Venezuela’s desperate state exposes the failure of yet another socialist experiment but this time it is based upon the very policies the Labour leader advocates as well as giving his repeated moral and political encouragement to.
When Venezuela turned to Marxism through democratic elections in 1998, it was of course a different form of socialism than that tried elsewhere before. This time it was to be called Bolivarianism, essentially a socialist interpretation of the principles of the great Simón Bolivar, the man who led the successful fight for independence from the Spanish colonialists in the early nineteenth century. The “Bolivarian Revolution” has experienced many challenges and setbacks but it cannot be disputed that the socialist inspired interventions of the late President Hugo Chavez, and then after he died from cancer, the new President Nicolás Maduro have resulted in a deeply divided and impoverished country with severe instances of human rights abuses.
At the beginning of 2017 one US dollar was worth 3,164 Bolivars but as of yesterday it was listed as 18,982 with the inflation rate put at 265 per cent. In health, The Guardian reported in May that the infant mortality rate had increased 30 per cent, maternal morality had risen 65 per cent and the cases of malaria had jumped by 76 per cent – reflecting the dire lack of medicines and deteriorating state of public services. Protests have seen the arbitrary arrest of critics and opposition politicians, culminating in brutal violence now constantly circulated on video by social media.
This latest socialist experiment is going the way of all others; the poorest, in whose name the Bolivarian Revolution was launched, are the greatest victims in both number and impact. Impoverishment and rationing, resulting in a lack of food on grocery shelves or fuel for cars in the world’s most oil-rich country is resulting in countless needless deaths, disappearances and denial of rights. If this had been Chile under President Pinochet the likes of Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbot - not to forget their cheerleaders like commentator Owen Jones – would have been demonstrating at Trafalgar Square and lodging motions of revolutionary solidarity in the House of Commons.
The failure of the Labour leadership to condemn Venezuela’s Government is no mistake, for the evidence of Jeremy Corbyn’s love affair with the socialism of Chavez and Maduro is available for everyone to see on YouTube. To reprimand or repudiate their actions would be to condemn the policies he has defended throughout his political life and wishes us to vote for. Every generation sees injustice in its prevailing economic and social circumstances, and every generation has to learn – sometimes the hard way – that resorting to socialism as the solution delivers a fate worse than the problem.
This is not simply a criticism of red-blooded Marxist socialists who cannot believe their luck to be in control of the Labour Party, it is also a warning to all politicians who believe they can resort to additional laws and taxes as the means to resolve the perceived failings of our democratic society.
All political intervention has consequences – good and bad – but the danger from modern day retail politics of the type pursued by Labour, Conservative, SNP and Liberal Democrat politicians is that populist policies designed merely to attract votes that have not been thought through fully can have disastrous unintended consequences and actually deliver results that are entirely contrary to those desired. Put simply, politicians by their interventions can and often do make problems worse.
It may be serendipity but a new website http://unintended.wiki/ has just gone live which shows just how much the well-intentioned or malevolent interventions of politicians (and others) have delivered results that were not foreseen or necessarily wanted.
It affirms that not all unintended consequences are bad; the establishment of hunting reserves for the landed class preserved green space that might otherwise have been commercialised with a resulting loss of flora and fauna; the wartime sinking of ships to create barriers has created artificial coral reefs; while Viagra was being developed to reduce blood pressure but displayed a life-affirming side-effect.
Overwhelmingly though, evidence shows politicians in particular, wish to do good and end up causing harm. Prohibition in the United States actually led to an increase in drink-related crime, murders rose, people became criminalised for merely having an alcoholic drink and the growth of violent organised crime was encouraged. And yet lessons from this scar on US history are continually ignored for today’s “war on drugs”.
Sometimes politicians know exactly what their unintended consequences will deliver, such as the introduction of ever more regulation of private letting by landlords. The official intention is to “protect” tenants from “injustice” but the unofficial intention is an ideological drive to force private landlords out of the market and create a demand for politician-run social housing.
Politicians who believe in state intervention, generally but not exclusively of the left, are willing to believe the human cost is worth the outcome. Even though the recent cutting of UK business taxes has resulted in rising Treasury revenues Corbyn would rather increase these and see the resulting fall in productivity, profits and performance lead to lower revenues and higher borrowing.
There will be many apologists for Venezuela’s collapsing collectivism, who will say that real socialism has still to be tried. This is both a historical lie and a conscious deflection. It ignores the record of Marxist socialism in any country unfortunate enough to become the next utopian experiment being cheered on from the rooftops by external sympathisers but abandoned when it goes wrong – as it always does.
It is an inexcusable distraction that is rather like saying Fascism is not bad in theory but that Germany’s Nazism, Italy’s Fascism, Spain’s Falangism and Argentina’s Peronism were not intrinsically evil and could be improved upon.
Political interventions, here or in Venezuela, have consequences and those advocated by Corbyn – such as the abolition of student debt – were never thought through or properly tested during the general election. With the lessons of Venezuela ringing in our ears while Corbyn’s encouragement still echoes in the background, our young generation must fully test what political interventions will actually bring. For all our sakes they must be careful what they wish for.
Brian Monteith is editor of ThinkScotland.org