When Socialism Fails
"The Venezuelan case is a textbook example of the evolution of socialism."
The United States has resigned in protest from the UN Human Rights Council, which has a long and ignominious record of protecting the world’s worst abusers of human rights. The proximate cause of the U.S. resignation was the council’s unwillingness to act on the matter of Venezuela, where the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro is engaged in political massacres and the use of Soviet-style hunger-terror against its political enemies. Venezuela remains, incredibly enough, not only protected by the Human Rights Council but an active member of it, an honor shared Vladimir Putin’s Russia and its political assassins, the People’s Republic of China and its organ harvesters, and the Castro dictatorship in Cuba with its torturers and al paredón justice.
Venezuela and North Korea could not be more dissimilar in terms of their respective cultures, peoples, and histories. And yet they have arrived in approximately the same place: at the terminus of F. A. Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom.”
Socialism is defined by central planning, which is to say by the subordination of the economy to political discipline. When U.S. progressives talk about socialism, what they usually mean is those nice democratic welfare-statists in Denmark or Sweden, or maybe Germany if they are particularly interested in industrial policy and labor power. European welfare statism has its ups and downs (the occasional bout of right-wing hysteria notwithstanding, it is not obviousthat the Norwegians inhabit a post-apocalyptic hellscape; if Oslo represents the end of the world, then Armageddon is shockingly expensive), but those welfare states are attached to largely free economies.
Progressives will consider the case of Venezuela or North Korea (the American Left’s longstanding admiration of Castro’s Cuba, and its celebration of Hugo Chàvez only a few years ago, has been memory-holed) and say that the problem with those countries is not socialism but a lack of democracy, political violence and instability, etc. But repression on the Venezuelan model is not extraneous to socialism — it is baked into the socialist cake. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro (and Castro!), Chàvez, Maduro, Honecker, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, the Kim dynasty, Shining Path: No ideology is that unlucky. Violence and oppression is not something that just happens to accompany efforts to impose political regimentation on the economy — which is to say, on private life — but is an inescapable accompaniment to it.