On Russian cash flow in Caracas
In an earlier posting this year we challenged three ostensibly Trotskyist groups (Socialist Action/U.S., the British Red Flag grouping [formerly Workers Power] and our former associates in the International Bolshevik Tendency) to comment on Russia’s role in Venezuela. We noted that while all three characterize Russia as an “imperialist” power, none of them have attempted to show the difference between Moscow’s intervention in Venezuela and that of Cuba or other non-imperialist countries opposed to the economic sanctions and regime-change machinations initiated by U.S. imperialism and its allies. In our March comment we observed:
“We can only presume that their reluctance to address Russia’s role in Venezuela derives from the inherent difficulty of portraying it as in any way ‘imperialist’ ….the American [capitalist] press does not seem to think that Russian financing for the Bolivarians is likely to turn much of a profit. Russia has also invested $1.5 billion in setting up a Kalashnikov factory (one of the very few such ventures undertaken by Moscow in recent years). The intent is clearly to bulwark [President Nicolás] Maduro’s regime, rather than maximize ‘shareholder value.’”
The apparent inability to address this issue suggests that the comrades have found that their impressionistic characterization of Russia as “imperialist” has not provided a useful analytical framework for interpreting developments in Venezuela. As comrades in all three organizations are well aware, Lenin regarded the export of capital as an essential characteristic of modern, i.e., finance-capitalist, imperialism. We therefore wonder what they make of a recent report that:
“Hundreds of millions of dollars in cash has been shipped from Russia to Venezuela, providing a lifeline to the South American country as U.S. sanctions limit its access to the global financial system.
“A total of $315 million of U.S. dollar and euro notes were sent in six separate shipments from Moscow to Caracas from May 2018 to April 2019, according to data reviewed by Bloomberg from ImportGenius, which compiled Russian customs records it obtains through private sources.”
– Bloomberg, 1 November 2019
We anticipate that instead of attempting to provide a materialist explanation of this, the comrades will once again refuse to comment on things that do not fit their preconceived “Russian imperialist” template. A serious attempt to explain Russia’s intervention must inevitably lead to the conclusion that Vladimir Putin’s investment in propping up Maduro’s regime is not characteristic of an imperialist predator. Recognizing this could, in turn, logically require a serious reconsideration of the whole notion of “Russian imperialism.” While we would of course welcome such a development, as we noted previously, we will not be holding our breath.