The Path to Climate Justice Passes Through Caracas

The Path to Climate Justice Passes Through Caracas

CounterPunch: March 11, 2019

Now that the GND is getting a lot of attention as a potential prevention program to avoid catastrophic climate change, it is important to note the contributions of the Green Party of the United States (GP) to making the link between the GND, climate change and the U.S. imperial agenda. Howie Hawkins, an ecosocialist, ran for Governor of New York with a GND in his platform starting in 2010, and the two Presidential campaigns of Dr. Jill Stein, which brought the vision of a GND to the attention of millions, made a significant impact. The GP’s GND includes cutting the military budget and ending the imperial U.S. foreign policy which is in utter contradiction to the agendas of both the Republican and Democratic Party leadership.


By David Schwartzman and Quincy Saul

It is critical to understand how blocking the regime change agenda with respect to Venezuela is integrally connected to confronting the challenge of climate change.

Fighting the Media War

Today we are all witness to the subversion and slander of one of our best hopes. Venezuelans call it “the media war.” Karl Marx called it “the war of calumny undertaken by the lying power of the civilised world,” and went on to describe how “all the sluices of slander at the disposal of the venal respectable press were opened at once to set free a deluge of infamy in which to drown the execrated foe. This war of calumny finds no parallel in history for the truly international area over which it has spread, and for the complete accord in which it has been carried on by all shades of ruling class opinion.”

These words of Marx describe an older media war –  a war against the International Workingmen’s Association, which later became known as The First International. Today they could be applied seamlessly to the media war against the democratically elected government of Venezuela and the revolutionary process it represents. And the comparison is historically and politically sound, because Venezuela was host to the founding in 2017 of the First Ecosocialist International– a piece of world news which has been all but completely drowned out in the furor to topple the only government in the world which has laid out a comprehensive planfor an ecosocialist mode of production “to preserve peace in the planet and save the human species.”

It hurts us to read and write about Venezuela today. A tyrannous troika of mendacity, ignorance and laziness rules with near impunity in the world or journalism; from Fox News to the BBC, from CNN to the Guardian, from Amnesty International to the Committee to Protect Journalists, from John Oliver to Jacobin Magazine. We would much prefer to write about how we have been moved to joy and courage and compassion by the mass popular democratic movements in this country. We would prefer to write about the sense of goodwill, hope and inspiration which emanates from the grassroots Venezuelan revolutionary process. As Che Guevara said, revolutionaries are guided by great feelings of love.

The central purpose of this article is to discuss how the Green New Deal and other climate justice initiatives in the global north have so much to learn and gain from the Bolivarian revolution. But before we can trace this connection, before we can share our love, the way must be cleared of the deception which prevents hearts from beating together across borders. In the face of the scorn which is being heaped upon the Venezuelan revolution today, we must enter the fray and draw our pens to fight in this media war. If our language is sharp, it is because we are at war, a war which calls for sound and fury commensurate to the tales told by idiots.

Will the real shithole countries please stand up?

As many other commentatorshave detailed, the self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido – for whom billions of dollars belonging to the Venezuelan people have been expropriated by US and British banks – is a virtually unknown figure in Venezuela,. He simply declared himself sovereign, not even during an election year, and not  according to any law. The speed and shamelessness with which the leaders of so many countries have abandoned any pretense to democracy, in their official recognition of Guaido, is rather remarkable. But let’s start by clarifying that this rejection of representative democracy only currently afflicts a minority of the world.

Once the EU came out for Guaido, it really seemed to some people for a moment that the whole world was against Maduro and against democracy in Venezuela. While most are not quite as shameless as Bono, a lot of people in the USA and Europe still really do believe that “we are the world.” However the fact fremains that it is only a minority of the world’s population which has tossed democracy into the dustbin of history. No one in Africa or Asia has recognized Guaido as legitimate. Is it that these countries don’t count? (Do black lives matter?)

There is something to be learned from this. A map compiled by Venezuela Analysis reveals, for anyone who cares to investigate, who the real shithole countries are. Perhaps we should not be surprised. In the moment when so-called liberal democracies around the world elect fascist leaders, they have reminded us that democracy is not on their agenda. So be it: Vassal states of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your souls.

