before. And it is symbolic that it coincided with the demise of one of the most pitiless gringo-backed butchers in Latin Americas history. The passing on 10 December 2006 of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile for 17 years and liquidated tens of thousands, was of the greatest symbolic importance also because Pinochet had embodied the reality of American power and neoliberalism in the region, of Milton Friedmans Chicago School whose criminal dogmas prepared the ground for economic genocide. Chavezs ascendancy was no isolated occurrence but reflected the volcanic forces that had come to a boil in the entire region. In the month before Chavezs win, Daniel Ortega triumphed in Nicaragua on 7 November, and Rafael Correa in Ecuador on 26 November. In Mexico, US-backed candidate Felipe Calderon achieved what the opposition called a fraudulent victory. Today Mexico is running two presidents. This is a blueprint for conflict and instability that would rebound adversely on the US stranglehold on the country, weakening its links with one of the most long-suffering neo-colonies of the empire. What Mexicans have neither forgiven nor forgotten is that around half of the nations land area was grabbed in an undeclared colonial war in 1846. In the run-up to the Venezuelan elections, the big US corporate media, with Murdochs Fox News at the head of the pack, had been howling for the blood of Chavez. The same was true of the increasingly concentrated corporate media in the European Union, strikingly so in Spain. Every conceivable epithet of abuse was flung in his face. Indeed, the avalanche of

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hate that descended on him had never ceased since his meteoric climb in 1998. It was not difficult to see why the battle lines were drawn. As it turned out, Chavez swept to victory in all of the countrys 23 states, including oil-rich Zulia, the bastion of his right-wing opponent Manuel Rosales. Voter turnout was about 75%, a record for Venezuela. The weapon that Chavez wielded with such crushing clout was that of the masses: the poor, the excluded, the indigenous peoples that had entered the stage of history, and of course there were the blacks, the peasants and the workers, or what Franz Fanon baptized as the damned of the earth. As one reporter noted, Chavez exhibited the thrust of his leadership and democratic message in the manner of a combatant who rose to the defence of the common man. Unlike Bush and Gringo Rosales, as he was contemptuously labelled, Chavez did not resort to a string of imported speechwriters because, unlike the leaden-tongued Bush, Chavez had become one of the greatest and most honest political speakers of our time. There were no stretch limousines and other gaudy trappings of power either. Chavez in a red T-shirt drove himself in his battered red Volkswagen to the polling station, accompanied by his young grandson in the backseat. His resounding words on the heels of his political feat were indicative not only of his consciousness of the past but also of the direction in which he intended to take the nation in the years ahead: The humiliations, exploitation, racial degradation and genocide inflicted on the peoples of Latin America under the banner of the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny and every other evil that subsequently followed it, by one of the most brutal colonial regimes that the world has ever known, have permeated our beings. We are moving forward but it is on these foundations of rape, pillage and exploitation that we shall proceed to build a socialist order. Apart from the Comandante, no other Latin American statesman had ever thundered such a manifesto of liberation. The key word here is socialism, the credo of the Bolivarian revolution. It drove home the point that it mattered little to the peoples of Indo-America whether the inmates of the White House were Democrats or Republicans. The working peoples of Latin America have understood clearly that the two contending

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parties that constitute the US political caste oligarchy are nothing more than the domestics of a moribund exploitative order whose demise is long overdue. In the wake of the electoral victory, there were some sentimentalists who spouted the pious hope that it opened up the possibility of reconciliation between the Bolivarian Republic and the United States. In the views of many, however, such reconciliation was tantamount to the co-existence of the hangmans victim with the rope. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro made short shrift of this sentimental slush: Does that mean that the present masters of the United States are prepared to accept an alternative socialist path that breaks with foreign domination and the capitalist path of development? Have not the United States and its domestic agents attempted, and which shows no signs of tapering off, to delegitimize our government by urging the opposition or rather ordering them not to take their seats in the National Assembly? Did not [then-US Ambassador to the UN] John Bolton and his gang deploy millions of dollars to bribe blatantly members of the General Assembly to prevent our country getting a non-permanent seat on the Security Council? Did they not support Guatemala, their prize stooge? It was not difficult to see what dictated their choice. It was their very first banana republic in the Americas run by the United Fruit Company and they intended to retain its colonial status. A land in which tens of thousands of Indian peasants were murdered in the post-Arbenz years, and where women today are being murdered systematically and in great numbers daily which are no longer officially published. Did not the US government impose an arms embargo against us, and pressure Sweden and Spain to follow suit? What does the statement mean that our government is destabilizing the region? I could continue the inventory. The historical record speaks for itself. It is long and painful. This was more than an inventory of injustices presented by an irate representative of the Venezuelan government. It was to be a pointer to a new order of things, a parting of ways, the choice of an alternative that

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marked a clear break from the colonial and neo-colonial legacy of capitalism and neoliberalism. Indeed, the US State Department, in its 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (in which Venezuela is one of the 196 countries examined), has drawn up a criminal charge sheet against Venezuela alleging gross violations of human rights and other such baseless accusations. The belief that there could be any such thing as a reconciliation between the forces of freedom and human dignity in Venezuela and the US militaro-corporate gulag therefore belongs to the world of fantasy. This inquisitional State Department ragbag of mendacities is proof sufficient that the ruling political cabal in Washington is bent on the total destruction of the Venezuelan nation. The battle cry against neoliberalism as voiced by Venezuela does not simply target privatization, deregulation and the edicts of the empire strutting under the alibi of the Washington Consensus. In its widest setting, neoliberalism is the ideological designation of imperialism and its alias, globalization. This latter nostrum is much more than the metric of the ratio of total world trade to world GDP (which is now 31%). It is a meaningless ratio that tells us nothing of the distribution of world income and the masters of our universe. Evo Morales, leader of the coca growers union in Bolivia, founder of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) and current president of the republic, has demonstrated why neoliberalism and its weapons of economic genocide are incompatible with IndoAmericas ceaseless quest for greater democracy: There is no future for the theology of neoliberalism. This is the path of genocide. Either we advance to socialism and embrace public ownership of resources and economic planning, the drive wheel of socialism, or we lurch backwards into slavery and repeat the destruction of our national patrimony. In our blueprint for the new socialist order we have no truck with neoliberalism, the reactionary Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), mass privatization and pillage of our national heritage. This means there is no place in our country for the likes of the World Bank and the IMF and the WTO. To believe that our

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Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Evo Morales.

cumulative misery of centuries can be halted and reversed by tinkering with capitalist market forces through fiscal and monetary gimmicks manipulated from abroad is the acme of criminal madness. It flies counter to the interests of the corporate masters of the universe to entertain such an alternative. The Economist, that militant mouthpiece of Big Capital, hollers for US interventionism to halt the socialist offensive gathering speed in Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. To put it bluntly, says The Economist, Latin America needs more Lula da Silvas [i.e., his brand of neoliberalism] and fewer Chavezs or Moraless. This is where the United States could help. (italics mine) This maudlin appeal to the masters of the corporate gulag to be the presiding judge and jury is central to the logic of the perpetuation of state terrorism with neoliberalism a pivotal component. This is the bludgeon of the class war and the role the US state-terrorist empire must play to ensure the unquestioned rule of monopoly capital in its most limpid manifestation. After all, the carnivore cannot be switched into a herbivore. It needs no great imaginative effort to interpret the nature of the help envisaged by The Economist.

