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Sunday 21 April 2019
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Socialism? No señores!

Socialism. This is “a political and economic theory of social organisation which advocates that the community as a whole should own and control the means of production, distribution and exchange.” (Concise Oxford).

The well-intentioned drift into socialism by Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, sits as the overarching cause for Venezuela’s deep political and economic turmoil. Simply put, international capitalism, forcefully led by the United States and pro-capitalist allies, just will not allow socialism, especially when the intention is to deepen it into communism. Will “dialogue” solve this challenge? Maduro, like Chavez, repeatedly complained that “the US wanted to put its hands on Venezuela’s oil.” Cuba’s wounded socialist system remains under relentless pressure by Donald Trump’s US. So señores, for Maduro and his half-way socialism, it’s just a matter of time. For the well-groomed “president” Juan Gaiudo too.

The deadly chaos will continue until properly-supervised fair and free elections are held. Venezuelans will then decide on the kind of political system they want. If socialism, well, similar troubles again. Capitalism says sovereignty yes, socialism no. Worse for Maduro now facing capital flight and collapse of oil prices.

In this February 2, 1999 file photo, newly sworn-in president Hugo Chavez greets supporters during a parade through the streets of downtown Caracas, Venezuela. Amid the political turmoil roiling Venezuela it’s easy to overlook this milestone: the 20th anniversary yesterday of Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution. AP PHOTO

Notwithstanding the greed-driven, reckless collapse of the international financial system in 2008, capitalism recovered to fight another day. Not so with Maduro’s socialism that promised state ownership, substantial subsidies and wealth transfers from the economic elites. Especially when much of the elite wealth is connected to foreign interests. Redistribution of wealth without productivity becomes a political and economic nightmare.

Capitalism is very versatile, surviving mainly because it accommodates so much of human nature – selfishness, greed, envy, etc. (Capitalism is “an economic system in which the production and distribution of goods depend on invested private capital (not on the state) and profit-making.”) Our country sits ambiguously between capitalism and socialism – without ideological anchor.

The economic struggles of Raul Castro’s Cuba come mainly from US sanctions and its thousands of Cuban anti-Castro exiles who complain that Castro’s socialism is an unyielding attack on individual rights and freedoms, the major one being the denial of multi-party “fair and free elections.” Socialism’s promise of having “the community as a whole owning and controlling the means of production, distribution and exchange” has not yet gained moral or political legitimacy. They forget, for example, that the “community” itself is not so much “a whole” but remains gripped by competing interests.

Cuba’s and now Venezuela’s alliance with Russia brings no security comfort to the US. The US has always been a two-faced society, with as many virtues as vices - fighting for widened democracy abroad, but often with means bearing little or no moral legitimacy. And energised by an industrial military complex which contributes heavily to its GDP.

Capitalism opens doors to competitive prosperity but depends largely on financial speculation, greed, artificial shortages and profiteering. It’s a compromise in a world of imperfections. The use of profited capital for trickle-down investment for poverty alleviation has not been as expected; rather, as the mega-analysis of French economist Thomas Piketty shows, resulting in widened rich-poor gaps. Even so, populations in capitalist countries remain uninspired by socialism promises like Maduro’s. Socialised through a liberal educational system and equal opportunity mantras, individuals under capitalism feel they always have a chance to succeed upwards with wealth and fame. In the US they are fondly called “dreamers.” And encouraged by graduation speeches. Never mind the perpetual supply of casualties and unfulfilled dreams along the wayside. Political ideologies which connect conflict zones to trans-national crimes have become an important part of modern criminology.

From evidence, socialism’s policy of having a very centralised government to implement “community ownership and sharing” falters when the centralized government remains not temporary but permanently intact with elitist greed, vanity, nepotism, oppression against adversaries, etc. Almost similar to the vices of capitalism. Socialism’s ownership of the “means of production,” quickly lose credibility. The promised “decentralization” does not take place.

Whatever the system, too many promise their people the best, then rise, leaving them as before, or worse off. Socialist ideology contains humanitarianism on paper, but in application, it reminds us how much human nature, our original vices, have similarly failed the Bible, Quran, Ramayan. First, Russia’s Mikhael Gorbachev, now China’s dictator Xi Jinping slowly appreciated free-market economy, limitations notwithstanding, and coming to terms with international capitalism. Socialism in Venezuela? Not yet, señores.

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