Conservative anti-imperialism


In Foreign Affairs, Javier Corrales coins a term I had not heard before: “conservative anti-imperialism.”

It describes Chávez’s approach to relations with the US: antagonistic, but not that much; virulently vociferous, but eager to make a sale.

The money quote:

“And that points to a final piece of the Chávez legacy. He wants to be remembered as the most anti-American leader the world has seen since Fidel Castro. In reality, Chávez broke with Fidel’s approach to the Yankee empire early on. To be sure, Chávez has enjoyed provoking the Americans, but only to a certain point, and never so much that the United States brought an embargo down on his head. So he has played his anti-Americanism conservatively: he has sided with the anti-imperialist FARC in Colombia, but  has also managed to stay on good terms with the Colombian government. He has cooperated with Iran, but has also maintained good relations with the pro-American Saudis. He avoided nuclear weapons …

Chávez came to understand that his expensive revolution needed the U.S. oil market and that he couldn’t put his access to that market at risk. If he dies soon, he should be remembered as the United States’ reliable oil partner — the ultimate seller.”

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  1. I take the point that Chavez was a pragmatist but Mr Corrales gives Chavez too much credit. I don’t believe he actually planned many (any?) of his policies. And if expelling ambassadors and siding with narco-generals & narco-terrorists is conservative I’d hate to see what the other end of the spectrum has to offer. The argument that Venezuela has maintained reasonable relations with Colombia is interesting – it isn’t so long ago that relations reached such a low point that fisticuffs between the two leaders and troop movements to the border were the order of the day.

    It was the US that failed to put itself in a position to challenge the Chavista cult. Being bogged down in Iraq & Afghanistan meant the US had no choice but swallow the bitter pill of Chavez oil.

    Chavez should be remembered for being the ultimate opportunist: seeing mal-content in his country & using it to support his uprising, then grab for power once elected; using the 2002 coup to justify his endless appetite for power; and squandering the oil bounty to bolster his world stage pretensions.

    • Several points to your deliberate and unfounded effort to diminsh Chavez’s influence:

      Relations with Colombia. Colombia needed Venezuela more than vice versa. Why? Just ask any Colombian exporter as Venezuela was and still is its second biggest trade partner. Even your hero and narcoterroist Uribe had to back down under pressure from Colombian business in 2005.

      US oil embargo never happened since both countries need each otehr but that is changing with the new relationship wuth China.

      Economic policies were always crystal clear. As Chavez once said – who cares about the GDP numbers as long as poverty in going down – which it has and dramatically at that.

      Reagrding the new cliché “conservative anti-imperialism” – well to be a radical anti-imperialist I guess you have to try and fly airplanes into the Pentagon (sic) and the White House. What you all fail to mention in that after Chavez paid off the IMF in early December 2001 he had no need to cow down to the US or the IMF where the US Treasury holds 60% of the stock. So he could say what he wanted.

      You also fail to realize that Chavez was and still is the game changer. The US has lost a great deal of its influence in South America and nowadays China is the biggest trade partner. This move started with the revival of OPEC – thanks to Chavez’s initiative – and the exmaple of the Bolivarian revolution encouraging other countries to vote for left wing Presidents and ditch neoliberal policies that benfited the corporations and vulture banks.

      In other words Chavez’s “conservative imperialism” has yielded positive results and not for the US whereas radical imperialiism could have led to an invasion or economic sanctions.Chavez is much smarter than you all give him credit for.

      So mcuh for Corrales and Foreign Policy trying to coin a phrase to discredit Chavez and his accomplishements on the international front.Otro fracaso! And JC swallows it hook. line and sinker.

      • Let us just see what his enduring legacy will look like when we bury him. I wouldn’t bet a locha on it. A wise ruler would have pulled all people of good will together including those who voted for him in 1998 and got disenchanted in 2001 and the wise ruler would have built a solid nation and a solid legacy. This one was a divider who built a Potemkin village. In additions, his inner demons are coming back to haunt him. Venezuela missed a good chance. Too bad!

      • Chavez was and still is the game changer.

        May shorten it to
        Chavez Game Over
        Black silloutte on red tee, whatdjathink?

        Hot damn, I got my tee-shirt logo.
        Rich! Rich!

      • Very good, but i think you missed one point, why does the “game changer” Chavez need to import 31k barrels of oil a day from the US to simply keep the country going? Why buy oil from those pesky gringos when there are plenty other imperialist thugs that are willing to sell it to him? Like Russia or even China.

        • Didya hafta bring up the fly in the ointment? Arturo’s story was so peachy, up to that point. It nearly called for sainthood nomination.

      • …the exmaple (sic) of the Bolivarian revolution encouraging other countries to vote for left wing Presidents and ditch neoliberal policies that benfited (sic) the corporations and vulture banks.

        You mean that banks in Venezuela are now just scraping by, Arturo?
        Do tell!

  2. In reality, Chávez broke with Fidel’s approach to the Yankee empire early on.

    Is this what passes for analysis in opposition circles?