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hairman Maos epic formula, shaped in the hills of Yenan in the 1930s, has not lost its cutting edge. It is evocative of the impelling force behind the quest for justice that reverberates through the ages. Where there is oppression there is always resistance. The golden days of unbridled capitalism when profits, dividends and interest payments were shovelled abroad from the South by domestic and international oligarchies, with no accountability to the peoples of those lands from whom this wealth had been sucked, are drawing to a close. Crucial questions are being asked regarding the wealth of nations. In most Latin American countries debt servicing and profit remittances are still gobbling up 65-70% of export earnings. Where is the actual economic surplus pumped out of Latin America going and for the benefit of whom? There had been no foreign exchange controls in Venezuela until they were introduced by Chavez in 2000. These controls were anathema to the imperial masters and their servant class. Recall the words, uttered in 1952, of the oil-company executive quoted earlier: Here in Venezuela you have the right to do what you like with your capital. The right is dearer to me than all the political rights in the world. I noted in my book9 that the oil giants have never underpinned democracy in any of the Latin American countries or elsewhere and this is not fortuitous. In 1948, President Romulo Gallegos of Venezuela, head of a democratically elected government, in the words of the New York Times, was booted out. United States petroleum companies were responsible for the recent army coup, charged Gallegos. The army clique was encouraged to take over the country by the oil companies and local capital. The military attach of a large power had been at army headquarters when the coup was staged. Commenting a few years later in 1957, the New York Times editorialized: The Venezuelan government, and those businessmen who have kept on good terms with dictator [Marcos] Perez Jimenez, have had rich pickings out of the oil and other resources with which nature has endowed Venezuela three quarters of his subjects

The Rise and Fall of Economic Liberalism: The Making of the Economic Gulag, 2nd edition (Penang, Malaysia, 1996).

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have inadequate medical facilities, half the population is illiterate, nearly half the children have to stay out of school because there are not enough schools and teachers, and the fancy estimates of wage rates in Caracas misrepresent the actual poverty of most Venezuelans with Jimenez getting and keeping his office by subterfuge, suppression of liberties and the imprisonment of patriotic Venezuelans, he cannot expect to be acclaimed as a hero in this country or in any other.10 There was no need for the New York Times, as a big-time capitalist newspaper that would 45 years later support the plotters of the anti-Chavez coup (2002), to be sanctimonious inasmuch as such phenomena as subterfuge, suppression of liberties and imprisonment are part of the normal workings of the capitalist engine, nationally and internationally. At no point in time have they ever constituted impediments to foreign investment. The record is clear: they are, rather, positive inducements. The long, bloody trail left by native politicos and compradors in the service of foreign capitalists, such as the Juan Vicente Gomez and Perez Jimenez dictatorships in Venezuela, is clearly visible across the balance sheets of the mammoth expatriate enclaves. In fact the term political stability is always synonymous with the propping up of the most rotten political elements, since the financial risks involved in democratization must inevitably render the investment climate hostile in the eyes of the foreign investor. This has always been the unbending and explicit philosophy of those three fully owned subsidiaries of the imperial gulag: the World Bank, the IMF and the OAS. Indeed, it was precisely for these reasons, also expressed as market-friendly behaviour, that Perez Jimenez received the American Legion of Merit. The award commended him for his spirit of friendship and cooperation, his sound foreign investment policies and his stability. It is at this juncture that we grasp the linkages between colonial occupation, its military arm and international capitalism. In his biography, published in 1935, Major-General Smedley Butler of the US Marine Corps
10

New York Times, 10 November 1957.

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described with admirable candour the mechanisms of global domination and his personal role as a high-class muscle man for Big Business: I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service as a member of our countrys most agile military force the US Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to majorgeneral. And during that period I spent most of my time being a highclass muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1913. In China, in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honours, medals, promotions. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a couple of lessons. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents. The interconnections that Major-General Butler stressed were earlier spelled out in a policy document of considerable importance that appeared in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science in 1916. It was written by Huntington Wilson to elaborate the ramifications of dollar diplomacy, a designation first coined by Secretary of State Philander Knox. The political objectives of American foreign investment, he wrote, are to strengthen American influence in spheres where it ought to predominate over other foreign influences Such a sphere is Latin America where our interest increases in intensity and the maintenance of a traditional position favourable to our trade where trade policy may go by political favour, as in the Chinese empire

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Continuity is a permanent characteristic of American imperialism in Latin America, one of the most tenacious traits of its supremacy. Leaders of Latin America who chose the road of democracy do not subscribe to the dictum of Henry Ford that history is bunk. The past is enmeshed in their marrow. They are at one with the verdict of the philosopher George Santayana that those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it. There is no end of history as the peddlers of neoliberalism proclaim, and there is certainly no chance that socialist ideology has run its course. One recalls the self-serving utterance of Henry Kissinger, one of the leading butchers of the democratically elected Allende government in Chile and a mentor of Pinochet, that lauded to the heavens the physical liquidation and disappearance of tens of thousands of men, women and adolescents. Referring to Chile after Allende had been elected president, he declared: I dont see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. (italics mine) The rationale of anything that smacked of democracy was opposed unambiguously by Kissinger, precisely the same master of genocide that initiated the obliteration of tens of thousands of Laotians by round-theclock aerial bombardment during the colonial occupation of Indochina. So-called responsibility and irresponsibility thus fall within the exclusive ambit of the political hatchet man to determine. Hence irresponsibility is made synonymous with the choice of an elected government to take an alternative development path. In Chile, as in Grenada, Guatemala and Panama, as in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, to mention but a handful of neo-colonies that were eviscerated, political exterminism became the immediate response to the irresponsibility of a democratic order. The counter-revolutionary carnage in Chile recalls Marxs scathing verdict on hearing about the mass executions of workers in the Paris Commune in 1871: The civilization and justice of bourgeois order [read: the order of empire, to put it in a contemporary setting] comes out in its

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lurid light whenever the slaves and drudges of that order rise against their masters. Then this civilization and justice stand forth as undisguised savagery and lawless revenge the infernal deeds of the soldiery reflect the innate spirit of that civilization of which they are the mercenary vindicators. The genocide and permanent repression of the masses have been sanctified and exalted in the name of freedom, the rule of law and human rights. As President Ho Chi Minh wisely observed: We have long understood that words have different meanings for the oppressors and the oppressed. Freedom is one such word. It has always been so. It is a law of life. When you spit in the face of the colonialists they will always call it rain.

he cry that Latin America is lost now reverberates in the Pentagons corridors of power, Wall Street, the yellow corporate media and the White House. What this implies is that the peoples of Latin America, with a resurgent leadership, are refusing point blank to discard control and ownership of their natural resources and their national sovereignty. This lament of the oppressor is not new. China offers an illuminating precedent. On 1 October 1949, at the founding of the Peoples Republic of China, Chairman Mao proclaimed in an immortal eight-word sentence the mood of freedom that resonated throughout the colonial slave empires and beyond: We the people of China have stood up. To the bellowing multitude of nostalgic lovers of empire and the colonial status quo, US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, one of the fiercest bloodhounds of the Cold War, lugubriously moaned with his tail between his legs: We did everything that could be done to halt the march of revolutionary events in China, but it was of no avail. (italics mine) The everything included the transformation of China by the US/Kuomintang junta into a killing field in which tens of millions of Chinese were exterminated. However, their puppet, Chiang Kai Shek, proved in the end, despite the billions of dollars

