The proponents of socialism—communism-lite—when they are willing to admit its failings—virtually never—always claim this time their brand of socialism will be better. This time it will be the perfection socialists have always claimed it must inevitably be. Why? Because they’re much smarter than previous socialists, because they are more morally and intellectually pure, and because socialism can never fail.
In explaining socialism/communism to my students, I usually say Communists will kill you if you disagree with them; they’re socialists in a hurry. However, socialists will generally just try to ruin you in less fatal ways. Looking southward, it’s clear that distinction is no longer operative, as The Spectator reports:
Yet this is the country that, not so long ago, Jeremy Corbyn held up as a model of social justice.
When Chavez died of cancer on 5 March 2013, Corbyn proposed an early day motion in the House of Commons in which he offered his condolences to Venezuela and acknowledged ‘the huge contribution he made to conquering poverty in his country…. and the way he spoke for the poorest and most marginalised people in Latin America.’
The following day, Corbyn gave an interview to Al Jazeera in which he said: ‘Chavez was a very important figure worldwide… because he was prepared to use his position to argue for a different world order.’
Corbyn attended a vigil in London at which he gave a stirring speech about the great man: ‘Chavez showed us that there is a different and a better way of doing things,’ he said. ‘It’s called socialism, it’s called social justice and it’s something that Venezuela has made a big step towards.
Well sure, if you ignore the grotesque self-enrichment of the Chavezistas, the rampant corruption, and the descent of Venezuela into a virtual state of nature, ”big step” for sure. Chavez and Maduro so loved the marginalised people of Latin America they wanted to be sure all Venezuelans were marginalized. Oh yes, it is indeed called “social justice,” and there are plenty of leftist loons that would love to repeat this kind of stunning success in the United States.
May 2006 Ken Livingstone played host to Chavez for two days in London. He was accompanied by Maduro, at the time president of the Venezuelan National Assembly. They met Corbyn and John McDonnell, and visited Tony Benn’s home in Holland Park. ‘We know where the Labour party has come from and its traditions,’ said Chavez in a speech in the Palace of Westminster, ‘and we fully identify with these traditions.’ In a clear reference to the ideas of Tony Blair, he added: ‘My experience has convinced me that there is no Third Way between capitalism and socialism. The only way forward for humanity is socialism.
Right. Anyone capable of reading history can discover just how successful the brave march of socialism has been. But let’s not quibble. Let’s examine, briefly how socialism has worked in Venezuela:
Twenty years ago Venezuela was one of the richest countries in the world. Now it is one of the poorest. Venezuelans are starving. The farms that President Hugo Chavez expropriated, boasting about the great increase in production that would follow, have failed.
Inexperienced management and corruption under both Chavez and the current president, Nicolas Maduro, mean that there is less of each crop each year. Across the country, supermarkets are empty and most ordinary people queue for hours every day just for flour. Many of the animals in Caracas zoo have starved to death, but even those who survive aren’t safe — Venezuelans have taken to raiding the cages to butcher and eat whatever they can find: horses, sheep, pigs. In the wild, they hunt flamingos and anteaters for their meat. Inflation is expected to surpass a mind-blowing 2,200 per cent this year.
When people start butchering exotic animals in the zoo, that’s generally not a good sign…
Maduro has turned out to be an economic incompetent of the highest order. Last year imports collapsed by more than 50 per cent and the economy nosedived by 19 per cent. The budget deficit is around 20 per cent of GDP. The minimum wage is now the equivalent of £25 [about $31.00] a month. After a Central Bank estimate that suggested that the Venezuelan economy had contracted by 19 per cent last year was leaked to the press, Maduro fired the bank’s president and replaced him with a Marxist loyalist.
Up to £640 billion of oil money was lavished on the country’s poor during the oil boom years, creating a gargantuan dependency culture. The country quintupled its national debt and hundreds of thousands of homes (of questionable construction quality) were handed to the poor. Chavez created a massive and unsustainable bubble, which is now beginning its slow, painful collapse.
At the heart of Venezuela’s economic chaos lie market distortions. Petrol is sold locally for less than one penny per litre and it receives £12 billion of state subsidies a year. The country has a complex monetary arrangement that makes use of three different exchange rates simultaneously.
This feeds rampant corruption: the president’s cronies can buy dollars from the state at ten bolivars a dollar but sell them at 3,300 bolivars a dollar on the black market. Price controls have made it unprofitable for small businesses to sell staple goods, leading to widespread shortages. Carjackings and kidnappings are now epidemic. Caracas’s murder rate is 80 times higher than London’s.
We’ve seen the photos: massive food lines, people starving, fighting over scraps of food, the average Venezuelan has lost 19 pounds in the last year. The military has been put in charge of the food supply and are hoarding it.
Socialism, communism, social justice. This time it’ll work. This time, they won’t leave millions of bodies behind. Power to the workers, comrades!