If ever I have to live in a dictatorship, put me down for one of those right-wing set-ups. To toil under leftist autocracy would be too exhausting — you plant potatoes all day, get chased around by the secret police, then have to wade through articles in the Guardian explaining why you’re not experiencing true socialism.
It’s the standard response of Western radicals faced with the brutal truth about the regimes they fetishise. They will not be dissuaded by evidence that their ideology tends to result in mass immiseration and exciting opportunities in the garbage-scavenging economy. For no evidence is possible: when command economies go wrong, it turns out real socialists were never in command.
Venezuela is shaping up to be the next false dawn and soon its erstwhile champions will airily assure us that it too wasn’t run along genuine socialist lines. Incumbent president Nicolás Maduro is celebrating his victory in Sunday’s election in which he took Bertolt Brecht somewhat literally and dissolved the people’s parliament and elected another.
The 2015 election, which saw moderate parties wrest control of the National Assembly, was the first major reversal in power for Maduro. Since then he has been busy packing the courts, suspending regional elections, and intimidating the opposition. He has also overseen an economic implosion. Hugo Chávez was able to bankroll his socialist paradise with oil revenues. But when petroleum prices plummeted, so too did Venezuela’s ability to fund its expansive social welfare system and generous fuel subsidies. This has produced public unrest and growing hostility towards the regime amongst even its loyalest constituencies, including the poor and rural. The Chavista miracle is over.
Maduro’s new Constituent Assembly, which will replace the National Assembly, will be composed entirely of candidates nominated by his United Socialist Party. It will be empowered to rewrite the constitution to remove what precious…