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shovelled into his grab bag, to be nothing more than a paper tiger. But it was of no avail is a pregnant turn of phrase which is of course applicable not only to the great Chinese revolution but also to the revolutionary stirrings now gathering speed in Latin America. The US political cabal has never supported genuinely free, fair and multi-party elections anywhere in the world and certainly not within the United States itself, where fraudulent elections and multi-billion-dollar politicking are the order of the day. The cost of the last criminal federal election that rocketed Bush into the White House was over $3 billion. The 3 December presidential trouncing of the US-engineered opposition in Venezuela does not fall into the category of formal bourgeois elections in which two prizefighters representing different branches of the same tree of propertied interests enter the ring to amass profits, privilege and power. It was an election a word not wholly appropriate to designate that moment of dignity that bore no similarity to the contests which pit such electoral predators as Democrats against Republicans, Labourites against Tories. These are stereotypical capitalist political formations (such as which also prevailed in pre-Chavez Venezuela) wedded nevermind their vicious mud-slinging to the defence of capitalism and the systemic perpetuation of its exploitative class relations. Chavezs opponent in the 3 December polls, Manuel Rosales, a member of the white caste oligarchy with class, family and corporate connections at home and abroad (notably Mexico, Spain and the US), was typical of those individuals that personify the power of Big Capital. Like Mexicos Calderon (the golden electoral choice of the US State Department, US and Spanish multinationals, Mexican Big Capital and the clerical establishment, who grabbed the Mexican presidency by fraudulent means), Rosales was educated in the United States, as, almost invariably, are all members of the oligarchy, military and civilian. Both his parents were scions of the richest families whose wealth was appropriated through large-scale plantations, real estate speculation, mining, banking, insurance and shipping. In sum, he was the prototype of the big-time capitalist for whom the goal of political wheeling and dealing

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is personal enrichment and the aggrandizement of his class. His American and Spanish speechwriters wrote the script that he followed meticulously from start to finish like a well-trained performing animal. I am here to defend private property against a criminal government that is destroying it, he bellowed ad nauseam. I am at war with Castrocommunism and I wont relent until we break the back of communism that has sprouted uncontrollably since freedom was suppressed by Chavez who swindled his way into power in 1998. The lie machine has always been a social force and the way in which Rosales and his handlers pursued their mendacious onslaughts against Chavez proved it. The asininity of the message was carried around the clock by a sadistic corporate media that continued to be masters of the printed word and television news broadcasts. Rosales was peddling his anti-communist diatribes because he had nothing else to peddle. His placards and posters were printed and supplied free of cost by his Spanish touts. His goals were precisely what putschist Pedro Carmona had proclaimed in his short-lived April 2002 coup: sever diplomatic relations with Cuba, expel its thousands of engineers, doctors, teachers, all technical assistance personnel, privatize the petroleum sector, bring in the World Bank and the IMF to ensure the return of financial liberalization, and above all squash exchange controls. With such rosy offerings, was it surprising that Rosales was bankrolled lavishly by the domestic oligarchy, Freedom House in New York (a non-profit group that serves as a front for the CIA), USAID and that well-worn fascist workhorse, the globe-girdling US National Endowment for Democracy? (The latter had served its masters well in Vietnam, the former Yugoslavia and in all of Eastern Europe.) No less important, and understandably so, was that he was cheered on by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. A vigorous promoter of the dogma that religion is a bulwark against atheistic communism, Rosales appealed to their predatory class instincts. On bended knee before the assembled bishops and cardinals and the Vatican cabal, he vowed to battle against the separation of church and state, and that he would crush all attempts to

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secularize education. There was obviously a limit to how much mileage he could pump out of such obsequious boot-lickings. The white Spanish settler class backed by the once seemingly omnipotent power of the Conquistadores and the credo of servitude propagated by an explicitly racist and totalitarian Roman Catholic church is now in its death throes. The tide has turned. A spokesman of the American embassy hit the nail on the head when he ejaculated in a gasp of desperation that the embassy was unable to cope with the demand for visas by the swelling multitude of would-be migrs trying to bolt the country. The same is true of all of the major European embassies. Real-estate tycoon Enrico Sanchez echoed the torments of most of his historically-condemned class. I am getting ready to pull out of this country. My children and my wife have already left. As soon as I get rid of my business Ill be rushing for the exits. There is no hope for decent people [sic] here. This once proud country is being pushed over the abyss into hell. This is the requiem of a decomposing ruling class, a requiem that has reverberated down the centuries in all places where privileges are threatened. A familiar gasp of lamentation which usually fizzles out with the chant that this is the land of Castro-communism and is becoming more so daily. How could I possibly live in this land with Chavez breathing down my back for another six years? The migrs know that the capacity of a reactionary class to cling on to the privileges of a moribund social order is limited. It is an acknowledgement that the bourgeoisie can no longer grab the riches of the country with impunity. But the likes of Sanchez and their drive to topple the democratic order in Venezuela will continue, whether their new abode be in Spain or Miami. Their individual and collective social comportments reveal a pathological state of class desperation. Of one thing we can be sure: the dozens of epithets of abuse hurled personally against Chavez and his comrades-in-arms will continue to be recycled and the attempts, doomed to failure, to deprive him of life and limb can be expected to be remorselessly pursued.

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hat the counter-revolutionary white caste oligarchy did not account for in their schemes to oust Chavez was the extraordinary ability of the Bolivarian leadership to organize at grassroots levels. It is this awesome striking capability that demarcates the trajectory of Chavez from, say, Chiles Allende or Guatemalas Arbenz. What strikes many observers is the capacity of the Bolivarian leadership to harness the untiring energies of the young and the old, men and women into an impregnable phalanx of resistance. Chavezs electoral campaign team, Commando Miranda, revealed the power of the grassroots democratic organization spawned in recent months, demonstrating yet again the exponential growth of the Bolivarian revolutions mass power base. It provided campaign muscle that organized supporters of all progressive parties based on quasi-military lines, consisting of 11,000 battalions, 32,800 platoons and 3.8 million squads. The sheer scale of such organization, unmatched in Latin America, is suggestive of the revolutionary trajectory. It is a human thrust that will be the gravedigger of the US gulag. It is this gigantic force straddling the length and breadth of the country that will provide the muscle and the moral fortitude of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela destined to become the spearhead of socialist humanism. The direction that Chavez and his strategists intend to take is no longer shrouded in mystery. During the heat of the electoral war against the Bush candidate, he did not shirk from wielding like a battle axe the word socialism. The innocent souls who earlier shuddered at the evocation of that word have now come to understand its deepest of meanings. The word socialism was at the top of his agenda during his electoral battle and it has now been clearly blueprinted. His declaration at the Teresa Carreno Theatre on 15 December 2006 is a milestone in the nations political history. It was there that he called on his heterogeneous humanist backers to junk their existing parties and create a new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (with the Spanish abbreviation of PSUV). His original creation of the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) party, he said, belongs to

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history and the need is to move on. The PSUV will be open to all parties to enter or, alternatively, to divorce themselves from the government. Party leaders will be chosen not from above but from rank-and-file supporters. This coalition of several parties of the left is slated to span the range from the largest of them, the multi-million-strong MVR, to smaller ones with a long history, such as the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), Fatherland for All (PPT) and We Can (PODEMOS). There are also a large number of very small and fragmented parties such as Popular Venezuelan Unity, Tupamaros, Revolutionary Middle Class, etc. The new political formation will not be just the sum of its parts. As Chavez insisted: We need one party, not an alphabet soup with which we would be falling over each other in lies and double-crossing the masses. The new partys goal, among others, is to combat bureaucracy and corruption. In the minds and hearts of its creators, it is engineered to be the most democratic party that Latin America has ever seen. This is tantamount to saying that it will not be a merger that welds these divergent political formations into a loose coalition. In the perception of the framers of this novel political dynamo, it will be built not from the top downwards but from the bottom upwards. A structure whose leaders will be selected from the base, designed not only to fight electoral campaigns but also to lead the battle for the propagation of socialist ideas and a socialist morality. Ex-Minister of Education Aristobulo Isturiz, leader of the Fatherland for All party, stresses the need for the new political battering ram on the grounds that there can be no revolutionary movement without a revolutionary leadership. We shall be unable to build a socialist edifice while maintaining a mass of disparate progressive parties. What matters is that we have a leadership, a central organizing principle joined to a revolutionary political organization that advances socialism and the Bolivarian revolution. The two are now indissolubly linked. The year 2007 will mark not only the first year of Chavezs new presidential term but also the launch of one of the most momentous changes in the nations political spectrum. For those critics of Chavez and