Neither Guaido nor Maduro?

With that said, a few paragraphs are also necessary to address certain sources, in Venezuela and internationally, who reject both the ongoing coup attempt, and also the current government: “Neither Guaido nor Maduro!” This discourse too must be discerningly dissected before we can lay the basis for solidarity between global climate justice activists and the Venezuelan revolutionary process.

There is a strange phenomenon taking place in the international left media, in which leftish reporters seem to be getting all their news from the right. Even Amy Goodman stooped to this in an interview with Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza, citing studies by the IMF and Human Rights Watch, each of which have a well documented history of sowing chaos and counterinsurgency in Venezuela. But the prize for a leftwing newspaper with a rightwing research wing goes to Jacobin. “Maduro was not democratically elected,” proclaimed a recent article– a lazy lie which has been repeated about every single election in Venezuela since Chavez first came to power, despite extensive reports and denunciations of international observers. [1] Phrases such as “the extent of popular power in Venezuela has diminished significantly in recent years” are published without a trace of evidence. In the hegemony of “human interest”  journalism, personal anecdotes eclipse historical analysis, and no one seems to note the demonstrations of thousands of people in support of Maduro. It is a surreal situation in which the masses of working class Venezuelans are invisibilized in favor of solidarity with their simulacra.

Here’s another gem from Jacobin: “Opposition to Maduro is now common not only among upper and middle classes (as it has been for some time), but also among the popular sectors. Polls indicate that most Venezuelans want Maduro out”. The first claim is unsubstantiated in any way. Widely available videos and photos of opposition demonstrations reveal quite the opposite – they are lily white and racist to boot; they wave US and Israeli flags, and glorify Trump. And then a poll carried out by a think tank based in Washington DC is cited as an example of Venezuelan popular will! But perhaps it is folly to focus on this magazine which rejects the politics of its namesake; which emerged from Trotskyism only to wind up as the loyal opposition to multicultural capitalism.[2] Better to focus on other voices, which are taken more seriously on the international stage.

When it comes to the radical Venezuelan anti-Chavista/anti-Maduro intellectuals on the left, it is our experience that these voices are restricted to the marginal enclaves of the urban intelligentsia. These perspectives are articulated, in our experience, by professional intellectuals without organizations or bases; those who Antonio Gramsci called “‘vanguards’ without armies to back them up, ‘commandos’ without infantry or artillery.” But to an undiscerning foreign observer, especially those who read only English, these voices carry a greatly disproportionate weight compared to the forces they represent within Venezuela. We’ll limit ourselves to one example. Edgardo Lander is one of the more honest critics. (We share and applaud his ecosocialist philosophy, but not any of his arguments or tactics in relation to the government in the current conjuncture.) He admits in a recent article: “It’s not much more than a dozen people so it’s more of an opinion group… We aren’t a party, we don’t have a lot of people we can call upon to rally but we manage to have some impact in terms of public opinion… To be honest, the Citizen’s Platform itself has no mass capacity to mobilise”. Thus it is disconcerting and deplorable to observe the analysis of these isolated intellectuals repeated abroad – from Amandla Magazine in South Africa to ecosocialist collectives in South Asia – as if they were the spokespeople of the revolutionary masses.

Let’s be clear – critiques of the bourgeois, colonial state and the political economy inherited by the Chavista regime are rich and diverse throughout the country; these critiques are articulated mostly by outspoken Chavistas, who very often quote Chavez and Maduro on this subject. But we have yet to encounter a grassroots mass movement which denounces the Maduro government as illegitimate or authoritarian. The accusation of “authoritarianism” in the name of international solidarity is odd alongside near-total silence about the constant killings of social movement leaders in neighboring countries,and especially odd when it comes from people who are citizens of countries that are engaged in systematic torture and outrageous war crimes. While authoritarianism can be diversely defined, we will not deign to denounce claims that the Venezuelan government is a dictatorship; the so-called radical critics are invited to consult a dictionary.

