Venezuela is a brutal lesson to the UK’s socialist apologists
I know it is very hard to believe, but at some point we shall stop talking about Brexit.
We shall get back to discussing what we can do to improve our lives and those of others.
And we shall look for inspiration from other countries to learn lessons from catastrophic failures or discover truly amazing successes.
As we leave Brexit behind and begin to look towards the next election, we shall start to ask more serious questions of the opposition parties, especially what their economic policies will mean.
The views of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell will come under greater scrutiny, and for that reason their admiration for the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela must be given serious analysis.
This is important because it defines what the Labour leaders think is possible: that you can defy the rules of the market and the laws of economics. It presents a warning, because the story of Venezuela is a shocking one – and those who try to excuse it must surely never come close to the UK’s economic levers of power.
Despite having the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela is now an economic basket case, with rampant inflation, widespread government corruption, a massive refugee problem as citizens flee to neighbouring countries, and huge shortages in health supplies, food, and basic essentials.
Zoos have seen their animals killed for food and pets stolen to provide meals.
Venezuela’s problems are of its own making; they are the result of bad policy choices and a revolution that has turned against its own people. And the reason the country is so relevant today is that the excuses made for it by Labour’s devoutly socialist leadership signal that the same mistakes could be repeated here – with catastrophic results.
Two decades ago, there were 650,000 private companies in Venezuela. Now there are only 140,000, a loss of almost 80 per cent.
And the problems are worsening. Just recently Colgate Palmolive halted production at its detergent plant due to a shortage of cardboard for packaging. This was a direct result of the Venezuelan government seizing the Smurfit Kappa cardboard plant in August, and the subsequent cessation of production.
This is not an isolated incident. The regime regularly seizes private companies when they announce that they can no longer continue, promising to restart production.
Such was the fate of Kellogg’s cereal plant when it closed due to “the current economic and social deterioration in the country”, but no cereal has yet been produced.
Some apologists try to blame the US, the EU, and other western nations for Venezuela’s plight, suggesting that economic sanctions are to blame.
But this is disingenuous and deceitful. There is no US ban on importing Venezuelan oil or oil products – indeed, if it were not for the import of Venezuelan oil, the situation in the country would be unimaginably worse.
The economic sanctions that do exist are targeted at politicians and officials of the regime to try to prevent them from expropriating the country’s wealth as they loot Venezuela of its earnings and capital.
It is no coincidence that the daughter of former President Hugo Chavez is believed to be Venezuela’s wealthiest individual, worth billions of US dollars.
Meanwhile, the healthcare system is in a state of collapse, with a systematic shortage of drugs, and the continued haemorrhaging of skilled doctors and nurses who are leaving the country. The same sorry state exists in schools – many have closed due to a lack of teachers and the inability of pupils to attend due transport failures.
Venezuela is a parallel to what happened in Chile in the early seventies. There, a Marxist-inspired government under Salvador Allende came to power and started to appropriate private property, changing the constitution and laws so that his politicians could reign supreme.
It ended in a bloody coup, and thousands of people were murdered or disappeared as the military, under General Augusto Pinochet, ended Allende’s rule.
Since the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship and Chile’s transition back to a parliamentary democracy, the country has become a beacon of comparative economic success.
Over the years, Chile has restored private property rights and adopted an open market economy. Its privatisation of pensions has created a future wealth fund for ordinary people which we in the UK could only dream of.
In comparison, Venezuela under the current President Nicolas Maduro is already in a worse state than Chile under Allende, suggesting that this situation too can only end in bloodshed.
The British Labour leaders should take note: there is no such thing as a successful Marxist economy. Advocates of trying such experiments in the UK should look to a history of failures and recognise the limitations of state intervention.