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the Bolivarian revolution who nurtured the delusion that his political path would be a deadend, the political metamorphosis that is gathering speed, joined to the huge cumulative economic changes, is one more reminder that their fatuous judgments were wildly off the mark. The grand design now taking shape with remarkable speed is the shift of Venezuela from capitalism to socialism. Of the essence is not merely form but substance. It has tentatively been baptized as the Simon Bolivar National Plan. This project moves in harmonious concert with the revamping of the nations constitution. One of the boldest of ideas is to change the current name of the country from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the Socialist and Bolivarian Republic. This involves eliminating the inherited bureaucratic trappings of the bourgeois state and swiftly replacing them with mass elected grassroots institutions. What the new blueprint of the socialism of the 21st century envisages is the replacement of capitalist social relations, that is, market relations rooted in exploitation, by a socialist model of distribution. What will remain of the private sector is that its private profits and prices will be regulated by democratized state institutions that will be authentically socialist in inspiration and mode of operation. In this lunge to achieve a socialist order, private commercialized medicine, one of the scourges of Latin America, and private education, notably in the sector dominated by the religious clerical mafia, will be flung open to democratization and access for all. The carrying out of these goals will inevitably engender the fiercest of class resistance. This once again brings up the question as to the speed at which the proposed United Socialist Party of Venezuela will get off the ground. The drive to socialism is therefore predicated on constitutional changes, which, in the present context of overwhelming Chavista power, should not be an obstacle. What is mandatory in the achievement of a socialist order is time, and the current propagators of constitutional change are aware of this. For this reason, many of the advocates of socialism are demanding a lengthening of the presidential term of office from 2013 to 2021.

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Inasmuch as Chavez was reelected by a resounding majority, this confers on him the popular mandate and democratic legitimacy to push through sweeping changes that will give the drive towards socialism an irreversible momentum. These changes, imperative as they are, require, under constitutional law, a two-thirds majority in parliament to be subsequently ratified in a nationwide referendum. That should not, however, prove an enduring impediment. The American-created parliamentary opposition shot themselves in the foot because they quit parliament precisely on the orders of the US embassy in Caracas and the State Department. It was to prove the most foolish of miscalculations. Almost the entire parliament is now pro-Chavez and, as the election proved, an overwhelming majority of the masses support him. When push comes to shove, the victory of extending the time limit on presidential rule will be a foregone conclusion. The speeding up of the revolutionary drive in Venezuela, including the creation of a coherent political party endowed with an uncompromising socialist ideology and, no less important, led by one of the greatest of leaders that the Americas have ever spawned, must inevitably generate far-reaching repercussions on the still archaic and reactionary structures elsewhere in Latin America. And that is not where the ball stops. It will deal yet another destructive blow to imperialism worldwide, which embraces not only the United States but also the European Union that has become the most aggressive and unconditional mainstay of monopoly capitalism, and NATO, its military extension.

lans for an invasion of Venezuela were hatched well before the 3 December election. Plans are one thing, however; implementation quite another. They were aware that the planned onslaught, known as the Rumsfeld-Cheney Freedom Road project, would not only lead to an immediate severing of the oil supply to the United States but also compound the military disasters in the Middle East. The US colonial expeditionary force was thrashed in Iraq, in Afghanistan as well as in the proxy war it fought with its Zionist henchman in Lebanon.

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The sustained achievements and survival of the Bolivarian revolution stem basically from internal class forces that have beaten back the domestic oligarchy and their foreign paymasters. Also crucial, though, was that the US could not intervene partially because it had become bogged down in its colonial wars in the Middle East. In Iraq, war costs already exceed $2.3 billion weekly, and the conflict has lasted a greater length of time than the US intervention in World War 2 (from December 1941 to May 1945). What is worse, from imperialisms perspective, is that, notwithstanding the holocaust perpetrated on an innocent people, victory in Bushs war is nowhere in sight. Thanks to the active diplomacy of Chavez and his unrelenting stand against the Iraq war, the people not only of Venezuela but of the entire region became aware that the so-called indispensable nation was now a broken reed. Aborted US conquests in the Middle East had undermined the entire edifice of imperial conquest, as Chavez insisted again and again in the course of his many visits to the region. It justified his military break with the United States. In shifting to other arms suppliers like Russia, he effectively broke the back of the military embargo. The colonial adventures unmasked the politico-military gulag as a failed state. They not only exposed the true nature of the despicable stooge regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also clearly pinpointed the rifts within the two major, worm-ridden political structures of the ruling caste oligarchy, visibly so after the victory of the Democrats in the November 2006 Congressional elections. The lugubrious cri de coeur on Iraq of Senator Gordon Smith, an end-of-the-road Republican political hack, one of the most vociferous Arab haters and Iraq warmongers, measures the depth of bankruptcy within the fissured ruling caste: I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore the current course is unacceptable to this Senator.

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He deplores the death of more than 3,000 soldiers of the expeditionary force but there is not one word of contrition or expiation for the more than 655,000 dead Iraqis and more than triple that amount of wounded inflicted by the killers from the gulag. To his honour, the senator used the word criminal but there was no point hedging it with may be. Perhaps the senator was thinking of the verdict of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (1945-1947) that called the waging of aggressive war an essentially evil thing to initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole. The mass genocide inflicted on the colonized territories of the Middle East (the linkage between Al Jazeera and Telesur brought the horrors of the colonial genocide into the living rooms of TV viewers) opened up new foreign-policy vistas for the protagonists of the Bolivarian revolution. Chavez insistently reminded the mass killers that any attack against socialist Cuba would not only involve the spilling of Cuban blood and that of its imperialist invaders, but also entail the blood of Bolivarian fighters. The warning was crystal clear.

no-less-major factor one which is still rapidly unfolding is the convulsions within globalized capitalism. What capitalism requires is a constantly rising level of investment and consumption. Without this the system suffocates. This is precisely the central contradiction of American capitalism. The cyclical movements in the system are characterized by boom and bust manifested in the flows and outflows of savings and investment. This is a highly uneven process characterized, as Lenin, Hobson and Rosa Luxemburg noted at the start of the 20th century, by the uneven development of capitalism. The volatility of these capital flows is among the central features of globalization, and one of its most calamitous corollaries is the mounting and irreversible growth of inequalities in income distribution.

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To whom have the fruits of capitalist globalization redounded? The answer to this query offers us one of the key clues to understanding the thrust of the Bolivarian revolution and its repudiation of globalization in its current institutional forms. What we are seeing is that 200 leading mega-globalized giants, the expropriators of the planets wealth, are tearing at the vitals of humankind. A fact brutally spelt out by a UN study (December 2006) on the workings of globalization. Based on a sample household survey of wealth, its findings indicate that 2% of the worlds richest possess more than half of the worlds wealth. The bulk of it is appropriated by an infinitesimal minority of our planets elite concentrated in North America, Europe and high-income capitalist countries in the Asia-Pacific region such as Australia and Japan. Collectively these have gobbled up nine-tenths of this wealth. As already underscored, US financial corporations (as distinct from their manufacturing counterparts), seen through the prism of capitalist profitability, are flourishing as never before. At end-2006, the share of profit in national income was at a 50-year high. The mass hostility towards neoliberalism and globalization is thus not an accident. The workings of neoliberalism have become synonymous with the systematic degradation and spoliation of the world of labour and, no less so, the middle class. This has been the catalyst suggesting that an alternative system is mandatory. The Doha Round negotiations epitomize the bankruptcy of the WTO and the capitalist road to mass impoverishment. The Mercosur trade bloc in Latin America, despite its momentary institutional weaknesses that give some leeway to imperialist penetration, is designed as a counterblast, rooted in Simon Bolivars dream of an authentic integration based on human needs. It is in this context that one sees the outstanding contribution of Chavez and Bolivias Evo Morales in further weakening the grip of American imperialism by empowering the drive for an authentic integration. The essence of this project was the convening of the South American Community of Nations that met in Cochabamba in Bolivia in December 2006. While it may bear certain superficial similarities with the European Union, the key difference is that the latter has become a massive aggregation