We earnestly ask these radical anti-Chavistas – what purpose do their words serve in the current conjuncture? With which grassroots movements are they concretely in solidarity? Do they write for foreign NGOs or for popular newspapers? Who benefits when ecosocialists like Lander stage meetings with proto-fascists like Guaido? These “radical critics” who are lionized abroad but have no significant popular support at home, appear to want to criticize their cake and eat it too; to live in a revolutionary process but criticize it from the academic sidelines. Meanwhile, for those anti-Chavista critics living in the United States, it is difficult to stomach the spectacle of their posturing: Good citizens of a ruthless empire which is actively working at every level to overthrow a foreign democratically elected government, who take it upon themselves to denounce that foreign government for not being “radical enough”. Who is not being radical enough, really?

n this deeply complex and decisive historical moment, we share the humility of Lenin when he said: “I don’t know how radical you are, or how radical I am. I am certainly not radical enough. One can never be radical enough; that is, one must always try to be as radical as reality itself.” We too would like to witness the demolition of the bourgeois state, and the abandonment of the rentier petroleum and mining economies which are a legacy of colonialism. But we don’t believe a new mode of production can emerge by making demands and denunciations. We are not particularly outraged that Chavez and Maduro have failed to reverse 500 years of colonialism in a couple decades of a constitutional revolution. We struggle for solidarity with a path towards the future based on the realities of the world we live in today. Our 2015 proposal for the solarization of the Venezuelan economy and Mercosur (“An Ecosocialist Horizon for Venezuela; A Solar Communist Horizon for the World”) outlines such a proposal.

The Green New Deal in World-Systemic Perspective

One of us has been writing extensively for over a decade about how a Green New Deal (GND) should be embraced by ecosocialists as a site of class struggle.[3] Now that the GND is getting a lot of attention as a potential prevention program to avoid catastrophic climate change, it is important to note the contributions of the Green Party of the United States (GP) to making the link between the GND, climate change and the U.S. imperial agenda. Howie Hawkins, an ecosocialist, ran for Governor of New York with a GND in his platform starting in 2010, and the two Presidential campaigns of Dr. Jill Stein, which brought the vision of a GND to the attention of millions, made a significant impact. The GP’s  GND includes cutting the military budget and ending the imperial U.S. foreign policy which is in utter contradiction to the agendas of both the Republican and Democratic Party leadership. Nevertheless, there is growing dissent in Congress with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) vigorously challenging Elliot Abrams in a recent hearing, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) standing out. And because of the assassination of Khashoggi and their murderous war in Yemen, the U.S./Saudi alliance is now under attack in Congress.

But in the Western Hemisphere, foreign policy consensus still prevails, so the Democratic leadership is currently giving a pass to the Trump coup threat to Venezuela. Only someone completely brainwashed by the imperial mass media can believe that this regime change agenda is actually in place because of humanitarian concerns – with Trump, Pompeo, Bolton and the war criminal from the Reagan era Elliot Abrams at the helm, noting that Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves in the world. There is little doubt that these political instruments of militarized fossil capital want this oil extracted. In an interview on Fox Business, Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton was open about the US- led coup in Venezuela being motivated by oil and corporate interests. Bolton said, “We’re looking at the oil assets…We don’t want any American businesses or investors caught by surprise. …we’re in conversation with major American companies now that are either in Venezuela, or in the case of Citgo here in the United States…It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela. We both have a lot at stake here making this come out the right way.”

Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world: “With 300,878 million barrels of proven reserves, Venezuela has the largest amount of proven oil reserves in the world. The country’s oil is a relatively new discovery. Previously, Saudi Arabia had always held the number one position.  The oil sand deposits in Venezuela are similar to those in Canada. Venezuela also boasts plenty of conventional oil deposits. Venezuela’s Orinoco tar sands are significantly less viscous than Canada’s, so the oil sands there can be extracted using conventional oil extraction methods, giving it a considerable advantage over the Northern American rival in terms of capital requirements and extractions costs.” (World Atlas: World’s Largest Oil Reserves by Country”)

Extraction of this huge reserve would be a climate killer, while defeating the imperial agenda driving the Venezuela coup will potentially make an important contribution to global climate security. Venezuela must be left to determine her own destiny, making possible an alternative scenario, upon which the fate of the biosphere may hinge: that most of the oil reserve will stay in the ground, while a small fraction will be used as an energy source for a solar energy transition for Latin America. While Venezuela’ leaders may continue brag about their huge reserve, they surely know that most of it must remain in the ground to be consistent with Venezuela’s own ratification of the Paris Agreement, not to mention its own Plan of the Homeland, recognizing that much more radical curbs on greenhouse gas emission than presently committed are imperative to keep warming below the goal of 1.5 degrees centigrade.