    Fidel broke with Fidel’s approach to the Yankee empire after the defeat of the Soviet Union, way before Chavez came to power in Venezuela. I dare say if China were in a position to buy all Venezuela’s oil, as the Soviets did with Cuba’s sugar, Chavez would have adopted a more bullish approach to US imperialism. But they’re not, so he doesn’t. And there’s no evidence that Fidel has ever encouraged Chavez to do anything different.

  3. Er, is this blog meant for the Chavistas? Just wondering.

    I just saw this quote in El Universal:

    “President Hugo Chávez is “kidnapped in Cuba” and that Venezuelans have a right to know what his condition is and who is giving instructions from Cuba.”

    I like it! I like it a lot! If the opposition runs their campaign with this as their theme, they’ve got a shot at this thing. Tie Maduro in with Cuba. Cuba, Cuba, Cuba. Hey! Aren’t we all Venezuelans here? Vote for Venezuela! This could tip the election. Good stuff.

  4. The success of Venezuela’s foreign policy cannot be measured by the ‘damage’ caused other countries which Mr Chavez has arbitrarily designated as the ‘enemy’ simply to bolster his own narcicistic self image as the heroic opponent of an fictive ‘boogy man’ but the benefits which have actually accrued to the people of Venezuela as a result of such Policy , From this perspective what are the benefits recieved by ordinary Venezuelans from the delivery of Venezuelan oil to China , Belorussia, Iran, Siria , Cuba , Bolivia , Nicaragua , Argentina ,under terms much less favourable than could have been obtained from selling it to other markets. Has any one done the accounting of the cost to Venezuela of practically giving away its oil to regimes that hanker to Mr Chavez narcicistic ideological fantasies. or in return for funding which as is the case of China is tied to having to contract chinese companies on the most onerous terms, or in return for services which are either unneeded , or unwanted or even damaging as is the case for most of the services recieved from Cuba . ( some day the truth about the very poor , substandard quality of the services rendered by the much touted Cuban ‘doctors’ will come out ) or the cost to Venezuela of the regimes embargo of traditional Colombian imports to be replaced by new suppliers who had no established logistical structure to supply Venezuela’s requirements ( Think of Pudreval and the often reported corruption attendant on Cadivi authorization of import dollars to unknown traders ). All for the sole purpose of serving the inflamed megamaniacal tantrums of our Chief of State . Some day this account will have to be made and a judgment made that really reflects the damage to Venezuela of following this regimes foreign policy.

  5. To be a real anti-imperialist one would have to be anti-capitalist, anyone who understands how the term came about and what it is from Lenin,Trotsky/Luxemburg knows this as a ABC of Marxism.

    The foreign policy of Venezuela as conducted by the VP/FM is just like any other capitalist country ” the enemy of my enemy is my friend” unless I can make a buck off my enemy and enemies and friends can change at a blink of an eye.

    Now if Venezuela was a socialist country, it would practice proletarian internationalism and a limited contact with the capitalists on Venezuela’s terms, as for me I would have cut off the oil long time ago to the US(they get 30% of their oil from Venezuela and it would cause a worldwide depression) and cut it off from Syria, China and Iran also and have advocated this for 5 years.

    • Cort,
      There is no such thing as an ABC of Marxism! Unless you are Michael Lebowitz –who seems to really like that horrid expression or you are an ortho-Marxist, but then if that were the case, why would you even care about Venezuela? Our so-called “revolution” is clearly a different kettle of fish. Check out Das Kapital or the Grundrisse… no recipes there. Just kick-arse critical analysis of capitalism!

  6. There are also very practical reasons why Venezuela cannot just simply replace its oil buyers. The US has a lot of refining capacity specifically for Venezuelan oil. One doesn’t build refineries just like that, and you better have a really good reason for a new one to make one.

    Additionally both Venezuela and the US have oil supertanker dock facilities. Something that China lacked until very recently. When we started exporting oil to China it had to travel to Indonesia in a super tanker and transferred to medium tankers in order to be delivered in China. And expensive ordeal for Venezuela since oil is paid at market prices minus shipping cost. That shipping cost paid by Venezuela is also another incentive to sell near and there is nothing cheaper for us (or nothing that allows for larger profits) than to put our oil in a supertanker and send it across the gulf of Mexico to the US.

    As a sidenote, Venezuelan refineries both here and abroad are old. They will have to be seriously revamp or taken down soon. I see very little planning in this front. Picture the electric crisis that we had because no infrastructure was built, but imagine that we have all this oils but not enough means to refine it. It will be a disaster. And those with refineries will have us by the balls.

  7. Conservative Anti-Imperialism?

    That’s a bad choice of words, at best Chavez’s Foreign Policy is pragmatic with some episodes of anti-yankee rhetoric. But there is nothing conservative in it, is more in the line of radical leftist but that still need the bad and evil green lettuce from his diabolic enemy.

    So I would call it pragmatic anti-imperialism.


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