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of hyper-concentrated capitalist economic power (and that embraces the overwhelming presence of US multinationals) whose goals are the aggrandizement of Big Capital, the conquest of overseas markets and the acquisition of ever-greater market shares for shrinking numbers of everlarger capitalist behemoths. In their quest for democratic regional integration, what the Chavistas are fully aware of is the increasingly destructive capacity of monopoly capital that is anathema to a harmonious and democratic allocation of world resources. This is evidenced in the millions of jobs that have been outsourced in the capitalist orbit. The goal of this corporate strategy, which complements the shredding of the trade-union movement that was partially consummated over the last 10-15 years, has been to stem a fall in the rate of profit on the domestic market. This is a drive that has also speeded up the concentration of capital among a number of megacorporations. What the historical record indicates is that monopolistic capitalism is incompatible with human dignity, national sovereignty and democracy. Corporate mergers and acquisitions rocketed from $2.5 trillion to $3.9 trillion over the 1999-2006 period, representing an annual compound growth of 6.6% or more than double the growth of world GDP and three times as fast as US growth. The sheer and ominous size of the figure of $3.9 trillion and that is just for one year is better appreciated when it is seen that this number is a quarter of US GDP. Let us look at these numbers from another angle. The value of these merger deals is the largest since the end of World War 2. Worldwide it is 16% higher than at the height of the dotcom bubble in 2000. Obviously, in economics as in nature, there can be no such thing as infinite growth in a finite environment. It is, however, beyond the scope of this work to make any forecasts as to when exactly this breakneck tempo of capitalist concentration, fed by the speculative capital of the investment banks and hedge funds, will falter or come to a halt. What we can say is that it is a nonsustainable path of accumulation exacerbated by too much money chasing too few investment outlets.

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The big investment banks, of which the Big 10 are the leading spearheads, sucked up fees of $20 billion from this grand bonanza, triggering multi-million-dollar yearend bonuses for the big-time capitalists in the merger game. Here again is an example of how the battle for mergers and acquisitions lurching forward at great speed has engendered divisions, fissures and inequalities. These are concrete manifestations of the contradictions within the processes of world capital accumulation. We cannot simply speak of capital in the abstract in studying the causes and direction of such unchecked concentration. Capital always has a personal face and nowhere is this more brutally exhibited than in the Himalayan bonuses of specific capitalists. The luscious pickings of Lloyd C. Blankfein, Chairman of Goldman Sachs, best exemplify the woefully corrupt workings of the system. According to the New York Times, he was rewarded with a bonus of $53.4 million in 2006 (against some $38 million in 2005, a 40% boost), the highest any Wall Street executive has ever pulled down. This was in addition to his $600,000 salary. The banks compensation committee awarded him $27.3 million cash, $15.7 million in restricted stock and options to buy Goldman stock valued at $10.5 million.11 Is this the pristine ethical model of economic liberalism that the Third World or, for that matter, any world should rush to embrace effusively? Let us put these individual pickings in a wider corporate context. The payout came a week after Goldman Sachs reported a record profit of $9.5 billion. Its stock price was up almost 60% for 2006; its market capitalization was nearly $90 billion, more than triple its value when it became a public listed company in 1999. This is how the New York Times cautiously commented on the grand El Dorado: Bolstered by record trading, banking and asset management profits, Wall Street banks are tripping over themselves in press releases to avoid using the word record too many times.

11

New York Times, 20 December 2006.

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The arrogant claim of the corrupt propagandists of neoliberalism is that a rising tide raises all boats. It has certainly raised the boats of Goldman Sachs and the cabal of other investment banks. As for the tens of millions in the world of labour whose boats have floundered in the tormented seas of capitalist upheaval, generated by job losses stemming from mergers and acquisitions, the historical record of international impoverishment, disease and despair speaks for itself. According to the findings of Andrew Sum of the Centre for Labour Market Studies in Boston, the top five Wall Street investment firms (Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley) were expected to award $36-44 billion worth of bonuses to their employees, with the bulk of the gains accruing to the top 1,000 or so highest-paid managers. Between 2000 and 2006, labour productivity in the non-farm sector of the US economy rocketed by 18%. During that interval, the inflation-adjusted weekly wages of workers rose a piddling 1%. According to these findings, there are 93 million production and non-supervisory workers (excluding farm workers) in the US. Their combined real annual earnings from 2000 to 2006 rose by $15.4 billion, which is less than half of the combined bonuses awarded by the five Wall Street firms for just one year. Just these bonuses, comments Sum, for one year (italics mine) overwhelmingly exceed all the pay increases received by these workers over the entire six-year period. The point must be stressed: the gains of increased productivity have been pocketed by the money caste oligarchy and their camp followers. There is no point in babbling about fairplay and morality. The system works for those who own it and who obviously use it for their personal enrichment and accumulation. Cuba and Venezuela lead the battle against this grossly unequal globalization and indubitably their ranks will be swelling in the immediate future. Of portentous significance is that the evocation of the word socialism no longer inspires fear in Latin America; this in itself highlights the apocalyptic quandary of the masters of global capital. The backlash

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against globalization that is gathering speed is a manifestation of the class struggle. The central, overriding contradiction at the heart of the class war between labour and capital can be brought out in relief by one number. In the land of finance capitalist Lloyd Blankfein and his breed, the average chief executive officer (CEO) during 2006 made 370 times more than the take-home pay of the average worker. There is no need to bemoan this huge income chasm. It is immanent in the workings of the system. In essence, it is the logic of capital and the laws of motion that describe the workings of the system. Let me conclude by stating that during 2007 and subsequent years, the countervailing offensives against imperialism worldwide will gather strength. All indices are pointing to a sharpening of inter-imperialist rivalries, of which balance-of-payments imbalances, generalized overproduction, competitive devaluations and protectionism are but some of the most salient traits. The US caste oligarchy is an isolated broken reed and the entire structure is shaking in the engulfing winds of an economic depression. Crucial is that the socialist-inspired forces of Venezuela and Cuba are providing regional and world leadership that is already contributing massively to the unwinding of global imperialism. US President William Howard Taft (1857-1930) had bellowed in 1912 that the historic moment was not remote when the whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally. Cuba and Venezuela, in their battle for a new and humane socialist order, have written the epitaph of such fascist mouthings. This is what I meant when I described them, in the title of this work, as the nemeses of imperialism.

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TIMELINE

The goal of this historical chronology is to clarify, elaborate and provide the background to some of the major events narrated in the text. CUBA 1492: Christopher Columbus claims the island of Cuba for Spain. The strategic importance of Cuba is that it would become the major springboard for the Spanish conquest of the Americas. 1493: The Pope confirms Spanish claims to all lands discovered or to be discovered in the Western Ocean. 1512: Most of the Indians (Ciboneys, Tainos and Arawaks) are massacred, to be replaced by African slaves. 1514: Founding of the city of Havana as the colonial capital. 1526: Commencement of massive importation of Africans exploited as plantation slaves. Marx would call this one of the foundations of primitive accumulation of capital. 1531: The first mass African slave uprising leads to the massacre of hundreds of slaves. The heads of the decapitated victims are stuck on