As a major oil producer, Venezuela has the potential to significantly contribute to a solar energy transition, using this fossil fuel with the lowest greenhouse gas emission ratio to energy consumed as an energy source to replace itself. Venezuela could lead a wind/solar power transition in Latin America using a small fraction of her liquid petroleum reserves, while still gaining revenue from oil exports as well as contributing to the same energy transition globally. Implementing this approach would be a critical component of Venezuela’s self-identified path of ecosocialist development. The proven reserves of conventional light to heavy oil in Venezuela are estimated to be 39 billion barrels, (excluding 259 billion barrels of extra heavy oil in the Orinoco basin)[4], although the further expansion of this reserve has been neglected in recent years, particularly since the downturn in the economy following the sharp fall in the price of oil and sanctions regime imposed by the U.S. We have estimated that it is possible to reach the goal of ending energy poverty – necessary for a high quality of life for 400 million people in what were the Mercosur countries – and moreover that this can be achieved in 15 years or less, using 0.15 billion barrels of this oil per year to create a solar power infrastructure.[5]

But of course militarized fossil capital has other plans –  namely the destruction of the Bolivarian Revolution, coupled with extracting this huge oil reserve, regardless of the climatic and environmental consequences. And Cuba is explicitly next on the list for regime change; the fossil empire continues to plot the elimination of this example of ecosocialist transition, noting her vigorous conversion to agroecologies and cooperative ownership.[6]

And not coincidently, the US imperial regime change agenda is also aimed to Iran, which ranks 4th in proven oil reserves with 158,400 million barrels, behind U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Canada.[7] Europe is resisting U.S. pressure to terminate the Iran nuclear deal, but in a reprise of the Monroe Doctrine, Europe is now supporting the U.S. regime change agenda.

Only a resurgent global movement can block this outcome. This challenge should be considered by climate and energy justice activists, and all those supporting the GND initiative in the US Congress, the growing Sunrise movement in particular. Finally, blocking the Trump coup against Venezuela would be an important step to undermining the power of the Military Industrial Complex. The US military is both the biggest polluter and also the biggest obstacle to freeing up resources necessary for a robust GND and creating a global regime of cooperation – so necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change in the ever-shrinking time we have left.

However, we must be on our guard, and be careful students of history. Like the New Deal before it, the GND’s devils are in its details. The New Deal famously left out women and African Americans, and less famously sealed the systematic de-radicalization of the US labor movement.[8] Similar dangers present themselves to climate justice activists today in the context of the GND. All the more reason to engage in the debates and struggles around and for the GND, as we have insisted from the beginning; not as a compromise, but as a class struggle.


Over a decade ago, one of us wrote: “The path to climate security must pass through Gaza, i.e., climate security for humankind will only be achieved with the end of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, termination of Israeli apartheid regime, and the full realization of the individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people.”

The argument still stands, more than ever. Today, noting the historic solidarity between the Venezuelan revolutionary process and the Palestinian people, we must add that the path to climate justice must pass through Caracas; i.e., climate justice for humanity will only be achieved if the world’s largest reserves of fossil fuels are mobilized for a continental and then global energy transition; that this is only possible with the termination of the US war of counterinsurgency and destabilization against the Venezuelan government, allowing them to focus their attention on the full realization of an ecosocialist mode of production. The legal, scientific and spiritual mandate for this ecosocialist revolution are articulated by the government in the Plan of the Homeland (2013-2019) by an independent coalition of scientists in the National Strategy for the Conservation of Biodiversity (2010-2020) and by the global grassroots alliance constituted in the First Ecosocialist International (2017-2517).

