Venezuela, the power of crowds, and the supposed end of history…

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“Maduro is my President” Caracas 2 Feb 2019 (VOA)

Those who think the Venezuela conflict is about oil are only partly right. It is also about a culture of pride, arrogance and group-think in the USA and its club of allies.

A few days ago, former Senator Newt Gingrich observed that if Washington does not get the outcome it wants in Venezuela “the impact on our prestige and leadership worldwide will be substantial.”

I don’t agree with Gingrich about a lot. But that much is true. If Juan Guaido comes out second best in his contest with President Maduro it will be a serious setback not only for the USA, but also for the alliance of rich capitalist democracies which it leads.

It will show that the supposed “end of history” which Fukuyama identified with the “triumph of the West, of the Western idea”, was as exaggerated as the reported death of Mark Twain in 1897.

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Pro Guaido meeting in Miami, 18 Feb 2019 (Official White House photo)

Right now, it is difficult to see how Guaido can win.

Last week the US government told its diplomats in Caracas to take down the flag from their embassy building and get out of the country. Maduro had been saying for over a month that they should do this, while Guaido asked the US to keep its embassy staff where they were.

The exit of the embassy people was covered by sour-grapes talk about a “deteriorating situation”… But by vacating the embassy building, the US was effectively admitting that the guy they call “Interim President of Venezuela” has failed to take power there, nor will he take power any time soon.

Can Washington turn the situation around by preparing for a short, overwhelming military strike, as Newt Gingrich wants? I very much doubt it…

Even staunch US allies Brazil and Colombia have spoken out against sending the marines into Venezuela.

This is certainly not because the governments of Brazil and Colombia are leftists or pacifists. It is because they fear the tidal wave of anti-imperialism which a US invasion would provoke, not only in Venezuela but throughout Latin America.

Can the US tame Venezuela by isolating it economically? That too seem unlikely, as long as the Venezuelan government has an economic giant like China on its side.

It’s worth noting that China, like Venezuela, has a mixed economy and describes itself as socialist.

China’s economic success is a huge, undeniable fact.

So, when Guaido fans say that Venezuela’s economic troubles prove socialism doesn’t work, they are ignoring an elephant in the room. Or should I say a dragon in the room?

Whatever happens, Venezuela has shown already how pro-US “people power” (in other, less romantic words — crowd power) can be countered.

People loyal to President Maduro have dealt with the Guaido movement by a combination of

* measured use of force — tear gas and rubber bullets were used against Guaido-ist crowds who threw petrol bombs and rocks at Venezuelan border guards on February 23,

* a crowd power movement of their own — an anti-coup, anti-intervention movement.

Mainstream western news media has sometimes reported large anti-coup demonstrations, but has given them much less coverage than anti-Maduro activities.

The anti-coup and anti-intervention marches and rallies were facts that didn’t fit the story the MSM wanted to tell. The Russian news channel Rupty provided much more coverage.

Guaido’s US-backed campaign — which Maduro aptly described as “psychological warfare” — sought to build up an impression that “the Venezuelan people” were united against Maduro.

Large anti-coup, anti-intervention gatherings effectively dispelled that fantasy.

The bottom line: While crowd power can be a very powerful weapon, it’s not a weapon which belongs only to one side of politics.

This may come as a surprise to people whose knowledge of world history is limited to the anti-communist and neo-liberal revolutions of the late 20th century.

But earlier in the 20th century, crowd power movements formed around leaders with diverse persuasions and agendas. For instance…

* Mussolini, the original Fascist, led the 1922 March on Rome,

* Mao Zedong led a series of mass movement from the days of the Hunan peasant movement to the Cultural Revolution,

* Mahatma Gandhi, a liberal Hindu, led a huge campaign of civil disobedience, through which India gained independence from Britain,

* Klement Gottwald, Communist prime minister of Czechoslovakia, called massive crowds of industrial workers into the streets during the political crisis of February 1948. See this montage of images.

People power, or crowd power, is part of history. Or, part of many histories. Certainly it has not brought about an end to history so far. And if it ever does, that end of history may not be a triumph of the west.

Someone who likes sharing factual information and fragments of the big picture

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