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poles in plantations and public places as a warning to those who dare challenge the supremacy of the slave owners and the colonial masters. The slaves are geographically concentrated and work on plantations and in the sugar factories. They have all the attributes of a proletariat except that the value of their labour power is totally appropriated by the plantation masters. 1763: The British and Spanish governments exchange Florida, which had been a Spanish colony, for Havana, captured by the British in 1762. Between 1763 and 1840, 420,000 slaves would be shipped to Cuba, now the worlds largest sugar producer. 1791: Slave revolt led by ex-slave Toussaint Louverture (1743-1803) in the French colony of Saint Domingue in the Caribbean. In 1789, Saint Domingue supplied two-thirds of the overseas trade of France and was the greatest individual market for the European slave trade. The revolt would end in triumph in 1804 with the expulsion of the French from Saint Domingue, renamed with the Indian name of Haiti. A unique historical experience inasmuch as it was the only successful slave uprising in history. This and other slave revolts at the end of the 18th century exerted a great influence on the national liberation struggles that followed in the subsequent century. Toussaint lent his support to Simon Bolivar. 1823: US Secretary of State John Quincy Adams declares the future annexation of Cuba as inevitable. These islands [Cuba and Puerto Rico] are natural appendages of the North American continent and one of them, Cuba, almost within sight of our shores, from a multitude of considerations, has become an object of transcendent importance to the commercial and political interests of our Union these are the laws of political as well as physical gravitation. This represents the first explicit official blueprint for the conquest of Cuba. 1823: US President James Monroe (1757-1831) brandishes the Monroe Doctrine that would become the prime justification for the annexation of

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other American lands. It proclaims that the western hemisphere is the exclusive sphere of influence of the United States. This doctrine would be more concisely restated by Robert Lansing (1864-1928), Woodrow Wilsons Secretary of State: In its advocacy of the Monroe Doctrine, the United States considers its own interests. The integrity of other American nations is an incident, not an end. While this may seem based on selfishness alone the author of the Doctrine had no higher, or more generous, motive in its declaration. 1853: Jose Marti, revolutionary, painter, poet, writer, journalist and one of the leaders of Cubas second war of independence, is born in Havana of Spanish parents on 28 January. 1868-78: Rebellion against Spanish rule in Cuba. 1869-77: Imprisonment and banishment of Marti to Spain. 1874: Carlos Manuel de Cespedes (1819-1874), a major leader in the first war of independence, is killed in action in the Sierra Maestra. 1886: Abolition of slavery in Cuba as a result of the inability of the colonial government to stop slave revolts, combined with the relentless pressure of the national resistance movement, whose ranks are increasingly swelled by Afro-Cubans. 1892: Marti creates the Cuban Revolutionary Party. 1895-98: The second Cuban war of independence. One of the outstanding leaders in this freedom struggle, the Afro-Cuban general Antonio Maceo, is killed in action (1897). 1895: On 19 May, Marti is killed in the Battle of Dos Rios.

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1896: American economic penetration of Cuba is vastly increased. In 1896, according to US President Grover Cleveland, American investments in plantations, mining and infrastructure amount to $3050 million. Trade rose from $64 million to $103 million between 1889 and 1893, a 60% rise. This is the economic foundation of American imperialism that would lead to war with Spain and the fulfillment of the dream of the founders of the US republic for the conquest of Cuba. 1898: The United Fruit Company (known as El Pulpo or the Octopus) establishes, with its first large-scale plantation, a major economic beachhead that would be used as a launching pad for its later economic conquests of Central and South America. 1898: The sinking of the US battleship, the USS Maine, due to an explosion which many historians would contend is a deliberate act of sabotage perpetrated by the US government itself. The sinking becomes a pretext for war against Spain and the subsequent conquest by the US of Spanish colonies, including the long-coveted prize of Cuba. 1899: The US military occupation of Cuba begins. US domination would end only with the toppling of US-backed strongman Fulgencio Batista on 1 January 1959. In that interval, Cuba was brutally ruled by a series of neocolonial governments dominated by US capital and the exigencies of US geopolitical interests. The effective political boss, or Viceroy as he was labelled, of the island was the American ambassador. The US embassy, manned by 250 employees, ranked as the largest US embassy in the world. 1901: The Platt Amendment turns the conquered colony into a full-fledged American protectorate operated by its quislings. This amendment, according to Theodore Roosevelt, a combatant in the US expeditionary force, confirms that Cuba is our exclusive sphere of influence. We can intervene anytime we want with no questions asked so as to assert the primacy of our national interests.

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1924: American economist Leland Jenks publishes his classic work, Our Cuban Colony. 1926: Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is born on 13 August in Oriente province, now Holguin. His father, a Spaniard, is one of the countrys biggest landowners. 1942-45: Castro completes his secondary-school education at a Jesuit institution. 1945-50: Castro enters Havana University, completes his law degree and begins his law practice. The period marks the start of his political activism. 1947: Start of the Cold War. US President Harry Truman proclaims the Truman Doctrine for the containment of communism. 1953: On 26 July Castro leads an assault on the Moncada Barracks. The attack fails and he is captured and imprisoned. In his defence he delivers the legendary speech History will absolve me which outlines his major revolutionary programme. 1954: The democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, whose far-reaching land reforms threatened the United Fruit Company, is overthrown by a military coup organized by the CIA and the US government. Che Guevara seeks asylum in the Argentine embassy. His Guatemalan experience, he would say, convinced him of the necessity of armed struggle. 1955: The Asian-African conference in Bandung, Indonesia, attended by such historic figures as Zhou Enlai, Nehru, Nasser and Sukarno, gives rise to the Third World movement. 1955: Establishment of the 26 of July Movement (named after the date of the attack on the Moncada Barracks) as a revolutionary political force in

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Cuba. Immediately upon his release from prison, Castro and members of the future rebel army travel to Mexico where they are trained in guerilla tactics on a ranch. The great and indispensable teacher of the rebel army is General Antonio Bayo, a Cuban-born veteran officer and guerilla specialist who fought with the Republican army in the Spanish civil war. 1956: The rebel army of 82 men land in Oriente province. The group barely survive total liquidation after their initial landing. Headquartered in the Sierra Maestra, they would fight the American armed forces of Batista for three years. 1959: On 1 January, the victorious rebel army routs Batistas forces and liberates Havana. The Agrarian Reform Law proclaimed in May is one of the decisive turning points of the Cuban revolution. Since we proclaimed the law, according to Fidel Castro, the United States has taken the decision to liquidate the Cuban revolution one way or another. The liquidation plan, set in motion immediately by the Eisenhower administration, comprises widespread acts of sabotage and assassinations. One of the major plotters of these criminal acts is Vice-President Richard Nixon. 1960: The French ship La Coubre is blown up in Havana harbour, resulting in the loss of many lives. Miami and all of southern Florida is effectively transformed into an anti-Cuban military base. This is also the year that signals the first of innumerable attempts to assassinate the leader of Cubas revolution, and indeed to decapitate the countrys revolutionary leadership. 1960: Cuba expropriates the refineries of the Texas Oil Company (Texaco, in which Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers were among the biggest shareholders) after it refused to refine Soviet petroleum. This marks a crucial stage in the liberation of Cuba through public ownership of its resources. The public ownership of these industries is followed by the

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takeover of the plantations, public utilities and telecommunications sectors. 1961: On 16 April, 1,297 Cuban mercenaries trained by the CIA land at the Playa Giron beach. The brigade is routed after two days of intensive fighting, marking the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. This was the crowning glory of Cubas revolutionary armed forces and its leadership. The billboard recalling the victory in Giron succinctly proclaims: Giron is the first imperialist defeat in the Americas. What this meant was that the days when bullets and bayonets underpinned the neo-colonial rule of a terrorist regime dedicated to the pillage of the nations resources had come to an ignominious end. It encapsulated the nemesis of a defunct imperial order. It was to become one of the defining moments of the Cuban revolution that inspired subsequent revolutionary struggles in the Americas. It shattered the illusion of the invincibility of American imperialism. What it also demonstrated was that the masters of empire could never reconcile themselves to a political, ideological order that first battered the foundations of imperial oppression. In addition to revealing the technical mastery of Cubas strategic thinking, the debacle in Giron became the irreversible unifying force of the nation. Socialism became the deliberate and irreversible path of the Cuban revolution. In the words of the Comandante Fidel Castro: Our MarxistLeninist party was really born at Playa Giron; from that date on socialism became cemented forever with the blood of the workers, peasants and students. And he went on to observe that Giron highlighted, as no other historical event could ever have done, that this is a life-and-death struggle that can only end with the death and destruction of the Revolution or the counter-revolution. 1961: The financial cost of the catastrophic Bay of Pigs defeat for the United States is over $225 million. To this sum is added $53 million worth of medicines and food that Cuba would receive in exchange for the captured invaders.