Does anyone who is serious about global climate justice have another proposal? Those who “stand for” neither Guaido nor Maduro are not forthcoming with a strategy to prevent climate catastrophe. Venezuela is the only country in the world with the energy resources and political-legal structure necessary to launch a revolutionary global energy transition against its class enemies. (Perhaps those who despise Maduro would prefer to trust the infrastructure development necessary for climate justice to the royal family of Saudi Arabia?) The international left has still not awoken to the fact that the largest oil reserves in the world are under the legal control of an ecosocialist government, whose current supreme power is neither Guaido’s national assembly nor Maduro’s executive government, but a constituent assembly composed of representatives of the working classes. It’s past time to wake up.

Those of us around the world who are looking for a way to save the biosphere, from Extinction Rebellion to the Sunrise Movement to the Green New Deal, should make it a top priority to join in concrete solidarity with both the revolutionary process of Venezuela and the government it has repeatedly elected. The farcebook spectacle of dueling proclamations of “I stand with” / “I stand against” (when it is obvious to all concerned that everyone is in fact sitting down in front of their computers) would be funny if the stakes weren’t so high and the consequences so tragic. Not only history, but the geologic record itself, will record our actions and inactions in defense of climate justice, whose fate is played out today on the streets of Caracas. Meanwhile, the people of Haiti are showing the world what real international solidarity looks like – thousands of people in the streets.[9]

The path to climate justice passes through Caracas, but it doesn’t stop there. It passes through and into the countryside, where a radical rural renaissance is taking place with the formation of ecosocialist communes in every bioregion. A new socio-territorial order, as called for by Chavez in his final “Strike at the Helm” speech to his ministers, and a return to Mother Earth, as articulated in the Combined Strategy and Plan of Action of the First Ecosocialist International, awaits the solidarity it deserves.

David Schwartzman is the co-author of The Earth is Not for Sale.

Quincy Saul is the editor of The Emergence of Ecosocialism: Collected Essays by Joel Kovel


[1]  Jacobin goes on to list a number of “frauds,” each one of which is parroted from the bourgeois press: Jacobin uncritically cites CNN, BBC, and the Wall Street Journal. Each of these claims has been denounced in detail by reporters and journalists. Like the cartography of an empire imagined by Jorge Luis Borges, a comprehensive denunciation of each of these articles would necessarily be as long as the original articles themselves. The monolingual culture of the US left is no excuse; each of these allegations have been extensively covered on Venezuela Analysis and Telesur English, among other sources. With international solidarity like this, who needs counterinsurgency?

[2] A more honest standard of Trotskyism is upheld by the Fourth International. We  do not agree with much of this either, but a full counter-analysis is not possible within the confines of this essay. We can only suggest that it takes a serious study of dialectics and the inter-penetration of opposites, to begin to understand philosophically how the far left joins forces with the far right in moments of historical crisis.

[3]  “Green New Deal: An Ecosocialist Perspective,” by David Schwartzman, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 2011. See also the presentation “Green New Deal: System Change and Energy Transition,”2014, among others.

[4]  IESA (2016). Venezuela Energy in Figures 2014-2015, Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración, Venezuela, p. 21.

[5]  Schwartzman, D. and Saul, Q. (2015). An Ecosocialist Horizon for Venezuela: A Solar Communist Horizon for the World, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 26 (3), pp. 14-30. The current production of crude oil in Venezuela (January 2019) is 1.5 million barrels/day, equivalent to 0.5 billion barrels/year, a decline from 0.9 billion barrels/year in 2016;

[6]  See chapter 8 in Schwartzman, P. and D. Schwartzman. 2019. The Earth is Not for Sale: A Path Out of Fossil Capitalism to the Other World That is Still Possible. Singapore: World Scientific.

[7]  (World Atlas: World’s Largest Oil Reserves by Country”)

[8]  “Whose New Deal? The New Deal from the Standpoint of its Victims,” by Quincy Saul, Smashthisscreen, 2011

[9] “Haiti’s Unfolding Revolution is Directly Linked to Venezuela’s,” by Kim Ives, Haiti Liberte, February 2019:

Ready for the next step?

Sign up for our newsletter

- or -

Volunteer Donate

Search Howie's website and previous campaign archives here: