Venezuela: Forming Ranks Against Disciplinary Neoliberalism

Reinaldo Iturriza Lopez
As I write these lines, I have in mind mainly the contingent of comrades who, for various reasons, have temporarily resigned from militant work; extraordinarily valuable people who, for example, have decided to dedicate themselves to the urgencies of daily life, often because they have no alternative; people who have left their work in some public institution, a space that is usually very hostile to any person with a transforming vocation, because of disagreement with their superiors, which is why they evaluate it as a lack of coherence between discourse and practice; people who have been kept on the sidelines in the same institutions, but also in the same territories, because it is uncomfortable, because they insist on remaining faithful to their principles; people who feel defrauded by Chavista political leadership in general, whom they consider, among other things, alien to popular sentiment; people who do not feel identified with a government that too often, in their opinion, announces that it will do things that it does not do, and does things about which it offers no explanation; people, in short, who feel defeated or who have stepped aside (or have been pushed aside) because they believe it makes no sense to fight battles that are not their own.

To these people, war casualties, we must be able to speak. We cannot leave these people, our people, to their fate.

No one in their right mind wants war, but these are times of suspension of judgment. The clearest proof of this is that, according to El Universal (1), Juan Guaidó, interviewed by AFP on Friday, February 8, “did not rule out authorizing a U.S. military intervention or a foreign force in the country. His words were: “We will do everything we can. This is obviously a very controversial issue, but making use of our sovereignty, the exercise of our powers, we will do what is necessary”, referring to the “eventual use of its powers to authorize a military intervention” (2). The next day, U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna replied that he could proclaim himself leader of Venezuela, but that he was no one to authorize U.S. military interventions (3). In Guaidó’s disclaimer, it should be specified that he does not speak as Venezuela’s leader, but as a ventriloquist puppet of U.S. foreign policy.

Guaidó is right when he speaks of “our sovereignty,” only he does not refer to Venezuelan sovereignty.

In the third and final part of the book “A Geopolitics of the Spirit”, Miguel Ángel Contreras Natera makes a fascinating summary of the evolution of US security and defence doctrine from the Carter Doctrine to the “National Security Strategy”, including the “Project for a New American Century”. It tells the story of a decadent empire that, in the context of the general crisis of capitalism as a historical system, and in the face of the threat posed by Asia and the possibility of its becoming the hegemonic centre of global power, reacts by destroying the system of international relations prevailing since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which established the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states.

In essence, the imperial political rhetoric used today against Venezuela dates back to the period covered by Contreras Natera (1980-2006). Thus, for example, when Guaidó affirms that he will do “whatever is necessary, whatever we have to do to save human lives, so that children do not continue to die” (4), even authorizing a U.S. military intervention in Venezuelan territory, his words are the colonial echo of the reasoning used by Michael Walzer to justify the “just war” against Iraq in 2003.

Similarly, the characterization of Venezuela as “a narco-state plunged into enormous corruption and responsible for the brutal repression of its citizens” (5), systematically employed by the official U.S. spokesmanship and enthusiastically replicated by politicians, media and analysts aligned with their interests, is based on the categorization made in 1999 by an institution dependent on the Ministry of Defense, according to which states are divided into four groups, according to the level of stability of their democracies: core states, transition states, rogue states and failed states. In reality, the classification “varies according to the affinities of the states with respect to the Washington model”. A rogue state such as the Venezuelan one “deserves to disappear as a non-right state from the moment it does not appear to respect the prescriptions of international law”, as they are interpreted by “states that are supposedly legitimate and respectful of the laws, that is, those that, having the greatest force, are willing to call the rogue states to order or to make them come to their senses, if necessary resorting to an armed intervention – punitive or preventive” (6).

Thus, we have the status, and the possibility of the “just war” of some states (U.S. and its allies) against others (rogue states), but something is missing. War, currency and state are the constituent forces of capitalism, notes Éric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato (7). The market is missing. This imperial taxonomy referring to the states is functional to the purposes of “disciplinary neoliberalism,” as Contreras Natera defines it:

“The freedom proposed by the spokespersons of disciplinary neoliberalism – as an ideology and a technique of government – must be understood within the framework of the current mutations and transformations of globalization. Freedom refers to the unrestricted respect for certain natural mechanisms […] intrinsic to economic processes rather than to the recognition of individual liberties. Freedom is, before anything else, free market, and this is assumed as a moral principle. Guided by this principle, in the act of intervening militarily in some rogue state, the United States is doing nothing more than ensuring that the free market “is not obstructed by any government intervention. The need to commodify every space of life […] is inscribed within the vision of disciplining bodies and peoples in order to increase productivity. To be against the United States, in this and many other aspects, is to be against freedom” (8).

In other words, “a society is democratic as long as it speaks out against state interventionism and in favour of the market”. If this is not the case, then “the market must be defended both politically and militarily”. The objective is “to extend the world governed by the pure exchange of goods, to extend the relations mediated by money as the natural and unique form of human relations”, which supposes, in geopolitical terms, that one part of the world dominates the economy of the other part. The fate of rogue states, susceptible to military intervention, is to adjust “internally so that they can maintain the service of their debts to the US dollar-Wall Street dictatorship. The bonds with this regime suppose the subordination of states as an imperial-colonial order to the turbulence of the international financial system” (9).

What disciplinary neoliberalism does is to “rewrite the market economy as a drive of natural forces and thereby obscure the institutions, individuals, global and local actors that drive global capitalism. But it is not only “a process of political and ideological revisionionism, It is fundamentally “a program of deliberate control of Third World energy resources”, which is expressed as “the deepening of levels of inequality, intensified extraction, renewed primitive accumulation and the deployment of mechanisms of subjugation through increasing debts, vigilance and coercion on a world scale” (10).

