Published: Wednesday, August 25, 2010
It’s a hallmark of authoritarian socialism that even as it wreaks economic havoc it issues grandiose claims and promises.
Under authoritarian socialism (and we realize some would say that term is redundant), there are never mere indications of progress. There are, instead, Great Leaps Forward.
Never satisfied merely to spread misery, authoritarian socialism piles insult on injury by haranguing the masses with transparently false, ham-handed propaganda.
It may be true that there is indeed a sucker born every minute. At any rate, throughout history, there have always been enough credulous supporting souls on occasion to invite authoritarian socialism to take power.
Being authoritarian, its first order of business invariably is to consolidate its power to minimize the possibility of ever having to relinquish that power.
The current case in point is Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, which we herewith nominate as world’s worst socialist hellhole. His reforms have consolidated his rule while his rule has consolidated economic and social woe.
Meanwhile, Chavez, a blow-hard buffoon on the Fidel Castro model, orates by the hour, several times a week, a constant presence on TV, holding forth on Venezuela’s “socialist values,” as if anybody needed reminding what those values are and what they’ve wrought.
Venezuela is awash in oil — nationalized oil, of course — but the country is hardly awash in affluence. Despite all that Black Gold, Venezuela is awash in economic travail. Inflation is up — 33 percent; GDP is down — minus 5.5 percent.
“Socialism,” declares the orating Chavez, “is the road to human redemption, social redemption, to peace, calm, life.”
When he makes that assertion, he’s in effect repeating the line from the old Marx brothers movie: “Who are you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
The only Great Leaps Forward that are occurring in Venezuela right now are efforts to dodge fusillades of wildly fired bullets — largely unavailing efforts to dodge them, judging by the country’s skyrocketing murder rate.
Venezuela is now getting unwanted publicity (New York Times, Economist magazine, etc.) as the most unsafe spot on earth. In Iraq, there were 4,644 civilian deaths by violence in 2009. In Venezuela, there were an estimated 16,000 such deaths that year.
Violence is not a phenomenon that suddenly materialized during Chavez’ tenure, but it has tripled on his watch, which started in 1998. One researcher calculates that there have been 118,541 homicides under Chavez.
He has come up with a strategy for addressing the crime tsunami that only a leader labelled a “strongman” would dare adopt, a three-part strategy: 1. Ignore the crime. 2. Prosecute any news outlet that declines to do likewise. 3. Keep on speechifyin.’
In accordance with No. 3, Chavez harangues the masses that under “bourgeois capitalism” there exists “a situation of living death, of subhuman life,” blah, blah, blah, etc. And pay no attention to that gunfire in the background.
Although the regime has quit releasing crime figures, one university sociologist estimates Caracas’ crime rate to be a phenomenal 200 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants. That would dwarf the rates in two other notorious crime hellholes, Bogota, Colombia, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Under Venezuela’s share-the-scarcity socialism, the economy is down to two booming private industries (sometimes literally booming): kidnapping and armed robbery.
When you’re a leader with a situation like this on your hands, there’s only one thing you can do, assuming you’re not about to relinquish control: Blame somebody else for everything.
At first, Chavez blamed the previous regime. But as one daring critic pointed out, when you’ve been in power 11 years, you are the previous regime.
Luckily for Chavez, he has a buddy in Iran, Mahmoud Amadinejad, who’s always willing to share his ever-handy scapegoat. That, of course, would be us — the Great Satan.
Click to view image: 'Hugo Chavez'
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