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Venezuela Shows Why Socialism's Failure Still Matters

May 9, 2019 in Economics

By Chelsea Follett

Chelsea Follett

Last week, a number of left-wing activists occupied the Venezuelan embassy in Washington,
DC, while Venezuelan-Americans counter-protested outside the
building and demanded the end of socialism in the Latin American
country. Today’s proponents of socialism often fault their
critics for equating twenty-first-century “democratic
socialism” with totalitarian versions of that philosophy,
which dominated many countries in the twentieth century and
continue to exist in places like Cuba and North Korea today.

But the comparison between old and contemporary kinds of
socialism is still warranted.

First, democratic socialists too often slip into support for
socialist dictatorships—the phenomenon extends beyond the
Maduro fans at the Venezuelan embassy. Up until Venezuela’s
collapse became undeniable, prominent socialists heaped praise on
the country as an example of successful socialism. In 2011, U.S.
Sen. Bernie Sanders touted on his official U.S. Senate website an
article proclaiming, “These days, the American dream is more
apt to be realized in … Venezuela … where incomes are actually
more equal.” Sanders has also praised both Fidel
Castro’s Cuba and the Soviet Union (where he honeymooned).
The UK’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has, on camera,
called Chávez “an inspiration to all of
us” for having allegedly, “showed us there is a
different and a better way of doing things. It’s called
socialism, it’s called social justice, and it’s
something that Venezuela has made a big step toward.”

We should not ignore the
lessons of twentieth-century socialism’s failures, nor turn a blind
eye to what socialism has wrought in Venezuela.

Mark Weisbrot of the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy
Research criticizedwarnings about Venezuela’s
socialist path, writing in The Guardian in 2013,
“Predicting a Venezuelan apocalypse won’t make it
happen.” Those words have aged badly.

Sympathy toward authoritarian socialism by some on the political
Left is, sadly, nothing new. During the height of Stalinism, the
Moscow correspondent for the New York Times(and Stalin
admirer) Walter Duranty famously lied to hide the mass starvation
in Ukraine and the extent of the dictator’s crimes, and was
rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize.

As if socialists occasionally suffering from a blind spot for
socialist despots weren’t enough, the second reason that the
“old” socialism remains relevant is that the policy
program of today’s socialists has not meaningfully
evolved.

Today’s self-identifying socialists may no longer
regularly speak of direct government ownership of the means of
production (with occasional exceptions like analyst Matt Bruenig of the
People’s Policy Project), but the rhetorical shift of contemporary
socialists masks support for what are, in effect, policies similar
to those that existed in socialist countries in the twentieth
century. Harvard University’s Jeffrey Miron and my colleague
Ryan …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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