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1961: Assassination of Congos Patrice Lumumba by the CIA in complicity with the Belgian government. 1961: The administration of President John F Kennedy launches the Alliance for Progress in Latin America to contain and destroy the Cuban revolution. In less than a year the Alliance would fizzle out. 1962: On the orders of the Kennedy administration, Cuba is expelled from the Organization of American States by the US Latin American vassals. 1964: Because of his call to rein in the excessive power of US corporations in Brazil, the countrys President Joao Goulart is ousted in a military coup. 1965: Creation of the Cuban Communist Party. Castro is elected as first secretary. 1967: On the orders of the CIA, Che Guevara is captured and assassinated by the military in Bolivia. 1973: In Chile, a military putsch, led by General Augusto Pinochet and blueprinted by the US administration, overthrows the democratically elected government of President Salvador Allende on 11 September. 1975: In Vietnam, Saigon (renamed Ho Chi Minh Ville) is liberated on 30 April. 1975: Thousands of Cuban volunteers are airlifted to Angola to halt the South African advance on Luanda. 1976: Cuban-born Venezuelan national Luis Posada Carriles organizes the blowing up of a Cuban passenger aircraft. All 73 passengers are killed.

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Till this day, the US government refuses to extradite Posada Carriles to Cuba or Venezuela. 1983: US military invasion of Grenada. In President Ronald Reagans words: That island has become a major beachhead of communism in our hemisphere that directly threatens the national security of the United States. 1988: Repudiation of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachevs doctrine of Perestroika by the Cuban government as an ideological battering ram for the destruction of socialism. 1989: Hundreds are killed in the US invasion of Panama, baptized as Just Cause, that results in the overthrow of the government. 1991: Acting unilaterally, the Soviet government, in a bid to appease the Americans, withdraws its armed forces from Cuba. 1994: On 14 December, Fidel Castro receives, with full honours of a head of state, Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chavez immediately after the latters release from prison for his participation in the 1992 coup against Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez. 1996: The Adjustment Act, also known as the Helms-Burton law, internationalizes the US embargo on Cuba by applying sanctions to all foreign companies that use so-called American expropriated property to do business with Cuba. 2000: An attempt by Posada Carriles to assassinate Castro is aborted by Cuban intelligence services. 2002: The setting up of the largest concentration camp in the Americas in the US naval base in Guantanamo, used as a torture and interrogation centre.

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2006: Due to a serious medical condition President Castro transfers his authority to the chief of armed forces, Raul Castro, in July.

VENEZUELA 1498-99: Columbus and Alonso de Ojeda visit Venezuela. 1521: Spanish colonization begins. 1749: First rebellion by Creoles against Spanish rule. 1750-1816: Francisco de Miranda, a forerunner of Simon Bolivar, liberates vast stretches of Spanish America. He is captured in 1812 and dies after four years in a Spanish dungeon in Cadiz. 1783: Birth of Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), the Liberator, in Caracas. More than any anti-colonial combatant, he would lead the fight for independence in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. His grand ambition of a South American Federation would not be realized, however, due to lack of political cohesion within his administration and the opposition of the Creole oligarchy. 1810: Venezuelan nationalists, profiting from Napoleons invasion of Spain, declare independence for the United Provinces of Venezuela. It is a political triumph for the white oligarchy, which would deploy its newly acquired political power to retain and extend its oppressive and racist class rule. The blacks and Indios would be effectively excluded from the fruits of formal political freedom. 1811: Independence Act signed. 1829-30: Venezuela secedes from Gran Colombia and becomes an independent republic.

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1870-88: Dictatorship of Antonio Blanco. The white oligarchy rules the nation with the unquestioned authority of the Roman Catholic Church and the army. Parliamentary democracy with the trappings of constitutional rhetoric is nothing more than a sham. 1902: Blockaded by American, British and German warships because of failure to repay its loans. The country would lose control of its customs revenues for many years until the loans are repaid at extravagant interest rates. Added to this is the cost of the punitive military blockade. 1916: Discovery of oil in Maracaibo by Rockefellers Standard Oil Company. It becomes the political kingmaker. The massive influence of US corporate capital moves in tandem with US direct political control of the nation. Tens of billions of dollars are appropriated by the oil companies, given the total absence of any effective national accountability. 1908-35: Juan Vicente Gomez grabs power in 1908 with the support of the oligarchy and the oil companies. Dictator Gomez is the ideal native politico who would fling wide open the economic gates to foreign pillage of the nations resources. The world of Venezuelan labour is reduced to subsistence wages and its organizations banned. 1948: President Romulo Gallegos, the first democratically elected president in the nations history, is booted out in a military coup just a few months into his presidency. His crime, in the verdict of the nations masters, is that he had fallen under the spell of communist influence when he dared proclaim that Venezuela should learn and emulate the lessons of Mexicos Indian President Lazaro Cardenas who nationalized the Mexican oil industry in 1937. The American ambassador declared that the US would take all measures to prevent the spread of what the US oligarchy branded the Mexican contagion. 1950-89: These are decades of totally submissive governments wedded to the promotion of personal political aggrandizement and enrichment, neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus.

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1989: Born of hunger, mass unemployment and deprivation, El Caracazo (the Caracas uprising) begins in the early hours of 27 February and lasts five days. Its reach extends into all the other major cities such as Maracaibo and Valencia. It is the most lethal class struggle that the nation has ever experienced, as it is mercilessly put down by the army and the national guard. A state of national siege is proclaimed and martial law comes into force. The human toll is some 3,000 dead and around 10,000 wounded. To conceal the horrors of the repression, many of the victims are stuffed in bodybags and dumped in rivers and ravines or bulldozed into deep unmarked graves. In sheer scope and scale, the massacre, galvanized by a socalled constitutional government, has no precedent even in Latin Americas blood-drenched history. The bones and flesh of the victims could be concealed but the historical memory of working-class struggle lives on eternally. What triggered this mass uprising stemmed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-prescribed plan of structural adjustment that embraced the familiar cocktail of death: slashing of public-sector outlays to the bone, indiscriminate slicing of salaries and wages but not profits, elimination of social welfare programmes and subsidies, and deregulation of interest rates and foreign exchange operations. Price controls, so vital a component in working-class budgets, were eliminated. Tariffs were abolished. This was taking place against a backdrop of rising poverty. In 1989, almost half of the nations households were grovelling at poverty level, with more than one-fifth wallowing in extreme impoverishment. This human degradation galloped hand in hand with plummeting incomes and indeed was fuelled by rising prices. To these woes was superimposed a currency devaluation. Such were the golden cureall recipes of neoliberalism accepted obsequiously by a pathologically diseased regime. According to one observer, the possessing classes in their country clubs were caught in a state of panic.Kill the commies now became a sort of rallying cry of a bourgeoisie driven to its wits end. The uprising that arose as a result of the appalling levels of exploitation was smashed but it created an opening for the dazzling shafts of light that would appear, for El Caracazo spelt the beginning of the end of the sham democracy that had endured since formal independence. It was to become the major catalyst of the Bolivarian revolution and the renaissance that would soon follow in its wake.

