By Charlie Collard
Every day, we see yet another photo of the chaos in Venezuela. People are starving and rioting. Mothers are fighting through queues of hundreds in the Latin American nation’s largest cities, waiting for hours in the heat, to get food for their families. This is because the government’s nationalised stores cannot provide for the country’s people. Yet this is not the only sorry sight that socialism’s collapse in Venezuela has offered us.
Nicolás Maduro is the President responsible for this. With jet black hair, impressive height and a jaded looking face, he observes from the Presidential palace over this mess, refusing to resign. Instead, he has rigged multiple polls and fudged turnouts. He has insisted that the CIA are trying to create a capitalist wasteland; the reality, however, is that it is Maduro who will create a backwater, one-party pariah state.
Opposition figures have been spirited away in the night. Mayor Ramón Muchacho, of Chacao, East Caracas, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for refusing to remove barricades and shut down protests in the area. This sort of authoritarianism is becoming increasingly common: the people of Venezuela are no longer free to protest against Maduro. This situation has been heightened with the declaration that the newly beefed-up Constitutional Assembly is superior to all other branches of state. It can overrule the legislative checks and balances, and guarantee that the corrupt and immoral communists rule the country for decades to come, in a single party state.
Yet this should surprise no one. Socialism, by its very nature, means that Venezuelans never have been free to articulate their thoughts. The government controls their lives. They cannot make free economic choices, and the government’s understanding of this state of affairs logically entails that it seems to believe it thus controls every part of the Venezuelan citizen’s life if it controls their access to goods and services.
Even when the people, under the cosh of socialism, have tried to resist, it has ended in a brutal state counter-action. Indeed, a 2002 attempted coup d’état, sparked by the nepotism of his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, was brutally put down by the regime’s imitation of Castro’s Cuban paramilitaries. 19 were killed, and many more injured. But fifteen years on, it has been worse: the death toll is rising, with executions of protesters – by Maduro’s own gangsters – being filmed in the street.
Venezuela, then, is not a state that any compos mentis leader would wish to imitate.
Or so one would think. Yet for years, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has unwaveringly supported the Venezuelan regime. He has described Chavismo, the movement that has strangled the development of this oil-rich country, as a ‘true alternative’ that Britain should follow. He has painted the socialism of Chavez and Maduro as an ‘example’ of an ideal socialist state, and has even been heard on Maduro’s radio call-ins on many occasions. He is, frankly, a disgrace.
With 85% of Venezuela in a state of what would internationally be understood as poverty, and the streets on fire with unrest, looting and violence, Jeremy Corbyn and his allies stand by and act as if it just isn’t happening. With their worldview in tatters, and their track record of steadfast support for Maduro having become a glaring blot in their political copybook, they enter into a game of ‘whataboutery’ – what about Saudi Arabia? What about Tory austerity? What about we all pretend Venezuela is fine and we were right all along?
Except Mr Corbyn and company cannot do that. They cannot sit idly by as their ideological idyll burns, expecting others to simply excuse their rank hypocrisy and childish political myopia. People are dying every day from the very things Mr Corbyn says he is attempting to rail against – unfairness, corruption, oligarchy and greed. And yet he will not condemn President Maduro openly for these things and admit his mistakes. He will not disown him for allowing thugs to kill peaceful protesters on the street. He cannot bring himself to condemn Maduro’s distain for democracy, because he knows, deep down, that he shares it. He shares it in his inability to contain his own goons, with their vile hatred on social media and their thuggery in real life. His contempt, too, for the election result in June 2017, as he gallivants around the country – seeming to pretend that his campaign was anything but disappointing – is also a clear example.
Intellectually speaking, Maduro and Corbyn are one and the same. They share the same hard-line leftism; all are one within the state, and the state provides for one and all. There is no room for free thought and there is no room for debate. Kinder, gentler politics simply meant populist leftism offered by a man in a shabby tweed suit. In socialism as Mr Corbyn would have it, there is only the state. There will be next to no free choice; there will be little ability to speak up against the messy Marxist din that his Momentum cronies create.
Bricks get put through hard-working MPs in his party who won’t play the game. Conservatives and dissidents get death threats, and he does not condemn them either, past a meek expression of ‘regret’, usually that ‘both sides’ can’t agree on world peace. When it comes to a pursuit of his own goals, and his deep-seated hatred of Western economic beliefs, anything goes for Corbyn. And that is where, right now, he is just like the tyrant he supported in Caracas, who watches his country burn, and tightens the screw. Shame on him.