Socialism. The Democratic, left-wing, millennial dream. As defined by Britannica, the “social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources.” For Karl Marx, socialism was the segue into what he believed to be the ultimate stage of Utopian society: communism.
Around the world, there are many forms of socialism in practice. Most countries don’t operate under socialism alone, but rather incorporate parts of it into their systems and ideologies. For instance, the Nordic Model in Scandinavian countriesis the closest to socialism in it’s welfare practices, labor unions and dedication to social mobility. The New Zealand Socialist Party, many Canadian Socialist Partiesas well as the Chinese Socialist Market Economy are all examples of fairly successful social policies in place world wide.
But if an idea like socialism works well for these counties, how does the good intention get so lost in translation for other areas around the world? How does a Utopian ideology turn into a bad rendition of a dystopian, “Hunger Games” society?
The short answer: power. In many nations, the struggle and ascension to power is what separates true equality and shared resources from the rich, taking all they can get and the poor suffering.
In Latin America, socialist ideologies blew in with a bang on the backs of strong leaders promising change. Drawing from the momentum of the communist revolutions of Che Guevara in Argentina and Fidel Castro in Cuba, 21st century “socialism” won over in a landslide in the South American countries of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil. President Hugo Chavez was the strong arm of a form of democratic socialism in Venezuela when he took over the office in 1999. A leader of the “Bolivarian Revolution” and inspired by Castro, Chavez won over the people in a landslide, advocating for an end to corruption, more funding for social programs, and the redistribution of Venezuela’s wealth brought by oil.
Chavez, like many dictators, was a charismatic, passionate orator, and his success was largely due to the way he took advantage of the suffering and neglect many citizens felt. His words resonated with an audience that needed hope and a transformation. Akin to Guevara and Castro, he saw people in poverty, with the rich prospering, and wanted to do something. While he attempted to appease the people of Venezuela by vamping up the wealth of the big oil boom, his methods were not sustainable. The radical constitutional changes, and authoritarian tendencies of Chavez did little to reform Venezuela’s economy and livelihood overall.
When Chavez died in early 2013, he left the remainder of his term to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nicolas Maduro, who then went on to campaign for, and narrowly win, the presidency in November later that year. While Maduro’s message of prevailing democracy and a new age of socialism seemed appealing, the statistics following his election in 2013 show nothing but the destruction and decay of Venezuela’s economy.
Maduro essentially inherited a destroyed economy due to Chavez’s shopping spree, and rather than trying to fix it, he focused on asserting his dominance by buying out the military, and filling up the National Assembly with his own personal cronies.
At one time, Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America, and it currently holds the largest reserves of oil in the entire world. Venezuela even had a model democracy in the 1970s and 1980s. Now Venezuela has one of the highest annual inflation rates in the world, at over 15,000 percent per year according to Forbes, and their currency is basically worthless, making it nearly impossible for people to buy the medicine and food they need to survive. The question is, how does a free nation with such large amounts of a natural resource end up destitute?
Even though people in Venezuela get a monthly bag of government subsidized food, most grocery stores are empty and lines are long due to such high demands for foods that the provision doesn’t contain. Also, a single basket of groceries costs almost 4 times the amount of a monthly minimum wage salary.
In this video, Venezuelan YouTuber Luisito Comunica takes viewers on a journey through a Venezuelan supermarket, explaining how customers are limited to a certain number of items so that they don’t “hoard,” and showing the decrepit, high security state of grocery stores there. (Translation available in video settings.)
Furthermore the mainstream media controls all the content broadcast in Venezuela, so that no one can see the negatives, such as the 100% increase in child mortality and horribly emaciated babies, and the killing of protesters as well as the imprisoning of political opponents. Most information and news are conveyed via social media by the people in an attempt to spread awareness.
In terms of socialism, giving everyone the same thing doesn’t work out if the majority of the population can’t survive on it. Jacked up fast food prices and regulated items in grocery stores where the demand exceeds the supply makes livelihood next to impossible for regular citizens, which causes crime rates and mortality rates to increase dramatically. On top of this, demonstrations and protests are a part of daily life for Venezuelans now desperate for real change.
Unless Maduro changes his ways, and gives equally to the people instead of hoarding money for himself and those loyal to him, there is no way true socialism will work. And the tension in Venezuela may snap like a rubber band, leading to revolution and further violence.
So even though Venezuela’s current interpretation of socialism is not the answer, there has to be some middle ground between a dictatorship and a world where billionaires and homeless people coexist that can be implemented in struggling countries such as Venezuela.
Photo: The Associated Press via Daily Mail