The problem, warns Contreras Natera, is that “this imperial ethnocentrism, with its unscrupulous and sophisticated legal defenses of just war, is breaking international institutions and, simultaneously, with its sets of security and defense policies, undermining the processes of reproduction of life on the planet. Assisted by the reason of the strongest, arrogating to itself the right to exercise its sovereign unilateralism, it violates the sovereignty of the alleged rogue states. Such a picture supposes a dangerous paradox: “the states that are in the situation of making war on the rogue states are themselves, in their truest sovereignty, rogue states. Therefore, within the authorized and legitimated logic of the rogue states, there are only rogue states and there is no more rogue state” (11).

Once the current legal order has been suspended, only the permanent state of exception remains: “The politically decisive case of exception is the war which, precisely, as an exception, is also the parameter and, consequently, that which cannot be measured by anything else. Faced with an exceptional case, the US imperial state suspends the law by virtue of the right to self-preservation. Following Carl Schmitt, Contreras Natera states: “the one who has the power to suspend the legal order and, eventually, to establish a legitimate order based on that power actually wielded, is then the sovereign” (12).

It is in the name of the sovereignty of the U.S. imperial state that Juan Guaidó speaks. And it is in his name that he places himself at the service of a military intervention in Venezuela. Not in our name.

The treatment of Venezuela as a rogue State, the policy of strangling the national economy promoted and implemented by the United States, the farce of “humanitarian aid”, the threat of military intervention, a neoliberal “Country Plan” that supposedly contains “the keys that will liberate the productive forces of the nation” (13), and that refers to Venezuela as a failed State: all this happens because we live in a permanent state of exception on a global scale, in which, to summarize an idea put forward by Michel Löwy, what is exceptional is democracy (14).

That is why the content of a declaration signed by intellectuals and academics such as Edgardo Lander, Antonio Negri, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, among others, according to which Nicolás Maduro “has governed outside the Constitution, applying a permanent state of exception” is truly disconcerting (15).

Despite the presence in the Venezuelan government of authoritarian elements, corrupt and rather prone to favor the interests of capital, which is certainly nothing new, there can be no doubt that Bolivarian democracy continues to be an exceptional case that, in fact, confirms the global rule: the permanent state of exception, with the U.S. imperial state self-proclaimed as sovereign.

The imperial sovereign has declared war on Venezuela. When, on March 9, 2015, they declared us an “unusual and extraordinary threat to U.S. national security and foreign policy,” it was war drums that rang out. Certainly, war thrives on our discomfort, that is, on our mistakes, on what we have done wrong, on what makes us weak. But it is not because of our mistakes that war is waged against us, but because of our successes.

The threat is real. And yes, the threat to our national sovereignty is unusual and extraordinary. It is not a government we are defending, but our existence as a sovereign nation. Rarely has our militant work been so necessary. It is necessary to break the isolation, to gather together the common people, to strengthen ties, to rebuild relations, to heal wounds, to reestablish bonds, that is, to go against the neo-liberalization of Venezuelan society, to neutralize its political effects, to form ranks against disciplinary neo-liberalism. It is time to decide.


(1) AFP. Guaidó does not rule out authorizing U.S. intervention in Venezuela “if necessary. El Universal, 8 February 2019.

(2) Agence France-Presse [@AFPespanol]. (February 8, 2019, 18:18). [Expands] “We will do our best. This is obviously a very controversial issue, but making use of our sovereignty, the exercise of our powers, we will do what is necessary,” Guaidó replied about an eventual use of his powers to authorize a military intervention #AFP.
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(3) Ro Khanna [@RoKhanna]. (February 9, 2019, 14:51). Mr. Guaido, you can proclaim yourself leader of Venezuela but you don’t get to authorize US military interventions. Only the US Congress can do that. We will not.
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(4) AFP. Guaidó does not rule out authorizing U.S. intervention in Venezuela “if necessary. El Universal, 8 February 2019.

(5) Emili J. Blasco. Trump elevates Venezuela to the category of “rogue state”. ABC, 27 September 2017.

(6) Miguel Ángel Contreras Natera. A geopolitics of the spirit. Leo Strauss: political philosophy as return and American imperialism. Rómulo Gallegos Center for Latin American Studies. Caracas, Venezuela. 2011 P. 262-263.

(7) Éric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato. Wars and Capital. Semiotext(e). 2016. Page 15.

(8) Miguel Ángel Contreras Natera. A geopolitics of the spirit. Leo Strauss: political philosophy as return and American imperialism. P. 266.

(9) Miguel Ángel Contreras Natera. A geopolitics of the spirit. Leo Strauss: political philosophy as return and American imperialism. P. 267-269.

(10) Miguel Ángel Contreras Natera. A geopolitics of the spirit. Leo Strauss: political philosophy as return and American imperialism. P. 270.

(11) Miguel Ángel Contreras Natera. A geopolitics of the spirit. Leo Strauss: political philosophy as return and American imperialism. P. 298.

(12) Miguel Ángel Contreras Natera. A geopolitics of the spirit. Leo Strauss: political philosophy as return and American imperialism. P. 304.

(13) Plan País: the Venezuela to come. Pages 4, 42.
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(14) Daniel Garroux and Gabriel Zechariah. “The state of exception is constant. What is exceptional is democracy. Interview with Michel Löwy. Viento Sur, 23 July 2016.

(15) Declaration: For a democratic solution, from and for the Venezuelan people. Viento Sur, 2 February 2019.

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Translation by Internationalist 360°