Georgio Konstandi is an undergraduate at Homerton College, studying French, Spanish, and Russian. He is also a published author, political writer for both Student Voices and United Politics, and Conservative activist. His literary and political work can be found at www.georgiokonstandi.com. He tweets under @georgiokon.
Between the years of 1929 and 1933, the GDP of the United States is estimated to have fallen by 28%, during what became to be known as the Great Depression. In the same amount of time, from 2013 to 2017, Venezuela’s GDP per capita has plunged by 40%.
This remarkable statistic does not stand alone in the broader economic calamity that has been intensifying, under decades of merciless Socialism, in the Latin-American nation. With President Maduro squeezing the final gasps of breath out of Venezuela’s democracy, Venezuela’s economic cauldron has long boiled over. Inflation hit an all-time high earlier this year, at an unprecedented 800%, leaving Venezuelans who had worked diligently to save for a better future practically penniless. Years of their blood, sweat and tears were (and remain) reduced to worthless pieces of paper. Workers cannot pay their bills and mothers cannot feed their children. It is a heartbreaking tale – Dickensian even, in nature. It is one, however, that appears to repeat itself over and over again throughout the course of history.
As so many victims of Socialism will testify, the golden promises of this ideology never materialise. Promises to wipe away debt, provide for many not the few, all result in the same paradoxical ending. Venezuela’s story is no different – but it’s longevity and sheer modernity make her people’s suffering so much more poignant.
There was a time when Venezuelan postcards would depict picturesque coastlines and thriving city streets. Now, the most common snapshots include people rummaging through bins in a last-chance bid for survival.
How did Venezuela sink to this pitiful stage? How can it be, that an economy goes on waning, the oppressive hand of government goes on expanding and the liberty of a nation continues to erode, for so long, unnoticed? Unlike in the complex plots of Agatha Christie’s Poirot or Marple, in this case (and all such cases), the culprit is undeniable. It is Socialism that has murdered the future of an entire Venezuelan generation and it did so in a few simple steps.
In 1998, Venezuela’s economy, though far from perfect, was more than hopeful. A nation rich with natural resources, foreign investment and nurturing a growing middle class. All encouraging signs of a developing economy. Then came Hugo Chavez. The socialist candidate for that year’s presidential elections. He made every promise of a socialist utopia one could imagine. His theme was “Esperenza y Cambio”, Hope and Change. He, like other socialists before him, pointed the finger at who he called ‘evil capitalists’ who were, according to Chavez, stealing money from citizens. This wrong, he announced, could be righted by electing him as president. And that’s exactly what happened. The Venezuelans granted Chavez the mandate to carry out his socialist paradise – and to their everlasting regret.
Abolishing presidential term limits to eliminate the inconvenience of scrutiny, Chavez’s rule ended with his death in 2013. In these fourteen years (taking office in February 1999), government had taken over industry after industry, company after company, with the promise that the state could do better than private enterprise. In the meantime, a steady stream of Hollywood endorsements for Chavez and his Robin Hood scheme filled the Venezuelan media. Actors, progressive politicians, even our very own (though not quite Hollywood) Jeremy Corbyn, declared that Chavez was showing the world “a new way of doing things”. Even as foreign investment drained from the Latin-American nation and nearly two million Venezuelans fled an evermore oppressive regime (this, being the classic brain-drain that comes as a result of prolonged Socialism, just as we have seen with the Greek people following the election of left-wing SYRIZA), the international Left remained saddled to their moral high horse.
As is always the case with Socialism, for a short while, everything appeared to be running smoothly. It is, after all, incredibly easy for the state to take more and more of the taxpayer’s earnings. Alas, in the end, as one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers once said, “eventually, you run out of other people’s money”. This is exactly what occurred in Venezuela…apart from Chavez refused to admit so. Upon his death, a rigged election saw socialist, Nicolás Maduro, narrowly win the presidency. The Venezuelan dictatorship has since continued, with further crackdowns on free press, the arresting of opposition leaders and frequent open firing on starving protesters. Venezuelans must now queue for hours just for bread and water. Many is a time where some will simply have to walk away, empty-handed. These living conditions led to a horrifying phenomenon in 2016, when men, women and children, on average, lost nine kilograms in weight, satirically dubbed by Venezuelans as the ‘Maduro Diet’. This disaster doesn’t end there, with teenage girls (some as young as twelve) increasingly being conscripted to brothels by their mothers, in an attempt to increase feeble household earnings under hyperinflation (an average monthly salary of 100,000 bolivars is the equivalent of just $7.50). The symptoms of social decay are endless.
Once, before many of us here at Cambridge had come to be, such perils of Socialism were unquestionably recognised in the Western world. Now though, among a frightening new wave of left-wing populism, there are those here in the United Kingdom (besides those who tried, unsuccessfully, in the 2016 U.S. presidential election) who seek to impose such socialist values on the British people. Disguised behind the all-too predictable mask of moral superiority, sensationalist slogans and celebrity endorsements, Western socialists seek to revive what was once a dormant argument and take back control from free enterprise. Not only do they seek this socialist utopia but they will strive to achieve it at any cost, including a shocking silence regarding Maduro’s regime.
There are those who believe the blood-red stain of Socialism could soon tarnish British shores. For the sake of an entire nation, let us hope the British electorate are never fooled. Lest the millions of victims of Socialism suffered in vain.
Image of opposition protesters in Venezuela courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, by Jamez42 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58973895