War tensions between Venezuela and Guyana: workers must reject the call to defend their country

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Since the end of 2023, the winds of war are blowing in South America. Venezuela and Guyana are taking diplomatic and military measures due to their long-standing dispute over the territory of the Essequibo[1].

Although the conflict is currently in "hibernation", it is taking place in a global context that is conducive to it exploding and escalating into a major confrontation. Indeed, since the second decade of the 21st century, new wars and armed conflicts have broken out around the world: the war in Ukraine, now in its third year; the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas that began almost six months ago, which is dragging on and accentuating the armed confrontations in several Middle Eastern countries; the escalation of conflicts in North Africa and the Sub-Saharan region, and so on.

In these conflicts, major powers such as the USA, Russia and China intervene through their policy of "appeasement" and "credit diplomacy". Second-tier countries or powers also intervene, such as Western European countries (Middle East, Africa) or Iran, which has a significant presence in several Middle Eastern countries. Each of the countries involved in the conflicts, obviously including the countries directly at war, intervenes for its own benefit, mainly geopolitical. This situation is due to the fact that, after the collapse of the Russian bloc in 1989 and the consequent weakening of the USA as the world's gendarme, a "multipolar" world has developed, in which countries of the second or third order in economic and military terms can more easily develop their own imperialist interests.

In this sense, we reaffirm what we say with regard to the conflict in the Middle East: “The current conflict has nothing to do with the old "logic" of confrontation between the USSR and the United States. On the contrary, it represents a further step in the drive of global capitalism towards chaos, the proliferation of uncontrollable convulsions and the spread of ever more conflicts.”[2]. Thus the present scenario of wars and armed conflicts between nations confirms the analysis Rosa Luxemburg put forward in 1916: “Imperialism is not the creation of one or any group of states. It is the product of a particular stage of ripeness in the world development of capital, an innately international condition, an indivisible whole, that is recognisable only in all its relations, and from which no nation can hold aloof at will.”[3]

Another macabre characteristic of the wars of this decade, in addition to their irrationality, is their "scorched earth" character with destruction and death everywhere. We see this in the war in Ukraine and the war in Gaza. Therefore, we affirm that these military confrontations, together with the economic and ecological crisis, create a "whirlwind" effect that brings with it "the risk of destabilising ever larger regions of the planet, with shortages, famines, millions of displaced people, increased risks of attacks, confrontations between communities...The war in Gaza like the war in Ukraine shows that the bourgeoisie has no solution to war. It has become totally powerless to control the spiral of chaos and barbarism which capitalism is inflicting on the whole of humanity."[4]

The Guyana-Venezuela confrontation moves the imperialist chessboard in the region

The conflict between Venezuela and Guyana contains the potential elements for the development of a larger confrontation. The regime of Nicolás Maduro, through the call for a Referendum, has called for patriotic unity over the claim to the territory of the Essequibo, referring to how Venezuela has been historically usurped, first by the British Empire and then by US imperialism. The Referendum has served as a basis for creating legislation on the disputed area: a new map of Venezuela with the annexed territory, the appointment of a state authority for the region and the mobilisation of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) towards the border with Guyana. For its part, the Guyanese government is not standing idly by: President Irfaan Ali is raising flags in the area, distributing economic aid to the population that has been abandoned for years, and declaring that it will not succumb to Maduro's trickery and that it will defend its country by any means necessary.

Both countries, each with the means at their disposal, develop their own imperialist policies. In the case of Venezuela, Chávez developed an imperialist policy towards the region, using the sale of cheap oil as artillery, even challenging the USA itself. China has given it important economic support, sustained by the supply of Venezuelan oil; Russia, as a supplier of armaments, has a military presence in the country; Iran, together with radical Islamic movements of the Middle East such as Hamas and Hezbollah; Cuba also has a military and intelligence presence in the country; sectors of the leftist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) of Colombia act openly on Venezuelan territory. This spectrum of "anti-imperialist" forces was established by Chavismo with the aim of developing an "asymmetrical war", anticipating an open confrontation with the US. Today, Maduro's government openly proposes the annexation of the disputed territory of the Essequibo.

For its part, Guyana, which plays the weaker country, has made progress in exploiting the oil resources of the disputed area, establishing economic and military alliances with the US and European countries that exploit these resources, as well as with China in the economic sphere, through Chinese consortiums that also exploit the resources of the disputed area.

A sign of the possible escalation of tensions in the region, after the Venezuelan government's decision to annex the disputed area of Esequibo became known, was when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured Washington's "unconditional support" for the Guyanese government and troops from the Southern Command immediately began exercises with Guyanese military forces, with the possibility of having a permanent presence in Guyana. Then, earlier this year, the British military vessel HMS Trent arrived off the coast of Guyana to conduct military exercises with the armed forces of its Commonwealth partner. The Caribbean governments grouped in CARICOM[5] have given their support to Guyana, even though they have agreements with the Venezuelan government for the supply of oil.