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1992: Failure of an attempted coup by Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chavez. 1998: Chavez is elected president in the first of what would be many landslide electoral triumphs. The United States becomes the leading bankroller of the hyper-rich white opposition to the democratically elected president. 2000: Chavez wins another six years in office. 2002: A general strike is organized by the oligarchy and the CIA on 9 April to dump the government. On 12 April, Chavez is arrested by the military acting on direct orders from the US embassy. The putsch leader Pedro Carmona is appointed by the military, with US backing, as head of a transitional government. The US corporate media without exception celebrates the coup. 2002: The short-lived coup collapses on 14 April. Chavez returns to power buttressed by tens of thousands of his partisans, overwhelmingly from working-class barrios. 2002-03: The coup leaders launch a nine-week strike starting in December 2002 to sabotage the petroleum industry and once again pull down Chavez. The strike is defeated. The cost to the national economy of the strike is around $14 billion. 2004: Chavez stakes his political career on a recall referendum in which voters are asked whether he should serve out the remaining two-and-ahalf years of his presidential term. He scores another resounding electoral triumph. 2005: The Bolivarian revolution led by Chavez embarks on one of the most decisive institutional reforms in the nations history, namely the land reform designed to break up the latifundia (huge landed estates), one of the major bulwarks of the oligarchys power.

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2005: The political forces led by Chavez acquire control of the National Assembly in December as the opposition, acting foolishly on the advice of the US State Department, boycotts the election. 2006: On 3 December Chavez wins a third term (2007-2013) by his largest ever electoral margin. 2007: In January, key energy and telecommunications industries are nationalized. The National Assembly grants the president powers to rule by decree for the next 18 months.

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AFTERWORD

We have always been gripped by the sheer evocative narrative skills and analytical power of the author of The Rise and Fall of Economic Liberalism and his pioneering monographs on the oligopolistic control by a handful of mega-corporations of the international marketing and distribution of primary commodities. A process whose momentum has not stopped, given the accelerated tempo of the concentration and centralization of capital on a world scale, one of the many themes of this work. The accomplishments of this celebrated internationalist, teacher, theorist and revolutionary spokesman have never been confined to erudite politico-economic research that seeks the accolades of a comprador caste of elitists. It was no accident that one of his most inspiring recent contributions, Dien Bien Phu: A Personal Memoir, should have appeared just prior to the appearance of his masterwork on Cuba and Venezuela. It is a scathing indictment of imperialism and, within that framework, it must be seen also as a triumph of the oppressed peoples of colour. Cuba and Venezuela: The Nemeses of Imperialism is more than a compilation of historical facts wrapped in the rhetoric of the conventional political left. True, it is a grand celebration of irreversible

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political and social conquests of two Third World nations that have joined forces to reshape the inherited contours of the Americas. This is the story that he tells, but within the currents of this onrushing narrative flow is the thunder and lightning of human hope. It is hope grounded in the belief that the maledictions of exploitation, racism and exploitation are not things of fixity but can be and are being changed by the combined democratic action of men and women mobilized to put an end once and for all to an intolerable and ignoble social order. It is remarkable that the publication of this masterpiece on the revolutionary changes now reaching into every corner of the Latin American region happens to coincide with the advent of three major and interdependent events. The first is the superficial and distorted declassification of hundreds of pages of long-secret records that detail a minor sliver of the CIAs terrorist practices perpetrated against the people of Cuba and its leadership for some quarter of a century starting from the early 1960s until the 1990s. This collection of documents bears the innocuous title of Family Jewels. Indeed, it tells us very little that we did not know. These crimes against humanity perpetrated in the name of human rights were not, however, limited to the people of Cuba and the targeted killings of their revolutionary leadership, but were worldwide in their coverage. An episode that struck me with particular violence was the chilling admission made in August 1960 by a CIA terrorist who approached Colonel Sheffield Edwards of the Office of National Security to enquire if he had assets that may assist in a sensitive mission requiring gangster-type action. The very designation gangster-type action encapsulates one aspect of imperial genocide as it prevailed over the last two centuries. What Dr Clairmonts work drives home is that outrages of this kind were not aberrations but formed the warp and woof of the exploitation and genocide that were inherent in the relationship of the empire to its Latin American colonies and beyond. Revolting affirmations of this kind are inseparable from the practices implemented in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

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The second item is that a financial news report tells us that the gap is growing not merely between the haves and the have-nots but even between the super-rich (the so-called ultra-high net worth individuals who have more than $30 million to invest), whose assets expanded by 17% in 2006, and the merely affluent (those with assets of $1-5 million), whose wealth grew only 6%. As the author of this report tersely commented: The gap has been exacerbated by rising markets and the forces of globalization, which have allowed a relatively small number of people to accumulate vast fortunes. Among the masters of this unshackled financial universe of globalization are hedge-fund gamblers that have achieved the nirvana of making money out of money. According to Alpha magazine, just to scramble into the list of the top 25 highest-paid hedge-fund managers you had to earn at least $240 million. Hedge-fund gamblers, however, are but one segment of the corporate financial pyramid. Mr Peter Mandelson, an ideological crony of Tony Blair and European Union Trade Commissioner, neatly summarized the credo of the UKs New Labour: We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich. Indeed, such relaxations are the essential ingredients of neoliberalism and, hence, anathema to Cuba and Venezuela. The third news item, which revealed the dynamics of Venezuelas Bolivarian revolution, is about its non-stop vast extension of democratized ownership and control of the nations energy resources. These three news items are not unrelated as they constitute the backdrop against which the fabric of this work must be evaluated. It is well that this great teacher should have begun his work on Cuba and Venezuela by analyzing in depth the contradictions within American capitalism that are becoming more self-destructive over time. A nation in which the prison population is in the region of 2.5-3.5 million and growing at a yearly rate of 6%. A nation in which the proportion of high-school dropouts stands at 25% a figure that has not changed over several decades. A nation in which the ultra-rich pay 15% capital

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gains tax on their earnings, rather than the top income tax rate of 35%. These are not isolated examples but are pointers to the disintegration of American capitalism and its works. As the author strenuously argues, the United States has, except in a very formal sense, no legitimate claims to being a democracy; the course of its history demonstrates the extent to which it is, instead, the antithesis of democracy. With painstaking attention to historical detail straddling the centuries of colonial and post-colonial occupation, the author discards the fatuous rhetoric of American democracy, which is in reality nothing more than a fig leaf to conceal the crimes of imperialism and its current euphemisms. Hence, as he sees it, there is no possibility of any form of coexistence between Cuba/Venezuela and the United States. And the same holds for any other country that boldly embarks on the alternative course of socialism. The central theme of this epic work is that although Cuba and Venezuela continue to be the victims of imperial savagery, they have been radically transmogrified, due to the profound democratic changes the first of their kind in the Americas into a coherent antiimperialist front embracing millions in Latin America and beyond. As the author concludes, these two embattled revolutionary nations have become the spearheads of the greatest changes that Latin America has ever witnessed. And in so doing, they have given humanity a blueprint of the socialism of the 21st century. In all his works and this is certainly no exception the author has never subscribed to the cult of objectivity. This work reveals him as a passionate protagonist of the revolutionary change of his time and one of its most incisive chroniclers. Cuba and Venezuela, combined to the resistance struggle in Mesopotamia, have destroyed the invincibility of empire. What the author does not want us to forget is that imperialism has no exit strategy and hence it must continue to pursue the logic of war without end. A war that it cannot win. It is for this reason that the

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author regards Cuba and Venezuela not merely as the bastions of new socialist freedoms but as the nemeses of imperialism. A final point. An unforgettable insight of this work is the quotation of US President William H. Taft, who proclaimed in 1912 that the historic moment was not remote when the whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally. There is no point in enquiring how one people can be appropriated morally by others. This mouthing is fascism in its undiluted form. The great value of this book, which the passage of time will not diminish, is its message of hope for those who are battling daily to eliminate imperialism as encapsulated in such utterings. It delineates why and how the theory and practice of the masters of the corporate gulag are unravelling at a speed that few could have envisaged just 10 years ago. Bernard Mbeki

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