With Socialism, Prevention Is the Best Cure

Monday, September 10, 2018

A story out of Foreign Policy purports to explain why the socialist regime in Venezuela is likely to remain in power for the next couple of years. It also reminds me a little at one point of Ayn Rand's novel, We the Living. Before I get to that point, I wish to mention that I have two major objections to the piece I'm discussing: (1) A major question is left unasked, namely, "Would regime change in Venezuela further our national self-interest and, if so, how?" (2) The very problem that got Venezuela into the trouble that it is in now is never fully addressed. That culture is altruist-collectivist from top to bottom and has been for decades, so there is little hope of anything (at least from Venezuela itself) that might replace the current leadership being substantially better.

That said, the below is what reminded me of the Rand novel set in Soviet Russia:

This is the body of Paola Ramirez, slain by socialist colectivos thugs during a protest march in Venezuela. (Image via Wikipedia.)
Caracas also uses scarcity to maintain control. As in Cuba, the Maduro regime uses low stocks of consumer goods and rationing as a way to keep the population in line. Citizens need to be on good terms with government or PSUV officials to receive their allotment of formal sector jobs, rationing cards, Carnets de la Patria (or "homeland cards," which are issued to those who qualify for social programs), and other benefits. Government control of consumer goods has been particularly effective in middle-class neighborhoods in Caracas and some larger urban areas in the interior of the country, where citizens have to rely more on the government's distribution system than on growing their own food. Also worth considering is that the daily struggle to find food items and medicine, particularly in times of intense scarcity and hyperinflation, leaves very little time to organize anti-government mass protests and other activities. In short, economic adversity has not generated anti-government behavior; in fact, it has had the opposite effect. [bold added]
And here's the passage in question:
"Kira, I ... I'm afraid ...I don't know why, it's only ...at times, but I'm so afraid ...What's going to happen to all of us? That's what frightens me. Not the question itself, but that it's a question you can't ask anyone. You ask it and watch people, and you'll see their eyes, and you'll know that they feel the same thing, the same fear, and you can't question them about it, but if you did, they couldn't explain it, either .... You know, we're all trying so hard not to think at all, not to think beyond the next day, and sometimes even not beyond the next hour .... Do you know what I believe? I believe they're doing it deliberately. They don't want us to think. That's why we have to work as we do. And because there's still time left after we've worked all day and stood in a few lines, we have the social activities to attend, and then the newspapers. Do you know that I almost got fired from the Club, last week? I was asked about the new oil wells near Baku and I didn't know a damn thing about them. Why should I know about the oil wells near Baku if I want to earn my millet drawing rotten posters? Why do I have to memorize newspapers like poems? Sure, I need the kerosene for the Primus. But does it mean that in order to have kerosene in order to cook millet, I have to know the name of every stinking worker in every stinking well where the kerosene comes from? Two hours a day of reading news of state construction for fifteen minutes of cooking on the Primus? ... Well, and there's nothing we can do about it. If we try, it's worse. Take Sasha, for instance ... Oh, Kira! I'm ... I'm so afraid! ... He... he ... Well, I don't have to lie to you. You know what he's doing. It's a secret organization of some kind and they think they can overthrow the government. Set the people free. His duty to the people, Sasha says. And you and I know that any one of that great people would be only too glad to betray them all to the G.P.U. for an extra pound of linseed oil. They have secret meetings and they print things and distribute them in the factories. Sasha says we can't expect help from abroad, it's up to us to fight for our own freedom.... (p. 113)
And don't forget that the government organizes "rallies" at random times and places, and has its own secret police apparatus to go with the colectivos, bands of armed thugs who attack and threaten dissenters. So, yes, the situation within Venezuela is bleak, and would make efforts on our part to effect regime change difficult to say the least.

But the real value of the article is this: While socialism is becoming fashionable in the United States, we have three things in our favor: relatively free access to material resources, time, and freedom of speech. We are much better able to fight for our continued freedom now than we would be if we allowed the socialists to win. Perhaps that is why, as the Ayn Rand Institute pointed out about We the Living (linked above):
... Rand was startled by the failure of American intellectuals and politicians to uphold the American ideals of individualism and freedom, and she was horrified by the widespread acceptance, even sympathy, that greeted the spread of communism, socialism and fascism in Europe. Rand resolved to expose the "noble ideal" of collectivism, through the story of three young people whose lives are sacrificed by an all-powerful state.
At least we have been given advanced warning.

-- CAV

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