On the other hand, Lula intervened by positioning Brazil as a "mediator" in the conflict, declaring that "We don't want wars and conflicts, we need to build peace". However, he ordered the deployment of a military contingent in the Brazilian state of Roraima, on the border with Guyana and Venezuela. In this way, he is not only trying to maintain his status as a regional imperialist power, but is also making use of the alliance with Chavismo, which he has used in his confrontation with the US since his first government took office. For their part, Cuba and Colombia are not taking a position on the conflict, because, by positioning themselves against Maduro, there could be negative repercussions for the Cuban regime due to the economic and military agreements that exist between the two countries; and in the case of Colombia, the agreements established with the leftist government of Gustavo Petro could be affected. These are all purely geopolitical calculations of an imperialist nature.

The Maduro regime is under strong pressure, internally, due to the advance of the opposition sectors, and internationally, mainly due to the sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union. For this reason, it is not out of the question that the Chavista leadership will embark on the adventure of war against Guyana, which would open another front of war for the USA, this time in its own "backyard".

Faced with this conflict, the proletariat and the population as a whole in Venezuela and Guyana are faced with an unprecedented situation: the possibility of being dragged into a war which would not only have repercussions in these countries, but at the regional level.

Left and leftist parties: false internationalists

As in every situation of conflict between nations, the governments of the day call on the workers and the exploited masses to support and mobilise against the opposing government, accusing it of being the aggressor. The workers of Guyana and Venezuela must refuse to participate in these campaigns, which only benefit the governments that exploit them and subject them to misery. The same must be done by workers in the wider region, for if a conflict breaks out they will be called upon to support one side or the other.

The rejection must not only be against the calls of the leaders and parties of the respective governments, but also against the opponents of those governments. All of them want to drag the working and exploited masses into being cannon fodder in a conflict that is not their concern, but in the interest of the ruling class of the warring nations. In the case of Venezuela, the calls of Maduro and the PSUV[6] leaders for "national unity in defence of the homeland" must be rejected. Also the calls of the opposition parties to Chavismo, both in the country and in exile, for "the defence of Venezuela and our territory". In the case of Guyana as well, the workers and exploited of that country must oppose the calls of the government of Irfaan Ali and the entire Guyanese ruling class to defend the homeland.

Even more important is the rejection of the calls and slogans of other parties and groups of the left of capital, such as the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), as well as Trotskyist groups and organisations. The PCV criticises the Maduro government for leading the country towards "a strategic defeat of Venezuela's legitimate aspirations over the Essequibo territory and an advance in the positioning of transnational capital and the interests of the imperialist powers in the region "[7]. The Trotskyists, like the Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo, do the same, because "It has been this government that is carrying out a policy that brutally facilitates the plundering of our resources and that is a real humiliation and subordination of the country to foreign capital "[8]. They claim to defend internationalist positions, but we see how they present themselves as the best defenders of the interests of each national capital; both of them, since World War II, have mobilised the workers as cannon fodder, defending the camp of democratic imperialism and Stalinism against the fascist imperialists and, during the Cold War, calling on the workers to support and fight in favour of the countries under the orbit of the former USSR. Chavists, Stalinists and Trotskyists are of the same stock, all defenders of the capitalist system.

The slogan to defend: "The proletariat has no fatherland".

The exacerbation of tensions between Venezuela and Guyana represents a real danger for the proletariat of these countries and the whole of Latin America. If a conflict breaks out, there will be further destabilisation in the region, with its aftermath of hardship, famine, millions of displaced people to add to the 8 million Venezuelans who have emigrated due to the economic crisis and the exacerbation of tensions between Venezuela and the US since the Obama presidency. In this sense, the region has already been suffering for years from the effects of the economic crisis and the decomposition of the capitalist system at all levels: political, economic, social and environmental.

Any struggle in the defence of a state can only mean the political defeat of the proletariat, as is happening today in Ukraine and Russia, as well as in Gaza and Israel, i.e. proletarians trapped in the defence of their homeland. Against this background of the winds of war, the proletariat must make its own the slogan of the revolutionary organisations of yesterday and today: "The proletariat has no fatherland".

LB 29/3/24






[1] The Essequibo is the name of the river that runs from north to south through the territory of Guyana, a country located in the north of the subcontinent of South America, bordering Venezuela to the west and Brazil to the south. Venezuela claims as its own the territory west of the Essequibo River, which covers three-quarters of Guyana's territory, which it calls Essequiba Guiana.


[3] The Crisis of Social Democracy, also known as the Junius Pamphlet.


[5] The Caribbean Community

[6] The United Socialist Party of Venezuela, founded by Chavismo


Imperialist disputes